Last Tales of the Broken
Werewolves gather regularly in moots, events that serve a variety of social, political and religious functions. These gathering are part of what makes them Garou, communal creatures dedicated to common causes and sacred responsibilities. Usually, moots are convened every full moon, although a sept may call smaller gatherings as circumstances warrant. For cliath, these gatherings are vital. When a pack returns from one of its adventures, one among them should tell the events that occurred at the next moot. The various werewolves in the pack can then earn renown. By contrast, Garou who avoid moots regularly are viewed with suspicion, often because of their unwillingness to aid their own kind.
Moots are always held at caerns, and powerful spirits are often summoned as part of the proceedings. Theurges perform great rites, Philodox attend to protocol and the “business” aspects of the gathering, Galliards organize the social and storytelling events, and Ahroun see to the defense of the assembly. Werewolves debate policies, discuss plans, send heroes off to perform great tasks, celebrate heroes who have returned triumphant and revile criminals who violate the Litany. Matters are handled with decorum and weighed by the Sept as a whole. When matters become too grim, Ragabash satirize foolish decisions, jape at pretentious elders and taunt those who take themselves far too seriously. The most powerful moon bridges are opened during this time. Most importantly, the spiritual energy expended keeps the caern alive, for as the Garou prosper, so do the sacred sites they attend.
There are many types of moots, varying in size, purpose, grandeur and attendance.
Hearings may be convened at any time, usually when a pack returns from a great adventure. Elders assemble to listen to what the young heroes have found, pressing plans are discussed immediately, and renown is awarded. The sept leader decides which elders are vital to the discussion. As a pack’s Galliard relates what has just occurred, his packmates should watch the elders’ reactions carefully. Those reactions often reveal volumes about political struggles within the sept. Not everyone in the sept is required to attend a hearing, although many elders hate to receive information after their rivals have.
Sept Moots are the regular monthly meetings of a sept. Any Garou can attend, although those from outside the sept are often regarded with suspicion. This meeting is more than a simple voicing of complaints; it often resolves with a raucous celebration that no cliath would dare miss.
Grand Moots are convened to discuss the weightiest matters, often those that affect an entire tribe. All werewolves of the specific tribe within a reasonable distance are required to attend; others may be invited as well, but only with special permission.
Concolations are the largest moots, and all werewolves nearby are required to attend, regardless of Pack, Sept or Tribe. They are extremely rare and accordingly critical. The gathering is announced during a normal moot, and it always requires at least five elders of five different tribes to support it. Once the decision has been made, messengers are sent out from region to region and caern to caern. The event is held exactly three months later at the exact same site. Legends speak of a few grand concolations where messengers are dispatched to retrieve some of the greatest heroes in the world, but such an event has not occurred in decades.
A moot has five basic divisions: the Opening Howl, the Inner Sky, Cracking the Bone, Stories and Songs, and the Revel. Septs give some of these sections more weight than others and even add their own variations and subsections. Still, these five components are the core of every moot: The sept must gather, honor totems, recharge the caern, air grievances, affirm Garou history and, finally, release primal passions. These acts are at the heart of every member of the sept and remind all who take part in a moot what it means to be Garou.
The Opening Howl
All moots start with the howl. The Opening Howl, led by the Master of the Howl, fills the air with unearthly, atonal modulations. Each sept’s howl has a distinctive flavor, the result of that sept’s general attitude, particular blending of tribes and recent events. For instance, the howl of a primarily Fianna sept echoes with an almost ethereal beauty; that of a predominantly Shadow Lord sept resonates with a disturbing dissonance; a Red Talon sept cries out with guttural savagery. More diverse septs integrate the various tribes’ moods. Thus, a sept with large numbers of Fianna, Shadow Lords and Red Talons generates a beautifully dark keening, as the Fianna’s rarefied voices intermingle with the Shadow Lords’ lower tones and the Red Talons’ sharp punctuations.
While tribe and attitude play a part in the howl, the sept’s current status colors the howl just as strongly. These elements blend in the Opening Howl‘s final moments, when the Galliards, coordinated by the Master of the Howl, lead the rest of the sept in declaring the purpose of the moot. A howl marking the sept’s recent triumph is martial in tone and flavored with tribal heritage – Fianna tones reminiscent of Celtic war ballads, Stargazers’ of ancient Tibetan songs, Red Talons’ of pure, wild bestiality. A moot called to determine the fate of a Garou accused of turning to the Wyrm echoes with howls that are uniformly menacing in tone, whether the subvocal growl of Silver Fangs, the savage snarl of Get of Fenris or the nerve-wracking barks of Bone Gnawers.
The Inner Sky
The moot’s second portion devotes itself to strengthening the caern by contacting tribal spirits. The Caller of the Wyld leads the sept in this portion of the moot. Umbral spirits are the source of the caern’s continued strength; as such, the Inner Sky is vital to the caern’s health. The Caller of the Wyld must contact the spirits and treat them with appropriate honor and deference.
If a sept doesn’t maintain the caern’s bonds to the Umbra, the caern itself weakens over time, no matter how passionate the Revels that end the moots. This factor is often cited as the cause behind a caern becoming fallow or falling to the Wyrm.
Cracking the Bone
The business of the moot occurs at this stage. Grievances are aired, sept policy is made and personal conduct addressed. The Truthcatcher heads this part of the moot. As its name implies, Cracking the Bone is no simple task. Much like a hungry wolf cracks a bone to find the sweet marrow hidden inside, the Truthcatcher must cleave into the most challenging dilemma and discover the core of truth that lies within.
All temporal business is conducted at this time. Most tribes allow all Garou who wish to speak to do so. Even in this openness there is a proper procedure, however. The concept of rank is so ingrained in most Garou that lower ranking members inevitably defer to higher ranking individuals. A Garou who speaks out of turn, defying the sept hierarchy, invariably loses Honor. Still, some of the more tolerant septs, usually led by the Bone Gnawers or Children of Gaia, allow their younger members to speak out of turn without harsh penalty.
The Garou system of justice is simpler than that used in the human world, as it has more in common with lupine ways. Judgment and the punishment that follows is swift, blunt and without appeal. Once a decision is made, for good or ill, the matter is usually closed.
Stories and Songs
During this section of a moot, the Talesinger leads the sept in spinning stories of past and present Garou adventures. Ancient heroes are remembered and new ones honored with howls of recognition and rites of praise. A Garou whose deeds have earned a Talesinger’s praise gains much glory in the eyes of his peers.
The mood of the Stories and Songs segment is, again, dependent on the sept and its tribal majority. Tales told by Shadow Lords and Silver Fangs are usually serious treatises and heavy-handed ballads howled only by the Talesinger. A Talesinger’s personal glory in these long-winded affairs is secondary to his ancestry and connection to the tribe and sept. Stories of past heroes are told as parables that often cite the Garou’s superiority over humans and place the particular tribe in the position of guide and mentor to other tribes. Things become very interesting during this phase in septs comprising both Shadow Lords and Silver Fangs, since both tribes not only consider themselves without equal, but view each other as rivals for true supremacy over all other tribes.
The Uktena and Wendigo tale-telling follows the Native American model, with the greatest warrior braves taking on the roles of victor and vanquished, and a chorus supporting the tale with howls and natural percussion. This portion of the moot can become so charged with energy for these tribes that the remainder of the sept comes forward, dancing and howling in a ring around the Talesinger as he reaches the story’s climax.
Of all the tribes, the Silent Striders are most noted for their Stories and Songs. They elevate this portion of the moot to an art form in and of itself by incorporating elaborate and exuberant dance-tales known as Pakiv Swatura. Only those dancers trained extensively in this strenuous and expressive art may participate in such tales. A Garou honored to be part of a Pakiv Swatura often finds himself spun about and tossed in the air repeatedly by the other dancers until he’s too dizzy to walk.
The Silent Striders also engage in Darane Swatura, boisterous, overblown comical tales told simply for the joy of the telling. A single Strider usually begins a story, then passes from one Garou to the next. Each builds on the tale in an attempt to surpass the previous speaker’s humor until the entire sept is overwhelmed with riotous laughter.
The Revel culminates the moot. The passion of every Garou in the sept builds toward the Revel, finally releasing with tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual intensity. Not only is this section cathartic for the Garou, but it serves to recharge the caern and echoes the reconnection to the Umbra as performed during the Inner Sky.
Both mundane procedures and mystical rites become more impassioned as the moot progresses. The stories and songs kick the Garou assemblage into even higher gear and stir the werewolves’ souls to a fever pitch. Once the sept is roused to the greatest possible extent, the Garou chosen for the role of Wyrm Foe changes into wolf form and gives a mighty howl. The Wyrm Foe usually waits for the Master of the Howl to give him this signal, but it’s not unknown for the Garou to become so caught up in the building Revel that he leaps forward, giving an ear-splitting call. The rest of the sept joins in the howl, and Garou not already in Lupus make the change, emulating the Wyrm Foe.
Mock battles and other displays of strength and prowess erupt spontaneously throughout the sept, as the Garou prepare for the run. These demonstrations serve to take the Garou past the point of no return, a truly liberating release on every level. Once the sept reaches this degree of excitement, the Wyrm Foe thunders out of the caern proper, leading the entire sept on an exhausting run to clear the area around the caern of all enemies. During the run itself, many Garou eventually transform into their deadly Crinos form, as they fully embrace their Rage.
Although any Garou in the throes of the Revel is a gloriously fearsome sight, the Get of Fenris are renowned for their incredible savagery during the run. The defense of caerns by the Get and other rural septs give rise to many small-town stories of “full moon fever.” Similarly, the urban prowls of Bone Gnawer and Glass Walker Revels are often labeled gang warfare or particularly vicious killing sprees by the unsuspecting human populace.
The Garou passion released during the Revel is effectively raw essence that pours back into the caern itself. Such recharging is vital in maintaining the caern’s power, just as sustaining the caern’s connection to the Umbra is. Every Garou who participates in a Revel must spend at least one point of Gnosis toward recharging the caern.
A caern that doesn’t receive the requisite amount of Gnosis lapses into inactive status. Although its potential spiritual energy still exists, the caern must be reconnected to the Umbra and its spirits awakened before Garou may tap its power.
After the Moot
The Garou find their way back to the caern after the end of the frenzy brought on by the Revel. Although exhausted after a moot, the sept brims with a great contentment and feeling of unity.
A regularly performed moot sustains both caern and sept. It strengthens the caern’s connection to the Umbra, to the sept’s totem spirits and between the Garou themselves. The sept itself draws mystical and psychological strength from the caern in turn. Sept and caern have a symbiotic relationship and sustain each other against the myriad dangers that menace Gaia’s defenders.