The Wolf’s Prayer
He had grown up with all the old tales, whispered at night usually as the fire was banked and the light began to fail. The children would resist orders to go to bed, begging for one more tale of terror. He never thought much about it, despite the taunts of his peers, the nicknames they gave him. He knew it for myth, not reality. Not one member of his family ever had changed in three generations. Thus, the tales were the stuff of legend, something to titillate the fears of children and young girls.
Then, at the point where his body began to alter from that of child to man, other changes occurred. Dreams mainly at the start. He dreamt of wild runs through the forest, hunting small creatures who fled at his approach. One night, though, he hunted a buck and brought him down, growling as he found the jugular, then tore the beast apart and glutted himself on raw flesh. He awoke to disgust and horror… even more when he tasted blood on his lips and found dirt and blood beneath his fingernails.
When he realized the moon was ripe, poised at the instant of fullness, he suspected that legends might be more than old tales brought out at the fireside. He then had to admit that what he had hoped to be nothing more than dreams were his reality.
He hid the evidence from his family, but began to fear that he would be forced to flee from civilization. Yet his parents and siblings loved him dearly. As the firstborn son, the welfare of their small estate was entrusted to him in a ceremony that occurred ironically the day after his first ‘dream’ of the wild hunt. Surely they would not turn against him, even if they knew the truth!
He agonised over the question for months as the change occurred with awful regularity whenever the moon reached fullness. Who could he trust if not his own flesh and blood?
One night, as they sat near the dying fire in the parlour, he decided that he could not live with the secret any longer. The words tumbled out. It was a relief not to be forced to carry the secret hidden within his heart any longer.
His confession was met first with delighted laughter.
‘What a storyteller you’ve become, lad!’ his father cried.
When he maintained that it was nothing less than truth, silence blanketed the room. Before he could respond, they did… His beloved family transformed there and then into a furious mob intent on destroying the threat they perceived in their own ranks.
He could not change at will. The transforming power still was too new in him. Even cornered, he was nothing more than a young man who could not believe that his beloved family had turned against him.
He was dragged to the cellar, where he was chained to the wall, ankles and wrists cruelly clamped in iron. A small grille in the opposite wall was his only view of the outside world. Through the bars, he could see only the feet of those who passed.
He knew then that his survival depended on his ability to hold back the change at the full moon. If he could persuade his family that it had been no more than a stupid fantasy, he would be freed. If not, then… what?
If his family had hoped to keep this a secret, they failed when a small boy peeked through the grille and saw the young man shackled to the wall. Soon he had no peace. Although his family denied entrance to the villagers, they found entertainment at the grille, where they hurled rotten vegetables and objects even more disgusting at him as well as a constant stream of insults and abuse.
His family did nothing to prevent it, apart from keeping the door to the cellar locked. The young man began to count the days to the full moon. Even if it promised to be the day of his death, it would be preferable to this.
What every one failed to realize was the fact that iron shackles created for the human form would not avail against a wolf. When the change came, it was sudden and dramatic. Freed in an instant, he hurled himself against the door, but even his superhuman strength could not break through four inches of seasoned oak.
If he had hoped to make an escape unnoticed, that hope was not realized as his family responded to his attempts to break through the door. When the door swung open, he faced his beloved parents, brothers and sisters, as well as the entire village, each of them armed. Swords, pitchforks, burning torches and nets all ranged against one young wolf as yet unaccustomed to his new skin…
He ran as though the Devil himself pursued. He felt their hate and loathing but could not return it. They were his own people, despite their betrayal of his trust… or had he betrayed them, as they believed, by his transformation? He allowed the wolf mind to take control, pushing back all that was human, driven only by the will to survive.
Three months later, at Castle Row, a messenger delivered a letter to the renowned builder Wolves Bain. The young man had reached a point of physical and spiritual exhaustion, deprived of his home, the love of his family and the companionship of humankind. The letter was a desperate plea to the builder, scrawled in blood on a fragment of bark by a man who had lost most of what society considered human.
Wolves Bain was known far and wide not only for his genius in building but for his long history of interactions with those whose existence scarcely was acknowledged outside ancient tales. He had a more than passing acquaintance with wolves and shapeshifters.
Wolves Bain responded instantly. He halted work on a current project and following the directions of the young man, rode alone into the mountains. When he finally reached his destination, he was confronted by a sorry sight indeed. Filthy, half-naked, the young man was at breaking point.
The powerful builder took command of the situation instantly, turning aside all protestations of not being able to pay for the work. With infinite patience, he forced the young man finally to comprehend that only on his own vast lands could true sanctuary be found.
‘It is a challenge, and as such I welcome it! Furthermore, by my own name am I bound to assist you in your need.’
With that declaration, all argument ended and he guided the young man back to the edge of his own domain, to a wild forest that never had been fully explored. Here he built a castle for a Wolf, a place of refuge and safety unlike any created before.
The ground floor was a den, a chamber without windows that resembled a snug cave in the heart of a mountain. The floor above could not be more different: a temple dedicated to the Moon, every wall composed of windows of delicately etched glass that reflected every nuance of light. In the centre of the ceiling was a skylight, giving the Wolf the option to bathe in moonlight.
On the floor that stood between the two was a chamber perfectly suited to any human, yet resonating with the same sense of security characteristic of the entire Castle.
‘You are both Man and Wolf, after all,’ Wolves Bain remarked. ‘Here you can be both in perfect freedom and perhaps one day, you will bring a mate home as well.’
For the world is a vast place where tolerance and love, bigotry and hatred can be found in equal measure. And somewhere, in his perfect Castle, the young Wolf waits… Each Moon brings new strength. With healing comes hope…
Copyright: Freyashawk 2009
Story by Freyashawk, Castle by Wolves Bain