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not a creature was stirring
G, gen. "T'was the night before Christmas..." A look at the life of Remus Lupin during his twelve lost years.
Far from the beaten track,
far from the lights of the cities and the glow of electric light, there is a
different world. Thick forests and treacherous mountains make this a hard place
to find and harder to live in. There are people here, in small villages and
hamlets and single, far-flung farms, but maps are sketchy and sparse. Somewhere
in Eastern Europe is as specific as is needed.
In this place, people cling to the old ways they have always
known. They hunt and farm and fish; some do magic, and those without the gift
avert their eyes. With or without it, they co-exist, living with each other,
leaning on each other, because one meal away from starvation, there is no other
Tonight is a special night.
The winter is hard, but the summer was long and the harvest good, and the old
Around the fireplace, around
the fire, sheltered from the ice and the snow, tongues are set a-wagging. The
villagers huddle around the flames, breathing in the scent of pine resin from
the tree in the corner, warming their fingers, and listening to the tales of the
wild. They speak in hushed voices; the
sound of the howling rises from the forests all around them, and they shiver.
ever travel. These are the foothills, rising upwards to stark mountainsides and rocky crags and precipices. Above a certain point, alder and birch become pine; soft muted greys and purples become the starkness of white snow against a black sky. The brightest star
shines high in the night sky; the dog days are gone like dreams of summer. Each of those stars is a pinpoint of frost, light years distant but close enough to touch in the still mountain air.
The howling starts soon after sundown, cold and hard and rising. Another wolf’s voice, clean and clear and
distinct, rises above the song of the pack. The lone wolf runs free through the thickness of the forest, loping easily with pads skimming the surface of the snow, listening to the call. He answers
and when he finds the wolf pack, he waits in the dim, dark clearing, pointed ears laid back and hackles rising. The light of the moon makes grey fur silver, and it makes him a wraith, the creature of the night that he is. He is a lone wolf because he is not
one of them, he is an outsider with sleeker fur and shining eyes, who will never run with the pack as a wolf ought. He can choose to be more, and he chooses it while the pack watch on.
He is a lone wolf who never fights to the
bitter end, never bites into the jugular, strangely afraid to sully his gleaming pelt with the dark blood. But he is dominant nevertheless. The pack couldn’t explain it, but there is more than instinctive ferocity in his amber eyes. Gleaming intelligence lurks behind every move he makes, and he uses it to twist and interpret the laws of tooth and claw. He is magnanimous in his victory, and lets the pack leader live to fight another night.
But for tonight, he leads them himself. He is an outsider, but he has bitten and scratched and
clawed his way to the leadership of the pack, and there is no higher position to be held in this world.
They hunt, these creatures of the night, sleek grey predators every one of them. Aeons ago at the dawn of time, a wolf that was tired of hunting left the forests, following a strange, flickering orange light. In the blackness at the mouth of a cave was the thing for which the wolf had yet no word
and beyond it, the two-legged creatures who had learnt to harness it. The wolf followed the heat and light, rolled over at the feet of the flames, and changed history.
That wolf was not an ancestor of these wolves. That wolf’s descendants are by the flames yet, rolling over and having their ears scratched by human fingers. They are
domesticated; the wolves of the night are not. They are lean and scarred and forever battling death by snow and starvation, but they never surrendered. They have their cold lupine pride, still proud and wild and free.
But it is only their new leader who lusts after the most noble prey of all. There is no human within miles, none closer than the windswept villages far below, nestling in forest and rock, so his fury is concentrated on
himself. The blood on his muzzle and claws is his own, leaving a trail on the smooth white snow, but it is soon forgotten in the fierce joy of the wolves as they follow the lead. Through freezing forests and snow-laden silence, under spreading branches with room for
the pack to run, spraying snow behind them as pads skim over the surface of the drifts, dark shapes move at his side and behind him, but none dares to step in front.
Long Night Moon
is well named; it is the longest of the year. But minute by minute, footfall by graceful footfall, it slips away. Above, the stars revolve around Polaris, and it will soon be dawn.
The moon slips below the horizon, and the lone wolf
is bound once more by man and the claims of man. He wakes to find his eyes full of salt tears and his hair filled with soft snow. In the shadows cast by the pale sunlight, a dark shape shifts; then another, then another. Each one is a mass of snow-wet grey fur; moving with fluid grace, they pad across and fall in by his side. He is weak, and if he stays here he will die, but a wolf’s loyalty is not easily bought nor torn asunder. They stay with him.
woke this morning to church bells, gifts wrapped in bright paper, tables heaving with food. No-one ever awoke on Christmas Day having slept under a coverlet of wolves and a sky full of stars. No-one, except the lone wolf
and while it is a far cry from those Christmases long ago, bright with magic and colour, he is not alone. In the grey sky morning, the pack keep him close in mute loyalty; he is one of theirs and they will keep him safe.
falls, more tales are told and retold around the roaring flames. First the old
Christmas stories, the Annunciation, the Nativity, the story of old Babushka,
and then, as the night wears on, the young ones want ghost stories, phantoms
that lurk in the thick forests, strange unearthly apparitions, horrifying
creatures that seek to devour children’s souls…
If they are
still not frightened, and they stay awake long enough, the children hear one
more story. First, they are told to listen for the wolf-song, the howling that
carries over still winter air, and they shiver as the tale unfolds. Out there on
the bleak, windswept mountainsides, there is a man who dares run with the
wolves. It is said he has a wolf’s soul trapped in a human body, and so,
trapped in the spaces in between, he can never be free.
children are falling asleep, they are softly reminded that wolf’s soul he may
have, but he appears human. They may have seen him with their own eyes, not on a
dark night in the forest but in broad daylight in the village, hiding in plain
sight, looking just like one of them. Show him kindness, they are told, and they
will be blessed.
cruelty, and children as they are, they will have to hide at night from the
terrible wrath of the pack.
point, a noise at the door causes them to jump and cry out, and the wind and
driving snow break in, sending shivers down spines. The stranger in the doorway
is a man with a traveller’s staff. The hood of his cloak is thrown back to
show filthy blonde hair and bright amber eyes set in a pale face.
slams shut behind him. For a moment, the howling from outside rises in pitch…
…and then there is silence as the stranger falls beside the fireplace. His breathing is ragged and uneven and desperate.
Save that, no sound is heard, except the drip, drip, drip of the snow melting out of his hair, and the soft, warm crackling of the flames.
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