Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston


The Talk

     Hi. I'm Lee, student body president, a Knight of House Scathatch and a member of the Court of Glass. This is Sand. He's a Knight of House Fiona, and an assistant teacher. The reason we're doing this is that they figure you'll pay more attention to someone closer to your own age.

     You are Changelings. However, it's more important that you know who you are than what you are. Since your Chrysalis you have probably been having things come back to you. The purpose of this little meeting is to explain a few things to help prompt more memories. That's also why the first formal ceremony you will probably participate in is your Saining. This will reveal to you who you are and your role in Changeling society, if you haven't already remembered. What you still don't remember after this you will be taught in classes.

     Your Kith is what kind of Changeling you are. The Kith are Boggan, Eshu, Nocker, Pooka, Redcap, Satyr, Sidhe, Sluagh, and Troll. Together we call ourselves the kithain. You've already heard some of those names used; you'll be taught what the rest are later.

     There are other supernatural creatures who are not considered Kithain, the Gallain. Some are like us - mostly the Native American fae and a few from other areas. Some are very much not like us. These include the werewolves, the vampires, and similar creatures.

     Yes, werewolves and vampires exist. Our paths and theirs rarely cross, and most of what each group knows about the other is more myth than fact. Try to avoid both groups if you can, at least until you can learn something about them.

     Our society is basically feudal. This means there are leaders - the Sidhe, usually - and followers - the Commoners, made up of all the other kith. Some in both groups believe this is the natural order of things. Many do not. House Scathatch is in the latter group. Our Liege, Duke Wotchermacalt, is pretty typical of that House in that he believes that while the Sidhe generally have the qualities which make for good leaders not all of them do, while some Commoners definitely make good leaders. Because of this, those Sidhe - and even many Commoners - who hold to a strict feudal view of how things should be run dislike this House. Something to keep in mind.

     We Changelings exist in a dual reality. Mortals cannot see us as we really are, unless they have been enchanted or have some form of magic themselves which grants such perceptions. What they see is your mortal seeming; currently, that's what you looked like to yourself before your Chrysalis. The Chrysalis is the moment of revelation, when your fae nature overcomes the banality of the mortal world and you are reborn into yourself. This reveals your fae mien to all who can see such.

     Your voile is what you wear in your fae mien. For most of you this is currently an altered version of your mortal garments. Some of your have already recovered your full Changeling voile. The rest of you will either recover it or make a new one.

     We fae gain our abilities - and our very nature - from the Dreaming. There are a lot of different definitions for this, and much discussion over its actual nature. Some say it is the source of all dreams and wonder. Others that it is the result of human dreams. Our magic comes from glamour, which is the active ingredient of the Dreaming. You might say it's distilled power of imagination.

      You can gain glamour from many sources, and in several ways. You can take it directly from humans, or by being granted permission to take it from a freehold by its master. The Court of Glass is a level 4 freehold, established by the current Duke's great-grandfather and several of his other relatives over a century and a half ago. The current Duke has reigned here for nearly thirty years.

     That brings us to an interesting property of freeholds. You may have heard tales of how humans taken to fairy lands return unaged, even though decades have passed. People don't age in a freehold. The current Duke is in his eighties; his wife is younger, but still older than she looks. This is why the school and boarding house are not in the freehold proper, though the playground is. We can't have people wondering why none of you are growing up.

     Keep in mind that while you are creatures of magic, you aren't gods. Affecting the mortal world with Changeling magic is very hard. Even causing a mortal to see you as you really are is hard, and they generally don't remember for long, due to the Mists. That's what keeps mortals from believing in us. They can even keep Changelings from believing in us. Which is why you didn't see yourselves as you are now before your Chrysalis. If you aren't careful, they can make you forget who and what you are, and you'll go back to being only your mundane selves.

     You can much more easily affect things fae and things chimerical. Those latter include some of the odd creatures you've seen around the freehold, your voile, and those parts of things which you can see but mortals can't. Like the turrets and flags on the freehold. And, with effort, your magic will affect the mortal world.

     The reason we are so limited has to do with Banality. That is the force of denial, the exact opposite of the power of Dreaming. Banality keeps mortals from seeing the world as we do, and it can wreck the chimerical world. Though normally it just drives it away for a while. Never invite an unenchanted mortal into a chimerical place, unless you want to risk making it purely banal. The symbol of Banality is cold iron, and its mere presence can harm us. You will be instructed later as to just what that is. For now, be assured that you'll know it when you see it.

     To shield ourselves from banality we changelings follow the Changeling Way. This is a special ritual allows us to be born into mortal human bodies, which protect our fae essence from Banality. Many Commoners did this, ages ago, as banality swept across the world at the beginning of the Dark Ages. So did some Nobles, mostly about half of House Scathatch. The rest of the Nobles and Commoners returned to Arcadia, the heart of the dreaming and our original home.

     However, down through the centuries a few of those from Arcadia came back to the mortal world, and a few from here made the trip there. A lot of Fae - mostly Sidhe - returned when the Moon landings of the late Sixties and early Seventies caused a surge of Glamour. Unfortunately, these newcomers tried to enforce the old, strict feudal system onto a world which had changed greatly since they last were in it. The result was the Concordance War.

     Remember how I said those who stayed behind and performed the Changeling Way Rite were born anew? Well, some of these new Sidhe did that. However, most simply took over already-adult bodies. What happened to the original owners is a matter of conjecture. Some, though, had more respect for humans than that. One of those, born as part of a set of twins, was a Sidhe noble who grew up to become High King David. He ended the Concordance War and did what he could to establish a modified feudal system which respected the Commoners while recognizing that the Sidhe were generally more fit to lead. Much like what House Scathatch has been doing for centuries. Unfortunately, just because we were first doesn't mean we are respected. The fact that many of the traditionalist Sidhe and Commoners firmly hold to the older form of rule means that our House continues to experience prejudice, and probably explains why High King David disappeared a few years ago. People are still looking for him.

     Locally, however, Duke Wotchermacalt is recognized as the Liege of the region by nearly all the Changelings in it. His family has a long history of fair and wise rule. There are several smaller freeholds in the area, most held by Commoners. They, and the few Sidhe of other Houses, almost uniformly recognize his authority, though some reluctantly. This school is one of the reasons he is respected beyond his hereditary title and the recognition granted his Duchy by High King David. Many families, faced with kithain or kinain children who don't fit into mundane schools, have found this place to be a blessing. As I mentioned earlier, Sand, here, is of House Fiona. The local Fiona Baron and Duke Wotchermacalt have long had a mutually beneficial and friendly relationship. So while it is important to remember the general rules, you also have to take into account individual situations.

Partial Timeline

     14,000 BCE Oldest Garou, fae, vampire and other mythic legends. 12,000 BCE First city.

     5500 BCE Land bridge between Britain and mainland submerged.

     500 BCE The Sundering begins.

     900 - 1100 CE Medieval Warm Period.

     1200 CE Climate changes in Northern Hemisphere bring cooler, shorter Summers, harsher Winters. Life in most of the civilized world becomes much harder.

     1233 CE  Establishment of the Inquisition. The Sundering reaches its peak.

     1250 CE First European fae move to New World.

     1347 CE Outbreak of the Black Plague.

     1348 CE The Shattering.

     1350s CE Last known Trods to Arcadia close. The Interregnum begins. (Year approximate.)

     1868 CE Court of Glass freehold established.

     1888 CE Industrial and Farming Exhibition (?) held near Columbus.

     1969 CE The Resurgence.

     1973 CE The Accordance War begins.

     1974 CE David Ardry finds long-lost Caliburn, and claims the title of High King.

     1978 CD The Accordance War ends.

     1998 CE David Ardry disappears.

Part One

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Girlfriend" by Matthew Sweet

     He shouldn't be here. Start of the semester was only a week away, and there was so much to do...

     But that was the reason he was here. He needed a break. From graduating, from getting ready for college, from working hard all Summer to have money. So he had taken his favorite board and his safety gear and headed off to a place he'd heard of but never been to before. Leo prided himself on being a good son, a good student, even a good brother to his sister. But there were times when he had to rebel. To do something to get away from all the responsibility and rules.

     Leo concentrated on the basics, just boarding up and down, back and forth, until he got used to this new place. Part of the city storm sewer system, it had the nickname Blood Bowl, supposedly because someone had died here after going off his board. That didn't seem likely to Theo. Sure, there were rough spots, but nothing he couldn't...

     A dark figure came out of the large exit tunnel, just slipping between the bars to step right into his path. He swerved, too hard, and went flying. He tried to catch himself, but fell, hard. He felt bone break. Leo tumbled to a stop and lay, stunned. There was no pain, yet, but he knew it would come. At least the gear had done its job. Besides the broken arm he only had a few scrapes and bruises. Still, that arm was going to be trouble. He wondered, in that detached way someone freshly hurt can have, how he was going to get to a phone to call an ambulance.

     The obstacle came over, reminding him that maybe someone else could call. The stranger was small and slim and pale, with long, greasy hair and big, dark eyes, and was draped in black, long out of date garments.

     Oh, great; a Goth, thought Theo.

     "I'm sorry," the stranger said in a bare whisper of a voice, kneeling and beginning to examine him. "I heard a noise and came to see what it was, then was dazzled by the light."

     She - at least, Leo thought the heavily dressed figure was female - touched him with cold, rubbery fingers. Leo should have been repulsed, but it felt strangely comforting. He wondered what was wrong with her throat.

     "What I made wrong, I put right, to make an end to this fright."

     A strange warmth spread through Theo, focusing in his arm, where it was almost painful. He stared, eyes wide, as the limb straightened, the swelling diminished. In seconds it was if he had never been hurt. He looked up at the young woman in astonishment, only to see her disappear into the culvert. He could see that those bars were too closely spaced for even a child to squeeze through, yet both times she had simply - and deftly - turned and stepped.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins

     The two young wolves romped in the late Summer woods. Their time together was to soon end, but for now they focused on the moment. Pouncing, bowing, play-biting, chasing each other's tails, their antics would have made a hardened killer smile. Then a beeping sound from a pile of clothing stashed nearby began. The wolves stopped, their mood dramatically altered. Reluctantly, the female changed back to human, already wearing clothes, then looked away so the male could become his naked Pooka self.

     Debbie watched appreciatively as Bill put his clothes on. Then she grabbed him in a fierce, protective hug.

     "Come back to me, my little Pooka," she breathed.

     "You can come and visit," Bill pointed, out, wheezing a bit.

     He had grown a lot in the past three years, and was as tall as Debbie, now, but still no match for her Ahroun might. Of course, how many Changelings were? The fact that he was tougher and healed faster than most Changelings meant she could roughhouse with him... though not as much as she could with her pack mates. Bill tried hard not to feel inadequate, and usually succeeded.

     "That's if I can get permission from my Alpha, and if I can get permission from the Open Skies Sept, and if..."

     "Shush," said Bill, putting a finger on her lips. He smirked. "I'll find a way, even if I have to lie about needing help."

     Debbie laughed, and hugged him even tighter.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue

     Leo couldn't get the events of the day before out of his mind. He knew he hadn't imagined them. That strange girl had, somehow, healed his arm. And ever since he'd been seeing strange things out of the corners of his eyes, hearing snatches of odd music... Unless someone had slipped him something, he must have hit his head as well as his arm.

     Only... his arm, though sore, appeared straight and sound.

     No; somehow, he knew those things were real. Something inside him kept whispering that he was missing an important lesson, that he should have chased down that strange girl and asked questions. Exactly what questions he still wasn't too sure of, though...

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Leave It" by Yes

     The room had no chimerical aspect to speak of. Or rather, its chimerical and mortal aspects were almost identical. There were a few vague, shadowy features visible to those with the proper perceptions, traces of the dreams and imaginings of previous occupants, but otherwise it was exactly the same to both Changeling and mortal eyes.

     Bill closed his empty suitcase with a sigh, and put it on the shelf in the closet. First day in a new town. First day in a new dorm. First day at a new college. First day of his mission.

     He'd been of two minds when Baron Haldrin asked him to come here to check on reports of odd Changeling doings in the area. He had planned to start back at Feyland college, where he was almost ready to graduate. Coming to Ohio State had required a major change for him, and invented explanations for all those not meant to know the real reason. At least with his Changeling friends and acquaintances he could point to the large fey population in the area, especially among the students. His mortal friends were given a much less convincing story.

     Fortunately, Ohio State University had an excellent business program, so the change wouldn't hurt his long-term plans too much.

     The door opened and a tall, muscular fellow looked in.

     "Oh, hi. I think this is my room."

     "Come on in," said Bill, amiably.

     The guy stared at him for a moment, then shook his head.

     "I mean, this is the room I assigned to."

     "William Peabody," Bill said, offering his hand.

     The stranger shook it, looking a bit confused.

     "I mean," he said, slowly, "this is the room where I'll be staying this semester."

     "That's about what I figured," Bill replied, nodding.

     The guy scowled, muttered something under his breath, and finally finished entering the room. He put one large suitcase on the far bed (the near one still having some of Bill's stuff on it) and another one on the associated desk. Then he turned and glowered at Bill.

     "Well? Don't you want to know who I am?"

     "You're Edward Bellamy. Both our names are on the rooming assignment."

     The other looked astounded.

     "But... I'm supposed to have a room by myself."

     "Don't blame me. I didn't make the room assignments."

     The larger teen looked like he wanted to do just that, but instead exited the room, muttering again. He hadn't returned by the time Bill finished putting his things away and decided to hunt up something to eat. As Bill passed by the ground floor offices for the dorm he could hear Ed's voice, loud and agitated, protesting that he was a football star and was supposed to have a room alone.

     "Going to be an interesting semester," sighed Bill, quietly.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf

     Bill snuffled eagerly around the massive old tree, tail wagging. Definite Garou scent, here. He wasn't sure, using his wolf vision, but he thought he could make out one of their glyphs carved on a nearby rock, as well. He picked a spot reserved for visitors to announce themselves and marked it. Then he moved off a bit, raised his head, and howled.

     The message was simple: Peaceful visitor requests meeting. He only gave it once. If they were close enough to hear that was all he needed to do. If they weren't, he could howl all evening with no result. Then, he lay down in the open to wait. He was sure, though, they'd have someone listening. And maybe watching.

     The reply was less than ten minutes in coming, and Bill took as given they had spent a few of those checking him and the surrounding area first. It wasn't paranoia when everyone really was out to get you... The wolves strode from the underbrush, wary but showing dominance cues. Wolf etiquette was nearly first nature to Bill, and he responded appropriately, showing deference, greeting the obvious leader first, then the others in descending order of rank. All this before anyone tried beastspeech.

     *What are your tribe and rank?* asked the pack Alpha, obviously puzzled.

     That was understandable. Bill did not carry Garou scent (though that in itself didn't mean he wasn't one, since some could disguise this, and some simply didn't have it). Though traces of his other form's scent carried over, just now he smelled mostly like a non-supernatural wolf.

     *Not Garou,* Bill clarified. *Friend and ally of Dragon Watch Pack, of the Sept of Open Skies.*

     Outright lies were close to impossible in beastspeech, but Bill could still fulfill his Pooka nature by being ambiguous, not telling the complete truth, or some combination.

     *As we were told to expect,* the pack Theurge noted.

     They shifted to Crinos, a form anything not also a supernatural creature would have found instinctively terrifying. Also, while Changelings were not subject to the Delirium as mortals were, most would still find even one Garou in Crinos intimidating. Bill, on the other hand, was mildly impressed. There were some spectacular battle scars and decorations among that pack. The Sept had sent their best - or close to it - to greet him.

     *My man-skins are there,* Bill stated, pointing towards some bushes with his nose. *I will be back soon.*

     Actually, he felt little need for human clothing when around Garou, but he did need to be out of their sight to change back to human, something he didn't wish to reveal. Once on two legs and dressed, Bill emerged and finished his introduction in a more complete manner than the wolf form allowed.

     "So, just what is this business you are engaged in which may require Garou help?" asked the Alpha, StormRunner, after the Pooka finished.

     "It probably won't, actually," said Bill. "But it could. And we figured that since I'd be doing a lot of running around in wolf form it was better to tell you up front who the stranger is."

     All of which was true, but told with an easy vagueness which let Bill fulfill his Pooka nature without actually lying to creatures any one of whom could dismember a Cape Buffalo in seconds.

     "We appreciate your thoughtfulness," said Banesnatcher, the Theurge. "We rarely come into the city, and when we do the reasons are usually both dire and urgent."

     "While we occasionally work with the local Changelings, we know little about them and they little about us," said StormRunner. "I welcome the opportunity both for more formal contact, and to learn more about your kind."

     "Well, I'm not really typical for a Changeling, even a Pooka," said Bill. He grinned. "People say I must have been a Garou in a previous life."

     Such a statement carried a bit of risk, since claiming a Garou could ever reincarnate as anything else might be taken as an insult. However, these particular individuals already knew he was an ally of another, and respected, Pack. Given that, they figured he probably had a right to claim to be something special.

     The Alpha shifted to human and invited Bill to sit on a nearby fallen log. Most of the others also shifted to human to sit. Two, however, returned to wolf form and left. Bill assumed one was reporting to the Sept and the other patrolling the area. He'd seen the Dragons do similar things often enough.

     To Bill's surprise, StormRunner was quite interested in him and his activities with the Dragon Watch Pack. Bill went into what he thought of as Ragabash Emulation Mode, telling things largely straight, but with an air of easy humor seasoned by occasional interjections and elaborations obviously intended to be both untruthful and amusing. He noted that the Garou were impressed with his command of their language, which contained elements of beastspeech and human sounds, making it quite flexible. At one point the Ragabash of this little group caught Bill's eye and winked. Bill grinned back. As kindred spirits they recognized and presumably understood each other, which was important if Bill was going to have good relations with this group.

     Finally, StormRunner was satisfied.

     "You have my promise that we will honor the agreement your Sept made with ours," he stated. "These are the places where you may leave messages."

     What followed was a sight, scent and sound description of specific locations where Bill could leave a note or a scent mark or a scratched glyph. He knew that most - perhaps all - of these places would have in them spirits allied with the Garou, spirits which normally would relay messages left by Garou. StormRunner didn't mention this, and neither did Bill. Since he had no talent with spirits, and they were very unlikely to respond to a non-Garou, he wouldn't be able to communicate with them directly, anyway. Though presumably they would let the Garou know a message had been left.

     StormRunner stood, Bill and the others immediately following his lead. He formally welcomed Bill to their region, and then surprised the Pooka by making him an official ally of the pack. This was an unexpected honor, and apparently surprised some of the pack members as much as it did Bill. The wolf Pooka, for once speaking the complete truth, formally thanked him for the honor.

     "And now, I think you had better be on your way back," said StormRunner, grinning. "You college students need your sleep!"

     It was a small joke, but any sort of humor was rare from an Ahroun. Bill and the others chuckled politely, and Bill made his farewells.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Long Distance Runaround" by Yes

     Bill's next task was to introduce himself formally to the local Duke. The Court of Duke Wotchermacalt was in a run-down mansion in a seedy neighborhood on the outskirts of Columbus. The area had at one time been upper middle class, but had slowly yielded to decay over the past few decades. The chimerical seeming was much grander than the mundane one, but still gave an impression of age and deterioration. Bill pulled his Fairlane into the main entrance, stopping to speak to the Troll in the guard booth.

     "State your business."

     "I am William Peabody, Pooka, of the Court of his Lordship, Baron Haldrin, here to make myself known to his Grace, the Duke," he said, formally.

     Since he actually was here on a secret mission he could say the above straight out. Of course, that might make people wonder what he really meant, since Pookas almost never told the exact truth. On the other hand, people normally didn't think too much about what Pookas said, because that tended to give them headaches.

     "Enter peacefully and be welcome," said the Troll, as he raised the pole.

     Bill parked where indicated, and by the time he exited there was a retainer waiting to escort him. The inside was in a bit better shape than the outside, but still gave the impression that the place had been let go for years. Bill could feel the power of this Freehold, which while not ancient was respectably old. The magic seemed quiet and tamed, there but not insistently. The freehold's chimeras were mostly similar to the structure itself, appearing elderly, tired and a bit worn. They tended to resemble classical - and often caricatured - household servants.

     "Sluagh must hate this place," said Bill, peering into a dim corner where he thought he actually saw one of the pale creatures.

     "Thank you, young sir," said the servant, beaming.

     They stopped while the servant opened a pair of double doors, then ushered Bill in. The wolf Pooka repeated his introduction, with a sweeping bow. The room looked, smelled and felt like an old house which didn't get aired out much, in both aspects. However, the chimerical aspect was Baroquely appointed, and quite attractive, if a bit gaudy.

     "And how is Baron Haldrin?" his Grace asked.

     "As well as can be expected, sir," said Bill, smiling politely.

     "Well enough to think he needed to keep tabs on his old acquaintance, at any rate."

     "Uh..." said Bill.

     "Don't trouble yourself," sighed the Duke, with a tight smile. "You made a sudden change in plans to come here and insert yourself into our society. I don't know why your Lord has this sudden desire to learn of what passes in my Court, but I understand his methods. I hold nothing against either him or you."

     "Thank you, your Grace," said Bill, with another bow.

     "Now, tell me of Baron Haldrin and what his infamous crew of troubleshooters have been up to recently."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Bang the Drum All Day" by Todd Rundgren

     Bill had been given names and locations of several contacts in the area, some of them right on campus. Three of these were in one dorm, which was the headquarters of a Changeling group known as the Campus Revel. Larger than a motley, not quite a Freehold, the dorm residents were supposedly all kinain or kithain. Bill entered a bit hesitantly. For a place which wasn't a Freehold, the Revel was strong with the force, and currently occupied by many Changelings. One of whom - a fellow Pooka - immediately approached Bill.

     "Hi!" said the bouncy avian boy. "I'm Plucky."

     "I noticed," said Bill, grinning.

     "Welcome to the Revel!" said the avian Pooka. He leaned in close and spoke more quietly. "Not everyone currently in here is in the know, if you know what I mean, so ixnay on the agic-may."

     "Oh, I am definitely accustomed to performing miracles among strangers," said Bill, snickering.

     As on most Saturdays, this one was largely an all-day party for the Revel. However, that didn't mean that everyone there was there all day, partying. The membership changed through time, at least until after dark. Then most people who arrived stayed until the revel broke up. Finding that none of his contacts was currently available, Bill settled in for a hopefully enjoyable wait. Immediately, he attracted a small crowd, some of whom had heard a bit about his exploits, and some of whom merely wanted to get to know the newcomer.

     On the other hand, he was far from the only person attracting attention.

     "Who's that guy over there?" Bill asked Plucky, pointing to a tall, lean, blond young man, as the party began to really get started, in the early evening. "His chimerical aspect is rock solid, as if he can't decide whether he's a human or a Sidhe."

     "The Eshu? He's the father of Judy, that Satyr over there, making sure he sees her constantly," the duck boy replied. "She says he had his Chrysalis over a week ago and is completely ready to join Changeling society, knowing everything about it. She's afraid the fact he's here tonight means he's finished his dream dance."

     "Wow," said Bill. "I've attended every Chrysalis except my own, and like everyone else I remember everything about it."

     "Nothing special to see tonight, then," said Plucky, grinning in anticipation.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix

     Reality kept slipping away from Leo. He tried to keep himself busy, setting up his dorm room and getting a start on his studies, but things kept distracting him. Things which most people would have been trying to convince themselves weren't actually there. But Leo knew they heralded something important. Something vital, and magical. If he could just figure out what it was...

     Though Leo's family lived in the area he and his sister Judy had both made the decision to live in dorms, at least the first year. They'd both used the excuse that this would help them focus on school, but had admitted to each other that they actually wanted to focus on school life. Leo didn't want to start the semester by going to a raucous party, the way some students did to celebrate being back among their peers. Still, he was not having much luck ignoring the strange urge he felt to go out.

     Finally, he gave in and went to the Campus Revel. Leo was a lifelong resident in Columbus, and had known about the place for years. This was his first visit, however. The Revel was actually the informal name for another dorm, one with a reputation for wild activities. For some reason, he felt that being among that sort of crowd might help with whatever was bothering him.

     At first things seemed okay. However, the odd sensations he had been experiencing lately soon increased, until they were actually - for the first time - distracting him from reality. And as those sensations increased, so did the attention some of the others at the Revel were paying him.

     Leo sat on a couch off to one side, in what appeared to be a quiet spot, at least for the moment. There had only been one other occupant when he arrived, a young woman who appeared even more uncomfortable than Leo. When he sat, on the far end of the couch from her, she gave him an odd look, then quickly rose and left. Leo sighed; she'd been quite attractive, but obviously had seen something in him she didn't like. Unfortunately, an older man - that is, someone who looked to be in his early twenties - seemed to see something he did like. He moved casually over to stand in front of Leo, and stood there for a long, quiet moment, examining him. Leo looked up at him, expectantly, hoping the guy wasn't going to make a pass at him.

     "Yep," said the older man, nodding and smiling. "Harmonic tremors. Good luck."

     He turned and left. Leo blinked and shook his head. For a moment - just a moment - he'd thought the man had goat legs and horns. This - whatever it was - had now reached the point where the people - and even the room itself - kept changing. That young man over there suddenly had wolf ears, nose and tail. The life-sized poster of a door opened and someone with pointed ears stepped through. And they all - even the odd things which weren't in any way human - were watching him, in eager anticipation.

     Leo suddenly lunged to his feet and fled.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "It Can Happen" by Yes

     The alley was cold and dark and dank. It also smelled. Leo felt... empty. At the Campus Revel he'd been too full - of beer, of company, of noise, of things he didn't even have names for - but now that was all gone, leaving just him. And he was no longer sure that was enough.

     This is why some people get married to someone they don't love or even like, he thought, in revelation. They can't stand being themselves; they need someone else to complete them.

     Was he really that... Shallow?! Or did it just seem that way, because of college and the beer and...

     No, thought Leo, with a firm defiance which surprised him. I am not empty!

     Color and sound filled the alley, and the scent of fresh-cut grass. Things danced in the corners of his eyes, and voices whispered manically. And there, in the distance, in a direction which he had never before known to exist, he could see... marvels. Leo gaped, and took a step back. For a moment, the magical scene wavered, even fading a bit, as he thought to reject it. Then, with a shouted "Yes!" he accepted, realizing that not only was he not empty, but so full it spilled over and tinted the world around him with wonder. And the Glamour soared.

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Two

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Changes" by David Bowie

     Leo didn't remember getting home. He should have gone to his dorm, but somehow wound up not only at his family's house but his own room. And, somehow, his sister was there, too, even though she should have also been at college. Even more remarkable, though somehow not surprising, she was different from what he remembered. Leo emerged from a dazed state standing in front of her. He felt... vastly different, yet he also felt he was coming back to himself for the first time in a long while.

     Leo turned wordlessly from his sister to stare in the mirror over the battered dresser which had served him since childhood. He wasn't sure he believed what he was seeing.

     "You've got to be kidding me!"

     He was even lighter in coloring than before, his blond hair shining so that he felt it might actually glow if he turned out the light. His features were narrower, his lower face more pointed... not to mention his ears.

     I'm gorgeous, he thought. Maybe that's why that Satyr and some others seemed to be coming on to me tonight.

     He didn't think to wonder at how he now knew what sort of creature the goat-man had been. Or why he now accepted that there actually had been a goat man.

     "Well, it is funny," said Judy, smirking. "You're a Sidhe. A high elf. With a Nocker for a twin sister."

     They didn't look much like twins, now. Though still nearly the same height, where he had become fairer, she was now ruddy and coarse. Her ears were also pointed, but far larger and rougher than his. Her face looked vaguely mimeish, the complexion being a mixture of pale red and pasty white, with a ruddy bump of a pug nose. Her hair was white and wild, including her eyebrows, and her dark eyes beady. When she grinned, her teeth were pale yellow and all pointed.

     "I... don't know what those terms mean. Or... sort of. Vaguely. And why are my eyes grey?"

     "Sidhe often have oddly colored eyes," said Judy. She leaned in close and peered at him. "Y'know, I've often thought I could see grey flashes in your eyes, even before my own Chrysalis."

     "Chrysalis," said Leo, testing the word. "That's what happened to me."

     "Oh, yes," she said, grinning again. "I heard that you had an encounter with a Sluagh which sparked your Changeling nature. I've been waiting for this, but certainly didn't expect that my twin brother would be a Sidhe. Oh, well; can't have everything. From your colors, and the fact that you incarnated at all, I'm pretty sure you're House Scathatch, just like the local Lord and his family."

     Leo abruptly staggered backwards and dropped heavily onto the bed.

     "Mom and Dad..."

     "Are mortal, but kinain," said Judy. "They have some faerie blood but not enough to actually see us like this without help."

     Leo shook his head, and noticed for the first time that his hair went halfway down his back.

     "I've never liked my hair long... but this looks... right."

     "Well, brother, it's too bad you aren't a Nocker or a Boggan," said Judy, sitting beside him and putting a hand on his shoulder. "Still, I'm glad you finally woke. Now, suck it up. You've got people to meet. Nobility, and even some important folks."

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Wondrous Stories" by Yes

     The bookstore was prominent but located on a narrow side street. Bill was willing to bet it saw more foot traffic from the university and local residents than from further afield. An old-fashioned bell over the door rang as he stepped inside. Behind the counter he saw a man in late middle-age who wore glasses and had a bit of a stoop.

     "Hello," said the man, smiling. "Welcome to the Media Medium. My name is Fred."

     He glanced around pointedly, then leaned towards Bill.

     "I'm kinain, and Enchanted," he murmured. "Welcome, young Pooka."

     This appealed to Bill's impish nature, and he grinned broadly, which elicited a responding smile from the clerk.

     "Are you looking for anything in particular?"

     "Not really," said Bill, casually. "Someone told me that this place had some unusual books, and I am always interested in the unusual."

     "Of course you are," said the clerk, grinning. "Feel free to look around. Just speak up if you have any questions. It's a small, quiet, store, and I'll hear you."

     The place was a treasure trove. It was larger than it looked, apparently going all the way over to the next street, and into the buildings on either side - a craft store and a coffee shop - as well as up into a large attic. The chimerical aspect was very much like the mundane one - How could you improve on such a wonderful old bookstore? - except for a number of appropriate chimeras and some interesting decorations.

     Bill found something he wanted in almost every room. He was even able to afford about half of his finds. Dithering about which half to buy took him nearly an hour. During that time several people arrived and left, most of them Changelings or humans who had something distinctly out of the ordinary about them. His decisions were mostly determined by the chimerical aspects of the particular books. Even a couple of the new ones had an interesting shine to them, reflecting the care and enthusiasm put into making them. And one of the old ones was not only brilliantly appointed like an illuminated manuscript, it had a small chimera with it who gave Bill a long evaluating look, then smiled and nodded.

     "Will that be all?" Fred asked, as he started on the armload of books.

     "Isn't that enough?"

     "Of course not. There's never enough."

     "Amen, brother!" said one of the other customers, a smiling man with a mustache. 

          *             *             *

     Everybody gets the no-no.

     Hear it ringing in their ears.

     There's lots of ways that you can go-go.

     Look around, No disappears.

     Switching to glide.

     - The Kings, "Switching to Glide"

     Bill realized that his wandering feet had taken him in a direction he hadn't planned on. He stopped and looked around. There was something chimerical happening, here, but not entirely obvious. He could hear and smell it, more than see it. And it gave him a good impression. Then, he saw a male Satyr step into a recessed doorway. Moving to get a look at the entrance, Bill noted that it was, indeed, strongly chimerical. According to the sign over said entrance this was the Pride of Erin, a pub. And it was strong with the force... Smiling in anticipation, Bill walked towards the fancy but sturdy wooden door.

     "Welcome!" a large, jovial, almost Jovian, Satyr, called out with a mild Irish accent as Bill walked in. The place was mostly empty, this being early on a Sunday afternoon, and most of those present weren't Changelings. "Welcome to our humble establishment. You're that new fellow some of my customers have been talking about meeting at last night's Revel, right?"

     "Probably," said Bill, grinning.

     "You'll need to show proof of age before ordering anything alcoholic, but otherwise good manners and good humor are the only requirements."

     "Sounds like I'll hate it here."

     He'd heard of this place, at the Revel the night before. The Pride of Erin was an interesting establishment. It was one of many pubs with attached breweries in this section of Columbus, part of an effort to give a European feel to a section of downtown. Glamor was higher and banality lower throughout the whole district, but especially (no surprise) in here.

     As Bill sat a cute ferret Pooka came flouncing up to him.

     "Hi! I'm Gloria."

     "What prices, Gloria?" asked Bill, innocently.

     She stared at him for a moment then burst out laughing.

     "I've heard that one before!" she said, giggling.

     "I'm surprised to see so few mundanes in here," Bill said quietly.

     "Hey, if they can put up with us, we can put up with them," she replied, wrinkling her muzzle cutely. "Seriously, we don't let anyone in here at all, but if they fit, we especially keep them out."

     "Ah," said Bill, nodding. "I'm a old hand at this. You don't need to recommend anything."

     "Well, then, you certainly don't want to try the house specialty, Fairey Ale."

     "Sounds like I'd hate it," said Bill, grinning.

     He watched her sashay to the bar with his order, but with something more like academic interest rather than the lust most male customers experienced. It wasn't that Bill had no interest in other women. It was that other women simply didn't interest him. At least, not in the ways Debbie did. He sighed, as he thought about her. The things they both did for their packs kept them apart much of the time, but also gave opportunities for Changelings and Garou to work together. Six of one...

     He looked around the bar, nodding at a few people he recognized, most of them from the Revel. He recalled that the Pride of Erin was a freehold, but a Commoner one. Small, intimate, friendly, with less of the power but none of the reserve and little of the formality of a Noble freehold. Bill couldn't stop smiling as he drank it all in.

     His ale arrived, and Gloria waited expectantly as he took a sip. Bill wasn't much of a drinker, but didn't mind the milder brews. This wasn't mild. He managed to swallow without sputtering or choking, but was obviously startled. The taste was fine; it just had more alcohol than he liked.

     "Not... bad," he said, his voice only a little hoarse. "Milder than I expected. From the name I though it might have pepper in it or something."

     "Oooh, we've had that for years!" said Gloria, now surprised herself. "I'm sure Patric - the gal behind the bar - would never want to try that."

     Bill resorted to sipping, if slowly, determined not to insult the house by leaving even a drop behind. Gloria took pity on him and brought over a tumbler of iced water. Bill was just starting to feel mellow when a Troll and a Red Cap came over and joined him. They both appeared to be in their early twenties.

     "Don't want to disturb you," said the Troll, "but we're pretty curious about something. You were at that Revel last night, weren't you?"

     "Never heard of it," said Bill, beaming at them in an exaggerated way intended to make them think he was far more intoxicated than he actually was.

     "Well, what can you tell us about that Chrysalis which happened near there?"

     "Absolutely nothing."

     The Troll thought this over for a bit.

     "Do you know the name of the person involved?"


     "Then don't bother telling us," said the Red Cap, whom Bill was startled to realize was a female of the species.

     "Leo Somethingorother," said Bill, blurting that out more because he was startled by the revelation of her gender than because of the ale. "I can see why you're so curious. He'll never be formally welcomed into local Changeling society, right?"

     "Leo..." said the Troll, nodding and ignoring the hint. "Well, it's a start. Thanks."

     He clapped Bill hard on the shoulder, obviously intending to intimidate him. Bill just smiled at him, his feigned bleariness momentarily hardening into something more feral. The Troll, startled, quickly withdrew his hand.

     "Be seeing you," said Bill, giving the Prisoner salute.

     Neither got it.

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads

     The ceremony welcoming Leo as a new member of both House Scathatch and the local community was held just three days later. This seemed a bit rushed to some, but given the rarity of the event and the speed with which he was remembering his true self was probably appropriate. Probably...

     While the Sponsorship ceremony itself was private, with only Leo, His Grace and three others present (none of them Leo's sister, to her great and vocal displeasure) the introduction and celebration which followed were quite public, at least among the Changelings. Welcoming the opportunity for celebration, the Duke's wife had sent invitations far and wide. While most of those who attended were from the domain, some others were from much farther away. Some of the latter actually arrived through the trailhead of the Trod, located in a small stand of trees on the edge of the Freehold. Naturally, all the Duchy's Barons and Counts were in attendance, often with much of their own court. The Duke was old money, and feted his guests well. Entertainers fae and human wandered the grounds or took turns on the temporary stage in the huge back yard behind the mansion.

     Bill knew that according to folklore Changelings who spent much time in a freehold risked sliding into Bedlam. However, his personal experience was that many of those who wished to spend all or most of their time in such enchanted places did so because they were actually sliding towards Banality. Duke Wotchermacalt reminded Bill of Duke Torethyl, only with less money and a smaller, poorer court. Careful questioning of others attending the event seemed to confirm it. The Duke himself, and his family in general, were well considered by commoner and noble alike, but many in both groups felt he was getting old.

     The introduction ceremony was definitely formal, but less so than others Bill had attended. When most noble families fled this world during the Shattering, House Scathatch had stayed, and joined in the Changeling Way. They bonded with human hosts, lived out their lives, then reincarnated, as the abandoned commoners did. During the Accordance War the previous Duke - the uncle of the current one - had thrown his support behind High King David, but only after seeing evidence that David was both honorable and determined to see that the commoners received their due. This had led others of House Scathatch - as well as those they ruled - to also support the new High King. Though many in the more traditional noble Houses expressed scorn for House Scathatch, for "living like peasants" this support had helped David's appeal to the commoners.

     This support had also meant all the more grief among House Scathatch and the commoners who supported it when David had so mysteriously vanished, a few years back.

     The bittersweet ceremony was nearly over, some people already preparing to leave, when an odd murmuring passed among those attending. Rumors were already flying, when Bill noticed that the Duke was being not-so-surreptitiously gestured to by one of his retainers. His Grace calmly completed his part, shook Leo's hand with both of his, gave him a quick but obviously sincere hug, then excused himself.

     Naturally, everyone there wanted to see where the Duke was going, but propriety kept the majority of them from doing much about it. Fortunately, Bill was a Pooka.

     *             *             * 

Theme for this section: "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray

     Bill casually wandered in an indirect manner towards where the Duke was heading. Using that as his bunk, he worked a minor cantrip to make himself less noticeable. Though he wasn't able to get too close, he was able to see that the Duke was speaking to an Eshu carrying a bundle, escorted by a pair of His Grace's guards. As Bill watched, the Duke listened to something the young man had to say, then turned and headed calmly towards the mansion, the Eshu beside him. They were joined by the Duchess, who was far less equanimous. Bill was baffled by these events. Yet the Eshu looked somewhat familiar. Where had Bill seen...

     The realization left him feeling a bit faint. The Eshu had to be none other Sir Seif Raushan, arrived at the Court of Glass still carrying Caliburn.

     Did that mean the High King was actually here?! No, impossible. There would have been some hint. Most likely, Seif was merely following up on some vague clue. But...

     Maybe - just maybe - Caliburn had decided to bypass all the foolish Sidhe politics and choose a new High King.

     "Well, well, well," said one of the Duke's Troll guards, his coming up behind Bill making the Pooka's fur stand on end. "What do we have here?"

     "Would you like a subscription to Grit?" said Bill, his voice an octave higher than usual.

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Three

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Ants Marching" by Dave Mathews Band

     "I'll take care of this, Henry," said the Duke, waving the Troll away. The guard had brought Bill to a small, private chamber off the main court room to meet His Grace, himself, which startled Bill. The Pooka began to wonder just how much trouble he was in. After the big, green goon left, His Grace stared at Bill for a long moment, making the young man increasingly uncomfortable. "I want you to tell me what you think is going on here. Then I'll tell you what is going on here. Because I want to make certain - as foolish as such a hope might be with a Pooka - you tell your liege the whole, plain, unvarnished truth."

     Bill swallowed, and looked the Duke directly in the eye.

     "I suspect that Seif Raushan brought Caliburn here to select a new High King."

     The older man actually looked startled.

     "No, no," said the Duke, with an easy - and false - laugh. "Sir Seif came here to announce that Morewen and Lenore have accepted High Queen Faerilyth's offer!"

     "What offer?" queried Bill, puzzled.

     "That if they recognize her as High Queen Dowager, she'll abdicate in favor of Lenore, with Morewen as Reagent!"

     Bill knew only slightly more about Sidhe politics than he did about human politics. That is, he recognized the names and some of the titles.

     "I assume that's something good," he replied.

     "Oh, very good. It means an alliance between two of the most powerful factions vying for control of the Changeling world. It allows the High Queen - soon to be High Queen Dowager - and Sir Seif to continue searching for her husband with the support of the High Court without nearly as much interference from Court duties or intrigues. And it quiets many of the baseless rumors which held that these two parties had good reason to be mortal enemies, and likewise the motivation for followers of one group to act against followers of the other."

     Bill peered at the older man. Old man; Bill recalled that he was well past eighty, though thanks to the time he spent in this Freehold he appeared much younger.

     "You seem quite happy about this," Bill said. "Doesn't it mean peace in our time?"

     The bravely posted smile on His Grace's face faded, and he sighed, now looking much closer to his actual age.

     "It never lasts," he whispered. "Glamor fades; we age and die."

     "And are never reborn," said Bill, with the self-assurance of personal experience.

     "With Winter coming?" said the Duke, mildly. His face became gloom-filled, his tone morose. "The twin towers have fallen and the world moves towards greater darkness. The Red Star is here. Already, it affects all of us, even the mundane humans."

     Bill couldn't help but shiver. He couldn't see the thing, himself, but he'd heard others mention it, including Debbie and a few other Garou.

     "So far," he said, dryly, "the only effects I've seen are those people think it has on them."

     To his surprise, the Duke laughed, and meant it this time.

     "Ah, Pooka," he said, actually putting his hand on Bill's shoulder. "Thank you. Sometimes it takes a jester to put things in their proper perspective. Yes, it is definitely foolish to make trouble before it arrives. Now, come on; I want to introduce you to Sir Seif, and hear the news from him directly."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John

     (No, the lyrics aren't "She's got electric boobs! They're mohair, too!")

     In Bill's opinion, the best thing about this whole mission was the Campus Revel and its members. He'd heard about kinain and even kithain bands, of course, but was surprised to find that not only did they actually exist, but one of them was based in Columbus. Fiery Blood was, in fact, just returned from a successful tour, and giving a "We've Come Home!" concert that weekend.

     "They're all kinain," said Plucky, excitedly. "And all Enchanted! Not just the band, but most of the audience!"

     "That seems... rather unlikely," Bill countered, naturally thinking the other Pooka was exaggerating.

     He was, of course, but not by much. Though few of them could do much with Glamour, the band and audience could definitely generate it. The music was more folksy than Bill liked, but he could tell it was good, and intoxicated enough by the flood of magic not to care it wasn't exactly to his taste.

     Afterwards, still more than a bit high, Bill accompanied several members of the Revel to a nightclub. This was a human institution, but there were several Changelings there, and a number of people were identified as kinain by Plucky and some of the others. Bill was surprised at just how many present were actively on the make, including his erstwhile guide. At one point Pluck sidled up to an attractive blond and grinned. Bill felt him use just enough Glamour for the girl to be partially enchanted, and see things which weren't quite what she was expecting. Since she was already mildly drunk, she took the revelations pretty calmly.

     "Hi," said Plucky, in what he apparently thought was a sexy voice. "Wanna duck?"

     The human girl stared at him for a moment, not sure exactly what she was seeing and hearing but obviously curious. Then she smirked.

     "Gee, I dunno," she countered. "I generally don't go feather than a kiss on the first date."

     "I think I'm in loooove," sighed Plucky.

     As it turned out, Plucky went with her, leaving Bill alone and feeling a bit lonely. He'd had the usual adolescent lusts but never seriously been attracted to anyone except Debbie. Somehow, he'd always known - and she had told him the same, more than once - that each of them was the only one the other would ever want. Bill missed her greatly. All this courting and posturing seemed ridiculously shallow. He sighed and headed back to his dorm early.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Red Barchetta" by Rush

     "This car," sighed Plucky, looking sadly around the old Fairlaine.

     "What about this car?" countered Bill, defensively.

     "I mean, well, look at it! It's old, it's decrepit... Why don't you get a new one?

     "Fasten your seat belt and I'll show you," said Bill, taking a quick look around as he came to a halt at a stop sign.


     Nothing was coming, and there was no traffic visible ahead. The old muscle car surged forward with a chirp of the tires far out of proportion to the roar of the engine and the force shoving them back in their seats. Bill shifted agilely, the car reaching the speed limit in just over 2 seconds. Plucky yelled as they entered a curve at a seemingly suicidal speed. However, the car held the road as if on rails, and Bill gunned the engine coming out of the turn to recover the lost speed.

     After several seconds of this they were approaching traffic, and Bill slowed to a more conventional pace.

     "This is a Ford Fairlaine 1970 Cobra Jet Ram Air 429," said Bill, proudly. "Symphonic exhaust, evacuated inlet, platinum spark plugs, rotary cam, flubber tires and rectabular excrusion brackets at all four corners... who cares how it looks? And the extreme appearance is actually a bonus, since it lets me take people by surprise."

     "Well, I just left a surprise in your seat!"

     "Can we please concentrate on getting where we're supposed to go without setting new land speed records?" said Leo, testily, from the back seat. He was coming to dislike Pookas intensely.

     They were on their way to do a favor for the Duke. He had asked them to carry word of the agreement revealed by Seif Raushan to an isolated Sidhe outside the city. Bill's car had been one reason the Duke had asked him to provide transportation. He seemed to have a thing for big, powerful vehicles.

     "What kind of Sidhe name is Lady Fang?" asked Bill, as he turned down the country road which was supposed to lead to the entrance.

     "I couldn't tell you the details," said Leo, "but I'm assured it's appropriate."

     "Should be a while, yet," said Bill, peering ahead.

     "There it is!" said Leo.

     The muscle car turned into the drive and stopped at the massive - but apparently purely decorative - stone and wrought iron gates.

     "'Glenn of Eternal Repose'?" said Plucky, reading the sign on the left.

     "It is a place of the dead which is also a home to several of us."

     All three jumped and whipped around in their seats. There, leaning casually against the right gate - somehow unseen before now - was an elder Satyr Grump. He grinned at them.

     "Good mornin'. I'm Dancing John. What brings you to our place of rest?"

     "A-beeble-babble..." said Plucky.

     "Greetings, wise Satyr," said Leo, unfastening his seat belt and standing inside the rear of the car to turn and properly address their greeter. "I am Leo, here on behalf of His Grace, the Duke, to bring important word to Lady Fang."

     "Figured it was something like that," said the Satyr, nodding. "You can park to the right, inside the gate. Then I'll take you to her."

     The Boneyard's mortal seeming was an old and well-tended cemetery, shaded by huge, ancient trees carrying much moss and lichen, with occasional outcroppings of bedrock poking through an exquisitely cared-for lawn. It was the sort of place many would choose - and, according to the testimony of their eyes, had chosen - for their final rest. Its fae seeming was like the mortal one, only moreso. They could feel that it was a Freehold, though not a strong one.

     "What a place," breathed Bill.

     "Sluagh have been known to swoon from exquisite melancholy on first viewing it," Dancing John observed with a smirk. "Some of them are convinced Lady Fang is actually one of them. She also has the local vampires thinking she's one of them."

     "How do you know she's not a vampire who has the local Changelings fooled into thinking she's one to them?" Plucky asked innocently.

     The Satyr laughed and patted the duck Pooka on the back. As he led them deeper into the cemetery they were watched by many chimeras, as well we a small number of Changelings and at least one human.

     "That's Maisy. She's mortal, but a hedge witch. Hey, Maisy!"

     "Hello, John," the attractive young blond replied, waving. "Who are our guests? The blond one looks especially yummy."

     "Down, girl. They're here on business for the Duke. You can socialize later. Now, those grey chimeras over there are the Stone Gang. They're mostly harmless. The tall, thin, fellow in black with the measuring tape is the Dark Man, our legally required Sluagh. And that big wall of fur coming in from the left is Siruscue Gald, affectionately known as Sue."

     Bill was startled. Very startled. Even more startled than Leo and Plucky, who froze in place. "Sue" was a Garou in Crinos! Yet, he didn't act like a Garou. And other people didn't react to him as they normally would the Crinos form. Though they certainly noticed he wasn't, uhm, normal.

     "Sue's security. A lot of it. Dark Man! Messengers for our Lady! Any idea where she is?"

     "I should think, this being morning, she would be by the balefire," the Sluagh replied, in a whisper which somehow sounded deep and ominous. "I am not too thrilled at being out even in these shadows, but duty calls. We have a service this late afternoon."

     "Thank you! I'll be sure to spread the word. Okay, boys, this way to the sepulcher!"

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" by the Hollies

     One of the metal doors to the large, above-ground vault was open; the eerie glue-green light of the balefire dimly reflecting from the polished stone of the inner walls.

     "Lady Fang, we have visitors with a message from the Duke."

     "Enter," came a definitely Sidhe voice.

     The interior was vertical stone walls with a corbeled roof and rough floor, all of granite porphyry. What drew their attention first was the balefire, which was in a heavy bronze brazier in the middle of the slightly uneven floor. Against the far wall was a simple but comfortable cot. Around the walls, and on either side of the doorway, were sturdy bookshelves. The brazier appeared Grecian, and was decorated with images of Apollo. Many items on the shelves were also very old, the oldest being scrolls of roughly the same age as the brazier. To their arcane sight the room and furnishings appeared cleaner and better appointed than it would have to an unenchanted human, as well as much larger.

     The strange Sidhe woman nodded and smiled politely at Bill and the others. Yet her gaze was distant, her manner preoccupied. She turned back in the same direction she had been looking when they entered.

     "I think that is all, Shorty. Thank you."

     And, dimly, they could see that there was someone there. A translucent specter of a short man in archaic clothes. He eyed the visitors briefly, bowed to Lady Fang and vanished.

     "What was that?!" said Bill, his fur standing on end.

     "My liaison among the Wraiths," said Lady Fang. "Now, what is this message you bring me?"

     Leo swallowed nervously and advanced. He bowed to Lady Fang, introduced himself and his companions, then relayed the message and how it came to His Grace.

     "Interesting," said Lady Fang, in a tone which said she considered it only barely so. "Yes. I think I shall have to speak with this sword-bearer. I suspect there is more to his visit than Adam is letting us know."

     She frowned and peered at the trio of visitors. Especially Bill.

     "Yes. Much more... I think Lord Exsanguine might even be involved, somehow. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Feel free to stay a while and refresh yourselves."

     She turned back to the balefire, dismissing them.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "obsession" by animotion

     "Who is this Lord Exsanguine?" said Bill, as they wandered around the cemetery.

     "Oh, he's the local vampire Prince," said Plucky, easily.

     "Shyeah, right," sneered Leo.

     "Lord Exsanguine," said Maisy, who was walking with them, "is an old vampire with a lot on his mind. Why, simply keeping the wolf from the door requires stringent precautions and great effort. Of course, it's all worth it. I mean, when was the last time you saw a werewolf around Columbus?"

     "He really is a vampire, and he really is a Prince?" said Bill, not sure he wasn't the butt of some shared gag.

     "Definitly," said Sue, nodding.

     "He's not such a bad sort," said Maisy. "He's a Malkavian. You Pookas ought to get along fine with him. And he knows enough about Changelings that he won't be tempted to try your blood. He's crazy enough already."

     "I'm not sure," said Plucky, smirking, "but I think we've been insulted."

     "I'm sure," said Leo, stone-faced.

     "He collects things," said Dancing John. "Compulsively, too. Actually has a knick-knack shop where he sells duplicates or stuff he's grown tired of."

     The Satyr laughed.

     "It's become something of a tradition for students at the school near Duke Wotchermacalt's place to sneak into Exsanguine's place and steal one of his treasures. The Prince isn't to happy about it, but has an agreement that the items will be returned or the culprit made to work off the value."

     "The Duke knows about this vampire, and hasn't..." said Bill, startled.

     "Trust me. This is one of the situations where the devil you know probably isn't nearly as bad as who might move in if we could somehow manage to get rid of him."

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Four

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "The Marvelous Toy" by Tom Paxton

     [I actually have all this music and more as a Changeling playlist. :-)]

     One more drawback to this assignment: Bill wasn't spending enough time in wolf form. He was being kept busy, with school and espionage, and there really weren't many places around here where a wolf - even one with a collar and tags - could run around without attracting unwanted attention. When he could, Bill would drive to an isolated wooded area, strip, change and romp, and sometimes do a little hunting. But even that procedure could cause problems; one time he came back to find an orange sticker on the rear window, left by police to mark the car as possibly abandoned.

     It's not that old! was Bill's outraged thought, as he angrily peeled the sticker off.

     So, he just needed to find some other way to have fun. Most forms of socializing were tainted by his goal of gathering information. Dating was out of the question, of course; at least honestly. He recalled someone talking about the "hidden in plain site" Changeling places in town. Places abandoned by human society which were officially empty, but actually housed the homeless... or some secret Changeling spot. The Smith Brothers warehouse was supposed to be among the best of those.

     Even in his non-wolf form Bill's senses of smell and hearing were more sensitive than a human's or most non-Pooka Changelings'. To human senses the old six-story brick hardware warehouse was dark, dusty and quiet, giving every impression of being long empty, except for a distinct bouquet of urine. But to those who had the proper sensitivities there was also a distinct tingle of Glamour in the place, and the level of banality was much lower than outside. Bill caught the scent of fresh oil and metal, and could hear some distant activity. He figured he had Changeling company, but it was somewhere up in the huge interior. Recalling what he'd been told, Bill found the stairs and began climbing.

     Originally, the place had been used to fill orders for parts and tools. To help with this a conveyor belt, roller track and slide chute system had been used to move things around by gravity, once they had been lifted by freight elevator. Much of that was long gone, of course... but what was now in its place was far more fantastic. Incorporating the remaining bits of the old transport system, the... thing which currently occupied much of the interior of the upper five floors looked as if it had been designed by an admirer of M. C. Escher. Chutes, ramps, banked tracks and even a couple of elevators turned the interior of the structure into a three-dimensional puzzle which shimmered with eldrich energy.

     "It's a self-altering skateboard obstacle course!"

     Bill jumped, and turned to see a female Nocker Wilder who looked vaguely familiar. She grinned at Bill's surprise for a moment, then continued over to where part of the device had been disassembled. She was carrying a large tool box and wore an apron festooned with more tools.

     "You're... Judy!" said Bill, remembering.

     "Yeah. Leo's sister." She smirked. "Twin sister, if you can believe it."

     Bill nodded and resumed his examination.

     "I feel like I'm in a Warner Brothers cartoon, just about to start..."

     A rolling sound approached from above.

     "That's not bad," said another - and male - voice.

     Through the clatter of his approach Bill could tell the man was Side just from the intonation, although the phrasing was more casual than what most of the high elves used. He turned and tracked the source of the voice to see Leo rolling down a ramp from the next floor. The young male Sidhe was wearing t-shirt and shorts and athletic shoes and pads and helmet; he rolled off the end of the ramp to Bill's left and braked his skateboard to a stop.

     "Hi, Bill! Say, Judy, Lord Blutcher said to remind you about the meeting this afternoon."

     "Uh, I'm Bill," the Pooka replied, to Judy since he already knew Leo. He winced at his awkwardness, and hoped they'd mistake it for Pooka humor.

     "Yeah," said the Nocker, nodding absently in his direction, her hands busy deep in the guts of some component. "You're a bit famous. Aren't you the guy who kicked a Redcap in the teeth when he was just a Childer?

     "Well, he was trying to stop me from jumping out of a moving car," said Bill, innocently.

     The others laughed at that.

     "Some day I'm going to have to hear that whole story," said Leo, giving Bill a nod as he walked over to his sister. "How's it coming?"

     "Almost done," she said, tersely. "Don't rush me. You can have it quick or you can have it right."

     "Wish I'd brought my board," said Bill, who'd never skateboarded in his life.

     "Oh, we keep some here," said Leo. "Not top quality, but they can give you an idea. Just be aware that Flang, here, is no ordinary skateboard course. Flang fights back."

     "None of the obstacles and traps are intended to actually cause harm," said Judy, giving a nut a final twist, then applying a torque wrench just to make sure. "But there's no way to take into account the full variation of all the users, so wear protective gear. Okay! That should do it."

     She closed and fastened the access hatch and stood, dusting her hands.

     "I think I'd better just watch for now," said Bill.

     "That can be a sport in itself," said Leo. "There's viewing galleries all through here, but the boarders can move pretty fast, so keeping up is a problem."

     "Yeah, but there's firemen's poles to slide down," said Judy, pointedly.

     "Which doesn't help when following someone going up," said Leo, with a smirk.

     The two continued to amiably bat the pros and cons of the building's features back and forth as they and Bill took a refurbished freight elevator to the top floor. None of them wondered that this - and all the other equipment in the building - could work without external power. They came out near the start of the course and the entrance to the viewer's gallery. Bill waited while Leo snugged his safety gear straps, and Judy tugged a couple of them a bit tighter; then Bill and Judy moved into position to watch the top level. Leo gave a war whoop, and pushed off...

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Power House" by Raymond Scott; alternate selection: "Beetlejuice Main Title" by the appropriately-named Danny Elfman.

     Leo got a good start, and hit the Left Whirl with plenty of velocity to ride high enough to take the First Offramp, instead of staying on the main - and less difficult - course. Judy, sticking with Bill, named the portions of the course and gave commentary, as well as guiding him to the best viewing point. She grew increasingly excited as her twin proceeded. Once on the Ramp, Leo had to slow some to successfully negotiate Snake Road. They could hear the squeal and actually smell burning rubber. Once clear of that he kicked frantically for the Big Loop. He wasn't quite fast enough, actually feeling his wheels come off the track a bit at the top. He planted again on the way down, and rolled screaming into the Car Wash.

     "He's going for the Grand Tour!" Judy shouted excitedly. "Come on!"

     The next few bits had names like Slicer, Dicer, Poll Tax and the ever-popular Evolution in Action. After surviving these Leo was headed for a shifting ramp, the end of which swung back and forth to offer three choices of path... and two large pads if the choice wasn't made correctly.

     "High Road!" screamed Judy. "High Road!"

     Leo, grinning manically, nodded and took the right ramp. Judy grabbed Bill's arm and led him to a polished brass pole leading down to the next floor. There, she quickly guided him to a balcony and let him go to grab the railing with both hands so she could lean out and watch for her brother. Bill could hear Leo but not see him yet. He edged left, stretching upwards to get just a glimpse of motion. He moved further left... and tripped over something. Bill was holding the rail and managed not to fall, but there was a huge racket as a large bucket of miscellaneous parts, fasteners and tools tumbled down onto the course below. The bucket and much of what it had contained began rolling, sliding and rattling lower into the building.

     "Abort! Abort!" screamed Judy, turning to give Bill a dirty look.

     Leo braked to a stop and looked around confused.

     "S-sorry," said Bill. "So busy watching my feet I completely missed what he was doing."

     "Well..." She sighed and swallowed. "Yeah, you should have been more careful. But that shouldn't have been there. Damn Boggans..."

     "What's going on up there?" an adult male - and human - voice called out from below.

     "Oh, God..." Leo looked paler than usual. "It's Uncle Thomas!"

     "What's he doing here?!" hissed Judy.

     "We can't let him off the ground floor," said Leo, hurrying towards them. "He's so banal he'll dissolve anything chimerical just by getting close!"

     "Hey! I'll call the police!"

     "Good afternoon, Uncle Thomas," said Judy, in a pleasant tone, leaning over the railing and waving down.

     As always, Bill was amazed by the fact that humans could look at the same thing he was looking at and see something completely different. To "Uncle Thomas" there was no marvelous construct, no fae mien for Judy, only a collection of old industrial junk, and the mortal seeming of a slightly grubby teenage girl with short, spiky hair, instead of a thing from a nightmare (well, as a unaware human would view her, if he could view her...).

     "Who is that?"

     "He has glasses but won't wear them," Judy hissed to Bill. Then, more loudly,"Oh, come on; how many nieces do you have?"

     "Judy?! What are you doing up there?! I've told you this place is dangerous. What would your brother think if he knew you were here?"

     "Good afternoon, Uncle Thomas," Leo said, loudly, still out of sight.

     Bill smirked, then had to cover his mouth to stifle a laugh.

     "We were just showing a college friend of ours around," said Judy, leaning casually on the railing. "He'd heard about this place and wanted to see it."

     "Well, pretty soon there won't be much to see," said Uncle Thomas, proudly. "We finally sold this clunker! They're going to turn it into an art center."

     His expression spoke volumes about what he thought of such frivolity. The kids all felt their spirits fall. Another playground, torn down by heedless adults. An art center would be nice, of course, and most likely a source of Glamour instead of needing it to exist, but still...

     "Now, you kids have had your fun. Come on down and get out of here."

     The trio looked at each other, sighed, and trudged down the multiple flights of stairs. They acted and felt much younger than their years.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Under Pressure" by David Bowie and Queen

     "So, how are you adjusting to the Changeling life?" Bill asked as they walked to his car.

     The twins had ridden the bus here, but Bill had driven, and consequently offered them a ride. Leo was far from enthusiastic, but Judy wanted to see Bill's "classic car."

     "I'm... doing surprisingly well," said Leo, nodding. "I was confused at first, but mostly because I remembered so much, and it so contradicted what I knew was true from my mortal life. After meeting other Changelings, and getting used to our life, it feels like this is the way I've always been."

     "How are you doing, wolf boy," teased Judy. "You doing okay in the new college?"

     "Great," said Bill, with a sigh. "I have plenty of time to devote to my studies and have lots of friends and acquaintances to ask for help."

     "Oh," said Judy, her smile vanishing. "Here's an idea. The Duke has a private school near his Freehold. It's mainly to help educate Childlings in the Changeling Way, but also offers tutoring in a number of areas. Why don't you see if someone there can help?"

     "Terrible idea," said Bill, nodding thoughtfully. "No reason to follow up on that at all. Thank you."

     And yet, as they seated themselves in his car, he gave vent to a heartfelt sigh.

     "Now what?" said Leo.

     "Oh, more of the same," said Bill, carelessly. "Plenty of time and opportunity for just being me. Even when being me means being a wolf."

     "Oooh, I'd like to see that," gushed Judy. "It always fascinates me how Pookas can actually, physically change into a real animal."

     "So take him for a walk," said Leo, with careless humor.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles

     "That's pretty neat," said Judy, crouching down to examine Bill more closely. They were in an little-used rear area behind Bill's dorm. She scratched him on the ruff. "And you're a real wolf? Not a big, wolf-looking dog?"

     Bill snorted.

     "Cool! Though there ought to be some way you can make your clothes change with you."

     Bill sighed.

     "Yeah, I guess you've tried," said Judy, grinning.

     Bill snorted, then gave her a wolfish grin and played at licking her face. Judy pulled back and laughed. Then she abruptly snapped the lead to his collar.


     Bill growled, briefly, then relented with another sigh. This appeared to be the most convenient way for him to get some wolf time, as well as some lupine exercise. Besides, he still hadn't checked out all the contact points StormRunner had given him.

     Despite the constraints Bill enjoyed the next couple of hours. Judy was amused and curious enough that she didn't get bored or resent the favor. And she seemed to enjoy the attention walking a large wolf brought.

     "Is that a wolf?" asked one woman, looking like she wasn't certain whether she should be frightened.

     "Algonquin Wolfhound," said Judy, easily. "Very rare breed. They're essentially a more southern variety of Husky."

     That became her standard response. A Pooka would have said something different to each person, even when within earshot of someone she'd already answered.

     Can't have everything, thought Bill, with a lupine grin.

     He did enjoy being petted and skritched, and not only when a wolf. And he was amazed at how relaxed parents became once assured he was friendly. For a while he was actually giving rides to a couple of little kids. When he got tired of that, he simply started licking them in the face when they approached for their turn. They'd shriek and laugh, and their smiling parents would quickly retrieve them.

     Of course, no other dogs would come near Bill. Fortunately, there weren't a lot of people walking their canines here and now, so that wasn't much of a problem. Bill, when not occupied with being a "cuddly woof-woof" found time to explore, mostly through scent. He led Judy over much of the campus and most of the nearby park. He found the two contact points he was looking for. Both had some Garou scent on and near, but it was faint.

     Finally, Bill decided he'd had enough. Which left Judy actually a bit disappointed. Once back at the dorm he got her to unhook the lead and hopped into the bushes where he had hidden his bundle of clothing. Human - and dressed - again, he invited her up to his dorm room.

     "Won't your roommate object?" she asked.

     "Edward Bellamy got himself expelled - and three days in jail - for expressing too much outrage over his not being treated like a sports hero," said Bill, not sure whether to smile or sigh. "He apparently got a swelled head over the way his high school treated him for winning so many games, and didn't realize that wouldn't carry over outside that milleau."

     "You're serious," said Judy, since one could never be certain with a Pooka.

     "Come up and see."

     Indeed, not only did the room only contain Bill's stuff, the second bed had been shoved against the wall and was being used as an auxiliary desk.

     "And they didn't give you another roommate?"

     "Too late in the semester," he said, throwing himself on the bed with a contented sigh.

     Judy may have taken that as a hint. She lay down on the bed beside him and gave him a slow and somewhat mild kiss, testing the waters. It felt good, so Bill cooperated. However, when she reached for his shirt he gently pulled her hands away.

     "Thanks," he said, gently kissing the back of each, "but I have someone."

     "She won't mind," said Judy, trying unsuccessfully to pull her hands away.

     "She wouldn't. But... I'm not interested."

     "Which means she would, and you want to, but she'd make a fuss?"

     "No," said Bill, sitting up and pulling her with him. "Judy. I'm so in love with Debbie I can't consider any other woman as a sex object, except as an intellectual exercise."

     She still didn't seem to believe him, but relented.

     "Oh, well," she sighed. "Guess I'll have to find someone else to show me how to do it doggie style."

     "I could introduce you to some Garou," said Bill, smirking.

     "So, when do you start getting tutored?" Judy may not have known what a "Garou" was.

     "Never use that word around an animal shapeshifter," said Bill, sternly. "Oh, wait... 'tutored.' Never mind. Next Tuesday."

     Judy giggled. And leaned in to give him one more kiss.

     "Let me know if you ever do get interested. Seriously."

     "I'll put you on the list."

     "You know, I actually believe you'd have a waiting list of girls who'd want to bed you. There's some sort of primal attraction about you."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "School's Out" by Alice Cooper

     Bill yawned as he walked across the manicured lawn to where he had parked his car. The special school the Duke had set up near his Freehold was an odd mix of private academy and Summer camp. Just figuring out who was what (in terms of social structure and management structure) was tiring. Still, once he got started, he learned a lot. The few weeks he'd been coming here had greatly helped his flagging grades at college, though at the expense of further curtailing both his social life and his mission for Baron Haldrin. Bill was almost to his car when he sensed a rise in Glamour nearby. It seemed to be coming from the trailhead. Curious, he changed course to cut across another part of the lawn, entering the boundaries of the Freehold.

     He stopped well away from the entrance to the Trod, but close enough to watch. Several of the Duke's security Trolls were approaching rapidly as a group of attendants in fancy dress exited, and then presented a noble in even fancier dress. Behind him came more attendants, accompanied by three Changeling teenagers.

     "Duke Loethenlau of Queen Maab's Court, here to see His Grace," said the most important of the retainers.

     That was typical. Of how most Sidhe did things, that is. Bill much appreciated the Duke's more casual and informal approach. From what he knew of history, that was actually closer to how real nobility had operated in the old days. Trust the Sidhe - well, the non-Scathatch Sidhe, who hadn't actually lived here for centuries before 1969 - to pick the pomp and circumstance used only for special ceremonies as the SOP.

     Bill watched for a while, along with a number of others, and eventually learned that Queen Maab had sent the children - Wilders all, actually - for education in the Duke's school. That seemed like a lot of fuss and bother, until Bill learned that Loethenlau was also staying in the area for a few days of vacation.

     Okay, he's combining two functions as an excuse to flaunt, thought Bill, nodding.

     Satisfied, he turned to head to his car. Only to find Her Grace, the Duchess Ilsthene heading straight for him.

     What did I do now? wondered Bill.

     "Young Pooka, I would show you something," said Her Grace. "Please follow me."

     Bill bowed in acknowledgment, and trailed after the beautiful woman as she unhurriedly led him into the mansion and through the library, to a small room in the back. The air was filled with the concentrated odor of old books and dust, both spiking as she pulled a particular volume from a shelf. Bill noticed that although the room appeared rarely used, the lighting was excellent for reading.

     "Not long after the Accordance War ended, a Boggan arrived here carrying items salvaged from a Commoner Freehold. Since there had been very few survivors of that assault, and those were now widely scattered, she felt that we should be the caretakers of what was left. One of the items was this."

     She opened the book and pulled out a glazed-looking, thick sheet. There, ironed between two pieces of waxed paper, was a bit of parchment.

     "This is a prophecy - or what remains of one - made by a Sluagh seer during the War. What is left reads '...day, shall the chalice be restored, and with the sword welcome the True King.'"

     "That echoes the prophecy of Balin, from the time of the Shattering," said Bill, nodding. "'The Highborn shall return to bring light into the darkness, but the light brings little warmth to those huddled in Winter's cold. Even that wan light dims as blades snuff it out, but one among the Highborn stays the hands of the others and joins High and Low together. In his moment of happiness the good king falls to betrayal, and anarchy and darkness return. Yet in the midst of the chaos, two Kithain, one Lowborn, one High, will meet as equals. Together, they shall discover the key which will reopen the Silver Gate. When the light of rarefied Glamour pours forth from the gate, then comes the True King, who brings light and fire great as the Summer sun! Seelie or Unseelie, all shall kneel to the King, and peace shall be restored to the land. Banality's grip on the world will be broken, and a new Mythic Age will arise.'"

     "You know that by heart," said Duchess Ilsthene, impressed. "And said it true."

     "With what happened to the High King, it was a hot topic when I was at Sally Goodin's school." He shrugged. "As for not elaborating, well, that's not wise with prophesies."

     "According to what our scribe has been able to learn, the rest of what the Sluagh seer wrote mentioned wolves, demons, Winter and Vampires. Unfortunately, no-one agrees on the details. However, all say it promised a time of Spring following Winter."

     "Just how reliable was the seer?" said Bill.

     "According to those who knew him, he rarely made such pronouncements, and when he did rarely understood them himself. But eventually they all proved true, if not always in a way clear beforehand."

     "Most of us, when we speak of Winter, speak of something approaching. Implying that we're still in the Fall. But if those prophesies really do speak of the disappearance of High King David then we're already deep into Winter."

     "That is one interpretation," the Duchess acknowledged.

     "It's obvious why you showed this to me," said Bill, sweat on his brow both from tension and the effort required to speak directly. "And I know there have been prophesies about wolves which are true and definitely about me. But I'm just one little Pooka!"

     "Remember the Tale of the Steadfast Boggan," said Her Grace, firmly. "When all others were panicking or ignoring the problem, one little Boggan saved the day by simply and steadfastly doing what needed to be done."

     She put the prophesy back into the book, and the book back on the shelf. Then turned to again face Bill.

     "This most likely has nothing to do with you. But I know the Duke, my husband, has spoken with your Lord on this and related matters. I suspect that your visit here has many purposes behind it. Besides gathering information on recent unusual events. Please, consider what you have learned, and what you do, carefully."

     "Yes, Your Grace," said Bill, bowing deeply.

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Five

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Don't Bring Me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra

     After a hard Saturday afternoon's work of being tutored, spying and being told he might be involved in a prophecy, Bill was definitely ready for some relaxation. And he meant relaxation, and not partying. So, the Campus Revel was out, and the Pride of Erin was in.

     Only, as he passed the bar, looking for a place to park, he saw crime scene tape across the door. There were a number of Changelings standing around, talking, but obviously none in the bar. After making sure his car was secure he walked back towards the Pride of Erin. He saw the old goat himself, Patric Saul, standing with the chief bouncer, the Troll Roget, as well as a number of regulars and many others. Most of the Campus Revel, in fact, seemed to have turned out in support due to whatever had happened. There was the Satyr who called herself Lady MacBeth; the Piskie who liked to introduce himself with "Hi! I'm Danny the Elf!"; Donna, a rabbit Pooka who looked like something from a CLAMP anime; and Trudy, another Satyr, and the Revel Rumor Rajah. As Bill approached he could tell that most, like him, had no idea what had happened and that all were clamoring for information.

     "All right, quiet!" said Roget, at a word from Patric. "Just quiet down and we'll tell all of you, at the same time, what happened!"

     "It was Reavers," said Patric, spitting the word. "They broke in here about an hour after everyone left in the wee hours and ripped the Glamour from the place. Alarm went off, but the police didn't bother showing until Tilley got here just before Noon, saw what had happened and called them. She and Gloria are inside, cleaning up and taking stock. I already know there was some vandalism and theft, but most of what they took was Glamour. It'll take us years to restore that!"

     That brought another clamor, which died quickly at a glare from Roget.

     "Besides the police we called in a private detective who is kinain," the Troll explained. "We've also contacted the Duke and a few other nobles. There's a lot of people already working on finding out who did this, and they don't need any enthusiastic amateurs getting in the way."

     "Is your balefire still living?" asked Leo.

     "Yes. It wasn't directly harmed, but is now a pale shadow of what it was."

     "Lady Fang has piles Dream Stones," said Plucky, excitedly, "and hates this place!"

     "That's overstating it a bit, I think," said the Satyr, thoughtfully, "but it's worth asking."

     He looked at Plucky. Who looked at Leo. Who looked at Bill.

     "Okay, okay, I'll drive," the wolf Pooka said, throwing his arms wide in mock exasperation. "Don't know when we can get to it, though."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Centerfield" by John Fogerty

     Theodora "Teddy" Hobbs made a quick check of the runner on third, then whipped into her pitch so quickly she caught the batter by surprise. He swung, but too late; the fastball zipped over the plate and into the catcher's mitt before the bat had moved much off his shoulder.

     "Strike two!" the umpire called.

     "Damn," breathed Leo. "Can that girl throw a baseball."

     "Not to mention fill out a t-shirt," said Plucky, snickering.

     They'd actually come to ask His Grace, the Duke for his blessing in requesting some dross from Lady Fang. Learning that he was watching a ball game out by the school the trio had walked over to the field. Since the game was almost over, they decided to watch it, too, rather than interrupt one of His Grace's few pleasant pastimes.

     "Strike three!" shouted the Troll umpire, with a dramatic gesture.

     He was about to announce the batter out and the game over, when everyone there froze and went silent, turning to look in the same direction. All of them - all Changelings within Columbus and for a fair distance beyond - sensed a strong and sudden Chrysalis. It peaked, wavered, then crashed.

     "What..." said Bill, dazed.

     "That was not good," said Leo. "A bad ending. Don't think it even completed."

     Their mission to the Duke had to wait. It was every Changeling's duty - though one all too many nobles treated casually - to find newly emerged Changelings and bring whatever help they needed to adjust to their new life. The umpire quickly closed the game, and several people - including the Duke - rose quickly to see to the matter. The trio trying to help the Pride of Erin followed the Duke and those with him, partly because of their original mission and partly to see if they could help.

     "Did you know that most of these kids are the Duke and Dutchess'?" said Leo, wondering, to Bill, as many childlings of multiple kiths scattered. "They can't have children of their own, so they've adopted or fostered dozens."

     "I knew that," said Bill, suddenly seeing the Duke in a different light. "Did the school start because of that? Or did they get the idea from kids at the school?"

     "No idea," said Leo. They were entering the library, now, so neither pursued the matter.

     The Duke's method of locating Chrysalises was both simple and effective. He had his people make several phone calls to widely scattered contacts, and plot perceived strength and direction on a map.

     "Not all that far from here," His Grace mused, rubbing his chin as he examined the plot. "In a very upscale neighborhood, too."

     "Road trip!" shouted Plucky.

     "Not for you, young Pooka," said the Duke. "I'll have some of the more senior people I know in the area investigate. Now, what was it you wanted to see me about?"

     Leo took over and explained about getting his blessing to request some dross from Lady Fang to help restore the tavern.

     "Yes, I heard about the reaving," said His Grace, expression hardening. "That such a thing would happen in my city... you have my support. In fact, I'll write out an official request to Lady Fang for you."

     "Thank you, Your Grace," said Leo, with a graceful bow.

     In minutes they were on the way to the cemetery. The hurry was partly because evening was growing close, and they had much to do if they wanted a nice ale before closing time.

     "For someone who officially chastised Lady Fang for being too closely associated with his Court, the Duke sure seems to disrespect her," said Plucky, as Bill sent the Fairlaine careering around country road curves.

     "That's for show, for the other Sidhe," said Leo, resisting the urge to grit his teeth as the wheels left the pavement on the far side of a steep crest. "He actually likes her and respects her wisdom, but because she isolates herself from changeling society... There's the turn!"

     "Yeah, I see it," said Bill, casually, as he whipped the car onto the side road with squealing tires.

     Soon - though not soon enough for his passengers - they were at the ornate gates. Bill slowed to below the speed of sound to enter the small parking area, then slid to a stop in a spray of gravel.

     "Whoah, there!" shouted, Liam, hurrying up and waving his arms. "What's all the rush about?"

     "Sorry," said Bill, as they climbed out. "No emergency whatsoever."

     "Good Liam," said Leo with a nod towards the minstrel. "We have an urgent request for aide, supported by His Grace, the Duke. I have his petition here, and would like to present it to Lady Fang soonest."

     "Oh, okay," said the old man, though he still looked doubtful. "This way."

     He led them to the balefire crypt, but asked that they wait outside. He knocked, and entered on being summoned. A few seconds later he was back out.

     "Just you, please, young lord," he said. "You two can head over there. We were just setting up our evening meal and you're welcome to join in."

     The meal was taking place under one of the shelters used for services in bad weather. Once again, Bill found himself staring at Sue, wondering just what the big fellow was. The two Pookas explained why they weren't there in enough detail that the residents figured out the nature of their mission, and expressed sympathies. Bill wasn't really hungry, but Plucky dug in, as well as flirting with Maisy. As Bill fidgeted, though, Liam approached him again and spoke to him quietly.

     "They'll be a bit, fetching enough dross," said Liam. "Can I speak with you privately?

     "Sure," said Bill, curious.

     "All right, then. Meet me over behind that huge sycamore in a few minutes."

     Unfortunately, his pointing was vague, and Bill didn't think to ask specifically which sycamore, and there were several very large ones in the immediate vicinity. Bill shrugged, picked what seemed to be the largest one, and walked around behind it. To find a large, noble-looking dog relieving itself on the bole. Only this one was of no ordinary breed.

     It was a Faerie Hound, one of the rare beasts brought over from Arcadia before the Sundering and somehow left behind. Bill had heard that some of them remained, either spending ageless centuries in freeholds or somehow learning - or being made - to reincarnate as Changelings did. He had never before seen one, or spoken to anyone who had. The dog looked at him with more than canine intelligence, sniffing a bit in his direction. Then, with an almost human shrug of dismissal, it turned and walked away.

     Bill forgot about his meeting and followed the hound, fascinated. He saw it approach a statue of a woman which was nearly hidden in the gathering shadows, and was only mildly surprised when the statue reached out to stroke the hound's neck.

     "Good Rowlf," said the statue, softly.

     The large animal looked up, tail wagging and tongue hanging out of its mouth.

     "Hello," said Bill, approaching slowly, smiling in anticipation of meeting something - someone - new and very interesting. "I'm Bill. I'm a guest of Lady Fang's."

     The statue looked up a Bill, and he noted that at some time it had been severely damaged then skillfully repaired. Abruptly, he realized that this was not a chimera, but an actual statue, somehow animated.

     "I greet you, Bill," it (She?) said, in an odd, whispery voice.

     Bill smiled shyly and nodded his head. And turned as he heard someone approaching. It was Liam.

     "Wrong sycamore," he said, brusquely. "This way, please."

     Moments later they were completely out of sight of even the chimeras.

     "What was...?"

     "Lost Illyan is a Sidhe Inanimae of uncertain provenance," Liam explained, quickly, not because he didn't want to talk about her, but because he wanted more to talk about something else. "She rarely speaks, and then only quietly, and about inconsequential things. I'm surprised she said even that much to you."

     "An Inanimae?!" Bill whistled. "They're quite common, and very mundane, not to mention mediocre in power."

     "Yes, but using that power requires both knowledge and will," was Liam's sad reply. "And Illyan currently has little of either. Whatever happened to her is taking centuries to heal."

     "Oh," said Bill, feeling a pang of sadness. He turned and swept his gaze over the landscape. "Truly, Lady Fang has gathered no wonders here. How does she spend her time?"

     Most fae in the mortal world were Changelings, who were born as humans, hopefully awakened to their true nature, lived as a mixture of mortal and fae, and died to be reborn. Most Sidhe now in the world had come here directly from Arcadia during the Resurgence, choosing a human to trade places with to protect themselves from the erosive effects of Banality, sending the mortal they displaced to Arcadia in their stead. If those Sidhe died here they stayed dead, something which deeply frightened them. The Sidhe of House Scathatch who had stayed behind during the Shattering had, like the commoners, embraced the Changeling Way, reincarnating over and over through the ages. But a very few of the fey who could not flee back to Arcadia had chosen another way. They merged their essences with something either nonliving, or very long lived. Trees were popular for the latter. Bill had heard of Inanimae who were merged with statues, or even manikins, but never seen one before. They were supposed to be awesomely powerful. How they managed to shift themselves to a new host when an old one died or was destroyed he didn't know. Considering what he had just learned about Lost Illyan, he figured some - perhaps many - didn't.

     "What I wanted to ask you about," said Liam, uneasily, startling Bill back to the here and now, "is Sue. I hear you know the Garou."

     "Well, I've met a few," said Bill, modestly. "I don't think I really know them. I doubt anything not actually a Garou can."

     "Yes, but you know about them."

     "Yes," said Bill, reluctantly.

     "Is Sue a Garou?"

     "Definitely," said Bill, nodding.

     "So you mean you're not sure. "

     "He looks nothing like one, but smells and feels and acts like one," said Bill.

     "That's what I thought." Liam sighed, now. "I am fianna kinfolk. Do you know what that means?"

     "I've met some fianna," said Bill, not mentioning that Debbie was one. "Many of them can see the chimerical seeming without being enchanted."

     "And I can, as well," said Liam, with a trace of pride. "I know Garou - probably more than you, and definitely for longer. And that is not one of Gaia's warriors. But it was..."

     Bill thought about that for a moment. And remembered just how Side who wished to enter this world did so. And blanched.

     "I see you understand."

     "Oh, you've definitely got to introduce him to some Garou!" said Bill, almost gasping.

     "Yes. I have no love for the boy, nor do I approve of what he did. But he did it out of ignorance. And has been through several kinds of Hell already because of it, barely finding his way someplace safe without being hunted down and killed. He can't change, you see. I would not see him draw the ire of the Garou."

     "So I'll be sure to tell them," said Bill, nodding.

     "Please. As a favor to those of us here, if nothing else. I suspect some Garou would slaughter all around him, simply for being with him."

     Bill nodded, chewing his bottom lip in a worried fashion.

     "Bill!" came Leo's call, from a distance. "Where the Hell did that Pooka get to?!"

     "Over there, by the car!" Bill yelled. He turned to Liam. "I'll tell the first Garou I see all about Sue."

     "Thank you," said the old man, appearing relieved.

     Leo had taken Bill's reply to mean they should meet by the Fairlaine. He was waiting there, holding what looked like a gym bag, as Bill and Plucky approached, trailed by some curious Boneheads. The bag - assuming it contained dross - must have been heavily shielded, as it possessed only a vague chimerical seeming.

     "She gave me enough Dream Stones to have the Freehold up and running in a few hours," said the young Sidhe, smugly.

     "Great!" said Plucky. "But after we drop that off we need to find some place to rest. I ate my fill, here."

     "I found this terrible huge fast-food restaurant near campus," said Bill, almost drooling with the memory. "They offer a beef hash that's putrid! And for Midnight snack they have something they call Omelet Wham. The maitre d' told me that they originally had it in the menu as ‘Omelet W/Ham And Peppers' and the customers hated it because of all the spicy stuff they added and started calling by a nickname. Even Redcaps hate the place."

     "I'm not sure I want to know what a Redcap won't eat," said Plucky, seriously.

     "Then it's settled," said Leo, though he didn't appear particularly happy. He sighed and shook his head. "There's got to be some connection between Pookas and Redcaps, the way you two eat."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Come Sail Away" by Styx

     Patric opened the bag, looked inside, and began swearing softly in Gaelic.

     "Is there enough?" said Tilley, suddenly concerned.

     "More than enough," said the Satyr, quietly. He suddenly laughed. "That woman! She never volunteers anything, but if you ask and your need is genuine... We asked for enough to help us reopen our humble little Commoner Freehold, and she provides enough to make it stronger than it was before!"

     Cheers went up, and Patric had Tilley and Roget begin distributing the softly glowing crystals which filled the bag.

     Few participating had ever done exactly this thing before, but all had used Glamour to strengthen a Chimerical Seeming. Patric jumped onto a table and balanced there while he joyously shouted instructions. He'd brought in the Boggan Grump who had first helped him light the Balefire to handle the heart of the magic. Patric himself was the focus. All those participating - and there were thirty of the stones, with one each to thirty volunteers and others supplying their own Glamour to the task - were told to focus on sending their power to Patric, who would in turn channel it to the balefire with the help of the Boggan. Even those charged with releasing the Glamour from the Stones would donate as much as they could of their own once the dross was spent.

     "But no-one start until I tell you!" was the Satyr's final bellow. He glared around the room to make sure none of the volunteers had become so entranced with their stones that they weren't listening. Satisfied there would be no early or late starts, he nodded. "Stiltskip! You ready?"

     "Fire in the hole!" came the cheerful reply.

     "All right!" cried Patric. "Now, slowly, there's no hurry. Release the Glamour and send it to me."

     Bill complied, fighting not to let the magic out too quickly. A small part him couldn't help but think that a Sidhe in charge of such an undertaking would have spent at least a week organizing it, and had much more ceremony. He glanced over at Leo, and was surprised to see Judy standing next to her twin. Both were concentrating far harder than Bill. Who, embarrassed, returned his attention to the task at hand, and the glowing stone in hand.

     Like a mist of pastel light, the Glamour rose from people and objects, gathering in slow swirls like some living smoke. It flowed into Patric at a controlled rate, the Satyr looking like he was trying to hold off an orgasm. Which, considering how Satyrs often worked magic, may have been exactly the case.

     From Patric the Glamour flowed in a tight, bright, white stream into the back of the tavern. The entire process, from when he said to start until the last trickle was released, couldn't have taken more than three minutes, but the interval stretched vastly longer to their perceptions. Then, it was over. Patric gave a gasp and swayed. Roget grabbed him and set him gently on the floor. Patrick gave the assembled group a tired smile and a double thumbs up.

     "Done!" came a cry from the back. "Sweet Danae, it's much better than before!"

     The cheer the group emitted at that announcement dwarfed their earlier one.

     "Well, my friends," said Patric, his voice slowly regaining strength. "I never thought I'd be saying this, but... Drinks are on the house!!!"

     That was probably the only thing he could have said which would cause an even greater cheer than the second one.

     All that night, and 'till the dawn, they partied. Police were called, and never arrived; several precautions by the revelers saw to that. All interested in interfering were fuddled and made unable to find the Pride of Erin. And strange doings were about through the whole neighborhood until the sun finally chased the last home.

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Six

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Randy Scouse Git" by the Monkees

     "We think we found that Chrysalis from the day the Pride of Erin was reaved," said Leo, finally locating Bill at the Campus Revel during lunch.

     "Good news, I take it?" said Bill, around a mouthful of roast beef sandwich. "Wait a minute; what do you mean by 'we,' paleface?"

     "Theodora and I and a number of other students from the Duke's school have been working on the project," said Leo. "She - Theodora - just called me a few minutes ago with the news, and asked me to round up the usual suspects. We're to meet her at the Court of Glass at one to get the details."

     "Can't make it," said Bill, nodding. "More classes this afternoon and some urgent assignments."

     "Good. Uh, can you give me a ride? Plucky already left and Judy borrowed my car for an errand."

     "Not possible," said Bill, with a smile and a shrug.


     Later, in the library at the mansion, Leo called their informal (well, for an event organized by a Sidhe it was informal) meeting to order, then gave the floor to the Satyr.

     "Okay, I may have found that Chrysalis from a few days ago," said Theodora, folding a newspaper to a particular article. She held it up for them to see while giving them the digest version from memory. "A local businessman, Pierson Gambolle, made an appointment with his teenage son's doctor, citing 'lack of energy and laziness.' When Gambolle arrived one of his aides carried the obviously unconscious boy into the waiting room. The receptionist immediately called the doctor, who made a quick check then had her call an ambulance. Gambolle protested the 'unnecessary expense' but the doctor insisted. At the hospital the boy was diagnosed as being dehydrated and possibly abused, because he had several fresh bruises and scrapes. He was also in a mild, persistent vegetative state. That is, a light coma. No physical cause for the latter has been determined, though doctors are saying that it might have been caused by some great emotional shock. They thought at first this might be connected to those mysterious heart seizure deaths which have been plaguing the city recently. Mr. Gambolle says Marcham simply lay down and went to sleep in the middle of the floor 'like a baby.' From the CAT scans and EEG readings doctors believe that he has a good chance to recover. All that's needed is time and perhaps the right stimulus."

     "That doesn't sound anything like a botched Chrysalis, no sir," said Plucky, nodding.

     "Gambolle insists that he has never done anything to harm the boy, and is influential enough that without more evidence no charges of abuse can be made," said Leo. "He's also insisting that there's nothing wrong with the boy, that he just didn't want to 'wake up and face reality.' He says the diagnosis and prognosis are 'fancy talk from lazy people who don't know anything about real life.' He protested the boy staying in the hospital, but his lawyer advised him to leave Marcham in proper medical care to prevent bad publicity and possible action by child welfare. We don't know for a fact that Marcham was the source of the Chrysalis, but as best we can figure, the time the boy 'went to sleep' is exactly when the Chrysalis we sensed failed."

     "Isn't that the guy who sponsored that baby beauty pageant?" said Plucky, scowling.

     "Well, they weren't babies," said Leo. "I think the age range was six to ten. My own uncle was involved with that, I'm ashamed to say."

     "Those things are so... Sick! Making little girls dress like sluts, and..."

     "No argument here, Teddy," said Leo, looking disgusted.

     "Don't call me that," said the buxom goat gal, with a pleading look.

     "So," said Bill, "do we visit the father or the son first?"

     "Let's find out A) if Mr. Gambolle will see us and B) when visiting hours are at the hospital. By which I mean we probably want to sneak in afterwards, when things are quieter."

     At Theodora's suggestion they approached the father as students working on a school newsletter article about him and his son. Pierson Gambolle surprised them by being very amenable to their request.

     "I'm always pleased to see young people showing a bit of initiative," he stated, in his rapid, clipped speech.

     Even over the phone, though, Theodora felt an odd chill...

     "Okay, got some background on the man," said Leo, after Theodora reported her results.

     "Pierson Gambolle had to grow up fast when his father died, and figures it made a man out of him. He doesn't see any reason for anyone else to have it any easier than he did. According to him that's just coddling a person. He has made a second career of helping children and parents, ostensibly to teach youngsters responsibility and train them for adult life. The Baby Beauty Pageant he organized is a prime example. However, some people say that behind his professional, all business exterior Gambolle is more a monster than a man. That he's a social misfit who hates childhood and would see it eliminated if he could."

     "Eeewww..." said Plucky, shivering.

     "So who's going?" said Bill.

     "You, Plucky, and I think Theodora. I need to do some more checking."

     "Or you just want to avoid contact," said Theodora, shuddering. "I can't believe you're sending poor, innocent little me off with a pair of Pookas."

     "A pair of Pookas perfectly placed for peculiar perambulations," said Plucky, proudly.

     The home was, indeed, in the upscale neighborhood they suspected as the location of the Chrysalis. It was a large and imposing structure, in no way modest, but it was curiously unkempt and plain. As if the owner hadn't known what to do with it after purchase. They were met at the door by Pierson Gambolle himself. And they almost didn't go in.

     Gambolle insisted on shaking hands with all of them. His touch alone made them shrink back, draining as it did the Glamour from them. With his gaunt frame covered in burned-looking flesh and his death's head, insincere smile, he looked... lifeless. Used up. In spite of his display of vigor he was obviously someone near the end of his life. He even smelled like he might already be dying.

     Inside, his home was beyond austere; the word 'barren' came to mind. The place was a desert of imagination and fun. The furniture was plain and cheap and scarce, and there were almost no other furnishings. There were no photos or paintings on the walls, and not even a stereo. A small, old TV set on a bare stand was alone in a corner. Theodora, Plucky and Bill fought to keep from fleeing.

     "We're working on a project for the school paper, about your son," said Bill, after they had been ushered inside.

     "Well, it's good to see young people with some ambition!" snapped Mr. Gambolle. "Most folks your age are too lazy to amount to anything!"

     "Thank you, sir," said Bill, putting his Pooka talents for avoiding the truth to good use. "We were particularly interested in your son's scholarship to..."

     "I can't believe he would do something like that to me!"

     "Sir?" asked Bill, his tone strained.

     "Boy convinced me that he'd scored some sort of major goal, like a sports scholarship. Turns out he got in to learn music!"

     "But, sir," said Plucky, timidly, "he was admitted to an advanced program for gifted..."

     "A fancy way of saying queer!" Gambolle snapped. "I don't want any son of mine in anything to do with those!"

     Gambolle kept them there for over an hour, extolling the virtues of hard work and acceptance of responsibility at an early age and excoriating the way society "coddles children these days." If directly asked he would give a bit more information on his son, then immediately change the subject to something so banal the three Changelings were soon feeling a bit nauseous. It wasn't that he was trying to divert them from talking about his son; it simply was obvious that he considered his harpings more important. More important than talking about the boy, and perhaps more important than Marcham, himself. The suffering Changelings finally managed to escape by pleading homework.

     "Glah!" said Plucky, as they headed to Bill's Fairlaine.

     "I'll second that," said Bill. "I am very glad to be out of there. No lie."

     "I've heard about them, but that's the first one I've actually seen," said Theodora. She shivered. "An Autumn Person."

     "How can something so barren of soul actually live?" wondered Plucky.

     "And why hasn't a mob with torches already gotten rid of him?" agreed Bill.

     "You know what's really strange?" said Theodora. "That guy's only 48 years old."

     "I think," said Bill, solemnly, "that we all need a drink. Preferably something from the Pride of Erin."

     "Pure alcohol for you," said Plucky. "Your driving is good enough as it is."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Dream On" by Aerosmith

     "I heard from a couple of people who managed to locate chimeras which were in the area when the Chrysalis began," said Leo, after they returned to the mansion. They didn't tell him about the stopover. "They were attracted by the surge of Glamour, then fled when Banality came rushing back in. They say there was a human with the Changeling, who somehow managed to short-circuit the Chrysalis through sheer denial that anything unusual was happening."

     "That sounds like something Gambolle would do," said Theodora, glumly.

     "So that soulless beef jerk of a father saw Mark begin his Chrysalis," said Bill, nodding as he thought things through, "and instead of trying to help denied there was a problem. Denied there was anything out of the ordinary. And caused the Dream Dance to stumble and fall."

     "A poetic but appropriate simile," said Leo. "There is, of course, still a chance he - Marcham - could be prompted to finish, or even start over. But we won't know until someone actually examines him."

     "Y'know, as much as I hate to defend him, I don't think the old man abused Mark," said Theodora. "Physically, I mean. The Dream Dance can be physically traumatic even without interruption. More like a convulsion than a dance, in some cases. And the doctors said there was no evidence of long-term abuse; just some recent bruises and abrasions."

     "People who know Mark say he will study straight through for days with hardly a break, finish what he's working on, then party 'till dawn to relax. Sound typical of any kithain we know?"

     "A lot of satyrs are like that," said Theodora, confirming Leo's guess. "That doesn't mean he's one."

     "They also say Gambolle has been pushing his son for his whole life. The boy's only 14 and has already won a number of scholastic competitions and earned offers from several institutions. Most of them rejected at Gambolle's insistence. He's also very good at sports, another way in which he is Satyr-like. But the whole time he has also been going his own way, while staying close enough to what his father expected to avoid serious confrontations. Until now."

     "We need to get in there and see Marcham Gambolle soonest," said Bill, solemnly.

     "From what I've been able to determine," said Leo, "the hospital basically shuts down at seven. Only the staff needed for monitoring stations and handling medical problems. There's no emergency room, no hospice."

     "So, we take some time to grab a meal and do some planning, then we go in," said Plucky. "Simple."

     "Yep," said Bill, sighing.

     They could tell something magically unusual was going on as they approached the building. An number of chimeras of a type not normal for such a place were hovering about, mostly on one end and up well off the ground.

     "Dis must be de place," said Plucky.

     Bill parked on a mostly deserted side street. Using various types of Changeling magic they hid themselves, bypassed the alarm and lock on a fire door, and took the stairs up to the floor Leo had determined with his research. As a rule, Changelings don't like places such as hospitals. They can perceive, directly, the imprint left by those who have suffered and died in them. Cannot not see that aspect of reality without deliberately turning their senses away from the chimerical and risking being lost to banality. The secret was to focus on the marks left by the joy of recovery, the glory of birth, the release of suffering ended. Carefully, quietly, they eased the door open and peered into the hallway. There was a nurse's station not far from the stairway. Applying a bit more Glamour, they made the woman there not notice them as they crept out and went down the dimly-lit hall.

     "This is it," murmured Leo, carefully pushing the door open a bit just to make sure. "Private room. Single occupant. Looks like a boy in his early teens."

     "No chimerical seeming?" said Bill.

     "I... I'm not sure." He held the door open and let them in.

     They could see one, once the door closed and they had a chance to examine the boy more closely.

     "Looks like me, five years ago," Bill whispered, staring at the shape on the bed with an eerie feeling of dislocation.

     The others, who didn't know the details of Bill's own Chrysalis, gave him various looks, but then returned their attention to the subject of the moment.

     He did, indeed, have a chimerical aspect. It was vague, weak, a pale thing. But it was there.

     "So he is a Satyr," said Theodora, fascinated.

     The heart monitor beeped steadily. Marcham breathed steadily. There was no reaction, no sign he noticed they were there.

     "And now we leave," said Leo, nodding. "We tell the Duke what we know and let older and wiser heads decide what, if anything, to do with the knowledge."

     A great, suffocating weight seemed to leave them as they quickly closed the last bit of distance to Bill's car. The old vehicle's chimerical aspect seemed brighter and more distinct than usual in contrast to the gloom of the hospital. It's square-jawed, matter-of-fact expression might even have been almost a smile. They piled in, the warm leather of the seats welcoming them, remembering their individual shapes.

     "Why so pensive?" said Theodora, speaking to Leo as Bill fired up the engine.

     "Just thinking about how variable Chrysalises are," said the Scathatch Sidhe. "His Chrysalis was pretty spectacular, even though aborted. Mine was protracted but relatively mild, and the Dream Dance ended quickly and smoothly."

     "They spotted mine from orbit," muttered Bill, as he shifted into first.

     Bill took an indirect route, just because. "Cruising" had been banned for years in many large cities, which just went to show how disconnected the rulers were from the ruled. Not only had the law done nothing to stop people from driving around just to drive around, most of those ticketed had turned out to be respectable citizens who had been able to get the ticket revoked by insisting they had done nothing wrong, and challenging the officer to prove they had. Since any unhurried driving trip could qualify as cruising, these laws usually went unenforced by pragmatic police, except as a way of stopping someone they had suspicions about. Bill had few worries on that account.

     So Bill and company were cruising around an area popular with college kids on a Friday night. He kept the speed reasonable, which meant they could wave to and have brief verbal exchanges with others, who were either sitting, walking or also driving. The windows were down, letting a nice breeze blow through the old hardtop's interior. It felt good, after the hospital.

     "I don't believe it," said Leo, sitting up. "That's my Uncle Thomas! What's he doing out here, especially this time of night?"

     "Currently, it looks like he's unlocking his car do..."

     Bill's droll statement was cut off as he - and every other Changeling in the area - suddenly came to fierce attention. Something faded into view behind the man. Something large, vaguely insectoid and dire. Something hungry. The great, panting beast lifted a chimerical claw, which suddenly lanced out, spearing Uncle Thomas through the chest. The Chimerical and mundane aspects of reality diverged. In "real life" Uncle Thomas gasped, dropped his keys and clutched his chest before collapsing to the pavement. What the Changelings saw was vastly more horrible.

     The monster jerked its claw back, and impaled on it was a ghostly double of Uncle Thomas. The thing brought the squirming, screaming specter to its mouth and bit the head off. The rest of the apparition soon followed, in large chunks.

     Horns blew behind them as a mundane driver protested Bill's sudden braking. The monster reacted by turning to look at the source of the noise. Those in the Fairlaine shuddered and dropped down, trying instinctively to hide. Fortunately, the monster seemed not to notice them. It finished its meal, then turned and walked down the street, fading from view as it went. Leo immediately jumped out and ran over to his uncle.

     "D-dead," he stuttered, after a brief check.

     (Theodora Hobbs' great-grandfather is Roy Hobbs, naturally. ;-)

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Seven

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Locomotive Breath" by Jethro Tull

     "Thank Ghu our no-see-um spells were still up," said Plucky, weakly, as they waited for the ambulance. "Now, can someone please tell this poor little green duck just what that thing was?"

     "It's a fomori," said Bill, for once deadly serious.

     "A which?"

     "It's a creature which exists in the Umbra. Some of them can affect the tellurian. The physical world. Only this one is affecting the chimerical nature of things, instead. It's something we need to tell the Garou about."

     "You want to bring the Gallain in on this?!" said Theodora, outraged.

     "Trust me. While we could probably kill it, we'd most likely have no casualties. They can talk to it quietly and convince it to change its ways without any of them getting seriously hurt. I've never seen Garou fight."

     "This... this explains all those mysterious heart seizures," said Leo, quietly, as he knelt by his uncle's body, weeping.

     An ambulance turned the corner, heading towards them.

     "Okay, Leo needs a ride but the rest of you can stay here," said Bill, thinking. "Then I can take you all with me while I contact the skunks."

     "Suits me," said Plucky, disappointed.

     "Wait," said Theodora, deciphering that. "You mean you don't want us along when you contact these werewolves?"

     "They'd probably have you for dinner," said Bill.

     "Ow..." said Plucky, wincing.

     "Well, I don't know," said Theodora, not certain. "Letting you go alone to ask them to kill something for us..."

     "It's a wolf thing," said Bill, grinning to reveal his elongated canines.

     They said quiet goodbyes to Leo, all three making physical contact, Theodora actually hugging him. Then they made room for the paramedics.

     Bill dropped Theodora at the Duke's Freehold, and left Plucky at the Campus Revel, both of them charged with spreading the warning.

     He could have gone to the woods where he met the Guardians of Gaia Pack, but that would have taken over an hour, with a like time to return. Instead he parked his car as usual, went behind some bushes near his dorm, stripped and changed to wolf. Tags jingling, he trotted to the nearest contact point, attracting little attention thanks to his outings with Judy. At the designated spot he carefully scratched a Garou glyph in the dirt. Debbie and her pack mates had only taught him a few of these, with this being among the most important. They emphasized the importance of getting the act right, far more than the exact size and shape of the lines. This particular one was a call for help. Now, to see if he could actually trigger the spirit embedded in the large boulder beside where he had scratched.

     A few minutes later Bill returned with a squirrel, which he placed on the glyph. Nothing happened. Sighing, Bill moved off a bit, under some large bushes, turned around in place (well, he was domesticated) and lay down to wait. He glanced over at the glyph... and noticed the squirrel was gone. Bill lifted his head and peered. Could it have been stolen by some dog or cat in that short time? Something told him that just maybe he had more Garou in him that he had thought.

     Sure enough, not fifteen minutes later he caught sight and sound of a feral-looking man approaching from upwind. Bill recognized him as Fleetfoot from the Guardians Pack. He rose and approached, tail wagging, head lowered and ears down.

     "So it was you," the man said, nodding, as he crouched and acted as if he were a human seeing if a large dog were friendly.

     Bill followed his lead and sniffed the Ragabash's hand. Then, with yelps, whines and postures, let the Garou know there was a fomori nearby which needed killing. Fleetfoot nodded. Bill then asked the Garou to follow him.

     Shortly, dressed and human again, he explained the situation in more detail.

     "I definitely think this is something my Pack would be interested in handling," said Fleetfoot, nodding again. "I'll go back and relay your request. Where can we meet?"

     "That rock should be okay," said Bill, nodding in return. "How long will this take?"

     "Travel in the Umbra is never certain," said the Garou, "but I think about an hour. By the way, just how did you manage to get that raven spirit to relay your message?"

     "Gave it a squirrel," said Bill, easily.

     "No, I meant... Oh, never mind." The Ragabash laughed. "I must be off!"

     "I've long thought so," said Bill, appreciating a good straight man.

     With another laugh, Fleetfoot glanced at his watch, and faded from view.

     "Oooh, shiny," said Bill, grinning.

     He didn't know if they'd mind him knowing, but he decided not to let on that he was well aware Garou needed to look at a reflecting surface to step sideways in to the Umbra. Just as he couldn't change forms if someone was looking.

     "Secrets all 'round," he whispered, as he began walking back to the rock.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "One Vision" by Queen

     This time Bill actually was able to nap before some subtle shift in the feel of things alerted him. He sat up from where he had been dozing, leaning against the bole of a tree, yawned, shook his head, then stood. He could tell they were coming; every natural creature in the area, including humans, was suddenly tense and uneasy.

     The stepped out from between two nearby buildings, from an alley which was a dead end. And every bystander in the area - as well as every dog, cat, squirrel and many other creatures - suddenly decided they had business elsewhere. Bill grinned with a feral empathy at the strange men and women.

     "So, where is this monster of yours?" said StormRunner, actually looking pleased.

     "Current whereabouts unknown," said Bill. He pulled out his cell phone. "Last I heard, word was being spread for all available eyes to watch for it. I haven't checked on their progress, but if you will allow..."

     StormRunner nodded. Bill called Plucky.

     "Yo, green duck! What's the word?"

     He listened for several long moments, occasionally making a grunted interjection, then hung up.

     "It's blatantly obvious," he sighed.

     "He means they haven't seen it since the attack," said Fleetfoot, translating after StormRunner sent him a quizzical glance.

     "If you will allow, noble lupine sirs, our liege has arranged a waiting place for you while we deal with this matter."

     "That's fine," said StormRunner, though Bill noted a subtle increase in his alertness.

     Well, that was understandable. He'd just been invited to wait who-knows-where by some elf while a bunch of Knockers, Boggans, Satyrs, and who-knew-what-else kept watch for a monster of a type they'd never heard of before. No reason at all to be nervous.

     "If you will be so good as to follow me I will show you the way to the humble facilities we have procured," said Bill, smiling and bowing.

     "He's worse than a Ragabash," one of the pack members muttered. Bill thought it was Fleetfoot.

     As they approached the Campus Revel they were intercepted by Judy, Theodora and Plucky, along with some members of the Campus Revel.

     "They spotted it downtown!" yelled Judy, as they hurried towards Bill and the Garou. "Near the convention center!"

     "We know where that is," said StormRunner, nodding.

     "And the consensus is they'll probably have to be enchanted to even see the thing," said Theodora.

     "Wish I'd thought of that," said Bill, wincing.

     "What is this process?"

     "We grant you some of our magic, so you may see the world as we do," said Judy, a bit out of breath from hurrying to beat the rest of her group to the rendezvous.

     She needn't have bothered. Except for her, Theodora and a couple of Trolls, everyone else was hanging back, obviously intimidated. Even further away were some humans, casting worried glances at the two groups as they hurried elsewhere. Bill wondered if the campus police would be notified of a gang confrontation about to happen. Few of those assembled in either group looked particularly respectable to mundane eyes, and most were in their late teens. Judy, though actually seemed enthralled by the newcomers.

     "It's completely harmless, except to your worldview and peace of mind," said Bill, grinning.

     "Don't bother on my account," said GreenEyes, a bit smugly. "It's not something I can do casually, but I have already done it, just after we arrived in Columbus. I can tell these two are a Knocker and a Satyr, and those two are both Trolls."

     Bill was impressed, as were some of the others, both Changeling and Garou.

     "I didn't know you could do that," said StormRunner, his tone actually a bit accusing.

     "It just never came up before," she replied, with a shrug. "Sorry. Something some of us Fianna can do."

     "And this enchanting is safe for us?"

     "I've seen it done before, with no harm except that it might make us feel a bit intoxicated."

     Mollified, StormRunner gave permission for the Changelings to proceed. Volunteers from the Campus Revel were assigned a Garou to enchant, and the process soon completed.

     "Wow..." said Fleetfoot. "The colors..."

     "Enough clowning around," said StormRunner, not quite managing to convey the attitude that the sudden revelation of the chimerical seeming was making no impression. "We have a Fomor to kill."

     He nodded to the assembled Changelings and turned towards downtown. The Garou quickly formed behind him.

     "We'll meet you there!" Bill called out.

     Despite the Changelings scrambling for vehicles and driving above the speed limit, the battle was well underway when they reached the convention center. None of the observers needed to be told not to get too close; with half a dozen Garou in Crinos in full battle mode nobody was getting close. The monster seemed larger than before, and was definitely putting up a good fight. The man-wolf forms blurred around it like wolves harrying a moose in fast forward.

     Humans scurried for cover, looking panicked. Bill wondered just what they were seeing. Few without some sort of supernatural connection could truly perceive a Garou in the dread Crinos war form, towering and raging. His attention was mostly on the fight, but he did hear several people desperately reporting giant dogs having a fight on their cell phones.

     One of the Garou was caught by a vicious swipe which sent it (telling the gender of a Garou in Crinos is difficult) pinwheeling through the air. It glanced off a car windshield and slammed into the front wall of a bank, the impact setting off alarms in both. It dropped to the sidewalk, a broken and bleeding thing. The Garou then sat up, shook its head, healed and jumped back into the fight with undiminished fervor.

     "Remind me never to make one of them angry," said Plucky, faintly.

     Despite the size and vigor of their prey, the Garou made short work of it. Less than a minute after the last of the Changelings arrived the mantis-like monster was in twitching pieces, which were slowly dissolving into mist. Panting and bleeding but obviously happy, StormRunner approached Bill. The fact that he was still in Crinos, taller even than the Trolls, made those around the wolf Pooka cringe back.

     "Good fight!" said StormRunner, in the Garou language, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.

     "What was that?" said Judy, timidly, perhaps worried he was upset about something.

     "Uh, he says the fight is over, they were glad to help, and thanks for the workout."

     "That's a lot of information in just a bark," said Theodora.

     "It's a compact language," said Bill.

     StormRunner laughed, shifted to Homid, gathered his Pack and headed out.

     "So... what do we do with those pieces?" said Theodora. "Not to mention all the attention this will bring."

     "Crab salad?" said Bill, innocently. "And you'd be surprised."

     "Eeewww..." said Judy. "And you still haven't answered either of my questions."

     "Look at the expressions of the humans," said Theodora, making a sweeping gesture. "They're out of it!"

     "That, my friends, is the Delirium at work," said Bill. "The sight of a Garou in Crinos evokes such deep, instinctive horror in humans that their minds can't cope. They slide all around, mentally, to avoid actually admitting to themselves what they just saw. 'Oh, it was a pack of large dogs, attacking some poor animal,' they'll say. Between that and the Mists no-one here should remember more than the vaguest of details."

     "I can believe that," said Judy, quietly. "I'm not sure I want to admit what I just saw."

     "As for the remains of the Fomor," said Bill, "well, there's no reason at all to go into the Dreaming and see what effect all this has had."

     "For that we need to talk to the Duke," said Theodora.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Caribbean Blue" by Enya

     "His Grace has anticipated your request," said the Sidhe retainer. "This way, please."

     Well, they had called ahead to spread the good news, and ask if anyone wanted to help explore the effects the fight had produced in the Dreaming. Of course, only the core four actually volunteered.

     Bill had been shown where the Freehold's rath, or passage to the Dreaming, was, but not used it or seen it used. He felt a bit excited over the prospect of doing so.

     The rath itself was in the form of an ornate oaken door in a wall of the Duke's study. As Bill, Judy, Theodora and Plucky waited, the retainer, smiling, unlocked the door and opened it to reveal a cedar-lined storage closet.

     "Nothing up my sleeve," he announced, as he closed the door. He relocked it, then began humming as he unlocked and reopened it. "Presto!"

     The door now opened upon a flowery field in the Near Dreaming.

     "Have you ever seen a dream, walking?" said Bill, grinning at the Sidhe retainer, who simply winked.

     "Since you now know the secret, simply use it to return when you are ready." 

     "Secret?" said Judy, puzzled. "What secret?"

     The others had all missed the clue. Bill felt particularly smug as he led the way through.

     The went down the frilly but sturdy silver stairs onto the lawn, the retainer closing the door behind them. Turning, they saw that the manor existed here as a small but dignified fairy castle. The land around the castle appeared to extend indefinitely in the Near Dreaming.

     "I remember being told that several trods cross this land or terminate on it," said Judy, "but all are chimerical, with no Silver Path."

     "Well, it's not all that far," said Bill, with a sigh.

     There were few people around, most of them manor workers taking a break, but many chimeras could be seen. Winged fairies danced and sang to a determined-looking man wearing archaic naturalist's clothing and carrying a butterfly net.

     They set off at a fast walk. As the mortal world's chimerical seeming was to its mundane seeming, so was the Near Dreaming to the Chimerical seeming of the mortal world. Colors were brighter, sounds clearer, scents more noticeable. There were fewer buildings, here, and those mostly of gingerbread or polished stone. The few exceptions were dark places they avoided. Places where twisted dreams lurked and gibbered.

     Nearly an hour passed as they wandered through the dreams of Columbus, before they finally reached the convention center.

     "Wow..." said Plucky, as the stopped to stare.

     "I guess... a lot of dreams have happened here*," said Judy, a smile spreading unbidden across her face.

     There was no sign of the soulsucker, as they had come to call it, but there were definitely signs of the battle.

     "Wow..." Plucky repeated, as they stood examining the damage.

     "Nightmares, broken dreams, deliriums..." said Theodora. "Do we try to fix any of this?"

     "Certainly," said Bill, after a moment. "We're entirely qualified and there's more than enough of us. No need to tell the Duke about this."

     "I think I have to agree," said Judy. "We might be able to do a fair job, but I doubt we could do it right. Better leave it to the experts."

     "Okay," said Theodora, with a shrug. "It's not like anyone is likely to be sleeping here soon, anyway."

     *Among other things, it hosts MarCon every year.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Golden Years" by David Bowie

     "Poor Leo," said Ilse, Her Grace, Duchess of the Court of Glass. "He was much closer than Judy to their uncle. He's taking this hard."

     "He's also taking the responsibility for informing his family," said Adam, His Grace, the Duke, sadly. "He's growing up too fast."

     "He's eighteen," said Her Grace, firmly.

     "But to have this forced on him... to witness such a thing..."

     She moved to him, put her arms around him.

     "Some children naturally grow up faster than others," she said. "Just look at young William."

     "I think in his case it was more a matter of being forced take on some adult responsibilities early," said His Grace. "I'm just impressed he retains so much of the Childling sense of wonder and excitement."

     "I've heard this teacher of his is SÍochÁin," said Ilse, smiling. "Such a one would certainly be able to teach balance."

     "I just wish we had someone like that at our school," said the Duke. "Lady Fang has repeatedly refused all efforts to entice her to teach. She says - and I can certainly follow her reasoning - that she is too dissociated from youth and childhood."

     "Have you ever found out just how old she is?"

     "At least a full century," said the Duke, obviously impressed. "That's how long she has owned the land, handing it over to herself under new names every few decades. That Freehold of hers is actually more potent than ours, here at the Manor, though she disguises it's vigor from the casual observer."

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Eight

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Are You Experienced?" by Jimi Hendrix

     The Duke looked concerned. So did his advisory staff. The follow-up survey had determined that, if anything, the original one made by the youngsters had underestimated the problem.

     "We need to get someone in there who is familiar with such damage," said Sir Lorisal, the Duke's chief aide. "Sir Pederel, who would you recommend?"

     "Uhm, uhm, uhm," said the Boggan, who was the Court's scholar in residence, as he rubbed his chin. "I'd say, besides myself and Korgig, I'd say Lady Peggy, from the school. That's assuming you don't wish to explore options from further afield."

     "No, that should do," said His Grace, nodding. "You and Lady Peggy were able to handle the Monthatten Distortion, and Korgig has much experience with dispatching twisted dreams. I suggest you three get together and plan your effort this afternoon, at the latest."

     "Yes, Your Grace," said Sir Pederel.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Thunder and Lightning Polka" by J. Strauss, Jr.

     "So how did the cleanup go?" said Bill, as he encountered Plucky while heading for the Duke's school, a few days later.

     "Oh, you know," said the black duck Pooka. "This 'n' that 'n' the other happened, but all worked out well in the end."

     "Glad to hear it," said Bill, with a grimace of sympathy for those involved.

     Their exchange was interrupted by a commotion in the small stand of trees where the trailhead for the trod was located. Chimeras were fleeing the area, and odd gusts of wind tossed branches while weird flickers of light gave the impression of a sudden, very small storm. Abruptly, an apparently human figure burst forth, running pel-mel across the Duke's well-tended back lawn, spindly arms and legs pumping wildly.

     "'Scuse me! Pardon me! Coming through! Hot soup!"

     "What the Hell..." said Sir Lorisal, stumbling to a stop, staring at the strange apparition, head turning as he followed the odd figure's flight.

     The puzzled attitude on the part of the witnesses was replaced by sudden alarm as a trio of hellhounds charged out of the trailhead after the stranger. They were gaining rapidly... but the stranger - who appeared to be a human, if an unusually configured one - was fast approaching the wards on the border of the freehold. He simply ran through them with no obvious detriment. The hellhounds, however, vanished in bursts of dark glamour on contact.

     "Okay," said Sir Lorisal, with a fragile calm. "Anybody have any idea what just happened here?"

     "Just a typical day at a faerie Freehold," said Plucky, dryly.

     Seeing the expression on the Scathatch Sidhe's face, Bill promptly grabbed Plucky's arm and hustled him away.

     "Hey!" said Theodora, a few minutes later, as the approached the school. "What was all that fuss about?"

     Plucky started to answer, but Bill clamped a hand over his mouth. His own mouth, in turn, was covered by Judy's hand. The Knocker did the explaining, while Theodora alternately smirked at the spectacle before her while looking worried about the events of the spectacle she had missed.

     "I've heard from a lot of people that strange chimerical events have been happening all over this area," she said, when Judy was finished and the Pookas' mouths were uncovered. "And some not so chimerical. Wonder what it all means? And if Seif Raushan still being here has any connection?"

     "Does it have to mean anything?" said Leo, who had joined the small group during Judy's recitation. "Say, Bill, what's this I hear about you getting in trouble with your psychology professor?"

     Bill scowled and lowered his gaze. While he appreciated his friends helping keep him on track with his studies, sometimes they were a little too nosy.

     "Son of a bitch listed Doctor Soames as a pioneer of new approaches to child psychotherapy," the wolf Pooka muttered.

     The others looked at each other in confusion.

     "Wait," said Plucky, with sudden revelation, "is this the guy who treated you so well after you were kidnaped?"

     "Not a chance."

     "Don't blame you for singing his praises."

     "Ottorn asked me to go explain matters to one of the assistant deans," said Bill. "After hearing my story, he was completely in agreement that Soams' work should be widely publicized."

     "Good for you!" said Judy, with a quick, tight nod. "From what I've heard, that guy should be forced to undergo treatment by someone who follows his example."

     "Wouldn't wish it on him," sighed Bill. "Anyway, now Ottorn is pleased with me for pointing out how he was keeping up with current events in the world of psychotherapy. He's greatly cut back on my assignments."

     "Didn't Soames flee to England to avoid the court settlements?" said Leo.

     "South of the border," said Bill, nodding. "The civil and criminal penalties had nothing to do with it. Not even the jail time."

     "Can't they extradite him?"

     "Oh, the current British government just hates people like that."

     "Well, tough luck on Soames getting away," said Leo, "and your teacher being an idiot. But congratulations on convincing the assistant dean of the justness of your cause."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles

     Later, as Bill was staggering back to his Fairlaine with a load of borrowed books on psychology and psychiatry and neurochemistry, he was approached by the Duke's Court Scholar.

     "Sir Pederel!" said Bill, smiling at the bandaged Boggan. "I'm sad to see you still in sick bed!"

     "Yes, thank you," said the Boggan, with a bit of a wince. "Uhm, I have a request from His Grace, the Duke. You and your friends know what this..."

     He stopped to consult a handwritten note.

     "This young Master Marcham Gambolle looks like."

     "Not a clue," said Bill, nodding.

     "Well, he's regained consciousness, and is at home. You've also been there, if I recall correctly."

     "Not a chance."

     "Well, seeing as how you have been there, and know what he looks like, His Grace, the Duke would like you and your friends to see if you can visit him. Seems he still hasn't completed and/or resumed his Chrysalis."

     "Stimulating a hang-fire Chrysalis might be a great idea."

     "We know, we know," sighed Sir Pederel. "Still, our local experts, and Queen Maab's Advisory Council on Chrysalises both think a mild sort of stimulation might help more than hurt."

     "Not interested," said Bill. "And I'm not planning to see any of them tonight."

     "Excellent! Thank you, Master Peabody."

     Shortly, Bill and friends were gathered at the Campus Revel, discussing the matter. After a call to the Gambolle residence revealed that the father was out at a meeting, they schemed briefly but intensely. Soon they were on the way.

     "Remind me again of why we keep taking Bill's car?" said Leo, as they tore through the slowly darkening streets of Columbus.

     "It's big enough for all of us, and he pays for the gas," said Judy.

     "Oh; right."

     Plucky began singing a bawdy song about a cheapskate Sidhe. And was quickly mobbed by everyone but Bill, who actually kind of liked it. Of course, he was also driving...

     They were soon parked behind the Gambolle home. Bill and Theodora - the strongest - boosted Plucky - the lightest - and held him up while he peered over the fence.

     "Day-um, that's a big back yard," said the duck Pooka. "I think I actually see him. Sitting out on the sun porch like an old man."

     "Anyone else there?" said Leo.

     "All of 'em," said Plucky.

     "Anyone up for a little Hopscotch?" said Bill, grinning. "I think I can handle this Scene."

     "You can charm all of us?" said Leo, impressed. "In that case, lead on. I was thinking Portal Passage, but that's a higher level art. If we can get over easier than through..."

     Plucky started singing that song again, and this time even Bill helped silence him.

     Bill, inspired by Plucky's crooning, sang a verse of "Boundin'" as his Bunk, then easily hopped over the fence. The others quickly followed. They peered around; no-one seemed to have noticed them, so they began walking towards the back of the house. They were almost there when the figure sunning himself started, jumped up and began backing warily towards a sliding glass door.

     "Marcham Gambolle, I presume?" said Bill, cheerfully.

     "Wh... what are you people?!"

     That stopped them.

     "He can see our chimerical seemings?!" said Theodora.

     "Well, he does have a bit of one himself," said Judy, peering at the frightened boy.

     "Listen, it's all right," said Leo, calmly. "We're here to help you learn what you are."


     "I hear you had a few friends over to celebrate after getting out of the big house," drawled Bill. "Just a small gathering of about a hundred. Upset your old man no end. Says you do too much of that sort of thing."

     "I study hard, so I party hard," said Mark, suddenly angry, and very defensive.  

     "Sounds about right," Bill acknowledged. "As well as typical."

     "Typical of what?" Mark was now wary, and suspicious.

     "A Satyr."

     "Like me," said Theodora, grinning and raising a hand.

     "You can... They told me it was the drugs..."

     The young man shook his head and stared at her for several seconds, then down at himself for a like interval. There was a long, tense pause. Suddenly he cried out and grabbed his head... and realized he had horns. Eyes wide, he stood there, as his chimerical self grew stronger, clearer.

     "I...," he tried, weaving on his hooves. "I'm..."

     "A Satyr," said Leo, gently. "Reincarnated as a human boy."

     Mark suddenly threw back his head and laughed, his voice louder, clearer, deeper, more self-assured. The accompanying surge of glamour from the triumph of his fae self over mundane reality left them all feeling a little giddy.

     "I knew it!" he shouted, throwing his arms wide. "I knew there had to be more!"

     "Congratulations," said Bill, beaming. "You're about to take a walk on the weird side."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Wouldn't it Be Nice" by the Beach Boys

     "Well done," said His Grace, the Duke, upon hearing the report. "I know it's probably too soon, given his presumably still fragile state, but the next time you see him please extend my invitation to visit."

     "Of course, Your Grace," said Leo, bowing. "In fact, we have already undertaken the initial phase of his re-education into the ways of our kind, which included noting that a visit to the local liege lord for introduction was considered a formal requirement."

     "He's already been introduced to the Campus Revel and the Pride of Erin," said Theodora.

     "I'm sure they're entirely qualified to provide his formal education into matters fae," said Bill, a bit sourly.

     "You really don't understand the way of the Scathatch," said Leo, almost sadly.

     "He's right," said Julie. "They're Changelings, just like us. And while there's not complete harmony between Scathatch Sidhe and Commoners, there's a lot of mutual respect and understanding."

     "Otherwise, we'd all be executed for having this conversation in front of the Duke," said Plucky.

     "A bit of an exaggeration, I'm sure," said His Grace, smiling in amusement.

     "I... sincerely apologize," said Bill, bowing to the Duke. "I meant no criticism of either Noble or Commoner. I simply meant that my personal experience was that formal education was superior to informal."

     "No apology necessary," said His Grace. "However, it is appreciated."

     "If I may be excused," said Bill, "I promised my fiancé I wouldn't call her at all while I'm away."

     "Of course," said His Grace, nodding.

     They all left, actually, their report being finished. Outside, Theodora sidled up to Bill.

     "You sure you don't need a little companionship, being all alone here, away from your girl?"

     "Sorry," said Bill, with a slight smile. "I'm monogamous."

     "Besides, I think how we all know how the 'Garou vs. Goat and Wolf' match would end, if she found out," snickered Plucky.


     "His gal's a Garou," said Plucky, airily. "You know; nine feet tall, fangs, claws, the whole works."

     "She is?!" said the Satyr, eyes going wide.

     "Well, that's what Bill claims," said Leo, straight-faced.

     "I think I'll go see how Mark's doing," said Theodora.

     "Well, that's good news," said Debbie, a short time later. "One more bit of magic in the world. And that Duke sounds like a pretty nice fellow."

     "And how often is a nice fellow a good leader?" said Bill, with a sigh. "He's so on top of things nothing escapes his attention. Very strict and consistent."

     "Well, hon, you know wolf politics aren't always appropriate for every group," said Debbie.

     Bill felt a pang of loneliness; he could almost see her toothy grin, smell her warm scent.

     "Telephones are a wonderful way to communicate," he said, with another, and different, sigh.

     "Yeah, especially for those of us with better than human senses," Debbie said, understanding what he meant and definitely agreeing with it. "Well, you're over halfway through the semester. And there's a small chance I'll be in the area in a couple of weeks. You could introduce me to all your new friends. We could even have that goat girl for dinner."

     "Oh, I am so going to steal that," said Bill, laughing.

     Debbie realized what she'd said, and joined him.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Solace" by Scott Joplin

     "What's all the rush?" said Bill, as he pulled the Fairlaine onto the shoulder of a road near the Duke's school.

     Dusk was near, the early Summer afternoon slowly fading into night. Bill had planned to go romping as a wolf before the emergency call from Leo changed his plans.

     "Some of the younger kids boarding at the school heard about the tradition of stealing something from the home of the head of the local vampires," said the young Sidhe Changeling. "We're trying to catch them before they get into real trouble."

     Bill muttered dire nasties under his breath as he motioned for the usual suspects to enter his car.

     "Why did they wait so late?" he asked, as the started off.

     "That's part of the dare," said Judy. "Get in and out while the vampires are awake but still groggy."

     "I do not understand people," groaned Bill. "Uh, by the way, where is this place?"

     Plucky dug around in the glove box and started pulling out maps. They used the second one of the area (the first one being from 1978) to plot a course which was not the shortest, quickest or most direct, but gave them the best chance of heading off a bunch of young Changelings on foot.

     "Why didn't we just have Plucky turn into a duck and fly there?" said Theodora. "He could find them and come back and tell us where they are a lot quicker than this."

     "I'm not a bat," said the duck Pooka, waggling his eyebrows.

     "Oh..." said the Satyr.

     They found no sign of the youngsters on the way. However, shortly after they parked near the vampire Prince's house they caught sight of several dark-clad figures scampering along a ditch. A ditch which led to a culvert which passed under the mostly ornamental fence around Prince Exsanguine's mansion. Sure enough, it was the group of four pre-teens who had gone off to raid the vampire's mansion. They squealed in fright when Bill and Theodora jumped into the ditch ahead of them. Spinning around to escape, they squealed again upon seeing Plucky, Judy and Leo in the ditch behind them.

     "You are lucky it's us," said Leo, ominously, "and not a vampire or werewolf."

     "Grrr," said Bill, undermining the Sidhe's attempt to frighten them.

     "We just wanted to see what the place looked like," lied the young Sidhe who seemed to be the leader.

     "Why don't we walk them around the place?" said Judy. "Give them that much satisfaction of their curiosity and they'll be that much less likely to try again."

     "Uhm, point," said Leo, reluctantly. "All right. Let's walk around the vampire's home, out in the open, on public sidewalks, in plain sight. Then you can brag about that act of bravery, without having to go inside and maybe get caught and drunk."

     "I don't drink yet," said the Pooka of the group.

     "No, but the vampire does," said Bill, in a menacing tone.

     The place didn't look like a vampire's home. Even with traces of the sunset still coloring the sky there were windows open and music could be heard.

     "That's an interesting piece," said Leo, cocking his head a bit. "I'd almost swear it was fae."

     "Well, I've heard the vampire does know about us and have an interest in us," said Judy. "They say he and the Duke have a formal agreement to stay out of each others' ways."

     "That is really a nice piece," said Leo, not paying much attention to his sister.

     Once around, then back to the Fairlaine. The youngsters were disappointed, but mainly because nothing scary had happened. Soon, they were safely back at their dorm.

     "Another job well done," said Plucky, easily. "Anyone up for a trip to the Campus Revel?"

     "Sorry," said Bill, enthusiastically. "Homework."

     They all pretty much agreed with that sentiment.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Solace" by Scott Joplin

     The next day, as Leo was tutored in his duties in the Duke's court, he kept humming that music from the night before. He knew he'd never heard it before, but it seemed to appeal to something in his Sidhe nature. He was still humming it when he brought a report on some minor matter out in the boondocks of the Court of Glass to Her Grace, the Duchess.

     "Where did you learn that piece?" she said, looking puzzled, as she received the papers.

     "I heard it at Lord Exsanguine's, Your Grace," said Leo, a bit confused by her reaction.

     The Duchess was startled by that bit of information.

     "You're certain you never heard it anywhere else?"

     "I, uh, I'm not certain, but I definitely heard it at the..."

     To his astonishment she grabbed his arm and promptly hauled him off to her husband.

     "Pleas, Leo, hum that piece again."

     He wasn't a musician, and just now was suffering severe performance anxiety. However, after wetting his lips, he managed a good rendition of the music. And saw the Duke frown.

     "He heard that at Lord Exsanguine's home," said the Duchess.

     The Duke sat up straighter, looking... well, Leo wasn't quite certain how to interpret his expression. He asked basically the same questions Her Grace had, though in far more detail and then adding more.

     "This can't..." He stopped, frowning, as he examined Leo. "No, I think you need to hear this. That minuet was composed by a musician who is a bard in the Court if the High King. For the wedding ball. It was put on a CD as part of a compilation just six months ago. Only a few dozen copies were sold, mostly to the friends of the musician. Now, was this a recording, or being played live?"

     "Both," said Leo. He shook his head and elaborated, lest they feel he was associating too closely with Pookas. "I mean, I heard it playing, I think on a stereo, and also heard a man whistling it as it played."

     "What man?"

     "I didn't see him; the shade was drawn. But I saw his silhouette on the shade. He was very tall and broad-shouldered."

     There was an odd feeling of tension in the air, accompanied by a rise in Glamour. This, in turn, attracted several chimeras. One of which began whirling around the room, shouting.

     "He's near! He's here! The king of the elves with crown and train!"

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Nine

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac

     Bill was surprised to find himself and the others in his informal motley back at the vampire's mansion the next evening. He was even more surprised that this had been ordered by His Grace, the Duke, personally. And that they'd been sworn to secrecy about anything they might find there, without being told what His Grace expected them to find there.

     This was no mere scouting mission, either. They were equipped - in part by His Grace - for a long run of watch keeping. Even if only Leo seemed to know exactly what they were keeping watch for.

     "Almost dusk," said Leo, staring at the sky.

     "If we have to stay the night, I'm goin' wolf," muttered Bill, keenly unhappy with the whole mission.

     "All we need," said Leo, quietly, "is one good look."

     "Hence the binoculars," said Plucky, brightly.

     "Night glasses," said Judy, absently. "And why those and just for you instead of state-of-the-art night vision scopes for all of us?"

     "I know what we're looking for."

     "Listen," said Theodora, reasonably, "is you tell us at least something about what we're supposed to be on the lookout for we can help. Otherwise, it's you looking and us along to keep you awake."

     "And warm, if Bill goes wolf," Plucky teased. "Wolf snugglies!"

     "Birds being too cold blooded," said Bill.

     "Shush," said Leo, quietly, turning his gaze to the house. "Look, just listen for music, and watch for activity behind the third floor windows on the east end."

     "That's where we saw that guy, isn't it?" said Bill, sitting up.

     Leo said nothing, simply continued to stare at the vampire prince's domicile.

     Judy started to say something, but stopped as Leo raised his hand. Thinly, through the gathering darkness, they heard music. Leo nodded.

     "That's another piece from the same CD."

     He didn't mention which CD, or that the Duchess had made certain he listened to her copy several times before coming here.

     "What, did someone from the vampire's group steal something from the Duke for a change?" said Plucky.


     A silhouette appeared on a drawn shade. The figured did something to one side for a moment, then began walking away, directly back into the room. Leo bared his teeth in frustration.

     "If you're trying to get a look at that guy, I could throw a rock at the window with the shade up," said Theodora. "A pebble, I mean. Don't want to break it, just make a click."

     Leo dithered. They'd never seen him so tense, so anxious. Finally he nodded. But, as Theodora rose, he grabbed her arm.

     "Only if you can do it from well outside the fence."

     "Hell, I could almost do it from here," she said, smirking.

     The Satyr made rising and stretching more of a production than she needed to, and enjoyed the lustful male attention this brought her. She even appreciated the fact that Judy was giving her a look of envy. Then she sauntered off, still performing. As she searched for an appropriate pebble she noted the figure approach another shaded window, closer this time to the open one. Realizing that if she took too long she might miss her chance, she grabbed a pebble about the size of a marble, stepped into the open, wound up and threw. Her aim was perfect, and only the fact that she was conservative in her effort to avoid breaking the window kept the glass intact. She then quickly ducked back into hiding.

     The silhouetted figure started, and moved to the open window. He was lit from the right rear, the room's light being in the center of the ceiling and the open window all the way to the end. This, plus the remaining glow of dusk, let them get a fair view of him.

     Tall, broad-shouldered, with long, blond hair neatly coiffed, he appeared middle-aged and quite human. As well as achingly familiar.

     "Yes!" hissed Leo, thrusting a fist upwards.

     "That's High King David," said Theodora in a gasp, as she quickly rejoined them.

     "No," said Judy, sadly. "That's David Ardry."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Along Came Jones" by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

     "He must have retrorsed," said Judy, watching in shock as the man frowned and turned away. "Lost his fae seeming."

     "We have to rescue him!" said Bill, too loudly.

     "Shush!!" said Leo, firmly. "Look, if that is David Ardry the worst thing we can do is charge in there! My orders are to confirm that someone who could be the lost High King is living in that mansion, and report to the Duke."

     "That's why Seif Raushan is here," breathed Theodora, staring at the structure. "Staying at the Court, I mean."

     "Maybe," said Leo, quickly packing the equipment they'd brought for what could have been a very long night. "Come on; we need to get back to the Court."

     "Nope," said Bill, settling himself with apparent casualness against the bole of a maple, hands behind his head. "Not going anywhere until you tell us what's going on. And even if you could get my keys good luck driving the Fairlaine. It's a one-man car."

     Leo glared at him, but saw that not only was the Pooka not yielding, the others were supporting him. The young Sidhe sighed and relented.

     "Look... that probably is David Ardry. But Seif and maybe the Duke and Duchess are the only ones who can confirm that. If that is the High King - if - then the Duke thinks he can convince Prince Exsanguine to give him up. That the vampire probably has only a vague idea of who and what his prisoner is. That even if he knew, he would turn David over, rather than cause trouble with us."

     "Well..." said Judy, chewing her bottom lip. "If the Duke thinks he can retrieve the High King peaceably, okay. But I don't like it."

     "Lord Exsanguine knows of Changelings," said the Duke, when the same concerns were voiced to him in person. "Though he must be enchanted to see the chimerical aspect of existence, he is less affected by the Mists than most humans or even other vampires. Possibly because Malkavians - his type of vampire - are generally considered mad. He also has a fascination with puzzles, and considers us in that context. I doubt he would deliberately harm the High King, even if he knew who and what he was. And he is knowledgeable enough about our kind that unintentional harm is equally unlikely."

     They were in the privy council chamber, and most of the Duke's staff were there, as well as his wife. Only the Duke and the youngsters were speaking.

     "So you're saying he's in no immediate danger," said Leo, pointedly, turning to give Bill an "I told you so" glance.

     "Indeed. I will arrange an appointment with Lord Exsanguine and have Sir Seif with me. He can confirm if the High King is in the same house, even if not in the same room, using Caliburn. Seif has assured me before that the sword can detect the presence of the High King, even if lost to banality, from that close."

     "And I suppose this vampire prince will just let you walk in his home carrying a magic sword," said Plucky, airily.

     "Yes. The pretense will be to have Sir Seif show Caliburn to the Prince and ask if he has ever seen anything like it before. Knowing Lord Exsanguine's passions for collecting and for solving puzzles that should definitely appeal to him. If that is the High King, we approach the matter of his retrieval as the situation guides us."

     "Your Grace..." said Theodora, hesitantly. "Forgive me, but it seems you know a great deal about vampires in general and this one in particular."

     "Lord Exsanguine has been Prince of this city for over a century," said the Duke. "My family has never had close ties with him, but in that amount of time we have learned a great deal about him. Additionally, as I believe some of you know, Lady Fang has him convinced she is also a vampire, and helps keep track of his doings, as well as those of other vampires in the area."

     His looked around at them, leaning forward a bit for emphasis, going eye to eye with each, daring them to claim his knowledge was inappropriate. Satisfied, he nodded, and the tension in the room eased slightly.

     "Now, there is one more matter I wish to bring up with you this evening," said His Grace, leaning back in his chair. "Something else which counsels caution. Shortly before the disappearance of High King David, one of the greatest Eshu seers living had a vision which foretold the event. He tried to warn the court, but was unable to make contact through any means available to him, including ordinary telephone. Some mystic force was definitely interfering. Part of his vision involved a large, menacing, dark wolf, holding the Moon in its jaws, bounding across the Earth, leaving ruin and Winter in its wake. This vision is something not widely known; one of those who do know it is, of course, Sir Seif. And one of the symbols of the kingship itself on the Earth is the Moon."

     "What are you thinking?" asked Leo, of the Duke but looking worriedly at Bill, who was obviously embarrassed.

     "That maybe people have misinterpreted the vision. Maybe the wolf wasn't kidnaping High King David, causing the onset of Winter. Maybe the wolf was rescuing him, saving him from Winter, fleeing ahead of it..."

     "You're pretty dark in your wolf form," said Judy, looking at Bill, not certain she believed any of this.

     "That description bears no resemblance to a jaggling of the Garou Wolf totem which attended my Chrysalis," said Bill, feeling his fur stand on end. "And I didn't hear this prophesy shortly after joining Changeling society. It's as narrowly known as His Grace said."

     "Listen, I know this is far from an ideal situation, but it is the situation we have. I am convinced the man in Lord Exsanguine's home is not in danger. Additionally, by dealing peacefully with the Prince we may be able to learn - assuming this is the lost High King - just what happened to him. Gaining that knowledge may be as important as recovering the High King. Do you understand?"

     They nodded, some reluctantly.

     "Good. We must move cautiously. If nothing else, because we have no idea how that vision might have applied or could still apply. Our young Pooka may yet have a role to play, but what that is we may not know until after the fact. So for this and other reasons you keep all this information to yourselves. Only discuss it with myself, my wife, Seif Raushan, and my highest staff."

     "I just don't get this!" Bill raged, once they were safely outside the Duke's home. "The High King, held hostage, and we're doing nothing!"

     "You're exaggerating," said Theodora. "From what we saw he's more guest than prisoner."

     "But... but... we're immediately charging to the rescue!" said Bill, in his exasperation reverting to his simplest Pooka speech mannerisms.

     "Look, I don't like leaving him there, either," said Leo, emphatically and pointedly, "but the Duke knows more about this stuff than we do!"

     "Yeah," said Bill, muttering. "Like Theo hinted, maybe too much..."

     "Don't call me Theo," said the Satyr, tiredly.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Strangers in the Night" by Bert Kaempfert

     After the youngsters left the Duke made a phone call to the Prince. He definitely had no fear of awakening Lord Exsanguine at this time of night. To his surprise, the vampire saw through his pretense with ease.

     "I have actually been considering contacting you on the matter of my guest," said the vampire. "Especially after noting that your children had discovered his presence. Something far less upsetting of my household routine than their trophy seeking incursions, I must admit. However, I do not wish to unsettle him by having Changelings here. Perhaps you can suggest a location acceptable to both of us?"

     After some discussion, they agreed on Lady Fang's home, if she would let them meet there. A quick conference call was established, and Lady Fang agreed to let her Glen of Eternal Repose be the scene of the gathering. In fact, she just happened to have an opening the next evening...

     Following the next nightfall a strange assortment of creatures assembled at the boneyard. Though all three parties were allowed to have up to ten associates present in the boneyard, for the discussion itself the Duke and the Prince - with Lady Fang as mediator - went into the last's crypt and sealed the door behind them. This left those outside uneasily eyeing each other.

     "Adam, if you would begin," said Lady Fang.

     The Duke nodded to her, and turned to Lord Exsanguine.

     "A few nights ago a member of my court heard what he believed to be fae music coming from your mansion. As he looked towards the source he saw someone. I would like to know who that man is and his status in your house."

     The vampire pursed his lips in thought for a moment, then nodded.

     "Several months back I noticed that minions of an old antagonist were undertaking a rather bizarre task. They were holding someone prisoner. That, in itself, would not be so unusual, but the particulars of the situation were. He was being held for a long period of time, primarily in an iron cage. And they were armed with iron clubs. They were instructed to hold him, but not kill him or cause him permanent injury."

     The Prince paused with a slight smile as he let the significance of this soak into his audience.

     "Now, I am old enough to have learned a few things about Changelings. Among them that iron - specifically, cold iron - is anathema to them. I admit to having a curiosity about your kind, but my primary motive for intervening in this peculiar situation was to spite Dominic G. Fellows, the vampire I mentioned. So I arranged for this prisoner to be liberated without any of his guards made the wiser.

     "He was brought here for me to investigate. At first he didn't even recall his own name. After several days of good treatment - and I emphasize this; let no-one say I am a poor host - he recalled that he was David. A few days more and he recalled that his last name was Ardry. Fascinated, I carefully charted the course of his recovery, noting what factors encouraged it. He has been supplied with fine food, good music, elegant art and intelligent conversation. He currently seems completely recovered, except that he still recalls nothing of his past. He also seems oddly unmotivated and unquestioning, though lately that has also shown signs of change."

     "You could have learned more by contacting me," the Duke pointed out diplomatically.

     "Ah, but where is the challenge of taking the easy path?" The Prince smiled, more broadly this time, revealing large, pointed canines. "Still, I believe I have learned as much as I can with my current methods, and David is growing restless."

     "Then I have a suggestion," said the Duke, his manner outwardly calm but excitement growing beneath that placid exterior. "One way to wake a Changeling to his arcane nature is through exposure to such things as you have provided, but sometimes that is not enough. I believe you are aware of our Saturday evening performances at the Art Center. I will arrange a special presentation, something guaranteed to stir the soul of any Changeling. You bring David and I promise that we will do our best to waken his fey soul, and solve your mystery."

     "Excellent!" said the Prince, excitedly rubbing his dry palms together with a raspy sound. "I have actually attended three of those events. I look forward to another. Even if this does not resolve the situation."

     "Either way," said the Duke, raising a finger, and speaking firmly, "I expect him to be turned over to me afterwards. He is one of ours and I am honor bound to protect and, if possible, heal him."

     "Quite acceptable," said the vampire, actually appearing happy. "As long as I am informed of how he came to be in such circumstances, should you learn that."

     "Quite acceptable," said the Duke, appearing even happier.

     They shook on it, the Duke barely managing to repress his reaction to the feel of cold, dry flesh pressed against his.

     "He's mad, you know," said Plucky, after the vampire and his retinue had left and the Duke briefed those in the know on the results of the meeting. "That vampire, I mean. Out of his bat. Gourds in his belfry."

     "You're just going to leave the High King with that... vampire!?" declared Seif, outraged.

     "That's what I said," mumbled Bill.

     "If Exsanguine is to be believed - and from long experience, including that of several of my predecessors, I feel he is - in this matter then David is currently in no danger. The Prince knows better than to feed on a Changeling, and wishes to remain on good terms with us, and David is protected there. Who would even think to look for the High King in a vampire's home?"

     "A pack of Pookas," was Theodora's sour observation.

     "While I am not in complete agreement with His Grace in regard to this plan, I confess to being unable to develop one with any greater chance of success," said Lady Fang. "Lord Exsanguine is treating David as a guest, rather than a prisoner, and is well situated to protect him and keep his presence unknown to any but those who already know of it."

     "If I simply present him with Caliburn..." Seif began.

     "That could waken him. But the Dream Dance is almost always traumatic, and such a sudden shock would amplify that. No, I think a more gradual, controlled attempt would be far better. Oh, don't worry; you will be present, with Caliburn. If necessary, you may present it to David as the climax of our efforts."

     "As you say, Your Grace," said Seif, though he was obviously not happy.

     "Yes," said the Duke, firmly. "As long as you are in my domain you will do as I say, unless I am overruled by Queen Maab, the High Queen or the High Queen Dowager herself! And that brings us to another, and very good, reason for delaying this to Saturday. I plan to inform all three of those ladies just mentioned, as well as Morewen, of the situation and invite them to also attend."

     "That... would definitely help," said Seif, nodding. "His wife, his chosen heir and his sister. Yes. If anyone can awaken him, it would be the first of those, especially with the aid - if necessary - of the second and third. And having Queen Maab here will strengthen both the legitimacy and the security of the event."

     "Which are my thoughts on the matter. Do not doubt me, Sir Seif; I wish to see the High King return and settle this nation's unease. And I intend to do everything I can to make certain this is done in the best way possible."

     "You're looking pensive," said Theodora, leaning over to Bill, as the meeting broke.

     "Just... what the Duke said about the Dream Dance, and why it's necessary to waken King David as gently as possible," said the wolf Pooka. "They are almost never easy or pleasant. I barely survived mine. Mark almost lost his. But, then, Leo's was almost casual, from what he and Judy say."

     "So you think the Duke might just be right, after all?"

     "Oh, sure. Leaving the Son of the Griffin with a demented vampire is clearly the best choice."

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Ten

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Got My Mind Set on You" by George Harrison

     Bill was enjoying his Omelet W/ham when he saw Plucky and Judy enter the little diner he where he was having a late Saturday morning breakfast.

     "And so it begins..." said Plucky, ominously, as he slid into the booth opposite Bill.

     "What?" said Bill, looking up from his meal.

     "Oh, nothing important happened late yesterday, right after you left," said the duck Pooka. "No important dignitaries arrived."

     "He means the High Queen Dowager arrived with a small entourage just after dusk," said Judy.

     "Ah," said Bill.

     "Supposedly, the continuing disagreement and distrust between the engaged parties is such that all will be here before Noon."

     "Wow," said Bill.

     "Yeah, that surprised me, too," said Judy. "It seems Faerilyth, the High King's sister and his protégée have done some serious reconciling the past few months. The other two are trusting her to quietly bring the High King back to himself while they stay home and keep things running to reduce suspicion."

     "Might work," said Bill, warily.

     "If it doesn't, we better be ready for a world of trouble," said Judy, sourly. "Anyway, the Duke - our Duke - wants us to be at his place by three, to help with security."

     "If there's one thing I hate," said Bill, solemnly, "it's in security."

     The waitress arrived, took the newcomers' orders, and left.

     "Eat up," said Bill, with a sigh, as he pushed his empty plate away and reached for the last swallow of his juice. "Looks like we're going to have a busy day."

     "Not more for you," said Plucky. "You're driving."

     They were silent for a few moments as each thought private thoughts.

     "The High Queen...," said Judy, suddenly. She caught herself. "Uh, Dowager, I mean... she's really torn up. But she's also determined. I mean really determined."

     "Yeah," said Bill, slowly. "If something like that happened to Debbie, I'm sure I would be calm and collected."

     Another long silence. Bill, absent anything else to do and not quite full, began nibbling on crackers. He looked up as Judy sighed.

     "After - What is it, three years? - of hints and hopes and disappointment, to finally learn he's not only alive but may be returned to her..." Judy stopped and shook her head. Her pale, red-accented face was fixed in an emotionless state, but there was deep sadness in her voice. "I can't imagine what she's feeling right now, but given the dedication she's shown to him I just hope she doesn't have another disappointment."

     "Love is useless for this sort of thing," said Bill, quietly. "No motivation, no reward."

     "Awww, that's so sweet," said the Knocker, with the only honest, gentle smile they could remember from her.

     "Eeewww, too much romance around here," said Plucky, leaning back so the waitress could serve them. "Things are plumb sticky with it."

     The woman gave him an odd look, scowled and left.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "politics of dancing" by Re-Flex

     Bill, as was the norm for the group he hung with since coming to Columbus, provided transportation for the usual suspects. They were also supposed to retrieve Mark Gambolle, since he was using his expertise in music to help with the program that night. However, when Theodora entered the Fairlaine she seemed oddly subdued. Once they were parked at the rear of the Gambolle property, to spirit Mark away hopefully unnoticed, she asked them to wait a moment.

     "I... have a confession to make," said Theodora, shifting uneasily, the goat hairs on her legs rustling oddly against the front of the rear seat. "Duke Loethenlau was sent here by Queen Maab to check on Duke Wotchermacalt. And the other two Wilders and me from his court were part of that. I... did tell him about the High King. But only after I knew Duke Wotchermacalt was going to. I feel guilty about..."

     "It's all right," said Leo, calmly. "Checking on those who wield authority in your name is expected. I'm certain His Grace would not consider this a violation of a confidence. Besides, he did inform Queen Maab and Duke Loethenlau."

     "You think we didn't know there was something odd about you being here?" said Judy, grinning and giving her a hug. "We didn't know for sure what it was, but this doesn't surprise me. Like my brother said, Changelings have to live with this sort of pretense."

     "News to me," said Plucky, nodding sagely.

     "For once, he tells the truth," said Bill, smirking. "Now, let's go kidnap our recalcitrant Satyr musician."

     "Thank you," said Theodora, looking much less worried. "This means a lot to me, guys. I hate this sort of stuff, but when your liege asks..."

     "We know, we know..." said Plucky, rolling his eyes.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" by the Bee Gees

     Her Grace, the Duchess, was making a point of tending to the High Queen Dowager's needs. Not so much the physical ones - her staff and Faerilyth's were far more qualified to see to those - as her emotional ones. Just now, she was giving the younger woman a sisterly hug.

     "It hurts me so much to see him like this," said Faerilyth, the ache in her voice causing the Dutchess' own throat to constrict painfully. "I don't know if taking me to see him at a distance, through a window, last night was a blessing or a curse."

     "I know," said the Dutchess, speaking barely above a whisper. "I can imagine how I would feel were my own husband in such a situation. But the Duke, my husband, does know what he is doing. The pain you feel now, waiting, is far less than what you would feel if we rushed things and he were lost to us. The plan to restore the High King moves apace; you must be patient."

     Faerilyth took Ilsthene's hand and squeezed it in both of hers.

     "I thank you. Even if we fail to recover his fae self, you have shown me that he still lives. Given me hope and some measure of both joy and peace, after these long years."

     There were no more words for some time after that.

     Meanwhile, however, the usual suspects were heading for the Court of Glass with a very sad passenger.

     "It's just... we did all these fun things together, and she doesn't remember any of them," said Mark, sobbing. "She barely remembers me!"

     "That is the core tragedy inherent in a Changeling's life," said Leo, softly. "The Mists blur all memory, even that of we Changelings. At once, it protects us and hurts us."

     "So just enchant her again, if she means that much to you," said Judy, less sympathetically.

     "I didn't enchant her the first time," said Mark. "Plucky did."

     "Well, that explains it," said Bill, most of his attention on weaving through traffic.


     "I seriously doubt that could have made things any worse," said Theodora, giving Mark a Satyr-to-Satyr hug. "Though suddenly seeing that duck for what he really is..."


     "Well, enchanting her will bring back at least some of the memories obscured by the Mists," said Leo, trying to keep the group mood in tune with Mark's sadness. "I'll help you practice, later."

     "Better make that ‘tomorrow,'" said Judy. "We are all going to be busy tonight."

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: Randy Newman's fanfare theme from The Natural

     "Get in your positions!" hissed His Grace, actually pushing Bill along.

     The situation started tense and grew more so with each passing moment, in large part because those participating in the operation must needs act as if they weren't unusually tense. Bill wasn't in any of the acts, but was instead placed in control of a group of young Pookas charged with what the Duke referred to as "auxiliary security." Anyone meaning mischief would know of the normal security measures, but not Bill's gang. And who better to spot mischief in the making than Pookas? While people might have trouble taking what a Pooka said as the literal truth, they were among the most trusted of the kinain when it came to doing their duty. If only their interpretation of "duty" weren't so flexible...

     The Arts Center auditorium was packed. Not only were there more people in attendance than usual, there were more types of people. And even some things which might not be considered people by all. More, the average importance of the people attending was also higher than usual. While Queen Maab had decided - like Morewen and Lenore - to not attend to avoid drawing too much attention, Duke Loethenlau was definitely there. As was the vampire Prince of the city, Lord Exsanguine, along with two of his retinue, as well as David Ardry, himself.

     At the Duke's request, Lord Exsanguine delayed his arrival until shortly before the program began. This reduced the chance of someone who wasn't already in the know recognizing David, and also the chance that they might do something about such a recognition. Given everything else which was happening, having three vampires present turned out to be only a minor concern. Lady Fang was also present, sitting in the row behind Exsanguine. The Duke had specifically asked her to keep an eye on the vampires. The Prince thought she was there to help protect him. Only she knew her true purpose.

     Faerilyth's arrival at the Court was still known only to the Duke's staff and a few others. She was currently in a private dressing room, with the Duchess, valiantly fighting the urge to simply run out and throw herself at David.

     Adding to the strain was the rising level of Glamour flooding the hall. It was normal for this to be produced by such activities, but tonight the level started abnormally high and rose with each act, sometimes sharply. Participants - whether kithain or kinain or merely enchanted humans - were doing their best for the cause, and the results of their efforts fed the work of those coming after. Even those not in on the scheme, even those not Changeling, even those technically not even alive, could feel that something was happening, something which promised a truly mythic climax. Spontaneous magic was becoming a real concern, and what effect that might have on the lost King David was unknown.

     However, most likely due to the reaction to this rise of Glamour on the part of some members of the crowd and those outside the actual hall, on the fringes of the effect, Banality was also fighting back. Like a living thing, sensing a threat and preparing to act against same, the Changelings (and some of the others) could feel reality stirring, gathering itself, preparing to restore mundanity, no matter the cost. Though the effect was not serious inside the auditorium yet, Bill could sense it, like a thick, choking cloud, hovering outside.

     Then, oddly, though the next act wasn't scheduled to start for a few minutes, yet, the curtain started up.

     "What the Hell..." said Bill, stopping dead in his tracks to look towards the stage, as some bit of oddness - and even for a Changeling event, this was odd - caught his eye.

     The curtain rose, but what he saw was not what was supposed to be there. On the stage was a rock show, complete with lights, instruments, sound gear and a chimerical band. At least, Bill hoped they were chimeras... They looked disturbingly like Muppets. Real ones. As he stared, a strange figure jumped out onto the stage from the wings, strode to the mike stand, and seized the mike. The same stranger many of them had seen a few days before, fleeing from Hellhounds. He was now dressed like Captain Marvel, Junior. He smiled and turned to the bestial drummer.

     "Hit it!" the stranger shouted, with a dramatic gesture.

     Music - raucous, guitar-heavy rock - began playing, and the stranger grinned even more broadly. He began dancing, not as if trying to perform but as if he couldn't help himself, gangly limbs jerking with an odd sort of grace. The Banality in the area drained away as if someone had pulled a stopper.

          "So you're a little bit older and a lot less bolder than you used to be.

          So you used to shake 'em down but now you stop and think about your dignity.

          So now sweet sixteen instead of thirty-one.

          You get to feelin' weary when the workday is done.

          Well, all you got to do is get up, give me your kicks!

          Come back baby, rock and roll never forgets!"

     All other activity in the auditorium came to a complete stop, as people of various types froze in fascinated wonder and confusion. The stranger finished his set and, covered in perspiration and breathless, bowed to a near standing ovation. The curtain dropped... and rose again almost immediately, with the next act on the program in place, the participants seemingly oblivious to what had just happened.

      Back stage, His Grace was carefully watching the effect this unscheduled performance was having, on the High King especially, but on everyone. And for the first time in hours, he smiled.

     "Please consider this compensation for endangering bystanders when I unwittingly brought those monsters into your Freehold," said a murmured voice from behind him.

      "Really, there's no need to pretend this was some sort of penance," said the Duke, quietly, not even turning to look. He knew there would be no-one there. "You had more fun than we did..."

     He kept the acts coming, with the High Queen in reserve for the finale; or sooner, if he felt the moment right. He could see David struggling, in a dazed sort of way, looking as if he were desperately trying to remember something. Finally, His Grace decided that the time was right; anything more would either trigger the High King's Dream Dance uncontrollably or send him screaming. He gave Faerilyth her cue. As the curtain rose she was revealed on the stage, in a beautiful gown which had been one of her husband's favorites. She smiled at the crowd, but avoided looking at the lost High King. Then the music began, and she sang. The piece had been written for the wedding ball of the High King and High Queen, but to this had been added lyrics crafted by the most skilled poet in the Kingdom of Glass, especially for this event.

     The High Queen sang of love lost, and love mourned... and love found again. Color in the room became more vivid, and things seemed to flit around those inside it, on the edge of vision. Strange chimeras swarmed the entire volume of the hall, a group of them forming rank behind Faerilyth to sing backup, though none dared move to block anyone's view of Faerilyth. Glamour swelled, surging, holding for a moment, and surging again. Even those long used to it felt dizzy, disoriented. In the back of the room, David Ardry rose to his feet, and staggered, looking entranced, towards the stage.

     The last verse of the song was an invitation for her lost love to return to her, and Faerilyth held the final note, letting it fade to silence, as she lifted her arms out to David. The High King cried out, clutching his head. Chaos filled the room as the Dream Dance threatened reality itself. Then it stopped.

     "I remember," said David, in a hoarse whisper barely audible in the silence. He lowered his hands. Those close enough could see that his ears once again had the delicate points which marked his Sidhe self, and that golden tears streamed down his face. "I remember!"

     He leapt onto the stage and embraced his wife, both of them weeping joyously. And the Duke frantically motioned for the curtain to be lowered.

     The massive upwelling of Glamour left everyone dazed, even the vampire Prince and his henchmen. Some recovered more quickly than others, fortunately. Acting under previous orders, the Duke's security personnel escorted the Prince and his assistants out of the hall, with promises of explanations later. The shock of the High King's return had left the Prince so dazed he didn't even protest. Backstage, The High King and High Queen Dowager were still embraced, and no-one dared to interrupt them. Finally, though, they began to again notice the world around them. And a certain person, in particular, who approached and knelt, holding out a sheathed sword laid across his forearms.

     "Your Majesty," said Seif, presenting Caliburn on a velvet cloth. He was grinning like a child on Christmas morning.

     That sword was probably the only thing which could have separated David from his wife just then. Solemnly, he stepped forward took the sword and unsheathed it, and lifted the great blade into the air. And Caliburn sang. It sang with Glamour, announcing that it was once again back in the hand it had chosen. And it sang with Order, announcing that once more the world had a chance for healing.

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Eleven

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "We Have Heaven" by Yes

     There were several revels in the area that night, the largest at the Court of Glass. After making a brief, formal appearance, the restored High King and his wife quietly left for parts known only to a few. Most likely, they were either in the Master Bedroom of the mansion, or the equivalent in the castle version in the Near Dreaming. And no-one at the celebration begrudged them this privacy even one little bit.

     What they did begrudge was the outsiders - uninvited ones - who started arriving. Looking for High King David. Word had spread quickly about his return, and rumors of his possible return had gained even wider reign. The Court of Glass would later learn that stories of the event had spread around the world at ridiculous speed, though details were often lacking or just plain wrong. Still, enough had the location right that the Court was soon besieged by the important, the self-important and the merely curious.

     Duke Wotchermacalt told his security staff to allow anyone not actively looking to cause trouble to enter the Freehold, which was a good policy overall. Letting them in, to look around on their own and see what was happening for themselves did a lot to reduce any resentment from not being able to have an immediate audience with David. The seekers of audiences also mostly got caught up in the celebration, deciding their business could wait for another time. Glamour such as that to be found at the revel was heady stuff, and many non-Scathatch Sidhe found themselves getting far more casual with commoners than they were accustomed to, and even liking the experience. Though some would regret this, come morning...

     However, a few of the petitioners were insistent, and ignored the revel to persist in seeking an audience. They were told, firmly, that the Duke would not violate the privacy of David and Faerilyth for anything less than Doomsday, and that even then he'd have to hear it from Morewen or Lenore themselves. This created some bad blood, which was exacerbated by the jeers such rude people received from the partiers - commoner and noble alike - upon being turned away.

     The party finally dribbled into silence, the last die-hards staggering home as dawn began painting the sky that Sunday morning. But with the dawn came another set of Sidhe demanding to see the High King. And soon after another. And another. With the party over, these were left waiting outside the gates, on the fringe of the Freehold and in the mortal domain. Something which only added to their discontent. Fortunately, the magics which had kept the non-enchanted from seeing or hearing most of what happened the night before were still in force. The police received only a few minor complaints about a block party, and couldn't actually find the mansion that night. Responding officers the next morning found several groups of businessmen in expensive vehicles, accompanied by assistants and private security personnel, all quietly waiting on private property. On being told vague stories about a large private auction (and having generous amounts of Chicanery surreptitiously applied to them) the officers nodded and left.

     "Damn leeches could give Lord Exsanguine lessons," muttered Korgig, staring out through the closed gates. "It's starting to look like an armed camp out there. Or maybe a Republican presidential nomination convention. Things are getting ugly, with a capital 'ugh.'"

     Indeed, the petitioners had started out firmly insisting and grown more strident with time. Some were actually accusing Duke Wotchermacalt of holding the High King captive, and threatening to bring in troops to free him. The only thing which had kept the peace so far was that so many interests were represented no one group could take action without several coalitions immediately forming against them.

     The situation had not escaped the Duke... or his wife.

     "There are major shifts in alliances being made roughly every ten minutes out there," said His Grace, as he peered through the curtains at the mass besieging his gates. "Not only are representatives of more factions arriving every hour or so, but those already here are acquiring reinforcements. Even if fighting breaks out and eliminates or drives off most of them, the victors would pose a serious threat if they decided to force their way in."

     "Dear, I definitely think we need to take our primary guests somewhere less public," said the Duchess, as she put the remains of their breakfast on the serving tray. "And soon. Even if it means interrupting their privacy."

     "I've already been asking around," said the Duke, sighing and letting the narrow gap in the curtains close as he turned back to her. "Queen Maab says she doesn't want them there yet; she hasn't had time to prepare. She will send some of her guards to help us, but even by trod they won't arrive for another couple of hours. There's simply no direct route. Morewen and Lenore gave a number of reasons for not bringing them there, most of which I find acceptable. They are also sending guards, but with the same problem. Even if the reinforcements for our side aren't hindered, I suspect we need to do something before even the earliest they can arrive. Such as take David and Faerilyth to some place more secure. But where...?"

     "Please tell me you aren't even considering sending them to that vampire's place," said Ilsthene, smiling but with a strand of iron in her tone.

     "I hadn't even thought of that until you mentioned it," said the Duke, with a slight smile. "Don't worry. He's not currently on the list. But 'where' is only part of the problem. 'How' could be just as significant. We can't risk either another kidnaping, an attack, or the well-intentioned but poor of judgement effort to see the High King."

     He went thoughtfully silent for nearly a minute.

     "I do believe I have an idea."

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Roundabout" by Yes

     "I need the services of you and your rather large automobile," said His Grace.

     Bill was feeling a bit overwhelmed. He was standing in the Court's private audience chamber with the Duke, the High King and High Queen Dowager, and Sir Seif. Bill glanced over at latter, noting that the Eshu seemed as uncomfortable as the wolf Pooka. He might also have been hung over. Having fulfilled his task, Seif had considered himself done, and spent the evening partying with the rest. However, his name was the fourth most often spoken outside the gates this Sunday morning, and he now found himself reluctantly back in the thick of things.

     "Ah, Your Grace, your Majesties, my vehicle is entirely appropriate to royalty but quite slow and clumsy," Bill offered. "Seeing Sir Seif ride out with me would lead no-one to suspect we were up to something. The only advantage is that I drove back to my dorm last night instead of staying at the school."

     "Do you think you could quickly and safely transport the High King and Queen to safety?" the Duke asked.

     "There would be no need for deception," Bill bragged. "Though once through the gate and away from the immediate area anything on the road could catch us."

     "If I may, your Grace," said David. "Ready your own finest vehicle, as if preparing to go somewhere in it. Then, those outside will see us enter... but with a glamour at work to make things seem not quite real. Meanwhile, our young Pooka will be preparing to leave in his own vehicle, with passengers not clearly seen."

     "Yes, that would work," said the Duke, rubbing his chin as he thought things through. "I am ashamed that such subterfuge is necessary, and that even my own Rolls is inadequate for..."

     The High Queen lifted her hand and he fell silent.

     "This is not a matter for pomp and finery," she stated, firmly. "What matters here is not what resources you have for providing elegance, but those you have for safely getting my husband and myself to this place you mentioned."

     "Yes," sighed the Duke. "And, at the risk of bragging, that is a service I believe I can definitely provide."

     The Duke's old Rolls was cleaned and polished to within an inch of its stately life, and its chimerical glory reinforced to such a degree it literally glowed to the sight of the properly perceptive. Meanwhile, Bill's Fairlaine was made to look less impressive even than usual, with multiple concealment and "mind your own business" cantrips cast upon it. Bill drove around to the side door of the mansion, where he tooted his horn. At the same time, the Rolls arrived at the front entrance. To those watching, inside the Freehold as well as out, the High King and Queen were escorted with proper posh and frippery to the car by the Duke, while around to the side Seif hurried out to Bill's car accompanied by a pair of bundled, spell-blurred figures. And if the Eshu and Pooka seemed uncharacteristically worried and hurried, well, who would notice while the High King and Queen and Duke Wotchermacalt entered the Rolls and were slowly driven down the drive and out the gate?

     The Fairlaine roared to life and followed in an unhurried manner. Which, for it, meant rapidly accelerating to 30 mph in the driveway, slowing abruptly and briefly at the gate while Bill checked for oncoming traffic, then roaring away in the opposite direction. Bill had wanted to drive past the Rolls in a show of bravado, but had been overruled by the Duke. Instead, he turned to follow a different route.

     "No sign we've been noticed, except for the Zeppelin chasing us," said Bill, cheerfully.

     "It seems that nearly all the less desirable petitioners have someone following us," Seif stated. "Not as complete a success as we hoped, but still enough to considerably reduce the risk."

     "A bit of a show of trying to escape them could increase the attention being paid to us," said Leo, one of the two bundled figures.

     "Ladies and gentlemen, please return your trays to their upright and locked positions," said Bill, grinning. "We're expecting turbulence. Not to mention speeding tickets."

     "Oh, God," groaned Judy, the other bundled figure.

     Bill had been in town long enough to have a good idea of when and where he could drive outside the legal limits with little expectation of being caught. Not that he did such things normally, mind you; he just liked being prepared. At the next light, the Fairlaine signaled a right turn, but was traveling at a speed apparently too high to make it. Bill waited until the last moment, then whipped the car hard right, shoving the accelerator pedal down to help kick the car around the corner. The car came out of the tight turn fishtailing, tires screaming. Bill let up, briefly, to let the rear tires catch, then stomped the pedal again, quickly let up to shift, then stomped it again. By the time their pursuers came around the corner the muscle car had gained three blocks.

     Bill made an abrupt - and unsignaled - left turn while those in the other car were still trying to catch up. A few more maneuvers like that, and they were on a narrow country road with trees growing high and wide on both sides, meeting in a concealing canopy overhead.

     "Okay, I think we gave them perfect directions," said Bill.

     He glanced in the back, and grinned at the illusion of the High King and Queen, which was only now beginning to fade to reveal, instead, a brother and sister.

     "A double fake-out," he said, sighing. "Such a simple, straightforward plan. Worthy of a Pooka."

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Try It" by The Hollies

     They arrived at the boneyard not long after the Rolls. There were already several other vehicles parked outside, most of them belonging to petitioners. The residents were having a hard time keeping them from blocking the entrance, and as the Fairlaine approached had an even harder time keeping them from swarming that car. By dint of cleverness, mundane skill, Chicanery and a bit of luck, Bill's car got through the barricade without anyone entering who wasn't supposed to. He quickly parked beside the Rolls, though was careful to give it a good berth. The occupants of the institution were already escorting the guests of honor to a chimerical hall hastily erected for their use, while the Duke lagged behind to discuss something with the Dark Man. Bill whistled as he walked towards the structure, definitely impressed. He wasn't the only one.

     "How did the master of this Freehold manage such a construction in such a short time?" said Sir Seif.

     "I've learned not to underestimate Lady Fang's abilities," said Leo, though he was just as mystified.

     Back at the entrance the latest arrivals of audience seekers were told the same thing as the first.

     "Your petitions will be heard," said the Dark Man. "A conference will be held when the High King determines the time is correct to do so! He requests that he be allowed to catch up on all he has missed during his absence. In the meantime, the privacy of the High King and High Queen Dowager will be respected!"

     Given that Rowlf and several members of the Stone Gang were standing menacingly behind him, there was little dissent.

     Bill, Leo, Judy and Seif moved towards the Duke, joined shortly by the rest of the usual suspects. They chatted quietly while the Duke finished some urgent but not really important business. He then turned towards them.

     "You youngsters - except you, Sir Seif; the High Queen requests your presence - are finished for now," said the Duke. "I thank you, and the High King thanks you. But stay handy!"

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Heroes" by David Bowie

     "I," said David, "am very tired of others taking risks to protect me."

     "As am I," said Faerilyth. "The King and Queen are supposed to defend the realm and its occupants. Not be dependant on them for protection."

     "The pact works both ways, your Majesties," said Lady Fang, firmly. She smiled, revealing the canines which inspired her name. "If we were unable to protect you, we would soon be without your protection. So, please, allow us this application of enlightened self interest. And depend upon the Fang of House Scathatch to ensure your safety."

     High King David looked startled.

     "I beg your pardon, Lady Fang," he said, recovering quickly and bowing, much to the confusion of his wife. "I had thought that title only a legend. Please, carry on with your duties, and be assured that we are now much more assured of our safety."

     Faerilyth said nothing, but obviously wished to know more. David spoke quietly to her as they followed their escort to the pavilion. The High Queen Dowager's eyes widened several times during the short trip, and only part of that was due to their new quarters.

     The structure was far larger and more well appointed than the Duke's mansion, but was entirely chimerical. If some person of sufficient banality approached... Well, that was unlikely, to say the least, but just for the sake of safety the sprawling structure had only one floor, at ground level. The view was exquisite.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "La Mer" by De Bussey

     The rest of the morning passed mostly uneventfully. There were minor problems at the Duke's Manor and the boneyard, and even some of the local commoner haunts. Fortunately, quick and appropriate responses saw that the problems stayed minor.

     Bill and the usual suspects were pretty much left free to relax and enjoy the spectacle. Which suited most of them just fine. Leo, however, had an over-developed sense of duty... at least, as far as the others were concerned. Shortly after lunch he began to become antsy.

     "Brother, dear," said Judy, sighing in aggravation, "leave it to the experts!"

     "Surely there's something I can do! That we can do!"

     "Let's rest and save our strength," said Plucky, who was actually dancing with one of the more personable chimerical residents of the boneyard, who looked surprisingly like an early version of Daisy. "No telling when we might be called on to take action."

     Bill, in wolf form for the first time in a long time, was curled up in a patch of sun, eyes closed, looking quite blissful. He snorted mildly at the duck Pooka's advice. Then lifted his head and pricked up his ears. He growled a bit and stood, tail up, looking towards the gate.

     "What now?" said Judy.

     Like Bill, most of them had been lounging on one way or another. Like him they now stood, and looked towards the gate. Even Plucky stopped dancing and moved to join them.

     "I do believe that's King Meilge," said Leo. "Small surprise he'd be here. If nothing else, to check on Faerilyth."

     They moved closer. And saw Maisy hurrying away, towards the chimerical pavilion. The King was speaking in a low but very tight voice, obviously angry.

     "You know who I am!" he all but hissed. "You know my authority! Let. Me. In."

     "No, Your Highness," said the Dark Man, who couldn't help but reply quietly, being a Sluagh. "These orders come from my Lady, and were confirmed by the High Queen Dowager to me personally."

     Every mobile inhabitant of the boneyard not assigned a security post was moving towards the entrance, even Lost Illyan. So were some of the invited guests. The expressions on the faces of the King's entourage at the sight of so many strange and possibly powerful creatures arraying themselves behind the Dark Man were almost amusing. Bill and his group, without a word, joined those at the gate, the wolf Pooka actually making a point of moving beside Rowlf. The big faerie hound looked askance at the large wolf, sighed, and returned his gaze to the King.

     King Meilge was starting to actually consider ordering an assault. Besides his own forces, there were several here, outside the gate, who were under his rule or otherwise would support him. However, while he considered, Lady Fang approached.

     "Lady Fang," said Meilge, tautly. "I will see the High King now. I must ascertain his state, and arrange for his protection. Let me in or I will be forced to make the issue a violent one."

     Behind him came a general stirring. Some were preparing to act on his threat, but others were simply trying to get a better view of the confrontation.

     "No, you will not," said Lady Fang. "I have no interest in your ephemeral politics, but I do have loyalty to my House, and affection for many of those you are attempting to harm. As well as good reason to protect those who have proven to be friends to those I sympathize with. You will remain outside until David is ready to hear you."

     Meilge snorted and started forward, actually reaching for his sword. Lady Fang held up a hand, and he rebounded from something unseen. His eldritch blade clattered to the asphalt.

     "I have lost much since the Shattering, but my loss is not a shade of yours," she stated, flatly. "You say you came here to protect the High King and his chosen wife. Be assured that while here, they are very well protected."

     "She's one of the Ancients!" exclaimed a member of Meilge's escort, reaching to steady his King.

     "That is a human body," another pointed out.

     "My nature is none of your concern," Lady Fang. "You will leave here. Now."

     King Meilge gestured, and several other sidhe moved up beside him. Together they began working a bunk, something arcane and powerful. The King took point, and as the spell reached its climax he directed it at Lady Fang. She simply stood, and waited. At the climax of the spell the powerful magic rebounded, literally throwing all those involved to the ground. Most soon rallied to their feet, but Meilge was unconscious. Lady Fang said and did nothing more, but stared until the intruders gathered their liege and left.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Walk Don't Run" by The Ventures

     After such a demonstration Bill didn't see any reason he and the usual suspects needed to stick around. He also didn't want to be involved in or even witness all the discussion Lady Fang's actions would cause. Bill had a very wolf attitude towards fights; "we won, it's over, let's eat." On the other hand, he didn't want to leave. If nothing else, Lady Fang was certain to set a good table for supper. However, it was Sunday, he was a wolf in a semi-isolated area, and he definitely needed a break. Without consulting his companions - which would have required him to change back so he could speak as humans do - he quietly sneaked away. Soon, he was loping through an empty part of the boneyard, basically an overgrown wilderness inside the boundaries of the freehold. He was surprised how large it was, especially since what he found was apparently the size in the mundane world, as well. There were two other accesses into the land, both with three guards currently on watch. Both also had Changelings on the outside, keeping just as studious a watch inwards. No way out through those, then. He also discovered that he could not cross the boundary of the Freehold. So, his romp - and maybe some hunting - would be confined to the Freehold, itself.

     Bill hunted a few squirrels, mainly for the fun of it, not harming them. A few chimeras watched his antics, but most of those were back at the main event. Finally, yawning, Bill settled beside a long-fallen, moss- and vine-covered tree for a nap.

     He awoke much later than he had intended; night was well established. Still, he could see a dim glow from the direction of the pavilion, and even hear occasional traces of music and laughter. He stood, shook himself, yawned, stretched, and set off at an easy lope.

     Bill soon came across one of the narrow internal roads going in roughly the right direction and moved his travel onto that. He noticed recent signs of vehicle travel, but figured that had simply been for taking people to and from the watch on the other gates. Until he saw the limousine stopped ahead, lights off. He slowed and approached cautiously. Many of the scents were definitely non-Changeling. He thought he might even be smelling a vampire, but since he'd never scented one in wolf form wasn't certain. He stopped when he heard voices.

     "I thank you for this audience," said someone who was definitely Lord Exsanguine. "I know this is not my realm, and appreciate the courtesy."

     "Please be quick, My Lord," said Lady Fang. "I have important guests to see to."

     "Yes, yes, and that is exactly what concerns me. I still have received no explanation of just who my recent guest was."

     "The King of the Elves," said Lady Fang.

     Bill's hackles rose, and he barely suppressed a growl. Why would she tell him that?! Carefully, worried their host was betraying them but also not wanting to be heard, he moved off the road and towards the pair. He couldn't hear them as clearly, now, but could tell they were not in agreement about something. Bill took note of the those by the car, two humans with strange taints to their scents, and another vampire. Given the increasing animosity of tone, and the way the three with the Prince were obviously preparing for action, he now worried that Lady Fang was in trouble for not betraying her guests. Finally, he could see them. They were literally in fighting stances, not quite to blows yet, but close.

     "As you said, this is not your realm!" said Lady Fang, literally snarling. "Your agreement was with the Duke; when he is finished here, he will tell you all you are allowed to know!"

     "That is not good enough!" said Lord Exsanguine, fangs definitely showing. "I expected better from you! We have been allies - even friends - for over a century! Now you treat me this way! Beware, Lady Fang! I am not without my means, and some of those would leave this place a blasted ruin!"

     And, quick as that, Lady Fang was at his throat. Her fingers were daggers, her teeth stilettos, mouth opened obscenely wide. She stopped, frighteningly elongated fingernails barely penetrating his undead flesh, fangs hovering over his jugular. For a frozen moment the tableau held. Then Lady Fang relaxed and stepped back.

     Without a word, the Prince bowed, then turned and hurried away.

     Bill blinked in confusion as the vampire quickly returned to his car, which backed carefully to a turn-around and drove off. Lord Exsanguine's servants had actually started forward as he approached, but he had waved them back, face expressionless. Bill pulled a bit further back into the underbrush, trying to sort out what the scents and sounds were telling him. The vampire Prince had definitely been enraged, ready to resort to violence, his anger approaching that of a Garou in full cry. And then... Lady Fang had moved so quickly Bill hadn't even seen it. Lord Exsanguine had definitely reconsidered his situation after that demonstration, and chosen wisely.

     Deciding that Lady Fang did, indeed, have the best interested of the High King in her heart, Bill turned and began slinking away.

     "Stop," said Lady Fang, still looking down the road.

     Bill hesitated; there was no way she could know he was there but who else could she be speaking to?

     "Come here, Pooka."

     Well, that settled that.

     Sighing, Bill slunk out of the woods, ears and tail low. Lady Fang examined him for a moment, her expression unreadable and even her scent revealing nothing in detail.

     "Follow me."

     She turned and walked away, moving quickly. Bill hurried to keep up.

     She led him back towards her crypt, stopping in a concreted area with a grating in the center, part of a drainage system keeping water out of the vaults, tombs and graves, just a bit to the east of her home. Lady Fang stared at Bill until he reluctantly joined her. And, then, they were abruptly somewhere else. It felt like the Near Dreaming, but there was no resemblance to the boneyard. Instead, they stood in a moonlit meadow, surrounded by old-growth forest. There was no sign of anything constructed, human or fae. Even thinking of such despoilment while looking at this place of literally supernatural beauty made Bill wince. He'd seen places like this twice before, on trips into the deep Umbra with Debbie. And, as had happened those two times before, the feral part of his nature sang with joy inside him.

     "This is a Glade!" Bill blurted.

     It occurred to him that he shouldn't be able to do that. Looking at himself, he saw he was now back in human form, though still on all fours. He was also naked. Oh, well; he wasn't all that shy. Bill stood, and looked expectantly at Lady Fang.

     "You will say nothing of my meeting with Lord Exsanguine."

     "No, Ma'am!" said Bill, eagerly.


     Bill grimaced. And swallowed nervously.

     "I will say nothing of that event, unless not doing so would endanger my friends or family, or violate an oath I have taken."

     She considered that. And nodded.

     "It is very important that the Prince continue to think that I am, like him, a vampire," said Lady Fang. "Do you understand?"

     "Not a bit. Your scent is obviously identical."

     She sighed in exasperation.

     "Vampires do have senses keener than those of humans, which is why they also often disguise their scent. Don't worry about my deception."

     "No, Ma'am."

     "Now, you will also keep quiet about this Glade. Most of those who live with me already know, and I will be the one to decide if it is the business of anyone else. Understand?"

     "No, Ma'am."

     "Now, let us return to the boneyard. There is much to do."

Wolf Penned In


Rodford Edmiston

Part Twelve

     This story is set in White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game universe. While the plot and many of the characters are mine, everything else is theirs.

Theme for this section: "Lullaby" by George Gershwin

     Bill was again startled to find himself in wolf form when Lady Fang returned them to the boneyard. While he was still trying to work out the how and why of that Lady Fang left without his noticing. Bill sighed, thought briefly about finding his clothes and changing back, but then had a better idea.

     A group of childlings were making a campout of their stay at the boneyard. Rowlf and a few of the cuddlier chimeras in the area were already curled up with them. Bill simply walked carefully into the group, found a spot among the little ones and lay down. He was surprised to find himself falling asleep quickly, what with the unusually long nap he'd just woken from, but decided he just needed the rest.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith

     The next day the mass of petitioners outside the boneyard had increased even more. King Meilge was back, only slightly subdued. Finally, around 11, they were told lunch was being served in the pavilion, and the barricades were removed. Fortunately, the waiting Sidhe took the hint and maintained their decorum, though some just barely. The filed into the chimerical structure and immediately began jockeying for seating position.

     Bill had expected to get back to school that morning, but instead found himself the target of a frantic search. Seems it never occurred to the searchers to look for a wolf. Bill had changed back and dressed and was walking to his car when he was all but tackled.

     "You have to get ready!" one frantic Boggan babbled. "Oh! Oh! There's scarcely any time!"

     "What are you talking about?"

     "The High King's brunch! You're one of the star guests!"

     "Why didn't anyone tell me about this ahead of time?"

     He never did get a straight answer to that. Instead he was hustled off to the Pavilion, entering through a side door. Inside he was unceremoniously stripped, cleaned and dressed in garments so fine they made his teeth vaguely itch. All the while he was briefed on proper etiquette. He still wasn't certain what was going on when he was ushered into line with the rest of the usual suspects and Sir Seif - all of them also freshly scrubbed and outfitted - just before they were led into an enormous, gorgeously appointed dining hall.

     Bill kept trying to ask questions of the others, but both he and they kept getting shushed by Boggans. He finally just gave up and decided to wait and see. Soon, they were taken to their seats, where the beginnings of the meal were already arrayed. Bill was surprised to see the Duke and Duchess already seated, and even more surprised that the Duke wasn't at the head of the table. Also present were Lady Fang, Duke Loethenlau and a few others. Gradually, it dawned on him who the two vacant seats were for.

     David and Faerilyth finally appeared, without fanfare, about half an hour after the seating was completed. They joined the Duke, Duchess and the others at the small table - in this situation that meant one which only seated twenty.

     As morning moved to afternoon the huge hall was filled with a muted buzz of conversation, most of it carefully regulated by the rules of behavior mandated by the nobles. Course after course of carefully designed dishes were served. Even though the portions were small, the number was huge. Finally, when Bill and some of the others were wondering if their bladders and stomachs could stay intact much longer, the High King stood. Immediately, the heralds shouted for the attention of the assembly. David and Faerilyth took each others' hands and stood. The looked at each other for a moment, then gracefully turned and together approached the nearby podium. Silence fell over the great hall.

     "Ladies and gentlemen... honored Sidhe... It is good to be back."

     There was cheering and applause. David waited, smiling, until it subsided.

     "There is much to be done, and much of that is both important and urgent. However, before we adjourn to the council chambers Lady Fang has so generously provided, there is one duty which takes precedence over all others my wife and I must perform this day."

     With that he turned and called Duke Wotchermacalt to him.

     "Your Grace, you have proven yourself both wise and loyal, persistent and patient. You were determined when you needed to be, and properly patient when all around you were urging action. Wise in keeping as few people involved as possible, but wiser in seeking the best available help when you needed to. You and your lovely wife were also very gracious to myself and my lovely wife, providing privacy when we most needed it. For that and far more We owe you a debt We doubt We will ever be able to repay. However, please consider this a down payment."

     A servant had approached unobtrusively behind the High King as this was said. Reaching back without looking, David was handed a scroll. He handed the Duke the document, a roll of vellum bound in fairey silk. The Duke opened this, read it, and simply stared, speechless, back and forth between scroll and monarch.

     "Th-thank you, Your Majesty," the Duke was finally able to stammer.

     "The Court of Glass is awarded the right to appoint a representative to sit on Our Privy Council," said David, turning to make certain this was heard by the assembly.

     The two men shook hands and the Duke walked, a bit unsteadily, back to his seat, while the assembly applauded politely.

     Faerilyth now called for the Duchess.

     "For all the reasons my husband gave and more, We present you with this award."

     The Duchess managed a more dignified reaction than her husband had, but was obviously still greatly affected.

     "The Duchess Ilsthene is awarded the Queen's Ear. And in this instance that applies to both myself or Lenore, who has graciously agreed to this award."

     Again the applause, this time seasoned with expressions of surprise. The Queen's Ear was license to have access to the High Queen at any time, simply by requesting it. In a way, it was a higher award than her husband had received.

     Various other members of the Court of Glass were called forward and given lesser recognitions. Then came the turn of the usual suspects.

     Leo was called up first, and not only knighted on behalf of the Duke and his Court, but also announced a member of a prestigious order. Plucky, Judy and Theodora were also knighted. Then Bill was called up.

     "Young Pooka, you present an interesting case," said David, with a slight smile. "Your liege has specifically requested that he be allowed to invest you. That ceremony will take place at the High Court at a time yet to be determined. However, We do have something to give you now. A small and very appropriate treasure."

     The attendant handed David a bejeweled case. David, smiling, in turn presented this to Bill, who opened it, then stared in confusion.

     Inside was a silver collar. His Majesty lifted the item from the box, opened it and reached for Bill, who leaned forward to accept.

     "I'm told this was presented to a former High King many centuries ago, by one of the Garou," the High King murmured quietly. "This will allow you to hide your clothing when you change to wolf, then restore your garments when you change back. It will also allow you to change when you are being watched, though that will still not be easy."

     "Thank you!" Bill almost shouted, grinning broadly, and they straightened and shook hands.

     Finally, Seif Raushan was called forward.

     "Young Eshu, I barely knew you before I was lost," said the High King, breaking etiquette by using the first-person singular pronoun. "However, I have been told - repeatedly and passionately - of your dedication in seeking me out, and also your work in easing the conflict between my wife and my sister. That last demonstrating wisdom and diplomacy, besides loyalty and dedication. For those things and far more you have my eternal gratitude. More pragmatically, We name you Baron Seif."

     David handed him a scroll, then also presented him with a sword in belted scabbard.

     "Not so fine as Caliburn, I'm afraid," said David, dryly. "However, it should serve you well."

     The applause was loud and long.

     "Well, that takes care of the day's more pleasant activities," said David, turning back to the assembly as Lord Seif hurried to his seat. "Now we will take a short break, and then court will begin."

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Music Must Change" by The Who

     The arguments started almost immediately court was called into session. Disagreements old and new were brought up and discussed, sometimes in a friendly manner, sometimes with obvious hostility but politeness, but all too often with angry shouting. David began to despair; his long absence and the conflict over succession had resulted in too many problems festering too long without being lanced. Now he feared amputation might be needed.

     For long hours, well into the evening, they shouted and ranted and sometimes even screamed. Some things were settled, but others went from a long simmer to a violent boil, and threatened to become a conflagration.

     Then the arguments trailed away to silence as those in the room realized that a stranger had somehow entered unnoticed and was quietly walking around, examining the furnishings. He appeared to be human, tall and lean, at once dark and pale, his chimerical aspect identical to his mundane appearance. The others in the hall stirred uneasily. This was so unprecedented, so unexpected, so improper, they didn't know how to respond. David made as if to rise, but his wife put her hand on his arm.

     "No, husband," she said, quietly. "I have a... feeling about this stranger. He has offered us no harm, and before has helped us greatly. Let us hear what he has to say."

     "Excuse me," said the Sergeant at Arms, sternly, approaching the man. "This is a private meeting. And a sealed room."

     "Hey, with all the noise you're making, I can't slee... Uh, I mean, 'meditate,'" said the stranger, shrugging. "Don't mind me. I'm just this odd, unworldly character who can span the omnicosm with a thought."

     "And your name is...?"


     There was a pause while the Sergeant at Arms waited for the rest of it, but the stranger went back to perusing wall hangings, giving the definite impression that was all there was. Or at least all he was willing to reveal. The Sergeant at Arms started to resume his approach, obviously meaning to evict the man, but David waved him back, trusting Faerilyth's judgement, at least for the moment.

     "And I suppose you are here to offer us your sage advice on how to deal with our problems?" queried King Meilge, sarcastically.

     "Oh, you're trying to solve problems," said Yehudi, whacking himself on the head in sudden revelation. He winced and shook his hand, then grinned. "Sorry. From where I was it sounded like politics was being committed. But if you're actually trying to do something useful, maybe I can help."

     The stranger grinned maniacally, rubbing his hands together.

     "It's showtime," he said, in a gravelly stage whisper.

     He walked towards the front of the room, acquiring an untouched crystal goblet on the way, from which he took a big gulp. And then began choking and coughing, clapping himself on the chest for a few seconds.

     "Wow," he gasped, in a hoarse voice, tears streaming from his eyes. "That's got a kick to it!"

     "It's water," said the previous owner, staring at Yehudi in disbelief.

     The assembled fey watched, nonplused, as Yehudi wandered around inside the U of tables for a bit, humming quietly to himself, eyes strangely distant as he seemed to look through, or perhaps past, the occupants. Then, he stopped in the middle of the U, and nodded. He turned to look at the High King and High Queen Dowager.

     "Ah. I see what the problem is," said the strange, thin man.

     "You do?" queried Faerilyth.

     "Oh, it's obvious," said Yehudi, with an encompassing wave of his hands. He struck a dramatic pose. He was now wearing an outfit straight out of Grease, complete with slicked-back hair. "Y'see... it's all because... your momma don't dance... and your daddy don't rock and roll..."

     "I beg your..." the High Queen Dowager began, confounded.

     "Hmmm," said Yehudi, examining himself. "Doesn't quite go with the decor, does it?"

     A string quartet began playing soothing music. Yehudi was now wearing Grecian robes... and pointed ears. Only... his eyebrows were also different, and his complexion had a slight but distinct green tinge.

     "Your passions are running so strong that you're hurting your own causes following them," he said, in a calm but strong voice. "There is a time for emotional argument, and a time for dispassionate, reasoned discussion. You must make this a time for the latter, or risk losing everything you have built since the Resurgence, along with all the potential gain which peaceful negotiation could earn you."

     Yehudi bowed solemnly, to scattered applause.

     "That... travesty was so..." sputtered King Meilge. He stopped, took a deep breath, and tried again. "That... implied insult was totally inappropriate to the dignity of this assembly, and a distraction from the serious work being attempted here."

     "Exactly," said Yehudi, now back in mundane shorts, t-shirt and running shoes, grinning as he waggled a finger at the elf. "You folks were just goin' 'round in circles. You needed a break, something to get you out of the grooves you'd worn. No thanks necessary..."

     "Well, you have mine," said the High King, smiling. "I was beginning to fear we were on the verge of another Accordance War, or even worse. Thank you, for breaking the tense mood and helping add a little perspective."

     "Then my work here is done," Yehudi declared, with mock-solemnity.

     The music ended, and shortly thereafter was heard a muffled clunk. The strange man walked over to a table where a large boom-box incongruously sat, turned it off and picked it up by the handle.

     "Don't you just love mundane explanations for wondrous events?" he asked, giving the room a Groucho eyebrow waggling.

     Yehudi bowed deeply to the High King and Queen. Then, he turned and walked towards a tapestried wall. Without pausing, he stepped onto a path woven into the fabric, dwindling as he continued walking, until he turned a corner and vanished.

               *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Rough Boys" by Pete Townshend

     The next day most of those not actively involved in the talks were asked - very firmly - to return to their regular duties. Something which many of the Duke's court had done the afternoon before. Most of the participants in the revival and protection of the High King had already missed a day of work or school, and the humans were starting to notice. However, Bill and the usual suspects, as well as some others, were asked to return to the Court of Glass and help with security there. With so many of the Duke's staff at the boneyard there were fears of problems, both mundane and changeling.

     Bill expected that with so many people actually showing themselves around the grounds of the Freehold and the school that there wouldn't be any trouble. He was wrong. Shortly before Noon, a car parked on the street to the west of the mansion. Bill and some of the others walked over to see what was happening with that. Realizing they'd been spotted, the five Changelings who got out of the car changed their approach from directly towards the ornate fence to down the sidewalk to the side entrance gate. It was locked, but currently guarded by only a bored-looking young Eshu.

     Bill recognized the Troll and Redcap among the strangers; he'd seen and spoken to them his first visit to the Pride of Erin. He had a sudden suspicion as to who had ravaged the place. Still, that was for later. Now he had to focus on keeping them from doing harm here. With them were a Sidhe, a Sluagh and a rather mangy-looking Satyr.

     Seeing that reinforcements were approaching the gate, the Sidhe suddenly lunged forward and worked a quick cantrip on the lock. The gate sprung open, and the strangers swarmed inside. The Eshu on guard, busy switching his gaze back and forth between Bill's team and the strangers, was caught by surprise and quickly pinioned by the Troll. They now had a standoff, with roughly equal numbers and strengths on both sides.

     Weapons were drawn and fighting stances taken on both sides.

     "Don't do this," said Bill, his voice firm but his expression smiling. "I learned how to fight from Garou."

     "Whatever they are," sneered the young Sidhe. "Anselm, get him."

     The Redcap started forward, giving them a nasty smile. Bill smiled back, almost as nastily.

     "Well, boys," he said, conversationally. "Looks like we've got a man's job of work ahead of us."

     And he kicked the Redcap between the legs.

     The following fight was quick and furious, and ended with the Sidhe and his two wingmen running, leaving the Redcap and the Troll in various stages of lying on the ground, whimpering. While Bill had a nasty cut on one cheek and a broken left upper arm, and Leo and Plucky had received less serious injuries, there was little doubt as to who the victors were.

     "I'm beginning to understand why predator Pookas are so rare," muttered Duke Wotchermacalt, later, peering at Bill.

     "It's not just his nature," said Korgig. "He has been training to fight in various ways for nearly five years, with good reason. That's enough time to get pretty good at it."

     "Any word, yet, on what they intended? And who, if anyone, sent them?"

     "No. They were charmed against revealing anything. We will find out, though."

     "Young man," said His Grace, turning back to Bill. "While I am grateful you repelled this intrusion, at a time when so much is at stake, and so many balances delicately poised, I wish you would try negotiation before violence."

     "Yes, Your Grace," said Bill, straight-faced.

     "I'm not asking you to deny your lupine nature," said the Duke. "I'm just pointing out to you that there's more to you than that."

     "Yes, Your Grace," said Bill, seriously.

     "At any rate, thank you. And I am both pleased and impressed that you are already nearly healed. Carry on."

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: "When I'm Sixty-Four" by The Beatles

     Eventually, the court session at the boneyard ended. Many matters had been settled, with others postponed - by the agreement of all involved parties - until a proper court could be called. The Glen of Eternal Repose returned to its accustomed placid state, and the Court of Glass to its normal quiet operations, as well. Bill again had to play catchup with his school work, as did many others. And there was also some other catching up to do.

     Two days after the High King called an end to his court and the visiting Sidhe left for their homes, the Duke and Duchess had a private meeting with Leo.

     "Leo," said the Duke, quietly, "as the Duchess and myself are childless, and I believe you are the reincarnation of my Uncle, the former Duke, I am naming you my successor."

     The young elf was speechless.

     "Don't worry," said the Duke, with an easy laugh. "You aren't taking power yet. You're still barely more than a fledge. I have much to teach you, and so do others. And I'm certain your sister will volunteer for much of that."

     Even Leo had to laugh - though wryly - at that.

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Hold on Tight" by Electric Light Orchestra

     Finally - Finally! - Bill was ready to return home. His mission for Baron Haldrin was completed, and had brought results far in excess of what his Lord had expected. Bill also felt he had more than earned his keep with this one. Still, his joy to be leaving was tempered with sadness over the friends who were staying. He met with the usual suspects and a few others in a quiet corner of The Pride of Erin on his last full day in Columbus.

     "Semester's over. I even managed to get good grades, thanks largely to the last of it being during quiet times from a Changeling aspect. I'm transferring back to Feyland to finish my degree. Then... we'll see what happens..."

     They spoke quietly for hours, then drank a final, silent toast before Bill shook hands, hugged, or kissed each of them... not always performing the action the particular person expected. Then, back in his dorm room, he packed everything but what he'd need in the morning. He smiled fondly at the charter, medallion and sword the Duke had given him that afternoon, though he wasn't certain how he would pack that final item.

       Among other last-minute events, Bill had been surprised to be awarded a Knighthood in the Order of the Court of Glass Polishers as a farewell present from the Duke. Though not a full commission, it was far more than honorary, and Bill knew he would both be returning here and having the resultant duties coming to him, wherever he was.

     The long drive home the next morning was mostly uneventful, except for that one speeding ticket. And finally - Finally! - Bill was back home. Both his parents greeted him warmly. He made a point of staying with them when what he really wanted was to romp in the woods with Debbie. Bill was very happy with the way his father had become more human these past few years. And his mother more Pooka, though she had yet to rediscover her fey self.

          *             *             *

Theme for this section: "Red Pony Suite - Happy Ending" by Aaron Copeland

     With his familial duties taken care of the day and night before, his second day home was given to Debbie. Her greeting left Bill feeling glad he healed quickly.

     The rest of the day passed in a haze of happy roughhousing.

The end!

     This document is Copyright 2010 Rodford Edmiston Smith. Those wishing to post or reprint this story may contact the author at: stickmaker@usa.net