The meeting had been arranged at George and the dragon Pub at 8 o’clock at night.
It was a Monday night, so while it was fairly busy it wasn’t crushingly busy. The place was dim lit and there was no smoking. Servers fluttered from the sparsely occupied tables to the bar and back. It smelled very good as Irish food was being made in the back.
Can't say I've been here before, but I just might have to make a point of it. Perhaps later, after all of this business is over with. Of course, I'd come alone (I didn't need anyone else to start a ruckus), even made sure to wear my customary cotton jacket and hiking pants. What? They were comfortable, and made me at least a little recognizable. This was just a meet and greet anyways, if I had my info straight and I usually did. Trained eyes searched around the pub, checking for what I thought may pass for someone named Rachael Constantine, but I wasn't about to hold my breath. These first meetings were always shitshows.
Perhaps it was a little stereotypical but there was a woman sitting alone in the back of the pub in a booth. There were a few things that stood out, first and foremost this was probably the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Her features were perfectly symmetrical, which was unheard of. Definitely a Helen of Troy woman. Her hair was a cinnamon color and pulled back in a French braid away from her face, high cheek bones and bright eyes. From where she was sitting, she appeared tall. Her skin was a little on the pale side like she was used to working in a building but there definitely was a don’t fuck with me feel to her. Course, a lot of pretty girls seemed to have that vibe but this was definitely different. Her eyes though, they were neither young nor old. Ageless and it was a little weird, making her age hard to determine.
She was dressed in a pair of black leggings and knee-high combat like boots with a thick soul, a long-sleeved black shirt with a tailored jacket over it and a silver swan pin on the lapel. She had a glass of white wine that her long fingers turned slowly.
I don't miss the glass of alcohol between all of the other, well, desirable features. Guess that makes me late, but it doesn't worry me much. I had a job to do, even if those eyes were just a hair unsettling. Of course, I stared a bit - who wouldn’t? - but it didn't stop me from sliding into a seat across from her.
"You must be Rachael," I said by way of greeting, voice just hinting at friendliness. Not that I cared all that much what a Silver Fang wanted, but he had ordered me to contact her and all of the requisite pleasantries that came with that.
"It's a pleasure to meet you." I didn't extend a hand, though. Never held a lot of stock in it, especially in a scenario like this one.
Those ageless eyes of hers looked him over and her full lips curled back, showing a charming smile. "And what if I wasn’t?" She chuckled, "You must be John, nice to meet you as well." She pushed a menu towards him. "I understand that your to be my new point of contact."
"If you weren't, then I'd just have to improvise." I smiled back, though I doubt there was nearly as much charm in my smile as what showed in her own. "I am, on both accounts." It was easy enough to say, because it was true. Of course, having a menu to look at also helped things and gave me a focus on something other than what I was saying. Not that I was lying, by any means.
There was a amused nod and she watched him. He got the impression she didn’t miss much. Finally, she said, "Military? What branch?" She motioned to her shoulders. "You carry yourself like you were trained and expected to sit straight."
"You caught me," I admitted with a short chuckle. "Army. Long time ago, but it turns out I had good instructors because their lessons stuck with me." Of course, it wasn't just their lessons, there were quite a few other teachers I'd had. Just ask my family. They'd tell you all about how good of a student I was before the Army.
She chuckled at that and nodded. "May I ask what your MOS was? It
is MOS right? What you were assigned to do?" She wasn't military that was for damn sure. But she had her own training, he could tell by how she occasionally would sweep the room and look back at him. "So, did Misha tell you about me?"' She asked curiously.
"19D," I said, unable to contain the curiosity from my voice. How many people actually bothered to ask? Not many, and fewer had this kind of disarming effect to them. Strange. "Cavalry Scout." Of course, I didn't miss the way she'd break contact every so often, looking this way then that. I did the same, for that matter, but with less theatricality. More of a glance here, a scratched nose there to conceal my looking around. Same endgame, different method.
"He said very little, other than to meet." Of course, that wasn't entirely true, but I wasn't exactly lying either. Mate to a wolf, and a fellow Fenrir herself didn't constitute much info at all.
There was a slow nod. "I infer by him sending you here that you can be trusted though," she pressed her lips together. "Do you want to order something, we can get deeper into this once you do?"
"Cavalry scout, sounds adventurous. You must have seen a lot both good and bad." She had turned those ageless eyes on him again and they carried weight, almost like his soul was being spun, weighed and measured to see when it should be cut.
She raises a good point; I may as well grab something to eat while I'm here. I'd say I could put it on the company dime, but well, I'm self-employed for all intents and purposes. Flagging down a waitstaff, I quietly told them my order of chicken curry and left it at that. "I've been privy to a few secrets over the years. I can be trusted."
Really, though. What would she expect me to say? That I can't be trusted? I shrugged mentally at that; people could be funny about some things, myself included. "Yeah, I saw more than a few things. A few good." A pause, as a glass of water came my way.
"Most bad, if I'm honest." That wasn't even the tip of the iceberg.
The waitress asked if she was ready for her lamb stew and she nodded, giving her a thank you. Her eyes turned back to John and asked, "So what is your full name and if you would give me a strand of hair, we can continue." She beamed a smile. "I know it sounds weird, but," she shrugs.
Hearing him she nodded. "Most death and destruction tends to be bad, only the deranged would see beauty in it. It changes people and not always for the better. You have nightmares from it?" Yeah, she was fairly upfront but that tended to be okay, her inflections, her friendly demeanor tended to put people at ease.
That was, somehow, not the strangest request I'd ever gotten. Close, but not quite the first. "Whitten, John Turner," I said simply, though with a curious gleam in my eyes as I plucked a hair to give to her. Where was this going? More importantly, would I need a ritesmaster afterwards?
"Only one," I replied, voice tensing at the admission. It wasn't as though she could use it against me, I'd conquered that place years ago, and the echoes were just that. Echoes. Still, I didn't normally like telling people about the less... interesting parts to my life.
She reached out and took the piece of hair, looking it over before pulling out a locket and putting it in it, and then slipping it under her shirt again. "I’d like to hear your dream sometime, let me ask you this. Do you wish to have peace in your sleep? I can give that to you."
She breathed in and looked around again, then back at him "So. I’m not allowed at the Sept. This information does not go further than you or I, but you have a right to know what you are dealing with. Mends can’t really be seen having too much contact with me, neither can Horseman." She looked him over, a half smile forming. "Have you ever heard of a willworker? To some extent the true born call them Caern raiders."
There was a pause. "I am a willworker, a fairly strong one. I am also the diplomat between my people and the Gaian. And now you’re the diplomat for the Gaian, to me."
Tempting offer, I suppose. Peace. No, it was that struggle that had defined me for so long. I'd hold onto it a while longer, as much as it was painful to admit. The mountain? Well, you couldn't cheat it. I'd learned that so long ago. I shook my head at the offer, though I didn't say anything. She'd have to wait, just like all of the rest.
I listened quietly to her words, doing my level best not to look confused. Maybe it even worked. Was it really a good idea to make such statements in the open like this? Even beyond that, a willworker? Dimly, I could recall a story about it, from a long time ago. Must've been 4 or 5 then, when the stories were easier to digest. My features hardened a little at her statement, because while I may not have been one of those trueborn, I was just as loyal as the rest to my charge. Caern raider did not inspire confidence, not at all.
"Right," I said at last, forcing my voice to calmness although I suppose I could be forgiven for sounding a little incredulous. Oh, I believed her alright. That was the problem. "And keeping all of this at arm's reach is just for operational security." I shrugged. Made as much sense as a lot of things I'd seen in the military. Plausible deniability. That was the phrase. Fucking hated that phrase.
She watched him with those eyes that had a uncomfortable weight to them and smiled gently. "Smart Garou tend to understand that those kin who become like I am can be valuable allies." Her shoulders rose slightly, "The good news is that when you’re with me, you can speak freely." She lifted a finger and did a small circle. "I made it so that anything we say is so muted that it sounds like indistinct whispering and spirits can’t pass, though this is the first and only time I’ll do it before letting you know. Just so that you don’t sit down across from me in the future and start talking."
I have to admit, between knowing that there was an entirely different world on top of the regular one and understanding just what that meant, well, that second one was not exactly my strong suit. My life was uncomplicated; antagonize the average wolf, kick doors, shoot people behind those doors, try not to lose my head in the process. Easy, see? Even the generic cloak and dagger, I could hang with that; just part of the family business really. But this? Well, I didn't even know where to start.
"Noted," I said in a simple tone, doubting she'd understand the context of that phrase. Oh, I still believed her; we were too far in to not believe her. "So, we're secure for the moment." I paused, thinking about it; more specifically thinking about my options. There were a few still on the table, and beneath it. Not now, though. Not until I saw how far the thread pulled apart.
"Magic, then? Why the need for a liaison? Seems a waste."
"For the moment," she said, "I’ll let you know before I take it down." She watched him, lifting her drink to take a small sip.
"Well first, let me back up a moment and say that I am not in fact a caern raider; that’s not why I can’t go to the Sept. Caern raiders are normally the Magi who work with the Weaver. Though, they won’t admit that is who drives them." Her shoulders rose and fell.
"Why the liaison..." she tilted her head, "Why do you think it would be a waste?"
"Caern raiders were in stories I heard as a child, never really thought about them before now," I said, voice soft enough to show I hadn't thought that she may have been one. More of a boogieman, if I'm honest, but I had my charge all the same. "Interesting to hear that there was truth to them." Not surprising, though.
I breathed out at her follow up question, settling myself. Guess not everyone followed that old military doctrine of the bottom line first. Made it easier when we had all of the pretenses out of the way, and her response gave me some idea that this wasn't what I'd suggested it may have been. Good.
"Where I earned my stripes, liaising was more of a developmental position. Good for new people sometimes, but too often it was wasted with people wanting to get out of work." I paused, letting it sink in.
"Your look tells me enough that this probably isn't the case. So, what all do I need to know up front?"
"Well fae are real too, so there you go." She chuckled, watching him to see how he took THAT information.
She considered, her fingers turning the wine glass around again. "I am to my people what Misha is to his," she said softly and seriously. "Most true born aren’t..." She was trying to figure out how to explain this, but she kept her ageless eyes on him. "Most are very narrow in their thinking. A good bit of them, when finding out that their kin are capable of dealing with the things we can, see it to be punishable by death. And depending on the type of magic we use can make it seem founded. Many won’t even consider that we could be allies. I mean, look at how many Fera are still beaten or killed. Wolves know they have a divine purpose and normally they don’t want to share that spotlight. I imagine he wants a liaison because it’s a valuable secret, and he would rather not deal with other Garou trying to kill me. That would get very ugly on all ends. That said, I am dangerous to know mostly because of that. If say a Shadow Lord found out that Misha was friendly with me, they might use it as a means to topple him.
What I DO is I see to it that any breaches are cleaned up. From all points, not just werewolves and I get it swept under the rug that way the Caern raiders don’t point their noses in your Sept’s direction."
I smiled at her first jab there, more a sympathetic one than anything else. "I've known a few Fianna over the years; no surprises there." Shit, wouldn't surprise me to learn that they were all that way; some of them were a little weird even as far as wolves went.
It's a quick brief, with probably more to unload just by going over the details. A big part of me wished I could write all of this down, but I'd just have to trust my memory to hold. Not like that was any different than usual. Of course, that little bit about the Fera kinda passed right by; sure, I'd known a few of them as well, but we tended to keep our distance. Something with Fenrir Kin and parents who prided themselves on a death wish just didn't ever seem to make for a good conversation.
"So back to the operational security. I'm tracking now. Suppose it makes sense why he's got me on this task, too. I'm a bit dangerous to know myself; tend to only meet people when we're doing an op." I chuckled a bit at that; how very clinical that all sounded for ruining a bunch of people's days.
"Well, that and the fact that it means I'll be out of the Sept more often. Less chance of annoying them that way."
"I can’t answer why Misha would chose you to do this, maybe he thinks you can protect me." She grinned impishly at that, considering if THAT could be true, she added, "I do know he tends to like to have me meet Get of Fenris because I think he thinks it helps me stay connected to the Garou."
Her nose wrinkled, "I don’t find you annoying. Yet."
"He's not so smart as to think I could do anything exactly as he wanted," I said, only half -joking. Half because I'd do it; I mean I was right fucking here. Half because I'd only do what made sense, not what some other kind of drone Kin might be expected to do. "The way you say that, makes me wonder how effective it is." Or not.
I smiled again, the whole thing lasting just long enough to register that I was approaching a good mood. "Most people say that at first. Give it time. Especially if you had been a cub or a younger wolf." Not really a joke there, but I'd take it all the same.
She actually blushed. "Well, when Vetris died, I separated myself from the Sept and the Garou, so...until now I found no interest in those sent my way. The last one was actually Garou who had her head shoved up her ass pretty far."
She blinked and laughed, "Hey, you know... I think you probably tolerate their "I am better then you, bullshit.., about as well as I do. I gave the Garou sent to me a rectal cranial inversion... I didn’t see her after that."
So maybe there was some common ground. We both apparently couldn't quite stand them; what else was new for any Kin with their head screwed on straight? I let her keep speaking, if only because she seemed to be on something of a roll and it gave me a bit of an insight. No surprises in her reactions, really, and the words seemed to almost oddly match my sentiments a little. I have to admit, this could be a setup, but if it were, then I was unable to see the wire. Well, only a single way to see if this was victim-operated or not...
"Let's not get too ahead here; I was banished from the Sept for a bit for pissing off a cub and not backing down. And before that, well... the list goes on."
Her shoulders rose, "So you’re mouthy? Okay, I don’t mind that." She grinned. "Respect is earned with me. Not given simply because of a birthright or rank."
"Mouthy? Not entirely. More stubborn and with something approaching a death wish." I smiled again at the joking admission; if only they could see me now. Oh, I didn't hate them, but if they could see their work at creating another perfect warrior so completely subverted? Well, they didn't call him Run-to-Ground for nothing. That man did not know how to let anything go, least of all his family and kin.
"So, that seems to have covered most of my responsibilities. What does that mean as far as our doing business? Just when needed by Misha or yourself? What are those left and right limits?" Doubt she'd fully understand that last bit, but it would be close enough for most work.
"Well, before the job was mostly me calling… you in this case... if I have information and that getting up to Misha instead of me going to the Sept to keep him informed. And, if he needs me to know something or do something you would give me that information. For instance, a Farm had been hit a few months to a year ago and the bodies were taken to the morgue. Kin AND Metis bodies. Those needed to be destroyed and or returned, so he got that info to me. But beyond that, I don’t really know what you’re supposed to do? Or what the limits are. What do you want the limits to be?" She asked curiously, "Or rather, what do you think they should be?"
It wasn't often I got to set the parameters to my own additional duty; this was quite the opportunity here. No way I'd squander the chance, but unlike most of my peers who may have seen it as a chance to do literally nothing and reap rewards, I was more of a working dog. Tit for tat, at least. Strange, right?
"Sounds like a good bit of discretion on both of our parts." I let that sit for a moment, seeing if she had any ideas before moving on. "So, here's my BLUF. If there's a task I can help with, give me some lead time and I'll see if I can assist. With passing information, same thing goes." I shrugged, the action more for myself than for her. "I'm not some kind of savant behind the lines, but if it bleeds, there's a good chance I can help put it down."
"Can I ask the same more or less from you?"
She quieted as the waitress brought their orders that they had put in and left. It gave time for Rachael to consider what she wanted to say.
She looked from the waitress to John. "Man of action, I can appreciate that." She leaned back and picked her spoon up. "I appreciate discretion. The thing with helping me is twofold, one you’re going to see some stuff that makes the BSDs seem sane. If you can handle that, sure. The other is," and she lifted her eyes to meet his, "It’s very possible you will awaken and become a magi by what you see."
Maybe I shouldn't eat like I'd been forced to so many times in the field, on alert. Maybe I should also show a vague amount of respect to this person who probably could do more than I was able to imagine. Both held their merits, but I dug into my food quickly, as I always had for as long as I could remember. So decided, what was normally a rout became more of a field maneuver, and an orderly one at that. Sure, I could control myself when needed. Like now. Good food, too.
"I've been on the tip of the spear for our people for as long as I can remember. If it's a threat, there's a good chance I've taken a crack at putting it down. And stayed quiet about it." As she looked at me and spoke about becoming a mage, though? I'm not sure what I thought about it, to be honest, so I ignored the idea for now. Much easier that way.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, I guess." What else could I say?
She started to eat as well, though it was less mess hall etiquette for her. "I understand. I was actually callow, so I wasn't a soldier or civilian for them myself. " She chuckled, "I suppose we will.”
"I can agree to having you help if you can. I would help if you need me, " She grinned and looked at him considering. "Also, we meet for drinks and the like occasionally; you seem interesting, I’d like to get to know you a little better."
I chuckled a little at her last statement, in between bites of food. I'd not eaten in a while, so the relief was more than welcome, although I took care not to focus too hard on the plate before me. Rude or something, I think.
"Don't let the facade fool you, I'm not that interesting unless you want a study in the amount of times someone can make the exact same bad decision without dying." I'd run out of luck eventually; that's what their lessons had been about. It wasn't about that, though, so much as making each roll of the dice just a little more favorable each time, or failing that, taking as many as you can with you. Grim stuff to tell a child. Life, right? Most parents were like that, too?
"You were callow," I asked in a polite voice, not just feigning interest. How many times had I wished I could've had the same benefit? Life may have been much easier that way, but what did I know? Too much, really.
"Everyone says that when they don’t want someone to see past the rough veneer." There was a bit of a smile there but she added, "So you will forgive me for wanting to find out for myself."
There was a slow nod between bites. "Until I met Vetris. I didn’t know anything really. Then things just started to tumble my way. Now it’s like I’m a strange magnet."
"Fair," I replied, though didn't go much beyond it. If she wanted to learn more, I suppose I could oblige someday, but not now. Not here. Too new.
"We all are kind of a magnet for the odd. One way or the other, we all become wrapped up in this." Why was I suddenly so philosophic? When the hell did I actually care about whether a Kin remained callow or not? "Growing up as part of the family just means that I saw more of where they all can fail. Not that different in practice that what you've discovered, really."
Was I just saying that to be mean to them? They'd cared, of a sort. I guess? It was complicated. Too complicated.
"Isn’t that the truth, it’s like touching the supernatural means you get to know more, always more." She tilted her head at his words, but then her phone rang. She lifted a finger and answered it, "Special Agent Constantine." She listened and nodded. "I’ll be there post haste." She hung up and looked at him. "I need to go, we just got information on a serial killer I’ve been tracking. The bill is paid for, it was nice meeting you John." She said and stood, taking out a card, she put it on the table near his drink. "Easiest way to contact me. Be seeing you around," she said, nodding and slipped a pair of round rose colored glasses over her eyes to hide them a little.
Head to this artsy, waterside enclave to snap a selfie with the iconic Fremont Troll and to enjoy the neighborhoods delicious offerings and free spirited charm. This room encompasses Meni Dumpling Tzar, Pacific Inn Pub, HA! , Fremont Sunday Market, Show Poney, Fremond Brewing, MiiR, Fremont Abby, Norms, Browers Cafe, and George & the dragon Pub
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