As Mary left the Hall, the Treeble slowly extended its leafy branches, providing bench seating for everyone, though many still chose to stand. Ron moved to join his brother Carl, who nodded perfunctorily, his Uncle and his cousin Kira. Kira greeted Ron warmly, holding his shoulders and leaning forward to gently touch her forehead to his.
As they touched, she whispered, "Because?". Ron smiled, happy he wasn't the only one that seemed to notice, and silently shrugged his shoulders. There was clearly more going on here than he was privy to. It made sense, considering he was only seventeen, but why keep Kira out of the loop?
"My friends. It is time we discuss our plan of action." All eyes were on Ron's brother as he spoke, once again standing above the crowd on the outstretched trunk of the Treeble.
"The veil will be at its thinnest in five days, and the passage between this world and Origin will be possible."
Something strange happened as Gary spoke. Ron found himself mouthing the word "Origin." He'd never heard of the world beyond the Veil described that way, yet he knew it was right. Looking around the Hall, he saw others mouthing it too, including his cousin Kira.
"Most of you may never have heard the word Origin before,” Gary said, seemingly reading Ron’s mind. “Yet you know it to be the birthplace of all werewolf kind."
As he spoke, the mist behind him began to swirl and coalesce. Shadow, light and water danced together, creating complex shapes. Before everyone's eyes, a mural began to appear, a mural of an ancient city of glass. Or, as Ron would later learn, crystal.
Transparent walls, topped with parapets, sparkled in the mid-day sun. Beyond them was an enormous keep, surrounded by towers, each so tall their middle was lost in a sea of clouds.
Tur'Aleen, Ron said under his breath. Like Origin, he knew right away that was the city's name. He didn't know how he knew. But he was sure of it, as sure as he was of his own name.
"The City of Song and Silence," whispered Brian, standing behind Ron.
Murmurs and low-pitched growls began reverberating throughout the crowd.
"What you all feel in your hearts is racial memory of our ancestral homeland. Gary said. "A reminder from deep inside us of where we all come from."
Ron was surprised to discover he’d heard of this. The idea that knowledge could be passed down through the generations. Like how birds know how to build their nests without ever being taught. Or how spiders are born with the knowledge to weave complex webs. Genetic memory stored in our DNA.
Take that Carl, Ron thought. Now who’s wasting their time reading sci-fi?
Gary said as much to the crowd. Most were shocked by the revelation and shouted in protest, including the Varúlfur clans of Norway, and the Yakshas of India. All clans had their own rich histories, and most did not like the idea that they all came from the same place.
"The Conclave has kept this information secret from all of us," Gary continued, "Because keeping us divided makes them stronger. My father discovered it, and our clan paid the price. But now, this truth is all that stands between us and our survival.
Protests grew louder, and a few clans even made their way to leave the Hall. Gary raised his arms for calm, but momentum was not on his side.
Then, near the back of the Hall, one werewolf slowly made his way to stand beside Gary. His body was rigid and angular as if chiseled from marble. His dark hair, streaked with white, was pulled back in a long ponytail. He wore a loose-fitting wool jacket filled with colourful weaved patterns.
"We of the Wendigo have always seen the Faoladh, and other skin-walkers, as our distant cousins."
He spoke barely above a whisper, which somehow added to his authority. Many shushes could be heard as ears strained to listen.
"Today, we learn that we all have a shared heritage. This place you call Origin."
He then ran his hand across the mural, which dissolved and reformed as his hand passed through.
"Tur'Aleen. The City of Song and Silence. I swear to you I have not heard these names till today, yet somehow, I know them as well as the names of my children. I cannot explain why, but there are many mysteries in this world we can't explain, like our great spirit Kichi Manido
Or why eating ice cream too fast gives you a headache, thought Ron.
"Yes, it is troubling to learn we may not know as much about our history as we thought. But is that a bad thing? Like most of you here, the stories surrounding our origins are written in the blood of innocents. We have been cast as the spawn of demons, or the result of curses, monsters created by man's weakness.
Ron could see several heads nodding in the crowd, including a few who were ready to leave a moment ago. Ron knew his own history was not typical for werewolves. The Faoladh were known as guardians, protectors of children, wounded men, and lost souls. He didn't know what it must be like to believe your ancestors were hell-spawn cannibals. But it couldn't make for great bedtime stories.
The Wendigos Alpha clasped Gary's arm. "I do not apologize for our history. We are proud people who have done what we must to survive. But I will also not be defined by it. We are dying as a race, and if this revised prologue allows our story to continue, I, for one, support it. We have pledged our lives to save our people, and that has not changed."
The grumbling subsided, and most returned to the seats atop the Treeble's branches.
"Thank you, Dasan," Gary said. Still clasping his fellow Alpha's forearm. "Your words honour us."
"What I am going to tell you, my friends, until today, has been forbidden by the Conclave. It is what my father discovered twenty years ago and why our clan was banished. It is a secret hidden from us for hundreds of years, but if we are to survive, it can’t be a secret any longer.
"The city you see before you is indeed Tur'Aleen. The City of Song and Silence. It lies just beyond the Veil. But it is more than just a city; it was constructed to allow us to pass through the Veil into this world.
You see, Origin is a world of magic as much as Earth is a world of science. We need the magical energy of our home to exist. Our ancestors built Tur'Aleen to transmit that energy across the Veil, allowing us and other beings to cross over and thrive. They called this the Harmony.
Gary pointed to the mural, which zoomed it to show a close up of the city. Ron was pretty sure he saw his brother spread his index finger and thumb out as well. The towers spread out in a rough circle around the city. Ron could now see the ruins of even more towers, their shattered remains littering streets.
"My father,” Gary continued, “discovered that each of these towers transfers energy across the Veil at a specific frequency. One tower for each type of magical creature. And when a tower falls..."
"Thirteen Twenty-Three?" said someone in the crowd.
"Seventeen-oh-nine?” said another
Ron looked at his Uncle, "What are they talking about?"
"Mass extinctions." His Uncle answered softly.
Gary raised his hands again to call for silence. "Yes. Thirteen Twenty Three, Seventeen-oh-nine and nineteen seventy-three. All dates when entire races of magical creatures died. The Merfolk of the North Atlantic, the Scandinavian Troll, the Middle Eastern Djinn. They died, as a race, all at once."
The mural suddenly changed to show one of the towers cracking, then falling to the city below.
"My father suspected that whenever a tower falls, the frequency of magical energy it produces is cut off. Without that energy, those creatures cannot survive on this side of the Veil."
Questions exploded from all corners of the Hall. Is this why no babies were being born? How long had the Conclave known? How much time do we have? What are we going to do?
Gary held up his hands for the third time.
"Brothers and sisters. We do have a plan. And tonight, I will discuss it with your clan Alphas. But for now, we celebrate the truth, that we are all brothers and that together there is nothing we can’t accomplish."
Any remaining questions were drowned out by the deafening rumble of over fifty werewolf stomachs as the mural of Tur'Aleen dissolved to reveal a smorgasbord of food. Scores of uncooked rabbits, pheasants, ducks and even red-tailed deer were hung from several long spits.
"That's more like it," slobbered Carl, who transformed mid-run and bit directly into the nearest deer, severing its hindquarters in a single tooth-filled grin.
Within moments the buffet was a scene of complete carnage. The once stoic warriors from a moment ago devolving into red-eyed, blood-thirsty monsters. This, Ron knew, was what the Public Affairs & Perception Division of the Conclave was looking to hide. But stereotypes are hard to change when they're true.
Luckily, there was plenty to go around, this time without any plates for Mary to wash. Ron waited to see if any vegan options would be made available. When none appeared, he consoled himself that at least the food was gluten-free.
There was a lot to process for everyone. But as the hours passed, and the wheels of fellowship, greased with fat, spun more freely, Ron understood what his brother was up to. Nothing helps werewolves digest new ideas like raw meat.