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October 25, 2003 (date on e-mail)
One at a time, the three contestants trickled into the caern's gathering area. After a few minutes' wait, the fourth arrived. Rabbit, Erin, and Flea-Bitten-Mongrel waited as the other fellow, Jack "Howls-at-Midnight" arrived with a sneer. Jublain, who remembered the fellow from when he helped defend the Caern against the Devourer, greets him and Jack explains that he heard of the challenge and came to attend.
Jack began with pre-challenge insults--which may or may not be a tradition among his home sept. "You three Urrah might as well submit now. I'm gonna win Morningstar. It's written in the heavens."
Rabbie ignored him, while Flea commented that be that as it may she doesn't intend to give up. Erin is apparently more direct, and growled without pause, "Call me urrah again stranger.. and i will drag you to the ring and beat you within an inch of your life."
Jublain simply shrugged. "Might be. Quite a bit of this will have to do with your nature as wolves as well as humans, so if you don't buckle down to it, you might end up watchin' the stranger make off with it." More quietly to Jack, he adds, "If you do, watch out for the Ratkin. Likely as not, they'll try to steal the thing just so they can show the Wyrm a weapon we can't use against it."
Whatever irritation that might have aroused in Jack, he stifled it and nodded. "Then I'll have my first victims to unleash it on." Just as unworried about Erin's threat, he smiled. "Try me, charach."
Erin replied in the wolf tongue, "Do not leave the caern after this is through. Your ass is mine," andJublain cut them both off. "Damn, word gets around fast. Easy, Jack, less you want to be in the challenge circle with Erin while the others are getting Morningstar."
Jack grinned, said "You got it, pip," and shut up as Jublain continued.
"To get the fetish, you'll have to trail me. The trail's a little cold, but not much--I just walked along it earlier today, so it shouldn't be too difficult... except that I made it a little difficult. At some point I'll be waiting in the path. You'll have to get past me- -if you do that and backtrail me, you're doing something stupid, because it'll lead you right back here, and that's not where Morningstar is.
"I'll wait a bit to see everyone off, then take my little spot. The trail starts over by that Volvo over there." *Jublain pointed to it, then nodded as he stepped back. "Start."
Jack waited, still sneering and still in Homid, then waited as the others started. "I'll give the Urrah a headstart. They'll need it." After a few moments he heads in behind them, following the wolves rather than the scent. Jublain waited a few minutes, then headed into the Maze to the spot he's picked out.
The trail ran almost straight through the maze of junkpiles for perhaps a hundred yards before it abruptly disappearred. With barely a pause in motion, Flea concentrated and Reached across the Gauntlet. From there, she quickly saw that she was right--Jublain had simply Reached midstride. Rabbie, after a few moments sniffing around, soon got the idea and followed suit, while Erin continued to sniff around where the tracks and scent-trail had disappeared. Meanwhile, Jack trotted back into the gathering area, grinning cheerfully.
Flea continued along, finding the place where Jublain Reached back into the physical world and Stepping Sideways with barely a pause, then continued to follow as the trail got trickier. Jublain was more careful at this point about where he put his feet and wound around 'til his trail was facing towards the Gathering Area again, then went so far as to climb onto the junkpiles where walking was more difficult. And as suddenly as they had disappeared the last time, they did again. And again, Flea didn't hesitate--she looked over the distance below them, decided if one wolf could jump so could another, and leapt. From the ground, it was an easy task to discover where Jublain had landed, and she continued, soon finding herself in the interactive firing range Twomoons had set up called the Gauntlet.
Rabbie, knowing she's on Flea's trail, hurried, also negotiating Jublain's Reach easily, but she was stumped by Jublain's leap. First suspecting that he Stepped Sideways again, she Reached herself, searching the Umbra for tracks. Finding none there, she Reached again, searching for tracks. Several minutes were wasted in such fashion, giving Flea a solid lead, before she noted the way Jublain's tracks were set--apparently, he had lept. With that information she went to the ground below the pile and caught the trail. She hurried, but without something serious to help she already knew she'd lost.
Erin, after several minutes of futile search, finally Reached himself, and snarled in frustration when he found the tracks of Jublain--and the other two--waiting for him. Burning Rage to catch up, he almost missed the second Reach, but managed to follow. Erin didn't need to figure out Jublain's trick with the junkpile--as soon as he reached the top he could see Rabbie disappearing around the curve.
Jack, on the other hand, walked over to Val, who was standing by the fridge. "Hey Val you got any of that plant stuff that tastes so good? Valorian or Valerian or whateverian?" He adjusted his crotch again, grinning more than a little madly, and Val, looking confused, gave him some. She asked where Jack had heard of the stuff, and Jack simply grinned.
"A little rat told me?" he replied, and with a click of his fingers the Queen's Retinue--the rat-spirits that usually surround the leader of the Ratkin--comes out of the woodwork and crawls onto her shoulders. Val and Mere made appropriate noises of surprise while Lisa adjusted the appendages she's not used to having. "Just playing a joke on Bubbly-Jubbly. This had a point when I started, but it's so fun I forgot."
Flea reached the Gauntet and found that the tracks lead right in. Her cheerful outlook was interrupted quickly when three stinging paintballs slammed into her shoulder and side, and began to hurry. Apparently Jublain's intention was that she would race through to the end and attempt to pick up the tracks there, but she kept to the trail despite the irritation and pain, and when Jublain's trail took a sharp turn to the left she followed it effortlessly. From here, the trail was easy to follow, seeing as Jublain left splotches of paint as well as scent-trail behind him--until she came to where he was waiting.
Lisa headed back into the Maze, still wearing her Dopple-ganger disquise.
Rabbie ran along as fast as she could manage without losing the trail, Erin on her heels. Erin, having a pretty damn good idea, surged ahead of Rabbie, following Flea's fresher trail rather than Jublain's. Having all four legs working in comparison to Erin's three, Rabbie kept up with him easily--and both saw Lisa, still disguised as Jack, fly over them in a huge leap, give them both the finger, and continue into the maze.
Jublain saw Flea and immediately unleashed the frost--the huge hammer Kjede-Bryter flew from his hand, flying out at her. Quickly, Flea ducked aside, and the hammer disappeared in a puff of frost. Flea's Rage flew, forcing her up into Hispo as she darted past, ducking rather impressively past Jublain's next throw. By the time the hammer again returned toJublain's paw, Flea was well past him and picking up the trail again. Lisa was watching, and waiting until the other two made their try.
Erin, hoping to gain an advantage, slowed down abruptly, and as Rabbie bumped into him the Falling Touch sent her sprawling painfully to the dirt. To add insult to injury, several paintballs spattered her now-exposed belly. By the time she got back to her feet, Erin had found the trail, but instead Reached into the Umbra, trying to lead Rabbie off. Rabbie, following the trail rather than Erin, was not fooled, and thus was the first to reach Jublain.
Rabbie was not so quick or so lucky as Flea, and the first hurl of Jublain's hammer slammed into her ribs, breaking bones and rupturing organs. She collapsed, unconscious, and Erin, directly behind her, charged.
It was at this point that Lisa appeared behindJublain. His parry wasn't quite quick enough, but the blow that was supposed to pierce his spine skidded off his hip and the thick warts that coated him for armor. She also planted a kiss on the top of his head, an act which left him extremely worried--especially the next day when he found a gift on his pillow. Lisa has finally managed to frighten him.
Flea continued to follow the trail, past where the scent and the blotches somehow seperated, to where it travelled below a six-foot-high ledge--and the tracks again disappeared. This time Flea searched both the physical world and the Umbral, before she Reached back to the Tellurian and her sensitive nose caught the scent above her head. A strong leap allowed her to scrabble onto the ledge, and a quick check revealed that his tracks did indeed continue from the ledge.
She followed, and from here the trail was plain, leading to a small clearing in the junk. On a tire in the center of this space lay Morningstar, the chain curled around the heavy ball. Grinning, she shifted to Crinos and picked up the flail, silently asking the spirit's consent. The handle fitted itself firmer into her palm and the spikes on the heavy ball didn't just bead but dripped blood, and Flea's howl of triumph rang out through the caern.
Erin charged, trying to tackle Jublain, and instantly regretted it--Jublain slammed the spiked head of the hammer into the wolf's chest, and it fell.
Lisa turned to Erin. "Alright, you want a fuckin' piece of me--" and dropped the gift, letting her true form show, "pip?"
Erin ignored her, carrying Rabbie back to the gathering area, and Lisa shouted a string of insults which he similarily ignored. Jublain simply watched.
Once the two left Lisa looked over at Jublain. "So who won it?"
Jublain shrugged, and used one of his Gifts to speak in the rat tongue--to speak the human language would have meant shifting to Homid, and that was a good way to invite a knife in the back from whatever allies she'd brought along. "Flea, from the sound of it."
"Ooh, the respectful one?" Lisa smiled. "I'll let her keep it, then."
Jublain has heard enough of Lisa's grandiosity to bore him half to death already, and he simply shrugged. "Good idea."
Jublain knows the pattern, and as predicted the arrogance increased. "Not like you could stop me if I did."
Jublain shrugged again--who needs little kids when you have Ratkin? He spoke over his shoulder as he headed back to the gathering area. "Of course not. You'd kill me without half trying, and then save the caern single-handed again." This being a conversation he had had with her before, it gained the expected response.
Lisa hissed in the Garou's ear. "I know where you sleep."
Jublain's only response was a snort, and failing to manipulate him into anger, Lisa left. Jublain continued on his path.
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