A subtle undulation of the land forms an curious, natural spiral in the open ground. One side of the formation rises to create a half-circle or crescent of earth surrounding and encompassing the spiral. The ground is littered with rock and flagstones, both large and small. Someone has carefully gathered up a trove of these and erected a clear fire pit. Flagstones with smooth surfaces have been laid along the upper lip of half circle of earth around the fire pit, turning it into a nice seating area. All debris and flammable material's been removed from within the spiral, and a fire has been laid. Just beyond the spiral's edge, wood has been collected and piled for future use. Surrounding this, the rugged walls of the canyon have been half buried by the Wyld surge, making the upper slope of the valley more gentle than it was before. Stands of Douglas fir and white pines mix with hemlock, lodgepole pines, and western larch trees to fill much of the open space, but the trees here are not nearly as dense as they are in the surrounding forests of the bawn. The sparse woods allows a partial view of the sky, and both sun and moonlight filter down to create enigmatic and beautiful shadow patterns on the forest floor. That floor is blanketed with a thick, soft rug of shed pine needles, lichen and leaf debris. The moss-covered relics of old, dead trees occasionally mark a place where once great sentinels loomed above.
The caern expands in two directions from here. The escarpment wall and raised dais form one point of the new triangle, while the center of the caern and its gigantic, Wyld-influenced tree marks the other. The only obvious way out of the caern is the valley slope that leads to the central bawn.
Compact is the word for him: wiry, maybe 5'6" in his beat-up black combat boots, with a sense of compressed energy and imminence like a coiled spring -- or a cocked gun. Never quite still for long, balance flowing through the balls of his feet. There's a striking intensity to his narrow blue-green eyes, the colour contrasting with his fair skin and spiky copper hair; just below the left is what at first appears to be a faint mole, but closer inspection reveals as a small, long-healed scar. His features are appealing, with high cheekbones and a good jawline, but it's the confident mien and roguish smile that most often seem to draw people in.
He's in a well-worn biker jacket of the traditional sort, all fairly closely fit black leather and silvery zippers and snaps. Beneath it, he's got nicely-fitting dark indigo jeans with a plain white tank, its ribbed cotton skimming close enough to hint at the musculature beneath. Over that, he's wearing a long-sleeved, navy blue shirt, unbuttoned; judging by the white-on-red number patches on the left arm, the flag patch on the right shoulder, and the round fleur-de-lis patch to the left of the collar, it was once part of someone's Scout uniform... probably not his. Okay, the 'Boy Scouts of the USA' patch over the right pocket's a hint, too. There's a couple leather-and-bead bracelets on one wrist and a length of ball-chain disappearing beneath his collar; his nails were apparently painted black some time ago, since they're starting to show chips. Late teens, most likely, and when he speaks it's in a mellifluous, southern-accented baritone voice.
A big wolf-looking dog -- or could it be a small actual wolf? It seems to have that kind of cheerful doggy enthusiasm, but the colouring is right and it does seem a bit wild, as if some of that energy is coiled deeply within it, ready to strike. Its eyes sparkle with life, and it sometimes seems to smile, displaying rows of sharp, even, shiny white teeth.
This is a North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar), which is not an uncommon animal in Washington State, although they are rarely seen by humans. Typical of the species, it has a slender, muscled body with a round head and pointed ears. Like most cougars, this particular specimen is substantially longer, taller, and heavier than the average wolf. He likely tips the scales at about 160lbs and measures nearly 8' from nose to tail: Much of that is certainly tail. This cougar's pelt is slightly more reddish-orange than usual, although not unusually so. Lithe, powerful, sinuous musculature is readily visible beneath the cat's short fur, giving some indication as to the power and speed available to this apex predator should it choose to use it. The black "moustache" marking around his nose and mouth is more pronounced than usual, giving the feline's already-handsome face an even more suave--almost debonaire--appearance. Those with sensitive noses might notice he has no scent.
A young man of average height and athletic build, he is generally seen with a cunning smile and an easy manner. His dark hair is cut short, just enough length that the waves take form. (If he let it grow out, it would probably lead to unruly curls.) His eyes are green, or perhaps hazel, depending on the light. His skin is pale and freckled, and his cheekbones, while not extreme, are prominent. The straight nose and strong chin can lead to a more stern impression, but it's broken easily when he grins.
Today he wears a simple grey hoodie with a Red Sox logo on the front. His denim jeans are, if not new, well cared for, as are the blue and grey tennis shoes beneath. Around his neck, visible against the grey of the sweatshirt, he wears a pendant of carved, black stone strung on a thin cord of braided leather.
This short, skinny white kid is only a few inches over five feet tall and looks to be around thirteen years old. His straight black hair is short but a little shaggy; he's probably past due for a haircut. He's got a thin face with a beaky nose, thick eyebrows, and dark brown eyes. He's not a bad-looking kid, quite the opposite, but there's still something about him that makes most normal people uneasy, a feeling of potential violence, of predatory intensity.
He's typically dressed in jeans and t-shirt and sneakers, typical casual kid-wear, with a grey hooded jacket for outdoors. Apart from the footwear, his clothing is all a little bit too big on him, but one might imagine that he'll grow into it in a year or so.
A man that looks to be in his early to mid forties, Thomas stands at just a hair under six feet. His features are predominantly Asian (Korean, to those who can tell the difference), with almond shaped eyes dark enough to appear almost black, low eyebrows, and a slightly crooked nose. His skin color speaks mostly toward his mixed heritage; it's darkly bronzed and weather beaten, with laugh lines crinkling near the corners of the eyes. His hair is a silky black, worn long and pulled back into a neat ponytail. He also sports a goatee, kept only long enough to be somewhat bristly to the touch, the black liberally laced with a smattering of grey hairs. The man's build is lean and compact, and he carries himself with a certain athletic grace that's unmistakable.
He appears to favor simple collared shirts of various types (usually black or white), and loose fitting, well worn jeans and hiking boots, but above all, he seems quite attached to a long brown oiled canvas duster. Even in warm weather, he's rarely seen without it. Occasionally, he pairs this with a brown fedora so battered and used that it might actually appear older than the man wearing it. He's wearing what looks like small, hematite beads around his neck, but most of the necklace is tucked under his shirt and out of sight.
Thomas appears on the path to the Caern, looking his usual; battered hat, old duster, practical clothing (including mud-dried boots). He tips his hat in response to Salem's raised hand and the mage cat's nod, but finishes out the song. "Run rabbit - run rabbit - Run! Run! Run! Don't give the farmer his fun! Fun! Fun! He'll get by without his rabbit pie, so run rabbit - run rabbit - Run! Run! Run!" The man clears his throat, then grins crookedly. "Evening, you bunch."
Nolan returns Thomas's grin, adding a nod for good measure. "The plan," he says, "is to draw some of them away from the house. A couple options for that, but the best, I think, is to have a scout *accidentally* get spotted. They give chase. We have a few different places to draw them into the ambush." He lifts the hand not holding the stick, putting air-quotes around the last word. "The best would be the ravine, but that might be better saved for an actual ambush, rather than this. We attack, appear to lose, and let them win the day. The illusion would be the appearance that we take more losses than we do."
"Won't they realize that something's up when they can't collect corpses that don't exist?" Salem asks.
Brings-the-Pack gives a nod to Salem. "Precisely. It is too complex."
There's rustling from the direction of the caern entrance, and then a small wolf comes shooting in at speed, kicking up a bit of dust and a couple pebbles as he skids to a halt near the seating stones. Chugs-the-Mystery-Brew glances around at the assembled, and thunks down onto his rear. Evening.
Thomas startles at the sudden arrival, though he recovers quickly. The two other Garou, however, get a questioning glance. "Well, I know he said something. I think. Ain't got at interpretation though."
Nolan again shakes his head, a brisk rebuttal. "Not complex," he says, pausing just long enough to glance toward the arriving galliard. "Unless you mean the illusion itself. The idea would be not to leave bodies behind. To make it seem like our forces were more injured than they were, and then to flee. Good acting could be enough to make them think we were badly injured, though illusion would certainly help. If possible, yes, carrying out a corpse would be ideal, but it's not integral. All of that is straightforward. It's the actual getaway that's complex.The real difficulty with a feint is leaving. That's why I asked if there were any garou with the gift of flight."
Salem squints a little at Felix, perhaps not quite recognizing him on four legs, then turns back to Nolan. "As in actual flying?"
"What you're speaking of is vastly more complex than anything I have done before," Brings-the-Pack says to Nolan. "A wall of fire might be more practical," the mage-cat suggests as an alternative before further explaining how this isn't something he'd be doing personally. "I believe the local Khan is quite accomplished with such things."
The wolf inclines his head to Thomas in a decidedly human sort of greeting gesture, and then lies down on the closest unoccupied flagstone. Little Silvertip is still the only flying wolf I know. His eyes brighten and ears perk up at bit at the idea of a wall of fire.
"What'd you need the flier to do exactly?" Thomas asks as he rubs lightly at the scruff along his jawline. "I don't know about flying Wolves, but might be I could help."
"The goal," Nolan says, running the end of the stick through the pebbles at his feet, "is to make them believe that we're losing, that we're fleeing, and that they can't - or it's not worth trying to - catch us. A wall of fire begs the question, why aren't we setting them aflame? We could prepare an actual ambush, one we could win, but that wasn't the goal. If we can get our people out in a way that isn't worth pursuit, that's optimal. We can set traps near the ambush site, and try to count on those to deter them."
Salem watches Nolan's activity with the stick. "Jacinta was able to fly as well," he remarks, and then sits up. "An illusion to mask the retreat of the pseudo-ambushers, then. Make them think we're running off in a different direction than we really are."
Brings-the-Pack nods towards Salem. "Vastly easier. Especially if much of it can be scattered sounds. Of course," he adds, "I suspect, as lupines who likely have their own ragabash, they will likely notice the lack of tracks and scent." He speculates aloud, "I might be able to procure a flying carpet."
The wolf looks faintly disappointed at the nixing of the firewall. He pushes up to sitting again, melting through the shapes to homid until it's Felix sitting on the stone, somehow crosslegged. "...if you do can I try it?" he asks the mage, giving him a grin, "'cause those look awesome in movies."
Thomas shakes his head. "Ain't able to carry away the bunch," he says, with a tone of mild regret. "And foolin' more'n one of them into seeing bodies is beyond me."
Nolan looks to the mage-cat, opening his mouth as though about to speak, but then spears the end of the stick back into the flames instead. "Scent and tracks can be arranged beforehand," he says after a beat. "Enough to lead them in circles with your help, while ours get away. We'd need swift runners, then. Able to hold their own, but make it look like they were losing badly, and able to withdraw and run, rather than falling into the mind-trap of win or die."
"Fast feet and cool heads." Salem shifts his weight on the stone 'bench', stretching his legs toward the firepit.
Brings-the-Pack says to Felix, "They are quite fun." He's apparently ridden one before. To Nolan he says, "If you can lay the scent and tracks in advance, I can provide the noise and distractions that /might/ lead them in a different direction or, perhaps, split them up."
Felix's grin expands briefly at Brings-the-Pack's reply, but dims somewhat as things go on. The Galliard shifts position on the rock, restless. "Thing that's kinda botherin' me is, people gotta get convincingly hurt to pull a fake off, right? But even if we got healers ready, ain't we likely to have folks havin' to recuperate for 'least a couple days anyhow? I mean hopefully those assholes'd be in at least the same boat, but."
Thomas quiets down now, though he's clearly still listening with interest.
Nolan's shoulders rise and fall in a shrug in response to Felix's concern. "The question is, whether we gain enough for the cost. We *can* lay a true ambush, and do as much damage as possible. Does that gain us more than what we would learn from their response, and what we would hopefully gain in the way of complacency?" For those answers, he looks to the adren.
Salem rubs his chin. "Our resources are somewhat limited, so ideally we don't want to use much for a feint... or for any hit-and-run attacks to soften them up. Ought to save that for the main event." He grimaces, glances at the others, then turns back to Nolan. "If it can't be done simply, then we should save that kind of trickery for our other actions."
Brings-the-Pack offers a prospective alternative. "Perhaps, instead, drive a vehicle to the garage where Thane was attacked and where the invisible wraith is watching. I can ward the inside of the vehicle so that it is likely difficult or impossible for the wraith to communicate outside of it. Wait a bit for the wraith to communicate that there was activity, and then grab him. Take him to the vehicle in the garage. Put him inside and sever the connection. Drive off. Someone observes what happens at Edgewood, and there's a trap waiting at the garage. Or on the road just south of the farmhouse where they would not be expecting it."
Salem excuses himself and gets up to head back into the woods.
Felix shifts position again, this time drawing his legs up and crossing his arms on his knees; there's too much energy in him right now, insisting on spilling out at least around the edges. "That'd be interestin'. Would we wanna kill it right away so it can't get at anyone to suck life outta them or would we wanna try an' interrogate it? Do we know if it's the actual one that attacked Thane? 'cause that's the only one I've heard of communicatin' with any of us. Well, talkin', anyway."
"It possible for you to tell if'n any've the Wyrm Wolves have got their little pack communication going?" Thomas asks Brings-the-Pack.
Watching Salem leave, Nolan's lips twist in a frown. "That's above my pay grade," he says under his breath. His brows go up at the cougar's suggestion. "That's a very different approach," he says. "We could definitely keep watch on the Dancers, here, but it would be harder to tell what, if any, affect capture has on the wraiths."
Brings-the-Pack addresses Felix first. "Depriving it of communication with the rest of the hivemind might prove disruptive over time, like in Star Trek when a member of the Borg is separated and begins having to think on its own instead of as a piece of a collective. It might even volunteer information if treated well, but I would not trust it to the point where I would leave its hands free." To Thomas, the mage says, "I suspect so. Detecting its use would be much easier than determining what was being said over it, which I am not sure I could accomplish without their totem spirit noticing it." To Nolan he nods and says, "It is not a decision for me to make either, and there are several very important 'if's' that might prove to work out against us rather than for us."
"Can always bring shit to Thane. He ain't likely to have a problem callin' the shot," Felix says to Nolan, with a shrug. Another shift of position, legs out straight, leaning back a bit to rest his weight on his hands. The mage's analogy gets a slow, thoughtful-looking nod, but it's the bit to Thomas he replies to aloud: "S'pose you could test it on us first. Maybe try it on two or three packs, see whatcha can get an' if the totems notice. An' if you didn't get nothin' you'd know for sure if it was 'cause we weren't sayin' nothin' or it was really failin'. Long's we knew you were gonna do it, anyhow."
Thomas gestures toward Felix. "That ain't a bad idea in general. What I was thinking though, it don't matter if'n I know what they're saying. Could be helpful to find one've 'em without that ability."
Nolan brings the stick up to rest against his knees. He looks from one to the other, eventually settling on Thomas. "Are you thinking about singling out a Dancer, now?"
Brings-the-Pack replies to the suggestions with, "I already know I can tap into a pack's means of communication through their spiritual totem if the spirit grants permission. I do not know if I could do it without the spirit or pack's consent, and I do not know if the attempt would be detected." It seems like he's at least aware of being responsible and respectful with this capability. At least with the sept's garou. "I would be willing to experiment if a pack gave me permission to do so." He turns to head back into the forest. "But I need to rest now. My recent travels have beenlong and draining. Good evening to you all." The cat begins slipping into the darkened forest, blending in with the shadows as he slowly disappears.
Felix nods again to Brings-the-Pack, wishing him, "G'night." Thomas gets a quick grin for the not-a-bad-idea, and the Galliard pushes up to his feet, though he doesn't seem to be leaving -- just moving, first walking along the edge of the stone he's been sitting on, balancing. "'spose if you were, one that ain't got it'd be best," he agrees, looking curiously to the Kitsune.
"Just thinking," Thomas replies. "Could be if'n we managed to get one without them noticing, I could do a thing. Ain't sure how much it'd help."
Nolan raises an eyebrow at Thomas's reply, curious, but apparently not willing to ask. "Finding just one away from the others, pack link or no, would be difficult. But not impossible," he adds with a lopsided grin.
Felix is apparently both curious and willing to ask, head slightly tilted as he regards Thomas: "What kinda a thing you got in mind?"
"Don't necessarily need to find him alone," Thomas hedges. "Could lure him pretty well, I think." He looks toward Felix. "Fox trick. I'd rather not say unless we get the opportunity."
Nolan breaks the stick he's been using to poke at the fire and then slides both pieces into the coals. Rubbing at his elbow, he studies Thomas. "Has to be one without a pack link?"
"Everyone's playin' their cards so close to the vest these days," Felix observes, with a slight shake of the head. Given the phase of the moon, it might be surprising how unbothered he sounds about the complaint. His hands move to his pockets, and he hops to the next of the flagstones, managing to land lightly on the edge. "I bet we could come up with a couple ways to lure one, yeah."
"I always do that," Thomas replies, with a faint, whiskery sort of grin. "Comes with the species." He lifts his head a little. "Well, it don't have to be one without a pack link. But if'n he's got one, could get real messy. I ain't tried it on someone with one yet. Don't know how effective certain things'd be. Plus, they'd know he was attacked if he told 'em."
Still rubbing his elbow, Nolan leans back a bit where he sits. "Then that's something we'd need help for. If the cougar can't do it, there are probably spirits that could, with the right enticement."
Felix balances on one foot for a few moments, wobbling dangerously, then changes to walking the stone-edge again, but this time backward. "Without'd definitely be better on the callin' for help front," he agrees, "Reckon it's easier workin' out if they got one'n anythin' more, at least. Less of an ask."
Thomas nods slowly. "Don't go putting yourselves out or nothing," he cautions. "It's just a thought. I weren't kidding about fooling a single one though. You get a plan where it'd be helpful to have one particular shithead thoroughly distracted, I'd be glad to chip in."
Nolan grins at that. "If I were any good with the spirits, I'd ask them myself, just to see what it was you were planning. But it can wait until the cat takes a look." He glances toward the sky, though the sun has yet to set, and rises. "I'll be gone for a day or two, whenever Jenelle is ready. Moon's big enough now that we should be okay heading across."
Felix laughs. "Me too, same reason. But I ain't particularly good with 'em neither," he admits. He pauses in his traversal of the stone where he can see Nolan well, asking, "Where you headed? ...an' who's Jenelle?"
Thomas's grin broadens briefly, but he says nothing else, instead allowing for Nolan to answer the question should he please.
"Jenelle's a young theurge," Nolan answers. He rubs at his elbow once more and then shakes out his arm and there's an audible crack as the joint settles. "We're going to go talk to a mountain," he adds with a grin.
"Man, I been here goin' on a year now an' half the time I turn around somehow there's still someone I ain't met yet," Felix says, shaking his head again. "What mountain, an' whatcha aimin' to talk about? Ain't just testin' your faith, are you?" There's a grin with that question.
Thomas takes a seat by the fire and begins fishing around inside his coat for his tobacco tin. "This allowed by any chance?"
"I've seen others smoking," Nolan says in answer to Thomas and then turns his own grin to Felix. "You have to have faith in order to test it," he says. "There's a thing of some sort over that way. The opposing force to the entity that causes the ooze. It's waking up, the absence is waking up. People have gone poking about at Hanford to find out about the absence, but apparently nobody's gone to talk to the Mountain where it's opposite has been for ages. Maybe we'll be able to talk to the entity, itself, who knows? But if anybody has insight into this thing, it'll be the mountain that's watched it for millennia."
Felix nods to Thomas, eyeing the tin speculatively, "Yeah," he answers, "As long as it's all-natural, an' kept clean, with respect for the spirits an' all. I asked." Another quick grin, which then turns on Nolan. "Hey, I hear all you need's 'bout as much as a mustard seed," he says to the Ragabash, "...but this is about that nothin' thing, the ooze? That makes sense. An' should be real interestin'. I wonder what kinda shit mountains got to say?"
Thomas gives them both a nod of gratitude. Once opened, the tin reveals several neat, handrolled cigarettes, which he offers to the other two after he's taken one for himself. "Might be a trick if'n it's sleeping deep. Then again, mayhap this whole thing woke it up too, since everything else seems to have."
"Given the seismic activity of late, I'm taking the chance that it'll be awake," Nolan says to Thomas. "And it's not such a long trip that the time will be wasted, if we can't get through. There are some trees there, over a century old, and, more than worth the trip if we get a chance to talk to the entity, itself. And if we gain nothing more than a bit of fresh air, well, at least we've learned that there's nothing to learn, there."
"The quake here was pretty impressive," Felix says, and accepts the offer from Thomas, plucking one cigarette from the tin with a bright, "Thanks." He continues, "...an' fun, kinda. But yeah, I reckon that kinda thing'd make sense bein' a wake-up call. ...Or a stretch."
Thomas tucks the tin back inside his coat, and produces a lighter to replace it. He takes a few moments to light his own cigarette before offering the lighter to Felix as well. "Sounds like a good plan," he agrees. "Worth trying anyhow."
Nolan nods. "That's the idea," he says, and runs a hand back through his hair. "Jenelle is supposed to meet me, here, when she's ready to travel. If you happen to spot her, let her know I'll be back in the morning? I need to grab a few things from in town before we go."
Felix thanks Thomas again, lighting up and handing the lighter back while he exhales that first drag. "Deal," he says, with a nod to Nolan, "if you tell me what happened on the trip an' all, when you get back. An' in aid of my half of that, aside from female an' someone I won't recognize, what's she look like?"
Thomas tucks the lighter into his coat as well. "Mm. Average height, pale skin, black hair...blue eyes? Ain't met her more'n a few times though."
Nolan points at Thomas. "What he said. Shadow Lord." He gives a wave, then, and starts walking backward, up the rise toward the treeline. "I'll be back before long, and if we get anything useful, I'll tell the who planet."
"Well, tell =me= even if you don't," Felix says, the grin a bit crooked, and gives the Fianna a small chin-lift farewell. The description's filed away, and he continues on to the next sitting-stone in the spiral.
Thomas's nose wrinkles, but it fades quickly. "You take care've yourself out there," he says after Nolan, before settling in to smoke.