Timeline: December 24th, 2007
It pained Ironclaw to have to leave Honoré out of this one, but it was simply too dangerous. He and the pack were going to war and he couldn’t allow any member of his pack to have a single second thought. It was that important. It all hinged upon one misguided but obsessed human. The future of his pack, the defeat and possible destruction of five Uratha, and the fate of one human all hinged upon the events of this night, the night of the Full Moon.
A part of him deeply regretted having to do this on Christmas Eve. But the Moon changed as she willed, not as the whims of man would dictate.
He’d known who it was that set the trap that had caught Rose so badly those weeks ago. He’d lied to Ramiel; there was no way that human could hide her scent from him. He’d recognized it and had it tracked down before the night was out. Then he’d returned to the site and obliterated any remaining scent. No one would know what he knew. Not until he found a way to turn this ill omen into a deadly weapon to be wielded by the Young Father Bear Pack.
In the following days, he’d found out how. In the guise of a normal human he had stopped by the Braff home and had introduced himself as a friendly neighbor who’d noticed she’d come home after a long time away. He came bearing chicken soup and pumpkin pie and came away earning the trust of one who should have been his bitterest enemy.
Abigail Braff had lost everything. Not so long ago she’d had a loving husband and two teenage kids under her loving wing. But then one night all that had been shattered. Horrific man-wolf beasts had burst through her door and thorugh her windows. They swept up her children and left her with a husband gibbering apologies. Wilson Braff had been a part of it; he’d known they were coming for their children and he told his wife that their children were blessed. They would become one of those same monsters.
Abby would have none of it. She knew that if she could get her children back, she could save them. She threw Wilson out and nearly killed him with a gunshot wound through the kidney. He fled to be with the monsters that kidnapped the kids and she wouldn’t ever forgive that, either.
Ironclaw found out after weeks of steady visits and talks with Abby that she had taken up training herself to hunt werewolves. It was a huge undertaking and ultimately Ironclaw saw that she would have a bad end. It was also clear that she didn’t deserve that kind of end, but he would not stand in the way of even a human’s destiny.
Abby had returned to her home after months of hunting the Pure pack to the west and had run across huge wolf tracks on an animal trail. Assuming it was another sign of a werewolf, she had set the pit trap with stakes in hopes of capturing one for questioning. It had nearly worked, but Ironclaw kept careful tabs on the welfare of all the members of his pack. Rose had been saved and Abby discovered.
Instead of dispatching the would-be hunter immediately, Ironclaw had discovered a new use for her. She would die fighting werewolves, but at least she might die fighting the Pure and not the Young Father Bear Pack or their allies. To this end, Ironclaw had posed as a brother-in-arms, someone — perhaps the only one — who believed her story. He had stepped up patrols in his territory and thus was able to piece together the movements of the Pure pack. Soon, he felt he was able to predict where they might be come the next full moon. He didn’t hesitate to drop just enough hints for Abby to be able to piece it together herself.
Abby was no fool. She was going into this prepared. She had made pipe bombs, armed herself with silver spikes and silver bullets, a heavy police-grade kevlar vest, and spent two weeks planning her move. Abby wasn’t sure herself if she might survive this night. Ironclaw knew she wouldn’t.
The Full Moon had just risen. It was time to call the pack to war. A massive brown and grey wolf raised his head to the sky and emitted a howl that echoed from valley to mountains. One by one another voice joined his call…
Lyla appeared in Ramiel’s doorway. Tonight she was clad in a black jumpsuit. Grey had dedicated it so that she could keep it as she shifted. It wasn’t armored, but it was made of tight-fitting leather fastened with blackened steel buckles that would provide modest protection.
“Ramiel,” she said in a quiet voice. The fire in her bright, silvery-blue eyes betrayed her true excitement. “It’s time. We must go quietly now.”
Ramiel was clad a black tee, jacket, jeans and boots. He had his guns ready and holstered, and a knife sheathed at his side.
They slipped out of the house via the back entrance through the cave and skirted the town. They met in the clearing Ironclaw had already set as their rendezvous point. By this time, the entire pack was assembled in wolf form. Eight wolves loped into the night. Ramiel was the only human with them and he was hard-pressed to keep up. But a lithe red wolf was always at his side ready to guide him when he lost site of the pack. Lyla wouldn’t let him fall behind.
A shadowy shape only visible across the gauntlet kept pace with the pack. The Young Father Bear pack was going to war, so the spirit of Young Father Bear was going to war, too. The spirit and his pack were bound and one. The Pure pack would most assuredly have their own Totem Spirit with them, and it would certainly not hold back. Young Father Bear would be needed.
When the pack closed upon the lonely, abandoned farm, explosions and the sound of automatic gunfire showed Abby had engaged her enemy. Something nagged at the back of Ironclaw’s mind, but it was swept away by screams and the scent of blood in the air. The pack surged ahead, charging directly for a large metal machine shed that seemed in better shape than the rest of the buildings on the old farm.
As the pack rounded the building they saw the huge main door was rolled aside to reveal a black, gaping maw of violence and destruction. Pieces of twisted green-painted metal littered the sand floor. Massive wheels and tires had been thrown aside and torn up by explosions. Old grain wagons were over turned and bent by the force of exploding pipe bombs.
Five massive beast-wolves circled an ordered stack of heavy barn shingles behind which Abby had taken position to make her last stand. There was blood on the ground and some of the wolves still looked mangled from being caught in blasts set by the hunter. One of the wolves stood up on hind legs and bellowed a guttural command in the First Tongue. The effect was immediate — Abby’s hand gun quit. She pulled out another, but that, too refused to fire. She paled as she realized her plight, then dove for cover as one of the other Pure wolves leapt after her.
Then the Young Father Bear pack sprung its attack. Every single member of the pack found a Pure werewolf to tear into. The Pure, preoccupied with the human hunters they had encircled and were about to annihilate, never saw them coming. More, they were outnumbered almost two to one, counting Ramiel.
But the cornered Pure werewolves were no strangers to desperate fights and few were more desperate than this one. With no place to run, they fought with insane fury. Lyla, utilizing her massive, 400+ pound wolf-beast form, was the fastest member of the Young Father Bear pack so while the spirit of Young Father Bear engaged much smaller, but far quicker Chains of the Soul conceptual spirit that served as the totem to this pack of Pure, Lyla tore into the eldest of the Pure pack. She was joined by Selene. The weakest of the werewolves had been instructed by James to stick close to an experienced combatant and she tried her best to keep up with Lyla.
Niki engaged another male Pure wolf with mangy, matted fur who looked rabid. Her sleek and efficient beast-wolf form immediately took pieces out of the much more massive enemy. Meanwhile, Chask and Bjorn engaged a true giant of werewolf. Even for a wolf-beast, this thing was clearly monstrously huge. Born from someone who was was a man well over seven feet tall and a tower of flesh and muscle, his alternate forms were equally huge with respect to normal sized werewolves.
Ironclaw was quick to identify the leader of the Pure pack. From Lyla and Chaska’s reports in their previous meeting, this was Finn Fleshripper, the Pure that had engaged Lyla and Chaska in alliance with a vampire’s attack force. He’d survived the last encounter and was clearly as strong — or stronger — than ever.
Finn answered Ironclaw’s charge in full war form and nearly disemboweled Ironclaw early in the fight. Though badly wounded, the Young Father Bear pack leader pressed on, refusing to be sent running after only just engaging his enemy. He dug in and managed to tear chunks out of Finn as well.
The werewolves battled each other all over the inside of that farmyard machine shed while the two humans, stunned with fear of the terrifying monsters dueling all around them, sought cover. Lyla and Selene managed to dispatch their foe first and the tide clearly swung in favor of the Young Father Bear pack. But the Pure weren’t going to give up without doing as much damage as possible.
Ramiel was helping Niki fight her loathsome, sickening foe, getting in strong, lethal strikes, but taking potentially scarring, permanent injuries as he did. Niki and Ramiel were both astonished when he suddenly grow what appeared to be Gauru war-form, but then doubled the size of his muscles. “Aw crap,” Ramiel was heard to say just before receiving burning, sickening wounds from the creature.
Worse, Calista — the human and obvious combat veteran that had accompanied Abby — identified wounded werewolves and struck with silver spikes. She stabbed Ironclaw treacherously in the back, causing massive, burning hemorrhaging. Ironclaw howled in pain, and Finn took advantage of his foe’s distress to rip his throat open. Ironclaw went down in a mass of blood and flesh, reverting to human form and looking nearly dead.
Finn, who by now was badly injured, fled through the opening left by Ironclaw’s fall. Selene was by this time suffering terrible, burning stab wounds courtesy of Calista and her now-rallied partner, Abby. She’d been ordered to handle the “easier” job of taking out the humans after Lyla had downed their Pure foe without suffering a single scratch. But when she saw Ironclaw fall and Finn flee the scene, Lyla went nearly insane with fury. She ran Finn down and with one flying leap and snap of her deadly jaws, she sank sharp, bloody teeth into Finn’s side and rode him to the ground. There, with a furious roar, she ripped his throat out. Her eyes took on a terrible crimson darkness and seemed to burn with her hate and fury.
But Ramiel had seen what happened as well, and knew that it was the human, Callista, whose interference had caused Ironclaw’s fall. Niki dispatched the massive, rapid Pure wolf before them in Gauru form while Ramiel dashed forth to engage the humans. After a furious but short battle, Ramiel downed Callista and while she lay unconscious something in his soul broke free. He cut the helpless woman’s throat. When he looked up, blackness seemed to have swallowed his eyes, though within their depths it seemed that thunder rolled and flashed.
Chaska and Bjorn finally brought their own foe to heel. The towering giant, outnumbered, finally took enough minor wounds that bloodless and attrition weighed so heavily upon even his mighty body, that he could fight no more and fell.
In the otherworld, Young Father Bear and his foe, Chains of the Soul, had fought to a stand-still. But Chains, seeing his pack broken and defeated, fled the battle for fear of being destroyed and eaten should Young Father Bear’s pack come to end their battle in the Shadow Realm.
Now all the Pure had been defeated and lay either dead, unconscious, or fled in terror of the strength of their Forsaken enemies. Only one lone ex-housewife still stood before the Young Father Bear pack. Crying for having failed to save her children, with her friend and only ally dead, throat cut right in front of her, she felt certain that her werewolf bites would cause her to erupt into a horrible monster the next full moon. Rather than let them take her, she put her own gun to her head and pulled the trigger.
The battle was over. It had cost them dearly; member of the pack had been injured — with two exceptions. Neither Grey, who’d been supporting Bjorn in his attack, nor Lyla had any aggravated damage. In fact, Grey had never been struck at all, while Lyla’s single wound had long since been healed and gone. Everyone else suffered one grievous injury or other. And Ironclaw was nearly dead.
When the pack gathered together, those who could shifted to human form to help carry Ironclaw home. Grey and Chaska required the use of massive reserves of Essential energy to repair the damage to the pack. It was going to be a very long night and following week. Even Ramiel needed to see a healer.
But territory to the west was now clear of Pure. It was unlikely they would come back knowing that the Young Father Bear pack would likely come again to punish them. And without Finn to lead them, they were far too weak.
They considered sending Lyla to take Rey to them, but someone raised the point that Rey was having a private Christmas part at the time. Michael would be there and would be worried, but the pack had to recover in the Shadow Realm. Arriving there would only create questions that the pack was unwilling to answer at this time. Tomorrow was Christmas morning and the pack had still planned on being there. Ironclaw wouldn’t be able to go and someone would need to stay with him. No Uratha could afford to be found helpless and alone in the Shadow Realm, but Ironclaw wouldn’t be able to recover in the physical world because access to healing Essence would be cut off. So it was decided that they should remain sequestered.
Ramiel rested, as well, in Lyla’s company. The strange burning in their eyes did not abate for many hours. The two remained quietly apart for that time to avoid questions they themselves could not answer.
The farmhouse, as it turned out, was not unoccupied. There they found the two Braff kids, teenagers just beginning to go through their first change. Bjorn and Lyla had found them and rounded them up. Their father, Wilson was with them. He rushed out to find Abby when he realized she had been involved in the fighting, and fell to weeping when he learned her fate.
Ramiel handled the burning of three bodies — that of Callista, Abby, and Finn Fleshripper.
Injuries, listed from worst to least
Ironclaw — 7 aggravated plus 2 lethal after being forced back to human form after losing consciousness.
Selene — 5 aggravated. She took no damage from werewolves, this was all done by Callista and her silver knives and silver spikes.
Rose — 1 aggravated. She’d take a large amount of lethal but was able to heal it with essence and with time after the battle.
Niki — Took a huge amount of lethal but was able to stay ahead of it with essence. She heals perfectly with time and is very disappointed she has no scars to show for it.
Ramiel — Took an unknown amount of Lethal damage.
Chaska — took some lethal damage but retained his entire Essence pool — critical for helping stabilize and heal Ironclaw.
Lyla — 1 Lethal, regenerated on the fly.
Bjorn — 1 Lethal
Grey — No damage
Young Father Bear — 6 lethal damage to his Corpus. This will take a couple weeks to heal and recover. In that time, the totem spirit will remain at the strongest pack Locus, guarded at all times by at least two other pack members.
Pure Casualties – Chains of the Soul Pack
Celeste — was first to be forced into full retreat (Kuruth death-rage to flee). She was youngest and weakest.
Stokes — Used to be pack leader before Finn arrived, now will be pack leader again. He was taken down by Lyla with some help from Selene.
Bear — had Giantism. He was taken down by Bjorn, Chaska, and Rose.
Jericho — Had mastery of a Gurim gift that enabled him to amp up his strength and stamina. Taken down by Niki with help from Grey and Ramiel
Jericho — took down Ironclaw (the help from Callista, who was simply striking any nearby werewolf who looked injured)