Tribe: Red Talons
The old ahroun, Half-Jaw, surveyed the darkened valley below. His pack watched with him, whining occasionally with excitement. It was too dark and too far to see clearly, but his nose and ears told him all he needed to know.
The spirits had whispered to Heart-finder, the theurge, of what the humans were doing here. They were erecting a great machine to suck the blood from Gaia, which in turn would be used to create and power more and more machines. Even worse, this process turned Gaia’s blood into a poison that all too often leaked onto the land or into the water, coating and choking all it touched.
Tonight that would change. It was all the galliard, Song-of-Red-Snow, could do to contain his howls. But the Red Talons would not howl, not yet. Half-Jaw did not want their prey to know of their doom before it was upon them. There was no moon in the sky, and that meant subtlety.
The wind shifted. It was time. Soundlessly, Half-Jaw charged down the cliff-face, his hispo claws finding traction in the hardened snow. His pack followed suit, an extension of his will. Each Red Talon knew what to do: kill the armed humans first, and then the rest.
The first human saw nothing, felt only the weight of Half-Jaw on his back. There was a cracking of the spine as he fell to the ground, and with one bite to the neck his life was ended. The man’s blood tasted rancid, stinking and burning slightly with whatever it was humans put into their frail bodies.
The other humans began screaming as the Talons found them in turn. Half-Jaw raised his head to find his next target. The man readied his weapon as Half-Jaw sprinted toward him. The first shot missed, so shaky was the human’s aim in his fear, but the next struck him in the shoulder. It stung, but only served to stoke the massive wolf’s rage, who seized the man by the leg and swung him around with such force that the limb tore from his body. Blood sprayed into the sky like a red geyser, and Half-Jaw leapt upon him to end his pain and to quiet his pathetic cries.
It did not take long before all the humans had fallen. But the machines kept running, mindless of their masters’ demise: loudly whirring, buzzing, grinding. The Red Talons knew how to silence these as well, for they had learned that machines had nerves and veins too. Rips and tears soon brought them to a shuddering halt, their foul-smelling fluids leaking onto the snow, discoloring it with unnatural greens, purples, and blacks. Half-Jaw looked briefly at Heart-finder, who immediately began to channel his power to hasten the machines’ decay; soon, they would fall to pieces, and the mountain and the snow would claim them.
Once all the human bodies had been piled for cleansing, the ragabash, Sky-Without-Stars, chuffed uncertainly. Was it safe to eat now? Half-Jaw clarified with a brief growl. Their work was not yet done, for the humans’ mates and cubs were just over the next rise. The pack would feast tonight, and Griffin would be pleased.
And then, the Red Talons would howl.
WHO ARE THE RED TALONS?
Red Talons are a tribe of werewolves who have no human-born among them. More than any other tribe, they adhere closely to the ways of the wolf, to the extent that most of them reflexively shun all things human. Red Talons are notorious for their hatred of mankind, whom they blame for desecrating the lands, seas, and skies of Gaia, and who have caused countless numbers of Gaia’s creatures to disappear forever. This list will soon include the Red Talons’ lupus kinfolk, the dead spirits of whom now overcrowd the tribe’s homeland in the Umbra. No other tribe is facing annihilation the way the Talons are; no other tribe can begin to comprehend their grief and anger, which to outsiders borders on madness.
The Red Talons carry the rage of a wounded animal. They are the smallest of the Garou tribes and growing smaller by the day. Their caerns are few and can only be found in places that are far from human activity. The more humans expand their presence, the less room there is for wolves, and the more Gaia suffers. It is plain to the Talons that the number of humans must be kept in check, much as it was in the days of the Impergium, and it is to their great frustration and dismay that the other tribes fail to see that which is so clear. Is it fear of humans that keeps them from acting, or love for them? Either way, the Red Talons find their inaction and complacency unacceptable, and for better or worse they will act alone if they have to.
The Red Talon tribe honors Griffin above all other totems. Griffin is a fierce predatory spirit who mourns for those creatures who have gone extinct, and he embodies Gaia’s anger toward the loss of her children at the hands of humans. All Red Talons of pure breeding have a bright red patch of fur somewhere on their bodies, which they perceive as a mark of Griffin’s favor.
Red Talons start with an extra Rage trait that can exceed the maximum for their rank. Their connection to the Wyld is so vital that they cannot regain Gnosis except in deep wilderness or in the heart of a caern. Red Talons generally prefer to avoid cities whenever possible, which they call “scabs,” and they are disdainful of the tribes of “urrah” (e.g., Bone Gnawers, Glass Walkers, and other urban Garou) who call such foul places home.
Black Furies: They have done a better job protecting their wolf-kin than many other tribes, which is commendable, and they are fierce warriors of the Wyld besides. They could accomplish much more if they spent less of their energy defending human females.
Bone Gnawers: These pitiful urrah stink of the filthy scabs they call home, but at least they fight the Wyrm there and do what they can to protect what tiny pockets of Wyld remain. It is more than can be said of the Glass Walkers.
Children of Gaia: They love humans far too much, almost as much as they love metis, and their dedication to mercy is impractical for predators. If we lived as they insist we should, we would peacefully starve to death.
Fianna: Their lupus howl beautifully, but their homids spend far too much time drinking poisons and filling the air with boastful words instead of focusing on what matters. When they grow loud and stupid, it is best to walk away and leave them to their foolishness.
Get of Fenris: Like the Fianna, the Fenrir are swayed too easily by their human side. Dying in battle for glory’s sake accomplishes nothing but to make us fewer than we are. True wolves kill to survive, not out of blood-lust; a rabid wolf is a dangerous ally at best.
Glass Walkers: These urrah have abandoned the wolf almost completely. It is no wonder they do not care if the Weaver consumes Gaia, for they have become dependent upon her and are no longer fit to survive in the wilderness. Do they even have any lupus left among them?
Shadow Lords: If one approaches you, he usually wants something. The Silver Fangs act as though they are not to be trusted, but there are places where the Shadow Lords have given aid to the Red Talons when other tribes would not.
Silent Striders: Peculiar Garou who look like scavengers, have no territory of their own, and too often bring bad news with them. Heed their warnings, but it is best not to let them linger.
Silver Fangs: They are often capable leaders, but they should not take our submission for granted. Too long we followed blindly, and at what cost? We will be more careful from now on, and we will be watching closely for any signs of weakness.
Stargazers: They spent too much time wondering and not enough time doing. Unlike most tribes, they recognized the Weaver as a threat of Gaia; alas they have chosen to turn their backs on their fellow Garou.
Uktena: There are stories of successful alliances between the Red Talons and the Uktena, but there are also stories of Uktena who have uncovered secrets that no servant of Gaia should ever wish to know. Watch what you say, for if they feel you are keeping something from them, they will not rest until they have uncovered that which you are hiding.
Wendigo: The Wendigo are confused; they seem to hate some humans as much as we do but are strangely protective of others. They think they can sense which ones are “pure” and which are not – but all humans smell like prey to me.
The Red Talons were not officially a tribe at the time the Litany was adopted; rather, they were simply Garou who had never mated with humans. As such, they did not have an opportunity to “vote” on the Litany or contribute to it as the other tribes did, and therefore they do not feel quite as bound to these laws as most Garou. Instead, their highest laws are the ways of the wolf, and they note with some dismay that the Litany is needed to codify that which should be instinctive.
- “Garou shall not mate with Garou.”
Red Talons mate only with lupus kinfolk, and only when the season is right. “Desire” is of the human-mind. Red Talons who mate with another Garou are slain, and many times their offspring die with them. Other times, the deformed cub will be given to another tribe to raise; rarely, a metis may become a Red Talon, but they will forever be omega wolves, even if they do prove themselves great warriors of Gaia.
- “Combat the Wyrm wherever it dwells and whenever it breeds.”
We do not need the Litany to tell us our purpose. We fight all enemies of Gaia: Wyrm and Weaver both. Humans do much to harm Gaia, and it is clear what must be done. With fewer humans, the Wyrm and Weaver would not be as strong as they are, and Gaia might yet be able to recover.
- “Respect the territory of another.”
Such has always been our way. Our hunting grounds are maintained because we are strong enough to keep them. Others must be strong enough to keep theirs. Claim not that which is beyond your strength to take.
- “Accept an honorable surrender.”
Contests of dominance ensure that the leader is strong. There is no shame in testing the leader, nor should the leader slay a challenger who shows proper submission. It is simply the way of things.
- “Submission to those of higher station.”
Red Talons acknowledge the superior rank of other Red Talons, for we know them to be true wolves. The other tribes, however, must prove themselves before we will consent to follow. Gone are the days when the Silver Fangs controlled us without question.
- “The first share of the kill for the greatest in station.”
The Alpha eats first, always. Eating before the Alpha is a challenge and will be treated as such.
- “Ye shall not eat the flesh of humans.”
It is plain that the other tribes love humans more than wolves, for there is no similar ban on consuming wolf-flesh. Humans are prey; this has always been their role, and the Litany does not change this fact. Garou of other tribes do not understand and will punish you if caught, so it is best not to eat human flesh in the open where you may be discovered. Griffin is pleased when humans die, and the tribe has ways of lifting punishments that are undeserved. Still, mind that you eat not that which is unclean.
- “Respect those beneath ye, for all are of Gaia.”
“Respect” is a human concept and means nothing to wolves. We respect our prey insofar as we require them in order to live, but we eat them all the same, yes? If all are indeed of Gaia, then no one creature is more special than any other. Humans have forgotten this; they think they are the most special of all, and that they can do whatever they please to Gaia’s lands and creatures.
- “The Veil shall not be lifted.”
Disguise your kills so the humans do not come looking for us or our wolf kin. If a human discovers your true nature or trespasses on your sacred lands, he must not live to tell others. Still, one wonders what might be accomplished if all Garou suddenly found themselves hunted as our kin are; if we were all forced out into the open to do battle, rather than striking from the shadows…
- “Do not suffer thy people to tend thy sickness.”
Old, diseased, or injured wolves often know when it is their time to die, and will not burden their pack to care for them. Our way is the same, and it is our duty to put down those who suffer from infirmity and linger too long. Our kinfolk, however, are too rare and precious to let perish in this way; if one becomes sick or injured, we must do all we can to protect and heal her.
- “The leader may be challenged at any time during peace.”
Any leader may be challenged when we are not engaged in a hunt or battle. Some try to hold onto power by arguing that we are always at war, but those are the words of one who is weak and afraid. Periodic challenges are necessary to ensure that the leader remains strong.
- “The leader may not be challenged during wartime.”
A pack that does not act in harmony in combat or while hunting will surely fail. During such times, we do not question or disobey the will of the Alpha.
- “Ye shall take no action that causes a caern to be violated.”
Our tribal caerns are closed to homid Garou, and even other lupus Garou may receive a rough welcome. We have lost many sacred places due to the spread of humans and the loss of wilderness. They are now so few that we take no chances: any human who comes near must die.
RED TALON AUSPICES
Invisible Moon (Ragabash): When there is no moon in the sky, Red Talons hunt with cunning and stealth, and it during such times that humans are most in danger from them. Invisible Moons are never Alphas, and because they do not present a serious challenge they get to question the leader without much in the way of consequences. They also make excellent scouts and trackers.
Listening Moon (Theurge): In the Umbra, a Listening Moon is automatically Beta, if not Alpha. Such Talons are keener than most at solving mysteries using the “human-mind” and uncovering rare gifts and rites. When the crescent moon is in the sky, Red Talons tend to hunt in the Umbra. As befits their moniker, Listening Moons tend to talk even less than other Talons, but hear all.
Knowing Moon (Philodox): Such Talons are most adept at knowing when and how to use their human form and abilities (much like defecating: there is a time and a place, though it is rarely an enjoyable experience). They tend not to go out of their way to kill wayward humans, but instead make the determination of what a trespassing human’s fate should be. They are also most likely to use glyphs.
Howling Moon (Galliard): The gibbous moon is a time for revels and stories, and the Howling Moons ensure that the lessons of previous hunts and battles are passed down among the tribe. They memorialize tribal heroes and the fallen so that none are forgotten. They do not write their stories in glyphs, but tell it anew each time with variations of howls, scents, and body language.
Seeing Moon (Ahroun): Red Talon warriors do not fight for glory; they fight to win, and this means going right for the throat of the enemy. Under the light of the full moon, the Red Talons hunt proudly and openly. Seeing Moons are most concerned with defending their kin and Gaia from all threats that may come, and are most likely to actively hunt humans. As the strongest wolves, they are also most likely to be Alphas.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Red Talons Rites of Passage are generally straightforward. When a cub is ready, he or she leaves the sept to perform some specific duty or to complete a specified task appropriate for their auspice. For example, this may involve protecting a pack of kin-wolves for a month, or hunting down the human responsible for the death of a kin-wolf who was highly prized. (As one might expect, Rites of Passage that involve the deaths of humans are fairly common). When the cub returns, assuming he or she has been successful, they are recognized as true Red Talons.
For the most part, Red Talon camps are not official societies. Rather, they are based loosely on the similar philosophies held by their members. With some exceptions, most gifts that are specific to certain camps are available to any Red Talon to learn.
Lodge of the Predator Kings: Red Talons who believe that every human (even kinfolk) is worthy of destruction fall into this camp. This does not mean they automatically kill all humans on sight, but they will not aid humans and will go out of their way to hunt humans if they can get away with it. The Kings want to restore the Impergium, and typically wear the hispo form as a reminder of more primal times. They are more progressive than many Talons insofar as they are more willing to work with other changing breeds to accomplish their goals, for wolves are not the only predators that humans have tried to wipe out.
Warders of the Land: The Warders have no love of humans either, but unlike the Predator Kings, they do not believe that a war on all humans is wise, even if it were winnable. They may even acknowledge that Gaia has a place for humans, who are simply too numerous. But like any herd that has become too large for the environment to support them, they believe that humans should be culled to bring them back into balance. Probably the largest camp, the Warders dedicate themselves to keeping their lands healthy and keeping wolves and humans far apart.
Whelp’s Compromise: This group is the most moderate of Red Talon factions as far as the other tribes are concerned. Talons in this camp may have encountered people who are actively working to protect wolves, which have led them to conclude that not all humans are evil and some may be worth saving. Others may have been raised in zoos or wolf preserves and have developed some comfort around humans (and curiosity/familiarity about their ways) as a result. Although they will not hesitate to kill any human they perceive as a threat to wolves or to Gaia, more extreme Red Talons are likely to look down upon these Garou, whom they feel are too close to the “urrah,” and such characters may also be out of favor with Griffin.
Dying Cubs: This group of Red Talons is most like a secret society, and almost no Garou outside the tribe are aware of its existence. This is primarily because members of this camp have discovered rites that ostensibly “heal” the land by torturing humans over several hours or even days; naturally, other tribes would react poorly if such practices were ever brought to light. (If nothing else, this camp demonstrates the desperate and questionable lengths some Red Talons are tempted to go to.)
Winter Packs: Not so much a “camp” per se, Winter Packs consist of young Red Talons who have never been tainted by contact with humans or even homid Garou. They are taken deep into the wilderness as cubs, taught to hate humans unconditionally, and trained to kill them most effectively in order to take the war for Gaia into human strongholds. This enterprise is unknown even to most Red Talons, and those few who are in-the-know certainly never speak of such things to outsiders. (Only one Winter Pack is in existence at this time.)
Griffin: (background cost 4) Followers of Griffin receive Alertness x3 and two temporary Glory. They can also communicate with all birds of prey. He rarely accepts homid Garou into his packs, which must never associate with humans.
Sphinx: (background cost 6) Red Talons follow a primal and predatory aspect of the Sphinx. Her children may draw on Enigmas x2 and 5 Willpower traits per month. Predominantly lupus packs also enjoy a one-trait bonus to pack tactics. Sphinx periodically tests her children with riddles or other challenges; if not even one can answer correctly or succeed, she withdraws her patronage – or may even attack if the failure was severe enough.
Old Wolf of the Woods: (background cost 6) Old Wolf only accepts packs of lupus. Followers gain three temporary Honor and are especially esteemed by Red Talons. Each pack member may call on Ancestors x5 once per month and may pierce the Gauntlet as if it were one rating lower.
Badger: (background cost 7) Badger’s children excel at indirect warfare that targets an enemy’s weaknesses, but they will fight with unbridled ferocity if cornered. Followers receive Stealth x2, Tireless, and may learn the metis gift Burrow. Packs can also call upon five Rage traits per month. They may never dwell in pre-fabricated shelters, but must either dig their own or sleep in the wild.
Wolverine: (background cost 6) This spirit of war demands that his followers defend their homes and packs with every fiber of their being. They receive a point of Rage that can never be lost or spent (i.e., they never “lose the wolf”) and may learn Mother’s Rage when they reach appropriate rank. They may never show mercy to a foe and must always use Rage in combat.
Wild Raven: (background cost 6) A cunning scavenger and trickster spirit, Raven asks that his children always leave him a part of their kills to feed upon. He is especially partial to eyes. Followers receive Dodge x2, Clever, and one point of temporary Wisdom.
TERRITORIES AND CAERNS
Red Talons have the fewest caerns of any tribe, as theirs can only exist in places far from the influence of humans or their habitations.
The Red Talons hold no caerns in South America, at least none that are known, but they have had some success breeding with the Chilean wolves of the Andes. Europe is another story, for the continent is so Weaver-choked that the few Red Talons remaining are forced into small corners of Northern Spain (the Mother’s Shelter caern), rural parts of Poland and Hungary, and Scandinavia. The Winter Forest sept in Russia mysteriously disappeared from the Realm, though some rumors suggest it still exists in some form elsewhere.
Red Talons can also be found in India, where they take advantage of the crowded human conditions as an easy source of food. They are highly secretive about any caerns there, though there is one place in particular where Rage is highly concentrated. The Red Talons of Australia resemble dingoes to the extent that some barely even consider them part of the tribe any longer. (Tell them so at your peril, however.)
But Africa is even stranger, for the Red Talons there have assumed the form of native wild dogs, becoming a sub-tribe called the Kucha Ekundu. The African Talons control a caern near Luxor, Egypt (Howling Sands) and the Kucha Ekundu hold the Caern of the Bloodied Rock far to the south of the continent.
Red Talon caerns have few, if any, visual markers or boundaries and tend to be marked mostly by scent. They are prowled tirelessly, and woe to any human who strays upon Talon territory. Some Talons, especially those with a degree of ingenuity or a sense of humor may even lay primitive traps for unwary humans (e.g., snares, spiked pits, etc.). Homid Garou are unwelcome at Talon caerns, and it is considered a grave insult to approach the caern heart in homid form. The Umbra in such places flows with Wyld energy, and sometimes the spirits of extinct animals can be glimpsed. Any Weaver spirit that enters will be violently attacked and sent into slumber.
Sept of the First Rage, the tribal Caern of the American Red Talons
Location: Near Lake Thibadeau National Wildlife Refuge (Wolf Kinfolk living in refuge) Level: 5
Caern Totem: Badger
This sept thrives in the rivers and lakes of isolated North Central Montana. In an effort to avoid overhunting the local large game, they have learned the skills of gathering fish and fowl as prey also. After all, a large razor-toothed pike is no easy prey. Not in a likely place to seek out hunting humans, they will nevertheless defend their territories violently, especially those who would poach their protected kinfolk in the nearby wildlife refuge. They are a very crafty lot, and call their own several of the oldest living lupus Garou in the nation.
Alpha - Sunrise-Heart, Galliard, Legend
This pure-bred Red Talon is Alpha of the Sept of the First Rage, the strongest Red Talon caern in North America, and he is the only Talon to challenge Blood-Eye and win. He disappeared from his sept for a long time in pursuit of secret wisdom in the Umbra, having only recently returned. Of what he found, neither he nor his sept speak of it. His views regarding humans are generally consistent with the philosophy of the Warders of the Land.
Beta - Blood-Rain, Ahroun, Athro
This Red Talon gets her name from shaking the blood from her fur after a battle. She prefers to use every tactical advantage to its maximum effect, and never leaves an enemy alive to tell the tale. She abhors torture, and will mercy kill anyone who did not die instantly. All prey deserve a swift death after all. Playing with them is a human notion, not of the wolf.
Warder - Bites the Messenger, Adren, Ragabash
Diligent and tireless in his efforts to protect the last of the wild places, this Ragabash will hide anywhere to catch those who would destroy Gaia’s face. He has an extreme hatred of mailmen after days hidden in drop boxes and packages to discover where a batch of polluted plastics were coming from.
Master of the Rite - Spider Snare, Theurge, Elder
This crafty elder is known for trapping the most firmly aligned spirits with their own logic. Believing repetitive rituals to be another tool of the Weaver, he has gained the respect of many spirits by altering each performance to the spirits of whatever local area he is working in. His instincts for Umbral navigation are surpassed only by the eldest of the Silent Striders. He also knows how to tear down the most complex of inanimate Umbral forms the humans have imprinted on the spirit world.
Master of the Challenge - River’s Justice, Philodox, Athro
Water is the source of life, and this wolf knows it well. No boat motor survives long in the rivers and lakes she protects, and fisherman with their machines and gadgets feel quite differently with a claw hooked in their cheek. Known within the Sept as a stern judge, her punishments are often considered harsh, but seldom lethal. She knows all too well how her tribe’s numbers have dwindled, and she does not lightly sacrifice a wolf that can still be of service to Gaia.
(More information on Red Talon caerns can be found in the Red Talon Tribebook, Guardians of the Caerns, and Caerns: Places of Power.)
RED TALONS OF NOTE
Sunrise-Heart, Galliard Legend: This pure-bred Red Talon is Alpha of the Sept of the First Rage, the strongest Red Talon caern in North America, and he is the only Talon to challenge Blood-Eye and win. He disappeared from his sept for a long time in pursuit of secret wisdom in the Umbra, having only recently returned. Of what he found, neither he nor his sept speak of it. His views regarding humans are generally consistent with the philosophy of the Warders of the Land.
Blood-Eye, Elder Ahroun: This great wolf is one of the oldest living Red Talons, having seen in excess of 50 winters. He was, for a time, undoubtedly the mightiest warrior in the tribe, and he used his strength to compel submission from all challengers and declare himself the Alpha of all Red Talons. A true Predator King, he considers humans the greatest threat facing his tribe, kin, and all of Gaia, and has personally led dozens of raids on their communities. Following his defeat by Sunrise-Heart, however, the old Garou has disappeared into the Northern wilderness, his whereabouts currently unknown.
Tundra-Runner, Elder Galliard: Also of the Predator Kings, this great wolf of over 40 years calls the Siberian wilderness his territory, and for half of those years he has been considered Alpha over all Red Talons in Asia. Though an extremist who seems to excel at making enemies, he was successfully able to forge alliances with the Get of Fenris and the Wendigo over Russia’s wolf-extermination pogrom. His presence has been scarce as of late, and the Winter Forest Sept he once led is rumored to have disappeared from the world.
Scab-Walker, Athro Ragabash: This 30-something bitch epitomizes the philosophy of Whelp’s Compromise. Operating primarily in the Midwest (Chicago and Minneapolis), she has a loose group of followers who seek to learn the secrets of the city, if only to make better judgments of which humans needs to be killed and which can be left alone. She has extensive contacts among the Bone Gnawers, Children of Gaia, and even Glass Walkers. Some would accuse her of being easily misled – for instance, she once lost renown for assisting in a civil war among vampires – whereas others would say she simply understands what must sometimes be done to thrive in an otherwise hostile environment.
Strongest Son, Adren Galliard (Kucha Ekundu): Wise beyond his years, this young Garou is a direct descendant of Looks-to-the-Sun, the Philodox who originally brokered the agreement between the Red Talons and Mokole of Africa. He leads the sept at the Caern of the Bloodied Rock and allows Garou and Fera of all kinds to take shelter there, provided they are free of taint. He shows great restraint in dealing with humans, convincing animals to hide from hunters (so they go looking elsewhere) rather than confronting them.
Storm-Eye, Adren Philodox: Born in 1991, she was once known as Judges-the-Trees, but gained her current deed name during a battle with a corrupted packmate in which she lost an eye. Killing her packmate also caused her to fall into Harano, and she returned to the pack of kinfolk led by her kin brother, Fights-the-Bear. When it was his time to die, she sought to give him a “hero’s death” by having him attack some humans, an act that only served to alienate her from the wolf-kin. She has lost much renown but lately has managed to redeem herself somewhat in many battles against the Wyrm, and now travels from sept to sept as an arbitrator for the tribe.
Great Wolves of yore:
Looks-Sideways: Credited with helping start the Impergium when she received a vision that humans needed to be culled in small numbers to prevent their rampant growth. (Though the Red Talons did not yet have a tribal identity in those days, they nonetheless claim her as one of their own.)
Fells-Trees, Ahroun: Credited with giving the Red Talons their name and creating the first Tribal Glyph (three claw slashes) when he attacked the Silver Fang Alpha at the Great Moot that created the Litany and ended the Impergium. He also asked the Silver Fangs a question that remains unanswered to this day, regarding how the Nation intended to address the human problem.
Spring Stream, Ragabash: Her death, allegedly at the claws of a Gurahl, helped convince the Red Talons to join in the War of Rage. Others believe she was actually slain by one of the Fenrir in an effort to provoke enmity between the Red Talons and the were-bears.
Forest-Edge, Philodox: Credited with developing the “Night-Fear,” who were the ancient forerunners of the Warders of the Land. These Talons’ favored method of dealing with humans involved assuming Crinos form to scare them away rather than kill them outright. This worked for a while, until the humans simply started to raze lands that they believed were cursed or haunted. The Red Talons still howl about this failed experiment in non-lethal solutions to the human problem.
Wyrmbaiter, Ahroun: He is regarded as a hero and conqueror by some, but a villain and a dupe by most. In the 1930s, he slew the last of the Bunyip in Australia, thinking they had killed his sister Greyflank, only to learn too late that he had been tricked by Black Spiral Dancers. He ran and hid in shame, never to be seen again, though he did sire at least two litters of pups in his lifetime. One Red Talon prophecy refers to “the last son of Wyrmbaiter” raining the heavens down in anger at being rejected by the Garou.
Stains-Glass, Ragabash: A member of the Night-Fear, she single-handedly saved a sept from destruction by disguising herself as a holy martyr and vanishing into the Umbra in front of a crowd of humans, who believed they had witnessed a religious vision and subsequently turned against those who sought to confiscate the land upon which the caern was located.
Songs-of-Shadows, Theurge: Many ages ago, this great and mysterious wolf visited all Red Talon septs with this message: “I bring ten prophecies for ten tribes. These matters affect all the Garou. Remember what you have heard and tell all the tribes. Each tribe must act on its own prophecy. Heed these words for Gaia’s sake.” The Talons listened to the messenger’s dire words and did what they could to spread his warnings, but none would listen. The Silver Fangs rebuked the Red Talons for being scared by an apparition; the Shadow Lords disregarded what they saw as a ploy to gain respect; the Fenrir nearly attacked the Talons for their cowardice; and the Warders of Men (now called Glass Walkers) openly laughed at these foolish wolves. But it was not long before the prophecy meant for the Warders came to pass, and their beloved city of Constantinople was sacked. The other Garou decided it was perhaps wiser to heed the warnings of the Red Talons, but as with many things, the Nation remained divided...
PROPHECIES (from Werewolf: Dark Ages)
Red Talons, despite their prophetic bent, too often only recognize a prophecy once it has come to pass. This is why they have shared their warnings with others, whose human-minds may be more capable of putting the pieces together and taking action to avert disaster. Alas, such dire predictions tend to fall on deaf ears, which surprises the Red Talons not at all. What follow are the ancient prophecies spoken of by Songs-of-Shadows, some of which have come to pass, and some which have yet to be realized.
Red Talons - I saw humans staggering sick, clutching their throats and scratching at sores. Even in their pain they found the strength to curse the wolves. But the wolves ran and hunted in the forest and outnumbered the humans. I saw many packs of wolves and I saw great red wolves on the edge of the forest and they called timidly to their fellow wolves to slay the humans in their weakness. But the red wolves called so meekly that none of the other wolves paid attention even as the humans’ sickness faded. And as the humans regained their strength I saw them sharpens shining blades and look hungrily to the forests. I heard a scream as if from a great bird of prey and I knew all was lost.
Silver Fangs - I saw Falcon and heard his voice in my mind. He gave warning of a knife that glinted in the belly of a king. Behind Falcon lay a pool of blood and he left red footprints on the cold and smoking ground. Forces gather and clashed in small battles of swirling dust and silver fur. They tore apart the darkness with swords and claws, shields shattering, men dying in a noble yet pointless cause. Finally a groan rose up above the field of battle and all fighting stopped, until shadows consumed the moon and the crown fell into the darkness.
Shadow Lords - I saw a hand reach out and grasp the night sky and I saw each silvery star wink out one by one. Thunder roared and lightning flashed. Black armies gathered in the snowy mountains and threatened all the world with their rage until the moon’s light parted the clouds and quieted the thunder itself. Luna plucked the squirming darkness from the heart of the lightning flash and twisted it back upon itself leaving the armies to battle each other. One shadow however was late for the gathering and did not fall into the trap. It continued on its way to complete its fellows’ mission.
Black Furies - I saw a dying mother birth her child in lands that wept black tears. Maiden, Mother, and Crone all stood by and watch the mother die at the hands of a great frozen darkness, their choice echoed in the hallways as hollow footsteps on marble. When the blood on the floor dried, the death-play ended, leaving only the children and their sisters to pick up the bones and ligaments and weave them back together again into a semblance of life. The lady of bone and sinew deserted the Furies then, leaving them to shift their faces, one to another. All must change before the great night falls.
Fenrir - I saw the Northernlands bathed by the bile of a black beast, and the dead humans who feast on blood tore at each other’s throats in fear or rage. And then from the sullen, stark skies, a hanged man laughed, and I saw his red-robed rogues luring on sinister paths. I saw the blood on an innocent boil and as the smoke wafted over the snow, I saw a legion rise from the ashes and dust and the fate of the Fenris-wolf was signed, softly unto stone.
Fianna - I saw a red wolf and a black wolf both running in the mist. They called and sang to one another, then they both became lost. As they ran, panicked, each trying to find the other by howls and by scent, I saw other things moving in the mist with them, but I could not see them easily. These things jumped upon both the wolves and the wolves fought the unseen things tearing their throats and scattering their bodies. Then the mist cleared and both the wolves were alone in a great valley, surrounded by bodies of those they had killed, some foe, but mostly other wolves both red and black. And the wolves howled together in unison, in shame and regret from what they did.
Bone Gnawers - I saw a man reaching out begging for food, and with the same hand he offers help. He offers his hand to all those who live below notice, to the beggars and the diseased. He offers his hand freely and forgets that his tail is visible, and the people come for him in the night with fire in their eyes. But the man holds his other hand behind his back, and in it holds a black rat that he strokes and keeps warm and safe. When the people with the fire come for him, he drops the rat and it scurries off into dark places, bruised and angry.
Silent Striders - I see a pure land that opens up before the jackals, yielding to their wandering feet. They explore it as they do all the other roads walking roads of dirt and stone, obsidian and turquoise. Into their hands falls moonlit metals and silvered fetishes, and their smiles turn to ash. They traverse new roads of steel. They see sight that will blind their children’s children. They step on brilliant lines of dust and crush painted shells beneath their feet. Foul shadows rise up out of the ground, and a white tide rises out of the ocean to wash away the purity of the earth. The shape of the land is forever altered.
Children of Gaia - I saw a werewolf struggling with human clothes, trying to wear the garb of human priests. But the vestments did not fit the werewolf and she ragged tearing them from her body, only to regain her calm and try again. She struggled with the cloths of many different colors and many different human-cities, but she could find none that fit her. All the while, a unicorn pranced behind her trying to catch her attention, but she could not turn from her task. All the while the humans around her were dress in the garb she tried wear but never changed them. they wore their clothes as the years wore on until when the werewolf finally found human-cloths that fit her the humans were nearly naked themselves.
Warders of Man (Glass Walkers) - I saw a wolf in a great maze of stone and glass but he was unafraid. He knew the maze completely as he had been there when it was built and so he hand no fear of the spiders that clung to the walls and drank the blood of the humans who dwelt there. The wolf strode proudly in the street sure that the spider could not see him, ignoring them and their webs. And then the great shadow in the shape of a cross fell over the maze and the ground shook and the spiders leaped at each other and tore one another limb from limb. And the humans fought as well and the maze burned and fell, and the wolf could do nothing but sit and howl.
ROLE-PLAYING A RED TALON
What follows is no substitute for the revised Red Talon Tribebook, which every Red Talon player should be familiar with. (If you can find it, Ways of the Wolf is also highly recommended.) This style guide is mostly for people who are considering the challenge of playing a Red Talon character.
Red Talon players face similar difficulties of anyone attempting to role-play a lupus character; they must put themselves in the paws of a creature for whom instinct is the primary way of understanding the world and interacting with others, for whom the “human-mind” is confusing and suspect. Instinct (“wolf-heart”) is pure and simple, a gift to all of Gaia’s creatures from birth; but the human capacity for abstract thought opens the mind to various illusions all competing for the status of truth, such that no man is ever certain of his place or his role. Humans may be born with a penchant for cleverness, but without Gaia’s wisdom in their hearts, they are easily led astray. It would be one thing if Red Talons struggled to find a balance between “wolf-heart” and “human-mind,” but most do not. That’s the uniqueness of this tribe, after all, and part of what makes them fun to play. Even the most human-tolerating Talons will always trust instinct over reason. As a Red Talon player, you will need to understand wolf instincts and behavior to do your character justice; fortunately there are many good websites and books dedicated to this field of study.
For starters, Red Talons are awful liars, especially in hispo or lupus form, which almost all of the time. Wolves communicate primarily through body language, which is not under their conscious control. For a Red Talon to lie effectively, they must both be in a humanoid form and engage the “human-mind” in order to understand their listener well enough to devise a story that person would accept as true. For this reason, Red Talons simply do not talk about that which they want to keep hidden – which is hardly suspicious behavior, as Talons generally don’t talk much anyway.
It follows that Red Talons tend not to argue, nor are they easily persuaded by debate. This can be a challenge for players who feel the urge to express their characters’ points of view in words, or who interact and relate with other characters primarily through dialogue. However unjustified, this is why many Garou misperceive Red Talons as aloof or even unintelligent. Lacking the eloquence or inclination to indicate otherwise, you will need to be okay with having your character thought of in this way by others who don’t know any better; you will need to be secure in your wolfiness and indifferent to the chattering and taunting of the foolish apes around you. Being a Red Talon means doing, not talking.
Red Talons, unless in frenzy, do not kill for the sake of killing. When they must kill, it is usually quick and clean (unless one is a member of the Dying Cubs). Humans are killed because they are food and/or recognized as a threat to kin. Revenge and bloodthirst are urges of the “human-mind,” and Talons must take care that they do not succumb to such things or they become vulnerable to corruption. With regard to the Fera, Red Talons are cautious and will usually retreat from other large predators unless cornered, or if a caern or kinfolk are threatened. Were-crows are tolerated, for they bring news and do not eat very much, while were-coyotes are seen as annoying competitors and are usually chased away.
Red Talons understand relationships in the context of dominance and submission, and for them it is of utmost importance to know their place in the pack hierarchy. Ragabash Red Talons are never Alphas, but they enjoy the right to question the leader without getting smacked around (too much). Similarly, theurges deal with the spirits rather than lead packs, though their wisdom is given great weight in the Umbra. Red Talon philodox and ahroun are most likely to find themselves at the head of a pack, galliards less often.
Red Talons will usually respect the superior rank of another Red Talon, and most other lupus characters, but by and large other Garou will need to establish dominance over them either through a staredown or a physical contest. Even then, Glass Walkers, Bone Gnawers, and metis Garou will be afforded submission only grudgingly, and the Talon will be watching them very closely for any indication of weakness that would open the door for another contest of dominance. This may mean that your Red Talon character becomes a persistent “problem,” and highlights just one of the difficulties this tribe has when it is forced to affiliate with others who do not truly understand the ways of the wolf. It is hard to fit in with homid-dominated septs, especially when most Red Talons refuse to compromise or adjust, which also helps to convey the sad sense that the world – even the world of the Garou – has less and less room for them.
Many homids do not understand the body language of wolves, nor the Red Talon’s dependence on it. Misunderstandings are common; maintaining eye contact with a Red Talon, or even worse, smiling at him (i.e., showing him your teeth) may inadvertently signal a challenge of dominance.
As noted earlier, one of the themes of the Werewolf game is about balancing one’s human and wolf sides. Less so for Red Talons, many of whom would discard their human parts entirely if such a thing were possible. For homid characters, the ability to turn into a wolf, to run free and to experience the world in new ways, is one of the blessings of being a changer. But for a lupus, the ability to assume a form that is naked, slow, defenseless, and whose senses are dramatically dulled is anything but a gift. (It doesn’t help that many lupus change before their homid form is fully mature.) For this reason, Red Talons detest assuming human shape, and will generally do so only when they must. Even then, their ungroomed appearance and animalistic mannerisms make them instantly stand out as feral. Rare indeed is the Talon who is able to blend in with the human herd unnoticed; people will almost always cross the street than risk walking too close to the guy who looks like he smells bad and wants to tear them apart.
Another challenge of playing a Red Talon (or any lupus, for that matter) is trying to understand the world through the senses of a wolf, for which smell and hearing are key. Humans tend to be eyesight-oriented, and Storytellers frequently describe scenes primarily using visual details. You might help them by asking them to describe smells as well, especially in the Umbra where scents are much more prominent. Red Talons are bad with numbers; unless taught otherwise, their comprehension generally does not extend much beyond “very many.” Because Talons are very present-oriented, keeping time is even trickier for them, and may run anywhere from “since the last Seeing Moon” to “some time ago.” Unfamiliar machines, even simple ones, tend to puzzle the average Red Talon, whereas those who are more comfortable with their human side would be more likely to intuit their respective functions. (Talons are, however, rather familiar with the dangers presented by firearms, helicopters, and the like.)
On that note, Red Talons rarely use weapons, even fetish weapons. They have no tribal klaives, as they lack the technology to extract or smith silver, and generally do not favor binding predator spirits, who are increasingly rare in these times. Their talens and fetishes involve a minimum of fabrication, often consisting of little more than a piece of wood, antler, or a rock that, for whatever reason, just feels right. Now and again, they will incorporate piece of monkey-craft into a fetish (the bent barrel of a gun, for instance) for frightening effect. But they feel the best weapons are the ones that were granted to them by Gaia. Red Talons who make a habit of using other weapons can anticipate scorn from their tribemates.
With regard to kinfolk, no one is more protective of wolves than the Red Talons. They often keep them a secret from non-Talon Garou, even packmates, and will spend the majority of their free time looking after them. Any threat to wolves is met with unbridled ferocity, plain and simple. On this point, there can be no compromise. Because tribal membership is not entirely determined by birth, the rare Red Talon may have a homid ancestor. But there must never be a homid Red Talon, ever, as such a thing would destroy the tribe. Metis Red Talons do exist but are rather few in number; their parents were likely slain, and such creatures, while tolerated, will always be relegated to the role of omega in a Talon pack regardless of rank. Finally, any Red Talon who would mate with any human has clearly shown him- or herself to not be a true wolf at all, and will be treated as a traitor to the tribe.
Above all, remember that the rage of the Red Talons is rooted in a great sadness. With few exceptions, wolf populations are threatened across the globe, and the Garou have clearly chosen to protect humans over wolves. The Talons are staring extinction in the eye, and no other tribe can begin to appreciate their pain. Whenever a moot is held, never forget to howl for the wolves who are no more.