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It is currently 13:05 Pacific Time on Sat Mar 10 2012.
Currently the moon is in the waning Full (Ahroun) Moon phase (82% full).

Great Oak Grove
An enormous oak tree, apparently ancient but unblemished, dominates this grove, awe-inspiring and completely anomalous. Around it, in a forest full of scarred trees, there's a stand of perhaps fifty which are a little less scarred than the rest, only a couple miles north of I-90. Naturally occurring thickets of tangled briars and undergrowth have been encouraged to define the perimeter of the grove, to such an extent that it's only really feasible to enter it at a few points now, and for the most part, since the grove itself is not large, it is - from the outside - simply a dense bit of forest it's easier to circle around than go through, although a deer path and stray tracks of other animals lead inside.
Within that perimeter, there is a strong sense of a defined space which the brambled edges and even the central tree are insufficient to explain: for unclear reasons, although the density of trees is just the same here as in the rest of the forest, this spot is a coherent place in its own right. There is more sun, more scent - although only the small woodland scents. The trees are taller and healthier, the soil is richer, and the air itself seems alert to what occurs within. This is not remotely the center of the northern forest, but it is nevertheless its heart.
Food for the animals is scattered on the ground and hung in tree branches - nuts and berries from the rest of the forest, half-cleaned bones, and more. In the west there is a small pool, and in the south a disused fire-pit with tiny glittering things hung from the tree branches above it.

Obvious exits:

A long walk, from Shelby's car, but freshly bolstered with coffee against the cold and the Southern-born Fang doesn't take as much notice of it as she might otherwise. She obligingly leads Kaz to such places as she (or they) may think suitable, and finally end up under the patient branches of the great oak. "I'm not really one for tactics," Shelby claims, "but maybe that massive cedar'd be a good place to strike?"

"Mmmaybe?" Kaz eyes it. "The stormcrow me and Mouse Summoned is gonna be leadin' the hunter-and-hounds to us, theoretically. I'm still gonna use Ky as bait anyways, as long as Nik's OK with it, because..." Kaz trails off, and shrugs, finishing her doughnut. "Because this fucker needs to go down, so, I'll use what I have to. Ky's good with it. Kid's a snot-nosed punk, but he has guts."

Shelby nods agreement. "A little mouthy, but really, considering what he's been through, I understand why. Andrei's finally...." She stops rather than finish the sentence, shakes her head and looks toward Kaz instead. "I don't know if I'll see Mouse between now and when we drop the hammer, so would you pass along what seems appropriate? Falcon's gifted me with his eyesight, as well as... well. I'm not entirely sure how to phrase it. If I meet a human's eyes, or an animal's, they'll break and run. Garou are only held. I don't know how - or if! - it will work with spirits. I tried it with that dinosaur thing in the umbra, but with everything else going on I don't know if I did anything."

Kaz's eyebrows bob. "Yeah, OK, the long-distance thing is a big ol' help. It's useful when the surprise party ain't surprised." She pauses. "Have you encountered my Gift where I can talk in people's heads (and they can talk back)? It ain't Mindspeak, 'cause I can't paint the kinds of pictures I can in Mindspeak, but it works over longer distance, and I don't have to see the person. It works damn well for f'organizin' fights. But I won't do it if you don' want me to."

Shelby blinks at the question, momentarily taken aback. "--No," she says slowly, "but it does sound useful. Is it like being able to talk with your packmates?"

Kaz thinks. "Yeah. I mean. Well," she starts again, "Sometimes, when I'm in a pack, it's all emotions and not much else. Sometimes, it's imagines. But sometimes, it's just words outta nowhere, and this is that. Have you had someone bring you into a Mindspeak? 'Cause I could do Mindspeak and then the other thing, just to demonstrate the difference."

The Ragabash laughs through her nose and, still smiling, shakes her head again - not, it might be noticed, at Kaz. "Words out of nowhere sounds precisely like Tim. But yes, I don't think I've ever experienced Mindspeak - and the comparison'd be useful, thank you."

Kaz says, "Rokay," and looks over at Shelby intently, gathering her in with her eyes. And in just that moment, the normal world disappears, and they're in another one -- More specifically, they're on the stage of an old, decrepit, but once majestic theatre, with ornate trim typical of the early 1900s. The seats are more modern, plush covered in the heavy fireproof fabric. Kaz is seated on the edge of it, looking about 10 years younger than she does in the usual reality. With much longer hair. "This's Mindspeak," she says. "You can bring a few people in at once, but since you gotta basically be able to see their eyes, it limits how many folks you can bring in. Most people don' get this elaborate with the Gift, but I like havin' fun."

Shelby looks back at the Galliard, to be obliging, and blinks, and blinks again when the shivery-cold grove is replaced by an entirely unexpected theatre. "This is," she starts, and stops, and looks down at her hands, fingers spread wide for her perusal. When they remain hands she drifts instead across the stage, wide-eyed but thoughtful. "So our bodies are still back in the grove, but in here we're... well." A nod toward the aged building. "Can we walk around back there?" She answers herself with a distracted nod. "Yeah, but it's hard. Like translating. Have to think about two things at once."

Kaz grins. She also nods, hair flopping into her face. "This takes some concentratin'. I'm used to it, and it gets easier with experience. Right now, you prolly can't affect the mindscape much, though it'd be interestin' if you tried. Get some image you're really used to, see if you can translate it? Take over f'the' Rialto."

Shelby says, "I see," though remains distracted. With another flickering sidelong glance at Kaz she stares out at the empty seats, eyes alternately closed or staring without seeing. There isn't much of a change, nothing to point a finger at and exclaim, "There!" But in bits and pieces, here and there, the close heavy air brings a breath of salt and sea, or a shadow is filled instead with the glimmer of sunlight against branches, or a well-trodden fragment of carpet turns soft with moss. "This," she declares absently, "is like trying to drive backwards down a one-way while holding three conversations at once."

At one of the breaths of salt air, Kaz closes her eyes and luxuriates in it. "Yeah." Her voice is just that small touch less tense. "That's why most people stick to just talkin'. But there's 50 million tons of research out there talkin' about how nuances of communication depend on visual cues, and stuff, so I go with as much input as possible." Opening her eyes again, she adds, "This's a gift've my auspice, and most of us know it, so you can harass other folks if you want to get good at it long-term."

Shelby lets things drop - or, at least, the hints of elsewhere stop showing up - with a wry half-grin for the elder Garou. "Not to mention environment playing a huge factor. Want someone to know they're in trouble? Surround them with it. --I might do that, thank you. It seems altering someone else's mindscape without their permission would be rude, but being able to juggle all these bits and pieces -has- to be good for your mind."

"Yeah. It's actually a great storytellin' add, if you're in a small group anyways, 'cause you can show snippets of stuff, make it realer. And, yeah, I once was in a fight with a dude and forced images of fire into his head, and..." She trails off, one lick of fire dancing in her hand. "Well, it was vivid." There's a short pause. "And it's rude, at least by my lights, to force mind t'mind contact. With Mindspeak, it's easier to keep to that -- people can resist it, or kick me out." Kaz reknits the Rialto's mindscape around them, some of the old theatre's habitual sounds -- the wind through doors, a few rats downstairs -- creeping into things. "As far as I know, with the other one, you can't resist it. It's why I always kinda 'knock', ahead of time." She lets the mindscape fade, until they're back in the normal space of Shelby's territory. "Want t'try the other one now?"

The Fang eyes that hint of flame with wary understanding. "I see." As the Rialto 'reappears' she turns to take it all in, ending up facing Kaz and with another nod. "Yes, please. Thank you. So the dream-thing can be resisted, but this one can't? That's also good to know. Can you break out of the dream if you don't want to be in it? If you're tricked into it, for instance, but you figure out what's happening."

Kaz nods. "Yeah. I been kicked outta people's heads. It takes a whole lotta cohesion, but if you got the brainpower, it ain't a problem." Now that they're back in the normal-space, Kaz indeed knocks on Shelby's mind -- basically a wordless 'Hey, I'm coming in,' and then says, in her mind, with all the intonation and striation of her normal voice, -I been able to use this one up to like. 50 miles away.-

The 'knock' gives Shelby a little start but she recovers quickly. ~That is... impressive.- She concentrates for a moment, then shakes her head. -It's not entirely like speaking through Anax. With him I have to remember to keep my emotions reined in. With this, it's... well. There's less 'leaking', isn't there?-

Kaz says, -Yeah,- nodding in the real world. -If I really want to put urgency in, I can, but it ain't natural to the form.- She lets the connection break, and her voice in the normal world is more nuanced, more filled with emotions that never quite make it into full awareness. "Like I said, that one's really damn useful 'cause I can do it with more people. It does take some concentration on my end, so I ain't as good in a fight if I'm serving as communications system, too, but I'm pretty much the only person that can tell that."

"Amazing," Shelby says sincerely. "Xander knows a Rite something like that, only his is for dodging, not communication. But it takes him out of the fight entirely. It's up to the leader, then, to decide which is more useful - another Garou, or more people getting hit less often." She pauses a moment, still studying Kaz, before adding, "Are you leading the fight tomorrow, or is Mouse-rhya?"

"I'm figurin' I can lead one branch of things, hangin' out with folks like you and Nik and Mouse, who work more by stealth and indirectness, and Owen can lead the big bruisers, who're more direct about things. Oh," Kaz adds, as if just now remembering, "The hunter guy doesn't like fire or light. So you and your light Gift-- Uh, presumin' you know that one? -- may well be useful."

Shelby ums, a touch abashed. "No, actually. Zosia-rhya does, I'm sure, but it never seemed... well. Like you said - stealth and indirectness. Lighting up like Times Square, oh-shoot-me-now? Doesn't do good things for a scout. But," she adds quickly, "I've got a howl, thanks to Anax. You remember it from the revel? It's distracting, at the very least. And as this isn't the bawn, feel free to bring massive flashlights or flares or whatever you think best. We need to be careful with fire, though. It's been too cold to rain and things aren't as wet as I'd like."

Kaz says, mildly surprised, "Huh. Yeah. It's often good for... well, symbolic purposes. You guys are the light that leads the Garou --" Kaz seems to say this without any irony at all -- "So a physical exhibition of that can be kinda... heartening. But I get the scout thing. It's just sometimes useful t'have things in reserve. Anyway." She listens, nodding. "Yeah. That thing's freaaaky-fun. As f'th' fire, I'll mention that to people. But both the hunter himself and his hounds are vulnerable to fire -- I exploded one, at one point, with my element gift. So we'll have to balance the locale versus their vulnerabilities."

The Fang nods, less noblesse oblige and more teenage girl. "One of the others blew up, before, but I don't think it had anything to do with how it was attacked. Another one, that Tim fought, was acidic. But the one I helped kill just seemed normal. Well," she amends, "it was really hard to do any damage to it. We finally had to hold it down and just keep attacking the same spot."

Kaz mutters, "Takes awhile," to nothing specific, and then makes a face. "Joy. I hate those. But Nik and maybe Andrei are able to determine vulnerabilities, so that may speed that process up. Knowing where to aim helps a lllot."

To that Shelby has nothing but a heartfelt nod and an equally heartfelt, "I hear you. Plus we had a cub...," she waves off further elaboration with a dismissive hand flip. "What about fireworks? If we could toss those into the fire they'd at least be some sound and fury. They're not aim-able, though, so could catch one of us. Hmm. I've seen some of those really bright flashlights - more like photon cannons. Those would be distracting, to say the least."

Kaz considers. "I think flares -- the kind you get for your car, in case of emergencies -- might be better than fireworks. More controllable. On the fire front, me and Mouse have super-soakers with gas in 'em. Also, Val -- the corax -- has lent me her fetish. Which I don' want to use outside've combat, but, it's apparently made from a piece of the sun? She usually uses it against leeches, but I don' think the hunter guy's gonna enjoy it none."

"Not to mention," Shelby says with a nod toward the metis' once-flaming hand, "you and Mouse practically are flares. Does that gift allow you to banish fires as well, or just produce them? We should also have plenty of water, and I should see what sort of fire-suppressant they use to put out forest fires. No point saving the forest from burning if you're just going to poison it doing so."

Kaz shakes her head, regretfully. "Nope. Just produce. But it'll also produce water, so if we ain't drained of mojo -- the thing takes spiritual energy to do -- we can rain on the fire's parade. So to speak," she adds, after rolling her eyes at herself. "I dunno nothin' about fire suppressants, but just as a wild ass guess, I'll bet most of them ain't no good for the environment."

Shelby greets this sally with a badly-suppressed smile of her own. "No, probably not - and Anax wouldn't speak to me if they were. But. Doesn't mean I can't at least look. Maybe we could go buy baking soda in bulk, or something. Or else just keep lots and lots of buckets handy. That would save you and Mouse, at least, even if it isn't elegant."

Kaz blinks. "I always thought the baking soda thing was a myth." People who don't cook much, next right.

Shelby shakes her head and tucks a bit of hair behind one ear. "Nope. Flour works too, but the problem with flour is that it's also explosive, if there are enough particles in the air. I don't think the same happens with baking soda. Salt also works to put out fires, but we definitely don't want to use that."

Kaz makes another -- different -- face. "Yeah, not if you want to be bein' nice to the environment. You could use it t'preserve y'ham, though."

"Especially good for keeping meat on a long sea voyage," the Ragabash says, all faux-earnest agreement and nodding. "--I should show you some of the rest of the area, and especially Andrei's camp, if using Ky as bait is your primary plan. I'd just as soon keep the hunter and his dogs away from here."

Kaz just grins; then, in answer to this last suggestion, melts into hispo, clearly so they can move faster. (Her right hindpaw seems to be missing a dewclaw.) ~Yes. I already talked to them, but getting a better idea of the area around their camp's useful, so it can look coincidental that Ky's out there.~

Shelby likewise drops into a faster (and warmer) form, shaking out her ruff and offering a simple tail wag. ~Let's do that. Plan on bringing containers for water tomorrow, but if I find a better way to guard against fire, I'll let you know.~ Bright Eyes gives the grove a last, fond, look before springing off, away from the more prized area and toward the Lords' camp.

Kaz brushes past the oak on her way out.
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May 2012

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