Timeline: April 17th, 2008
About a week and a half after the final battle with the Witch Rats, Rey found Ironclaw at the Blood and Brew. She wasn’t scheduled to work that day, but had dropped in to get something to eat. A couple of things had been whirling around in her head, and seeing her Ulfric there made her decide to throw caution to the wind.
She hopped up on the bar stool next to him. “Hi!” she said with a smile. She knew her voice and body language weren’t showing she was nervous, but the act was more for the herd in the bar. Ironclaw could find out whenever he chose what she was feeling. Rey was pretty sure he’d say yes to her request, but there was still the chance he’d say no.
He smiled with an easy, comfortable grace. “Rey. I’m glad to see you just now. I wanted to thank you for your help in our ongoing effort to make things right around here.” The pack had called upon her ability to look into Shadow to spot problem areas. While the werewolves were capable of seeing through the Gauntlet with some effort, the result for them was always blurry, hazy. Rey’s ritual opened something like a window between herself and the Spirit World and so had much greater clarity — and it saved the wolves from a lot of wasted time running around Shadow looking for remnant trouble-spots. That was especially important now to economize their efforts with Lyla and Chaska away.
She flushed slightly, both pleased and embarrassed. “I’m just doing my part,” she said softly. “Something I’m glad to do, even if Lyla and Chaska weren’t here. Where did they do, anyway?”
“I think they went back to Chaska’s old reservation. Somewhere in South Dakota, I believe. He had a vision about it — and so did I so I knew he had to leave. Lyla’s been… terribly restless lately and I felt strongly that this wasn’t something he could do by himself so our Lupa went with him to help, as well as many of his friends. I don’t really know much of what it’s all about, but clearly it’s important to him and to the people that gave him birth.” Rey couldn’t help but notice that he referred to the others as Chaska’s friends rather than mutual friends.
She nodded. “What did you see in the vision?” She hoped he’d tell her. She might not be an expert in the occult, but there might be something she knew about it.
“Death,” he said a little dramatically. “I saw change coming for the people of his old tribe due to the irresponsible actions of an ignorant few. More than that, I can’t really say since the vision dreams are usually more symbolic than literal.”
Rey nodded. She’d learned that when she’d learned the dream travel ritual, or rather that dreams can be largely symbolic. “Dreams have a way of being like that, visions or not.” She glanced at the menu, and realized she was just trying to delay asking her question.
“I think I did okay, fighting the Witch Rats during the attack,” she said, changing the topic abruptly. “And watching you and Lyla fight before… I’m never going to be big and strong, go toe to toe in a straight out fight with most people. But there are going to be times where running away isn’t an option. Do you think you could teach me how to fight better than I do now? How to use what I do have to its best advantage?”
“I think it’s time,” he agreed. “Your size and inexperience is going to work against you any time you’re in a hand to hand situation. You can work on that long term, though. For the short term, there is always what they call, the equalizer.”
She gave a mental sigh of relief. “And what’s that?” she asked, pretty sure he didn’t mean weapons as she’d never seen him use any.
“Guns,” he said with a grin.
She chuckled. “Then I guess it’s time for me to learn.” She leaned on the bar. “I never thought I’d ever learn to use one. My father had one, but forbade me to even touch it when it was unloaded. Guess he thought I’d shoot him if I ever got the chance.”
“I’d suggest a rifle might be good for you to start with. Actually, that’s my favorite, too. And it’s good for a lot of reasons. When there’s trouble in the Shadow, did you know I went in with my trusty hunting rifle? Spirits can be slippery foes and some are unstoppable in hand to hand. But I’ve yet seen a spirit fast enough to dodge a bullet. Also, rifles pack a lot more punch even than a fully raging Uratha.” He smiled. “Bet you didn’t know that, did you?”
“No, I didn’t,” she replied softly, “but then again, a bullet to the head will stop most things.”
Ironclaw continued in a quiet, conspiratorial voice, “The truth is that you aren’t going to be a match for most of our enemies in hand to hand and you never will. But a good shot on a rifle can put anyone down, so why bother trying to excel in an area you’ll never really have a chance in anyway? Once you know your way around guns, you’ll be at least as effective as everyone else in a tight spot. And even better, there is a very wide range of ammunition available. Rubber bullets can put down an enemy without killing them. Or a shotgun with gel packs. You can get custom ammunition, too, like phosphorous rounds for unique problems or armor piercing ammunition — illegal by the way, but possible — for tough nuts to crack like shields.
“Rey, my specialty is not hand to hand. I do it because I have to sometimes. Honestly, I’m not good at it considering who I am supposed to be. I usually win by sheer size, strength and the ability of take what most people can dish out and more. But give me a rifle and I can hold off an army with my bag of tricks. I can show you how to do it, too.” As he finished his speech, he gave her a confident and pleased wink. Nothing pleased him more than a member of the pack trying to better themselves for the good of the whole.
“I’d like that.” She returned his smile. Learning to use a rifle would let her hunt during hunting season, and provide more meat for the pack. Most of her grocery budget was spent on meat. It might even let her participate the next time the pack has to deal with invaders – if she got good enough to do it from a distance.
“We can go shopping tomorrow,” he suggested. “Money-bags — I mean, the Lupa is back now so she can help us out with some guns, ammo, and maybe some safe targets to use.” He grinned.
“Okay,” she said with a nod. “I was kind of hoping we’d use old bottle and tin cans like they did in the old days. You know, when you were a kid,” she teased, her eyes sparkling with mischief and merriment.
“Oh!” he said, feigning insult. “Such a low blow! But at least I’m not as old as Grey,” he laughed.
“I know. He’s positively *ancient*.” Rey couldn’t keep from giggling. “I’m afraid I’m going to wear him out with my youthful exuberance.”