Mr. Herald, the university recruiter who convinced my adoptive family to send me here, met me at the airport, but instead of taking me to my new apartment on the university campus, took me downtown. I couldn't believe the size of Toronto -- it's so much bigger than New Orleans! I had of course been reading up on Canada in general and Toronto in particular prior to coming here, but it's hard to really comprehend the size of a place until you see it.
I don't know how the Garou that live here stand it... I suppose the urban tribes are different, and even those of other tribes, if they're born in the city, must be somewhat accustomed to it, but for me it was difficult. I'm used to fresh air, and green spaces, and only occasional trips into the city for special events. The haze of smog over it, the concrete separating you from the earth, the noise, the smells, the crowds, the tall buildings... How do they deal with it? Garou don't belong here. Nothing natural does.
For the first time I was glad that the law school that accepted me was the one in the university on the edge of the city, not the one downtown. At first when I began reading up on them, I was shocked to find that it was the University of Toronto that had the better reputation, and York was considered to be where people went who couldn't get into U of T. I was really devastated at first -- could it really be that every bit of work I'd put into my studies, all the time and energy I'd channelled into trying to excel there so that I could at least have some kind of success in the human world, even if i couldn't in the Garou world, had been for nothing? That nothing I ever did would be good enough? I've never brought home less than an A on anything -- never! And I know my LSAT scores were excellent. But maybe that still wasn't good enough.
It's strange -- I know a lot of people would be happy to get into law school at all, especially to have one from a foreign country actively trying to recruit them. But I just felt like I'd failed, completely. Why is it I can't ever be satisfied with being less than perfect at anything that's in my control?
But when I looked further, I found out that even though York as a whole is not so well regarded, its law school apparently is, and closely rivals U of T's. Some years one is deemed better, some years the other. That made me feel better -- a little. But it was seeing the downtown core of the city that really made me glad not to have to live there. Still, the greater surprise was yet to come.
We boarded a boat and went out on the water to one of the islands off the shore of Toronto. The waterfront was a nightmare -- choked with concrete, hidden by high-rises, stinking, polluted water and nothing like a natural shoreline in sight. But once we were out on the water it was better -- the air was almost fresh and the islands ahead of us mostly green. We disembarked at one that seemed mostly undeveloped, and it was then that I learned the recruiter was more than he appeared, as he shifted into a lean black form that between wolf and jackal -- a Silent Strider. I had had no idea he was Garou. I wasn't sure if my family knew or not -- did they send me here specifically for the mission that now faces me, or did he steal me away for it without their knowledge? I still don't know.
I shifted to lupus form as well, and we quietly skirted the edge of a clearing where it seemed a small moot was taking place, staying out of sight. Eventually, after circling it and observing for a while, he led me off to a secluded area and shifted back to homid, where he told me that this place was a caern tended by the Children of Gaia, but that it would not be advisable to reveal myself to them just yet. He said the elders of the city had chosen me and several others to form a pack to investigate rumors of a White Howler cub having been born in the city. Why me, and why I was brought from so far away, I have no idea -- he was not very forthcoming with explanations. His tribe seem to thrive on mystery. But he said that I would meet with them in a few days time.
I'm still trying to understand this -- why would they want me? And does anyone from my tribe know about this, or was the decision made elsewhere? The impression I had had, from the few times any of the Garou deigned to speak to me, was that I would be lucky ever to be accepted into a pack. And now I've been called to one, for a mission of some importance, by a representative of a sept from many miles away from my home. How would the Garou here even know anything about me, much less want me enough to bring me here? What on earth is special about me?
Unless perhaps the real reason for my being brought to Toronto was only what it appeared -- a law school hunting for prospective students -- and Mr. Herald only discovered I was Garou upon meeting me when he came to visit my adoptive parents, and then decided that since I was young, new in the city, and not yet a member of a pack, I might be available for something like this. I suppose that's really far more likely than that he somehow brought me here specifically for this mission. And if the purpose was simply to find available young Garou without any existing pack commitments, what does that say about the mission? Either that it's not considered important enough to bother experienced Garou with, or at least not more than the one apparently entrusted with supervising us... Or possibly that it's highly dangerous, and best put at least initially in the hands of people considered... expendable.
The more I think about it, the more sense that makes. We've already been told that the Black Spiral Dancers are likely to be seeking this cub, if it indeed exists. We are supposed to try and find the baby before they do, and to alert the elders when they do. So essentially, we're being sent forth to dodge Black Spiral packs on what might be a wild goose chase, and thus run a high risk of death or worse in pursuit of something out of legend that may not even exist. Yes, why would they risk anyone they really valued on that? If we find that the cub does exist, then they may send in a more experienced pack to deal with the situation. But at the moment, we're the front line of investigation of a tale that may or may not have any substance, but almost certainly will attract danger, since whether or not there is truth to the rumors, the Dancers will certainly have heard them.
High risk, low possibility of success. An excellent place for a mule that no one really values, where with any luck, I can be eliminated and cease being an embarrassment to my tribe my virtue of my existence... Or, just possibly, actually accomplish something important and finally prove my worth. Because what if the rumours are true? What if the cub holds the key to bringing back a long-dead tribe, or to undoing the Dancers, or in some other way is fated to play a role in the final battles of the coming Apocalypse? If my tribe even knows I am here at all, they may just be glad to finally be rid of me... But maybe, just maybe, things will not turn out the way they expect.
And either way, it will be an improvement on the way things have been. I'm not afraid to die in battle -- I've contemplated taking my own life often enough, though never actually attempted it since it might have been seen as dishonorable. And if there is a chance of actually accomplishing something, of distinguishing myself enough that I can actually claim my heritage without disgracing or offending my tribe -- isn't that worth any risk?
(Next: the meeting)