The trail peters out onto this apparently flat space set in the mountainside. Pine, fir, and other coniferous trees crowd in on all sides, interspersed with occasional groves of brighter maples, oaks, and ashes. A thin, nearly invisible tracery of animal trails entwine the tree trunks.
Animal Trail Steep Trail
Julen shrugs. "If you want direct, there's always just setting them against Argent specifically."
Lumia's eyes slew around to Layla, as the name is spoken again.
Ruth tugs a hand through her curly hair, turns a brow up as she looks over towards Layla as well.
Layla is whispering soothing words to the air next to herself.
Lumia's brows draw together. "Brought a friend?" she asks curiously.
Lucas follows the gazes to Layla and her apparently invisible companion. He lifts an eyebrow.
Layla returns to the conversation around herself. She smiles wanly.
Louisa has arrived.
Julen narrows her eyes slightly, as she focuses her attention on Layla, but then relaxes, slightly. "Apparently so," she tells Lumia, but doesn't follow up on the question. "So. Anyone have any objections to just setting them against the silver armed one?"
A delicate yet penetrating smell of skunk wreathes its way around the gathered throng.
A familar black-featherd shape glides low enough over the gathered heads to make those of more nervous temperment instinctively duck, before settling itself in a nearby low branch.
Voice-of-Accord stares at Layla, her hackles starting to rise. Then she shakes herself and simply crouches down making herself small, doing her best not to offer any opinion at all regarding Argent.
Lucas begins, "I d--" then breaks off to stare grimly at the avian arrival.
Little Mother skims in on four legs and bullets over to where her packmates are. Shifting to homid, Lou settles to the ground to survey the assembled group.
Ruth wrinkles her broad nose at the scent and turns her chin up, then looks up towards the winged shape above. She quirks a brow, sweeps her eyes across the folk gathered, then back towards the bird.
Watersinger, having arrived only just before Little Mother, head-butts her familiarly. All sing together! she says to her packmate.
Voice-of-Accord is already squinched down as much as she can without totally shedding any ounce of dignity--oh, of course, she's just tired from the last few days' excitement, and happens to be about ready to doze with her nose on her paws, nothing to do with being rattled by the entire conversation-- so she barely notices the winged strafing run. Which is probably just as well.
Higami speaks at last. "Hello, Niska," he says simply, once she has attained a semblance of stasis.
Lumia looks upward and grins.
Eos nods to Niska, then smiles a greeting to other newcomers.
Rowan glances upwards, tensing somewhat, and then relaxes. "Well, Lucas, she's still not actually /corrupted/. In case it matters."
Julen appears far more interested in the skunk. *Greetings!* she calls, and then turns her attention to Lucas. "You were saying?"
The smell of skunk becomes stronger. The temperature also seems to drop a few degrees, and a faint wind rustles the surrounding trees.
The raven makes a sound like wet stones rolling together and shakes her wings out over her back. "Hiya, Wyrm-Fox," the bird husks in her smoky girl-voice. She cocks a black button eye at the gathering. "Some kinda party?"
Layla clasps her shawl about her tightly and shivers.
Derrick is, as usual, somewhat behind his packmates. He comes skidding in some time after Louisa does, in lupus, and practically slides into her. The smell -- and the cold -- make him wrinkle his nose.
Lumia twitches her nose. "'lo," she says to the evening air.
Voice-of-Accord raises her head at the threads of conversation and new scents. Then she gives a soft bark, tail hitting the ground a few times. Little Mother. Poodleboy. And /Skunk/! She looks around hopefully.
Watersinger quests about lightly when the scent becomes especially strong, but does not venture too far from her packmates' side.
Eos hums a cheerful greeting to the first reclaimed Totem of the caern.
Higami speaks lightly back to Niska. "Did no one tell you? The Gaians meet tonight." He crosses over to Rowan. "I must leave," he says quietly to the Anchor. "But I must tell you something first."
The smith subsides for a moment as new arrivals settle themselves, nostrils widening at the pungency arriving at the same time. "Ah was sayin'," he resumes to Julen, "that if we're gonna reassign these spirits, we ought t'be a lot less reckless this time, how we go about it." Something in his stance suggests four large hooves firmly planted.
With a prodigious rustling and the thump of small sturdy feet, a black and white form emerges from a low bush. The fluffy tail is irritatably half-raised, and the pointed little face looks from person to person as it emerges. *What are you all doing down here? Mother's tits, you /want/ every half-bit spirit in the area to come and see what the hell you're doing?*
Ruth is looking along the terrace's edge for the source of that scent, but something said makes her can't her head. She narrows her eyes, then blinks, once as the skunk draws into view. A corner of her mouth quirks up, her eyes widen.
"Tell me? Nobody tells me nothin'," the bird huffs irritably from her perch. "Even the ones that know stuff. Story of my friggin' *life*, that is..." she trails off into a soft rattling.
Rowan calls to Niska, with some irony, "Hey, we're gathering. Come on over!"
Julen tells Lucas, "That much, at least, is clear." Then she breaks into a smile at the skunk. *The general idea,* she explains, *is, in fact, to gather all of the ghosts that we can, so that we can... escort them elsewhere.*
Rowan blinks at Higami. "Yeah?"
Niska fans her tail and clacks her heavy beak once. Whatever that means.
Eos rubs her eyes again and seems to be trying hard not to laugh as Skunk makes the observation that she ought to've a while ago.
*Well, /finally/,* replies the skunk. *Not like you mentioned it to me /before/ you crammed my Wards full of dead humans. /Hysterical/ dead humans at that!* The tail quivers with peevishness.
From the raven, a low whistle.
Voice-of-Accord tries her best to look respectful towards the skunk as she nonchalantly picks herself up and moves around upwind. Not that it will change things very much. She shoots Niska a sharp look. Well, if you were ever /around/ to tell, her glare seems to say.
Louisa wraps her arm around Derrick and grins at his furry self. She murmurs something those near to her can hear. ".. somehow expected a bonfire."
Julen looking submissive is a rare sight. Enjoy it while you can. *Yes,* she says, apologetically, to the skunk, and then she turns her gaze, far less meekly, on Lucas. "Specificity. Do you, then, think sending them specifically to harry the silver armed one would be sufficiently specific?"
Rowan tells Higami, after absorbing what he has to say, "Check. Thanks. And-- catch you around."
"No, Ah don't," he says firmly. "Define, 'harry'."
"Kill," Julen suggests. "By whatever means they can."
Lumia lifts her head. "Doesn't sound right."
Julen tilts a glance at Lumia, as if to ask her what does.
The skunk looks nearsightedly up at Niska and adds, *And don't think I don't see you skulking up there! You have all the damn ghosts in a tizzy, wasn't for me they'd be weeping and wailing like cats in the springtime.*
Rowan merely nods to something.
Eos looks up sharply at Julen. "That's black magic, Julen, of the worst kind. Evil."
Lumia shakes her head, as though to clear away a buzzing fly, and then grins briefly at Skunk before she attempts to answer. "Stories I know, ghosts don't," she explains almost apologetically. "Kill" She nods to Eos. "That, too. Something...spy on? Upset his plans?"
"Not skulking," says the raven impertinently, "perching. Ain't *my* fault the--- okay, well, yeah, it is." Niska rattles her beak.
Higami turns from Rowan. "Thank you, Rowan. I will see you soon." His words are soft enough not to intrude on Skunk's words and the ongoing dialogue. He begins to drift out of the clearing. Just after Niska speaks, from the edge of the clearing, he calls: "Niska. Please come see me at the Library soon, if you can. I have missed speaking with you."
Higami has left.
Voice-of-Accord watches Higami warily out of the corner of one ear, as if tracking the progress of a wasp bumping its way up the window.
The raven gives a sharp rwawk of acknowledgement at Higami's retreating back.
Julen looks at Eos, and then at Lumia. She seems to be absorbing both information and opinion from them, as she eventually says, "Ah." Generally, she says, "Disrupt his plans so that he cannot work effectively?"
*Well, they /are/ damn disruptive,* mutters Skunk.
Lucas says "Now we're back 'round to 'open to interpretation'."
Julen says, patiently, to Lucas, "Give me a more specific definition."
Voice-of-Accord exhales, bumps Rowan's shoulder, and then ambles her way around to the newer arrivals, trying her best to look easygoing and helpful while she explains. We may have fire once we start. A problem to work out first. We've got ghosts in the Wards. Need to make them go somewhere else, do something else. Maybe bother the Hive.
The smith replies, matching the Sentinel's patience measure for measure, "Ma'am, Ah did a few minutes ago. If you want a few more, how about we have 'em set the place on fire, or trigger a cave in, or foul the wells?"
Skunk sits down and scratches reflectively behind one ear. *Got somethin' to say,* he says suddenly and authoritatively. *I'm sick and tired of these dead people howlin' and hauntin' in my Wards. But I /ain't/ strong enough to ward this place all myself. Not like it was warded in Glitters' time. You need more help. More Totems maybe.*
Ruth casts a lopsided grin to Voice-of-Accord, though she doesn't seem to understand the wolf either. She crouches down on the balls of her feet, boots creaking faint and soft, rests her arms on her knees. She opens her mouth, though her words are silenced by the voice of the Totem. She cants her head to listen.
Voice-of-Accord growls under her breath, make all the hive-people impotent. She settles down as Skunk speaks again.
Julen asks, "Would breaking Argent's pack apart be a task they could do? If not, I would think setting them to fouling the wells would be appropriate." Then she stops short, and regards the Skunk. *Moose is not a sufficient ward with you?*
"And Squirrel!" the raven rasps, with some evident rancor.
Layla begins to sing cheery children's tune under breath.
*Would be good enough, the three of us, in more peaceful times,* starts the Skunk, then stops at Niska's exclamation, tail flipping upwards ominously. After a pause, he continues, *But we ain't all of 'em anyway and the Caern's still half-asleep. I've been duckin' and dodgin' stuff sent over from the Hive like crazy lately, makes me even grateful for the damn ghosts.*
Julen exhales. *Then we shall call more.* She sounds perfectly amenable to the idea. Perhaps even as if she'd been expecting it. *All of us. Together.*
Voice-of-Accord bristles in indignation. Bite them! Ah, I can't fight spirits, but I'll sit in the umbra and sing them bad songs and... She trails off, looking embarrassed, and turns an ear towards the alpha, tail wagging hopefully. Sing now?
"Sounds then like the best work for the ghosts is here, doing something we can see, that'll help us. Might be worth more in the end then sending them somewhere dark, better for conscience, too." Ruth snorts, quiet. "Lucas had some good ideas--" She glances towards him. "Well, besides plucking the ballet dancer bald."
Lucas ducks his head to Skunk. "You reckon we oughta deal with the ghosts first, or do y'think if we called another Totem it could help us with them?"
Lucas flashes a smile at Ruth.
Layla sings very quietly something that sounds like: "Petite Poulet, tout sans ce okay."
Voice-of-Accord gives Layla another worried look. We better get the ghosts out fast. The Strider's going wiggy.
The Skunk waves its tail frantically. *I don't know! I've been working my paws off just keeping this place hidden. It ain't /easy/ to hide a whole mountain, you know!* The smell of skunk grows perceptibly stronger.
Julen exhales, and glances at Eos. "As Warder, you more comfortable with them here, or over the Hive. If, that is, we can persuade them to do any such thing."
Louisa spends a good portion of her time watching Lucas. Skunk gains a glance now and again.
Layla smiles grimly and ceases to sing. "I'm fine. Although it would help if we didn't speak his name." She hisses out the word 'his.'
Lumia cants her head toward Layla. "Who you got there?"
The smith looks at Layla. "Layla, you think we need to take care of old business first?"
Watersinger hangs back with her pack, not contributing much to the current conversation. She seems, like Louisa, to be observing, waiting for something.
Eos rakes her fingers through her hair, making it fuzzier than usual. "I don't want to send 'em into the unknown. And I don't want 'em here. If we could, I dunno, get 'em to go back to Roaring Brook if we promise to give them real concrete things to do to help while they're there...?"
Layla shakes her head at Lucas's question. "It's fine over here."
Lucas nods. "Then let's call a new Totem first, to help strengthen our protection -- " here Lucas nods to Skunk, "and not leave us exposed while we clean up the ghost mess." He looks at Julen.
Niska agitatedly rubs her beak against the branch.
Voice-of-Accord paws her muzzle in frustration. We're chasing our tails. The moon climbs high. Perhaps we should sing the gathering, tell the stories, and call the Totems we can, and face the dead when we have found a plan we are sure about. We should dance for /ourselves/ tonight.
Lumia watches Layla for a minute, then flashes a sharp, good-humored grin upon finding herself soundly ignored. She returns her attention to Julen, Lucas, and the rest, but apparently feels no need to add anything to the discussion herself.
Julen eventually nods. Casting a sad glance at Niska, she says, "Yes. Yes, I think so. Even if it will leave Niska in the cold again, but a /plan/, that we can effect at the new moon, that is good. All of you -- we will speak to the ghosts then. And tonight, we call to our Totems, to new Totems, and we dance, sing, and welcome the newcomers to our Gumi. We renew the Caern, and our connection to the Caern."
Louisa speaks up abruptly, her wording more strong than is typical. "We should quest for guardians."
Watersinger stands beside Louisa to show her support.
Julen asks, attention slewing to the newcomer, "Spiritual, or earthly?"
Eos raises an eyebrow toward Louisa.
Niska hisses like a kettle. "Fine," she huffs bitterly. "Whatever. Have fun. I'll just go off and see if I can get some more rocks thrown at me. Shouldn't be too hard..." The raven leaves the slim branch swaying in the wake of her flight; her self-pitying diatribe fades into the dimness of the forest even as she does.
Eos snaps her head around to follow Niska. "Damn!" she mutters.
Louisa takes a breath with so much sudden attention. "Spiritual." A pause. "I think."
Julen's attention drifts from Louisa to Watersinger to Derrick, and back to Louisa. "Care to take that on?" she asks them, generally.
Skunk stamps impatiently around in a circle, but says nothing more.
Ruth draws herself up, lets her arms rest easily at her side as she stands. She turns a brow up, looks towards the swaying branch, frowns quick and earnest. She doesn't say anything, though-- there's much more going on here than she's aware of.
Louisa takes a moment to exchange with her packmates. She turns back. "We would."
Rowan's attention follows her. "Shit," he mutters. "Back in a bit, Kels." And then he pelts after Niska.
Voice-of-Accord stares after Rowan and Niska with a frustrated snort of understanding. Yeah.
Lucas looks at Julen and cants his jaw in the direction of the caern. "Shall we, then?"
Slowly, Julen smiles. "Good," she tells Louisa. "And my thanks." Then she jerks her head up toward the Caern. "Come, let us gather up there. With the--" her smile increases -- "Bonfire, perhaps."
Louisa frowns a little to herself, muttering under her breath, "Caern totems. Of course."
"Excellent," Eos says, nodding to Louisa. "Let's get together and talk about how to go about it, perhaps?"
Ruth quirks a corner of her mouth up, her smile returning. "I can lend hooves to that quest." She glances towards Louisa, the wolves gathered near her.
Watersinger bumps up against Louisa's leg. Her open mouth and upright ears voice her agreement with Louisa's action: Together, are strong! Together, can fight for caern. Excitedly, she trots in the caern's direction.
Julen rises to her feet, and, with thoroughly cleaned staff, heads to the Caern.
Voice-of-Accord hops to her feet, tail flagging like a banner, although she casts a longing glance in the direction in which Rowan vanished. Then she tears down the hill.
The gloomy forest suddenly springs into a high-roofed, echoing cavern lined with massive, old-growth pillars. Although these trees are constantly swaying in the wind of the mountainside, very little breeze slips through them to touch the grasses and other undergrowth on the floor here. The branches sing constantly, sometimes louder, sometimes softer, but the sound of the wind rings through the vast space here at all times; it drowns out all but the sharpest noises or firmest voices. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the sense of silence in this place is profound.
The canopy, so thick that the sky is nearly invisible, stoops down into the mountainside as the southern end of the tree-lined cavern starts to reach up for the peak again. This shadowy niche seems deeper at a second glance than an inpenetrable wood might otherwise suggest.
NAve Animal Trail
Voice-of-Accord bounds into the open space, pensiveness of the earlier discussion mostly vanishing as the trees soar up around them. She gives a howl, quite unnecessarily, to announce to anyone in the region that the Heart of the Mountain, Gaia's and Haven's defenders are gathering under the moon,. Then, with a shake, she changes back to her human shape.
Watersinger throws her own head back, howling along with Voice-of-Accord, as soon as the younger Galliard begins to howl. She takes a low counterpoint, allowing Voice-of-Accord's voice to shine through as the dominant one to any lupine ear.
Eos looks around at the Cathedral with an air of fondness coupled with exhaustion. She seems to lack the energy of the younger generation.
Ruth's steady footfall is muffled by the silence gathered amidst the pillars of the cathedral, her chin aloft as she looks, up, up at the canopy high above, the branches swaying as the wind sings through them. She doesn't howl-- it'd be odd for her, anyway, but she grins quick and bright.
Derrick, gleefully, belts out a howl as well, counterpoint to Watersinger, as if he's been doing it for years and not months.
Julen does not howl. She merely stands, upright, staff in one hand, and watches the group, a small but firm smile on her face. The Sentinel, leaning slightly on her staff, straightens. Her first words may be familiar to some. "I did not call this gathering a Moot, for a reason, for we are not all of us Garou. We are Gumi, together, and we will find our way, as we construct it before us. But for the Garou, a Moot is a time of gathering. A time of reawakening our spirits. A time of re-dedicating ourselves to our Totems and to our purpose, both our new and our old one. This gathering --" She stops, to look around at those gathered. "It will not be a standard sort of Moot. Standard Moots call to established Totems, established Totems we have known and loved for years. This Moot will call to new Totems, and call for Totems we do not even imagine yet. For Gaia. For whatever we any of us call the Mother, and for the memory of the Glittering one, and Rusalka." Her gaze slews to Watersinger.
Watersinger stands up tall and proud in her lupus form. Mother spoke to her Children, and said Mother; Mother Loves Her Children. That we, her cubs, might know her love, and see ourselves in Mother, she gave us the Rope, the Bonds of Love, to tie our spirits to her body. These are the Bonds:
The First Bond: All your days and all your nights, all your sleepings and all your wakings, protect our Mother, for her life is ours, and ours hers.
Julen leans on her staff, just slightly, and watches the lupus, with her full attention.
The Second Bond: Never do anything that would hurt Mother, for her life is ours, and ours hers.
The Third Bond: Fight the One Who Poisons, the one who would rape our Mother, the Snake-Without-A-Head, Snake-Who-Bites-His-Own-Tail: hunt him, kill him, wherever he appears, for he hurts Mother badly, and her life is ours, and ours hers.
The Fourth Bond: Remember always that while you look out from your eyes, the hunted deer, the swimming fish, the soaring bird, and the tiny insect all look out from theirs. Respect and honor them as they honor you with their bodies and spirits, for you are the, and they are you, and we are all Relations.
Derrick pants, slightly, as he listens.
Kelsey stirs, belatedly realizing something. Brows knit together as she scans faces for those which appear blank, and then carefully, concentrating, she attempts to use dreamspeak to translate for those who are not following the lupus. An attempt which may have more or less success, since she occasionally has trouble following it herself.
The Fifth Bond: Where our Relations make their homes, live in Harmony with them. Do not go into the territory of another with a bad song, or a low spirit, but only in respect; for their home is a face of Mother.
Eos crouches with her back to one of the massive trees, watching Watersinger and nodding occasionally at her rendition of the Litany.
The Sixth Bond: Kill not those who offer you their throats after a fight, for Mother lets you drink freely of her milk, and she would not have you take that away from another, should they lose to you in honor.
Ruth tucks her hands into her poncho's baggy pockets, the hood thrown back, her hair a varihued halo about her face. She looks towards Kelsey, returning the woman's gaze, quirks a corner of her mouth up, then furrows her brow. She looks towards Watersinger. There's a certain blurry understanding in her eyes that wasn't there before.
The Seventh Bond: Let those who have bodies like yours run free in beauty, and do not eat them; Mother wills that those who are one in body should be one in spirit, and help each other, not eat each other.
The Eighth Bond: If you are strong... and you are all strong... let your strength sing not to those near you through your claws and teeth, but through the heart. For if you make one do what you want with your claws and teeth, claws and teeth will you have in answer in the end; but if you lead with love, love will you have three times over in the end.
These are the Bonds of Mother's Love that she gave to us, her children. Watersinger heard them in howls, and saw them in the face of Mother, and Watersinger says: it is so. It is so. It is so. These things Watersinger sings to you are true.
Watersinger steps back to stand between Louisa and Derrick.
Kelsey hums a bar of the Barney song under her breath, which luckily only one person here may recognize. But in spite of that, she dips her head in respect to the lupus as she concludes her singing of the old laws.
Derrick seems not to. Perhaps he's just ignoring her, though.
Julen stops leaning on her staff. "My thanks, Singer of the Waters. These are the laws of the Garou, but we are many of us Garou, and I would have us learn from each other. Ruth, Lucas, at the next gathering, would you tell of your customs?"
Eos stands and bows deeply to Watersinger, gesturing respect and thanks to the lupus.
Ruth hears enough to know what's being said, smiles sure and certain. Ain't that the truth. She leans back along the huge trunk of a tree, rests the palms of her hands against it, looks out at the people gathered beneath the wood. It's a while before she glances towards Lucas, Julen, then nods.
Watersinger dips her ears and tail subtly, turning slightly away as Eos bows to her, indicating submission and thanks to Eos and Julen.
Lucas glances at Ruth and nods.
Kelsey grins shyly over at Ruth. "Good. I'm sure we could all use some 'horse sense,' if that's not just an expression."
Ruth laughs, a low and quiet whicker. "My parents called it being stubborn." She grins back at Kelsey, though.
Julen inclines her head to both. "My thanks." And then she straightens again. "We are all of us new here. But some are newer than others, and we would all of us welcome them. Come--" her gaze travels to the pack, and to Ruth -- "Tell us of who you are, and something of yourselves."
Kelsey goes to the firepit and gives it a good stoking, letting the sparks fly up. Yah. "And be sure to make something up that sounds cool," she sings over her shoulder.
Ruth lifts her chin and steps forward. One, and then she's set firm in place, like she grew from that spot. She nods. "I'm Ruth Naomi Ayllon, Eshu's Daughter, Perunka from Ayllon Farm. I'm a courier." She dips her chin, though her warm smile remains. "I came here with a package for Rowan. I don't think I'll be leaving."
Kelsey blinks. "Deja vu," she mutters, looking slyly at the alpha.
Watersinger nudges Derrick, and then Louisa, forcibly with her muzzle once Ruth has finished, obviously trying to get them to take center stage.
Shifting upwards, even before Watersinger nudges him, Derrick grins at Kelsey. "Don't have to make anything up. Me, I'm Derrick Herr. Falcon's Wing Leads By Example. I'm a ragabash of the--" and here, he looks a little embarrassed, almost -- "Silver Fangs. House of the Unbreakable Hearth, and the Protectorate of Silver and Gold. Son of Darren, who was son of Darius Falcon's Talons. I was part of the Wheel Renwed, the Hidden Walk, and Western Eye, in my time, and glad to be /here/, now, and glad to be packbrother to these people." After a moment of thought, and somewhat obscurely, he adds, "My kids.... Grew up to be some very interesting people, apparently."
Ruth looks towards Derrick, turning a brow up, though she remains quiet.
Kelsey goes over to a tree at the edge of the clearing, getting a brown paper bag propped there in the shadows, and rustles for a bit. There are several quite thump-thump-thumps.
Louisa rises after Derrick, her introduction much shorter. "Louisa, Little Mother. I am a halfmoon Child of Gaia. My homes were the same as Derrick's. And I've known Watersinger since before I can remember. We are proud to be a memory of the past as we learn this present, our future. Thank you to those who have borne our ... my struggle to learn how to live and to /be/--" Here Lou casts Watersinger a look, "--in a place and time with such depth and Truth." She then offers, "Our pack, born and died of Water, is always willing to be connected with the others who run and breathe here. Please do not hesitate to ask if you have needs we can help fill."
Kelsey returns with one of Sashenka's wooden bowls piled with apples. Some have been wrapped in caramel, others not. She plunks them down by the edge of the fire and props a half-dozen forks over them, giving Ruth a mischievous look, then takes her place again.
Watersinger takes third: Watersinger, Water-Drinks-Her, Spider-Killer of Coldways Lands! Watersinger sings for Water, and for her Sister, Little Mother, the Mender-of-Hearts, Great Healer; and her Brother, Storyman, Flies-With-Honor. Watersinger walked long, came here chasing Big White Spider many, many Turnings ago: here now in peace, with Pack. Watersinger will sing, and fight, and Be for Mother, here.
Julen gives Derrick a brief, searching look. Then she straightens again, taking the staff in one hand, and says, "Welcome, all of you. For whatever reason you have come, and whoever you may be, your presence and you yourselves are welcome." Clasping both hands to the staff, she goes on, "And tonight, the spirits are--" Wry irony bleeds only slightly into her words -- "Very close." Letting the staff go, she bends down, to pick up a bowl of water at her feet. She begins pacing, slowly, around the gathered circle, sprinkling water as she goes, saying, "We will sing to them, call to them. To Skunk, to Squirrel, to Moose, and to those who wish to help us, for the future. We will call. We will open this Caern, all of us, together." And then, she stops speaking, and merely begins humming, a low, urgent, imperative song, sprinkling to its rhythm.
Ruth watches Kelsey as she sets the bowls near the fire, draws a breath in when they're filled with apples. She grins, though for the moment she also remains still, her attention turning to Julen.
Skunk, who has already manifested elsewhere tonight, is the most prompt in responding. His particular perfume fills the air briefly before the familiar irascible black and white form pads forward. He is silent, but his tail waves up and down peevishly.
Eos joins in humming with Julen. She weaves a harmony in and around the alpha's tune easily, clapping her hands to the rhythm lightly.
Kelsey looks a little lost for a moment, as if missing her prop, then stands back and drums her hands on her thighs, mimicking the heavy tread of Moose. "Old ones, bold ones, wise ones, come on in," she chants experimentally, making up for art with gusto. "Come on in!" When the elders shart humming, she blushes and quickly joins in, still drumming with her palms.
The song is joined by Lucas' warm baritone, rumbling and strong beneath the women's voices.
Julen seems to have no argument at all with singing, either; she gives Kelsey an encouraging twitch of the eyebrow as she paces by her. An occsional sound not unlike a squirrel's chattering enters her own humming; once she's gone around the circle once, she upends the remaining water in one brief splash, and begins to dance, surprisingly fluidly for a woman as old as she is.
Ruth watches this for a while, the song building around her, her smile carrying a measure of uncertainty. Just a moment, then she settles down on the balls of her feet and starts to hum as well. There're no words to her rusty hum-- she wasn't made to sing, but she closes her eyes and works to keep her tune in place and join in.
Shortly after Lucas starts to hum, a massive, shadowy presence manifests slowly behind him. The shaggy, impressively horned head watches the singers stoically, only the gleam of the dark eyes catching the light.
A hail of acorns patters into the center of the circle of people.
Watersinger sings as well in the wild, free manner of wolves, her song carrying with it overtones of a language of sorts, a plea to the spirits to come.
Julen continues dancing; she continues singing. Her humming is just as urgent, just as imperative, more of a searching request now, for help, for secrecy, for strength. A call that that occasionally moves from humming to outright singing. Her voice is low, a little husky, but evocative.
Kelsey grabs an acorn and joggles it from h and to hand, peering up into the branches and trying to catch a glimpse of the Squirrel. "Oi!" she calls up, grinning.
A small furry form bounces into the center of the ring and dashes in and out between people with manic speed, chattering and scolding incomprehensibly. Somewhat oversized for a squirrel, it dances back and forth and finally sits up in front of Julen, shaking its magnificent gray tail emphatically. *We are here, here, here!*
Watersinger's song makes a transition from a questing tone to a welcoming tone, although there is still a hint of questing left to it, of searching for a friend.
Julen breaks off her singing with a long, free laugh. *And welcome, friend squirrel!* She looks around and announces, somewhat redundantly, "The Caern is open."
Kelsey turns slowly, seeking for the third Totem. When she spots him, she goes still, just watching.
Eos begins to roam the bounds of the Cathedral, still humming, occasionally coming out with a phrase of song here and there. She trails her fingers over the trunks of the trees as she passes them.
Julen crouches, facing the squirrel. *My friends--* Clearly, she's addressing all three Totems -- *I wish to ask you, for I know you are overburdened -- who should we seek, to strengthen you? What should we do, to aid your defeneses?*
The Squirrel stares up at Julen. *Find the other Totems. You will need to go and get them; they are the stronger ones, and cannot be called. We three are the weakest, you know. But my people go everywhere and perhaps can give you news.*
The Moose rumbles, *You spoke of the one with the silver arm. He got that on the Battle Plain. Other things of strength can be found there. Put them to better use.*
Skunk grumbles, *Or you can talk to the old witch, as Glitters did. She hid the caern for a century.*
A fierce light kindles in Lucas' blue eyes at Moose's words.
Julen echoes, *Other Totems? Which other Totems?* Then she tilts her head slightly at Skunk. *Did she. That explains much. I will find her. And my thanks.*
Kelsey blinks. "Not Miss Alison," she murmurs under her breath.
Watersinger repeats, Battle Plain... the words translate easily, directly into lupus... place of fighting...
The Squirrel hops back and forth between its front and back feet. *There are five of us. You must find the Earth crawler, the wise one with the eyes of stars that shine underground. And the windrider, thornhider, black-headed wisewoman. You must find them. Then the caern will wake.* With a last lash of the magnificent tail, the Squirrel leaps back into the dark between the trees and is gone.
Kelsey mouths the words as best she can, finding English for them, committing them to memory. "Riddles," she observes, looking hopefully at those wiser than herself.
Skunk stomps back into the undergrowth, muttering to himself, *Work, work, work...*
Julen seems to have the gleam of ideas in her eyes, but she merely says, *We will think on these. My thanks, honored ones.*
The gigantic shadow snorts, and fades away, leaving only the branches of trees where the great rack of antlers seemed to be.
Watersinger volunteers: Watersinger's pack will help! Watersinger's pack go to Battle Plains? she asks Julen. She places herself physically close to Derrick as she speaks, so that he can stop her if he doesn't agree.
Derrick noses Watersinger. Weighs-the-Way has said already. We go to look for spirits. Guardian spirits.
Julen shakes her head minutely. "You, I think, should look for Totems, you and your pack, as you have said you will already. Lucas, you go to the Plains? You, and whoever you choose? Myself, I would ask Ruth, but it is your choice."
Kelsey smiles fondly after the skunk, in spinte of the way she wrinkles her nose.
Lucas' face splits into a broad grin. "Will do, Ma'am."
"Perhaps you can provide information, though, Watersinger," Eos suggests. "You may know more stories than I about the area."
Though Julen's motion is somewhat casual, her staff begins, slowly, to glow. "This Kumi gathering," she says, looking at each face in turn, "Is coming to an end. Now is the time to share food--" She stops, to grin at Kelsey, and adds, "To share /more/ food, rather, to share information, to share of ourselves. Dibs on the elderberry wine." Her staff, however, continues to glow.
Watersinger knows stories; Watersinger will sing to Brother Longrunner, if his this quest is. Come find Watersinger in Pack lands, Brother Longrunner; Watersinger will sing.
Lucas apparently got all that just fine -- he acknowledges the offer with a nod, his face still alight with anticipation.
Kelsey ducks her head at Julen, grinning. "Didn't think people would mind startin' early." She returns to the tree to get the rest of the Diner basket: cheeses, chips, an herbal dip of some sort, small honey cookies, and assorted dried fruits.
Eos wanders in to snag some food as she continues her rounds.
Julen finds the wine. "/I/ certainly did not mind." She apparently is going for just liquid, however, as she settles down next to a tree and drinks, slowly. Her staff, slowly, dims.