Winter hit with one swift, remorseless stroke. Rock and meadow gave way to an ocean of snow that undulated in the fierce north winds.
The pack proved restless around their new alpha. I had become a king amongst wolves without raising a paw. It was not a title I’d asked for nor savoured. But, if truth be told, those of the lupine hearts were not evil and I grew to admire them in some animalistic fashion. They showed me more kindness than society ever had. I would sit and stare at mountain ranges I did not know nor welcome and wait for my fur-clad army to return with food. Thus, we remained for several weeks the wolves and me.
I felt the change before the moon rose. Unlike my first mindless experience of half-man, half-wolf, I sensed every nuance of the wild as it happened. It was a tugging that started with my soul and ended somewhere behind my eyes. In an extravagant burst of snarling self, I emerged from my metamorphosis as the moon appeared in a starburst sky; I loved it. Freedom came to me in the form of scent and sound, wind and snow, and I lapped up every second. I knew everything in those moments of both man and beast, nothing was forbidden to the king of the wolves. Until my mind slipped back to home, and then grief struck me to the core.
Perhaps it was the golden lock tied about my neck that twisted free in the wind to flap loose before my eyes? Perhaps not? Either way, all that I’d done returned in a crimson dream. I looked back to those of the inclined muzzles and deferential stances and bid them farewell. There were no words, but they knew.
Leaving the man I was behind, I ran. Like a shooting star of silver and grey, I departed. The wolf took a hold, senses attuned to winter nights leading the way, and I went where my furred legs bid.
I’d run for forever when I found the tracks. Two sets of footprints in the snow: humans. The hunger took me then, as I raced across the wilderness in search of my prey. I found them, too.
They were huddled against the cold beneath a sycamore’s bough, one small, the other smaller still. I snarled; they looked wide-eyed and fearful. But fangs were soon withdrawn. The wisps of gold gave them away. There were only two such souls in the land.
I would have told them if I could how I’d thought them dead and I their destroyer. I would have thanked them for their searching if I could. But I couldn’t. Instead, I prowled right up to them and lowered my head allowing the golden lock to fall to the porcelain snow. My wife knew; my daughter did not. With the last of her strength, she placed the child, our child, Luna, on my back and slipped into the sleep of eternity. I wished I could have buried her there, but had no control over the change at that time.
We left her where she lay and ran whilst still I could. There was only one place for the daughter of a wolf king. The pack called us home.
Part 1 here: The Wolf Among Us.