Soft rays of moonlight spilled over the ground and illuminated the crystal blue of a stream. A thundering sound reverberated through the night. Chill wind shook free the autumn leaves, bidding them to follow. Two shapes formed from darkness. A deep baritone sounded, “Be sure this is what you want.” They stepped into the light of the moon to reveal themselves.

A cacophony of murmurs rang up. “Her?”

“But why?”

“She is too young to lead.”

“Gregory is a fool.” Dark growls interrupted their whispers of question.

That voice rang out, a command, “Be silenced! Hold your tongues.” Three more shapes materialized in the night. A chorus of howls rose to greet them. “Bare your throats.” In a tradition as old as time, each at the gathering titled their head to reveal the tender flesh of their necks as a sign of submission and respect.

One woman stood apart from the crowd. Shadows danced a dismal waltz across her skin. Her eyes glowed bright amber. Her form, slim yet supple, was entangled in a mass of silk that formed a simple, black dress. The woman’s beauty was undeniable but her posture was fierce and wild, as if daring someone to tame her. The procession of bodies haled and turned to face the gathering.

A petite female slid forward and addressed the pack, “Brothers, sisters, cousins… Tonight, the night mother moon graces the sky fully with her presence, her children will hunt freely. The lupine that courses through our veins makes us stronger, more cunning than our prey. Let it begin!” There were growls of approval and, with a glimmer in her dark eyes, the female turned away. Howling broke out in a torrent of sound that ripped through the night like a beautiful, yet guttural, lullaby.

A broad shouldered male stepped forth. A scar ran down his jaw and ended at his collarbone. His shaggy hair cascaded to his sides. He turned to speak, “Sisters, cousins, brothers… Our rite has begun and this night we run as a pack; as a whole. Shed your mortal skin and embrace your true nature. Run free!” As his voice boomed, those that were able stripped from the confines of clothing and breathed the night air as one. Muscles and sinews shaped, bones snapped and crackled into place, fur fizzled into existence and covered their forms.

They stood under the moon as naked shapes and bodies hunched forward as the change wrought itself upon them. It was time for mystery and magic. Reds, blacks, grays. All patterns and coloration, speckled and solid, busted forth from human guises. The animals beneath unleashed themselves and the first to change carried a song on the night air. The song of freedom.

All who were not able to complete the change, whether they were too young or too old, formed a circle around their wolven brethren and carried the song with their voices. “Mother Moon has set us free, give thanks and pray thee. Hunt with Artemis and her yew bow. Carry the song on the wind; the rhythm in your heart. Embrace what you are; embrace the night wholeheartedly. Go brother, sister wolf. Run with the sun that tans your hide; sleep with the stars who cast down heavens. Lay with sister Earth and sing. Sing this song. The song of freedom…” The rhythm bore the song and their chanting began to grow louder, higher as the female wolves added their vocals. It was a chilling thing, this song, yet beautiful. Would humans think so if they heard it?

Voices were silenced as a large male wolf with piercing blue eyes and midnight fur began to pace around the circle. He rose on his hind legs, the change enveloping him as he shifted to a cross between wolf and human. More commonly known as the werewolf. Whispers followed. “Gregory…” That one was a plea, for what no one but that person knew. It was obvious who that whisper came from. The lone woman with the amber eyes who had not yet taken to wolven form.

All eyes turned to her, wolf and man. He spoke, an odd calm settling over him, “Lady Issa, speak your concern to your brethren.”

Another male, with eyes like emeralds and fur speckled with gray and red, moved forward and went werewolf. “Gregory, she is interrupting tradition. Our rite is not done. Can this wait until…”

He was silenced with a wave of a giant paw, ivory claws as long as knives glittered in the light of the pale moon. “No, Teodore, this cannot be put off. She has information that all should hear. Silence yourself and allow her the opportunity to speak.”

The other male growled, fur bristling. “I will not be silenced for some woman to speak the blather that she has heard. Nothing but trite gossip.”

Gregory, lean and powerful, murmured, “Dare you challenge my word?” There was a hint of amusement in his words for he knew the answer.

September 2018
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