The Death of Gabrielle
1 January, 1998
Sung by Maera Speaks-to-the-Birds, Fianna Galliard
<From the galliard list>
Coming through the bushes, almost tentative in her steps, a young woman of some sixteen or seventeen years in age enters the light of the fire. Her hair is waist-length and black with few highlights. As she quietly takes a seat, first crossing her legs, then curling them to the side, as if to get comfortable, the woman inhales and draws her shoulders back. "I heard you exchanging stories and songs." She glances then at the cubs, lupus and homid, clumped loosely together, some older than she and others still with their milk-teeth. "Sometimes, when learning the Litany and the ways, it can be hard to understand why we keep them." She pauses, gathering her courage. "I am a galliard, but a young one, with much to learn. Still, I think I may have a story to inspire - Of one who so clearly believed that we must combat the wyrm, even if the cost...." Tilting her head, the woman pokes a the fire, and stirs the flames, so for an instant her shade of green eyes reflect a heart-wrenching sadness. She sits back and continues in a softer voice, "...Even if the cost is all." She glances at those elder than her in the circle, ones who were lessoning the cubs. "The telling is not a long one."
Maera then closes her eyes and begins to speak. "It was a grave time for the Sept of Shining Springs. Weakened by constant battle with the Wyrm and Screaming Rage. Things were swiftly moving to a crisis point. There came then a messenger to Steelfang, Alpha of the Sept. This leader of the Black Spiral Dancer's wished a meeting. And a meeting there was. The vile ones wished a return of one called Bruce Long to their possession. He was under protection of the Sept.
Screaming Rage told Steelfang that all must in this day be resolved. Calling on a philodox for guidance, and in order to see that not all of Gaia's garou in Austin would die that day at the hands of the wyrm-tainted ones, a contest was proposed and accepted. The Alphas and their followers would meet in the garden of a Glasswalker place, there to fight to the death, one fight at a time. The combatants of each fight would be chosen by the Alphas, until all of one side was dead or gave way and departed the city, caern and lands for always."
Maera opens her eyes then, but not to gaze about, only to look in the Fire as if watching the story play out before her. "The fights did progress, but for each time the Sept was victorious, the Vile ones also prevailed, until there were four dead on each side......."
Steel fang looked across the space of a circle, his eyes reluctantly searching out one form among the carnage. She had already fought twice...twice and defeated both opponents. this had given fire to the hope of all her packmates. But now, Gabrielle was wounded, exhausted and vulnerable.
His head lowered, Steel crossed to where she sat, her eyes closed while lines of pain were evident on her face. A young lupus remained silent at Gabrielle's side, though she clearly acknowledged the arrival. The solemn alpha exchanged a glance with Gabrielle's companion, then knelt slowly and began to murmur, "I do not want to do this. I see no other way. You are the best we have left." His eyes glanced up, looking for a reaction and then Steel heaved a quiet sigh.
"I will die." She answered him in a moment's space. "You know I will die." There was nothing of pleading in her tone, only a mere statement of fact, even as it was a clear acceptance of his wish.
The black-furred lupus, Speaks-to-the-Birds, leaned forward, slightly, As her ears twitched. The buzz of the vents above the arboretum, the sound of other voices - Garou on one side of the clearing and Those who Danced the Spiral on the other, - all made it well and difficult to hear the Alpha's response to the snowy-haired Gabrielle. Did she hear him say "I'm sorry." or "I know.", or was it something else?
No matter. Gabrielle opened her eyes. Mustering a wry smile of understanding for Steelfang, the ahroun, rose to meet the task laid before her. Determination and strength of will were not *quite* enough to mask the pain that some specific movements caused to her battered body. Like dogs scenting the fox, for a moment all eyes belonging to the foes were trained on Gabrielle to the exclusion of all else. To their minds and sight, this was prey to be played with and then tossed aside.
As Steel backed up a pace to give her room, Gabrielle looked over to see her next opponent. No nameless one this time. No, in some way an honor to her skill. For, the imposing figure standing with Screaming Rage's hand clasped on his shoulder was Abul, Beta to the Black Spiral Dancers of this hive and he would be a challenge to any fresh, wound-free ahroun.
Wiping a hand across her brow and hefting her chosen weapon, the axe with which she'd help defend the caern-builders in Kansas City and her home, the Sept of Shining Springs, everyday, Gabrielle looked down to check the leather grip and test the edge of the blade. Keen as at the day's beginning, she ran a fingertip over the end and spilled a drop of blood to mingle with that drawn from her enemies in the earlier contests.
Then, the white-haired Den Mother made eye contact with the few Garou nearest her - Duncan ...her pack alpha, the Ragabash Electric who had also won her death fight with a dancer this day, the galliard Lupus who sat back on her haunches to gaze up and then Steelfang. There, a silence fell among the Garou. Perhaps Duncan reached out his hand, but it was a fleeting gesture. The expression in Steelfang's eyes was one of deepest sorrow and growing frustration at the sense of helplessness falling like a web over the battlesite.
Turning her back on friends and packmates, Gabrielle walked forward, past the fallen bodies of Steals the Glory and mingled Garou from both sides. Coming to the center, she assumed a patient stance, her gaze now only for the foe, the one who would send her back to Gaia's breast.
With a sneer, Screaming Rage's choice strode forward, his attention looking for weaknesses. Which side is she favoring? How long can she wield that axe before the Black Fury will grow clumsy and weak? The artificial lighting above reflects on the armor this Vile garou wears, taken from the fallen Get of Fenris that served as Steelfang's Beta until the moment of his death only a short contest earlier.
Laughing in the background, two of Screaming Rage's tribe exchange a loud wager over the number of blows it will take to fell this ahroun. Even lower, after looking over the remnant of those claiming to defend the Caern of Healing - these two also lay wage as to how soon they will claim the Sept of Shining Springs for the Wyrm.
The battle was not lengthy. Already, the two fights she'd won gave her five battle-scars in this day alone. Abul was brutal. He struck in order to cause pain, draw out her suffering. He seemed to revel in the anguish some of Gabrielle's packmates and septmates could not hide. To the lupus watching, his eyes seemed to fix on Duncan, then Steelfang, with a taunting gleam and cruel smile as he landed blow up on blow on the ahroun. Gabrielle's strength faltered, her blows did not connect with her enemy and her guard slipped. At this, Abul knocked her to the ground with a howl of triumph. Forgetting his joy in tormenting the powerless garou watching, Abul fixed his eyes on Gabrielle as she drew shallow breaths before stirring to push herself up. He struck her again. As she lay atop the already blood soaked ground, the Dancer's Beta crouched, an arm raised high, claws splayed. With cobra's swiftness he raked his hand across her throat, then rose slowly, standing triumphant over her empty shell.
Screaming Rage beckoned Abul back to his side, even as the low growls of rage could be heard from more than one who followed Steelfang. One of the betting Spiral Dancers stepped into the circle, stripping Gabrielle's body of axe and other items of value. With an arched eyebrow, the leader of the Wyrm's followers gestured almost regally to Steelfang as if to say "Who shall be next?"
Maera stops then, in her narrative and starts to stand. All those about the fire fall quiet, and indeed there are more standing about than when she began the tale. She murmurs. "In truth, that is all that falls to my tale of one who was willing to uphold the litany, even to the giving of her life in it, like those other of her sept who fell. However, unlike them, Gabrielle knew...*knew* entering the circle that she would not leave it alive."
An older cub speaks, before Maera turns around to head into the darkness. "But what of the Sept and challenge?"
Her expression hidden in shadows, away from fire or moonlight, the woman answers. "They lost that day. the next challenge was won, a Fianna proposed a drinking contest." Before any can chuckle, she elaborates, "Drinking to the death. Liquid Silver. This tied things again. But then, Screaming Rage and Steelfang battled. Only one other witnessed the Sept Alpha's fall to the Wyrm Follower and saw him taken away in the possession of Black Spiral Dancers."
There is murmuring now, about the circle of Garou and kinfolk, as if most know of that story. The younger cubs look scared and sad, as if expecting a more traditional 'happy ending.' Then, Maera interjects, just before changing form, to that of a black-furred wolfhound, "Still...the loss was not a loss....For in time, his friends and followers ventured much danger in the umbra and in a dancer's hive to rescue Steelfang. He runs free and with a new pack now. In this, be joyful, for the wyrm was dealt a blow and we have reason to sing of triumph. Still, the story of his return is best kept for a time other than a teaching night."
Looking over her shoulder, the lupus then howls skyward and lopes off into the underbrush and is gone.
OOC: Kelley Barnes