Waltz of Flesh

Stave 2 Madness of the Heart Part 4

This is how it ends.

Friday October 12, 2012 – Moon Phase: New

As the glimmering tear in the fabric of the universe’s sanity hurtled toward the Sept of Sweet Rock, the Sept’s members braced themselves, waiting for the end, but refusing to go down without a fight. Jason reached within for the Unbroken Cord fetish, dedicated to unity, that allowed him to share his abilities with another and gave Shera a Gift of Falcon: Lambent Flame. They both began to shed light, warring with the gathering darkness. As the Nexus Crawler drove relentlessly toward the Sept through the downpour, Seeks-the-Spiral‘s voice rang strong and true, howling to raise courage, spur bold action, and for the Garou to face death as true Warriors of Gaia, leaving Glory in their wake. Though there is no exact translation for Garou speech, it might be best summed up by the quote: “If this be our end, then let it be such an end as to be worthy of remembrance!” His final note rang out, held loudly and defiantly against the madness that electrified the air as the Crawler descended upon the Sept. All who joined in the righteous howl felt Cole’s previous deed-name Hearts-Ablaze flicker in their minds and their howls reverberated with his own: a cry from a Fang of Garm that all would defend Gaia’s sacred home. The screeching, scraping animus moved towards the Heart of the caern and pushed aged trees aside in great snapping sounds as it plodded as an elephant. Packs bolstered each other behind wet fur and dreadful whines.

Manifesting more solidly in its own created reality, the crackling, shimmering Crawler grew 10 appendages, triple-jointed, that ended in hands, and a hairless mass at their intersection sprouted yet more malformed human hands to hold stalks that ended in bloody orbs that writhed and eyeballed all directions. Its form called forth the reviled nightmares lurking in the farthest places of even Garou hearts. Jason and Joe managed to hold firm in the face of such unfathomable horror and grasped the Pack with alacrity. Shera, though shaken, responded to her fear with Rage (a close cousin to courage, but not quite one and the same). Too proud to fail, Jason bolstered Mooch to the point of refusal to flee in shame again despite the Rat’s ways, and both the Ahroun and Philodox allowed themselves to be directed toward the enemy, rather than quaking in their boots or disgracing their honor by running away.

Racing to meet the their enemy and carve out their bit of glory, the Pack surged and broke against the Crawler like a wave, hoping to push it back. Mooch struck first, but wasn’t immediately able to strike a true blow; with persistence and fortitude, he began to get a better claw hold and dig into muscular, boneless spirit matter. Calling on his power over Spirits, Feedback used a Spirit Snare, praying to Gaia that this just might give them a fighting chance, then opened fire. Joe used the weapons he’d been honing since the day he was born, tearing through surreality with gusto. Allowing her Rage to propel her, Shera lashed out with claws, and didn’t fare much better than Mooch, although she did manage to inflict some pain on the invader, and tore with fang and claw. Jason was more successful, overcoming the thing’s natural resistance to inflict solid blows.

As the other members of the Sept raced toward the fray, the rain that had been streaking down turned to antifreeze, burning flesh and soil, lacerating the trees in body and spirit. Naturae cried out as the poison seeped into root, soil, and stream. As a body, the host of Garou began their main assault with fang, claw, bullets and klaive trying to find purchase in the horrid form before them, and found their task a tricky one; their enemy suddenly split, buboes and pustules boiling up from within and dividing like a cancerous, mitotic cell. Each new division retained 5 uneven and unwieldy appendages. Heir-of-the-Sun, larger than life and wielding Pitch-Eater with the Gift: Might of Thor, lept on the further manifestation and sawed away, hacking apart limb from limb from his secured jaw lock on the creature’s Wyrmflesh in a most impressive display of prowess. His missing arm and scars aglow, Seeks-the-Spirals entered the fray, but his howl and his part in the battle were soon cut short. Off to the side, Pure-Tempest was gathering the spirits of the land, Glade Children, Zephyrs, and other birds and beasts that would heed her call, to stand and aid the Warriors of Gaia. The bird spirits responded to defend their nests, wheeling and diving, harrying the enemy as best they could. The Glade Children and Zephyrs gave of their power, energy flowing to the Garou who had the knowledge of how to use it.

Suddenly, the ground beneath them changed, and most of the stones, many of them placed specifically by the Elder Theurge, transformed into brainmatter and sprouted legs, dashing around the battlefield. The bizarre was followed by the terrible when Seeks-the-Spiral’s war songs stopped abruptly; hearing him suddenly cut off, Shera’s attention was diverted, and she looked on in horror as his flesh-and-blood arm gripped his throat, choking the life from him and his Gift-arm tried to wrest it loose. Resisting the insistent pull of both Rage and Honor, Shera redoubled her efforts to destroy what was before her, reasoning that Cole was surrounded by others who could save him from himself, and praying to Luna that she hadn’t just bolloxed up another promise. She then braced herself as the Crawler summoned forth a bolt of entropic energy, but by the grace of Gaia (or madness of the Beast), it failed to direct the bolt, disintegrating one of its own arms instead and letting the pulpy remains splash on the wet, poisoned rock below. The pack continued their assault, taking on their half of the Crawler alone; using her Falling Touch, Shera sent the now-imbalanced Nexus Crawler sprawling, and the pack immediately Dogpiled atop their foe, rending it apart as best they could.

The turn of the tide in favor of the Garou did not last long. A whine that Shera knew intimately reverberated across the battlefield, heralding the delicious and long-awaited demise of “Tyr’s Pale and Worthless Shadow”, and with that, the remaining members of the Adder’s Nest Pack burst into the fight: Tarnish-Heart, who carried in her teeth a desiccated, skeletal human arm, bound in leather straps and dripping with viscous fluid, and Silent Scream, who wore Hispo with a hammer tattoo and his innate, insane smiling muzzle. Before either Jason or Shera could leap on her and avenge themselves, she spread leathery Patagia and took to the air, circling like a bat while the Fetish, Icy Touch, threatened Seeks-the-Spiral’s life far out of reach.

Jason Spineripper directed Feedback with a commanding snarl and pointed, “Bring that bitch down!” Heeding his Alpha, Feedback opened fire, a submachine gun in one hand and a semi-automatic in the other sending sparks and lead at the Theurge’s wings (though any part would do, really), and tried to force her out of the sky. For his part, Jason continued to lead the assault on the Nexus Crawler, which chaotically enough reunited with its other half and rose back into the air. Joe and Mooch just kept slashing up limbs like bad furniture, tearing apart the crawler as fast as their Rage would allow. Shera snarled and leapt at Silent Scream, tackling him and pinning him to the top of the fallen Bane. He changed to War Form under her grip and clouted her across the jaw with his stolen Ironhammer fetish weapon, formerly dedicated into his fur as his tattoo and now with hands to swing it. Shera’s Rage welled up and flowed out of her control and the Thrall to the Wyrm washed her away in a red current.

Having gathered the aid of any Spirits who would answer in the mean time, Pure-Tempest shifted forms, and began to display the beautiful art for which her Tribe is known. Liquid grace was she, all but dancing between grasping, foul limbs as she shifted between Crinos, Hispo, her native Lupus form, and back to Crinos, ultimately to leap through the air to land atop the Nexus Crawler rent abdomen. “Return whence you came! I command you in the Names of the Four Winds of Paradise!” she cried. Alas, her command only enraged the Crawler, and her life ended with little Honor or fanfare as the thing split the top of its body open as a maw of human incisors and rotten fangs and snapped her in half. Redemption and Honor were forever beyond her living grasp, but maybe the Ancestors… Heir-of-the-Sun tossed aside an arm that he’d sawed off and continued to hack away at the damned thing, while Cole had fallen back, choking on his own blood as his claws pierced his throat.

Shera, unable to control the object or degree of her murderous impulses, headbutted Silent Scream, her skull cracking against his and completely dazing him. Sliding down, Spineripper picked up the arm that Heir-of-the-Sun had discarded, took aim, and hammer-hurled the limp appendage at the still-airborne Tarnish-Heart, who tumbled out of the air in surprise and landed in sight of Shera. Her plummeting snapped the brittle Fetish arm, whose Psychomachiae was released and floated ephemerally above the broken relic. Seeks-the-Spirals’ right arm still gripped his throat, and his claws were still buried in his own windpipe. He had lost consciousness and was lying on the ground, but his arm finally released its grip and his eyes rolled back into place after the Fetish snapped. He fell into his natural Homid form and his breaths were sparse, shallow, and wet.

With Antonia muzzle-deep in antifreeze and broken pride, Feedback wasted little time in lacing her left leg towards her head with lead before his weapon made faint clicks at her hipbone, as exhausted as any other mortal Gaian avenger present. Breaks-the-Maze-Walls rent apart the stunned Silent Scream from chest cavity to shoulder joints, but did not fulfill her role as Eater of Souls—she turned instead to Antonia, who was unfortunately (for her) the nearest focus for of her driving, frothing, impassioned hatred, and dove with a cry of bloodlust at her mortal enemy.

At the side of the defeated Black Spiral Dancer alpha, the terrified Glade Children parted, and Lion’s spirit form strode out of the trees, kingly and calm. Shera skidded to a halt as Lion stared her in the eyes, commanding her to leave the Thrall of the Wyrm and return to her station. Her control returned to her and the red left her vision. The King of Beasts then pounced on Tarnish-Heart and batted her around the Penumbral ground, staring at Shera all the while. Shera heard a purr in her heart and mind: “Play with your prey. It’s not quite time to put her out of her misery yet.” That it was not the message she’d hoped to hear is an understatement… but she wanted Lion’s favor too much to go against his edict. Steeling herself, she shifted to Homid form, and her hand went for the Wyrmish Fang Dagger she had secreted—while she wouldn’t kill the Spiral outright today, she could still avenge Cole. Taking a shaky breath, she walked up to Antonia and straddled the still-winded Theurge who spat curses between breaths, then gripped Antonia’s left wrist hard enough to break it with a twist. Brandishing the Fang Dagger, Shera willed its blood-thirsty inhabitant to bite deep and cut true, and ran a long slice all the way from Antonia’s wrist to her shoulder, and in a cool, quiet, deadly voice, whispered in her ear, “I’m glad you changed your name, you bitch.” Shera then rose, seized the arm fragments that were Cole’s, and walked off, shouting over her shoulder, “Know yer own shame!”

Forestalling her Alpha’s ‘what the actual fuck?’ look, she handed him the dagger, and said, “Go take yer piece.” This he did with a quickness, taking her right hand to avenge his injury by her Toxic Claws, and saying “You won’t need this.” They then left Tarnish-Heart to bleed, writhe, curse, and scream.

The Nexus Crawler shot a bolt of green-purple entropic energy at one of the two great stone cliffs at the heart of the caern, turning it to mud and burying the Sweet Rock Hive Caernstone in slag. While the rending, sawing, tearing and biting continued, Marcus Jagged-Spear joined in his attack. He drove his spear deep into it, and the spearhead snapped under his bearing. Though the Fetish spear that helped him earn his name had been broken, he flashed a wolfish grin at his Tribemate and prepared to dig the pieces back out. He was caught off-guard. Shera had time only to scream Marcus’ name when the damned thing bloated a hand to a man-sized mass and crushed him completely, scattering his insides all over his outsides and ending his tales. With a howl of rage, loss, and vengeance, the Sept grabbed flailing limbs and Wishboned the enemy. Shera’s tears peeked through her eye for just a moment from behind anger and anguish-twisted Crinos face.

As the Sept’s packs tore the Bane apart, a strange, crackling plexus of nerves and tissue exposed itself, cut itself free of the chest of the creature, and hovered over it like a cherry bomb covered in bloody syrup promising a violent, pulpy end to all present. The remaining two-thirds of the sept who had the bravery or stupidity to remain and fight the Bane strained for one last ounce of Luna’s strength through the midnight deluge. Thunder rumbled. Lightning struck. Lightning struck the thing. Several Garou were struck by the shockwave and crumpled under the blast or were knocked back. It was impossible to tell right away whether they had even survived…did the blast come from friend or foe?! Fylgyr the Stormcrow, a Jaggling spirit, and his murder dove from the skies, scattering lesser Gafflings before them and commanding rapid lightning strikes while the Bane writhed in its own delicious destruction. In the midst of all of this, no one noticed Tarnish-Heart fade out of the Material World…or they were consumed by the great task at hand.

A voice, strange to many of them, demanded attention. “This kill belongs to me.” Heir-of-the-Sun, bristling with fury, shot back “The hell it does!” Booming with thunderous command, intolerant of such bold rebuttals, it returned, “I am Shadow Lord Elder Sylvan-Ivanovna-Sylvan-Black-Daughter-of-Ivan-Ironclaw-the-Great, and you will recognize my superior claim!” Shera muttered to Jason in a whisper, fearful of being overheard but unable to keep her anger in her chest, “Nice of her to show up and ‘help’ once the kill is assured. What was her name again? Elder Steals-the-Kill?” Jason snorted in disdain and agreement. Having vented the peak of her Rage, Shera bit back on the rest of it. Marcus lay dead, Pure-Tempest was in pieces, Cole’s state was unknown, the Caern was in ruins, and this crazy bitch may well have killed several Garou in her Glory-whoring… but when Sylvan-Ivanovna-Sylvan appeared, leading two packs, it was only by clinging to her promise to Luna that Shera avoided making a suicide attack against the Shadow Lord Elder. Two packs! Two packs that could have been here, fighting alongside them—all the dead might have still lived, had they been willing to get their own paws muddy, the sodding bastards!

Shera went immediately to Seeks-the-Spirals to help him up. “Come on, Gramps. You look like Hell.” He brushed off her help, rose, and walked off. Digging through the refuse of remains, tears of Rage and grief coursing down her face, Shera collected the two pieces of Marcus’ Jagged Spear, determined to honor him by returning it to their Tribal homeland. From that moment, Shera’s hatred of the Shadow Lords as self-serving, arrogant opportunists was confirmed, and she would never work with or trust another, as long as she lived. That they would not scruple to sacrifice other Gaians to further their own ends was so antithetical to her new life (and so close to her old one) that it elicited a contempt and disgust that could not be articulated. The Sept saved, but lost…Elders and dear comrades lost…it begged the question: why fight at all, when your presumed cousins would bully you and take what you had worked so hard for? Maybe, just maybe, thought Shera, that was where Cole’s Harano came from: the recognition that, at least in their current state, Gaia’s Champions were a sorry lot indeed, who didn’t deserve to win.

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BlackWaltz RageyMage

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