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Joined: 13 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:57 am Reply with quoteBack to top


Maxwell Hearkenstone pushed up from the cold hard tile he'd been sleeping on, rubbing the tired from an eye before looking around. He was wrapped up in a small, lightweight blanket, but it was freezing. Across the dulled tile, the rest of his group sat around a fire and nursed homemade alcohol while garnering the warmth of the flames. He wasn't quite ready to go and join them yet. Every night, he had his ritual meditation and thought. It was just what he did now. A part of his routine. No one questioned it. The Glasswalker Kinfolk watched that group, taking them all in. It was a sight that brought him at least a bit of comfort, and in these nights, comfort was as much a currency as barter. Most of them were Kinfolk. A Silver Fang, two Fianna, a Gnawer, and a Fury. Only one of them was true Garou. The one sitting to the leftmost side, a bit farther from the fire than the rest, was Phelan. He sat there, mesmerized with the dancing light of the flames, but a butterfly knife flicked around easily in his hand with a mercurial grace. He'd known him since the man was just a pup, bumbling his way through his first shift. Through his first mission. Now the pup was a man. A warrior. A werewolf and a savage beast that far out-powered any other member of the group. Max still called him 'Pup', though. Out of all of them, Phelan was the only one who knew what Maxwell had lost. What he had come through. What he had done. He had lost it all too.

No one knew what happened, really. Or, those who did were dead, or hiding. Max had come to the conclusion that only the Spirits remembered, but most of them had turned their backs on the Garou and the Kinfolk an age and a half ago. Had, in fact, become aggressive and agitated. No one had contacted a Spirit in at least fifteen years, without suffering great risk of themselves or others. The only reason Max had brought them back to Los Angeles after so long was because the Spirits tended to remove themselves from large cities. Again. No one knew why. There were other dangers here, though. Vampires. A lot of them. And worse. The restless souls of the dead, whom numbered in the millions since the start of the end of the world. Not everyone could let go after death, when they were ripped from life like a lot had been. Also, there was just..nothing, outside of the cities. Some dirt. Some rock. In the beginning of it all, some of the Garou had whispered about Gaia, about her death. About how everything that lived just because of her will, had withered and died. That included most vegetation. And some wolves who were living on borrowed time. And still. No one knew much about it. That was a part of the problem, and why it hadn't been fixed. Or why no one knew if it could. No one knew a damned thing about what had happened. People were just living. Struggling. But more often, dying.

Max shuffled about in his black duffle bag, looking for something. There was a baggie inside. Plastic. So fucking durable that not even the end of the world could kill it. It was probably part of the cause, anyway. There were two things in it. The first was a long loop of leather cord with a bearclaw attached to it. He left it in, and instead pulled out the folded photograph. It was just a torn piece that had once belonged to a larger picture of himself and a golden-blonde haired woman as they stood over a pile of corpses. He was wearing full plate mail, like something that had come out of the Dark Ages. She was wearing almost nothing. A shirt. His shirt. Now it was just a picture of her. Now it was just a picture of Charlotte. Until three years ago, she had led the group that sat just a ways down around the fire. She was the one who had collected all of those Kinfolk in a time when Kinfolk were just second-most rare to Garou. She was, in fact, the only reason that Max and Phelan had survived the beginning of it all. Her Mate and her Ward. When she had fallen, Max had taken over the group. He didn't lead because he was the strongest. Or even the smartest. He was just the most determined. Or maybe, the most pissed off. She had been given a proper burial. A mock Rite of Cleansing, in accordance with the old ways, back when they were still real and could be used. A proper mourning from a True Galliard, which the group had since lost to the world's savages. There were no lush cemetaries to bury her in, and so Max, Phelan, and the rest of the group had spent a whole week constructing a tomb. Underground, made of stone, away from the scavengers, and the predators. He still made the trip back there, once a year, where he would spend the length of the night resting on the lid of her sarcophagus and talking to her. For the first week after her death, Max would still wake up every night and make her a cup of coffee. He wouldn't even realize it until he'd brought it back to the tent to find her missing. It was like a bad dream that he kept expecting to wake up from. Max would never drink the coffee. It never tasted good with tears in it. He still wore his ring, even into battle. It was the only possession he owned that he was meticulous about. His guns might save his life, but that ring had saved his sanity. And sanity in these evenings, some would say, was even more precious than hope.

It was that time. Max was rent from his mental wandering by the sounds of a guitar. They might have lost their Galliard, but over at the fire they still had a Fianna Kin who fancied himself one. He had started up a rendition of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's revision of Somewhere over the Rainbow. It was an ironic song for the time, for the world, but Max loved it. Clung to it. Needed it like air and water. For the past three years, he'd been looking for somewhere over the rainbow. The problem was, there just weren't anymore rainbows. He blamed the death of happiness. The Glasswalker Kin clambered to his feet with a grunt. It wasn't enough that he was fourty-one now. It also had to be cold. Nothing was ever..not a pain in the ass anymore. He caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the plastic that covered the map of the subway station they were in, and the tunnels. Anyone who had known Maxwell in his youth would never recognize the man he had become. Phelan had, once, told him that his smile was still the same. It was too bad that there was nothing worth smiling about anymore. His hair had grown out a bit. It wasn't washed, and it was cut just when it got long enough to be a nuisance. Grooming just wasn't a priority. The same went for facial hair. He didn't mind the beard so much though. It helped to cover the long scar that started at the bottom of his left cheek and ended near his forehead. When a Dancer tells you that he is going to tear your face off, he isn't kidding. He'd escaped that one, but not without being worse for the wear. His walk was slow, his bare feet silent. They always were in the 'morning'. Everyone slept in the daylight anymore. It was the only safe time for it. He waved off the offer of coffee. That had been Charlotte's sin of choice. He never accepted it, but it was always pushed. Perhaps the Kin had taken to thinking that the night he took it would be the night that change started. That was a silly thing for them to think, but Max understood that they were just looking for something to believe in. Even just a glimpse of it. They weren't fighters, not like he and Phelan were. Hell, they weren't even special anymore. They were just people. People too scared to fight, but also too scared to just kill themselves.

Max sat down next to the last Garou that he'd seen in the past year. For all he knew, he could be the last Garou on the face of the planet. He hoped not, though. No one else in their makeshift, humble pack understood it, but Max knew just what to expect when he, in his groggy state, punched Phelan in the shoulder. He got one in return. It, like his meditations, was a morning ritual. That small bit of normality that guarantees that the world is still there, at least for now. He didn't say anything. Nothing needed to be said. And no one wanted to interrupt the music that rolled from the guitar. It was too precious. Nor did he look at the fire, letting it capture him like it did with the others. Max never looked into the fire. He was always too caught up in the shadows that it made. Almost as an addendum, Phelan's clicking and clacking of his butterfly knife took on a rhythm that went well with the guitar. As a third part to the forming, makeshift orchestral, the sounds of the long-abandoned subway tunnels brought an eerie chorus of howling and yipping to the group. Spooks. Vampires. Dancers. Or some combination of any or all of them. It didn't matter. The music stopped as the herd of Kinfolk shifted around to stare, wide-eyed. Already, Phelan was getting up. Was grabbing up the other knife to go with his first. Max was just behind him, sliding both the katana and the Desert Eagle from the ground, where they'd been left.

Nobody saw more than the first glint of hate-filled eyes before something snuffed the fire.
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