Umbral Travel

Many Garou believe that if you seek something in the spirit world, and you’re destined to find it, you eventually will. Heroes seek challenges, and werewolves find them in the Umbra. While any path a pack follows will lead somewhere adventurous, chances of success and survival increase when travelers know their way around the cosmos. The Umbra may be enigmatic, but some methods of Umbral navigation are relatively reliable, at least for the spirit world.

  • The forces of the Triat are more obvious when you’re in the spirit world. If you’re seeking a trail to a Wyrm, Weaver, or Wyld realm, Gifts that detect or manipulate these primal forces (like Sense Wyrm and Sense Weaver) can mean the difference between a safe journey and an unexpected detour into a living nightmare.
  • Spirits possess extensive knowledge of the spiritual landscape. Talk to them. Whether you negotiate, communicate or command them, they’re powerful allies. Everything ephemeral needs something in exchange for their assistance; the Garou use the word chiminage to describe gifts and favors that can motivate spirits. This could be something rare you bring into the Umbra (or from a distant realm), or it may take the form of a quest, sacrifice, performance, or act of obeisance.
  • When certain spirits travel across the spirit world, they forge trails as they go. These tracks are known as airts, and many spirits have an airt sense for detecting and interpreting them. Garou have their own arsenal of abilities for interpreting these signs and clues, including insights into their own Survival and facility with Occult. Unfortunately, these paths are temporary; in fact, they can disappear when a Garou is following them. When a pack loses their trail, they may need to bribe another spirit that possesses the Numen: Airt Sense to help them.
  • Analogies are powerful in the spirit world. A Garou seeking something distant in the Umbra should follow similar things he can see and experience around him. If you seek a realm of darkness, chase shadows. If you’re searching for a realm of the Weaver, wade into webs. If you’re reaching for the heavens, start climbing something. These methods don’t always lead to a direct path, but sometimes, the journey that involves falling a thousand miles begins with one step off a cliff.
  • Some realms are connected by spirit gates. Garou who are fortunate enough to find them can walk directly through a portal/gate/sphincter/airlock/valve from one realm to the next. Unfortunate Garou must deal with guardians at a spirit gate. Anchorheads are the most obvious example of spirit gates, since they lead from the Near Umbra to the Deep Umbra (p. XX); however, in that case, the guardian at the gate may be a Garou elder or ancestor-spirit.

Rumors abound of more exotic forms of Umbral travel:

  • Glass Walkers tell tales of epic journeys across the Weaver’s webs, reinforcing the idea that they may be the framework for the entire Umbra.
  • Shadow Lords and Uktena whisper of tunnels the Wyrm’s minions have bored and drilled through creation so spiritual armies can move unseen.
  • Red Talons retell the legend about chasing a Wyld spirit, only to find it suddenly disappear or reappear later … or to realize that it’s led them on a merry chase to somewhere perilous.
  • A Galliard may brush aside a velvet curtain and find herself backstage in the theater of reality.
  • A Ragabash might go drinking with a werecoyote and end up riding a mysterious Ghost Train.
  • A Silent Strider may track a ghost to a shortcut through the Underworld; and so on and so on and so on. The sky is no longer the limit, especially in realms that have no sky.

When traveling in the Penumbra, werewolves move as they usually do. Walking and running are the easiest methods of travel, but since the Delirium and the Veil are no longer concerns away from the watchful eyes of humanity, alternatives are possible. Some Gifts (and some fetishes and talens temporarily loaned from spirits) allow the possibility of flight. Particularly heroic travelers may find their ability to run and leap borders on the superheroic, especially if a realm is a little light on gravity. Some spirits may even carry Garou out of the Penumbra. Once that landscape is left behind, distances become less predictable and rigid. There are no maps, milestones, or directions.

Following a sympathetic route becomes easier when a Garou finds a trod, Moon Path, or similar path (such as a river, a thin strand of web stretching to the heavens, a rainbow, or even a beam of sunlight). In the absence of these paths, most werewolves simply meditate on their destination and let instinct be their guide. Travel times pass without seeming rhyme or reason, although they may correspond to quantifiable concepts, such as the phases of the moon, the stanzas of a poem, the length of a ritual, the passing of a season, or even the amount of time it takes to recite dialogue from a movie. (In game terms, travel time is entirely at the discretion of the Storyteller; let the story be your guide.)

Sustenance

Since Garou may be traveling in the spirit world for hours, days, weeks, or even the duration of an epic poem, cubs who have never made these journeys can’t help but wonder: What do you eat when you’re in the Umbra? Natural places where the Wyld is strong have abundant supplies of spirits that look like Earthly plants and animals, but not all of them are nourishing. Granted, Near Realms that emulate variations of the natural world (such as Wolfhome and Pangaea) offer chance to hunt, farm, and kill, but hostile realms can offer the exact opposite. Don’t expect a break for tea-time when you’re being tortured in a river of molten silver.

The easiest and most dependable method of sustenance involves expending one’s own Gnosis. A Garou who hasn’t found a way to eat or drink something that resembles food or drink (or chemical food substitutes) can easily live for the equivalent of a day on one point of Gnosis. If that’s not sufficient, the Wyld includes spirits that are reservoirs of Gnosis, such as Englings or other ephemera summoned with the proper rites and Gifts. Desperation sometimes leads Garou to attempt extracting Gnosis from other spirits, but this can have unexpected results. For example, if you attempt to suck the life force out of a jackbooted stormtrooper in the Scar Realm, you might discover the spirit is an empty shell.

When none of these options are available, starvation takes about the same time as it does on Earth (when time is a factor): about four weeks or one lunar cycle. However, starvation in the Umbra doesn’t lead to death. Instead, dying of starvation is a lot like dying as a spirit: a shapechanger “discorporates” and “reforms” at a place where creation is possible. It’s a terrible way to travel (using what Glass Walker computer geeks call a “dead man’s teleport”), but the werewolf awakens with a ravenous hunger, a completely different locale, and the temptation to rage (or frenzy) when it feasts upon the first spirit it sees.

Of course, some packs try to bring food of their own or pack a lunch. That’s reliable, but certainly not the only option. Some feasts are unlike anything found on Earth.

Farther Travels: Moonlit Airts

To venture deeper into the Umbra, particularly beyond the Near Realms, a werewolf needs a moonlit airt: a Moon Path or a Moon Bridge. Journeys by Moon Bridge usually begin within a caern at an artifact called a Pathstone; the pack’s safety is increased by opening it with the proper rites. Travel by Moon Path might avoid Earthly caerns entirely: they can go just about anywhere. Nothing precludes a pack from stumbling (or flying or falling or ethereally swimming) upon a moonlit airt in the midst of their journeys.

Whether a bridge or path, these routes are safest during the time of the full moon, since they’re guarded and patrolled by spirits called Lunes. However, Lunes are a lot like many werewolves during the full moon: they can be fickle or wrathful, and they’re certainly unpredictable. If a traveler dares to step off the path, he does so at his own risk. Lunes may choose to ignore, attack, or even mischievously prank the traveler, according to whim and the phase of the moon.

Though these airts are formed from moonlight, their appearance can vary widely. During the time of the new moon, the path may be nothing more than a single shaft of light; during the full it moon, it might be a fully formed tube that whisks the pack through time and space at high speed, a slippery slope of pearlescent white, a scattering of moon dust that billows like desert sand in the wind, or none of these, having assumed a much stranger form.

In any shape, a moonlit path is formed from ephemera, which can of course be rent or torn by the claws or supernatural creatures. Just remember to keep your arms and legs inside the Moon Bridge at all times. No one tells stories of Garou who were foolish enough to tear at the substance of a Moon Bridge, for presumably, anyone dealing such a grievous insult to Luna was last seen in the spirit world and has never been seen again.

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