Magic feels different.
Even those who don’t have a lick of it in their bodies can sense it. They don’t understand what it is, but their instincts tell them something is wrong and strong feeling of fear fills them. Most run away. The rare few who manage to stay, not understanding the intense feeling of dread and uncomfortable shaking, usually pass out…or they’re the targets.
The man behind me shivered and stood abruptly. “Dæmon.” His voice trembled and he kissed the necklace around his throat. His eyes locked onto mine and I wondered if he was speaking it to me as a warning…or labeling me.
I turned my head to watch the others in the café, the bandage over my right eye blocking a small portion of my view.
Everyone was leaving. Not a single person, even the workers who knew magic, stayed. I saw Tomas put the glass goblet he was drying down and crack his neck. Then he peered across the café at me, a piteous smirk on his face.
I recognized that look. I’d been getting it a lot lately. Sorry, mate. You understand. Can’t fight magic.
Seeing the look on Tomas’s face in his own café brought an amused smile to my face. If it was strong enough magic to kick an Erlkönig from his home, I had no fucking chance. And since I didn’t feel the intense urge to flee that meant only one thing.
The target of this particular magic was none other than me.
∗ ∗ ∗
Bad luck. That was all it had been. Pure, stupid, dumb bad luck.
I knew all the rules. I understood all the lessons they taught us growing up and how to recognize the dangers. None of that mattered.
Bad luck is bad luck and it only takes a little to completely change, or for some destroy, their lives. I wouldn’t say my life was destroyed. But I wouldn’t lightly say it was changed. It was unluckily forced to readjust to my stupid situation.
I remembered someone telling me once; victims never remember the actual attack. They don’t remember the pain. They don’t remember what happened. They just wake up in a hospital bed terrified and confused.
I had bad luck with that, too. I remembered everything, every tiny detail. I remember every speck of pain that coursed through not only body, but my mind as well.
The first injury was a scratch to my back that tore not only my clothes, but also the flesh from my bones. I could hear the flesh tear and feel the blood waterfall down my already hot skin. The next attack came from below. Long, sharp teeth burying into my thigh. The massive head shook ferociously, trying to free some more flesh from my body. I was tossed around like a rag doll, unable to do anything but scream and flail helplessly at the large head.
But my attacker ultimately won the struggle. I heard a loud pop and more tearing. I fell to the ground blinded by the intense pain that followed. It took me seconds to figure out my entire left leg had been torn from my body, but it felt like an eternity. Most people would have passed out by this point, or more likely died.
More bad luck for me.
I remained conscious, the edges of my vision darkening as the beast returned to feast on more of me while I still lived. I felt him dig into my stomach, but I was beyond pain at that point. I only felt pressure and my body involuntarily twitch as it pulled meat from me.
The final attack soon loomed over mend I finally got a good look at my death before the jaws closed around my throat.
And here comes the worst of the bad luck. Instead of piercing my carotid artery and bleeding me dry or snapping my neck with one powerful twist, the jaws released me and my attacker stepped back.
The only strength left in my body was used to roll my eyes to stare into the icy blue eyes of the werewolf that attacked me.
∗ ∗ ∗
I wish I could say that was when I finally passed out into the sweet bliss of unconsciousness. But like I said…bad luck.
The werewolf licked the blood from his jowls, his long tongue emerging from his dark lips like a snake. I remember thinking how beautiful his fur was. Black everywhere except for his belly and lower jaw.
Like an upside down skunk. The thought brought a smile to my lips and a laugh to my throat. Unfortunately the laughter only sent me into a coughing fit that brought blood to my lips.
The werewolf leaned hid head to the side and sat down on his immense haunches. He leaned forward and nudged my head with his nose, smearing the fresh blood onto his fur. His long tongue reached out and cleaned the line rolling down the side of my face.
The almost comforting action brought another fit of laughter-coughing.
And that was when the worst of it came. My head exploded into thousands of pieces, sending electricity shooting through the remains of my body. Voices screamed through my thoughts. Centuries of life filled me and I could feel everything expanding and converging all together and in one spot. Me.
Flashes of millions of lives filled my vision. Stars exploded into life and died before me. I knew everything and yet could never know anything. I existed, but would never exist again.
Then the howling began. It started soft, like a hum at the edge of my perception. It grew surrounding me in a protective bubble against the infinite wisdom and life circling me. It carried me back through time and locations so remote and yet so familiar. The howling surrounded me and soon filled me, erupting from my throat and sending a strange, intoxicating surge of power through me.
And then I woke up in the hospital.
∗ ∗ ∗
The room was so normal I thought I was dreaming. The sudden shock of being alive and in a room painted achingly plain sent a wave of panic through me. my breathing grew ragged and my heart pounded loudly in my chest, making the heart monitor next to my bed beep loudly.
“You’re all right,” a deep voice said from the chair next to my hospital bed.
I looked over at the owner of the voice and was startled to see a large man glaring at me with his arms cross over his chest. The hair on his chin was dark, matching the mop of black on his head. His chocolate brown eyes were locked on my face. His thick body was pure muscle and I could tell even seated he had to be at least six feet tall.
I swallowed, feeling the dryness of my throat. “What?” I wanted to ask what happened, but I didn’t need to be told. I knew what happened. Plus, the scratchy voice that came from my mouth cut off my question.
That was when I felt it. I felt what this man was and I felt his power. My first experience with an Alpha werewolf and I could barely move. I’d spoken to werewolf before, but this was something completely new. I couldn’t tear my eyes from him, but I knew not to look him in the eye (some of the lessons sticking even in my moment of weakness).
I knew this man could kill me any second if he chose and I knew he’d killed men before. I knew with one word he could make anyone shudder with fear. But most importantly, I knew he was the one who nearly killed me.
“Rest.” His voice was comforting in its roughness and I felt him release power. My eyes grew heavy and as I fell asleep, a new fear filled me because even with the power of an Alpha, he couldn’t control humans with his voice.
Which meant I was no longer human.
∗ ∗ ∗
The café was empty now. I sat alone at my table, drinking the last of the liquid in my glass. My head was pounding. not from the magic, but from the pain medication wearing off.
My leg twitched involuntarily and I hissed in a sharp breath as my mending ribs groaned against the sudden movement.
I debated acknowledging the magic caster’s presence, but thought it too cliché. Instead I reached into my pocket and pulled out the small bag with my new best friends, painkillers. And these were the good shit, as people say. Strong enough to work on a werewolf, so you knew it was legit.
I popped three pills into my mouth and used the last of my spit to swallow. The caster still didn’t show him or herself. So I leaned back in my chair and looked up at the ceiling, closing my eyes and waiting for the medication to kick in.
“Do you choose to ignore me out of some show of bravado or are you, plainly put, simple-minded?” The voice hinted an older language, certain vowels emphasized in unusual patterns. The light footsteps, hard even for my ears to detect, hinted an older race.
“Plainly put, in large amounts of pain.” I opened my eyes and stared at the being standing before me. I laughed when I saw what he was wearing. “I’m underdressed. Is there a war happening I don’t know about?”
The being wore armor made of the finest metals any dwarf would be jealous of. But of course, this being’s race and dwarves weren’t currently on speaking terms. Not since the death of Oi’lian, the royal mother to the High Light Elves. Her sons believed her death to have been caused by the carelessness of dwarves.
And that was who stood before me, one of the sons of the royal mother. Not just any son either, but the one who inherited the throne and became the Royal Father of the High Light Elves. Luthwain.
∗ ∗ ∗
I don’t know how long I rested, but when I woke up I realized there were multiple people in my room. Most I didn’t recognize, but there was one tiny figure seated next to me, holding my hand that sent a such a wave of relief through me, tears fell from my eyes.
“Mom,” I whispered.
My mom’s lips curved up into a smile and her eyes glistened with mirroring tears. But I could still see the fear causing the hand holding mine to shake. “Hey, baby. How’re you feeling?”
Glancing behind her at the Alpha werewolf sitting in the same spot I’d last seen him I squeezed her hand tightly. “Fine. Are you okay?”
She nodded her head and brushed a loose strand of hair from my face. “Would you like anything? A glass of water or something to eat?”
“Water and anything else you can find.”
She leaned forward and kissed me on my forehead before leaving me alone with the pack of werewolves standing around me. I didn’t want her in there with them any longer than she had to be.
The Alpha werewolf stood from hissed and walked to the side of my bed. The other wolves formed a protective semi circle around him and my bed. My eyes moved from face to face, sensing annoyance from some, anger from others, and odd curiosity from the last.
“Meyer Fredric,” the Alpha’s voice immediately snapped my attention back to him. “What do you remember?”
“Everything,” I said without hesitation.
“Why were you in my territory?”
“I wasn’t. I was at the pre-approved government sanctioned camping area three miles north of your territory. Then I fell.”
“What, you fell three miles south?” a raspy voice said at the foot of my bed. Several of the others laughed.
If these were humans I would’ve risked a look at whoever spoke, but since they weren’t, I kept my gaze firmly on the Alpha. His chocolate brown eyes flashed at the speaker, silencing him and any who laughed.
“Tell me everything,” he said, returning his eyes to me.
“We, my friends and I, had been hiking one of the trails up into the hills. We took a break and I ventured off to handle some personal business. On my way back I heard something behind me. When I turned a gust of wind slammed into me, knocking me off my feet. When I stood up I was in a different forest and the sun had gone down. I tried to find a clearing where I could get my bearings. Then I felt a large thing run past me and when I turned I saw it had been a deer. Then you attacked me.” I winced slightly at the glare that greeted me. “I guess I scared your dinner away. Sorry.”
“It wasn’t my dinner,” the Alpha growled at me. “I was teaching the younger wolves how to hunt. It took almost all of my strength to keep them back and as such, I didn’t even realize you weren’t the deer until I almost snapped your neck.”
I hesitated before asking my next question…because I already knew the answer. “What happens now?”
The Alpha smiled, but it wasn’t a kind smile. “Now, you belong to me.”
∗ ∗ ∗
The fresh blood dripping from my cut lip stained my shirt and the café floor. Tomas was going to be pissed at me…not the five high elf guards who’d been beating the shit out of me for the past five minutes.
Luthwain watched with a bored expression. Seeing him made me laugh. He could pretend all he wanted, but he enjoyed the show. Werewolves weren’t a favorite species among High Elves. Frankly, we weren’t a favorite among most races.
But that wasn’t the reason I was getting the shit beaten out of me. Like sharks, High Elves tended to only attack the wounded or ill. And boy was I wounded.
A powerful punch to my face tore my lip open further and I watched my blood fly to the floor. A second punch broke my already tender nose and a new waterfall of blood poured down my face.
I didn’t fight the men grasping my arms, but they weren’t exactly holding me. I stood still, allowing the guards to do what they needed. But I kept my eyes on Luthwain. He was my height making our eyes meet easily.
After another powerful punch across my left cheek, Luthwain stepped forward, raising a hand. The guards stepped away from me, releasing my arms. I rolled my shoulders as though to roll off the touch of the elves.
“We can continue this, or you can answer my question.” Luthwain’s bright green eyes darkened as he traced the lines of blood rolling down my chin.
I licked the blood with my tongue and spat it on the floor in front of him, a small drop landing on the metal of his boot. “I thought I did answer your question.”
“I believe the answer you gave me was to give your, in your words, ass a big wet one.” Luthwain’s face twisted in disgust. “I’d hoped my guards would be able to loosen your tongue.”
“Maybe if you ask again, nicely,” I said, smirking. The pain medications were definitely working. I wouldn’t have been as snarky if they weren’t.
“I humbly ask, as Royal Father to the High Light Elves of this realm, where is the girl?”
I wiped the remaining blood from my chin before taking a dangerous step closer to Luthwain. At the movement, his guards immediately surrounded me with weapons drawn, stopping me from proceeding any closer to their king.
I leaned forward, the guards’ weapons digging into my chest as I pushed my way closer to their king. Luthwain’s eyes widened as he witnessed his guards having trouble keeping megrim him. I took two steps forward, nearly dragging the men with me.
When my face was merely inches from Luthwain’s face, I smiled widely. “Go fuck yourself.”
∗ ∗ ∗
I was now a member of the Umbra Pack, the head pack of my hometown, Granfeld.
Our Alpha, Liam Tipton, was not only our leader, but also in charge of all packs in the mountainous region.
Like I said, bad luck.
I was at the bottom of the pack, not only because I was a new wolf…but apparently because I shouldn’t have even been allowed into the pack. The rest of the pack at every opportunity beat that fact into me. The first month was terrifying.
Picture it, an entire pack ready to find an excuse to kill you. The only one who could protect you is yourself. Liam would stop anything bordering murder, but otherwise I was on my own.
You see, there are strict rules werewolf packs have to follow. It may change from pack to pack depending on location, numbers, or bottom line power their Alphas. For Umbra pack, the rule is no new wolves are to be created without years of planning and interviewing of willing men and women.
but the wolves in charge of the Alphas declared me a unique case and approved my admittance into Umbra. All of that, by the way, happened while I was unconscious in the hospital for two months. It took that long for my leg to grow back and all the wounds to heal. For new werewolves the magical healing takes longer since the human body wasn’t fully transitioned into its new make-up.
Another reason the rest of the pack hated me. Liam used most of his Alpha magic to keep me from turning while I was in the hospital. In doing so, the pack was weakened and privy to attacks from other packs and beings.
Even when I was finally allowed to leave the hospital, and forced to say goodbye to my mother for lord knew how long, I wouldn’t be having my first turn for at least another week. That meant everyone else could turn into a wolf at will, but I was trapped in my human form.
And that meant I was weak. When you’re weak, you’re prey.
∗ ∗ ∗
The night of my first turn came quickly, thank god. I had moved into Liam’s mansion, a common practice for new werewolves. Until I could control my wolf I would stay with Liam. Once he felt I was safe to release into society he’d move me into the homes the rest of the pack stayed in .
Which meant I’d be living with one of them, too. My initial thought was feeling sorry for whoever that was, but then realized it meant I’d have a better idea who would be the first to attempt to kill me in my sleep.
Liam took me out into the forest, close to where he attacked me. He only brought one other wolf with him, his second in command, Arnold. We stood in the clearing waiting.
“How long does this usually take? The first time?” I asked, shaking with the cold.
“The first transformation can take any where from five minutes to half an hour,” Liam said. A smirk, one I’d come to know as Liam’s smirk, appeared on his face. “The longest I’ve ever seen was two hours.”
My lips shook and I wrapped my arms around myself. A sharp pain in my stomach made me wince. “God, it’s cold.”
Arnold and Liam eyed each other. Liam made the slightest motion with his head and Arnold stepped back.
I clenched my fists together, but couldn’t feel my fingers. My legs gave out beneath me and I fell to the ground.
“What’s going on?”
I couldn’t stop shaking. the pain in my stomach sharpened. I coughed and felt something warm on my lips. I touched it with my hand and saw blood stain my fingers red.
Liam appeared in front of me, grabbing my shoulders. His brown eyes flashed icy blue and he bared his teeth as my body convulsed violently. He shoved me onto the ground and placed a hand over my eyes, blocking my view.
“Don’t move,” Liam’s voice rumbled with a deep growl.
I immediately became still, but my body continued shivering and the cold filled my body. The pain extended from my stomach to my chest and back. I’d heard of first transformations. Everyone said it was intensely painful and hot, like the body was on fire.
“Wh-what’s ha-ha-happening?” I struggled to get the words out.
“Your wolf is trying to kill you.”
∗ ∗ ∗
There’s always been speculation among those who studied werewolves whether the human and the wolf were one in the same or two separate beings sharing a body. I personally leaned more to the one in the same, but after hearing Liam say my wolf was killing me…yeah, I went full team two beings in one body.
My vision darkened, but I could still hear Liam’s grunts as he held me down. “Meyer. I can’t do anything for you. Your wolf will kill you unless you—”
That’s when I blacked out. Perfect timing, right?
I hoped blacking out would relieve me from the pain and cold. I guess, if I was still human it would’ve, but having a wolf trying to tear me from the inside out wouldn’t let me have a moment of reprieve.
“I won’t be trapped in the body of a weakling,” a deep voice growled behind me.
I turned in the darkness and saw amber eyes watching me. Light filled the darkness and a wolf appeared in front of me. I released a breath, seeing the small cloud it formed. I still shook from the cold.
The wolf leaped at me, slicing long, sharp claws across my stomach. I yelled and grabbed at the torn flesh.
The wolf rammed into my back, his fangs burying in my shoulder. I collapsed to my knees and felt his claws digging into my back as he shook his head. I kicked with one leg and rolled onto my back, pinning the wolf to the ground. He released my shoulder and used his legs to kick me off.
I quickly climbed to my feet and faced him. “Why are you trying to kill me?”
“Because you’re weak,” the wolf’s voice echoed through the darkness. He bared his fangs, the skin around his nose wrinkling. “You’re prey, not a hunter.”
“But if you kill me, you die, too.”
“Better to die than live in a weakling.”
He leapt for me, slamming into my chest and knocking me onto my back. I grabbed his jaws with my hands, his fangs cutting into my skin. He clawed my chest and tried to push his jaws lower, but I kept him back.
Everything was wrong. I wasn’t supposed to be in the forest where Liam was hunting. I wasn’t supposed to be alive after the attack. I wasn’t supposed to be turned. I wasn’t supposed to be allowed in the pack. My first transformation shouldn’t have been like this! Everything was wrong!
I felt strength surge through me and I threw the wolf away from me. I rolled onto all fours and glared at the shocked wolf. “I AM NOT WEAK!”
I released a ferocious yell that morphed into a howl. I felt my voice fill me and skin burned. Fire filled my veins and my flesh tore. The pain was intense and my vision flashed with stars and light.
I lunged for the wolf, tearing at him with my own claws, my fangs burying into his throat. He howled in pain, but I only clawed and bit harder. I could smell his blood and wanted to taste it. I felt my fangs slice through muscled and arteries. Blood erupted into my mouth and it was intoxicating.
The wolf whimpered and collapsed to the ground. I stood over him, baring my long, white fangs. I raised my head and howled, filling the darkness with sound. An answering howl from beyond the darkness answered.
“You are a true Alpha,” the wolf said before releasing his final breath.
∗ ∗ ∗
I woke to see Liam in wolf form, howling to the moon. Arnold paced behind him, a large grey wolf with light brown eyes. Liam lowered his icy blue eyes to me and nudged me with his snout.
I slowly stood and stumbled when I realized I now had four legs. My legs shook at first, but my muscles easily showed me what to do. I opened my mouth, testing out the new muscles and licking the sharp fangs with my tongue. I shook, feeling every hair stand on end. My tail twitched on its onward it felt strange to move it myself. I wagged it back and forth, turning my head on the long neck to watch it move.
A huff brought my attention back to the black wolf in front of me. He snarled at me and I immediately lowered myself back to the ground to keep my head below him. His snarl vanished and his ears perked up. He made a quick motion and Arnold cautiously moved forward.
I looked into Arnold’s brown eyes. His lips pulled back for a moment, before returning to normal. He whined and lowered to the ground, trying to place his head below mine.
I’m not sure what a confused expression on a wolf looks like, but I’m sure I had one. Liam raised his head and released a full chested howl. I felt his power as an Alpha force Arnold up and he joined his Alpha. I slowly stood, watching them. I could feel Liam’s power, but it didn’t have as strong of a pull on me as it had before.
I heard the answering howls from the other wolves of the pack and felt left out. I raised my head and released a full-throated howl that seemed to overpower all the others. Even Liam’s howl faded before mine and I felt his power surround me. I lowered my howl to just below his.
That was when I knew…I knew I wasn’t going to be allowed to stay in the Umbra Pack.
∗ ∗ ∗
A hard slap to my face Brought me back to consciousness. My eyes took in the angry face of Tomas and I smiled.
“Guten morgen, herr Erlkönig,” I said in my best German accent.
By the frown, Tomas didn’t find it as amusing as I did. “You’re paying for the damages.”
I sat up, rubbing my freshly mended ribs. “There aren’t any damages. Only blood stains.”
“And you’re paying for them.”
“I think I paid for them while I was causing them,” I wiped a fresh trickle of blood from my nose. “I’m fine, by the way.”
Tomas grabbed me and lifted me easily to my feet. “I know you’re fine. Luthwain didn’t want you dead. He wanted youth feel every ache and pain.”
“And I will for the next few days.” I removed the bandage over my eye and tested it out. It was still light sensitive, but I could make out most shapes and colors. I replaced the bandage and sat in a chair. “So where did His Highness run off to?”
Tomas’s eyes narrowed. “You know I can’t tell you that.”
I laughed. “Can you at least tell me if he went back to his realm or after my pack?”
“His realm. He has no interest in your pack.”
Hesitating, Tomas disappeared behind his bar and returned with a pint of a strangely colored liquid. “Here, this will help.”
I leaned forward and sniffed the liquid. It smelled sweet, but also very alcoholic. The perks of frequenting an Elf King’s café: he knew how to get non-humans the same buzz they couldn’t otherwise get with normal alcohol.
I took the offered drink and held it up to him. “Thanks.”
As I drank a large gulp, Tomas sat down and crossed his thick arms over his chest. His weight made the chair creak and he leaned back, eyeing me curiously. “The girl Luthwain was asking about…she have anything to do with that incident at the dam?”
I placed the glass on the table and stared at a drop rolling down the side. I smiled and when I looked at Tomas I knew it was with my wolf’s amber eyes.