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je@RIB8BEBO O K: Culfi hg the Herd This is no place for a wolf The mud clings toRed Shadow’s paws as she runs along behind Blood Rain and his pack. The swamp water fills cheir tracks and the smell of it distracts her. Ie doesn't smell like earth. It doesn’t smell like water. Irhas an odd, thick scent that muffles her own, the other wolves’ cheir prey's. After a hunt, Blood Rain says, the pack will need to go to the salty water to bathe, or else they will all smell like swamp water for days. AtfirstRed Shadow hadn't known why this was such a bad thing — covering her own scent would make heramore stealthy hunter, wouldn't it? But ater an hour in the bayou, she understands. The swamp- scent is greedy. It wants the wolves to carry it. She heare an owl scream and other birds answer The swamp is restless tonight. Red Shadow slows and lowers her head, cautiously, peering out into the bayou foralligators. The cowardly beasts have no scent until they strike, and then they smell rancid and hot. A “gatorpulledone of Blood Rain's pack under some tn ago. He was not Garou, but a Kin wolf. He never resurfaced. Red Shadow thinks on him now and feels ‘heaviness in her gut that she can’t identify. She runs con, with a backward glance at the water. The pack is hunting. She tries not to think of them as her pack, because she has a pack of her own. Buther pack, bonded by Raccoon and led by a homid Garou, is clumsy and fractious. In Blood Rain’s pack, she knows her place and does not feel the constant tneasiness she does with her true pack. She wonders if this is wrong. It does not seem to come from her human-mind, but neither can she find a similar fecling in her wolf-heart. She stops wondering and focuses on the hunt. Red Shadow’ feet ache from the effort of pulling them from the mud. Their prey is far away tonight: She looks at the others — four Garou, one a cub not yet through his Rite of Passage — and wonders again. She wondersif they are tired orcold. She decides they must be, because they all have the same fur and the same skin. But they do not show it and neither does she. And on they run. The prey huddles together, frightened and cold Even though they cannot smell or hear the wolves coming — they are still too far away —some instinct tells them they are in danger. The young gather close to their parents. They all look out towards the bayou, not knowing why, simply feeling afraid. ‘The ground growssolid under Red Shadow's paws. They are leaving the bayou, but the swamp water clings to them like human clothing, unnecessary and uncomfortable. She had to wear human clothing for thefirst time recently. Her pack said it was a sundress. She didn't understand, but her alpha told her to doit. ‘And then her alpha had asked for her approval! She stood there wearing a weak, human body covered in a second skin, colored ina way she couldn’t understand, andtried to whine, butshe couldn't, not witha human throat. She'd fle hatheaviness in her stomach then, too, buthadn’e tried co understand i. Red Shadow’s ears perk as a muskratsees the pack and dives for cover. The cub with the pack starts off aftr it, but Rush-of- Wind How, the Gibbous-Moon, grovls at him andhe returns tothe pack. Red Shadow lowers her til abit; she nearly chased the prey herself. But she understands — chis hunt is more imporcant than finding food, ‘That strange notion rattles around in herheart for some time. More importanc than finding food? It must be, for she has learned that her mission as a Garou is ‘more important than her life asa wolf. More important than finding warm place to sleep? Red Shadow tests that notion in her wolf-heart and finds no disagree- ment. More important than mating? She has never mated, soher wolf-heartisstill silent. More important than her true pack? Her woll-heart beats fast, trying to tell her how to feel. But at the same time, her human-mind speaks. She shakes her head a bic and coughs. The other werewolves look back at her, but she ignores them. If this hunt — tonight — is moce important than hertrue pack, then why isher true pack not with her? Becauseonly Red Talons undertake this hunt, answers her human-mind. Then they should know about this hunt, but Blood Rain told her not to tell them. Her wol-heart cries out, but she cannot place the feeling. ‘She feels thebond between herandher packmates tug ather, and she wishesto call outto themand tell them where she is. But the Litany —now so deeply ingrained in her that her wolf-heart feels it just as her human- rind knows it — says that she must submit to those greater in station. Blood Rain sgreaterin station, both higher-ranked and stronger than she Which isright? Asa Philodox, she knowsshe must answer these questions. But on her Rite of Passage, she was only presented with questions that had answers. This one, both her heart and mind tell her, doesnot. She runs closer tothe head of the pack, loking ahead to the dark woods, locking for answers there. She ‘cannot smell or see any. ‘The prey ison the move. They still cannot see or smell the wolves, but they know, somehow, that the pack is coming for them. They begin to shift, uncom- fortably, and then to move, slowly at first, and then faster, away from the clearing where they were nesting. for the night. Ifasked, even by one who could under- standthem, they could neverunderstand why they feel the way they do. They have never been hunted before. But some place in their primitive minds knows the feeling, and tells them to run. And nun they do. Blood Rain stops and snarls at the wind. Red ‘Shadow lifts her mule and sniffs. She smells it, too — the prey ismoving. Blood Rain turns toward the moon, and begins trotting faster. Even as fast as the prey can. move, the wolves will catch them, because they can ‘ross terrain that their prey cannot. Red Shadow thinks about prey. She is not from the ‘swamps. No wolf is. She hunted prey ina pack when she ‘was pup, the ground solid underfoot and the reesraining, down fresh and sweet smells. The ground caught these smellsand kept themforthe prey to change and the wolves to mark with their own. The ground did not produce its own smells to cling to the wolves. BurRed Shadow musthave had herownsmell that clung to her, for the ocher wolves were afraid. She foundherown prey, but itwasn’t the same. She was not the alpha, and even when she caughther food she felt strange eating first. Inthedaysbefore her Rite of Passage, Red Shadow would often howl, feeling that she wished she couldgo. backand hunt withher pack again, not knowing ifthat wish came from herhuman-mindor wolf-heart. Blood Rain told her than the wolf-heart does not wish, it merely knows. Red Shadow did not disagree, but she ian'esure. To her, wishing is like hunger, and the wolf hheartknows about hunger. Maybea wish isa hunger of the human-mind. Red Shadow thinks about prey, about how the humans killed the wolves and now the prey are every- where, eating themselves into starvation. She once felt rage when she thought of humans. Ifshe thinks of them under the half-moon or for too long, sometimes she still does. But she doesn’t see them often, and homid Garou aren't human, as much as they look it. Their smell is wild and electric, somewhere between waterandstorm and blood. Human-smell is false from the paints they use on themselves. Culling the Herd Blood Rain thinks all the humans should die. He says they die easily, and if all ofthe Garou were to act swiftly, they could kill the strong humans first and hunt the weak. Something about that plan stirs Red Shadow’s wolf-heart, butshe can'ttel fit approves or not. And so on she runs, behind Blood Rain, feeling like a pup again. The pack changes direction, and the ground slopes away. The valley is small, and Red Shadow knows that a warren of rabbits is nearby. Her tongue lolls out as she thinks of rabbit, feels the chase, the sudden turns, the leap, and finally the satisfying crunch as tiny bones break in her jaws. She wishes) hhungers for rabbit. She has not eaten one in some time. Strange Smile, theCrescent-Moon, taughtRed Shadow about thanking the prey's spirit after eating. She always does so now, even when her pack finds already-dead food for her, even ifshe does not know the prey’s name, she thanks it. Thanking the spirit shows respect. She isto respect all beneath her. Does that include humans? Are humans prey? The Litany prohibits eating them. But they are beneath Garou, hecause they are stupid and nearly blind Red Shadow said that once to her pack. “Then why,” Stone Beast, the No-Moon, asked, “do they rule the world” On her Rite of Passage, Red Shadow learned that No-Moonsquestionto teach. But although she under- stood Stone Beast’s question, she cannot think what she has learned from it. The prey stops. They merge with another herd, and stay together. They are not quiet. The night carries their noise to the wolves, but they have forgotten their feeling ofterror. Now they eat, unable tosense the pack. They mighthave escaped, hadthey not stopped here. The wolves climb the side of the valley and slow their un, Blood Rain knows the prey has stopped. Red Shadow cannotexplain how he knows whathe does — she cannot sense their prey at all. She does not ques- tion Blood Rain, she merely nuns on with the pack A strange smell, lying across her path like a ser- pent, stops her. She nearly howls the Warning of Wyrm's Approach before checking herself. Instead, she growls oftlyto the other wolves, who stop and sniff at the ground. The smell is a wolf marking its territory, but the smell is wrong. Instead of the bitter warning that a ‘mark should give off, this scent almost beckons to the pack. Itsmells more like flower than wolf, and the cub shies away from it, nervously. Rush-of Wind Howl and Rain-Eyes, the Theurge, eye each other. Rain- Eyes growls to Blood Rain, “Taint here.” Red Shadow expects Blood Rain's eyes to fil with fury as they do in battle, but instead they look thoughtful, and the sight of human-thought in wolf- eyes makes Red Shadow shift a bit. “We have other prey tonight," he says. Red Shadow’s wolf-heartspeaks, and she follows it, whining. She knows the Litany and so do the others. Blood Rain tums on her and nips her flank. She turns and lowers her head and tail, bur grows to him, reminding him of their duty. The war is more impot- tant than the hunt, if the hunt is not part of the war. The other three Garou are silent, buthunch closer to Red Shadow. And Blood Rain, perhaps recognizing her wisdom, perhaps worried about breaking the Litany, turns his head in the direction of the scent. “Follow quickly, and find the taint. We will complete yourhunt after.” The pack slips into the brush, quiet and graceful, and Red Shadow wonders what Blood Rain means in calling the hunt hers." She isn’t leading it; she doesn't even know what they are hunting. She succeeded on her Rite of Passage, which involved a hunt of sorts, This is the fise time she has hunted with Blood Rain, true, but why should that make such a difference? She reminds herself that she is but a cliath, not much more than a pup. And then she shakes off thought and listens to her wolf-heart. She might be in battle soon, and battle isno place for the human-mind, The scent grows stronger and now, in addition to the sweet-wrong smell of whatever marked this trail, Red Shadow smells metal and heat. She whines and bares her teeth — something is nearby, and it is nothing of Gaia. She remembers a smell like this, something herpackmates called a“bulldozer.” But this is diferent, this smell comes froma live thing. The otherGarou inthe pack sense thisas well and begin to change to Hispo. Blood Rain runs ahead a short distance, while Rain-Eyes and Rush-of-Wind- Howl move to the sides. Red Shadow does not change form, but stays behind with the young Garou. She knows she is todo this; her wolf-heart speaks itclearly, The pup is not to be pur in danger during this hunt. From ahead she hears a cry of pain and then the smells change, from metal and sickness to hot blood She feels Rage rise within her and the cub slinks back, but she barks at him and he stands still. She is not an alpha, but outranks him, and so he obeys. She has barely a second to ponder being aleader while the true leader is away when the creature attacks. Red Talons