A common werewolf children’s story, as told to Howl by Fang. The origins of this story are unknown.

Back when the stein hadn’t emerged from the caverns, and the ewtes trembled and hid underwater, the werekin roamed wild and free over all the lands. And of all the werekin, it was the wolves that were the most feared and respected.

Amongst those wolves were many heroes, such as Wawa the Wise, James the Just, and Eric Ironside. But I’m not going to tell you a story about our heroes. This is the story of a wolf led astray by the guiles of a fox.

It is the story of Barke the Betrayer.

Barke’s birth was foretold by our ancestors, whose spirits appeared to his mother and made her promise to consecrate her son to them. In return, Barke was blessed with extraordinary powers—strength, speed, and dominance—and was destined to become one of the greatest alphas, guiding the pack to glory.

And so it was that with every passing year, Barke grew faster and stronger, moving up the pack ranks until he was beta. All of the pack respected him, and it was clear that, when it was time, Barke would take over as alpha.

Now, Barke had a deep, dark secret: he was terrified. All of these high expectations everyone had for his future frightened him immensely, and instead of letting his wolf side take responsibility, he indulged in his human weaknesses. He worried about being a bad alpha and about letting his pack down. Barke told no one of his fears, and it was this fact that ultimately led to his downfall.

One bright summer afternoon, Barke was so weighted by fear that he went alone to a hidden field, so that he could cry without anybody seeing him. He lay in the thick grass, head on his paws, and wept.

“What should I do?” he said to himself. “I wish someone would help me.”

In that moment, the spirits appeared to Barke, for they had been waiting to answer his summons. “Believe in yourself,” they said. “Believe in the pack. You are not alone.”

But Barke didn’t believe them. “I am alone!” he said. “You have made me so. I know what was foretold; I am to lead the pack.”

“You are not alone,” they repeated. “An alpha is never alone.”

Unwilling to listen, Barke changed to human form so the spirits could not reach him. “I’m alone now,” he said angrily, feeling a dark thrill of satisfaction.

But he wasn’t alone. Barke all of a sudden became aware of a faint humming, the soft melody of a mother’s lullaby. He followed that trail of music through to the other side of the field, where there was a small stream.

By the side of that stream was a beautiful female in human form, with the brightest red hair he had ever seen. Her face was narrow and delicate, and when she lifted her head to look at the sky he noticed that the skin of her neck was pale and smooth.

She was surrounded by picked flowers and was taking them one by one and stringing them together to form a long chain. Soon, she was finished, and she wrapped the chain around her neck, laughing prettily as she examined her reflection in the stream.

Barke was captivated. She was the first non-pack female he had seen, and he could not help but feel a stirring in his loins at the sight of her. He followed her, careful to stay hidden, ducking into every shadow. He followed her down a trail leading into a dark part of the woods, far away from his pack. He could tell she used this route often, for the scent of her was thick in the air, a musky sweet smell that was not quite wolf, but similar.

Finally, she stopped by a small den, and sat on the ground amongst the fallen leaves. From the bones in the clearing he could tell this was her home. But where was her pack? He took a step closer, and stepped on a twig.

The snap of the twig frightened the woman. She leapt up, changing to her animal form. She had wiry red fur, small, study legs and a short snout. She was a werefox, and she was looking right at him.

Barke stepped out from behind the tree, hands in the air, and apologised for startling her. “I am just curious,” he said. “I mean you no harm.”

The fox changed back to her human form so they could talk, and he learnt that her name was Delia, and that she lived alone. Barke couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, unable to fathom a life without family. And her voice was so sweet and tender; she clearly wasn’t a loner by choice.

Every day, Barke returned to that small clearing, and he would speak to Delia for hours, about his fears and misgivings, things that he had told no one else. Delia listened, did her utmost to cheer him up, often distracting him into playing games of chase. As time passed Barke grew more and more attached to Delia. If only there was someone like her in the pack, maybe he wouldn’t be so frightened about becoming alpha.

One evening, on his way back to the pack after spending three entire days with Delia, Barke was approached by his alpha. The alpha expressed concern over Barke and Delia’s relationship, and his words instantly sent Barke into a fury. He lashed out.

The alpha had no choice. His heart heavy with the sorrow he had to cause his pack mate, he ordered Barke to avoid Delia.

Barke was furious. He struggled under the weight of the alpha’s orders, trying to force his legs to cooperate so that he could run away and meet Delia. It was no use. There was no way he could disobey his alpha and remain part of the pack. And no wolf in their right mind would abandon the pack, for the pack was family.

But Delia, the wily cunning Delia, snuck over to Barke in the middle of the night and whispered to him lovingly, convincing Barke that he didn’t need the pack. He only needed her.

So Barke renounced the pack and became a loner. He lost the protection and companionship of his family, to marry Delia.

For a time, they were happy.

But soon Barke missed the companionship of his pack and began to pine for his old home. When Delia found him spying on his old pack, she did her utmost to hide her jealousy and fear.

“You don’t need them,” she said. “They abandoned you, remember?” For in her web of lies, Delia had convinced Barke that it was the pack who had rejected him, and not the other way around.

“Yes, yes, you’re right.” Barke turned away and followed Delia back to their den, but she could sense that his heart was still heavy with longing.

“We’ll start our own pack,” Delia said, although she knew it was taboo. She so desperately wanted to keep Barke by her side, that she was willing to risk it all.

Barke was initially reluctant, but he had been lonely for too long, and with a little bit of pressuring he agreed.

Soon Delia’s stomach swelled with the first bloom of motherhood, and then, a few months later, she gave birth.

When the pups were born, they were neither wolf nor fox. They were halfers, failed weres who never managed to gain control of their change. Ashamed of their condition, they quelled their animal side and passed themselves for human.

Desperate, Barke and Delia continued to have children, and their children had children, and their children had children. By then their blood was so diluted they didn’t have the energy to change. And so, over time, they forgot who they were, and came to think that they were simply human.

But in their veins, a trace of were blood remains, a spark of energy begging for release. A great-great-great-grandson of Barke and Delia realised, quite by accident, that if he focused his attention just so, he could use that energy to cast a spell.

And that is how the first witches came to be.

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  1. Pingback: World Building June | A.M. Harte

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