We had two things to do, and not much time to do them in: To rescue George, and to renegotiate the Silver Pact.
George started his own break out, or the lune inside him did. Boomer got pretty cut up trying to extract him, but nothing that wouldn't heal. George came out less well; he died in hospital. I do consider it a win that he didn't die in a cage.
By that point, I wasn't in much of a mood for the Merchant Prince's bullshit. After a thousand years, he was worried he was 'becoming something different than himself' and tried to talk one of my pack, one of my wolves, into being his agent provocateur. So, when he didn't like the new pact - which is actually much, much softer on the Courts than I would have liked, but right now we have one pack in the county - I figured to hell with him.
The Brightaxe sheared through his altar with a sharp crack and the spirit itself disappeared with one last jingle of coins. We could have tried to summon him, but he'd have gone to ground somewhere, in whatever he'd replaced his abacus with after the PKs burned it.
Instead, I turned to the others and said: "It's open season. And in future, as far as we're concerned, it's name is 'Merch'."
I never found a way to say to him: "I know what you are, George Tarrington-Clavell. Sort of."
I never found the way to say: "I know what you have lost and I think I know how much it hurts that you can't follow her."
I never found the way to make that offer. "Go after her. Let me carry the burden."
So now the Pure have him and they will kill him, one way or the other. A part of me feels odd, that we worry so over a Claimed, because of what is inside him. In the end though, for me it's not about what is within him; it's not about the Lune that keeps him alive when others burn. It's about George, and what I owe him, because there but for the grave of God go I, and if it were me being held by the Fire-Touched... I'd sure as hell want someone to come for me.
The water was a balm against his skin. He felt the warmth of the shower drift in to his tired muscles as he leant against the cool wet wall He was tired, the past few days had been troubling and exhausting. The Greys, the Tik Tik, the damn stupid Anshega, but he had done all he could and now had five minutes.
He stepped out of the shower and shifted ‘til the silver wolf appeared dripping in the centre of his bathroom. As was his want he slowed his breathing and stood simply listening, straining his senses across his house.
He felt thud of his heart pulsing within his chest, the slick tiled floor was chill through the soft pads of his paws. Freshly baked bread drifted from the kitchens and mingled with freshly mown grass. His mouth watered as he tasted the cold meats hung in the larder and he could hear the mower distant on the lawn outside.
The drip, drip of the showerhead boomed in his ears as he was acutely aware of every nuance of his home. No shouting, no smoke, only the dull throbbing of his allies pressing against but never breaking the Gauntlet.
He could feel the burning smug satisfaction of Warm Heart on a Dark Night, the solid dependability of Heart of Oak. The quiet thoughtful watch of Under the Stairs and from outside the soft trilling of Music in the Trees mingled with the crying loneliness of Voice in the Dark who dwelt deep in the well.
Further away he could feel the lingering arrogance and malevolence pervading the surrounding woodland. Everything was normal. Even the soft seductive smell of his sister was a comfort now.
Everything was quiet, everything relaxed.
Churchill uttered a low growl that could have been a sigh and shook himself violently water spraying across the bathroom and padded into his study. Lao-Shu would be back soon and the quiet would be broken.
Relaxation would have to wait for a different five minutes.
Not that it was always bad. But then, even the things she liked - shifting, running through the woods, the sense of freedom that came in those moments - she couldn't tell if that was really her, or just one more of the instincts she'd suddenly acquired. A lot of things felt right on this gut level, when they went against all the things she used to think were right.
That wasn't quite it.
She still knew that all hierarchies are fundamentally problematic, and fighting isn't really a very good way to solve problems and eating meat was nothing less than murdering feeling beings for selfish reasons. She knew it in her head.
But she used to be able to feel those things in a way that just...didn't any more.
And looking around. There were so many injustices that seemed fundamental to the way things worked with werewolves. Like the rules about wolf-blooded and packs. Just the way things were, and nothing anybody could do to change it.
Of course, there was some fucked up shit that didn't have to be that way.
Even if her instincts kept telling her that there needed to be this...hierarchy...that someone needed to be...in charge...
There was no reason at all that anyone should get away with treating Alessa the way she'd talked about the wolves in Reading treating her.
And all the shit Solace and Fortinbras said about religion and having to be somehow subservient. Even if it wasn't their words, the meaning was there.
None of it had to be that way.
She just couldn't figure out what to do about it.