The air was crisp and cold, the clouds were the color of iron and had the disposition of an old wolf with a sour tooth. The wolves of the mountain were restless, something was coming.
The packs assembled at the Weeping Rocks Caern, each could see the space in the mountain where water trickled from the stone. The stone itself had long since eroded into the face of a sleeping wolf. The leader of Weeping Rocks sat on her scarred haunches and looked at the others, she could smell the anxiety, the bristling anger in the air.
"The spirit world seethes," she spoke, "we have all bloodied our claws in the flesh of the banelings and the scrags that swarm like cockroaches from the dark places," she paused. There were enough lupus among the caern that there was an unheard but assumed that humans would have been just as suitable an example of a swarming unwanted creature.
"We have not the strength to face this threat head on, alone," she said, her voice deathly grim. "It already the season of the falling leaves, and there has not come to us a single werewolf cub. Not a single one has lifted a new voice to Gaia. Our sisters the Black Furies have been equally silent, we have not been blessed with any proud male pups from their caerns. It is a a hungry year."
"How many have we lost this year? How many warriors, how many tricksters and teachers have given the final gift?" the Lorekeeper asked. The sept remembered, the packs that had been mauled in the fighting, the wolves who had been killed by claws and gaping jaws. They howled.
The airport in Van Buren City was a massive sprawling monster, terminals and causeways built atop each other. A wretched hive of humanity and engineering, and all of it reeked of technology, and the hidden venom of the wyrm pulsing through each monitor, for sale in every shop, and once he was outside of the airport itself, on every corner. This was not the America he expected, it was crude, smashed together without a care, and then it was plastered with for sale signs. Belgorov watched the scenery roll by, after an hour of sitting in traffic, looking at concrete and steel, buildings dating back a century or more sandwiched between gleaming steel and glass monsters, all brightly lit.
But then the scenery changed abruptly from city to wooded rolling mountains, and scattered small farms and ranches. The line between the city and the country was very severe. There were small cities and towns, barely noticeable from the main road, the driver stopped in one of the smaller 'cities' barely worthy of such a name. The car was refueled and he had the opportunity to peruse a convenience store hot food counter. It seemed that his choices were either covered with a vinegar pepper sauce, or deep fried in an oil that seemed to permeate every square inch of the store.
He could all but taste the Wyrm. It wasn't a fallen place, and the fat woman behind the counter was no formori. This land, the very soil itself had once belonged to the Wyrm. He knew of the Uktena werewolves, how they centuries ago defeated the wyrm spirits and buried them in earth, binding them to the bottoms of lakes and in deep seemingly bottomless pits. How many miners had burrowed into some sleeping horror? And the American penchant for monster movies, slasher movies,how many could be traced to the horrors bound and sunk in the cold deep lakes?
Ahead it was the city of Vixenburg, Fox mountain, and the nearby Lake Croatan.
And there were plenty of wolves in those hills.
The camera panned across the inlet of Lake Croatan, the mount dutifully scanning the water at the rate of one pass every two minutes. The combination battery and solar panel kept the camera running for almost the entire summer, but now that it was getting later into the year it was time to go collect the assembly. There had been no lake monster sightings on his camera this year, there were at least 3 sightings and encounters around the lake. The Lake Croatan monster... Still, the real monster ended up being hikers and mountain bikers, one had a habit of breaking or stealing gear, and the other just typically ran over it, ate an energy bar, and pedaled off.
The drive from East Carolina University, home of the Fighting Ironclads, to the lake was tedious and long. 5 hours, typically, sometimes longer depending on the traffic heading out of Van Buren City. A pretty weekend was sure to see the roads clogged with caravans and campers, RVs and fishing boats, and all the other roadway nightmares caused by too many people deciding to all go to the same place at the same time. At least it wasn't a long weekend. Those brought out of state visitors to hit the mountain paths and fishing and hunting and all of that nonsense. And with all of those people, all of those cameras and camcorders, and cell phone cameras, no one ever saw anything then.
There was a sign by the road as he drove up: Beware of Wolves, Beware of Bears