Little Spring: Part the Second of the Battle for the Mountain

Finished sharing gossip with the sept's resident hermit, the Shadow Lord heads north for her nightly circuit of the mountain slope and caern perimeter. Probably whistling is not the most subtle method for patrol.

Watersinger's, body, while traveling around on two legs, has more fur than a human should have. Every once in a while, she stops to sniff at a tree or a shriveled bud, or to rap her Waterstick sharply to crack a trailside rivulet of ice frozen in a tiny puddle.

At first indistinguishable from the rustle of wind in leaves, the chirrup of crickets and frogs, and the occasional bird call, a high, sweet piping slowly rises over the day. The melody runs in rills and eddies, so liquid as to be almost mistakable for the sound of a stream over rocks, and yet it slips through first one strain and then another that bring back the listener's favorite songs, old songs sung over cradles, lover's songs from another lifetime. The longer you listen, the clearer it becomes, and to both Kelsey and Watersinger, it seems to be coming from somewhere quite close, just to the left side of the trail.

Kelsey doesn't immediately notice the music, but once the strains of 'N Synch start drifting out of the heart of the woods, she catches on pretty fast. "What the hell?" Curiosity piqued, she shifts down to a shape more impermeable to undergrowth and heads off the trail.

Watersinger is paralyzed by the music at first, her muscles coming to a slow halt. Her slightly pointed ears twitch, her hands tightening on the staff that channels her power over water. Then, she slowly begins to graviatate towards the sound, all of her senses completely open. The thought of the movement, or even communication, couldn't possibly occur to her, with herself so open and receiving... her body seems to be moving of its own accord.

It is not long before Watersinger and Kelsey's paths intercept. The piping is quite close now, just a little further through the woods.

Voice-of-Accord's tail is swishing in time to the beat of her own little symphony, and barely notices Watersinger's arrival for a moment. Then she whuffs cheerfully. Spirits?

Watersinger's fast-beating heart is clearly audible, her mouth open and dry, tasting the air. As Voice-of-Accord approaches with a greeting, she reaches out a hand to rest it on the other Moonsinger's neck, but her attention remains focused laser-like on the direction the sounds are coming from, her eyes still wide. She touches for only a brief moment before pressing slowly on.

There are many things in nature which are deceptive - the depth of a puddle, the weight of snow, which bump of rock is the actual peak of a mountain or hill. And this piping. Easy to follow, yet maddeningly hard to pin down, it always seems to be around the next thicket or past the next dip in the forest floor.

Voice-of-Accord's tail starts to droop slightly as they continue the h unt. Foxfire, she complains worriedly. I don't like this.

Watersinger continues to move towards the sound, although eventually, her walking slows to a stop. Closing her eyes, she begins to hum a tune, a repeating yet lilting tune, holding her staff gently in one hand and turning in a slow circle.

Voice-of-Accord whines. That sure isn't the music she's hearing in her own skull, and she freezes in place, trying to reconcile conflicting chords.

Where the two questing garou stop, the ground is wet and muddy underfoot, the water icy to the touch. Slowly, the piping fades to silence. A moment later, a white face appears between the leaves of the underbrush, and then a slender girl steps through the close-set branches, like water sliding through fingers. "You stopped," she says, in a high, clear voice. One hand rests on teh bole of the nearest tree. The other, at her side, holds a silver flute.

Little Spring
Water itself could not be paler or colder than this half-silvered child. Impossible mist-green eyes gaze out from a face so white it is almost translucent. Gray-white hair cascades down her back, tangled with innumerable leaves and twigs. Her dress, apparently composed entirely of blue-gray rags, swirls around her slender body at the slightest movement. Her small feet are bare and muddy, and there is mud on her hands and face and in her hair as well.

Watersinger pages: Does this girl cause any resonance with the Waterstick? If she's some kind of water-spirit, or draws her power from water, WS would probably be feeling that through the Waterstick...

You paged Watersinger with 'Overwhelmingly. Yes. In fact, for a moment, Watersinger's senses are trying to tell her that the water on the ground and the child in front of her are the same thing. Then her vision clears, and she sees the form as a separate being, but the impression remains.'.

Watersinger sinks slowly down to the balls of her bare feet in the freezing mud. One hand reaches down to leave five fingermarks in the mud, while the other hand reaches out to the girl at the same time, the fingers stroking the air. "Water," she says in her own clear, strong voice. "Water." She seems to want to say more, opening and closing her mouth, but only steps very slowly nearer to the girl, unadulterated wonder in her shallow, animal eyes.

Voice-of-Accord attempts to draw herself up confidently, although the white of her eyes show slightly. /Fairy/ is not a concept she can express well in this shape, but she's heard stories. Are you a good spirit, or a bad spirit? she asks with a cocky flip of her tail.

The girl stares at Watersinger. Slowly, wonder slips into those pale eyes, and her mouth opens into a smile. She reaches out, touching the garou's oversizzed hand with her own delicate fingers. Then the smile slips away into a more solemn expression and she nods. Eyes shifting to Voice-of-Accord, the child says slowly, "I don't--I don't know good spirits or bad spirits. All I want is to be here, to be where I belong. That isn't wrong, is it?" She looks from the wolf to the glabro, anxiously.

Voice-of-Accord defers to the lupus, their paradoxical current shapes notwithstanding. All are of Gaia, she states tentatively.

You paged Watersinger with 'Her fingers are very cold.'.

"Watersinger..." the glabro breaks off. "Water," she asks, a smile of pure wonder gleaming in her eyes, "Why on two legs, Water?" she asks simply.

Little Spring leans back against the trea, and smiles again, almost impishly. "I like them," she says, shifting her weight so that her dress swirls in eddies around her ankles. "And I didn't know who would come. Maybe they wouldn't have listened to any other shape."

Voice-of-Accord settles back on her haunches. You wanted us to come. We're here now. What do you want, singer?

"Sing, to Watersinger," says the glabro, the wonder in her eyes not abating, but dimming far enough now to allow what seems to be rational thought. "Sing, story of Water, finding listening, telling, singing."

In the distance, a faint crashing and thumping can be heard, of a kind even a deer would be embarassed to make. The girl-child's head whips around, and her face fills with alarm. "It's /them/!" she whispers. She looks back at Voice of Accord and Watersinger, tremors rippling through her. "The bad ones. Will you--will you fight them? Please? For me?" As the crashing comes closer, voices can be made out, loud and angry, and though the words are indistinct, the tone declares them to be curses.

Voice-of-Accord's hackles bristle in alarm. Who are they? What's going on? She strains to hear, long ears twitching wildly.

Watersinger swings her staff around in a semi-arc. As she does so, her muscles ripple and expand, her form shifting to take a more powerful shape. "Watersinger... always... fights..." ~For Water....~ she speaks, and then growls, through her change. A gentle breeze begins to blow through the forest as Watersinger bares her teeth and sets her free hand on the ground, back legs tensed under her large, crouching form, ready to spring.

The child takes a look over her shoulder in the direction of the crashing. She whispers, "Bad ones," again, and retreats into the thicket behind her. "Please. Please."

And as the child slips out of view, the crashing is coming closer, and the voices sort themselves out. A gruff, androgenous voice says angrily, "...the /fuck/? Can't find their fucking caern, now we can't even find the fuckin' TOWN--" A second voice, this one a woman's low alto, says waspishly, "--see how you think you're going to find /anything/ crashing about in the woods like a demented bear in cement shoes, you oaf. Why didn't we take the road?"

Voice-of-Accord ducks into cover, bristling and trying to catch the intruders' scent.

Watersinger slowly places her Waterstick in the cold mud, freeing both of her taloned hands and allowing her to rest on all fours comfortably, although she remains in war-form. Every muscle in her body is tensed, waiting for the voices to come closer, close enough...

Watersinger inches very slowly towards the small clearing in the woods between her and the voices, although she does not enter it... remaining in the cover of the woods, she seems to only want to get close enough to leap /into/ it from tree cover.

"--ry tried the road yesterday, no go. Don't you ever fuckin' listen?"

Voice-of-Accord tells Watersinger warily, city people. That probably doesn't win any caution from the lupus at all, but the Shadow Lord heads to the edge of the clearing and halts, crouched, waiting in ambush.

Almost as soon as Voice-of-Accord and Watersinger are in position, the source of the crashing and swearing comes into view. Two figures emerge from the woods on the opposite side of the clearing. The first, a tall woman, so thin she appears almost emaciated. She is dressed in gray-black leather pants and vest, the combination appearing more functional than stylish given how battered the garments are. She strides ahead of her companion, heavy black boots crushing vegetation underfoot. Behind her comes another woman, a vivid contrast to the first; this one is short and stocky, dressed in a shapeless blue dress. She has a bag looped across her shoulders and hanging at one side, a macrame affair bulging with odd shapes. To all appearances, it is quite heavy, but it does not seem to impede the short woman in the slightest. "I don't see how someone can fail to find a town when he walks up the street that leads to it," she is saying as she steps frr from the trees.

Watersinger tenses and springs as soon as the first homid enters the clearing, claws first, open mouth filled with four-inch teeth close behind.

Voice-of-Accord is not helpful yet, letting the agile Watersinger garner their attention while she slinks around the clearing, aiming to get behind them.

"--theFUCK?!?" the leggy woman yells, as a lupine nightmare erupts from the woods. She hurls herself to one side, rolling, and her form has already begun to change before she even hits the ground, lengthening and thickening, darkening with near-black fur. By the time Watersinger reaches her, she is in her own war-form. Possibly if she'd stayed smaller, she would have evaded the attack altogether, fast as Watersinger is, but as it is, she ends up partially pinned, with the lupus on her legs.

The short woman jerks to a halt. She stares as Watersinger and her companion hit the ground together. "Ah, for fuck's sake," she says, disgusted, and turns to fish something out of her bag.

Voice-of-Accord continues tiptoing, ears slicking back as the woman changes. Only when she's as near to behind as she can get does she step out into the open, shifting upward as she goes. At the same time, she lunges for the shorter of the pair with no more than an outstretched finger, as if trying to give her a lethal poke.

Watersinger knows no fighting technique, which is quite clear from the way she fights. All the same, over thirty years of being Rited Garou and her animal-like refusal to put limits on her own body have led her to that knowledge of the teeth and nails as weapons in a way that few young Garou could ever master. While her right-hand talons claw at the stomach of her opponent, the other seeks to hold the black-furred leg she pins in place while her open jaws wait for a flailing arm or opening to hold and tear apart. Her own moon hangs in the sky, and her actions are clearly driven by rage.

The leg Watersinger pins to the ground thrashes, but her weight and strength combined are more than enough ot hold it for the moment. But the hand which seeks for a target in her oponent's stomach is caught in a vast, vice-like grip and bent viciously to the side, so that she must choose swiftly whether to roll or have her arm broken and perhaps ripped off by the claws closing around her wrist. Meanwhile, the other crinos's free leg swings around in a clumsy kick aimed for Watersinger's head.

The woman in the dress finds what she was looking for a second before Voice-of-Accord's finger finds its mark: a wide blow-pipe which she puts to her lips. She is just turning, already blowing, when the Shadow Lord's gift knocks her backward several feet - her arc through the air outlined in a trail of glittering silver dust, emerging from the pipe. She is knocked breathless by the fall, but already Voice-of-Accord and much of the grass around her has been dusted with silver.

You paged Voice-of-Accord with 'Oh, you would. Okay. None of it went into your eyes, BUT you got some of it across the nose and in your mouth. It burns. It's nasty. It hurts like hell and makes your eyes water.'.

Voice-of-Accord yelps, which just makes it worse; some of the dust gets on her tongue. She falls down on top of her opponent, wasting no time in pummelling and clawing at whatever shoulder or face presents itself to her first.

Those jaws of Watersinger's were open just in case any limbs were used against her, and that leg coming at her seems like just the thing: Watersinger instinctively seeks to catch the leg in her mouth and bite it. However, the pressure being put on her arm causes an ear-splitting lupine whine to sound from the back of her throat, and she rolls to the side in the direction of the force being applied to her arm, whether or not she's caught the leg.

The black crinos fighting Watersinger jerks her leg free before those teeth can get a firm hold, snarling curses that are by now completely unintelligible. When Watersinger rolls away, the black crinos grunts and rolls in the opposite direction, getting to her feet, though her right leg is bleeding heavily, and she visibly favors it. ~Gaian /bitch/~ she spits, and prepares to lunge in again.

"Sun take you," the stocky woman says, her irritable tone quite offset by the frantic defense she puts up against Voice-of-Accord's onslaught. Arms up to cover her head, she, too, begins to shift. The body beneath Voice-of Accord grows larger, more animal, and...slimey. It smells pungently of garbage and chemicals.

That removes Kelsey's confusion, although it makes her head reel as she shifts tactics and goes for the throat with all the claws she can bring to bear. ~Spackle your ass~ she snarls.

Watersinger rests a single paw on the ground. The other held up and ready by her waiting jaws. She seems to be bracing to receive a tackle, imposing herself as a wall of muscle waiting for the blow: in reality, she is planning to use her rage to move slightly to the side as her opponent lunges and then use the force of her own tackle against her to drive her to the ground. She expects to be clawed as she moves to the side, but expects that the force of the lunge will leave the other off-balance and open.

Voice-of-Accord's onslaught is met with little effective defense. The oozing crinos beneath her claws does little more than bunch into a ball around her still-present handbag. But the slime is thick and viscous around her, and the claws slip and slide across it more often than they find a mark. Meanwhile, the stench is unbelievable.

Panting, the black crinos stares at Watersinger for a moment, then stoops, grabbing up a handful of dirt, grass, and stones to fling at Watersinger's face. After that, she lunges, unbelievably fast. Watersinger's ruse works, but only just: the crinos's claws slice across her chest as she dodges to the side, and the lupus's return tackle forces her oponent back and off balance, but not fully to the ground.

Now that the black crinos is off-balance, Watersinger dashes in low to try to wrap her arms around her opponent in a giant bear-hug while her jaws seek a lock on the other's shoulder.

Voice-of-Accord keeps struggling, fighting against retching as she seeks for a jugular, esophagus, something handy which can be excavated and laid open. As the foe folds under her, Kel scrambles to try and leep astride of the enemy, as if playing horsie on a particularly noxious tar baby.

Down the black crinos goes, in a tangle of elongated limbs and gutteral curses. Watersinger's jaws lock tight on her opponent's shoulder, teeth nearly meeting through the bony joint, while the black crinos gropes with the other hand, getting a hold on Watersinger's throat and seeking for the carotid with a sharply clawed thumb.

The slime-covered crinos uncurls suddenly, directly beneath Kelsey, holding something black, about the size and shape of a baseball, except that baseballs don't emit billows of gray, acrid smoke. ~Get back, cretin.~ The smoke claws at Kelsey's eyes and throat as though it, too, went armed.

You paged Voice-of-Accord with 'Something rather like tear gas. If you stay in place, you will not be able to see, and may choke.'.

Voice-of-Accord attempts to turn inside out in her skin, making the Garou equivalent of, "SHIT!" as she scrabbles backwards, trying to stand up and backpedal. She's seldom fought without a pack at her side and an alpha to call the shots, and it shows.

Now that Watersinger's jaws have a hold on the crinos' shoulder, one of her arms is free to grope and swat at the arm seeking to claw her carotid, while her other arm remains firmly wrapped around the crinos in a close embrace of the kind that only lovers and warriors know, as her jaws continue to bite down relentlessly at the shoulder. The swatting and clawing at the claws assaulting her neck will probably not prevent it from drawing blood from there, but it may derail an attempt to find so particular a target as her carotid artery.

The black crinos bucks and heaves under Watersinger, but the pain and blood loss is clearly taking her past the point of effective resistance. ~Fucking.~ she gasps, trying futilely to claw at Watersinger's face. ~Little.~ And then, ~Shouldn't. Have listened.~ She stops trying to talk and concentrates her diminishing strength on her efforts to pull free.

It's bad when crinos's smirk. Their faces weren't made for it. The slimey crinos's face contorts in pleased contempt, and she tosses the smoke bomb at Kelsey's feet. ~Stupid bitch~ she grunts, but has to stop talking to cough, evidently not immune to her own weapons. She reaches into her bag of party tricks again.

From afar, Julen figures, you know, Julen's sort of tied to the wards and all, they'd've told her what's up. So anyway, Luna's Armor, Awe, Silver Claws, once she actually gets into the fight, and I'll pose now.

Voice-of-Accord is damned if she does, and damned if she doesn't. Her backpedalling had a slight purpose-- she's seeking a good stout treebranch to break off and use as a battering ram or pike. But regardless of whether one is at hand, she makes another lunge, trying to hold her breath as she leaps over the bomb and bears down on the canny little one in a desperate attempt to impale her middle with stick or claws.

Watersinger does not act as if anything has changing, or as if her opponent is weakening at all, simply continuing to bite down, trying to force her teeth through slow crushing pressure through the shoulderbone, the collarbone, and the flesh of the neck. No growls come from her mouth, no gesture of threat, simply constant, killing force through her jaws, one arm wrapped around the Corrupted, the other arms still fending off blows to her own face.

Julen was raised fighting vampires, from the shadows. She may have been a Gaian Sentinel for years beyond counting, but that doesn't mean she doesn't occasionally revert to her roots. So the Julen who appears out of the woods, right behind the slimey crinos, is somewhat unexpected. This is a slightly shimmering Julen, in crinos, claws shining, who is dashing towards Kelsey's opponent, utterly silent, clearly intending to ram into this entity from the rear, claws extending for her neck.

With the long branch that comes ready to hand, Kelsey's charge becomes almost a joust, the force of her headlong plunge knocking the woman backwards before she has pulled her hands from her bag. Perhaps this would only have been a less subtle form of Falling Touch, were it not for Julen's appearance in the right place, the right time. With Kelsey as the rock and Julen as a hard place, the slime-covered crinos is pinned, and then impaled, the long, pointed branch passing straight through her body and jabbing Julen on the other side. Julen's hands closing around the crinos's neck are almost superfluous. The crinos dies witha torrent of blood from her mouth in place of the curse she would no doubt have wished to utter. Her hands falling limply to her sides drop a fat, oddly-shaped gun at Julen's feet.

The black crinos's fist beats weakly against Watersinger's arms, but the fight is over now, and both of them know it. Breath rasping through her throat, head falling back against the ground, the black crinos manages to grunt, ~This. Sucks.~ and then the last of the fight goes out of her, and Watersinger's teeth meet each other through her throat.

Voice-of-Accord's momentum carries her into the crinos, and probably Julen as well. The half-blinded and choking Shadow Lord tumbles forward, gasping for clean air that simply isn't there. ~Alpha?~ she rasps bewilderedly.

Julen steps carefully away from the lance. Her own ever-present staff is not, in fact, with her at the moment, and she looks as if she'd like it now, given her briefly queasy expression. It leaves her face quickly, and she's nodding, just slightly, to Kelsey. But it's her voice that is strong, that indicates who and what she is. ~Voice-of-Accord. The spirits told me what was passing. It seems my help was not as necessary as they had implied.~

Watersinger gives her head a violent shake as her teeth meet through the neck of the ex-Corrupted, tearing apart the flesh around it to sever the head. That done, she raises her bloody muzzle slowly back away from her fallen foe. Taloned hands tear at the stomach below the sternum until they tear out the heart of the foe. Watersinger bites into this and chews. Once this ritual has ended, she backs away from the corpse, arms and muzzle (and neck) covered with blood, some of it her own.

Both bodies slide back to human form, in the wake of their own destruction. The slime fades and vanishes from the short woman's body, though what was smeared on Kelsey and Julen remains. The silence is deafening for a moment, before the noise of the forest reasserts itself - birds, wind, trees. The breeze is chill and unwelcoming as it blows through crinos fur. The grass glitters in places with a fine silver dust, and the smoke bomb still sputters occasionally, lying where Kelsey left it.

Voice-of-Accord clears her throat as best she can. ~Um. Well. Yeah, we took care of it.~ There's a trace of false bravado in the declaration, and she's peering around with teared-up eyes trying to verify her claim. ~Watersinger?~ Her eyes widen as she sees the macabre ritual. ~Ew.... isn't it tainted?~

Watersinger gives a victorious howl, more lupine than Garou; variations in pitch make it clear that an intruding pack has been killed, and no friends were seriously hurt. Once this is over, she seems to finally see Voice-of-Accord and Julen again. At Voice-of-Accord's question, she peers back at the body of the warrioress she killed, at the open chest cavity, and then back wordlessly at Voice-of-Accord. ~Water... where?~ she sniffs the air.

Julen regards Watersinger briefly, not, apparently, at all phased by her actions. Without taking her eyes off the lupus, she bends down to pick up the odd shaped gun. She doesn't, yet, examine it; she merely asks, ~You would be the Pure One that Eos spoke of?~

A small, pale shape emerges from the woods on the far side of the clearing.

Watersinger falls forward onto all fours. ~Watersinger, Dead Spider, Spider Killer of coldway freelands --~ her words are cut short by the discovery of what she was obviously looking for. She walks over to the small child, stubby crinos tail wagging gently despite bleeding gashes marring her chest, neck, and arm. ~Bad things gone,~ she says to the girl, perhaps surprisingly kindly for war-form.

Voice-of-Accord's tongue works in and out as the remainder of the silver dust continues to sting. It's making her drool, which is a serious wound on her dignity, and she nods to the... fae? with muzzle clutched in her hands. ~We did it,~ she says unnecessarily.

You paged the room: 'Just to make it official, WS, 3 agg from assorted wounds. Kels, 1 agg to the nose, mouth, and tongue. Julen, 2 non-agg from Kelsey getting overexcited with her stake.'.

For a moment, the delicate child stands motionless on the edge of the clearing, staring, her mist-green eyes wide and solemn. Then she is flying across the open space, the silken rags of her dress whipping like sea-spray. It is Voice-of-Accord she reaches first, cold thin arms wrapping around the crinos Shadow Lord's neck as she covers Kelsey's face with icy, grateful kisses. "You did it! Oh, you did it!"

There is a faint spark of recognition in Julen's eyes at Watersinger's name, but that is pushed aside as the water spirit emerges. Julen turns to regard it, silent, fascination clear.

You paged Voice-of-Accord with 'The smell of the slime fades from you. The burning of the silver stops.'.

Watersinger sits gratefully on the ground, body reverting to a fully lupine one as she does so. She is panting heavily, but her tail continues to wag as she watches the child with bright eyes.

Voice-of-Accord does her best to look bold and heroic as the princess leaps towards her, but isn't quite sure where to put her hands. She grins awkwardly, the crinos jaws making the expression ghastly. ~Hey, you!~ Euphoria catches up with the Shadow Lord, and she tries to lift the child into the air. Can one carry water without a bucket?

Little Spring laughs happily as she is lifted, the small body lighter than any child should be. Then she slides from Kelsey's hands, and runs to Watersinger, kneeling down to throw her arms around the wolf, and thank her the same way. Now that she's moved away, it's possible to see that the slime is gone from Kelsey's fur, and the stench no longer haunts the clearing.

You paged Watersinger with 'When she touches you, your wounds don't hurt so much, and the city smells of the black crinos's fur are washed away from your nose and mouth.'.

Little Spring stands up after a moment, one cold hand resting on Watersinger's shoulder. The laughter slips away from her, and those solemn eyes are back again. "I couldn't know," she says, "until you fought them. You understand. I couldn't know for /sure/."

Watersinger licks at the child's face as she is embraced, returning the affection. Tell story now? she asks.

Julen smiles, just slightly, as she watches.

Voice-of-Accord sniffs gratefully, smoothing her hair back as she changes down. "Yeesha."

Little Spring looks at each of the remaining garou. "I need help," she says softly. "Will you...will you help me? Again? One more time?"

Kelsey nods emphatically. "Sure thing, Squirt. It's our job."

Julen raises an eyebrow. She manages to give the impression of leaning on a staff even when she doesn't have one. ~With what?~

Watersinger /always/ fights for Water, the lupus responds.

Little Spring smiles radiantly at Kelsey and Watersinger, but the expression falters when she looks at Julen. "There's going to be a battle. Between us and the Cold Ones. We need...people to fight for us. Otherwise..." She stops and shakes her head.

Kelsey's eyebrows ootch upward with less alacrity than usual; she's a bit winded. "The whats?" She looks hopefully to those better versed in spirits and enigmas. "Is that why it's so cold this spring? There's somethin' messing with the weather?"

Watersinger springs on this. Bad things trying to wrap Water with coldwebs, into hardwater? Bad... Watersinger's pack will fight!

Little Spring nods quickly at both Kelsey and Watersinger. "That's right. They want to make it always like this, never spring...that's why we have to fight." She looks at Julen again.

Kelsey mutters instinctively, "Always winter, and never Christmas. Only now we're Fenris Ulf."

From the way that Watersinger is trotting around the edge of the small clearing, it's clear that bleeding wounds notwithstanding, she's ready to go and fight these Cold Ones /now/, right this minute.

Julen looks from Watersinger to Kelsey to the faerie. ~Cold Ones. This would be your counterparts?~ There is a pause. ~No,~ she says, regretfully. ~Someone must guard the Caern. Someone must be sure it is not taken, while all my gumi--~ she glances at Kelsey with a fond smile-- ~Is taken with you. I wish I could.~

Kelsey licks her lips. ~We'll take care of 'em, alpha, don't worry,~ she says stoutly.

Little Spring looks disappointed, but nods sadly to Julen. One gets the sense that, had Kelsey and Watersinger not agreed so promptly, her reaction might be different. She touches Watersinger lightly on the shoulder. "You'll hear the call," she says. "Thank you. Thank you both." She steps backwards to the edge of the clearing, and back one more step, and then she disappears. A moment later, there comes the sound of a thread of running water. Anyone going to investigate will find no footprints, but a tiny fresh-water spring bubbling at the foot of a great oak.

Julen looks after the faerie, her jaw setting just slightly.