AN EERIE HOWL woke me. I sat bolt upright, scared out of sleep; scared out of my wits. Werewolves in their human form can be fearful, you know. With difficulty I controlled my fear. I patted the bed next to me. No wife. She must be night running. She’d slipped out of bed quietly so as not to wake me.
A moonbeam searchlight illuminated the bedroom floor. I stared at it. The full moon! Still in a sleepy brain fog, I got up and closed the windows.
In my surface thoughts, I knew she’d lope along in her changeling form, naked but for the furry gray mat that now covered her, hairy arms extended, drool pumping from her excited mouth. I pictured it and felt the bump of her eagerness.
Then it came to me. Full moon? Tonight’s moon is full. I should be out hunting, too. The pangs began.
“No! Wait. My gift!”
I couldn’t join her. Her birthday. I wouldn’t hunt with her on her birthday. Werewolves had made that date sacred for centuries. No sharing, not that night. All hers!
My mind stretched back six hundred years when as a young Were, I anticipated finding my wife, my soulmate, a human yet to be born, yet to be “converted.” I’d only been brought into the fold fifty years before. There had been a succession of Were-women, but none jelled with my psyche.
Then Miranda appeared on the scene. I sensed her while traveling through the small village of Hob in eastern Transylvania. Only a baby then, I sensed she had good, caring parents. She lived in a tiny but well kept thatched house on a small plot owned by the local Count. Yes, I would know her for a wife.
I cast out a charm warning other werewolves away. As a part of the convention they must leave her alone and they would. All except the crazies, that is. I would have to watch out for them, so I made a mental note to swing by this village once every six months and check to see if my charm had been compromised.
It happened twice and almost a third time. Once, after she turned six, I wandered through her village in the dead of night to check my charm. Immediately I got a feeling of being impaled, like a silver knife stabbing deep into my brain. I’d been violated. It made me curl over in fright at first, but instantly anger arose in my belly.
Curses, I thought, it has to be a cast-out crazy. I stopped by the little house in Hob and recast my charm. Being the first charm on this young person, it obliterated the corruption attached to my original. Though they ignored it, even the crazy ones knew the power of first charm.
Again at the age of nine it happened. The unknown crazy must be persistent. Not yet nubile, my recast charm solved the immediate problem and my choice remained mine.
It happened again at age fifteen, a most dangerous time. My life partner had bloomed into a beautiful, dark haired, vivacious, brown-eyed human woman nearly ripe for the taking. Two more years; only two and I could make her mine. I removed the crazy’s corruption again, but knew that such a repeat offender would not likely desist.
I began to frequent the hamlet thereafter, spreading my spoor widely so he would be aware and careful not to range within my territory while feeding at night. Not a guarantee and sick with the thought that I could lose my precious, I began to lay in wait for him, night after night.
Now I hid my spoor and kept my thoughts hidden. I became gaunt from unsatisfied hunger, unwilling to leave, unwilling to give up my intended.
Perhaps I could catch this crazy who’d defied Werewolf convention. I knew the law. I could bring him in front of the Were council and ask them to “induce” the crazy to avoid this place forevermore. It could be done. The weight of the council’s power could be extremely persuasive.
Finally, nearly crazed myself, he skulked in. About to corrupt my charm for the third time and while focused on my lovely, his defenses down, I opened my mind, froze him to the spot and ordered him to silence, lest he disturb my intended and frighten her. I sent out my signal to the Werewolf clan to convene a council with prejudice and while I waited I smugly watched him writhe in place.
Soon I sensed other Were’s converge on my spot, angry Werewolves anxious to confront this travesty, this outcast, this Mad-Were who had worked his corruption against their law.
The oldest, a Werewolf of a thousand years took over as leader. He quickly assessed the situation, called forth for me to release the crazy into their thrall—excluding me as petitioner—and asked the assembled to lend him their support. As the council transferred power to the leader, his eyes grew brighter and brighter and finally they glowed with unearthly light. Then he blazed away at the bad one.
The Were melted within and his desire for my prize dissolved like the fantasy he’d lived with. At the right moment the leader released him, and with no further thought in his mind except the normal need to feed, the crazy skulked into the night.
“The council is concluded,” the leader said. Each member looked at the other and without a smile, their duty done, returned to their hunting grounds.
With less than two years to go, hardly any time at all, I kept closer tabs on my future wife, but with the area scoured of possible challengers and with the annoying crazy neutralized, I had little to concern me thereafter.
I briefly thought of the night I took her as wife. Such a beautiful time. I’d courted her for several months in her garden, always under the cloak of night. She came to understand that we are simply a different species, not bad, but chained to our need for the sustenance of living flesh. Frightened at the beginning – who wouldn’t be – I patiently won her over. In the end she wanted me. I ceremoniously initiated her to immortality one night as silver-lined clouds traveled slowly past a glorious full moon atop the sharp peak of a Transylvanian mountain. The joy I felt I will never forget.
My reverie broke with a faint sound, barely heard through the closed windows, but well known, the howl of success. It told me my wife had caught her victim in the night and would soon feed. And though my countenance in the darkness showed not on my face, I felt glad for her.
She would be home before first light, perhaps with a little blood still dripping from her muzzle. I would wipe it gently away and nuzzle her lovingly.
For now I could rest, but I knew sleep would elude me while I waited because I wanted to greet her as she came in.
I wanted to say, “Happy Birthday, my dear Miranda.”