Coyote: The Packmind/Chapter 8
(The party that returned to Fairhaven has spent two largely-uneventful days down there and are preparing to return, as promised.)
Sorien softly churrs, "You ready for this? It shouldn't be any big deal, just a drive there and back to get Spar. Thanks for deciding to come; REDACTED wasn't happy with me going alone."
Apostasy nods and smiles. "No problem Sor. Should be a cakewalk."
Cilan shrugs and replies, "Not a problem, Sorien, anything to help my friends, and family!" a smile pulling at her lips as she says that.
Sorien softly churrs, "Oh, NOW you've done it." (giggle)
Sorien softly churrs, "Family is a good thing."
Apostasy grins. "What's life without challenges, Sor?"
Sorien softly churrs, "True. I was tempted to have REDACTED and Kaylah along to meet Coyote, but I figure, if he wants to meet the god-daughter, he can drag his fuzzy ass here."
Apostasy giggles. "That only seems fair. And it's probably best not to be taking the little fuzzball into Oregon just yet."
Sorien softly churrs, "Yeah. Just a little too freaky-creepy with the Packs."
Cilan lustily hisses, "Yeah.. you never know what we might find, and might expose her to.. the little fuzz-ball’s probably too young yet for most of that stuff.."
Apostasy seductively says, "Just a tad."
Sorien softly churrs, "It’s all fuelled up. You guys need to get anything?"
Cilan shakes her head.
Apostasy shakes her head. "Nope, all good here. Shall we get this show on the road, then?"
Sorien softly churrs, "I got the fridge packed with sliced meat and cheese, and there’s mustard and mayo. Bread's in the kitchen overhead, so if you want a snack there's food."
Apostasy grins. "Sounds good." She moves to the door, and climbs aboard the bus.
Sorien softly churrs, "Let’s roll then." (She starts the bus, waits til everyone's aboard and starts out.)
Cilan enters the bus and makes her way to the back, once there, she pulls a rather large bag out of her pack, and tears it open, putting her hand into the pulling out a handful of wine-gums, apparently snack food for the bus trip..
Apostasy giggles at Cil. "Still have some of those left? I think I ate all mine a while ago."
Sorien softly churrs, "Why you sitting way back there? Hard to talk across the length of the bus, silly!"
Apostasy grins. "She's a sniper. Hanging out way in back is what snipers do. I know, I was one."
The bus ride itself is smooth, the second time travelled by the three. The pathway north takes them through the grand redwood forest, and then southern Oregon's national forests. After a while it gets really boring seeing nothing but trees. The pathway to Crater Lake is far calmer, not having to dodge abandoned cars with the bus, but the roadway is much narrower.
Sorien softly churrs, "Yeah, but who is there to snipe but me? ...Don't answer that."
Cilan lustily hisses, "Heh.. yeah, sorry I just can’t fight the habits like that.. but.." rising from her seat next, she moves closer to Apostasy, sitting in the seat across from her, ".. I think I can change, at least once and a while.."
Sorien softly churrs, "Change is often good. Not always of course... "
(Sorien is starting to doze off by the time they reach the designated place, it's amazing how boring such beautiful wildlife can be. A deer jumps in front of the bus running across the road and is almost clipped.)
Sorien softly churrs, "Ack!"
Sparhawk likes trees! Some downtime in the Aassahke village is spent attempting to climb trees, but being generally dissatisfied with the process. Either the hexataur's too heavy and awkward, or the antigravity pack's sputtering life feels like cheating.
Sorien slows down after that. "Whoa..."
Apostasy blinks. "Whoa. That was a close one. If you were feeling tired you should've asked to swap with Cil, Sor."
Sorien softly churrs, "(sigh) My fault. It just happened. If you wanna swap, we can."
Cilan nods affirmatively, "Yeah, I’d have gladly taken your spot if you were too tired.."
Afterward, there's not much further activity before they reach the campground parking lot. The same empty buildings and half dozen abandoned cars and trucks are still there.
Sorien blinks. “Oh. Duh. we're here. (giggle) You can take first shift back then.”
Sorien pulls the bus up in front of the restrooms like before.
Sorien softly churrs, "Right. Rest break then hiking time!"
Apostasy climbs off the bus and stretches out. "Ahhhh.... stupid long bus trips.... why couldn't Coyote just have picked somewhere nearby? Would've been so much more convenient."
Sorien softly churrs, "Yeah, but then the Packs would have been in Fairfield. Would that be fun? I don't think so." (She waits till Apo and Cil are off the bus, then secures it.)
Apostasy seductively says, "Not necessarily... the packs aren't Coyote's thing, why would him being closer to Fairhaven make them closer?"
Strangely a birdcall can be heard in the distance, which is in stark contrast with the silence that has generally filled Oregon for so long. Perhaps a sign of some wildlife returning with the pack gone.
Sorien softly churrs, "... True. But he got the... Hum. Hear that?"
Apostasy headtilts, her ears flicking towards the sound. "That... is new. Been dead silent every other time we've been here."
Sorien softly churrs, "Yeah. Hope it’s a good sign. Lets head for the wellspring."
Apostasy nods. "Sure thing. Lead on, mighty leader."
Sorien softly churrs, "Mighty. Riiight." (giggle)
The wellspring isn't hard to retrace, in fact the last few days of calm weather haven't even put a dent on the many footprints those who came this way before laid out. Spar, Apostasy and REDACTED' prints are all very easy to make out.
Sorien softly churrs, "Spar, you here sweetie?"
Cilan giggles in response to Apostasy’s comment, but remains silent, as she walks, taking up the rear of the group.
The wellspring is empty, although it looks like another fresh bowl has been placed at the ramshackle altar.
Apostasy looks around, and goes to inspect the altar. "Well, somebody's replaced Cil's burrito with a more traditional offering, so there's been at least some activity here since we last stopped by." Sorien follows the most recent Sparhawk-tracks.
Apostasy trails after Sorien, keeping an eye out for anything untoward.
The pathway from the wellspring leads through forests and clearings, a few miles at least in a direction heading northward around the coast of Crater lake. The foot traffic is heavier the further on, with far more visible Aassahke pawprints in the dirt.
Sorien softly churrs, "Heh. Quite the hike. If I were still human-flatfooted I'd be feeling this."
Apostasy grins. "Good thing none of us are then, isn't it?" She looks at the trail they're following. "Hell of a lot more Aassakhe tracks here. Maybe we're getting close to where they settled?" There are rocky crags every once in a while, and more heat-vents, but mostly forested areas. The forest thins out and into a large clearing where buildings and fire can be seen. The structures are fairly sporadic, some with more modern structures, while others look far more ancient and traditional in design.
Sorien softly churrs, "Could be. I'd like to see how many there are, and how they're doing."
Sparhawk has a tent constructed of white silk rubbed with local dirt, half-camouflaged against random glances. The cookfire out front is much easier to identify, as well as the unguarded yapping and chirping of Spar and the embodied pack-mind having a wrestle. Thus it is one of the other residents who spots the party first.
Cilan lustily hisses, "Yeah.. it’d be nice to see a few of them again.."
Sorien softly churrs, "It disturbs the hell out of me that we're seeing live vents though..."
Harry, herself is the first to spot the incoming, bounding out in her oddly animalistic gait for someone who still appears partially human. Her oversized tongue hanging out she hardly appears embarrassed by her nudity.
Apostasy shrugs. "Probably best not to think too much on that one. On the plus side, all these geysers and heat vents means an eruption is less likely, since they're releasing a lot of pressure." When she spots Harry, she smiles and waves. "Hey Harry!"
Sorien softly churrs, "Hi there!"
Harry leaps to hug Sorien in an embrace, clearly familiar with her despite never having seen her in that form before. She licks Sorien's face leaving a bit of dog slobber and says, "The old dog has been expecting you all, and would like a word with you before you take our guest. You're welcome to eat with us tonight as well, River's been cooking a stew." It comes out quite fast, almost hyper.
Cilan notices Harry as she returns to the group, prompting the lizardess to smile warmly and wave in her direction.
Sorien hugs back with a grin. "I think we can do that. Want to lead us in?"
Apostasy smiles. "Dinner sounds nice. Lead the way."
Sparhawk stops wrestling, on the underneath with a little coyote looking proud of her accomplishment. "Hey, visitors! Someone should come lift this terrifying beast off me so I can get up and greet you properly." The growl the little one gives is immediately followed by a face-licking assault, and giggles from both people involved.
Harry nods thoroughly, and turns around walking again in a comfortable quadrapedal state, a brisk pace for the group but certainly not the bounding sprint she used to come greet. As the party nears they can see some Aassahke about business, a very tall one appears to be cutting lumber, while a pregnant female is nearby him carrying the cut lumber away. Two female Aassahke are sitting around a fire in one another's arms, the rest appear to be indoors.
Sorien softly churrs, "So... How are things here so far, Harry?"
Apostasy looks around the village as they walk. "Was there... this many in the Dream? I don't remember such a big crowd...."
Cilan quickly parts from the group, and moves to the cut lumber, assisting the pregnant aassahke with the task, making sure that the coyote lady doesn’t have to do too much in her delicate condition, the entire time she says nothing to the group.
Sorien softly churrs, "I met... six or seven, but saw more that I never talked with. Some are probably kinda annoyed with me still."
"Master... I mean Carson, has been happy, very happy. It makes me happy. Lots of people, lots of life. New ones on the way. Only one left, though she came back to us in another form." Harry says over her shoulder. And to Apostasy she says, "Most yes, Dream's friends."
Sorien softly churrs, "Huh. Cool."
Apostasy nods. "Cool. Well, glad everyone is happy and healthy, I guess."
The pregnant Aassahke has jet black fur, and bright blue eyes, she says nothing to Cilan who offers help but neither does she deny the assistance or make any comment for that matter. The larger coyote that is chopping wood keeps up a furious pace.
Sorien softly churrs, "Hm... Should I shift? Would that be polite?"
Sorien softly churrs, "I might be able to... It’s a magic form after all. (She muses to herself)"
Apostasy shrugs. "If you want to try, go nuts. I'm not even gonna try though... REDACTED would murder me if you got hurt cause I wasn't at my best, even assuming I could shift."
Before Harry can respond to Sorien's comment, Carson strides out of a smaller tent, still clothed and looking a bit out of place with all the aassahke around. He smiles, and out behind him strides a female Aassahke, with grey fur and yellow eyes. She immediately waves at Apostasy and Sorien.
Apostasy waves back at the Aassakhe female, and smiles. "River. Nice to see you again. You're looking well."
Sparhawk rolls hir eyes and balances the packmind's host on hir shoulder before standing. "Fine, nobody comes over to help the gryphon in obvious distress! Guess I rescue myself this time." Shi comes trotting over to greet Sorien and co. but stops when Carson waves.
Sorien giggles at Spar. "Silly."
Cilan looks to the pregnant Aassahke as she passes, giving her a smile and a nod in greeting, but remaining quite silent, assisting the woman in the repetitive task of carting the chopped wood where it belongs.
Apostasy grins at Spar. "I figured you could probably manage yourself."
River gleams, surprised by Apostasy recognizing her. She moves forward to peck at Apostasy's cheek. "You're looking a different... gender now. Where you always female?" She asks.
Sorien bites back a grin.
Apostasy stands up straight again after bending down for River. She scratches awkwardly at the back of her neck. "Ermm... sort... of?"
Carson remains a bit quiet at the reunions, but before long he coughs, "We have something to discuss I believe before you all return to your home."
Sorien softly churrs, "Okay. In private or here?"
River says, "It's okay, you are big and strong either way." And then moves off to get food while saying, "I'll go make sure the stew is done."
Sparhawk waves people closer. "Come on, we can tell long and awkward stories some other time. There will be plenty of time for talking after we save this chunk of world."
Sorien softly churrs, "... Eep?"
Apostasy chuckles and smiles at River. She turns to Carson. "Ehh, yeah. Ok. Thing to discuss. Ready when you are."
Carson says, "Ya honestly think there's anything called privacy around these folk? Ya're out of your god damned mind. I can't go pee without one of them watching." His gruff demeanour hides a smirk.
Sorien giggles. "Right. Then lets to it."
Apostasy looks around. "Should we get Cil before we start?"
Sparhawk says unruffledly, "Just in case there's an earthworm pack out there somewhere just waiting for someone to wander off alone and get terribly slimed!" Shi sits at the cut-lumber benches where people assemble to chat.
Coyote gestures in the direction of the fire. The one of the two female Aassahke looks up toward the group and in a very American accent says, "Hi ya'll, he said you might all be returning." Even sitting she looks short and she has a dark black strip along her spine with mottled grey and tan fur over the rest. She's embracing a taller female who remains quiet and shy with the group.
Apostasy smiles. "Hey Shelley. Nice to see you're doing well for yourself. And uh... shit... sorry, forgot your friend's name. How's he... she... doing?"
Shelley's friend says, "The name used to be Ryan, but it's not very fitting anymore is it?" She returns to silence, but doesn't seem to be brooding, upset or lost like she was inside the dream. Shelley smiles and waves the three to sit down, saying, "I wanted to talk with you all before you go, so make sure you don't run off before I get to ask ya'll for a favour."
Carson says, "I'll have your friends, and all my people out here for this, it's important that we begin building contact."
Sparhawk listens more quietly as people shi met for the first time in the so-called real world talk like old friends with hir old friends. A whispered conversation with hir shoulder-sitter follows, Spar asking what the little coyote remembers about the dream's residents.
Apostasy takes a seat by the fire. "No problem Shelley, and I hope we can help."
In response Harry heads off to some of the tents to pull other Aassahke out, and ends with pulling Cilan over to the fire.
Cilan wanders back to the group with the assistance of Harry, a curious look on her face as she looks around and asks, "Uh.. hello, everyone.. did I miss anything?" noticing Shelley she gives her a wave and says, "Hello there.." before dropping into silence.
Apostasy waves Cilan over to sit beside her. "Not yet you haven't, sis. Just that Shelley wants a word with us before we leave."
Cilan nods affirmatively.
All told, there are eight Aassahke that gather around, two of them are pregnant and full of life, their pregnancies clearly accelerated like all the nanite life since the infection. An elder grey furred Aassahke remains largely quiet, listening and watching, another large male is sitting next to the other pregnant Aassahke, with tan fur and amber eyes.
Once everyone has settled, River begins bringing bowls of a fresh stew, though meatless it appears to have many different kinds of vegetables, and is actually tasty despite looking a little like sludge.
Apostasy takes the bowl and looks at it a little dubiously before taking a small, tentative taste. "Hey! This isn't too bad! Could use meat, but overall, good stuff."
Sparhawk nods politely to River and enjoys the stew, stopping in mid-slurp to say to Apo, "Yeah, the lack of prey animals around here is one of the problems. The packs take meat first when they can, and their biomass never re-enters the ground unless the pack dies as a whole."
Cilan raises the bowl a bit, nodding happily as she keeps eye contact with River, seeming to be a silent thanks, "Smells delish, thanks River!" is said as she dunks her spoon into the stew and happily, yet leisurely eats it.
Carson nods as he is given a bowl, and places it on the ground near his feet for Harry. He says, "So, tell me Sparhawk, why now you must take my Grandchild from me, as I know you are going to try to do?" His eyes reflect the flickering light of the fire.
Apostasy looks between Spar and Carson, but doesn't say anything, content to eat her stew and listen.
Sparhawk doesn't get much farther with eating. "Erm... I have a few reasons I think are valid. For one, I would really like to introduce your grandchild to my other children in the flesh where it's easier to make explanations. For another, I need to return the supplies I borrowed from Zephyr to their proper owners, so I may get what I want from them when I return here."
Carson scratches his chin, "And that is?" He says, "What exactly do you plan to do now with my grandchild now that I have taught them to dream?"
Apostasy seductively says, "At a guess? Use her help to deal with the other packs."
Sparhawk scritches under the chin of hir ever-so-clever child. "Try to make sure it will work right, without awful consequences, before trying it on hostile world-eaters. And not without your supervision, sir. But when we are trying to make a dream to rescue people of the cities, knowing what the city is like might be helpful."
"But didn't they spent time seeing that through your eyes already?" Carson grins at the wordplay, "Besides, they can learn more from their grandfather to control my magic. Would it not be wise for them to stay here?"
Sorien listens intently, not interrupting while she eats the provided food.
Sparhawk nods. "But that was all filtered through me. I have a...different perspective on many things. If it is to be a dream, it must be one that she makes instead of one borrowed from me. Also I want to look into what souls are made of. The light of the Solar Dragons reminds me of that which I didn't get to analyze, and I need to visit their mountain again in order to generate it myself. I am told the supernatural forces grant mortals their power because we carry it all over the place freely, while they are limited--it might be possible that we, being made of bodies and souls, have the ability to replenish soul."
Sparhawk squirms a bit. "And...they sell birth control down south. I would find it easier to concentrate with a supply of that."
Apostasy giggles. "I have some if you want, Spar."
Sorien looks around at the faces of the gathered, trying to put names to those that haven't been named.
Coyote breaks out into a throaty laugh, his eyes flashing with power. His laugh takes some time to settle. It's hard to tell specifically what he was laughing at.
Shelley leans over to Sorien and whispers a few names into her ear.
Carson returns to the surface, and his laugh remaining a chuckle, "Ya have quite the trip ahead of ya child if ya go that way, but I will allow it, however you must return her to me safe from harm before one month’s time, or I will come retrieve her myself."
Apostasy grins. "One way to make you visit little Kaylah, then."
Sorien looks at the jet-black Aassahke in particular, a mix of emotions there; regret being one of them.
Apostasy notes Sorien's look and leans down to whisper to her.
Sparhawk waits with a grin until the laugh ends. "There was a man from my hometown who had a saying-- 'Make no small plans'. If my plans explode, I hope it's an impressive explosion and not disappointment!" Shi scritches the shoulderyote a bit more. "And you know me as well as anyone. When have I ever permitted harm when I could prevent it?"
Apostasy whispers, "She made her choices, Sor. Not your fault."
Sorien whispers back, "That's not it at all. Don't worry."
Sparhawk eyes Apo. "No fair draining the fuel tanks of every vehicle in the city!"
Sorien looks a little shifty at that statement from Spar.
Apostasy grins at Spar. "I could just slash all the tires, if you prefer?"
At that Carson scratches around one of Harry's oddly shaped ears and says, "I'm going to retire to my tent, you are welcome to stay the night or leave when you'd like."
Cilan remains quite silent, seeming like she has nothing to say to any of the aassahke, as all she really does is watch those currently speaking intently.
Sorien softly churrs, "A month then. Perhaps you could come visit us instead? You'd be welcome, and you could meet Kaylah."
Carson smirks, "Perhaps I shall, I've been meaning to see the survivor city through my own eyes." And disappears with Harry into a tent.
Apostasy smiles. "I bet you'd like her. She's an adorable little fuzzball."
Sorien softly churrs, "Shall we stay the night? I wouldn't mind. I can handle camping now... Not like before all this happened. 8 months on the road, you learn."
Apostasy seductively says, "Doesn't bother me. Can't be worse than the Lobby at Zephyr."
Sorien softly churrs, "No... It can't be worse than that. Ugh."
Sparhawk chuckles after Carson's inside the tent. "Either I hit on a pre-existing notion, or I convinced him of something. I could spin another tent for you all, if you didn't bring any camping gear?" Thinking about web spinning reminds hir of food, and shi leans down carefully to get back to the stew.
Cilan looks to Sparhawk and says, "Huh?... Oh, uh, no... no... I’m fine..." is said as she waves dismissively, finished, she reaches for her hip-flask, and takes a small gulp from it.