February's Introduction to the Tribe

by Edward Cupps and Dustin Evermore

It was nearly midnight the evening Fianna came looking for her new apprentice. With the recent excitement, and the fact that the first Bàs Filidh was asleep in a death-like trance after being greivously injured in a battle with the Sabbat two weeks ago, February had barely even seen her. By now, February had heard some of the others talking about her new mistress in hushed tones, speaking of how Fianna had been adopted by the Tremere and not truly one of them. These rumors were never spoken loudly enough for the elders to hear, for they knew that the criticism was unpopular with Roma.

Fianna had been up and about for a few days now, but presumably she had been pretty busy. February had heard another rumor that Fianna had been attacked by an ally, who was mostly responsible for her being so badly injured. It left her wondering how bad of a mood Fianna might be in, and she didn't relish the idea of being around an irate vampire.

February sat in the library reading a large book on the history of the Indians of the Louisiana Purchase. Some of them were woodland Indians and others plains Indians, but it was interesting because most of Fianna's "tribe" was made up of these people. It also described in great length the history of the Cherokee people, which was very fascinating to her, since she was half Cherokee and half Irish. That made her eligible to claim native American status, and hopefully would also be readily accepted by both Fianna and her tribe of people. Fianna had mentioned once that they were very proud of their heritage and held little love for whites. That meant it was pretty important that she did get accepted as one of them.

"I see you have been studying your history."

February jumped at the voice and looked around. She had been so wrapped up in the book, she hadn't heard Fianna come in.

"Yes, Mistress Fianna. I always read when I can, especially looking at both sides of an issue. My grandfather years ago told me how the history books we're skewed. I've learned the truth in his words"

Fianna was smiling at her apprentice. Hair had fallen down in February's face and Fianna caught the errant strands, pushing them behind February's ear. "It's fascinating and inspiring, isn't?" said the vampiress. She pulled out a chair and sat down next to February. "They suffered so much, yet they endured. Many of them have shown such strength that they've retained their language and a portion of their culture. It takes a great people to do that in the face of centuries of being a conquered people."

Fianna put an elbow on the table and leaned languidly on her hand as she looked at February. With a half-smile still curling her lips, she said, "So tell me, my young friend, what have you learned over the past two weeks?"

To her relief, February didn't sense that Fianna was in a bad mood. But there was something about her mistress that made her suddenly self-conscious and a little bit nervous. Maybe it was just the usual nerves being around a new teacher. After all, for February, this teacher was supposed to be her most important one right now, and it was she that needed to be impressed most of all.

"Mistress, I read all of your reports that I was allowed to read, researched the history of the land you acquired for your followers, attended two ritual castings to lend power, finished a dissertation for you on my family history, life events and how the past affected my decision to...hopefully...be granted the gift of immortality to study and master magick. Oh, and I settled into my quarters and met the others."

February, freckled and happy, smiled back at her Mistress. She was not the dour student of the arts or the typical gothic ghoul. She seemed genuine.

"Sounds like you have been busy," smiled Fianna. "I'm glad you finished the dissertation. I'd like to read about your family history tonight."

Fianna paused a moment, watching February rifle through her papers for the dissertation. "And how are the others treating you, February?"

"Quite well. I was the only woman other than my first teacher and eventually Mistress Ashlynne joined us. The four of us get along well enough. We mostly deal with Master Eisen. He monitors our studies and since I'm the most advanced student, he generally allows me a bit of freedom in my lesson plan. I haven't really spoken to any other Masters other than yourself, Eisen and Ashlynne. They seem busy and unapproachable, especially Master Raphael, who is in studies constantly."

"My, the most advanced student, are you?" Fianna said, still smiling. "I'm glad the others have accepted you readily."

February handed over the papers, and the vampire took them. "February, I think it is time for a field trip. There is a task I would like you to manage and for that to happen, there needs to be some mutual understanding."

February stands up from her desk,"Of course ma'am, how can I help?"

Fianna stood up. "Come with me." The girl was surprised, and she looked around at her studies, making motions to gather them up. "No, you may leave them here, February," she told her, with hint of laughter behind her smile.

"And don't look so worried. You have permission to leave the Chantry with me, for this special case." Fianna took her student outside the Chantry and after a short walk, they arrived at a black BMW. It was already running and the tall figure who stepped out of the driver's seat was unmistakably native American. One hundred percent Lakota Sioux to be precise. He walked around and opened a rear door for the two women. He looked February up and down, and she could sense that he was judging every aspect of her physically as well as watching her every move.

"Is she the one?" he asked.

"Yes, she is. Strong Bow, this is my apprentice. The outside world calls her February. But to us her name will be Lenuna." Fianna looked at her apprentice. There was no name that fit her better.

The big warrior's recognized the name as a Cherokee one, although he did not speak the language. "Ah. The little Cherokee." He looked down at her without expression.

February (Lenuna) responded offering a hand, "Pleased to make you acquaintance, sir. I'm a great ad..."

Fianna cut in, "Have the preparations be made?"

Strong Bow looked at Fianna, relieving the pressure of his gaze from February. "Yes, Mika. They are waiting."

"Then we shall go," Fianna inclined her head slightly. She and February got into the back seat while Strong Bow took the wheel. In a moment, they were one their way, heading out of the city.

Fianna looked at her new apprentice. "I think it's time you met the tribe. Once that is done, I have a very important task for you to complete with Strong Bow over the next few days."

February caught Strong Bow's eyes watching her through the mirror for a moment, before he returned his gaze to the road.

In Gaelic, February said, "I'm not terribly sure he likes me much."

Fianna responded in her old tongue. "Your Gaelic is good, but we will have to work on that accent. And it's not that he doesn't like you. I think he will, eventually. It's just that he thinks you might be competition for my attention. He is also concerned about the little project I will have the two of you working on together."

"I was wondering, if it's appropriate, what that project is? While I have studied the Lakota and know a good deal about their history and the like, I don't really know their rituals and ceremonies that well. A lot has been lost, at least that's what I've learned. But, I like projects and challenges, especially if I can get out of the stuffy existential lessons of Master Eisen for awhile. Oh, and why does he call you Mika?"

Fianna nodded approval, and switched back to English. "Good. I want you to ask. This is how you will learn the most from me. Your mind must be open to the knowledge before you can truly embrace it. Therefore, if you can phrase a proper question, I know that you can at least begin to understand the answer.

"Now, as to what the project is, that's quite simple. I need you to work with Strong Bow to select a new Bear Warrior. He knows I expect a certain level of martial prowess. I want you to make sure that the choice is also psychologically capable handling the duty. They must be true to the faith, the old ways, of course. But the candidate must also have a cunning intelligence, capable and adaptable. The position is open to either gender. And I'd like the selection to be finished within one week.

"In order for you to do this, my tribe must be familiar with you and recognize you as my apprentice. If the introduction goes well, they will then give you as much respect as they do Strong Bow and your task will be easier.

"Tonight, there is no ritual. We hold a council with the elders and the most respected members of the community. They will be allowed to ask you questions, and also ask me to resolve issues that have come up. You would be wise to listen carefully and learn from me how to speak to them with wisdom and respect. This is a mutual relationship, Lenuna. They will help us if we help them. "

Fianna switched back to Gaelic. "Never forget that, my young one. They are human and we are not, yet they deserve respect and to be empowered by hope. The point is to provide more for them than they need to provide for us. This ensures their loyalty, and continuing work with them will secure their faith in our power. And they are to have a choice." Fianna looked out the window and her thoughts went far away. "A choice I never had." She looked back at February. "A choice you should have had."

"You see, February, there are no stronger bonds than those of hope and freedom. Dispense these things in the proper way, and your chosen will never abandon you.

Fianna looked intently at February, and soon she seemed to fill all of the younger woman's vision. "Doing this correctly is something that must be done with skill and care, young one. If you are to become a Death Poet one day, then this will be your second greatest tool, above even magick."

Fianna sat back and switched to English again. "Mika is my name among the tribe. Fianna is what we use in the outside world. Mahpiya Winyam is another name, but it is general, like a title. I am usually called Mahpiya Winyam in formal circumstances or when there is a desire to show extra respect. Otherwise, I like to be called Mika."

What Fianna spoke of was fundamentally different from the way the Tremere usually worked. They tended to be introverted and had few people skills, relying on Domination to get their way in mortal society. What Fianna showed her student was a truly poetic way to interact, in comparison. It was manipulation, but it was so gentle that it could almost be called benevolent.

The ride continued out of the city and soon they were passing into the countryside. When they finally turned into a gravel drive, February could see several campfires lighting the site. There were a few trailers and several tents. There were also several very large teepees, meant to shelter groups of people. There was no evidence of wealth here. In fact, it looked to be in much the same condition as many Indian reservations across the country. But there was something different in the way the people here moved, in the energy and lively spark in their voices. These people had something that many did not, even among the white folk.

All this was in the dark shadow of a large hill lit by a half moon. It was on top of this hill that the largest fire could be seen, and the largest of the teepees. Numerous shapes could be seen moving around up there.

Strong Bow parked and came around to let the women out of the back. "This is it, Lenuna," she said in English. "This is our haven." She did not call it hers, alone, a marked difference between Fianna and any other vampire February had known. Fianna regarded this place as collectively owned.

February looked outside the window, "I look forward to meeting your people, Mika, Strong Bow. I look forward to contributing to your tribe." February, as ever, smiled and looked curiously around at everything.

Fianna smiled as Strong Bow dipped his head in acknowledgment. She was already proud of her new student and looked forward to the coming introduction.

Strong Bow began leading them up the grassy hill and soon some people came trotting down with torches to light the way. They continued up the hill in a procession, and people came out with smiling faces to watch the trio and their escorts walk to the meeting place. By the time they had reached the top, a crowd had gathered. Men and women from the ages of sixteen to late forties were assembled. There were no truly old people here, nor were their children, but two or three of the women were pregnant. These were carrying the first generation of the new tribe.

When they reached the top of the hill, excited voices surrounded them for a few minutes. Then, one of the older men held up his arms. He told them, "It is time for Mahpiya Winyam to speak. Let us hear silence first." In short order the crowd became quiet and they sat down to listen. Soon, only Fianna and February were standing with Strong Bow standing a respectful distance away and watching the surroundings carefully.

Fianna put a hand on February's shoulder. "I have chosen my apprentice. This is Lenuna of the Cherokee people." Whispered greetings scattered through the audience.

"She will be among you at times, when I do not have her studying. I would like for you to accept her as you have me, for one day she may take my place should I be struck from this earth." There was immediately some shaking of heads and a growing buzz of conversation.

Fianna held up her other hand and they grew quiet. "But that is not what I foresee. I believe she will be among us for a long time, and one day when our tribe has grown large and strong, she will lead some to start a new tribe as a new Sky Woman."

Someone in the front of the assembled crowd said, "But if the Sky Woman is a spirit inhabiting a mortal body, how can someone who is mortal be like her?" Whispered assent approved of the bold man's question.

"It is because she has chosen that at the end of her apprenticeship, she will die and join her spirit to that of the Great Sky Spirit. Then, once she has been purified, I will bring her back so that she can share her new power with us."

Silence spread before Fianna like a hot wind, sapping all conversation as they considered this. Finally, the man who had spoken up before, spoke again. "Can you do this thing?"

Fianna nodded. "Yes, John Running Fox. But only after the proper preparation and only my chosen one. I can not simply raise the dead; that is not my domain." Many heads nodded, accepting the explanation, but a few still had doubt.

"You have seen me do many things. You have helped me do them. We built this hill, burrowed through solid stone, made the stones shed light, called the animals and talked to them like brothers and sisters, and many other things. Have faith, this is a good thing. Lenuna can be with you during the daylight hours that I usually rest, and it will be a long time before she is ready to become a Mahpiya Winyam." Now they seemed to accept the explanation gladly. It was true that with Fianna, they had worked miracles they never thought possible.

"Now, come meet her and then we'll hold council with the elders in the council chamber." They got up and began crowding around, introducing themselves in a hopelessly confusing barrage of names, some of them shaking her hand, others merely wanting to touch her hair and arms to see for themselves that she was real.

After a few minutes, Fianna pulled her away and they made their way part way down the hill.

In Gaelic, February questioned, "Mistress, I read your reports and I wasn't sure of the degree of devotion you have built in your people simply by faith. These people actually see us, well you at least, as the manifestation of a spirit. Their spirit. You give them hope, maintain their ways and our ways, and sustain your existance through ceremony and faith. Everyone is happy and spiritually fullfilled."

"Yes," the vampire responded. "That is the point. We Bas Filidh operate on the power of faith. So, too, is it our weakness, for we truly understand the very real power of it. Yet, there are still challenges, even if you are doing your job right. Watch and see..."

Soon Fianna had led the girl to a hollow in the hill where, hidden in shadow there stood a heavy stone door. Now, it stood open and after the first turn, they could see. Within niches formed into the rock walls were placed fist-sized stones that glowed brightly, providing all the light needed. The short path ended in a large, circular chamber. A number of mature men and a couple older women sat around what looked like a fire pit. In this case, however, a small pile of large, glowing stones shed the light. One council member was lighting a pipe.

February asked, "Are the stones your dweamor?"

Fianna nodded, responding in the old language. "I do not like fire, but have the magic to provide light. I use stones because they are readily available. Since the magic lasts a long time, we call a small council about this size each week and use them to aid the magic. With their help, I can create large piles of enchanted stone, without taxing my own energy reserves, in only a few minutes. The ceremony is always amazing to them and is also a good faith-building exercise." Fianna winked at her and said, "Plus, it cuts down dramatically on the electric bill. We have to watch every penny here. After all, the more self-sufficient I can help them be, the fewer there will be trying to earn a living by hooking, theivery and the like. You have to understand that a lot of these people came from the city, in very poor situations."

Fianna led February to a rug and pillow that had been set aside for them. When she sat down the softly smoking pipe was handed to her. She took a puff and then handed it to February.

February nodded and took a drag on the pipe, it seemed as if she came to this part quite naturally.

Soon more greetings were made, welcoming February, as Lenuna, to the tribe. One of the first questions that came up was if she had had a chance to make medicine with Mika.

February, not sure of whether there was a subtle meaning to their words, answered, "I look forward to assisting Mika as I can."

Finally, Fianna opened the council for tribal business matters. A man with greying hair, wide set eyes and a long mouth asked, "Over the past two weeks the tribe worried about you very much, Mika. Why were you gone for so long? What happened to Strong Bow in this time?"

"I appreciate your concern, Mathieu Rain Song," Fianna replied. "Strong Bow and I had to go into the city and do battle with evil forces." She sighed and shook her head. "You know that there are many spirits in this world, some good, some bad, and some neutral. There are evil beings, similar in some ways to myself, that arise from time to time. In this case, they arose very near here on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. These beings do not see the value in human life. They are selfish, evil, and extremely dangerous. They believe only in violence and death, and live in the dark corners of the night."

Fianna took in all the council members with a measured look, pausing on each of them. "I felt it was my duty to stop them, so I faced them. I had allies of like mind if not like spirit who understood that this evil must be destroyed as well and we faced them. As the Bear Warrior for this Tribe, I also took Strong Bow. He did well and showed a measure of bravery beyond that of most men or women. I am proud of him.

"Yet, in the end, we both were nearly destroyed. It was a close battle, but enough damage had already be dealt that it was very shortly after even I fell that my side won. Both Strong Bow and I were grievously wounded. I was gone all this time in recovery. This body is very difficult to destroy permanently, but I was nevertheless nearly undone. Thus I took some time before my spirit could re-enter it."

Mathieu asked, "This explains the wounds we saw upon your body when you emerged from the Stone a few nights ago. We had thought perhaps you had to fight a death spirit."

Fianna chuckled, "Mathieu, I'm surprised at you. You still believe in the Grim Reaper? That is a white man's myth." The Indian's face reddened in embarrassment. "No, no spirits or gods of death bar my way to this world. Only the destruction of my mortal coil will prevent me from returning. And even then, I shall return again in the eyes of a child."

One of the women spoke up. "You mean you could be reborn as a human?"

"Yes. It is a choice I could make."

The others seemed to digest this. The woman spoke again. "There were horrible wounds on your back that only went away after the Gift of Blood ceremony. I have seen those before. They are wounds from a shotgun, and I saw silver shot come out when you healed. I have never seen such horrible damage done to a body before. Can you speak to us about them?"

Fianna chuckled again. "Do you think I tried to run away Red Doe?" Fianna laughed. "No, I have never fled from a fight. Although come to think of it, perhaps I should think about that in the future." A couple nervous chuckles echoed around the room. "No, there was an accident. An ally, enthusiastic to reach the enemy, went through me first. His indiscretion is being dealt with."

Red Doe muttered, "I would like to deal with him, myself." February heard because she was sitting next to Red Doe, but Fianna didn't seem to hear. February leaned over to Red Doe and whispered, "Your enthusiasm to help Mika is honorable, but Mika knows her way and the issue will be dealt with."

The man who had started the pipe in the begining of the meeting spoke up. "I think this tribe would be lost without you, Mika. We all love you, and the things you have done for us have bound us together and made all these very different people into a community. It's hard to continue forward when you are gone. It may be impossible if you are gone for months or years."

Fianna nodded. "I know it would be unfair for me to leave you all without warning and without guidance. I am sorry it happened for these last two weeks. I never mean to worry you. But given the risks that I have to take lately, I think now it is appropriate to bring on Lenuna. Also, I wish to annoint another Bear Warrior."

Several tried to speak at once. "Please! Let me say something," said one over the others. It was the one who had started the pipe again. "Mika, why do you not call more of us from the tribe when you go to face these enemies? Why must there be only a few against so strong a foe?"

"I appreciate your willingness to help, Cloud. But if I did that, the authorities would take note of a small army of armed people moving through the city. This is not a war in the open, no matter how the enemy might wish it. I can't afford to risk revealing our real power to the world. We are not ready. We are not nearly ready. Remember that powers of evil have influence, too, and should they find a way to hurt me through hurting all of you, they will do it."

"But are we not prepared?" Cloud gestured to the back of the chamber, through a heavy granite door that February had not noticed before.

"This place is a fortress, that is true. But would you give up freedom? Would you give up the right to enjoy the land we have? To even ever see the sun again? And that is only if this place could hold them out forever. It is very strong, but it could not stop a determined effort. They could use bombs and dynamite. I say again, open war with all the powers who might oppose us is not our way. This is the lesson your forefathers were taught. It is our duty to learn it without having to die for it if we can."

Cloud, now mollified, was quiet.

The other woman spoke up. "Who will you select to be bear warrior? Can only men have this title?"

"To answer your second question, Willow, the position is open to any who can fill it. I have decided to accept the candidate that Lenuna and Strong Bow will choose by consensus."

Willow turned her attention to the girl. "Lenuna, welcome to the tribe. I believe I know what qualities Strong Bow will look for in a candidate. What do you look for?"

"I look for loyalty, wisdom and faith. The ceremony of the blood will attend to strength. But a strength of purpose and piety to the ancient ways is essential. A believe a Bear Warrior should be not only a warrior of battle, but a warrior of the spirit. I see Strong Bow as a good example to follow, but he is not the only possibility."

Willow smiled and looked to Fianna. "She is wise for her youth, Mika."

Fianna nodded and smiled. "Yes, her soul is older than her body appears." She looked at February and gave her a pleased smile. The answer she gave pleased the vampire druid as much as it did the members of the tribal council.

Fianna continued, "Is there any other business?" A few more mundane items came up, but it soon developed into simple conversation and discussion of hopeful plans for the future with regard to the new settlement.

Fianna stood, "I'm afraid I must take leave now, but I will return before the evening is done." She gestured for February to stand, too.

February smiled and got up, "Yes Mika."

Amid the expected polite protestations, Fianna bid them farewell for now. Many of them would be well asleep before she came back to rest.

"Now that they know you, you may come and leave as you will, Lenuna. I hope that you will choose to spend a little of your days with them. They are good people who were just lost for a while. They need people like you and I."

"So, in a way, we're doing what the Brujah always talk about, but usually fail. we're guiding these people and giving them hope," said February enthusiastically.

"Do they indeed?" said Fianna with a hint of laughter.

She continued, "And I know they will want to know more about you, and perhaps even want to ask you personal things about me." She stopped and touched her student's arm. "Now you know them and will be trusted by them. I will trust that your answers to them will be the right ones. After all, failure here does not just hurt you and I. All these people are counting on us." Fianna watched the younger woman's reactions carefully.

"Failure simply isn't an option my mistress. We have time to make things good for these people, and give you the sustenance you need. If I may be so bold, I think you love these people, and that gives you greater sustenance than any vitae. If I can, I'll help build their world and be a teacher to them by day, as you are by night."

"You have it right. You have it exactly right," Fianna said. The two left the site and soon returned to the Chantry.

At the Chantry, the teacher and student were met by Ashlynne while going through the great hall. "I hope the night went well for you Fianna. February, Master Eisen wishes you to complete your lesson before the end of the week. Off with you now."

February departed, turning her head and giving her teacher, Fianna, a smile. Tonight had been a good night.

Website designed by Edward Cupps and Dustin Evermore. c.1999-2002

Credit and thanks go to Jason Monroe, Brian Pint, Ryan McCullogh, Josh Holt, Tom Welch, Holland Erickson, Lisa Hartjes, Curtis Eckerman and all those who participated consciously or not.  And of course...the Partyman R.I.P.