Marz 17, 1027 P.W.D.
Wolfsbane sat there at one of the long, wooden tables in the library between his big sister River and his big brother Silver. Their father was standing in front of a large, green chalkboard as he explained about all of a werewolf’s main weaknesses and—though he was tense and restless and once again felt like his skin was entirely too tight for his body—Wolfsbane was still doing his best to pay attention. After all, if he was going to be a werewolf one day, it was important for him to know exactly what could hurt him and how it could be used against him.
Still, his boredom and physical discomfort led the four-year-old to fidget in his seat and fiddle with the black leather collar decorated with star-shaped studs around his neck. Alright, so technically it was a dog collar, but he had seen it in the shop while he was out with his mother just after Luminmas last year and had justified why he needed it on the grounds that every ace adventurer needed a signature style. After all, Father was known to be one of the most sharply dressed werewolf hunters in the business, Aunt Osprey had her signature hot pink leather trench coat, Mother had worn a huge bright blue bow in her strawberry blonde hair her entire career, and Uncle Falcon had that awesome super-long ponytail that reached all the way down to his butt. Wolfsbane had had to pile his sad puppy look on top of his argument, but eventually Mother caved in and bought the collar for him and he had worn it every single day since.
“Now, who can remember why swiftly flowing water is one of a werewolf’s weaknesses?” Father said, looking at Wolfsbane, Silver, River, and their other sister Flood each in turn.
Wolfsbane was stumped. He always forgot that one. He looked over to his big brother, but Silver was just slumped unethusiactically over the table, the six-year-old’s chubby cheeks being made to look even fatter by the way they’d been smooshed between his two fists. Then he looked over at River and Flood. The seven-year-old twins were looking at each other and shrugging, and Flood’s emerald green eyes were wide with her awkward “Don’t look at me, I didn’t study” look. All four of them were totally screwed.
“Anyone?” Father asked again, more sternly this time.
Just as Wolfsbane uttered a nervous and embarrassed whimper, he heard his uncle answer from behind him. “Werewolves instinctually panic in water that’s moving too fast,” Uncle Falcon said, “so, even if they are actually very strong swimmers, they’ll freak out and end up drowning…That is, unless they’ve put in the extra effort to condition themselves to resist that surge of primal fear.”
Wolfsbane turned around swiftly in his seat and looked behind him to see his uncle leaning casually against a book shelf, looking over at them through the corner of his eye, with a mischievous smirk on his face. He was a huge guy, over six feet tall, all dressed in black with broad shoulders and a muscular (not hulking, but still well built) physique. Sure, Wolfsbane admired his father too…but to him, Uncle Falcon was the undisputed Most Coolest Guy on the Face of the Earth.
“Very good, Falcon. I didn’t expect a code breaker such as yourself to remember such an obscure fact,” Father said coldly. “Come to relearn the basics and become a proper werewolf hunter, hm?”
“Just because a guy follows his own code, it doesn’t mean he’s not a proper hunter,” Uncle Falcon said, strolling over confidently now, that smirk never moving from his face, “so, no. Actually, I’m here to break these kids out of class for a little R and R. Who’s up for a snowball fight?”
“Me!” Wolfsbane cried at the same time as his sisters, throwing his hand up in the air enthusiastically and nearly falling out of his chair. There had been a big snow storm the day and night before, and there was now a thick coating of snow on the ground outside. Since it was almost spring, however, there was only so long that that snow would last…and Wolfie loved playing in the snow.
“Whatever. I was getting bored anyway…” Silver sighed blandly, sliding his pudgy self down from his seat and coolly smoothing back his short, black hair.
“Now hold on just a minute!” Father exclaimed as Wolfsbane and his siblings made their way over to their uncle. “You cannot simply interrupt their lessons and cart them off to play like this! And you are not even bothering to sneak off with them this time!”
“That’s because this time Liz cleared me,” Uncle Falcon replied as his smirk broadened into a confident grin. “Oh, and she also said it’s your turn to watch Inferno. The kid was insisting on singing those Elvish nursery rhymes with you. In fact, he actually said the words, ‘I insist that Papa sings them with me. He does it better than you, Uncle.’”
According to Mother, a normal eleven-month-old wouldn’t be able to speak nearly as well as Inferno, but Wolfsbane’s baby brother was some kind of genius. In another month, it would be time for Inferno to learn to read…and Wolfsbane and his older siblings had all placed bets on how long it would take him to get it down.
Father sighed, the bangs of his raven hair bobbing side to side as he shook his head. “Only eleven months old and he is already saying things like that,” he said flatly. “I dread the sort of lip that he will be giving me once he becomes a teenager…Fine, class is dismissed. But, I expect you all to study after playtime is over. Out in the field, remembering these things is a matter of life and death.”
And so, they all made their way out of the library and down the hall. Wolfsbane was so happy and excited that he almost forgot to stop off at his room to put on his hat, coat, scarf and mittens, and Uncle Falcon had to catch him by the sleeve of his sweater to redirect him. Once he was properly bundled up, however, there was no stopping him.
Wolfsbane raced down the stairs and out of the door to the gardens ahead of everyone else with a big grin on his face, and had his first snowball ready to throw before anyone else reached the patio. Flood was the next one outside and Wolfsbane tossed his snowball at her as soon as he had a clear enough shot. He hit her right in the chest and she narrowed her eyes at him, then picked up a big, frozen-together hunk of snow and lobbed it right at his head. Wolfsbane yiped and dove to the patio floor, just barely dodging the incoming frosty projectile. Then, he rolled over, picked up another pile of snow and began packing it into a ball…only to be nailed in the back with three snowballs in a row! The battle had begun.
“Nice opening move, Star-Runner, but you’re still too slow!” Uncle Falcon teased.
“Slow this, Falc!” Wolfsbane called, turning around and tossing his second snowball his uncle’s way. Uncle Falcon effortlessly dodged it, however, and it ended up hitting Silver in the face instead.
‘Crap!’ Wolfsbane thought as Uncle Falcon, Flood, and River snickered and Silver gave him one of his signature death glares. ‘Now I’ve angered the Dark Lord!’ And, with that, set off running down the steps and onto the garden path.
“You little mongrel! I’ll kill you!” Silver cried as he ran after him through the snow.
“Hey! No fair! I get to kill him first!” Flood called as she followed behind him as well.
“Don’t worry, Wolfie! Back-up is on the way!” Uncle Falcon said. His words were swiftly followed by the pat-pat of snowballs hitting the backs of winter coats. Wolfsbane stopped and turned around to see his uncle and River making their way down the path, chucking snowballs at Silver and Flood. Encouraged by the sudden change in his fortunes, Wolfie packed together another few snowballs to chuck at Silver and Flood as well.
“Curses! Falc Windrider and High Princess River!” Silver cried. “Coming to Star-Runner’s aid again, I see! I’ll show you all!!” With that, he and Flood scraped together a few more snowballs themselves and began an all-out assault of their own.
Wolfsbane got hit twice in the chest and once in the side of the head and Flood laughed. “Yeah, that’s right!” she cried. “That ought to teach you to mess with Flood the Conqueror! Ha-ha—Oof!!”
That “oof,” of course, was the result of River’s next snowball hitting her twin square in the back of the head. “How many times have I warned you not to gloat?” River sighed. This time, it was Wolfsbane’s turn to snicker.
“Enough times to be annoying!” Flood retorted as she returned fire. River squeaked as she blocked the assault and started running for the hedge maze, and Flood chased after her, tossing snowballs at her back all the way.
“Well, I guess that just leaves the three of us,” Uncle Falcon said, smirking mischievously as he tossed a snowball up and down in his own hand.
“Sure does,” Wolfie said with an equally mischievous smirk as he and Silver both readied snowballs of their own.
“You will both meet your end this day,” Silver said with an evil smile, “and I shall finally possess the Amulet of Khaan!” Of course, that amulet was nothing more than a seashell on a piece of yarn with sequins glued to it, but in the world of their imaginations it was the most powerful magical artifact of ultimate ultra doom ever created. Dark Lord Silver wanted it to empower his monster army and take over the world…but Wolfie Star-Runner and Falc Windrider had been thwarting him the whole way.
“Shows what you know,” Wolfie said with a smirk. “Take us both out and you’ll never know where we hid it! Right, Falc?”
“That’s right,” Falc said with a nod. “We put the Amulet in a box, mixed it around with another identical box, then each took one and buried it in a super-secret location. One’s real, one’s a dud, and neither of us knows which is which. If you want the Amulet, you need both of us alive.”
Wolfie nodded in agreement. “Yep,” he said, “the sneaky wolf never goes hungry…and we’re the sneakiest!”
“Then I’ll just destroy you both, then enslave you as ghosts and still get my way,” The Dark Lord said. “After all, I am evil.”
Wolfie paused, eyes wide open in surprise and terror. “Uh…Falc, you’ve got a plan for that too, right…?” Wolfie asked.
“Nope,” Flac said, looking equally as spooked. “Didn’t think he’d think that far ahead. You know what we’ve gotta do now, right?”
Wolfie nodded, and he and Falc started running for the grove of shade trees off to the side of the path…or the Deepest Dark Woods of Magic and Enchanted Stuff as they were known at times such as these. Naturally, The Dark Lord pursued them, throwing snowballs at them all the way. Falc dodged nearly every single one, but Wolfie was only able to successfully sense and time one out of the six snowballs which flew his way. Of course, the sensing wasn’t the big problem…it was the timing. Wolfie often forgot exactly how fast he was, and would overestimate his own abilities. Not that he was cocky or anything…but he always felt that he should have had more in him than was actually there. It was rather frustrating—especially during training—and even more annoying that his fits of odd physical discomfort. It was just one more reason why he just had to become a werewolf one day.
Suddenly, Wolfie felt someone abruptly jerk him to the side by his left arm, followed by the sensation of having his back against something warm and solid. He looked up and Falc looked down at him, held a finger over his lips, and winked. Wolfie nodded in reply and kept completely quiet. They were going to ambush The Dark Lord as soon as he was in range.
Just before their target was in position, however, River and Flood popped out from behind a pair if trees a little further back and began to mercilessly pelt Silver with snowballs.
“No! I thought you were in the maze!” Silver cried as he attempted to fend off the assault and instead fell flat on his behind.
“You should know our tactics by now, Fat Boy!” Flood taunted. “While you guys were distracted, we snuck out and prepared a surprise attack!”
River nodded and giggled, “Yes, you really should be more on your guard.”
Wolfie smirked and made two more snowballs as his sisters spoke, then jumped out and tossed one at each of the girls with a fearsome howl. Unfortunately, they responded immediately by each throwing a snowball of their own at his snowballs. When the projectiles collided, they destroyed each other in a sparkling explosion of white. Then, the two girls giggled like a pair of evil fairies and each sent another snowball his way!
Quickly, Wolfie dove to the ground to dodge the attack…but the snowballs still managed to hit a target. He looked up slowly after the sounds of the impacts rang out and caught sight of Falc dusting the snow from the front and sleeves of his coat. On the ground beside him lay two snowballs that had likely fallen from his hands when he’d been hit.
“Nice one, girls,” Uncle Falcon laughed. “You’ve definitely gotten better since the last time.”
“Oh, we aren’t that much better,” River said modestly. “We have simply improved our teamwork, that’s all.”
“What are you talking about? I know I’m way stronger than last time!” Flood said, putting her hands on her hips as Wolfsbane and Silver finally got up from the ground.
“But it is not proper to brag,” River replied mildly.
Flood humphed and crossed her arms. “Then it’s a good thing I’m not proper,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Kiiiiids! Falcooon!” Mother’s voice suddenly called from the direction of the patio. “Come on inside! I just fixed some nice hot chocolate!”
At the very mention of hot chocolate, Silver was off and running for the house like a bullet from a gun. The fastest he ever moved was either when he was fighting or when food was involved. “Come on, you fools! Didn’t you hear Mother?!” Silver called behind him. “Hot chocolate! And there’s probably whipped cream and little marshmallows too!!”
Everyone laughed, then began making their way back to the house as well. That ability to sound so evil and scary, even when he was happy, was one of the things that Wolfsbane admired about his older brother. The others were his talent as a swordsman, his confidence, his fearlessness, and his over-all strength as a warrior. He knew that Silver wanted to be a great werewolf hunter like their father when he grew up, so they might have to face each other in real life-or-death combat one day, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still love and respect his brother.
Mother was waiting by the patio door and led them all inside to the living room once everyone reached her. Once they had all settled in, removed their coats and hats and things, and each had a perfectly prepared cup of hot chocolate in hand, they proceeded to tell her everything about their big snow battle. At one point, Wolfsbane felt a sudden twinge in his side that made him jerk suddenly and spill some of his drink on his hand…and the white fabric of the couch cushion.
“Oops! Sorry…” Wolfsbane said, getting up and setting his cup down on the coffee table. “I’ll go clean it up.”
“No, Buttons, it’s alright,” Mother said sweetly, taking up a couple of paper napkins and coming over to pat the spill dry, “I’ll clean it up this time. Are you alright?”
Wolfsbane looked up and nodded. “Yeah. I just had a weird cramp all of a sudden, that’s all,” he said.
“You’re always having weird cramps,” Silver said, rolling his eyes. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d day you had some horrible disease that will kill you before you’re ten…Oh, how I wish that was so…”
Wolfsbane gulped and inched away as Mother chastised, “Silver! What have I told you about saying things like that, Little Mister!”
“What? I was only stating one possibility,” Silver replied coldly.
“And another is that he’s just too hyper to stay still, so he’s making excuses to fidget around and stuff,” Flood teased. “Isn’t that right, Fido?”
“I’m not faking! That stuff’s real!” Wolfsbane protested, then turned to his mother and asked, “Hey, Mother? Do you think that when I become a werewolf, maybe that stuff’ll stop happening?”
Mother looked over and smiled at him. “Maybe so,” she said, ruffling his hair playfully.
Suddenly, the sound of the door sliding open pierced the air and interrupted the moment. “Eliza, stop encouraging that foolishness,” Father said as he walked in with little Inferno half-asleep in his arms.
“What foolishness? It’s his dream,” Mother said.
“Yeah, Hawk. Lay off,” Uncle Falcon said nonchalantly, crossing his legs and leaning back in his seat. “Wolfie here knows exactly what he’s shooting for. Right, kiddo?”
“Right!” Wolfsbane answered with a cheerful half-bark.
Father sighed. “No, you don’t,” he said. “You know the lore; werewolves are evil monsters. If you become one, you’ll turn evil too.”
Wolfsbane whimpered. “No I won’t,” he said. “You only become an evil werewolf if you were evil in the first place or you give up on being a good guy and start acting like a monster. That’s what Mother and Uncle Falcon said. Since I won’t give up on being a good guy, I won’t turn evil, see?”
Father sighed again and looked at Mother and Uncle Falcon. “You two need to stop filling this boy’s head with such nonsense,” he said, “or one day he’ll—”
“It’s not nonsense, and I’ll prove it!” Wolfsbane insisted with a growl. “One day I’ll become a werewolf, and I’ll be the bravest, strongest, goodest, most awesomest hero ever! I’ll save lots and lots of people and beat up all the bad guys in the universe! Just watch me!”
Father laughed and shook his head. “I have no doubts about the hero part,” he said with a smile, patting him on the head, “but you will do it all as a werewolf hunter. Werewolves can never be heroes.”
Wolfsbane growled to himself again as he sat back down and picked up his hot chocolate again. ‘Father doesn’t know anything,’ he thought as the rest of his family went about changing the subject. ‘I’ll be a werewolf and a hero when I grow up, because I’m gonna be a badass!’
Well, that does it for this week! Read up on Wolfsbane’s grown-up adventures in The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner and Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire, now available at Amazon.com (and all international versions of the site, print and Kindle ebook versions) and Createspace.com (print edition only). Also, join us next week for an enlightening piece about spell casting, and feel free to follow me on Twitter at @DanielleVFreman and check out my brand new Pintrest page! And, if you like my books or my blog (or know someone who would) share the love and tell your friends! ^_^