The Dancers

Original post to Darkwind’s Garou Board as "Wolf Tales (15)" on Friday, 05 December 2004 19:46

Revised 12.10.2021

"Dancers" is simply the short name that the Garou give to a very peculiar -- and very dangerous -- tribe of Garou (or EX-garou). Their full name: The Black Spiral Dancers. It is a name that no self-respecting Garou utters willingly or casually, but only when necessity dictates and then only with great loathing; or perhaps pity for what has become of their former brethren.

"Former", mind you. Over a millennium ago, before their corruption, the Dancers were part of the Garou Nation and had a different name: The White Howlers. The Howlers had a reputation as savages -- not surprising, considering their kinship with the Picts and the Fianna. Still, the Howlers were proud members of the Garou Nation and, although there was sometimes friction with the other tribes, all had a common enemy -- the Wyrm.

And the White Howlers certainly did their part in the War, fighting the Wyrm as devoutly as any other. But their enthusiasm proved their undoing, for in their zeal to destroy the Wyrm, in their blind rage, their overriding desire to end it once and for all, they attacked the Wyrm directly before they were mentally prepared for the danger. The Howlers crossed over into the Umbra -- the Spirit World -- and into Malfeas, the Wyrm's very home. And there the servants of the Wyrm tricked them into dancing the Black Spiral.

The ritual irrevocably twisted the White Howlers and drove them insane. The Wyrm then took control of them and ever after, they've been known as The Black Spiral Dancers -- the Wyrm's own Garou, its most potent and demoralizing weapon against the Garou Nation.

Dancers live underground, in labyrinthine cave systems called "Hives", analogous to the "Caerns" of the Garou Nation. But "Caern" is too sacred a word to use to describe anything related to the Wyrm and so the Garou call them "hives". Dancers themselves aren't difficult to recognize. Most of them are physically ugly, independent of what form they're in. As homids, they tend to be pale, with oily, unkempt hair and unhealthy skin. Many have open sores. In lupus and crinos, their heads resemble those of the hyena and their teeth are jagged and crooked. Their ears are pointy and hairless, like a bat's.

Even normal humans can see that there is something "wrong" with a homid Dancer in their midst -- but they would go mad indeed if they had any idea of the creature's true nature.

Even more disturbing than their physical ugliness is that sound -- the mad call of the whippoorwill, their tribal totem. When the Dancers come for you, that's the last sound you hear before death -- if you're lucky; or capture -- if you're woefully un-lucky ... for The Black Spiral Dancers are always looking for breeding stock, toys or things to sacrifice to the Wyrm.

And that brings us back to our Pack -- three lupus, two crinos, and a homid, standing in a dewy field in the predawn hour, totally still, listening to the barely-audible, mad call of the whippoorwill somewhere in the distance, cursed with full knowledge of its implications, perhaps envious of the humans, elves, dwarves, and others asleep in their beds, blissfully ignorant of the horrid things going bump in the night.

Shamaness closes her eyes and begins to sway slightly from side-to-side, signalling the onset of a Vision. Leader and Older Sister remain standing, not moving and trying to breathe as quietly as possible. Our Wolf, Younger Sister, and Keeper are also still, straining to hear any recurrence of the sound.

Shamaness stops swaying and opens her eyes. "I cannot see them," she says aloud, perhaps because the slowness of real speech allows more time to think. "I see only the village in the distance."

Leader: Just one?

"Yes, it is the only one, and I looked wide. It is beyond narrow." By which Shamaness means: she can discern the distant village with "wide" vision, which finds many things over a great distance, but doesn't see them clearly, but it's too far away for "narrow" vision, which would allow her to see things happening in the village, were it close enough.

Leader nods. Pup Guide.

The Wolf glances at Leader, thinking he misunderstood. He's never been tapped to be the Guide before. But Leader's steady gaze confirms it. Swallowing nervously, the Wolf sets out. His first thought is to try to home in on it by estimating the direction from which the sound came, but it was too faint to be sure, so he simply relaxes (as much as one can "relax" whilst running on all fours) and feels for it with his intuition.

The Pack fans out again, but this time, since they know what they're hunting, they remain within 500 meters of each other and Shamaness stays as close to Pup as possible, closing up when he halts, as she still remains in homid form. Every few hundred meters, he stops to listen for the whippoorwill or whatever Intuition tells him. Each time, he waits for Shamaness to catch up before starting out again.

On one of the stops, when the Pack is nearly 10 kilometers from the spot where Pup first heard the whippoorwill, Shamaness lays her hand on his head. "Wait," she says. She sways again, eyes closed, frowns at whatever she sees in the Vision. As she opens her eyes, the rest of the Pack closes up.

"I see the village now in narrow," she sighs. "There are no Dancers there. The ground is bloody and corpses litter it."

Leader: Survivors?

Shamaness shakes her head. "None in the village. If there are, they have either fled or been taken."

Younger Sister: Too late we are?

"To prevent this, yes."

The whippoorwill sounds again. This time, Leader and Older Sister, in crinos, can just make it out, while the three lupus hear it stronger than before.

Keeper:  Mayhap not all too late.

Leader: Continue Pup.

There are no further signs along the way and so the Pack arrives in the village. The scents confirm that there was indeed a raid -- even Shamaness in homid can tell that. There's no scent of anything alive (nothing humanoid, anyway) and so the Pack enters the place and gathers info...

The Dancers left about an hour ago. They came from the northeast and departed the same way. The Pack estimates their number as at least 20, but no more than 30. There were isolated struggles, but no serious resistance from the villagers -- the hour was that typical pre-dawn time when humans sleep so deeply that you can steal the bed out from under them. Judging by the number and sizes of the various buildings, the village's population (before the raid, of course) must have been at least 75 but no more than 100. Exactly 27 corpses lay on the ground, mostly adult males, some of them partially eaten. There are no tracks or scents of any kind leading anywhere but northeast; ergo, the Dancers took the rest with them.

All this the Pack gathers with their heightened senses and then shares and cross-checks with each other via telepathy. Seven minutes after entering the village, the Pack knows it all.

They rally up on the northeast edge of the village, where the Dancers came and went.

Leader: Thoughts?

By this, Leader does not mean, "should we or shouldn't we?" The answer to that question is only too obvious -- the Garou don't allow Dancers to have the run of anyplace on Gaea's Green Earth as long as the Garou have life in their bodies. That the Pack will continue the Hunt is a given that no one doubts, even for a moment. This Garou Pack is, by this time, experienced and cohesive -- they don't need to be long-winded (or "long-thought") with their telepathic communication. They know each other enough to get whole thoughts from short messages.

So what Leader really said (thought), translated into normal verbose speech, is: "Does anyone have any other relevant info or opinion to share before we set off northeast? Anything that we should consider? Anything that might influence our next action that we should be aware of now?"

Keeper: Dawn less hour. Remote few.

("We have less than an hour before dawn. However, this location is a remote wasteland with very few inhabitants.")

Older Sister: Veil hold yes.

("If we must fight without cover of darkness, then I believe no non-garou will observe us and thus we will preserve the secrecy of the Garou from their unsuspecting eyes and insufficiently developed awareness.")

Younger Sister:  Good dark. Shock.

("Still, fighting by darkness will be to our advantage when we take on the Dancers, for the element of surprise will be easier to gain.")

Older Sister nods her wolfish head.

Power overwhelming destroy now.

Five heads of various forms turn sharply toward our Pup, who blinks at himself in surprise. Did he really send that thought? Yes, he did. It came from deep within him and without his conscious will to guide it. He has no idea why. The Pack senses his confusion.

Keeper: Dancers?

("You mean the Dancers are 'overwhelming'? Surely not. Dangerous yes, but not above our ability to fight.")

Wolf: More. Know must. Is.

("I cannot explain. I simply know that, whatever is ahead, it is not only about a Dancer raid and dead or captured villagers. There is something more important at work here. It is simply so.")

Leader nods. Best speed. Find. Then wait.

("Go as fast as possible and find them now. This means that you three in lupus will arrive first and Shamaness last, but we must catch them now and find out what they're up to. When you get there, wait for the Pack to close up -- do not attack until we are all there and I give the order.")


And the Pack moves.