The Pup

Original post to Darkwind’s Garou Board as "Wolf Tales (24)" on 30 September 2004

Revised 21.11.2021

"The Moot is adjourned," declares the silver-haired man holding the rock. He brings it down hard on the stone pedestal before him. A loud >crack< splits the air around the assembled Garou, followed by a collective sigh of relief. The Council Moot thus finished, its members disperse.

None more relieved than Nagha, Pack Leader of the Moon Runners. He runs a hand over his mostly bald head, lets loose a tired, but happy sigh and heads toward the pack cave to give the good news of the Council's decision.

But someone stands in his way. Nagha blinks, then recognizes Ranolf, Pack Leader of the Uktena. Nagha smiles and bows his head. "Ranolf."

The Uktena Leader bows back. "Nagha. May I walk with you?"

Nagha pauses. He'd rather return to the pack cave, but Ranolf obviously wants something and Nagha owes him. So he simply replies, "I'd be delighted."

The two walk quietly for a time before Ranolf breaks the silence. "Not an easy vote, was it?"

"No," agrees Nagha. "And my thanks again to you. Your speech swayed the Undecided."

"You're very welcome, Nagha," replies the Uktena. "Your Pup was heroic. He deserves nothing less than the Renown coming to him."

The scene at the just-concluded moot flashes before Nagha's eyes. The Get of Fenris fiercely opposed him, but Nagha was certain that a Shadow Lord put them up to it; he has enemies there and they've been trying to reduce his standing with the Council for some time. They'd vote against anything, if it came from Nagha.

That aside, the objective problem was -- as always -- Marcus' "Ronin" status -- a Garou without a "Tribe" -- the "extended family" whose members share a common totem and philosophy. Most Packs in the Sept have members all of the same Tribe, but some, like Nagha's Moon Runners, are mixed. The tribeless Ronin is almost always a lone wolf -- shadowy, secretive, mistrusted -- and ripe for the Wyrm, which is always glad to find an idle Garou.

But Marcus the Moon Runner Pup is different, for although he has no Tribe, he does have a Pack. Nagha took him in when no one else would. And through the Pack, the Pup enjoys protection from those who distrust him and his Ronin status.

To be sure, Marcus is not exactly Ronin by choice -- he simply doesn't know which tribe is for him. On the few occasions when he thought a certain one fit, his intuition held him back -- and Ronin he remained. "Don't worry, Pup," his Pack Leader reassured him. "When the time is right, it will come. Until then, don't force it and don't give in to pressure from fools."

The Shadow Lords saw their chance to undermine Nagha and, with some behind-the-scenes whispering, they won over the Get of Fenris, who are always more apt to tear out a throat first and ask questions later. Their wild rhetoric, absurd though it was, touched the nerve of mistrust that Garou naturally feel toward the Ronin and, by association, toward the Wyrm.

And the Silver Fangs, who traditionally lead the Garou and whose senior member happens to be the Grand Elder Sept Leader, began to doubt. That was when Ranolf, Pack Leader and Tribal Elder of the Uktena, spoke. As strange as the Uktena are in the eyes of most Garou, no one can argue that, when it comes to Wyrm issues, none are more qualified to speak. And so Ranolf reminded the Council that Marcus the Ronin not only detected the Wyrmling when no one else managed to, but he also showed incredible bravery by charging an elder Black Spiral Dancer holding a ball of balefire -- the same Dancer and balefire that had, just a moment before, crippled his Pack Keeper, a Garou well known as one of the finest warriors in the Sept.

Ranolf concluded by noting that, although Ronin are loners -- secretive and in most cases untrustworthy -- the Silver Record also speaks of Ronin who are among the greatest of Garou heroes. "Through his intuition and bravery, this Pup quite possibly saved us all!"

And that did it -- Marcus would get his Renown.

Nagha's thoughts return to the present and he nods. "It seems the debt my pack owes yours, Uktena, just keeps growing. First Rikard and now Marcus."

Ranolf shrugs and smiles. "One paw washes the other, Moon Runner."

It's a pleasant conversation, but Nagha's intuition tells him that Ranolf hasn't yet talked about the real reason for this late-night stroll. So they walk some more, in silence. Nagha's patience finally pays off as Ranolf stops and Nagha does likewise. "You know that I didn't bring you out here to look at the moon and stars, Nagha."

"I do."

The Uktena Leader looks away for a moment, face conflicted, like one who has a difficult subject to talk about and isn't sure how to approach it. Finally, he looks back at the Moon Runner Leader. "Nagha, your Pup is special."

Nagha blinks. "I'm well aware of it," he replies simply.

Ranolf frowns. "I don't think you understand what I mean. You have a fine pack, Nagha. One of the best. And you know I say this only because I believe it."

Nagha knows. The Utkena don't play politics. A compliment from them is just that -- a compliment. "Your words are kind, Ranolf. I thank you."

Ranolf nods and shifts his gaze reflectively before looking back at Nagha. And this time his expression is so piercing that Nagha is taken aback.

"Nagha, given the talent and ability in the Garou above him in your pack, have you not wondered why only your youngest Pup was able to discern the presence of what is the most significant physical manifestation of the Wyrm in this Sept's collective memory?"

Nagha takes a moment before he replies, "Of course I have."

"And have you found the answer?"

A sigh. "No, I have not." A raised eyebrow. "Have you the answer to this puzzle, Ranolf?"

Ranolf nods gravely. "I do, Nagha. But the answer may disturb you."

Nagha's eyes narrow. "Try me."

Ranolf purses his lips, gathers himself. Then he says, "Marcus is not merely intuitive -- he is genuinely Wyrm-sensitive."

Neither moves. Each stares unblinking into the eyes of the other. A gentle breeze blows. An owl hoots in the distance.

Nagha breaks the silence. "You are certain of this, Ranolf?"

"Beyond any doubt, Nagha."

Nagha narrows his eyes again. "And what do you suggest?"

Ranolf hesitates -- this is the tricky part... "I suggest that--"

"Your hesitation reveals you, Uktena!" interrupts Nagha. His lips pull back to reveal sharp teeth that catch the light of the moons and his voice rises dangerously. "Do you think I don't know what you would 'suggest'?" Then, in a lower voice, which is even more threatening, "Tell me, Uktena -- are you so desperate for new members that you would stoop to poaching from others?"

Ranolf holds Nagha's gaze. "And tell me, Moon Runner -- are you so full of pride that you would deny the Will of Gaea and the one to whom she bestows Her gift?"

"You cannot have Marcus!"

"I don't want him, you fool!"

Nagha growls deeply and he takes a step in Ranolf's direction. "Call me 'fool' again, Uktena, and we go to fang and claw!"

Ranolf stares back. "Got your attention, did I?"

With that, something loosens in Nagha. He blinks. Then smiles and relaxes. "Grace under pressure," he says with a nod. "Always your strong suit." He sighs. "All right, Ranolf -- what's on your mind?"

Ranolf sighs with profound relief -- the tension is broken and the danger is past; now he can make his point.

"I do not want Marcus in my pack, Nagha. He is your Pup and belongs with you. But he is Wyrm-sensitive -- even more so than my tribesmen/packmates, considering his youth. Only that can explain recent events. It is so strong in him that only he could sense what was coming. He has a latent power that saved us all. And we must develop it. Nurture it! Because my heart tells me that we'll need it again perhaps sooner than we think."

"Again, what do you suggest?"

Ranolf's expression turns hopeful and he moves closer to Nagha to stare earnestly in his eyes. "Let us work with him. Let Uziah, Tamika and I show him how to harness his perception, to channel it properly. Let us mentor him on this path!"

Nagha shakes his head. "You will only divide his loyalties."

"No, Nagha, it will not come to that. We know how to do this. Believe me that it is for Marcus' own good. He has a power that confuses him and fills his heart with doubt. Untrained, it will tear his spirit asunder. But if we help him, he will learn to use it for the good of all."

Nagha is silent.

"Nagha," continues Ranolf in a softer voice. "All this time, Marcus has been plagued with uncertainty over his role. The answer is clearer now. Let it be. You and I can see it through with him. When we're done, he will be who he is meant to be. And that includes being a Moon Runner".

Nagha closes his eyes and thinks. Then he opens them and nods. "Very well. So be it. However -- we will not start this until he returns from Kerei. He departs the day after the Revel."

Ranolf blinks. "You're sending him away so soon?"

"Yes," replies Nagha. "Weapons training. He's earned it. And he's looking forward to it so much. I'll not deny him."

Ranolf frowns and looks off into the distance for a while. Then he looks at Nagha. "Do not send him away. Not yet."

Nagha shakes his head. "No, Ranolf. I cannot grant that. The Revel is in four days and he goes to Kerei the day after. This can wait -- it won't harm him."

"Yes, I know," replies Ranolf distantly. "But that is not what I fear."

Nagha would laugh it off, but something in Ranolf's manner gives him pause. "What do you fear, then?" he asks. "What do you see?"

Ranolf falls silent and thinks for a few minutes. Nagha patiently waits.

Ranolf sighs and says, "I don't know. I cannot see this clearly. But my heart gives me warning. Keep him here a while, Nagha! Delay this trip six months. Or even just a few months! Give us some time to ... to ..."

"To what, Ranolf?"

But the Uktena merely shakes his head. "I don't know. I simply feel that you should keep Marcus near the Sept a while longer. It may be ... important. I ... cannot explain more." Ranolf gives an apologetic shrug.

Nagha considers. What does the Uktena feel? Nagha himself feels nothing. Is Ranolf being overly cautious? Probably, given recent events; just erring on the safe side. And yet, what if there is something? But the danger is past, isn't it? The Dancers are dead and the Wyrmling no more. Why hold Marcus back over what is probably nothing? No, the Pup deserves better.

"Ranolf, thank you for sharing your thoughts. We will both see to it that Marcus learns what he must from your Tribe. But he goes to Kerei. He'll be available to train with your pack upon his return."

Ranolf is silent for moment. Then he sighs and nods. "Yes, Nagha. Very well. It shall be as you say. And I thank you."

Ranolf bows. Nagha does the same and then extends his hand. Ranolf smiles and takes it gladly. "An eventful day, yes?"

Nagha chuckles. "Indeed! And now let's go home, shall we?"

They walk back to the Sept in silence. When they arrive, they bid each other a good night and go their separate ways.