Strength of the Wolf

The Totem
“When you have been killed as many times as I have, you get used to it.” — Peter Sellers

With their pack formed, the Uratha decide to first hunt down a totem. They spread out, gathering intelligence about the Shadow in the area where they plan to claim territory, and find a few candidates:

They decide to hunt Panther-Devours-the-Past. On their journey, they find a nest of exploitation spirits that hold Nobles Lane, and a Stygian ferryman who conducts passengers across Route 51, beyond which the Irrulanim led them into a fold of the Shadow into a spirit-echo of Pangaea. There, they found Panther-Devours-the-Past. She would not agree to become their totem without testing them, of course. She hunted them through the night, into the Appalachian mountains, but as they climbed higher, they stretched further back in time, to when the mountains were younger and taller. David Smith fell in the midst of a brilliant and daring gambit to blast Panther with the power of the gathering storm. As they neared the summit — and beyond it, morning — Jackson McKay stood to face Panther, while Ian McGrath carried David to the mountaintop. As they reached it, they saw the dawning sun, and Panther relented. He agreed to become their totem, and laid this ban on them: that they each hunt a gaffling once every cycle of the moon, alone. After all, she said, if she is to hunt with them as a pack, they must honor her way of solitary hunting in turn.

“That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you've understood all your life, but in a new way.” - Doris Lessing

Ronald Washington takes the newly-Changed Uratha to Hays Woods, where he shows them how to change their shape, and sets them on the scent of a stag to catch their dinner. Along the way, they find the skeleton of one of the Hunting Shadows, slain by a silver arrow.

The next day, they return to Hays Woods to learn about loci and the spirit world. In the spirit world, they bargain with White Fire Oak to learn the names of the Hunting Shadows’ members, and what happened to them. Phoenix Adamski trades that information for a pledge to become a Hunter in Darkness himself, and to do all she can to protect Hays Woods. Soon thereafter, a massive bear spirit attacks the new pack. Working together, they manage to overcome it. David Smith follows the trail back to the bear’s den, where he finds a human heart beating in the dark. He feeds it essence, allowing it to regenerate into Slinks-in-Shadows, who agrees to provide information to David in return.

The First Change (Part 2)
"A fucked-up family's a fucked-up family, whether or not werewolves are involved." - Carrie Vaughn
  • Phoenix Adamski awakens in the basement of the Gray Wolves’ den, with all of the effects from her hormone treatments and sex reassignment surgery completely reversed. The Gray Wolves figure out that now that he has Changed, his regeneration must have seen these changes as damage to be repaired. Phoenix is crushed as she realizes that, while before he felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body, now, his woman’s body has become an inescapable supermax prison.
  • Ian McGrath’s visions intensify. Derrick Prior tries to convince him that he can help, but Ian makes a run for it.
  • Phoenix Adamski and David Smith join the Gray Wolves in an expedition into the Shadow to find a spirit who can point them towards the other Uratha who will soon undergo their First Change. They eventually find Web Mother Depriver-of-Liberty, who offers to help them, if their new pack promises to make war upon the Rat Hosts for a year and a day, and promises not to attack the Spider Hosts unless they are first attacked. Phoenix agrees to this, and the Web Mother bids one of her children to climb into David’s mouth, urging him in the direction of the soon-to-Change Uratha.
  • At Whole Foods, Ian and Jackson McKay run into each other, as a fruit in Ian’s hands begins to bleed. Jackson’s increasing paranoia overcomes him. When he attacks Ian, Ian undergoes his First Change. Phoenix, David, and the Gray Wolves arrive at the same time, as does the Brotherhood of the White Hall. The fight escalates, spilling into the nearby Martin Luther King Busway, where Ian in gauru form smashes a train and begins eating people. Clementine Ward dies in the fight, while Jackson, David, and Phoenix manage to eventually subdue Ian.
  • When the Gray Wolves return and hear what happened, they decide to kill Ian before he regains consciousness. Phoenix, David, and Jackson intervene. Andy explains that Ian will be addicted to human flesh now. It will drag him — and them — to a terrible end. The three agree to take responsibility for him, though, so they let Ian live.
  • To try to contain Jackson’s First Change, they go camping in the Laurel Highlands. Ian tries to provoke Jackson into the Change, but fails. David leads him to the den of a Ridden badger, who attacks with a ferocity intense enough to trigger the Change. All four fight through the night to keep Jackson from rampaging away. In the morning, they awaken in a blood-soaked campsite.
The First Change (Part 1)
"Man is to man either a god or a wolf." - Desiderius Erasmus
  • David Smith is bitten by a big, mysterious dog. His visions become more intense and terrifying.
  • David crosses the path of Phoenix Adamski at Riverside Park. Phoenix begins to develop a strong compulsion to order, separate, or weigh things.
  • Phoenix meets Ian McGrath at a gallery show. Ian sees his art changing shape, speaking to him, and sometimes bleeding.
  • Derrick Prior asks Jackson McKay to bring David Smith to his house in Baldwin. There, he tries to put David in a silver-lined cage. Jackson shoves Derrick into the cage; when his arm touches one of the bars, it burns, and he writhes on the ground. David runs for it, finding others emerging from the corners and hallways of the house to stop him, even shooting at him. In the basement, Derrick transforms into a towering monster. Upstairs, the people pursuing David seem to become bigger, stronger, and more terrifying. To get away from them, David drops to all fours and runs through the night.
  • Large dogs try to bite Phoenix on her way to school.
  • David awakens in a basement. Upstairs, Ron, Andy, Clementine, and Jenny introduce themselves as a pack of werewolves. Andy was the one who bit David, not to turn him into a werewolf, but to be able to find him when he did Change. They tell him the story of Mother Luna and Father Wolf, and Pangea, and tell him of their competition with the Pure for newly-Changed Uratha like him. They also tell him that as he approached his First Change, he left a sort of spiritual wake through the Hisil, the Shadow Realm, and that likely pushed other Uratha who were nearing their First Change to experience it now rather than later. So, the pack must work harder to find the other Uratha about to change — before the Pure get to them first.
  • Derrick comes to Jackson’s house. He takes Dalu form in front of him and stabs himself in the gut to show him his regenerative capabilities. He then tells Jackson the story of Mother Luna and Father Wolf from the Pure’s perspective.
  • David joins Ron and Andy on their second attempt to bite Phoenix. This time they succeed. She runs from the three big dogs into the trees at Transverse Park, and from there into Hays’ Woods. She shifts between different parts of all five forms, trying instinctively to find a balance between them. She finally settles into Gauru form, and begins tearing up asphalt in a misguided, instinctive attempt to balance hardness and softness in the earth.
"Those are the voices of my brothers, darling; I love the company of wolves." - Angela Carter

The Gray Wolves take the young werewolves to Carrie Furnace, the traditional tun for the local Uratha. There, they introduce them to the neighboring Forsaken packs: the Blackfeather Watchdogs, the Blocker-Bitches, the Clustergeeks, the Keepers of the Dark, and the Western Front (the Pitt Bulls, for obvious reasons, could not send any representatives).

Already pledged to the Hunters in Darkness, Phoenix Adamski nonetheless had to earn his place among them, and that required him to hunt Crowfeeder. He finally succeeded by playing off his dedication to protect his territory. Rather than try to chase him down, he went to the borders of his territory, and there waited for him to return to defend it. Crowfeeder, impressed by Phoenix’s ability to trap his prey by understanding him, declared that he had passed his trial, and welcome him into the tribe.

Ian McGrath decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, and sought entry into the Storm Lords. For his trial, Diana Frostblade told him to stand on a nearby hill amidst the storm.Ian decided to do more than simply weather the storm: he tried to take its essence into himself. He succeeded, and was welcomed among the Storm Lords.

David Smith and Jackson McKay sought entry into the Bone Shadows. For their initiation, Vivan of the Three-Fold Death asked them to enter the Shadow and convince spirits of coal and iron to become a steel spirit. They did so by striking and balancing bargains between them to place them in a klaive that Jackson would wield, called Steel-Edge.

The new Uratha swore the Oath of the Moon, as well as their tribal vows. The Western Front led the way in taunting the new pack, challenging them to a game of football (in Forsaken Football, though, you don’t have equipment, you play in Dalu form, and there are no rules about “unnecessary roughness.”)


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