Interim 3 12MAR2058-
17MAR2058 Piker Passes Her First
Ms. Kim walks into the room. In the past, Piker has found
it hard to concentrate and still pay attention to such things.
The stench of sweat is not present this time either. Piker
has been in the room meditating for four days now. There
was a good deal of sweat the first day, but it has long
since evaporated and the air is cool and dry. Ms. Kim quietly
moves into the room, the rustle of her pajama pants the
only source of sound to match her motion.
Piker is sitting cross-legged, but suspended in the air.
The only part of her making contact with the ground are
thumbs, forefingers, and index finger, splayed from each
hand in a tripod fashion. Her breathing is very deep and
slow, her chest heaving and sinking at about half normal
Ms. Kim relights the incense braziers in the room. The
smoke spirals up around Piker's arm, then torso and finally
enters her nose. Her breathing does not shift, her nostril
does not twitch.
Ms. Kim smiles and then masks her smile behind her pedagogical
facade. "Well done Piker, you have found the strength
in your spirit to overcome your meat body. Follow me for
the next test."
Piker slowly and gingerly uncrosses her legs and places
one foot under her and another in front. She smoothly transitions
to a standing position. Her demeanor is tranquil to the
point that an outside observer might think she is drugged.
Ms. Kim says softly, "You do not seem as excited at
your success this time, Piker. Seven is a lucky number."
Piker remains somber and sedate, "I will celebrate
when I am truly done."
Ms. Kim nods and then gestures to short foyer ahead. "As
the last time, when you can walk across this rice paper
without leaving a trace, you will be ready for the final
test. The last time you tried this, you were successful
the first time, I wish you the same success."
The small Korean woman walks across the paper through the
room casually, leaving no trace.
Piker settles down on the mat and begins meditating once
17MAR2058 Hound Passes His First
It had been a little over two months since Hound had begun
working in the Shadows. Already he had encountered supernatural
beings that were nigh invincible. He has been tested as
a scholar, hunter, and marksman. He has been tested as a
member of a team. A few magical groups contacted him, but
their path seemed wrong for him. None of the groups pushed
very hard. It was if they shared his respect for the path.
The Awakened have their own path to follow and when they
did stop to ask for directions, it should be with a group
that felt right.
Hound had come home to visit his family and friends a few
weeks ago and discuss these issues with his Grandfather.
Whatever issues they may still have, Grandfather was a wise
man and his counsel on the path of the Awakened was priceless.
Besides, his people practiced some of the purest magic in
the Sixth World. It seemed foolish to look for insight among
the watered down philosophies of others. Maybe it was that
Urban Brawl game that he attended. When he heard the athlete's
nickname "Rabbit Boy" it struck a cord with him.
It was taken from an old Sioux legend of a nigh indestructible
boy. The story was a vague memory, but the name sparked
a desire to be back among his people.
His return was not that big of a deal. There were pressing
issues before grandfather's council and everyone else was
all grown up and working full time. The nights were pleasant
and Hound slowly rediscovered some of his favorite past
Yesterday, he was hunting in the woods and came across
a young Elven Sioux. She introduced herself as Leaps Like
Cougar, which she quickly shortened to Cougar. She spoke
to him, "You have lost your way on the path. You followed
it quickly and skillfully, finding and taking your skills
and powers. You followed it into the city, but amidst the
grime and despair, you lost it. It is not a fault. That
path is ended and now you must find a new one. As with the
first, your path starts here, in the land of your people.
Meet me at the medicine lodge of your village tomorrow as
the sun greets the sky once again."
She vanished into the brush before Hound's very eyes. Her
words had struck such a deep chord, he was slow in responding
and when he broke through the brush, she was nowhere to
be found. Even her scent, a mixture of moist earth, sweat,
and flowers, was gone.
Hound kept the encounter to himself and the night passed
in a blur as he pondered his past, present, and future.
And here he was in the cold morning air, watching the dark
gray sky lighten with false dawn, the medicine lodge cold
and empty before him.
Hound spins at the sounds of footsteps behind him. Six
people decked out in Tribal clothes approaches. The Elven
woman he had met the day before, a human woman, three human
males, and an Ork woman. Cougar speaks, "Welcome, let
The group enters and sits in a semicircle, facing Hound.
Cougar speaks, "We walk the path of the Hunter. The
noblest and most essential of warriors, we do not use our
skills solely for defense or attack. We serve our community
by stalking and killing our prey. Whether it be food for
the table, a rogue spirit, or a renegade criminal. We understand
our environment, ourselves, and our weapons. In understanding
them they become tools to use against our prey. Wolf has
come to me and shown me that you also seek this path. You
have not lost your ties to your people and the Hunter is
strong in you. Your presence here tells me that you understand
these words and they hold power for you. If you do not wish
to walk the path with us, then leave now. Rejoin the prey."
Hound continues to stare coolly and calmly at Cougar. A
tense moment passes and the other members assembled eye
Cougar begins again, "Excellent. Before you can join
the Hunters, you must first hunt and slay yourself. You
will have three tests in this lodge. When you pass all three,
I will know and we will return. I wish you luck."
She stands and the others stand as well. She tosses down
a small leather pouch of trail mix, a few waterskins, and
some body paints. The entourage issues silently out of the
lodge. Cougar stops to close the flap and says, "Good
Hound sits and waits. Hours drag on and finally he starts
to meditate. He kneels and rocks back and forth ever so
slightly, humming an Amerindian mantra, his gun clasped
in his right hand. His eyes closed, he begins to disassemble
and reassemble the weapon. With each repetition, the disassembly
is a little more complete. Time melts away and he is startled
by the sound of an angry bear. He opens his eyes and sees
a raging bear charging him. His concentration shatters,
the pistol falls to the ground in pieces, and the bear disappears.
Hound nods and says quietly to himself, "Battle it
is." He eats a mouthful of trail mix, drinks a little
water and the opens the bag of body paints. His fingers
trace out patterns that are distant memories for him now.
He remembers feeling silly when he first did this. Now it
has more meaning, as if it is some sort of spiritual armor
with which to gird himself for combat.
Hound begins to meditate as before. Hours pass and the
passage of time is lost. Again, he hears the sounds of a
bear, but this time he is ready. He braces himself and points
his gun at the bear. It swats it away, and embraces him,
growling, "This weapon is not for me." Hound regains
his wits and begins to fight back. He manages to squirm
free occasionally, but soon ends up in the grip of the bear
once again. He begins to panic and the bear seems to grow
larger, seemingly indomitable. The grip tightens and breathing
becomes a pleasant memory. Hound passes out.
Hound's mind wanders to a childhood memory of his grandfather
teaching him to fight and tapping on his skull with his
knuckles. "Remember son, the fight is won in here.
You have to know you can win before you will."
Hound awakens in the tent again and assumes he has not
failed yet since no one has come. He reenters the trance
and girds himself mentally for the coming battle. The bear
storms forth but this time it seems just a little smaller,
it's growl a little less menacing. He lays the gun at his
side and calmly stands his ground as the bear charges. It
seems to shrink even as it runs at him.
By the time it grapples Hound it is no larger than a big
dog. He wrestles with it, confident of victory. He is not
brutal, using just enough force to ensure victory. As the
two combatants roll around on the ground, the bear continues
to shrink into a cub and the finally stops resisting. Hound
sets it down and is moves away a short distance. It morphs
into the form of Cougar. She speaks, "Well done. You
have passed the first test."
She melts into the forest and Hound snaps back into consciousness.
Hunger and thirst overwhelm him. He chokes down water and
trail mix and then tries to calm himself once more for the
19MAR2058 Piker Passes Her Second
She has been sitting and meditating for an indeterminate
time. Is it the same day? The huge muscular frame of the
scantily clad Troll heaves slowly with an unusually deep
breath. She rises to her feet silently and with an unexpected
grace. She moves to the edge of the thin, off white sheet
of rice paper. Thoughts of success struggle for ascension,
but her serenity will not be broken.
She steps out onto the paper, walking in a strange, alternating,
sideways fashion. The paper seems impossibly thick and strong
to her perception, no longer the gossamer weave that one
normally envisions. The air itself seems to be thicker,
supporting her weight like a duck on water. Her slow steady
breaths seem to pull her along like the strokes of a swimmer.
The quiet in her spirit is almost palpable.
She momentarily loses contact with the paper as her magic
peaks, but her concentration is not lost and she settles
back down calmly. She is awakened from her state by the
feel of cold hard ground beneath her feet. Behind her, the
paper is unsullied. Before her is Ms. Kim.
"Well done, Piker. If you focus yourself, you can
develop the ability to walk without leaving a trace."
Piker simply nods.
Ms. Kim leads her down a corridor, "Once again, only
one test stands between you and success."
19MAR2058 Hound Passes His Second
The grumbling in his stomach and the dryness tugging at
his throat are distant memories. The peyote is working.
His spirit is shaking free from the bonds of his body once
more. His gun has made the transition with him. This is
new to his trances, but it does not seem strange to him.
He has striven to make his gun an extension of himself.
The gun shifts in his hand slightly. The smooth metal surface
feels warmer and rougher. Hound brings the gun closer to
look at it. He tilts his hand to look at the gun's profile
and suddenly it moves on its own.
The metal gives way to muscular flesh and he is paralyzed
with shock as it elongates in both directions, coiling around
his arm in one direction and arcing out from his body in
the other. The barrel arcs gracefully out and begins to
turn back to face Hound. The beauty of the motion and form
is distracting, but then instinct kicks in. Having a barrel
of any kind pointed at you is bad.
The end of the barrel seem to have formed a circle of small
teeth and two small eyes appear a few inches from the tip.
The barrel's end pulls back like a serpent preparing to
strike. Hound holds still and then dodges sideways at the
last moment as the gun-serpent dashes forward and the loud
report of a gunshot rings throughout this spirit realm.
This sequence repeats itself over and over. Hound begins
to tire just after the clicking sound of an empty gun heralds
an end to the shots.
The snake writhes and tries to bite him, but it is weak
and spent now. Hound wrestles with it and eventually finds
it pliable, almost like clay. He beings to mash it into
a progressively smaller shape until finally it snaps back
into the form of a gun.
He falls to the ground, exhausted. When his eyes open,
he is staring at the medicine lodge roof. Again, hunger
and thirst ravage him. He attacks the trail mix and water
with a vengeance. The third test will come soon, he must
23MAR2058 Piker Passes Her Third
Piker steps quietly into the final room. It is more of
an antechamber than a full room. The space is austere. There
are two platforms. On one, rests an empty cauldron on red
hot embers. The last time she was here, she took this test
for granted and failed it miserably.
The test is simple in concept but almost impossible for
most in execution. She simply has to lift the pot from the
coals and onto the other pedestal. She may only use her
bare forearms. At the same time, bas relief dragons will
burn their forms into her arms as she suspends the weight
of the heavy iron vessel.
The last time she was here, she hoped to get it over with
quickly. She did, but she did not pass. Instead, she ended
up with a broken foot. She failed and a healer removed the
scars on her arms, mumbling something about being worthy
of the mark.
Piker stood between the pot and the platform and began
to meditate once again. After a few hours, she began to
quietly execute katas, fluidly executing strikes, blocks,
and throws. This went on for a full day before she sat down
and rested. Sleep finally claimed her and when she next
awoke, she was sweating and trying to remember vague encounters
with a tiger.
She repeated her meditative cycle once again. She ate and
slept. This time she awoke in a calm state of mind with
a vague memory of walking with a tiger.
The third day, as the wage slaves tooled off to work in
their cookie cutter cars and seething leviathan of mass
transit, she began anew. That night her dreams woke her
early as she was torn apart by a dragon in her dream world
The fourth day, she began to meditate again, but the fitful
sleep and deep fatigue from nine days of meditation and
concentration finally claimed her and she passed out. This
time she awoke and there was a scratching sensation on her
arms. The pot had been moved. She bore the marks. She was
A dim memory rushed back to her. A scattered vision of
a discussion with a dragon. A flash of an image in which
it reaches out its claws and grabs her forearms. Then nothing.
Ms. Kim steps into the room, followed by six others, including
her father Angus. He steps forward and takes her right hand
and forearm in a warrior's grip. "You are one of us
know Piker. The ordeal of this test has been your teacher
and from what I saw, you should have learned your lessons
very thoroughly." He smiles and only then does Piker
realize in retrospect that he has almost no accent.
"During your last vision, you became one with our
Astral essence. You may come and go from this house as you
wish. You should soon turn your attentions to learning to
master a weapon. We are all skilled in a variety of them.
If you require our advice, then you have but to ask."
"The Clan is a secret society. You do not have deny
membership in a group, but do not reveal our group's identity
to other without asking us first."
"We share the bond of true warriors. We come to the
aid of our comrades and they aid us in need. Our blood is
shed so that we may have a tie to one another, Ms. Kim will
obtain your contribution. [Material link that facilitates
"Now, what motivates us? I started this group over
a decade ago, along with some friends from governmental
black ops. We had become scapegoats and led out to the slaughter.
We did not yield so easily. Our betrayal was nothing new
in the dark world we lived in. We saw that. If it wasn't
the government, it would be a corporation, or a gang, or
some crazed squatter."
"This group was formed with the intent of forging
warriors that could stand together and yet be capable enough
to stand alone. We pursue the path of the warrior and the
martial arts. Most of our members are adepts, but not all.
You will learn more about us as we come to you in turn and
reveal ourselves. For now, it is enough to know that we
stand united in a very cold dark world."
Angus smiles warmly, "But enough grim talk, lass.
Let's go to the Roost and see what trouble we can find."
23MAR2058 Hound Passes His Third
Hound collapses with fatigue and awakens some time later.
He is not sure what time has passed, but the sun has recently
set. The desire to give in to sleep is great. The floor
of the lodge is like a warm blanket of comfort to his fatigue
wracked frame. He drags himself to a sitting position and
bends his stiff legs back into a cross-legged position.
The effort starts him sweating almost immediately and he
fumbles to get his slick legs into the correct position
and to remain there.
After a few minutes, the muscles limber up a little again
and the soft warm rush of endorphins takes the edge off,
but just barely. His tongue wrestles free from his parched
mouth, breaking the bonds of thick dehydrated saliva with
an audible clapping sound. He drinks down a few swallow
of his almost empty bag of water.
Sleep solicits him like a succubus. His eyes close and
his torso wavers side to side. With a grunt of defiance,
he snatches up his pistol, cocks back the trigger, slips
his thumb in front of the hammer and pulls the trigger.
He growls in pain as the hammer slams down on his thumb,
snapping him back to reality and alertness. He bites off
another piece of peyote and begins to rock slowly. His thumb
pounds with pain with every beat of his heart and his rocking
begins to match that.
He finds a certain quietness of his soul and soon all he
can hear is the pulse of blood flow through the vessels
in his ear. The rhythmic thump beckons to him and he focuses
on it. The thumping slowly becomes more drum like and he
suddenly finds himself at the edge of a small village. The
pounding is coming from drums they are striking as part
of a ceremony. The entire village is assembled. The medicine
lodge is at the opposite end of the village and Hound know
he has to get back there or the test is lost.
He takes a deep breath and struggles to his feet. Fatigue
pulls at him and he moves as if the air were like molasses,
pulling on his body and impeding his motion. The villagers
take this as some sort of cue and they line up in two rows,
defining a path straight to the medicine lodge. Hound starts
walking forward. As he nears them, he sees that many have
clubs or rocks in hand. He knows that he must endure their
attacks without response.
He steels himself and moves forward. The first blow causes
a bright flash of pain. He stays standing and continues
forward. Another series of blows and a rib cracks. Breathing
becomes painful as it feels like a jagged stick being jammed
in his chest on every breath. The next blow catches him
square in the mouth and his lip and gum tear open, releasing
a warm salty metallic flow of blood onto his tongue and
chin. He reels backwards, but catches himself and moves
A club catches him in the back of his head, catapulting
him forward and starting his ears ringing. He tries to stay
the path but stumbles into one of the rows of people. They
catch him and begin kicking and punching him vigorously.
He pushes away and tries to move forward again, but falls
to his knees. Before he can get up the hard wood of a club
smashes down on his right hand. He can feel the bones crack
and the flesh split open.
His all fours stance crumbles and he falls in a heap. The
villagers move in and he loses track of where he is hit
and with what. It becomes a dizzying barrage of pain and
The soft clear voice of a young boy pierces the cacophony
of pain. "The pain is not the goal, resume your path."
Hound opens his left eye, as the right has swollen shut,
and he sees a young boy standing calmly amidst the crowd.
He is clad in traditional tribal hunting clothes and he
is quietly pointing to the medicine lodge. He slowly drops
his arm and step back, disappearing from view.
Something shifts in Hound. The pain becomes more distant.
He remembers the lodge and the test. He knows he has to
get to the lodge. His bones are broken in various places,
but he knows that they can still support him. The only barrier
know is the pain and doubt. He has to be stronger than that.
The crowd backs away slightly as he stands up so that they
can have room to swing their clubs once again. He hunches
over, pulls his arms in, and just takes the blows. He makes
no effort to avoid them. The pain subsides further as he
staggers forward. The flurry of strikes quickens to a mind
numbing crescendo and Hound is barely aware of which direction
is the correct one.
Then suddenly it stops. It takes a moment to register with
Hound's mind and body, then he looks around and stands up
straight. Pain lances across his body as he does so. He
looks back. The villagers are standing quietly, smiling
warmly at him like family. It is done. He grits his teeth
and strides forth, using all of his strength of will to
walk normally and proudly in spite of the wounds. He makes
it into the lodge and passes out from the pain.
He wakes up to the smell of meat roasting and it is intoxicating.
He is stiff and tired, but there is no sign of the wounds
he suffered. He sits up and the group is sitting around
the central fire of the lodge, sharing venison. They are
remarkably nonchalant. Hound takes a piece of meat and wolfs
it down, ripping the warm moist meat off the bone and gulping
it down in chunks. A wineskin is near him and he drinks
deep. He takes a deep breath and relaxes slightly. Cougar
speaks, "You are one of us now. You have passed into
the common bond we share. We are also bound physically."
She sets down a small capped gourd, uncaps it, sets down
the cap, and draws a long sleek blade. She extends her hand
waiting for Hound to extend his.
Hound understands what must happen. He extends his hand,
she cuts deep into the palm and a gash opens up, leaking
Hound's vital life fluid in a small but steady stream. She
holds his hand so the blood drips into the gourd. An errant
drop spills onto the wall of the gourd, but instead of dripping
down and staining it, the drop vanishes as if the gourd
were some sort of vampiric sponge.
She wipes the blade along the gourd and it pulls the blood
away from the knife, an obviously supernatural effect. The
blade slides silently back into its sheath and in the same
smooth motion Cougar waves her hand over Hound's hand slowly.
The wound closes and disappears in a few seconds.
"It is done. My Totem senses the yearning in your
heart for what you claim as you hunting grounds, the grimy
scar of Earth that is called Seattle. Be strong, be a hunter,
make the spirit of Chief Seattle proud. As he said, 'Tribe
follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves
of the sea.' We are strong in our lands again and that makes
many content. You take the hunt into the lands of the White
Man as he did to us 200 years ago. We will keep your place
among us warm for your return, but your path is not among
the warm embrace of our native lands, it is among the grime
and corruption of Seattle. You should now share the Hunter's
gift to hide your Magic from your prey. Your other gifts
will become apparent. When it is time for you to advance
down the path, you will know it. At that time return to
us. Now go."
Hound restrains the urge to explode with questions. Perhaps
this is another hidden test of his willpower. He stands
smoothly in spite of the discomfort and moves out of the
lodge. The air is cool and clean. The cold does not bite
quite so hard as it did.