Timeline: February 3rd, 2009
Ann-Marie went searching for Iron Claw a few days after the others had left. It wasn’t easy to find him and in the end, it was he who found her. After a lot of searching, she finally discovered him waiting for her at her home.
“You’ve been looking for me,” Ironclaw said.
She still admired him, that was for certain. She answered, “Yes I have. We haven’t spoken in awhile, and after all that has happened, I wanted to clear the way between us.”
Ironclaw looked over his shoulder at her house. They both knew Anu was likely within. He looked back at Ann-Marie. “You brought a powerful spirit here, across the Gauntlet. This is against the laws that rule the Shadow and the realm of men and beast. This is the law that the great spirit, Father Wolf, enforced. It’s the one his children are sworn to uphold since his passing.”
“I could do no other thing given the circumstances, given my beliefs. But, we can walk together and discuss if you wish. There is hope.” said Ann-Marie.
“There is always a choice,” he said. “You brought a spirit of death into my territory. I thought we were clear on my feelings about that a year ago. You traded the soul of your servant-girl for whatever promises this creature gave you. That, to me, isn’t a crime — sometimes people die when dealing with spirits, though we wouldn’t bargain away the lives of our allies in such a bargain. That is our way and not yours, and I don’t hold you to our ways. The violation is that you brought her here. To my home, my land, the one place in this world that I must defend against such incursions.
“Let me frame the question to you this way so you understand the gravity of what you have done. If I, as your ally, led a group of vampire-hunters and killers directly to your friends in Albany and set them to live in their very homes, what would you do about that?”
He knew the answer she would give. She replied quietly, “I wouldn’t like that at all.” She paused, “I honestly didn’t know it would be so grave to you. I did everything you asked of me, everything done outside your territory as you asked. And I didn’t sacrifice Jesse, she’ll be back, that was the deal. I asked her and spoke to her of the risks. I know she did it because of me, and I appreciate her for it.”
“It wasn’t something I could ignore, it wasn’t an opporutnity I could dismiss. It was a dream blessing from my goddess. You of all people know how I feel about that. Everything of the spirit world and the world of my goddess has facinated me to no end. I wish to understand, to grow, to become more than the limitations of immortal flesh. I cannot do it alone. I tried to learn your way – to run with your pack, but no one trusted me. I was a pariah to your people even when I was your mate. No one save Jesse, my brother and maybe Chaska and Lyla has trusted me; and I’m not always sure about them.” She was obviously a little frustrated.
Ironclaw looked sad then, his eyes filled with pity. “Ah, Ann-Marie.” He shook his head. “You have been used. I had no idea you were so naive, so ready to believe. But that isn’t you’re fault. Neither your humanity nor the undead form you wear now has any true connection to the spirit world. That is not the domain of Man; at most it is a place they can only trespass for a time.
“The reverse is also true. This world is not meant for spirits. In this place, they are the trespassers. The Uratha are the guardians. Special cases are sometimes made for beings not of spirit in Shadow, and sometimes for spirits who are in this world. But we are the guardians here. We are both spirit and flesh. We alone have the right to safeguard what should be. In Shadow, we hunt down and cast out those who should not be there. It’s the same for this world; in our territory we must hunt down and cast out those spirits who trespass here as well. This is our fundamental purpose, the reason we exist.
“Whatever she has told you about releasing Jesse is a lie. This never happens. Why should a spirit willingly give give up their vessel? When they have one, they have access to essence and power. They can hide from their enemies in Shadow. They have the freedom to do whatever they like and power to back it up. Worse, there is no way to banish a spirit from a person once they’ve integrated themselves. I have never heard of any spirit giving up their host willingly. There is no reason for them to do so; killing the host body only forces them out. It does not weaken the spirit.
“Anu lives in the body she has possessed and warped right now because we have learned that she wields only a portion of her power now. If her body were killed, they she’d regain access to all the power she left behind when she took Jesse’s form. So, we leave her alone for now in order to buy us time to discover a way to destroy Anu or drive her spirit away. If we can’t find a way, I must try to build an alliance, to call upon other Uratha to help us destroy her before she becomes too powerful.
“I fear your rash actions have killed your servant girl — and the rest of us are not long to follow. Perhaps six months. Perhaps a year. The more powerful the spirit, the faster she might build her power. But mark my words, Ann. Unless we find some way to be rid of her, your goddess will bring death here. She is death.”
She looked torn. “She has not broken her word to me in any way. Truely, she has remained a friend to me. You say that this is all a ploy, I’m being used, I’m naive and stupid and shouldn’t deal with the spirit world at all? The truth must lie between my beliefs and your assumptions. I think she will release Jesse, I must believe that she will fullfill her word. Do not spirits fulfill their bargains? If she breaks her oath to me, then what would stop me joining you and helping you stop her? Nothing. But if she keeps her word, how can I not thank her and respect her?”
Ironclaw frowned. “I didn’t call you stupid.
“You may believe she is bound to some concept of honor,” he continued, “but that is not necessarily the case. She is a spirit. Her motivations may not be something we can understand. Clearly she is powerful enough that she does not fear my pack. She would not fear you, either. If she has plans for you, she may be angry if you turned against her. But if she is really a goddess, as you say, she could not possibly feel threatened by anything you might do.
“I do not wish to be unfair to you. But Ann-Marie, no matter how much your revere her as a goddess, she is a death spirit, one that has deliberately broken the ancient laws that she herself should know well. This clearly makes her untrustworthy in my opinion, but out of respect for our past, I will show you a way that you might avert the coming conflict to save both yourself and your unfortunate servant girl. You must find proof that this spirit will uphold the pact you made. You must find some way to find assurance that she will not bring death and destruction down upon us all. Prove this to us, and we will stay our claws from you and your goddess.”
“No you didn’t call me stupid. I overreacted a bit. Sorry. It’s been so frustrating recently…well for quite awhile. Everything is constantly in flux, nothing save my brother is certain. For me, faith is proof; how can I prove that her word is true until the time she is to act on it? Do I ask her directly to provide proof, letting her know the gravity of the situation? While I’ve learned some about spirits, but I don’t know what compels them other than essence. She has been nothing but good to me, but I don’t wish to be killed for her or anyone; especially now that I am whole again. What must I do?”
“That,” Ironclaw said with a small smile, “is the challenge you must overcome. The pack certainly has it’s own challenge to overcome. If the spirits do bless you, then perhaps you will overcome your challenge first.”
“I pray so. Thank you my friend.” she said.