Art by Chestnut NOLA
The audience in the school auditorium was made up of students from third grade to twelfth, plus their teachers and the staff of the school. The building had once been known as Beacon Hills High, but now it housed all grade levels except kindergarten, first, and second. Though the building had room for them, it had been decided two years before that the youngest children should be in a different location. Now, all preschoolers and the lowest grades were on the other side of the sports fields in a new, smaller building with specialized rooms for learning control along with the educational basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The stage of the auditorium had a row of four chairs and a podium. There was no sound system or microphone. Instead, runes carved on the podium made sure everyone could hear without causing distress to those with advanced senses.
In the well in front of the stage, where an orchestra or risers would have been located in years now gone, there was a shallow wooden basin filled with liquid and seven small standing stones. The stones weren’t in a circle, nor in a straight row but simply haphazardly strewn through the area. A close look would show that no mortal hand could have placed the stones. They were attached to the bedrock the auditorium had been built on, all one piece, no joints. As if the building had grown around them.
The murmuring among the people in the auditorium seats quieted as a lean figure approached the podium. It was Marin Morell, Druidic witch and the principal of Beacon Hills Upper School.
“Good morning, students and staff. I know that today is a difficult day for everyone, and I will not prolong things with a lengthy speech. It is the sixth anniversary of the first day of the Great Calamity. We are here for both a memorial and a hope sending. We will begin with a three-minute quiet reflection followed by the hope sending ritual. Use this time to remember those we have lost, both to the finality of death and to the magical maelstrom.”
On the stage, Stiles Stilinski sat, his head bowed, his thoughts dwelling on his best friend, Scott McCall, who died six years before. The First Wave of the Great Calamity had struck Beacon Hills with ferocity, being the epicenter of the change. And many had not been able to handle the event.
Scott had been severely asthmatic and exceptionally stubborn. Stiles often thought that the latter should have seen him survive. But, in reality, the former had doomed him.
According to others who were present when Scott died, he had tensed when the wave hit and panicked. He began screaming and shouting about monsters and it triggered a deadly asthma attack. No one nearby was in any position to try to assist as they were all dealing with their own reactions to the First Wave.
When things had calmed down, for a relative meaning of the word calm, Stiles had learned about Scott’s death. He had felt incredibly guilty for not being there, but he had eventually come to accept that there wouldn’t have been anything he could have done, as a 10-year-old human boy, even if he had been present. The wave had engulfed Stiles, too, and his response had been dramatic and unstoppable.
In the days following the First Wave, Stiles had lost more than just Scott. And so had everyone in the world. Stiles was just grateful that his father was an adaptable kind of man and survived the waves and the chaos that followed.
After the three-minute silence, Ms. Morrell sighed and spoke again, “When the conduits are in place, please make two orderly lines and proceed to the front. Dip your hand in the cistern and turn to the right or the left depending on which line you are in. Choose a cairn stone and run your hand over it, thinking thoughts of hope and seeking. When you have passed the final stone on your route, exit the auditorium, and make your way to your classroom. Blessed be.”
The audience echoed her, “Blessed be.”
Stiles stood from his chair on the stage and made his way down to the space on the floor. He stood behind the largest of the stones, set behind and to the right of the cistern. He was the strongest conduit and would actually channel all of the energy from each of the other stones through his own and into the universe.
Stiles leaned to his side as the lines began to form and dipped both hands into the cistern and placed them flat on the rock’s spire formation. His ears twitched as the power began to flow through him from the earth and he shifted into his partial fox form.
Students and teachers made their way through the ritual in silence. It was the first ritual of Memoria, and it would happen again at the school and in several other spots around town every morning for the next seven days.
Three days later, Stiles was leaving school after last period when Cora Hale approached him. They weren’t best friends, but they were fairly close after he was able to bring her back from her near-feral state after the Cataclysm ended. In many respects, he knew she saw him as her Alpha.
Most of the town saw him that way. It was a huge burden for a sixteen-year-old.
“I got a call from the care center at lunch. Uncle Peter shifted back to his beta form.”
Stiles pursed his lips and tilted his head. “Huh. So, he is finally back to his human side being somewhat in control? Okay. We can go over there and check in on him. I wasn’t going to stop in this week, Memoria really takes it out of me, but this is important. Maybe I can reach him better now. If his human side is aware enough to force a change from full wolf to the hybrid state? Yeah, okay, let’s go.”
Cora smiled and nodded. “I figured maybe you could.”
Stiles led the way to his vehicle, an old blue Jeep that belonged to his mother before she became too sick to drive. In another world, people might have teased him for driving such an old car, but after the Cataclysm and the waves of electromagnetic interference and other problems that occurred, most newer cars didn’t work anymore without extensive repairs and rewiring.
Stiles did get teased for the color of the Jeep, though. And he had to admit, the blue was very eye-catching. But it was his mom’s favorite, enough said.
During the drive to the care center, once upon a time part of the Beacon Hills Hospital and Nursing Home, Stiles pondered his upcoming duty.
Peter Hale had been the only survivor of the Hale House Fire. Not the only surviving Hale - see Cora, her sister Laura and her brother Derek - but the only one at home during the events who made it out alive. But he had been badly burned by the flames as he tried to save the rest of his family, only to be trapped between two lines of mountain ash.
During the early waves of the Great Cataclysm, the magic had healed him as it gifted him the Alpha spark of his family. But his mind had been lost to the wolf - like many shifters at the time - and he had been utterly feral and full-shifted for the past six years.
Many of those lost had been able to revert back during the Calming, but not Peter. Stiles went to see him at least once a week and tried to reach his human side, but even though the wolf submitted to his authority, the human was still lost.
But over the last four days they had channeled a ton of power from the earth and from the hopes of the people of Beacon Hills. And Peter, being the Hale fire survivor, was quite famous in town. He was seen as a hero and many would have been at least partly focused on thoughts of him during the daily rituals. It might have been enough to reach his human mind, lost in the ether.
They pulled up to the center and went inside. Stiles made his way to Peter’s room and opened the door. Peter was sitting on a raised mattress against the wall. His wolf had accepted it as it was more comfortable than the floor and the bedding made a good covering for the den.
Peter’s eyes shined a bright red and his face was distorted by massive sideburns and his teeth were sharp fangs. His hands had claws on each fingertip, and while his toes didn’t, they weren’t blunt either. And he was naked.
Wolves didn’t wear clothes, obviously. And Peter wasn’t aware enough to get dressed, and no one in the center was foolish enough to try to dress a partly feral Alpha werewolf.
Stiles wasn’t bothered by it. Frankly, the nudity laws had been greatly eased since the Cataclysm and the Calming. When so many people could shift into various animals, none of which were Winnie the Pooh though they didn’t wear pants either, nudity was a commonplace thing. The current laws were more geared toward not being allowed to use nudity as a weapon of intimidation or sexual harassment, rather than simply being nude in public.
Cora remained in the hallway as Stiles approached Peter’s form. “Hello, Peter. You’re looking much more human than I’ve known you. How in control are you, right now?”
Peter growled, low and rumbling.
“Can you speak in English?”
Peter closed his eyes, and his chest rose and fell very obviously several times. “Yes. Confused.”
Stiles nodded and stepped closer. “I imagine it is confusing. Lots of things have happened since what you likely recall clearly. To start you off with current circumstances, as in who I am and why I am here and able to help: my name is Stiles. I’m a fox shifter. Not a kitsune. More like a werefox, sort of. And I am essentially your Alpha, for several reasons that will become clear as you understand all that has happened. I am the Alpha for Beacon County and a bit.”
Peter’s eyes narrowed. “Young.”
Stiles nodded. “I’m sixteen. I became Alpha either six years ago or two years ago, depending on how you look at it. I’m not a dictator or anything. But my point I was trying to make was that your wolf accepts me as it’s hierarchical superior. And so, I have been visiting and trying to reach your human side with your wolf’s allowance. And if you allow me to scent you, you may gain more control over yourself.”
Peter cocked his head, and his nostrils flared. He blinked. After a minute, Peter nodded.
Stiles walked up to the mattress and sat on the edge, close enough to reach Peter but not so close as to be threatening. He reached out his hand and, clearly telegraphing his movements, he ran it down Peter’s cheek and the side of his neck.
Peter stiffened at the first touch, but within two seconds, his body relaxed, and before Stiles finished his scenting, Peter slumped against him, his nose to Stiles’ neck, breathing deeply.
Ten minutes later, Peter’s beta form receded and his human visage was fully visible for the first time in six years, smooth and unscarred from the fire which burned him and which had killed most of his family.
After a few more deep breaths, Peter sat up and leaned back, looking into Stiles’ face. “Thank you, Alpha.”
Stiles smiled. “You’re welcome. Are you feeling centered now?”
“Good. Can Cora come in?”
“Cora? She died.”
Cora slid in the door and closed it behind her. “Hi, Uncle Peter. I wasn’t in the house. I was upset and hiding in the tree hole. By the time everything happened, I was kind of incapacitated by the breaking of the pack bonds. I was unconscious from shock for nearly a day, and then I was kind of feral. I ran into the woods, and before I could really find any control, the Great Cataclysm had started. I was one of the first to come back, though.”
Peter frowned. “The Great Cataclysm? A bit dramatic, isn’t it?”
Stiles ran his hand over Peter’s lower arm and shook his head. “No. She isn’t talking about the fire or Laura breaking Cora’s bonds to Laura and Derek and abandoning you both or even the loss of her other pack bonds. Three days after the fire that killed the majority of your family, Beacon Hills’ Nemeton essentially exploded, magically speaking. The telluric currents or the ley lines were released, and the pool of magic within and around the Nemeton went up like an atomic bomb. And the effect eventually rippled through each of the lines to all of the other Nemetons worldwide.”
Peter’s mouth had dropped open. “The effect of that much magic would be -“
Stiles sighed. “Absolutely devastating on the entire world and everyone and everything in it. Not to mention the effects on the physical world. There were twenty-one Nemetons when you were hurt. Each one released the entirety of its magic store within a week of the first one. We call them the Waves. There were twenty-one major Waves and over seven hundred minor, more localized waves. It changed the entire world as we know it.”
Cora came over and sat on the floor near Stiles’ feet. “There is no such thing as a normal human anymore. Every person who survived became magical in some way. Whether they became a shifter or a magic-user of some kind or another kind of creature, all humans are now Other, like us.”
Stiles smiled sadly. “If they survived the transition. Many didn’t. They rejected the influx of magic and the transition. Or they just were too weak in various ways to handle it. Or in some cases, magic rejected them and killed them. That was those who had harmed magic and her people, egregiously. Like Kate Argent, who was directly responsible for the fire. Reports eventually came in that when the First Wave hit her, she caught on fire within an instant. She burned for hours, still alive. Many of the Argents had karma come home to roost on them during the Cataclysm. As did members of other Hunter clans.”
Cora nodded. “And magic didn’t spare supernaturals either. We didn’t find out for a long time, but supernaturals who abused their gifts and natures were punished and often died during the Waves.”
Peter looked down. “Why didn’t you know right away? Or did you mean after the Waves stopped?”
Cora shook her head. “No. Many supernaturals, when the waves hit and magic flooded them, their already magical systems, they overloaded. I don’t remember a whole lot of what I did, but when I said I was feral, I meant really feral. I was in full shift and living off the land as a wolf. Just like you. Well, you were fully wolf. But the Wave here made you Alpha. I don’t know if it killed Laura and gave you her spark, the Hale spark. I didn’t think she was that horrible. But we’ve never heard a peep about her since she took Derek and they left town hours after the fire.”
Stiles ran a hand over Cora’s hair. “Not that that is unusual. The Calming began only two years ago, and many ferals are still lost, living as their animal selves.”
Peter looked up. “The Calming?”
Stiles bit his lip then blew out a breath. “The Waves destabilized the entire planet, not just magically, but physically. The magnetic poles shifted, which caused earthquakes, tsunamis, horrible storms, random electromagnetic pulses. When the Great Cataclysm began, the world population was around 6 billion people and change. By the time it ended, and a group of powerful magical users were able to stabilize the ley lines and the planet’s magnetic field, four years had passed, and the population had fallen to just over 1 billion people.”
Cora snuggled up against Stiles’ leg. “Weirdly, Beacon Hills was pretty stable after the first week or so.”
Stiles ran his hand over Cora’s shoulders and head. “All of the places that were within one hundred or so miles from the location of a former Nemeton stabilized the quickest once the Waves ceased.”
Stiles looked down. “But most of the world was different. Between the natural disasters and the crash of the vast majority of modern technology, people couldn’t survive. Even now, most modern technology isn’t used. Some people are creating stuff that runs on runes or other magic. But that isn’t widespread yet. Life is a lot simpler now. At least in some ways. The internet has never been fixed. But ham radios work but differently. And there are magical channels of communication that have been up and running for over five years. That’s how we coordinated the Calming.”
Peter breathed out a shaky breath. “And what is … was? The Calming?”
Stiles waved his hand. “Is. Was. Was a Great Working done by seven times seven to the third power magic workers around the world channeled through thirteen of the most powerful. Is the outcome of that Working that continues and keeps the ley lines stable even without Nemetons. It took four years to create and coordinate and gather that many without modern technological communication capability.”
Peter’s head tilted. “That’s a lot of magic users.”
Stiles nodded. “Yes. But it was needed. We needed to stabilize the entire planet.”
Stiles snorted. “Yes, I found out that before the Waves, I was already supernatural. I was a Spark. And I was actually one of the first, if not the first, to be impacted by the First Wave. I was in the Preserve, hiking and messing around. And the wild magic interacted with my spark and transformed me into a fox shifter, but I retained my magic.”
Cora reached out a hand and ran it over Peter’s clenched fist. “Stiles was the one to channel here in Beacon Hills. He actually channeled for everything west of the Mississippi River and from Alaska to the Panama Canal.”
“That’s also quite a lot of magic.”
Stiles shrugged. “There were only thirteen of us who channeled it, so all of us were working with a lot of magic. If you couldn’t do the math in your head, there were 117,649 druids, witches, warlocks, mages, sparks, magicians, priests, priestesses, shamans, wizards, etcetera, who were sending out magic. It was difficult. But it worked. There have been no earthquakes, EMP pulses, great storms, tsunamis, or Waves of magic since the Calming Working.”
Cora nodded. “And when the Calming began, a lot of people who were feral were able to gain control. Not everyone. We don’t know about Laura. Just that most people think she either died and thereby lost the Alpha spark to you or was punished with the loss of the Alpha spark during the Waves. We don’t know about Derek; if he’s alive and feral, alive and just being an ass by staying away, alive and trying to get here, or dead. But more all the time are regaining themselves. Like you.”
Peter hummed under his breath. “I don’t really remember much. Until earlier today. Or maybe last night.”
Stiles shrugged. “Most don’t.”
Cora leaned in and leaned her chin on Stiles’ knee. “I came back to my control a lot sooner than most. They think it is because I’m a Hale and I never left Beacon County during the Cataclysm. But I don’t recall much from that time. Impressions of being hungry or angry or cold. Snippets of scenery. I have sharp memories of getting injured during one of the earthquakes.”
“I thought this place was insulated from that?”
Stiles shook his head. “Not entirely. Not at first. Though we didn’t get the worst of it. At all. And the surrounding area was insulated. Kind of like the locations of the former Nemetons were the eyes of a storm once the Waves were over. But even in the eye, you can get battered by debris picked up around you. And hit the edges. And get washed over by storm surges. It isn’t a perfect metaphor, but you can get the idea.”
Cora nodded. “Tell him about LA.”
Stiles rubbed his hand over his head. “Okay. For example, one of the effects of the unsettled earth was that the San Andreas fault went off. Like, it was the Big One. Most of the instruments were no good, but it has been estimated that it was a 9.8. And we felt it here, and buildings fell, and people died. But LA? It isn’t there anymore. Beverly Hills? Is now at sea level. But San Francisco? It should have had just as catastrophic issues happen. But because it is within the radius of our former Nemeton, if only just, it is still there. The Golden Gate is gone. So is Alcatraz island. And the areas that were reclaimed land and stuff are under the water again. But the majority of the city survived. Though they did get lots of flooding in the low lying parts of the city, after a tsunami caused by the collapse of the Cascadia subduction zone that decimated Seattle and the entire northwestern coast of the US and up into Canada and Alaska.”
Peter nodded and blinked for over a minute. “So, the term isn’t at all dramatic. More accurate.”
Cora laughed. “Yes. Very much so.”
“And me? What exactly happened? I don’t - I remember the fire. Burning. Pain. Screams.”
Stiles sighed and cuddled Peter closer. “The First Wave healed you: your burns, your lungs, your other injuries. The next Wave or so pushed you into the full shift and granted you the Alpha spark. From where? We aren’t sure.”
“But your wolf didn’t leave the hospital,” Cora explained. “It stayed here instead of running wild. Until Stiles was able to get you to this facility when it was created to care for others like you who couldn’t leave their animal state. That was two years ago.”
Stiles nodded. “Like I said, even though you are an Alpha, I am basically the ultimate Alpha. We haven’t really come up with a good term for it. You are the Alpha of the main wolf pack in Beacon Hills. There are five other wolf packs within Beacon County, each with their own Alpha. But yours is the biggest. And you are it’s Alpha, even with you being full wolf in mind and body as you were. Cora is in that pack, obviously.”
Cora smiled. “Most people see me as your second. Because I’m a Hale. And the pack is still called the Hale pack even though you and I are the only Hales in it, unless and until Derek or Laura show up.”
“But as we said, there are no vanilla humans anymore. And within Beacon Hills, there are packs - to use the term you know and not just spout off what the actual term for other groups are - of coyotes, foxes, bears, tigers, lynxes, rabbits, lemurs, dogs, cheetahs, lions, eagles, hummingbirds, and honey badgers. Not to mention the covens of various magic users. Or the family of wendigos, the twelve banshees, or the pod of merpeople. Or the others that aren’t really remotely human - like the pixies or dryads. And the fae, who pass through regularly, though none have permanent residences within the boundaries of Beacon County.”
Cora sighed. “Fae. Fuck the fae.”
Stiles smiled. “Cora doesn’t like the fae. Obviously. But they are back in large numbers. They dropped the veil between here and the fae realms and travel is possible in both directions.”
Peter raised an eyebrow. “Dangerous.”
Stiles shrugged. “We have a treaty. When you cross the boundary, you are time-locked to the moment you left the realm of your exit. So, no spending an hour in the fae realm and have centuries pass here. But they are just thrilled with the changes and that no true humans exist here now.”
Peter nodded. “They would be.”
Stiles inhaled. “Anyway, for various reasons, including my power level and some other stuff that happened, every shifter group, all of the magic users, and most of the Others, see me as the leader, the Alpha, of this area. It is instinctive for them. Not everyone likes it. My dad hates it, but I try not to abuse my authority. Much.”
Stiles grinned and winked. “But sometimes I do.”
Cora snorted. “Stiles is a huge troll. In the old vernacular. Not as in an actual troll.”
Stiles shook his head. “Anyway, I don’t like it a lot of the time. Like you pointed out, I’m young. But it isn’t going to change anytime soon, other than me growing up, like everyone does.”
Peter smiled. “You are young. But you wear your power well.”
“Thanks. Anyway, you are obviously not feral anymore. Nor are you locked into your wolf or beta state. And you are coherent and able to follow a fairly deep and complicated conversation. So, under my authority as the Alpha of Beacon Hills, I will sign you out of the center, and you can go home. You have two choices for the short term: you can go with Cora and stay there - she lives in a large house with nearly two-thirds of the wolf pack - or you can come and stay with me and my dad. While there are forty foxes in town, we live with just the two of us. And when you are more settled and ready to, whichever option you choose can be changed, or you could get your own place, alone, if you wanted. But I couldn’t authorize that last one for at least a month.”
Peter closed his eyes and exhaled. After a few moments, he opened them and looked at Cora. “I feel like I should live with the pack, but I’m not sure I’m ready to be around that many wolves I don’t know. Not with this Alpha power I’ve never had before.”
Stiles laid his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “You are welcome to stay with me and my dad. You’ve known him for years. And are comfortable with me. After you are settled into your status and have met and interacted with your pack, you can make changes then.”
Cora nodded. “I get it, Uncle Peter. I lived with Stiles and his dad for over eight months when he first got me human again. You need to focus on yourself for now. Everything else will come as it comes.”
Peter nodded. “I think starting out with Stiles is best then. I have a feeling that I’m only as focused as I am because he is here and I can smell him.”
Stiles smiled. “You are welcome to stay as long as you need or want to, Peter.”
Within an hour, Peter had been signed out of the center and said goodbye to Cora. Stiles drove them home and showed Peter to the guest room.
“Feel free to rest or come downstairs, have food, take a bath or a shower. Whatever helps you the most. I need to call my dad and tell him the latest. Then I’ll be making dinner. And after dinner, we can talk about what is next, in the immediate or in the long term. Either or. Or both.”
Peter smiled. “I will take you up on the offer of a shower.”
Stiles led him to the bathroom and showed him the linen closet. “Take as much time as you want. The water is unlimited and heated by runes, so no issues with hot water bills.”
Stiles ran his hand down Peter’s arm, and Peter leaned in and inhaled while rubbing his cheek down Stiles’ face before they separated.
Two hours later, Peter entered the living room of the house, his hair wet and his body wrapped in a fluffy bathrobe.
Noah had gotten home shortly before, and he stood and lowered his eyes for a second to the Alpha wolf. “Good to see you without the fur, Peter.”
Peter smiled and shrugged, his shoulders relaxed. “It is good to be seen, I suppose. I don’t really remember.”
Noah nodded. “Very few do. Most of us went through at least a short period of being lost to the animal inside. Frankly, almost all of the shifters did.”
“So I was told.”
“Come on into the kitchen. Stiles cooked up some amazing food. I’ll tell you, the best part of the GC was Stiles not trying to make me eat tofu and green crap all the time anymore. He still makes me eat a balanced diet, but it includes plenty of red meat. And processed food and preservatives aren’t an issue. That hasn’t really gotten back up and running. Everything is organic and farm-fresh. And local. After all of the canned stuff and all was used up, around four years ago.”
As they entered the kitchen, Stiles chimed in, “Just because you are a supernatural creature is no reason to make your body work harder to fix things caused by a bad diet. And you like the local produce so don’t even try to front with Peter.”
Stiles turned away from the stove with a pan in his grip. “Refrigeration is fine, runes work great for it. Transport is the issue. Making cars that relied heavily on computer chips run on runes is a lot of constant work. Making older cars - like mine - or new cars made since the Calming run on runes? Much easier. And no more pollution from gas fumes. No internal combustion is actually occurring.”
Peter sat down at the kitchen table. “So, if cars and trucks can still work, whether old or brand new, why is transport an issue?”
Stiles placed the pan on the table and took a seat next to his father. “Most people don’t have large vehicles. And large scale farms, whether produce or animal, are difficult to maintain. The giant agriculture companies are long gone. And many of the old crops don’t grow in the same places. Citrus is very different now. The Cataclysm rearranged the world, the poles are settled in new places.
“And people are more interested in survival than capitalism. Most economies are currently more of a barter type of system instead of cash or credit. And people stick close to home, relatively speaking. Everyone is still worried about the Calming not holding. It will. But people are still suffering from major PTSD over it all. I don’t blame them, but it means no long haul transport. Or very little.”
Peter nodded as he took a bite of the casserole. “So, what is next? For me? Here?”
Noah swallowed his own bite and shrugged. “That is up to you. You are welcome here as long as you want or need to be. Don’t rush yourself. Lots of things are very different. We’ve tried to be normal, but the world has changed. From farming, to geography, to religion. We are all rather pagan now. Some more than others but well, magic is demonstrably real. Unignorable.”
Stiles scooped up a large bite. “This week is actually really prominent in the new religious awareness. We call it Memoria. It is the anniversary of the beginning of the Great Cataclysm, from the First Wave to the last. Everyone in town, and in the world really, performs group rituals in remembrance, and I think the power raised the last few days is what helped you get control.”
Noah nodded. “You should come to tomorrow's ritual in town. It is Saturday, and most everyone will be there. During the week, there are more spread out rituals to accommodate school and work schedules. But the weekend only has three each day, one first thing in the morning with the dawn, one at midday, and one at sunset. Most people attend the sunset one, probably up to over 80 percent of the town.”
Peter nodded. “Maybe.”
Stiles looked at his father with pursed lips. “You shouldn’t just throw him out there, dad.” He turned to look at Peter. “I mentioned it before, but I’m not sure how much you really took in. You’re incredibly well known in town. Famous.”
Peter rolled his eyes. “Because of the fire?”
Stiles shrugged and tilted his head back and forth. “Sort of. I mean, yeah, but it’s more than that. And if you go to the sunset ritual, you’re liable to get mobbed by well-wishers.”
Peter frowned. “How is it more than that?”
Stiles sighed and waved a hand around in the air. “Over the years the series of events that led to the Great Cataclysm has been dissected. And the deaths of most of your family in the fire were the final straw. Well, almost. More to the point, it was the loss of the magic guardianship of the Hale Alpha and pack.”
Stiles bit his lip. “While you were still here, you were in no state to be available to give magic, even unconsciously, which is what your pack did mostly just by existing as a werewolf pack in close proximity to and partially bound to the Nemeton. Centuries ago, your pack knew the proper rituals to do, more conscious sharing and protection, but that was lost over time. All of your magic was tied up into healing from the fire, the loss of pack bonds, and becoming omega.”
As he tapped a rhythm on his leg, Stiles continued, “Cora was scared and alone and a child, and a beta, then an omega. And then Laura and Derek left town. The Hale Alpha cut all ties to Beacon Hills and in doing so, doomed us all. The Nemeton was already in a very bad way due to many things, including its physical representation being cut down and its roots being used to imprison a chaos demon, among other things. But that loss overwhelmed it, and the cohesion of its existence disappeared, and the node magically exploded. Causing the First Wave of the Great Cataclysm.”
Noah rubbed his forehead. “Fine, I agree. People here see you as a symbol. Some cross between a martyr and a holy relic.”
Stiles’ lip quirked up. “Especially after you became an Alpha. Magic granted the Hales a second chance at guardianship, and it was you who were deemed worthy. Not Cora, not some other wolf in town. You.”
Peter facepalmed. “Wonderful. I’m some kind of saint to people when without the Alpha power, my eyes are blue.”
Stiles laid a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “That would just be more justification for people. Blue eyes in beta form mean not that you killed, but that you feel guilt over having killed or feel responsible for a death, even if not directly. And there aren’t many people in town that don’t have blood on their hands these days.”
Stiles swallowed a bite. “It’s a truth of a post-apocalyptic world, Peter. You kill or are killed. For some people, it was when they were feral, for others, it was against those who were feral, and for some, it was against people who were just taking advantage of the chaos. For a lot of people, it was all three at different times. Even now there are those who have formed gangs like this is Mad Max or Waterworld. Just because everyone is supernatural, doesn’t make this a utopia. Human nature is still human nature, so to speak. And we do all consider ourselves human, regardless of the extra.”
Noah nodded as he took a drink of tea. “It’s true. There aren’t as many issues in certain ways since the Calming but fundamental human nature didn’t change just because we got supernatural powers. Crime still happens, from robbery to murder to rape.”
Peter fiddled with his fork. “I suppose I can see that. Even before, I’ve known supernaturals that were not good people. Or ones who made bad decisions. Such as my darling niece Laura.”
The three continued to talk about the changes in the world since Peter had last known it while they ate dinner and dessert. Afterward, Peter went back up to the guest room to be alone for a bit.
Noah cleaned the kitchen while Stiles worked on his homework. They had the chores down pat, whoever cooked, which for dinner was usually Stiles, the other cleaned up.
It hadn’t been that way before the Cataclysm and Calming, but after the transformation, Noah settled down into being a better father since Stiles had so much on his plate as well. And Noah’s feral state had actually helped him deal with his overwhelming grief. It helped that he couldn’t get drunk anymore, too.
A few hours later, the Stilinskis went up to bed, and Stiles could hear Peter tossing and turning in the guest room. He changed into pajama pants and knocked lightly on the door.
Peter called out for him to come in and Stiles slid into the room, closing the door behind him.
“Restless? Or just overwhelmed?”
Peter sighed. “I know I was technically aware, but to me, everything, the fire, the bonds breaking, it all just happened.”
Stiles nodded. “You were essentially feral. Not violently so. Usually. But lost in the wolf. The wolf was aware. You weren’t, not the human part of you. And that’s the part that’s grieving now.”
“I suppose that is correct. But I shouldn’t be letting it stop me. I’m the Alpha, and I need to be strong. And tomorrow will evidently be overwhelming. I need to sleep.”
Stiles stepped forward. “I can help with that.”
Peter looked up at Stiles from his place on the bed. “I’m flattered, darling, but you’re a bit young for me. Maybe in a few years.”
Stiles snorted. “I’m not coming on to you, creeper. I mean, yeah, you’re hot like whoa. And you know it, too. If you offered, I wouldn’t say no, when you are more settled and know the laws we live under now.”
Stiles sat on the edge of the bed. “But that isn’t now. You may be the Alpha wolf of the Hale pack, but I’m the Alpha of the entire county. For some, for most, that is a more administrative and distant type of thing, thank Hecate, but for others, in situations like this? It is more direct. Foxes aren’t the same as wolves. Pack is different for us. And you need the comfort of your Alpha. And it is my responsibility to provide it. And the definition of comfort has nothing to do with sex, so reign in your hormones, wolfy.”
Peter raised his eyebrows. “Then what exactly did you have in mind, sweetheart?”
Stiles huffed and shook his head. “You’re a natural flirt, aren’t you? Well, I thought you might appreciate some closeness with your Alpha. You transforming would be a bad idea. But that doesn’t mean I can’t.”
Peter blinked, and Stiles transformed within a second. The teenager was gone and in his place was a red-tailed fox with bright red eyes. The red was different than that of an Alpha wolf, it was warmer somehow.
Stiles padded up the blanket and curled up next to Peter’s upper chest, his snout resting on his front paws.
Peter chuckled and turned onto his side, his arm laying over the back of the fox, his hand stroking the fur on its back. Within minutes, both man and teen were asleep.
The next morning, early, before sunrise, Stiles eased out of Peter’s hold and padded to the door. He transformed and quietly opened the door, and as Stiles was slipping into the hallway, Peter’s eyes opened.
“Where are you going?”
Stiles stuck his head back into the room around the door and whispered, “I’m responsible for leading the sunrise ritual. I’ll be at all of them, but the sunrise one is my responsibility since I don’t have school today. I’ll be doing the same tomorrow. Luckily, this is only once a year for about a week.”
Peter frowned. “Who leads the later rituals?”
Stiles slid back into the room and walked over to the bed. “I’m pretty sure Alan Deaton will lead the noon ritual, and Marin Morrell will lead the sunset.”
Peter sat up. “Will you be there for those rituals or will it only them?”
Stiles nodded. “I’ll be there and be one of the conduits, but they will lead.”
Peter swung his legs to the side of the bed. “May I accompany you?”
Stiles nodded. “Sure. If you don’t want to go back to sleep. I have to leave in about twenty minutes, so be ready. There are clothes that should fit you in the drawers. Dad is pretty close to you in build these days and he left them for you.”
Twenty minutes later both were ready to go, and they climbed into Stiles’ Jeep and began the short drive to the center of town. Stiles decided to explain a bit before they arrived. “The ritual, there are actually several variations, some incredibly simple, which are done by the schools and some a bit more complex for the adults, are loosely based on at least the basic mechanics behind the ritual that brought The Calming. Everyone channels their thoughts and magic, even those who aren’t magical still have the magic within them that causes them to be supernatural, and the conduits send it into the earth and into the ether.”
Stiles glanced over at Peter for a moment. “It won’t be hard for you. Frankly, it is even something that can easily be faked on the part of the more passive participants, those who aren’t acting as conduits. Most people at least try to do something, but if you aren’t in the mood or can’t quite get there, just mimic it, and no one will really know the difference. But if you can follow and do it, the power of an Alpha werewolf would be welcome.”
Peter nodded. “I’m very curious about these rituals. I can’t say whether I will actually perform my part until I see it, but I will keep an open mind.”
“It isn’t taxing. The only magic you’d be using is the magic of thought, intention, and existence, really. That’s why a conduit or several conduits are necessary. To transmute the magic to be more focused and usable. Usable isn’t really the right word for it, but it gives the gist.”
Peter nodded as they pulled up to the park in the center of town, across the street from the public library. Peter glanced around, his head tilted in curiosity, the slowly lifting darkness not a problem for his eyes. The configuration of the center of town had changed in the past six years, quite dramatically, so it wasn’t odd.
The public library was still there, but it had been expanded on both sides taking over the spaces that were once the parking lot and a small cafe. The small park across the street had once been only the size of about half a football field covered in grass with a gazebo at one end. Now, it took up what seemed to be three blocks, maybe four, and was ringed with trees. In the center was a stone ring. It was reminiscent of Stonehenge, but it was smaller and whole.
Peter and Stiles walked to the stone ring, and there were five people already there. Peter didn’t know who they were, but Stiles did.
Stiles greeted each of the three women and two men and introduced them to Peter. “Beacon Hills actually has a disproportionately high number of people with the ability to act as a conduit. Most of the lay-population blame me. Those who know and understand magic blame the former Nemeton. Of those born in Beacon County since the Calming, about 1200 babies, only one has the ability to channel. And that is the correct ratio for most of the world, about 1 in 1200 to 1700 or so. But for areas that had Nemetons that ‘exploded’ during the Waves, the percentage is more like 1 in 200. And areas that had large numbers of ley lines but didn’t have a node, didn’t have a Nemeton, the ratio among those alive - born or still in the womb - is currently more like 1 in 750. So, areas like that are more settled and less wild after the Calming.”
Peter licked his lips. “Okay.”
Stiles laughed. “I ramble and info dump. On the regular. Sorry. But the point is, for most places, each ritual would have only one or two conduits able to perform it. And so the number per day would be limited to one or two, if that, depending on how much they could channel. But Beacon County currently has over one hundred conduits over the age of 18, and 72 over puberty. No conduit is allowed to channel until after they are at least in puberty. Otherwise, they could burn out or cause a magical explosion as they channeled. It wouldn’t be as bad globally as the Great Cataclysm, but on a local level it would be absolutely devastating.”
Peter nodded. “Okay.”
Stiles huffed a laugh. “Anyway, that’s a lot of explanation to say that Beacon Hills has lots of ceremonies and rituals. You can come back to the later ones if you want. Each will have more people than the one before. So, you can build up your tolerance. Or you can stay home after this one is done. Your call.”
Peter inclined his head. “Thank you.”
Stiles waved his hand behind him. “I have to go prepare the circle. We’ll start in about fifteen minutes. Just stay outside of the inner ring of stones, and you will be fine.”
Peter stepped back and watched as Stiles took a bag of herbs and laid down a circle around the center of the area. Then he drew some symbols, runes was Peter’s assumption, on each of the large standing stones. Each of the others Peter had been introduced to followed behind the teen and painted some type of liquid over each side of the stone cairns.
By the time the last stone had been anointed, there were about eighty people standing around, inside the outer ring of stones but outside the innermost ring. Many of them were staring at Peter, some of them nudging each other, but no one approached him. Very few of them even spoke to one another out loud. The growing light as the sun slowly rose towards the horizon lent a quiet air to the park.
Stiles walked to the very center of the stone circle and stood, his feet bare and sunk into the earth. He raised his arms and spoke, “Remembrance and love, hope and longing. As your mind turns to losses, remember those who have not left for the afterlife. Reach out with your minds, your hearts, your magic, and connect with the universe to bring calm to chaos. Lay your hand on a stone, press your feet into the earth and connect to the magic that flows through us all.”
Around the circle, people began to remove shoes and socks. Others pressed their palms to one of the many standing stones. The conduits formed a circle around Stiles, their hands joined and their feet bare. They raised their arms and began to chant, “Tawelwch i anhrefn. Chao est tranquillitas. Spokój w chaosie. Calma gu caos. Calma al caos. Spokoystviye k khaosu. Konton ni ochitsuku. Rustig tot chaos. Calm to chaos.”
The many languages should have sounded discordant as each person in the ritual chanted. But it wasn’t. They blended together, a musical tone filling the air. After several repetitions, Peter found himself almost compelled to begin to chant himself, “Iremíste sto cháos. Iremíste sto cháos. Iremíste sto cháos.”
Afterward, he was never sure why he chanted in Greek. It was a language that he knew, he had learned it in his teens, but it wasn’t his first language by any means. But during the ritual, it felt right.
As the sun breached the horizon, the chant stopped, and Stiles floated several feet in the air, his garments swaying in a nonexistent wind, his eyes glowing bright red and his skin nearly translucent, the fox ears on his head raised and calm.
Stiles floated for three minutes before a force lowered him to the ground once more. He smiled and raised his arms, palms out. “Blessed be.”
The entire gathering echoed back, “Blessed be.”
An hour later, Peter was still buzzing with the energy of the ritual under his skin. He had met every one of the seventy-eight people who had come to the ritual and had actually recognized nearly forty of them from before the fire. Stiles had been correct that they seemed to see his awareness and attendance at the ritual to be some sort of holy sign. But most of them seemed to try their best to keep the fanboy behavior to a minimum.
After a hearty breakfast back at the Stilinski house and some talk about magic with the Stilinski men, Peter agreed to go to the noon and sunset rituals as well. He was feeling much more centered and calm. Stiles posited that many of the people present had been focused on him and the magic had responded by further connecting his mind to the present and not the past.
Peter spent the sunset ritual between Stiles and Cora, standing just outside the innermost stone ring. He again chanted in Greek and realized after that Cora had done the same. His thoughts were focused more and more through each ritual on his family. At first, on those he had lost - Talia, Gregory, Maria, Yasha, Leon, Peony, Grant, Kim. But by sunset, his thoughts dwelled on Laura and Derek, wondering if they had survived the Great Cataclysm, if they were feral or just in hiding, nearby or far away, lost, alone or together.
The sunset ritual lasted the longest of the three rituals that day. Marin Morrell channeled the magic and energy of the over four thousand people present for nearly twenty minutes after the sun sank below the horizon. When the last echo of the farewell faded, and people began to turn from the stones, a sound from nearby made nearly everyone freeze in place.
Peter felt a pull and left the stone circle and approached the closest spot to the forest. Cora was right behind him and Stiles to his side. A jet black wolf limped into the park and collapsed at Peter’s feet.
Stiles knelt and reached out slowly. The wolf turned its head, its eyes a bright blue, and shook its muzzle. Half a second later a scruffy, dark-haired naked man was in place of the wolf. He blinked up at them.
Derek nodded. “I couldn’t find you. There was this magic, and Laura disappeared, and I needed to find you. Alpha. I couldn’t find you.”
Peter knelt down. “You found me, pup. I’m here. Everything will be okay.”
As Peter and Cora pulled Derek into their arms, Stiles stood behind them and kept the others from approaching. The Hale pack who were present encircled the three blood family Hales and allowed their Alpha, so newly awakened to his humanity, to enjoy the effects of the love magic they had raised for him.
The Hales were one once more. And chaos had calmed once again.