The Dancer

Original post to Darkwind’s Garou Board as "Wolf Tales (19)"

Revised: 23.10.2021

The five remaining Dancers, all crinos, speed northeast, away from the battle, five Garou in hot pursuit. Keeper, Pup and Younger Sister, the three lupus wolves, close the distance first and attack, at which point all five Dancers swing about and fight back. Six seconds later, three wolves are down, stunned and the five Dancers speed away again.

Leader catches up. OK?

Keeper: Best last.

("They saved their best fighters for last").

The three shake it off and regain their four feet.

Leader: Together. Shanti?

Shanti the Shamaness:  On my way!

Leader: Catch best. Four close.

(Catch up as best you can. The four of us will close on them).

1,000 meters later, they do just that. This time, four of the Dancers hang back to fight while the fifth keeps going.

Eight seconds later, many things happen at once. The four Dancers are no more. Leader and Younger Sister are wounded, not badly, but enough that they must regain strength and close their wounds before they dare continue. The Pup is just scratched, but he needed a long time to bring his Dancer down and is just finishing. Shanti closes up and quickly lays hands on the two down Garou, softly speaks the healing words. Keeper took down his opponent first, so he's already bounding away, closing on the last, lone Dancer.

But said Dancer is no longer running. He stops after 100 meters and now faces the five Defenders of Gaea. Behind him, a curious-looking mound gently rises up, about two meters high at the top and perhaps 20 meters in diameter at its base. Pup now sees it and, for some reason that he doesn't understand, it fills him with dread ... some nameless fear that he knows he should recognize, but can't place.

The Dancer -- biggest one of the lot and obviously the leader -- stands his ground, breathes heavily, concentrates his malevolent gaze on the lupus Garou surging toward him.

Keeper is far gone with feral rage. His only thought as he races along is how good it will feel to close his jaws like a vise around the neck of that last Dancer and hold them there until there's one less Servant of the Wyrm walking Gaea's Green Earth.

But Shanti's head is clear and thus does she see what Keeper does not. And with that realization, the cold hand of terror closes around her spine.

No, Rikard, no!

Her thought is so strong that it penetrates the haze of Keeper's rage -- and he sees. The Dancer's right hand. Coming up to head-level, palm toward Keeper. And in that palm, a sickly kind of green fireball, pulsating with malicious intelligence.

Balefire.

Rikard the Pack Keeper is 50 meters from his prey. It may as well be 50 kilometers. He'll never make it, not before...

Shanti: Rikard, hold!

He skids to a stop, brakes with all four paws, his widened eyes inexorably drawn to the green ball of flame in the Dancer's hand.

The Shamaness prays desperately. Sister Luna, hear me now. Guide and protect! She extends her hand in Keeper's direction, bends all her willpower toward him, hopes against hope that it's not too late.

The Dancer roars and hurls the ball of green flame toward Rikard.

One does not "dodge" Balefire. It is the very lifeblood of the Wyrm and, as such, possesses an evil intelligence all its own. Once released, it will strike its target. One can only resist it. If one can.

A beam of moonlight -- shining brightly in the light of the dawn of the new day -- reaches down from the heavens and shines upon Rikard, forms a luminous, white glow around his head before quickly fading away.

Shamaness sobs in gratitude and collapses from her exertion. Will it be enough?

Rikard stands his ground and watches the fireball quickly fill his sight. Oh Mighty Gaea, Earth Mother Eternal , give me strength! And he roars his defiance as the Balefire slams into him.

The impact knocks him off his paws and somersaults him backwards. Energies of Green Fire and White Light sizzle and crackle and fight each other for control of his body as he tumbles. The Green weakens. But the White is consumed.

Keeper's lupine body smacks the ground in a tangle of fur, teeth and limbs. His roar of defiance quickly turns into an impossibly
high-pitched scream of agony that goes on and on, changing tone as the trauma forces his body from lupus to crinos and all the way back to homid.

Leader tries to stand, but it's still too early and his legs buckle. Just one more minute! ... but there's no time. Even now, another green ball forms in the Dancer's hand. Leader knows the tactical drill: two attackers run flat out at the target -- one takes the Balefire and the other takes the Dancer. There's no other way.

Shanti reaches Rikard's side. He's still screaming and writhing. She tries to lay her hands on him to to form the heal, but only burns her fingers.

Damnation, if only we'd been ready! thinks Leader in profound, helpless frustration. But Rikard had to attack alone -- all other pack members were out of position ... Older Sister far behind and wounded ... Shanti too slow in homid ... Leader and Younger Sister hurt and recovering ... and the Pup needed too much time to take down his Dancer -- well, he's a Pup after all, so -- Leader blinks in surprise. The Pup is no longer there. Now where in all the--

As if Fate guides him, Leader turns his head toward the Dancer. His mouth falls open. The next green fireball is almost fully formed, pulsates wickedly as the Dancer raises his hand to throw it. He needs only seconds. But that is not why Leader gapes.

A streak of grey. Moving so fast that one can't tell what it is unless one already knows. And in a flash of recognition, Leader does
know. The Pup. It can be nothing else. The Dancer's hand and the lethal object it holds reaches shoulder level. He has only to cock it back and let it fly. He's already fixed his target: the grey blur barrelling toward him. And with sickening clarity, Leader knows that the Pup is going to die -- no other result is possible. Either the Balefire will take him or this Dancer -- powerful enough to summon the Flame of the Wyrm -- will obliterate him in paw-to-paw combat.

Leader scrambles to his feet, ignores the pain, manages to stand by sheer willpower and a little help from his halberd, on which he leans.

Rikard no longer screams, only because he's unconscious. Shanti now manages to touch him without getting burned, her lips moving as she invokes Rejuvenation.

And just before the Dancer can bring his hand forward for the fatal throw, the Streak of Grey slams into him. Wolf of Gaea and Wolfbeast of Wyrm tumble and roll over each other. The ball of green flame drops from the beast's hand, weakens, loses consistency and dissipates as it hits the ground.

The Pup has his jaws on the Dancer's neck. He closes his eyes and bites down with everything he has, concentrating on nothing else except making his teeth come together. But they're not even close. The Dancer has a hand on each jaw and holds them apart.

The Pup opens his eyes and meets the Dancer's gaze -- a mix of hatred and malicious pleasure. The Dancer frees his neck and flings the Pup away. Pup hits the ground, rolls and gets his four paws under himself. But before he can do more, a great, clawed hand closes around the scruff of his neck. His paws completely leave the ground, he sails through the air and smacks head-first into the side of the strange mound. Stars form in his head, dizziness takes him and he vomits.

Again the hand closes on his neck, this time the underside. The Dancer lifts the Pup with one paw and holds him off the ground at arm's length. Pup struggles wildly, head twists savagely in a desperate effort to free himself, four legs flail in the air. Hopeless. He can't breathe and the world is going black. He meets the Dancer's gaze again and sees his enemy's amusement.

And then amazement. The Dancer's eyes are suddenly wide with it and the grip on Pup's neck loosens ... then releases. Pup falls to the ground, coughing and gagging.

The Dancer turns sideways. There's something sticking in his back. A halberd. Leader's halberd. Leader himself about five meters away, limping, but approaching quickly. He must have thrown it like a spear.

The Dancer manages to reach around behind him, grasp the weapon and pull it free -- just as Leader's fist connects with his head. The Dancer staggers backward and the halberd falls to the ground. Leader rolls, picks it up and, as the Dancer recovers and leaps at him, Leader buries the pointed, forward end of his weapon in the Dancer's chest.

The Dancer convulses, eyes wide. Leader pushes, howling with the effort. The Dancer lands on his back, the halberd still in his
chest and Leader leaning on the halberd.

The Dancer's massive, clawed hands closed on the weapon's shaft, try to pull it free. Leader howls again and twists the weapon
savagely. The Dancer's hands flail outward and the great maw vomits blood.

Leader puts his back into it, leans on his weapon, grits teeth with the exertion. Again the Dancer's hands grab the shaft. Again Leader twists the halberd, roars, locks eyes with his foe.

And after what seems an eternity, Leader understands that the eyes staring back, defiant though they be, no longer contain the spark of life.

Leader relaxes, releases the weapon, falls to his knees and crashes to the ground next to his foe.

Done, he thinks, flat on his back, panting with exhaustion. It is done.

No.

Leader frowns in surprise. He turns his head toward the Pup, who stands and gazes up at the strange mound.

Not yet.

The Pup begins to walk up the little hill.