Long ago when the world was cold, when the forests were as deep and dark as oceans there lived an Old King, of all his lands and treasures, of all his jewels, horses, his subjects and possessions, nothing was more precious than his youngest son. His Boy-Prince and Heir to his throne was the Kings proudest achievement and he could deny the Prince nothing. The finest teachers, the softest bedding, the best food cooked by the hands of artisans and the swiftest Horses. Artist were commissioned to paint his dreams every morning and a choir were appointed to sing him to sleep every night. The Prince wanted for nothing and had everything.
Everyday at noon when the sun shone down into the throne room the King Al’Kaladrial would hear petitions from his people, the Prince though often asked, rarely sat at the smaller throne beside his Father, the complaints of peasants being far less interesting than his Library, his archery or the artful sweetmeats created by the Kitchens but today in the depths of the cruelest Winter any could remember the Prince sat at the second throne and while the peasants bleated like sheep the Prince sat and listened as the people begged his Father help. For a monster had come to the old Kingdom and the people were afraid.
At the first snows a beast had come upon the Kingdom. Shepherds high on the hills had lost sheep, Woodcutters in the mountains had heard a terrible roaring in the forests and one of the Bah’gara, the Outriders who enforced the laws in the furthest regions of the Kingdom had had his horse killed from underneath him in the dark by a giant creature. The Prince was intrigued, hunting in the Kingdom during Winter was forbidden and the thought of hunting a monster was too delicious to be ignored. The King brought the meeting to an end with promises that the Bah’gara and his elite Guard, The Sho’Hari would increase their patrols to protect his people from this beast. With his promise and traditional blessing the people left, praising their King and whispering blessings upon his name.
It was long after midnight when the Prince led his swiftest horse from it’s warm stable. The animal seemed reluctant to leave its warm bed of straw to venture out into the freezing air but followed the Prince, trusting and eager to gallop under the stars. Once mounted, the Prince tightened his sword belt and fixed his bow so as not to impede his ride. Before long they were both galloping under the obsidian sky and heading for the nearest hill, the air nipped at his ears and whipped his hair back from his face and yet he barely felt the cold. The thought of facing this beast warmed his blood and gave a vigour to his muscles, he treasured the thought of bringing the beasts head to his fathers Throne room, the look on every ones faces as he recounted the tale of the momentous fight with the creature. His heart quickened and he spurred the Horse to run even faster.
Hours has gone past and the Prince’s hands and face were raw with the cold, The bread and flask of wine he had brought with him were long behind in a pile of snow. His back and legs ached from the non stop riding and his bladder was full to bursting. The Prince dropped to the ground and settled against a nearby tree, the splashing of his water sounded like a waterfall in his ears. There was barely a moon and even though the stars echoed off the crisp, white snow it was still too dark for the Prince to see clearly beyond a few feet. Which is when he heard the sound of a wolf, a howl with raw edges, unlike anything he had heard before. He could not tell if it were far or close by, the sound bounced through the trees. The Princes horse reared and ran as fast as it could for the nearest clearing. The Prince ran after the horse, following it’s shadow and the misty veil of it’s maddened breath as it hung from it’s mouth, he could not lose his horse, not now so far from the Palace and lost in the North Wood. As he cleared the space between two fallen trees he landed on the horses carcass.
As the breath was knocked from his body, he rolled off the dead horse and drawing his sword he raised himself from a crouch. He could feel the hot wetness of the horses blood on his tunic, as he wiped his hand on the soft leather of his trousers a shadow unfurled. There before him was the biggest SnowBear he had ever seen, it threw back it’s head and roared. It’s white fur had spatters of blood, both new and old upon it and it raised it’s massive paws, each ending in razor sharp claws that could tear a man in half. SnowBears rarely came this far South but sometimes a harsh Winter would bring them down out of the Mountains and into the land of men. The Prince grasped both hands to the hilt of his Sword and raised it above his head, as he prepared for the Bear to attack a figure appeared from the trees and threw itself onto the Bear.
There was a blur of shadows and then the SnowBear fell to the floor. It’s massive bulk threw up a spray of snow that caught the Prince in the face and spilled down the front of his shirt. The flash of cold shook him from his reverie and his arm whirled the sword around in front of him, drawing level with the chest of the naked man in front of him. But this could not be a man, his legs were covered with thick fur that continued up in a thin trail across his belly and spread out over his chest and over his shoulders and down his back. His matted hair hung to his shoulders and a thick beard covered his face but his eyes, the Prince could not look away. His eyes were glowing like sunlight on water, they were impossible to describe, neither blue nor grey but they shone like the winter moon. The man looked down at the sword inches from his heart and with a single swipe batted it out of the Princes hands, where it span off into the bushes. The wildman took a step closer and growled “Who are you?” The prince could see well enough to see that the man had the longest teeth he had ever seen and his fingernails were curled like claws. He drew himself upright. ” I am Arun, Prince of Arakamasi. Who are you?” The wildman tilted his head to one side, staring at the young Prince. “I am Chael, Wolfen”.
The wildman who called himself Chael grabbed a fur blanket from a nearby tree and threw it around himself. “Food?”. The Prince was starving and nodded, Chael nodded his head away to the North and walked off leaving the Prince to follow. They walked in silence for a few moments until the Prince could not stay silent any longer. “What are you?” Chael did not turn his head or break his stride. “I am Wolfen”. The Prince had to half run, half walk to keep up. “What is that, I mean what are you?”. The wildman stopped, he put out his hand to the Princes chest and crouched down, pulling Arun with him. The Prince saw only two huge shadow they had almost passed before he recognised two mounted riders, his Father’s personal guard, the Sho’Hari. He started to speak but Chael pulled him to his chest and the young Prince was burried in the man’s chest hair. After the Riders has passed beyond hearing Chael released the Prince “Why are you afraid of them? You are a killer of Bears?” Chael’s strange eyes stared deep into Arun’s face. “Bears are honest. Man is a liar”. He bent down and picked the Prince up as if he was a child and ran through the Forest faster than the wind. They stopped at a small ramshackle wooden hut. Chael opened the door and nodded his head to Arun. The Prince entered.
The floor was covered with animal furs, there was a small fire burning in the centre of the room surrounded by large stones. Chael put a piece of beaten metal over the flames and took some slices of meat from an oilskin bag. As the meat started to spit, he flipped them onto a mall wooden platter. He passed the plate to Arun and added some green leaves from a stone bowl and from another he added cold potatoes. “Eat”. It was neither command nor suggestion but Arun was beyond hunger and devoured what was offered. They ate in silence until both were sated. Chael was staring at the young Prince. “You rule these lands?” His voice was quiet and softer than before. Arun put his wooden plate on a shelf behind him, “No, My Father does.” Arun looked away from Chael’s unusual face, trying not to think about how even with his eyes closed he could see those eyes, the red lips and that even without speaking he could hear Chael’s deep voice. Chael wrapped the blanket around himself and yawned loudly. “I sleep” and saying it he lay back and pulled the blanket around him and slept.
It was like a dream, the Prince, cold from lying on the floor had somehow anded up lying in Chael’s blanket, nothing seemed real. And as the sun broke through the window, his eyes opened to the sight of Chael’s arms wrapped over his chest. He could feel Chael’s body tight against him and his breath warm on his neck. Trying not to waken the Wildman he rolled slightly away and looked back at the sleeping man. The transformation was unbelievable. The hair that covered him last night was almost gone, the sleeping form of Chael was still hairy but now he was just a man, the bunched muscles were now just the ordinary body of a man. And now his eyes were open and the light inside them had gone too. He stretched a little. “Are you hurt?”. Arun smiled at him. “No I’m fine, why do you ask?”. Chael rolled onto his front “When the Moon comes, I am not me, I’m glad you stayed.” Chael reached out with his left arm and pulled Arun to him. They smiled at each other shyly and then their smiles covered each other and they kissed. Chael was unembarrassed by his nakedness and untying the thongs that held Aruns clothes, soon they were both naked and their mouths found new places to kiss and lick and probe. Chael seemed to want to devour Arun and Arun licked anything that came near his mouth. For a tantalising moment Arun felt Chael pressing against him and then they were joined, like they were one and the world fell away and they both felt a moment of perfection.
Ten days had passed and they had fallen into a pattern. During the day they would hunt for small animals and at night Arun would watch Chael grow in stature and would sit back while his nails and teeth grew in length and he became more wolf than man. Chael would stalk the high woods and would often bring back a fresh kill. They roasted the meat and ate it with watergrass and root vegetables, Arun, freed from the confines of the Palace became more and more inquisitive of the world around him and Chael freed from being alone grew to love the Boy Prince. They told each other of their worlds and the families and histories they had left behind. Arun’s tale was a life of privilege and comfort, forgotten now that he was not only in the world but living in a room that was smaller than his wardrobe. Chael’s story was of a life hidden away from man, The Wolfen were to often mistaken for Werewolves. His parents had been hunted by The Lord of the South many years before, after their death Chael had wandered into the far North and lost himself in the Frozen Lands. His Father the last King of the Wolfen had urged his people to spread out into the world of man and hide themselves, being pure born they could pass for human as long as they stayed away from humans. It was a lonely life but necessary, the Wolfen could only survive if they were forgotten by man.
It was early in the morning when Chael jumped out of bed. Arun awoke with a start and was on his feet in seconds. “What is it?” he asked. “Humans.” Chael was already wide awake, his claws lengthening and the pelt blooming across his back. Arun grabbed him by the arm and tried to stop him from leaving the shack. The door opened and the winter sun, though weak flooded the hut blinding Arun for a second. “No, no wait” Arun couldn’t make him hear. The first arrow whistled past his ear and the second Chael caught in mid air, inches from Arun’s chest. With a roar Chael flew across the clearing in front of the house and took the Rider out of his saddle with a single blow. Three riders lay dead before the first arrow found it’s target. Two were sticking out of his chest when the third hit him in the throat. A fourth appeared in Chael’s bicep and a fifth and sixth appeared in both legs. Arun saw the blood on the snow before he saw the Riders. “No!” The scream was raw in his throat. The Sho’Hari were the best marksmen in the world and not one missed their mark. Chael fell staining the snow with his blood before Arun could reach him. “Your Highness!” The Captain of the Sho’Hari ran forward with his sword drawn. “Your Highness!” The young Captin threw himself across the body of his Lord as another soldier thrust his sword down and through Chael’s chest. “You are safe My Lord. Your Highness? You are safe!”. The last thing Arun saw was his beloved Chael’s body covered in blood and quite, quite still.
The years passed and Prince Arun became King Arun, he ruled his people with clarity and wisdom. Often the tale of his kidnap by the wolf-beast was told, his bravery and cunning to survive his ordeal with the monster. Only King Arun knew the truth and only King Arun bore the knowledge of Chael and his foolish attempt to keep Arun from the world. Everyday Arun burned incense and herbs at the temple to Chael’s memory, hoping that in death the creature could find the peace he never could in life. Arun was a wise and just King who ruled with mercy and with a light hand, tempered perhaps by his time living in the woods with a beast.
And as Arun grew to be an old man, deep in the woods and hidden from the eyes of people, a beast runs in the freshly fallen snow under a full moon, it is very scarred and very old now. It has no more need of man as it is the last of it’s kind and feels only the need to run free, under the stars, for ever and ever.