“Ludwig. Wake up.”
He blinked his eyes open, and felt like he was standing in big forest. It felt like a old growth forest- big white aspens and pines and shrubs and ferns and thickets, very over grow and vibrant with life. He stood in his Crinos form, he assumed, because it was night and the sky a dark grey, full of barely lit clouds that felt like rain. His eyesight adjusted well, as the Wolf-man form had some limited form of night vision, but never enough to fight by. Although, Ludwig mused, it had to be enough to hunt by.
Lupus was even better, since as Knows-the-Path had shown him, a wolf’s sense of smell could be better than any sort of vision. After all, why see when one can feel and taste where something has been? Helping his vision, though, was a eerie green glowing light.
“What is this?” He asked, part of him irritated by whatever the hell this was.
“Part of a dream.” Ludwig turned around and found himself looking down into a pair of glowing green eyes. The source of the eerie light came from her eyes. Lynne’s eyes.
“What?” He asked, more confused than irritated.
“I… have…” Lynne paused, considered her words. “I am talking to you through a dream. I’ve seen many new things, and it seemed simpler to show rather than tell you.”
“Okay, I guess.” Ludwig cocked an eyebrow. “Show me what exactly?”
“This.” She waved a hand at the old growth forest around them.
“Where is ‘this’?”
“What your people call the Umbra, in a long-forgotten glade, that doesn’t exist anymore. At least, she told me it doesn’t exist anymore.”
“Mother Gaia. She seemed to think it used to be important.”
He looked into the forest, thick with scents and sounds he realized he’d never heard or smelled before. The word for it was on the tip of his tongue, it was so unreal, so much beyond his normal breadth of experience.
Magical. That’s the word. Magical. This place felt and smelled and looked magical.
“Are we really here then or-”
“-This is a memory. An echo of what the Fae realm used to be.” Lynne pressed herself up closer to him. “And time here moves so much more different, too.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They spend hours, days, maybe years together in that forest. Ludwig lost track. Lynne was right, time worked so different there.
And he found that the forest in this Memory of Arcadia wasn’t vacant. Fae of all sorts- Trolls, Elves, Centaurs, Dryads and many others- lived in the forest and its many idyllic villages. The two of them were welcome there as if they were mighty heroes and feasted and danced and commingled with the many Fae of the forests of Arcadia. Lynne would remind him that it all was still just a dream- a memory that was fading, and that cast a bittersweet tone on all of it.
But one new night, when the moon was blood red, the Forest burned. Fae rushed and fled from great beasts and horrors. And as the fires raged, snow fell, bringing a cold that the fires couldn’t warm.
Lynne and Ludwig watched down from atop a mountain down at the many Forests of Arcadia. The lands were dark, burning and drowning in horrors. Lynne reached out a hand and pointed to a castle at the edge of the forest.
Ludwig watched what she had pointed out.
He watched as Burning-Howl knelt down before a tall elven queen in silver and green and red. This version of his father was bleeding, tears streaking down his eyes. The elven queen shook her head and walked away from Burning-Howl.
The Legend of the Fianna struck the ground three times and stood up. He looked back into Arcadia and then stepped away, disappearing in a instant.
“What was that? Who was he talking to?” Ludwig looked to Lynne, his eyes confused.
Lynne’s eyes looked sad. “This was his greatest Failure. Gaia, the Mother wanted you to see it.”
“How did he fail then, was he supposed to save this place or-”
“He asked a powerful Faerie for her help. Burning-Howl came to her after every trick he knew failed; when Garou are born, a Theurge performs a rite that binds a Spirit to watch over them. When you were stolen from him, Burning-Howl hunted that spirit down. Once found, that spirit, called a Kin-Fetch, could give him the proper clues and scents to use to find you.
“But Burning-Howl could not find your Kin-Fetch, nor could he discover what had happened to it. He searched the umbra for solutions, entreating with Allies of all kinds to try and find the Kin-Fetch and why he couldn’t find it.
“He became a legend in those days during his hunt for the Kin-Fetch. He found himself repeatedly drawn away from the hunt because he’d stumble across Wyrm taint or have to find this foe or that one. His own daughter turned to the Wyrm and his own twin brother too.
“None had the answer to his quest, and even though the entire Garou Nation knew his name, and his Renown so greatly outshone all but a few, he still could not find out why that Kin-Fetch could not be found. He did find a single clue, but even that clue didn’t uncover a straight answer.
“But Burning-Howl knew that the Fae could do wonders of their own. He’d helped them before, and seen the magnitude of their magic and boons. So he came here and asked them for help.
“Arcadia burned from the taint of the Wyrm, and the Weaver’s cold snap froze the land, as you’ve seen. The Dream that is Arcadia lost much of its power. The Fae offered Burning-Howl a deal:
“We will grant you your son back, but for the price of three: your life for our land, your Wolf itself to strengthen us, and your son to be raised to protect us in the final days.”
Ludwig looked at Lynne. “How do you know all of this?”
" The Black Furies taught me how to commune with Mother Gaia, and she taught me how to read the Dream, Ludwig. Every memory and dream can be seen and read. I’ve lived the memories Burning-Howl has of this moment. He could have gladly died and given up his own spirit if you could be found in the exchange. But he lacked the conviction to make the deal to save Arcadia. He couldn’t promise a son he didn’t know to save a land that is just a dream.
“So Arcadia slowly freezes now. A land of dreams and nightmares, but nothing truly real. Burning-Howl let it die because he couldn’t bring himself to risk anything meaningful to save it, even if it might let him save his son.”
Lynne wrapped her arms around Ludwig.
“I’m sorry, but now this has to end. I will be in your Dreams, love. I must walk the memories and the dreams and do what I can before the end comes. You need to learn from your father’s example; be willing to make a sacrifice and do not hesitate if it only preserves the illusion of what you love.”