Timeline: February 8th, 2009 late night
Rey smiled down at Hamilton. He was stretched – or rather, practically draped – across her lap, purring contentedly. She’d just finished brushing and otherwise pampering him after spending some time working on the bar’s books. The money situation wasn’t too bad yet, but things couldn’t keep going this way for long.
She gently settled her familiar on the cushion next to her chair and looked at the clock. If Ann-Marie was going to be coming to the bar, now would be about the time she’d show up. Rey gave Hamilton one last scritch, then walked out of the office and into the bar proper.
Ann-Marie was sitting in a booth sketching away as usual. A glass of wine sitting next to her serving as a prop to normalcy.
Rey grabbed herself a glass of water, and made her way to the booth. “Hi, Ann-Marie. Mind if I join you?”
This is unusual Ann-Marie though, “Of course, please have a seat.”
Rey slid into the booth opposite her. “How are you doing tonight?”
“Not bad at all, yourself?” Ann-Marie answered, placing her sketchbook down. “What can I do for you?”
“What, I can’t just sit down for a chat?” Rey asked with a grin.
“We’ve tried that before Rey. I am well aware of how you feel about me. Or has that changed?” Ann-Marie replied with a subtle smile.
Rey shrugged. “Things can change. Besides, don’t you talk to people you don’t like?”
“I never said I didn’t like you Rey,” Ann-Marie replied, “but the attempts I’ve had to speak to you before have ended up bit on the chilly side. Why the change?”
“And I never said you didn’t like me, Ann-Marie.” Rey picked up her glass and took a sip. “I’m putting my personal feelings aside for Jesse’s sake, and the sake of my Pack.”
“I don’t know what I have ever done to you to give you bad feelings about me in the first place Rey, but obviously you do or did. So, that being said, is this an invitation for friendship or an inquisition for information? About Jesse perhaps?”
“An inquisition? Do you see hot pokers or other torture devices? Am I threatening you in any way?” Rey asked. “Can you not just let this “why won’t you be my friend” thing go? The harder you push it, the harder I’m going to resist.” She sighed and set her glass down with a restrained thump. “Listen, I’m trying to save Jesse’s life. Is pissing me off by poking at me to find out why I won’t be your friend more important to you than saving my friend and your teacher?”
Ann-Marie was a bit surprised and taken aback, “It was in jest, Rey. I think we last talked about a year ago, so don’t be surprised that I’m curious that you are speaking to me. So, let’s move forward and have a pleasant conversation. So, you know about Jesse then?”
“Yes, I do. She and I talked about what happened. And a short time afterwards, I had a talk with Ironclaw.” Rey shook her head. “I’m sorry, Ann-Marie, but what were you thinking bringing a powerful spirit like Anu into our territory?” Her voice held the worry and concern she felt about the situation.
Ann-Marie replied empathetically, “I understand you concern, and if it hadn’t been for a certain mage blowing up a book of spirits and the associated mayhem, all of this would have been finished and no one would need concern themselves. But, it did happen and Anu was there to help solve it. Without her this town would have been crawling with zombies and more. For you and everyone here, what I helped to do certainly helped out. But, I didn’t bring her here, she is an aspect of my goddess, the Morrigan. She came to me in a way I don’t think you’ll understand. No offense meant, but this is a matter of faith. And as a matter of fact, she wasn’t originally summoned or was to be in the Pack’s territory. I honored all of Ironclaw’s requests on that. I did what was right for my faith.”
“I know exactly how and why she came to you. Jesse told me. And it seems to me you either really don’t understand the problem, or are just passing the buck and denying responsibility for your actions. I’m really hoping it’s the former. Anu came to you and offered to teach you. You said yes, and she Claimed Jesse, and you brought her to Eldon Well to live. That *is* bringing her to Eldon Well. Yes, she was integral to stopping the Shadowwraiths, but the fact she is staying is a problem.
“The Uratha don’t want spirits like Anu, regardless of whether or not they are goddesses or a part of your faith, in their territory. A spirit having Claimed a human is a major violation of the tenets of the Uratha’s faith. Were it anyone else – a different spirit or a different host – Ironclaw would have simply killed the host and been done with it.
“As Lupa, I must support his decisions, but Jesse is my friend and I don’t want to see her dead. Now do you have an idea of the problem we have?”
Ann-Marie tried to not get frustrated and remained civil, “Rey, I fully understand the problem the Uratha perceive, Ironclaw, Chaska and I have been over this. I simply don’t agree that it is as much of a problem as they think, have complete faith in Jesse and Anu, and I am fully cognicent of my actions. I pass no buck, so to speak. My people have been dealing with spirits for millenia. Though I am touched for your concern for Jesse, she’ll be fine.” she paused, “So you are lupa now, hmm.”
She continued after another pause, “In any case, it was never my intension to annoy the Uratha. I followed all of Ironclaw’s requests. Everything had been done outside of their territory. He knows this, and you must know that as lupa. All we have asked for is time; after which Jesse, my friend and obviously yours will be separated from Anu. I thought we had an agreement to that effect.”
“How much time did you ask for?”
“It’s not a question of an exact time, but it won’t be more than a year. Depending on if we can put distractions behind us, it can be much less; perhaps a few months. As you know, your pack has been offered gifts in exchange for this consideration. Not bribes, but honest gifts Rey.”
“Oh, I know,” Rey said with a nod. “Jesse’s offer is quite generous.”
“But?”, asked Ann-Marie.
“The gifts will only delay the inevitable. I don’t suppose…” An uncomfortable expression covered Rey’s face for a moment. “Nevermind. What is it that you’re being taught, if you don’t mind my asking.”
“Nothing is inevitable. It will all be okay, you’ll see. As far as my studies I can’t really tell you Rey. It’s kindred lore; and if you know anything about us, you know we are people of secrets. Also, I really don’t know you – to be honest. But I’m not offended by your asking. Should you take up Jesse’s offer, I wouldn’t expect you to tell me either. Believe it or not I learned that level of respect from Ramiel; more accurately in retrospect he reminded me of it. Though I don’t think he knows that he did.”
“I was just hoping you’d tell me, just so I could assure Ironclaw it wasn’t anything that would cause trouble for the pack or our territory.” Rey gave a slight shrug.
“I’ve already assured him, though I appreciate your efforts to add your voice to those who wish for the best. There will be no trouble as long as we can finish our work.” Ann-Marie said. “We only want to be left in peace.”
Rey nodded. “Jesse said that too, but we don’t always get what we want.”
“Can I make an observation that has really been on my mind and after talking to Jesse has really been bugging me?” asked Ann-Marie.
“It seems to me the Uratha don’t like spirits crossing over, or anyone else dealing with them, yet they themselves gain power and prestige from these very same beings the supposedly abhor. It seems like a case of do what I say, not what I do. I know its more complex than that, but that is the impression I get.”
“I suppose you could see it that way,” Rey said with a nod. She wasn’t sure where Ann-Marie was going with it – if anywhere.
“Then do you think it is wrong for other beings, not spirits or werewolves, but lets say mystically talented humans, mages, or even kindred to gain power from spirits if it is okay for the Uratha to do so?”
“Why are you asking me this?”
“Simply curious. Should the Uratha prevent anyone else, mage, kindred, witch, or the like from dealing with spirits?” Ann-Marie replied. “Please note I highly appreciate the advice Chaska and Ironclaw have given me on this, I’m just wondering where you stand.”
Rey was quiet for a moment, and Ann-Marie could see the conflict on her face. “The Pack was here before you were, and we have put a lot of effort into shaping our territory the way we want it to be. We don’t care what you do outside our territory as long as it stays outside our territory. I personally don’t care if someone learns something from a spirit, as long as you’re willing to pay the price and it doesn’t have an adverse affect on our territory.
“But the fact you’re learning whatever lost arts of your kind Anu is teaching you is not the problem.”
“I know, Jesse is. In time that will no longer be a problem. Rey, I have complete faith that everything will work out. But besides promises, the trust I’ve earned from Ironclaw and others, and the gifts Anu wishes to give in honor of the Pack, I don’t know what more I can do.” Ann-Marie answered, slightly exasperated.
“Time really doesn’t matter to the Uratha, Ann-Marie, nor is any trust you might have earned going to have any effect. The problem is Anu Claimed Jesse, and they’re in Eldon Well.” And that was all Rey could say on the topic.
“And Jesse and Anu will be free of each other in due time and the uratha will have nothing to worry about. Originally we had planned for Jesse to live just south of town, but with the Shawdowwraith thing that idea became a bit moot.” replied Ann-Marie.
“I am going to get in so much trouble for this,” Rey muttered, wanting to tear her hair out in frustration. “You’re not listening. You keep saying everything will be better in time. I’m telling you: Time. Doesn’t. Matter! They don’t believe Anu will release Jesse. They don’t believe it can even be done. You can keep saying when Anu’s finished she’ll leave until you’re blue in the face, but to be perfectly honest, your promises and your faith mean *nothing* to them when it comes to dealing with the Claimed.
“A point will come where they will get tired of waiting. If they kill Jesse, Anu will declare war on the pack. Do you want that to happen?” Rey’s voice was low, harsh and earnest.
“No, but what can I say to that? I believe in Jesse AND Anu. Seperate and as one. She is my teacher, master, servant, friend. She has been everything to me and both took a tremendous risk to help me and I to help them. I cannot repay that by betraying them or taking their words with a grain of salt. I must have faith, and I do. I also have faith in Ironclaw. He told me I would have time. Are you, new Lupa, saying Ironclaw is a liar? Are you saying his words to me are like writing upon a stream?” Ann-Marie was starting to lose a bit of her calm veneer, taking on the frustration Anu showed recently.
“What can I do if I cannot trust the very ones I am allied with and friends with? I have the blessing of the Elders of Eldon Well to be here and Anu is my guest, a guest who has done nothing – nothing to harm anyone and has kept her word on all things. And she’s not the only spirit hanging around, far from it. The Pack will do what the Pack will do and I can’t stop them; and from what you are saying I shouldn’t believe their word either.”
“I did not say that.” Rey said, and leaned back in her chair, trying to think calming thoughts. “Ironclaw will keep his word, and asking if he will not is an insult.” Her voice was calm despite her words. “You will have time. But did you ask exactly how much time you have?”
“Insult to who, you? You know I mean no insult. I know Ironclaw will keep his word. Your words imply that they are planning to attack and soon. Which is it? If you care about Jesse so much and you are seemingly warning us, then in your heart of hearts you must believe that Jesse is telling the truth, that I am telling the truth; that the gifts we offer are just that, gifts of honor and tribute, proof that we have no evil intentions.”
She paused, remembering Ironclaw’s words, “Ironclaw said that if I could convince him that she had no desire to spread death and destruction in his territory he would stay his hand. You are now Lupa. I don’t know how or why that happened, but congratulations anyway. You have it in you Rey to stay his claws by believing me, believing Jesse. Your word can now move mountains Rey. And to prove it further, beyond the gifts, beyond the promises, I will ask Jesse to leave with me and depart Eldon Well until my training is done. I cannot say where we will go, or even if she will agree; but if she does then you must know that she has no designs on Ironclaw’s territory. But I can’t make any promises until I ask, and in even asking it is implying that the Pack doesn’t trust her despite the gifts. But, I’ll ask anyway to keep the peace. This is a huge sacrifice for me; more than you can know.
“You don’t have to leave, Ann-Marie. You are being given time as promised, but it’s not going to be “until Anu’s finished teaching me”. You have a finite amount of time, but it’s not the near future. If Ironclaw hasn’t been convinced of the truth of Jesse’s words and she is still in our territory, he will act. I have done what I can to influence him, but we will have to wait and see. You’d better finish your lessons, as quickly as possible. I’m concerned the longer Jesse is Claimed, the antsier he will get.
“You mentioned you and Jesse giving us gifts. I know what Jesse has offered me, and what she is offering the rest of the pack. What is it that you are offering?”
“I really should discuss that with Ironclaw. No offense, but it would fall under his purview. It isn’t anything like what Anu is doing. Sorry.”
Rey shrugged. “No problem.”
“I appreciate that. May I ask you something now?” asked Ann-Marie.
“You can ask. I can’t guarantee I’ll answer,” Rey said with a slight smile.
“Did Lyla step down, or did you defeat her? If the latter, wow, I’m impressed.” Ann-Marie asked with genuine curiosity.
“The latter,” Rey replied, and while her face was calm, she hoped Ann-Marie wouldn’t ask any more questions about it.
“Well if you want to talk about it some time, I’m available. I keep secrets well as you might guess. I can tell you one thing though, I think this is the first time I really met you Rey. I like who I see, despite our differences, you remind me of a younger version of myself. In any case, the offer to take the problem away from Ironclaw’s realm is genuine; I care about you people too much to make you feel more nervous than people already do about me. I can’t promise Jesse will agree, but I do know that we have no designs on Eldon Well. Why would we, it is our home too.”
“The more I think about it, the more I realize your leaving won’t solve anything, and I’ll miss talking to Jesse. And thank you for the offer to talk. I’ll think about it.”
Ann-Marie replied, “Any time. I’m not quite the same person you first met, though I can’t seem to convince anybody of that either, save my brother and Michael.” She paused, “I know there is a way to convince Ironclaw, I just have to think about it a bit more. We had a long conversation on the issue and I feel I’m missing something. But, that is for me to think it through. Though, you Lupa, if you are more convinced then maybe he will be more willing to be as well. I’ll talk some more to Jesse tonight, I know she appreciates your friendship.”
“The most important thing you have to remember is that the Uratha don’t think like you do, and have different values and priorities. Once you understand that, and what motivates them, dealing with them becomes a lot easier.”
“I thought I knew a lot. But it’s clear I have a long way to go.”
“And that’s something you have to figure out on your own, I’m afraid.” Rey picked up her glass and took a deep drink.
“True enough. Well, is there anything else I can do for you?”
Rey shook her head.