My Mala, my Grandmother made me a leather bound journal to take with me when I left the Village. I was a youngerkinder or just 112 years old. Evernight I would write down the events of the day, scraps of old songs and poems. The leather had been well worked and was soft and warm to the touch. I rode North for 9 days to the Village of Ofrencartz. Every night I faithfully noted everything in that journal. Queen Bo’eme had sent out a call across the wolfenworld. Our ancient enemies the Sh’war Bloodkind, foul vampires, had moved further into our lands and were encamped at the base of Tiernan Mountain. From there it was a days hard ride through Crow Valley and they would be inside the Kingdom. The Sh’war had become ever bolder since the rise of a new order in their land, a cult by the name of The Tulwan. Our oldest Allies and once saviours, the Kyprishan-ma’wed, Elemental shape-shifters from the far Island of Krypris had called to our Queen. It seemed that the Sh’war had violated a sacred land to the Kyprishan-ma’wed. The lands surrounding the Tiernan Mountains was Holy to the Kyprishan-ma’wed, I do not know why. I know only a little of their history as they are a remote and reserved people. I arrived in Ofrencratz on the first day of Aba’ad. The Holy month. Normally there would be feasting and strangers would be welcomed guests at any table. Yet the streets were silent tombs. No lamps burned, the Inns were bolted against the clinging fog and I had seen no one for an entire day. As I lashed my horse to a bolting post, I re-set my baldrick so that my sword was closer to my hand and pulled the hood of my leather outrider over my head. Even without rain there seemed a cold, wet hand in the air. A flicker in the falting light caught my eye. When I turned the street was still empty. Ofrencatz is no modern city but it is well used as a meeting point where 5 roads cross. The streets are wide and clean and normally well lit. Without the street lamps burning, and even with my wolfen night vision, it was difficult to see very far. Another flick, a blur at the corner of my eye, had me turn and my sword was drawn before I realized what I was seeing. It was a child. A young boy of maybe 8 years. I hadn’t seen him because he had glamoured at my arrival, the Kyprishan-ma’wed are able to put themselves out of sight. His face was a perfect blank, open mouthed and wide eyed. I put away my sword and went down to one knee. “I’m sorry. Did I scare you?” He nodded, unmoving and seeming to blur at the edges. like ink in water. “My name is Sharisa. What’s yours?” He seemed to focus upon himself, draw himself in and become more ‘real’. “Kai.” He whispered. Out here in the boons, most people use the lingua-frana of the merchants and my knowledge of the language of the Kyprishan-ma’wed is limited but I do recognise a few words. “That means ‘river’ doesn’t it?” He smiled and took a step closer. “Sharisa is a Wolf word. It means ‘like the Moon’.” I laughed. My name is so old that even some Wolfen do not know what it means. “Yes. ‘Like the Moon'” I drew my and through my hair. It is bone white, has been since birth. It happens sometimes in our clan. Black and red hair and blue or green eyes are most common but every generation has a birthing like mine. Slate grey eyes and pure white hair. It’s thought of as a blessing and only ever happens with she-wolfs. “You must be cold Kai. Are your family near?” He looked over his shoulder then crossed the cobbles and took my hand. He led me towards one of the side doors off the Inn and knocked three time. The door opened a fraction and at once I was hit by the scent. Wolfs really do ‘see’ smells, as others see the world. There was… Five men, four women, two near their time, potatoes, straw, a coal fire, new armour, old weapons, leather boots, the honey wine the Kyprishan-ma’wed make called Retak. cinnamon bread, roasting pork, a baby, new born, incense burning and an ‘other’ smell that I had no word for. The man that opened the door broke into a fast, angry sentence in Kyprihaispeak, I couldn’t follow. Then he lifted Kai up and hugged him. From the smell of his skin he was a kin to Kai. “Who are you?” He barked. “Saitrada Poppi! This is my friend Sharisa. She is a wolfen.” Kai smiled at me proudly. Kai’s Father, even I understood ‘poppi’, smiled and waved me through the door. “Food for out guest. I am Yanasai.” He turned to face the room. “Forgive us, we are far from our home and these are bad times. This is my wife Idara, my brother Gand, his wife Imani. And these are our hosts Melchai and Baredin.” We nodded and smiled and a plate of meats and potatoes with bread and preserved and pickled vegetables appeared at the table. They waited while I took off my outrider and sword and sat to eat. Apart from the Kyprishan-ma’wed and the Innkeepers the others had said nothing, the biggest, a buckwolfen lent forward. “Sharisa?” I nodded. “What Clan are you?” I took another bite of the warm pork. “I am Haja-Chael.” He sat a little straighter in his chair and nodded his head, the other Wolfen did the same. “Forgive me My Lady. We though all your clan arrived with her Majesty.” I nodded back and they relaxed a little. The Kyprishan-ma’wed poured retak and bustled about, they were on edge and unfamiliar in the company of Wolfen. “Please. My name is Sharisa. We are all equal here. The youngerkinder male stood. “I… I wanted to say. I’ve never met a stradi before. I apologise if we seemed rude.” Yanasai put Kai down from his hip. “We are all friends here. I’m sorry are your families not allies?” I smiled and explained. “No I am sorry Yanasai. I am Lady Sharisa Haja-Chael of the house of Bo’eme. The oldest of the Royal houses, Stradi is an old word for Royal and I am the Daughter of the Queens cousin. The Princess Cylis. Wolfen are stuffy and obsessed with titles and rank. I am here to fight along with my people and with my allies. The Kyprishan-ma’wed. The oldekinder Wolfen laughed and thrust out his hand. “Your Highness!” He dropped into an exaggerated bow. “I am Tragen. Of the Tofen-shai clan, son of no one you would have heard of. This.”He flicked a thumb at the youngerkinder next to him,”This is my brood brother Garwain, of the Tofen-draisu clan. You wouldn’t have heard of him either.” His smile was infectious and I laughed even though it wasn’t that funny. “Met well.” I said, an old greeting but it seemed to fit the mood. Melchai, the Innkeeper stepped forward with a bowl of berries and pears. “There is a room, not large but the army covers all bills and bedding.” I hadn’t realised until now what that ‘other’ smell was. It was the Innkeepers. They were Umanikind. “You’re a human?” I didn’t mean to sound shocked but I have only ever met two Umanikind in my life. Melchai and his wife smiled. “Oh we are always in the background somewhere Miss. Is your horse posted? Only we have a stable at the back. My son Demind could walk him back there, no charge! Only there’s no militia, no streetlamps, no one about you see. Because of the Vampires.” “Yes, thank you.” I described Pad, my horse and Melchai bustled off to tell his son. The Kyprishan-ma’wed all rose together. “It’s late and we have to be at council tomorrow. Goodrest.” They left to various comments along the lines of ‘goodrest’, ‘goodnight’ and ‘sleep fast’. It left myself, Tragen and Garawain. Tragen was a handsome wolfen, deep blue eyes and a strong look about him, his brood brother was too nervous, too ‘twitchy’ and made my teeth lengthen. Tragen pulled a straw wrapped clay bottle from his shirt. “Retak is like grandmothers water. How about a real drink, your highness?” “Call me that again and you will be a grandmother.” We laughed and even Garawain relaxed and picked up an empty cup, even as it was pouring I knew it was Petascal, used to clean wounds on the battlefield and stains from swords. It was fermented mushrooms, berries and sugar-leaf. It would kill a umanikinder and probably wasn’t safe for wolfenkind, yet we drank it anyway and it made me forget the privilege of my past and relish the war to come. I already knew that I would not be writing in my Journal and that sleep was for others. 2 The small creak of the floorboard span me back into the world. The smallest sound, enough though to put my teeth to lengthening and my nails to their quick. The darkness and the last of the petascal had put me out on an edge but I still saw the shimmer in the air. “Kai?” I had to be sure. “Sharisa. I can’t sleep.” The shadow, glamour of the boy drifted over the room and suddenly he was ‘neath the woolen blanket. His skin was like ice, against my better judgement I put my arm around him. “You can’t sleep here.” “Tell me a story.” “I don’t know any.” I had never had to tend to youngers. Women in my position are not expected to make task-work. Kai slipped even closer to me. “You must know one!” I thought for a moment. It wasn’t a childrens story but I could step over the parts his parents might not approve of. “Very well. I will tell you the story of true love and how your people saved my people.” So I told him the oldest story of my people. ‘Upon a thousand moons, Hephakias, the Mother Moon gave birth to a daughter, Mose Diana Ab’Kai. Who became the New Moon and Daughter of the Old Temple. There were Olderkind Wolfen in the world who did not want a new god and called upon Saidaimer. the Old god-king to intervene. The Old god was half mad and loathed the wolfs. So he swore to bring down this new god in return for the first born of every royal house. They agreed and a terrible deal was forged. Mose Diana was at shantai helene river bathing and Saidaimer’s son Butal came to her as a fox. “Oh beautiful Lady I am most hurt and my leg is broken will you help me?” Butal meant to strike her dead with a poisened comb, but Mose Diana tore her dress into strips and bound his leg and whispered a charm upon him and he instantly fell in love with her. “Oh my lady… we have wronged you.” he cried and passed away into the shadows. Again Mose Diana came to bathe at shantai helene and Saidimer oldest son, the most vicious, Vetor. He intended to rape Mose Diana and fill her full of attrocities. That would eat her alive from the inside. AS he approached he bound his eyes with a silk cloth so that her beauty could not make him falter, then he heard her singing. A song from the earth and bones of the world. His eyes wept and the silk disolved, when he faced her he could do no more than weep. Knowing he had failed he grabbed a rose from an overhead branch and struck the thorn into his heart. Saidimer upon hearing the news tore at his eyes and skin. “My kingdom and power to any that kill this whore!” Saidimer’s nephew Watrewar announced he would kill the goddess and bring ruin upon the earth. He took human form and travelled to the world of the Umanakind. Around this time the daughter of the Kyprishian King had fallen into a terrible sleep that would not end. Mose Diana travelled to the island of Kypris, to pledge her support. No sooner had she arrived than she saw the foul spell. watrewar had built a poisined snake for gold, silver and jewels and tested it first on The Princess Raven. “MY King, I know the mark of this poison and it’s cure. I shall bring Raven back.” Mose Diana fasted for 3 days and then removed her sacred ch’a, her spirit from her body. Her Ch’a travelled through all time and space until it found Raven. She took her hand and kissed her cheek and led her back through the mirror maze into the world. King loes was so overjoyed at his daughter return that he pledge the loayality of his people to Mose Diana. On the second night of a 5 day feast watrewar found the castle of Chai veser and his target Mose Diana. It took less than an hour for his foul magiks to kill 900 standing men, the royals fled to the king who looked to Mose diana. “I will let him kill me. She said. “No more of your people we be harmed.” Raven rose to her feet, her eyes were like beacons, they cast such a light that no one could look upon her. “Father. I have seen through all time. Mose Diana does not die her tonight. This union of our peoples will one day save us all.” The King looked upon her and knew that she was more than she had been, that her travels in the other world had given her the sight. “KIll Him!” He shouted. Sharisa lay still for a moment as he words washed over her. “Did they win?” Whispered Kai. “Yes. watrewar was killed and your people saved our Godess. It is why when you call we will always be there.” “You are brave but you are strong.” said Kai. ” To be truly brave is to be still brave when you are weak or scared Kai.” At some point we must have fallen asleep because when I woke in the morning Kai was still lying in my arms, his little fingers twisted into my white hair. When I had fully woken the new morn brought new news. Kai and his kin has travelled east to the encampment of the Kyprishan-ma’wed. Kai had led my mind to wander to my sister-kin and her litter born, four nephewes and two neices. Youngerkinder I would probably never see again. I thought of my Mala and of Samad, my beautiful black haired boy. I wish I could have said a proper ‘goodbye’ to him. Once more in his arms or in his bed, how the spiral of his chest hair looped around his breastbone, or how his skin always smelled like leather and salt. There was a clatter of plates and a mix of voices from below, but I wanted no company. I only wanted to be among my kinder, wolfenkind. Pad rode out, well rested, along the northern trail. I knew where my people were. I could sense-smell them even back at Ofrencatz. It would be a short ride, they were very close. Pad loped along and my mind wandered. I thought of Kai and how, someday I would like a litter of my own. Of Samad and the weight and the feel of him, his heartbeat next to mine own. How he was gentle yet powerful. Then it hit, like a weight against me. A smell I knew too well. A little white hand. That was the first thing I saw. It was Kai. Ripped open. His parents and about 12 more Kyprishan-ma’wed, all bled white. Torn and broken like an angry childs toys. I rolled backwards from Pad’s back and landed on all fours. The first of them came from the trees and met my sword with a wet crunch and his top half fell back onto the grass. Something bit through my wrist and my sword fell from my hand. I feined a left and jumped to the right as an arrow hit the ground where I would have landed. Already I felt the change and bone and skin became like fire, like liquid and I was Wolf. Claws through skin, and teeth tare. Wolf shows no mercy. Blood fountains into our throat and we feast. They are dead. The fury in my slows as my heart beats slower. The change comes again but this time I do not feel it I just know that I am human form again. There are five of them. Sh’War. Vampires. Unlike their Elderkind they can move in Sunlight. There are pieces of them across the trail. They killed these Kyprishan-ma’wed because they could. It proved nothing and gained nothing. I tasted it in their blood. We can ‘feel’ recent memories in the feeding. This was not war or politics, it was without sense or purpose. That’s when I knew. I knew that I would die in this battle and it was right. The Sh’War had to be stopped. The Kyprishan-ma’wed must be defended and Kai and his kin must be avenged. … My journal is lost. The mud is so churned with blood it is like a swamp. My claws. teeth and pelt are drenched in blood and the Sh’War are all but destroyed. I cling to the the last thought I had. Samad at his smith. I pray to Hephakias. Let me not die without purpose… “Samad Harakien?” Samad turns towards the Drogua Guard. “Yes. I am Samad Harakien.” The guard has a parcel. wrapped in the greiving silk. “She died well, brother.” As the guard walks away Samad unwraps the black cloth. A sword and a leather bound journal. It is Sharisa’s. He recognises the book, she wrote in it every night. His hand tighten and become claws, his talons pierce the leather of the book. He had loved her, always and wished upon the gods he had convinced her not to leave, to ignore the Queens call. Yet she was a Princess, a warrior, how could she not have defended the Kyprishan-ma’wed or defended her own people? The furnace, his anvil, his metalworkings, all of it now means nothing. He made the sword that failed her. How else would she have died but for his failings? For the first time in 90 years, tears streak through the grime on his cheeks.