(The continuing saga, in which is introduced the ancient mythological belief in lycanthropy. Enjoy)
Part I The Calling
Start section 14 (fourteen)
“What are the names of the Betrayers, Nal? I need to know to begin my own search for them.”
“If you feel you can do such a thing, do be careful. There is a tall and very powerful wizard called Gehandor the White because of his pale skin, white hair and eyes so pale they seemed almost white. He is not so much cruel as power-mad. He will use any and all means to gain the power and adulation he craves. Fear is his greatest weapon against men.
The other is Tel’Madan. He is of average height with features commonly associated with people called Mongols or of those from Cathay, with similar eyes but rounder face than mine. From what I remember and Lo tells me, nothing on this world exceeds the cruelty of this false Alay. Not only did he torture me to death in the most horrible ways, he did so to his own wife.
“Those of course were their ancient names, they would probably have changed those many times since as they moved through the lands and man’s history. Today, they could call themselves Thomas or Paulus, any common and acceptable name, for they serve worldly powers and would carry Christian names. Their last names serve no purpose for our quest since they would take whatever common family name exists in whatever territory they would be serving in. There is also the strong possibility that they found ways to change their physiognomy although Lo tells me he has not been able to alter his.
“No, what we must do is focus on their characteristics, not their names. What we need to discover is where there are major wars being fought and which side is accompanied by a wizard which would usually be the winning side. The mainland seems beset with endless battles and many were being fought there when my mother’s master left Iberia for the city of London. What a dreary and smelly place that is. The fogs are what finally killed my mother, not just the mistreatment she got at the hands of the master when he got drunk, or angry. They would have killed me too if I hadn’t escaped when I did. So many people die in that city. Horrible, Donna, a simply horrible place!
“Come, we need to work with the staff again. Tomorrow if Lo hasn’t returned we will test your skills with the bow. As to searching for our enemies, I leave that entirely to your discretion as long as you remember to be very, very discrete.”
After cutting out a staff of suitable length for Donna from a young ash shoot and hardening the ends in their fire, they began sparring again. This time the advantage clearly went to Donna. She was a swift and fierce antagonist and Nal noted that when Donna moved with her staff she was dancing, not really fighting. She whirled and turned, jumped and ducked as if there was music playing in her ears. Nal, though quite accurate and fast with a staff, lacked the size, weight and reach of her opponent. Twice Donna knocked the staff from her hands and held her down. Finally Nal called it.
Without bitterness or envy, Nal said, “There’s no point continuing this. You and Lo can spar with the staffs, I’m no match for either of you ‘giants’! I hardly ever use my staff except in self defence anyway, usually against animals which are more my height! This one goes to you!”
“Thank you Nal. I was thinking while we were sparring if it were possible to combine our illusion making powers with energy transfer… I’m not sure what I mean but I can visualize it if you want to look.”
“You were thinking – while we were sparring??? It was that easy for you? Hm… but good news for you that is. Let me ‘see’ about this energy transfer. Oh, I see what you want to do here. Never heard of that possibility. So you would extend your hand as if to create an illusion but instead you would shoot off a strand of energy to knock down an opponent, or clear an obstacle from your path? You think that is possible? I don’t remember such in my deepest awakened memories. It certainly would come in handy when outnumbered. We must try that.”
Holding her staff in one hand and planting it solidly in the soil, Donna stood on a firm footing and sighted a small stone at a distance of about ten yards. She focused her mind, gathered energy and thrust her arm with hand wide open in the direction of the stone. In three seconds the stone shattered.
“I just wanted to push it!” exclaimed a distraught Donna. If I did that to someone it would kill them horribly!”
“Perhaps why we never used it, but more likely this is a combined power of the new Earth-based Alaya, the good and the evil blending, more of those strange mutations that arise on this world. You will learn to control it. Do you think you could share this with me so I and Lo could have it also?”
“If it is an Earth-based and combined Alaya power, then you perhaps may be able to absorb it, but would Lo? There is no human in him, except for that which infects him, but that’s different, is it not? This could probably hurt him.”
“Truthfully, I don’t know what our boundaries are. We represent new creatures on this world and there are no rules that govern our thoughts or movements unless we make them. We can only experiment, learn and remember anything new that we discover. Know this Donna: we are very complex creatures now. But if he couldn’t absorb it it wouldn’t hurt him, his system would simply reject it. He wouldn’t notice anything except when he went to test it and there was nothing there.”
“Why didn’t you make new earth-based Alay’s and Alaya’s before me?”
“It wasn’t possible before you, Donna. There is something in you that allows, that gives you, an affinity with us that is not of the natural order of this world. Perhaps, thinking about your question a bit deeper, there has been some change in the human mind, some small piece of evolution that allows some of our powers to transfer to humans. It has, after all, been tens of millennia since we stopped being full Alas.
“I’m curious though, what do you know of your parents, your ancestry?”
“Not much. My father was a woodsman and I was told he died young. My mother is a servant in Torglynn. I have two brothers, both older, and a younger sister who is lame and cannot walk. I have never been close to my older siblings. My brothers despise me for asking too many questions and debating the values of many traditions with them and also because I am taller and fairer of skin than they. My little sister whose father is different than mine is too young to understand much, only five springs to her. She is sweet. She can only drag herself about but she likes to sit in the sun, rock and sing to herself. She wraps sticks or vegetables in pieces of cloth and holds them to herself, singing to them. She has large blue eyes that look deep into you when you talk to her. I worry what will come of her if mother dies. I should like to return one day, heal her and take her away from there. I think I could do that now.”
There was a period of silence between them, both reminiscing.
“Oh the stories we create with our lives, Donna. If we wrote everything down, the books would cover this world. Instead we have bodies and they carry our hopes and dreams and memories and keep us going. To what end though? If there is no heaven or hell, then what is there? I’m an Alaya, or a reincarnation of one. Where did we come from? From the gods, Lo said to me a long time ago it seems. What does that mean? I don’t know. Do we return to the gods? Is there an accounting of the work we’ve done, or failed to do? If we return, then how, when? Where are the rules? I may have been much mocked for breaking many rules in my endless run from slavery but still, there has to be some basic rules, doesn’t it?
“Lo said that we were sent here to basically shepherd the young races long long ago. That’s a purpose but what about all the people? What’s their purpose if they have one, and how are they to discover it? From us? There are hundreds of millions of people here, my mother explained to me, and so I remember now, and there’s but the three of us at this point counting you, and we’re hiding from two powerfully evil ones?
“My life, small though it was and insignificant, probably meaningless, made more sense to me six months ago than it does today.”
Nal began to cry and Donna dropped her staff and came over to hold her, saying nothing. Behind the darkening clouds the sun moved fast, driven to fall behind the horizon. A flash of lightning was followed by rolling thunder. The two women slipped into the cave, re-built their fire and realized they were very hungry but all they had was left over bread crusts and the mouldy cheese that was not improving with time.
“If nothing else happens to change everything again, we need to go hunting tomorrow. Perhaps an opportunity to find out if the bow is also your weapon, Donna?”
“But if I miss, we’ll lose a sure game.”
“No matter, it will be worth the try. If you miss I’ll go out alone and bring something down. You can stay and gather more wood and kindling, or make us another water basket? Yesterday’s is drying up and starting to leak.”
They sat on the sandy soil by the fire. Darkness fell, lit up regularly by more lightning flashes. After the thunder rolls their wolf companion howled forlornly from the darkness. Nal began to worry about Lo, wondering where he was, if he was safe, if he was on the trail, or in a cozy shelter awaiting daylight. She dared not use her thought-form energy to contact him, not sure if she could do the blending, giving it the misdirection he’d instructed to do.
The rain began and it fell in torrents driven by a tremendously powerful gale-force wind. Soon the hills became alive with the noise of flash streams and the crash of stones eroding from their beds and tumbling down. Water began to trickle into the cave from the base of the entrance, the flow increasing with the rain’s intensity. They watched with growing dismay as the water flowed into their shelter, threatening to soak their bedding and put out their fire.
“Guess what, Donna. We now know why this cave has such a smooth sandy floor: it’s stream bed! That also explains the hole at the back of the cave, it’s were the water flows out. So by morning there could be up to two feet of water here. We’d better try to find some place to hang the pack and our bedding, and quickly.”
“No! Wait! I have an idea, Nal. Let me try something first.”
She quickly stripped her clothes off to keep them dry and slipped out into the torrent and rising gale and disappeared. Some moments later a sound as of the earth shooting up was heard around the cave and she felt the ground shaking as in a mild earthquake. The water stopped entering the cave and Donna slipped back in shivering and reaching for her clothes. Nal helped her dry and dress and held her near the fire.
“You had me frightened for you. What did you do out there?”
“So simple Nal. I focused my illusion and projection energy on the front of the cave and blew up the ground all around, creating a trough for the water to by-pass our shelter and a small dike behind it. I did them deep enough and high enough to hold until this storm is over. But we have to think bigger, much bigger Nal. Something strange is happening to my mind and now I know things I should not. I know this country well and I can assure you this is not a natural storm. Do you think your Betrayers have found us and this is round one?”
“I can’t possibly know that! We need Lo here! If it is Betrayer power that could mean they fear us and dare not confront us directly. If they have found us, they know about this cave. They could be trying to force us out into the storm to confuse and weaken us, perhaps even get us separated. Sounds like crazy wild imagination but all things are possible. But if they can move such forces as this storm how can we hope to confront them successfully? We’re surely doomed!”
“You’re allowing your fear of the unknown to distress you, Nal. Stop it! Stop it at once! They are afraid of us! We are the unknown to them. They can’t attack us directly either. If this is their doing, they just showed us their first weakness: as you guessed, they fear a direct encounter. If they use so much energy to create this storm, that will also weaken them. Let them rage and storm at a distance: we are the strong ones now. We also outnumber them and we are creating new forces that may render theirs obsolete.”
“Donna! How can you know such things? Who, what are you? Where does all that come from? How can there be so much power inside an ordinary human girl? There can’t be, I’ve known humans since they first learned to use language. They don’t possess the ability to project mental powers except perhaps in rare ones and those are weak things.”
“Ever since this afternoon I have felt a huge increase of my powers of awareness and discernment. It’s like a bubbling in my mind and my heart. I have doubted and feared this after defeating you with the staff and destroying that stone. This storm, however, has changed everything. I recognize this energy of mine. I know it. Hah! Listen to me. I too have a story! Now I remember, listen to me!
“It is I whose father is a faerie lord or to be precise, an Elven lord of the ancient worlds. More, he is not dead, he lives. As a tiny infant I was stolen from my creche and then lost when the thieves who were faeries crossed the barrier between our worlds and this one. My earth mother in Torglynn didn’t give birth to me, she found me while gathering roots and adopted me but never told me why I was fairer and taller than all the others.
“Oh, if only I had known what I was, I would never have allowed myself to be captured like a dumb heifer, so stupidly, by those murderous invaders, and yes, Nal, I remember all of it, that you saved my life and blocked my memories to help me heal. It is good, what you did but no longer necessary. Thanks to your gifts of Alaya power and my own heritage I now have power even I cannot fathom, but I will bring it out and I will use it without fear.
“I can see far, far away right now, listen. Your Betrayers are far away Nal. There is a war to the south, across a narrow sea and they are both there. They located us because you spoke the inner thought-form language but the storm was sent from a long distance away. We are safe here this night. We can sleep together but now I realize something else I must do. When Wolf returns and calls for me I will go to him and share some of my powers with him. I will transform him into a werewolf: it is what he desires for he’s already told me and I will give him the gift of human words. He will follow me then until our quest is complete, for it is now our quest, as you wished it, not just yours and Lo. I and Wolf will stand by you and help you to the end. Then I shall leave and take him with me. I will go and heal my earth sister and bring her with me and Wolf. As a werewolf he will be able to cross the barrier with me and she will ride him. I and Wolf will train her to become a “Wolf Rider” who possess the power and skills to cross between worlds. Oh yes, I will find my father and perhaps my real mother and will take my proper place among my own people. But fear not, I shall tell them of your mighty deeds and entertain for long evenings at our gatherings. There will be much cheering at the names of Nal and Lo.”
“You can foretell our victory, then?”
“No Nal, not directly. I’m cheering you up, lifting up your sagging spirit and helping you see that evil need not be the winner this time. Nothing is ever sure until done and even then tricks can be played. The real game, it never ends but goes ever on. One victory leads to another war, another defeat, another war, another victory. This must be until all is accomplished and everything is changed, nothing of the old remaining, not for Earth people and not for the Elves. We but travel through space and time until both space and time are destroyed, never to be again. Only the faeries and ghosts who live between worlds can escape our doom but who’d want their kind of lives?”
“Oh Donna… I don’t know what to say. I’m truly shocked to discover who you are. I thought… but never mind, who cares now what I thought? You are…”
“I’m definitely not a “Donna” or such meek earth creature. Call me Deanna for the time being and know that my fate is to become a leader among my people. My mate is Wolf. Tonight I will do my first shape-shifting of this life or at least attempt it. Wolf will help me, he’s so madly in love with me and he wants to have me as his mate, his She-Wolf. Before sunrise I will return in human form and be your human companion but tonight Wolf and I will run together wild and free as befits both, Elves and Wolves. We’ll go down the trail and find Lo to ascertain that all is well with him. When we find him I won’t reveal anything to him, that will be your task. He will not know we were there.”
“Deanna? My earth name is Beanna! Can such be but coincidences or do we have other connections to one another? Tell me if you know, please!”
“I don’t know but it seems of little importance to me now, these earth name details. If there be a deeper connection, it will reveal itself soon enough but unless I can assess that it is of some value beyond mere information, I will pay it no mind. Come, let us be together, make love, dream. I feel an animal energy rising in me, the rising of the snake, the Kundalini.”
“Among the Elves and some earth people, if memory serves here, it is called the Kundalini. The living snake you were telling me about! The real power of love. Tonight I love as a trio of beingness within my self: a living bridge made up of the female energies of a human woman, an Elven warrior and a She Wolf. Tonight, thanks to you, Nal, I begin a new life of power.”
When Wolf called and whined at the cave entrance Deanna was already wide awake, following his movements with her mind, her heart athrob with anticipation. She kissed Nal gently and slipped out. Although naked in the cold, damp night now awash with billions of brilliant stars in the clearest of skies possible, she only felt the heat of her body and that of Wolf. They stepped away together then laid down in the cold sand far enough away from the cave that should she emit cries of passion or pain, Nal would not be awakened.
There were sharp cries but mostly of passion and surprise. Wolf changed and grew, becoming twice as large and darker, with longer hair and much more powerful teeth. His eyes glowed in the dark. Then he turned to Deanna and watched eagerly as she transformed herself into the light grey She-Wolf form she had dreamed for herself, also much larger in size than a normal wolf. They saw each other as their nature intended and howled their mutual joy into the night sky and nipped at one another. Wolf bayed the deeper call of the werewolf and spoke clearly to his mate.
“Run, we run!” And they went chasing off into the night to experience their animal freedom in an open country entirely devoid of human presence but the small Nal sleeping alone in her cave. The smell of small game was strong but they ignored it. The stars, it seemed, looked approvingly upon them as they chased old dreams, jumping from rock to rock and down game trails as they found them.
In that moment for the two of them all was as it should be.
End section 14 (fourteen)