Authors: Drew VanDyke,David VanDyke
Yes, it’s true.
Will is a werewolf.
At least he will be once the full moon hits for the first time.
We’ve been trying to prepare him. Well, Jackson and Sully have. I found out early in life that friends and family are sometimes the last people I want to teach – or learn from, for that matter. So, I let the guys do their thing.
They’ve taken him out with Luken and Elka and he’s been studying up on wolf facial expressions. I guess it’s like learning sign language. It’s one thing to learn how to sign, but it’s a whole ’nother ball game learning how to read signs coming at you from the other direction. Anyway, I’m hoping that once he turns, it will all fall into place, because frankly his anxiety right now is working my edges.
Since he took the bite, he’s been super moody. Eats more voraciously than before and growls at other guys who even look in my direction. I think Jackson and Sully are pulling his chain in the comport-yourself-like-a-werewolf department, but he is getting awfully interested in smelling everything, including my underwear…but maybe all guys do that. Do they?
Anyway, I guess he’s all in. But I’m not sure if he knows what he’s all in for. I mean, what if after a few years of my kind of crazy he decides he isn’t into putting up with all of my shit? Am I up for a round of heartache if he decides to walk away? Not to put the kibosh on anything, but I’ve seen friends split up and it looks incredibly painful.
Anyway…Ghost Mom just told me to hang on to my hat, because my life is only going to get weirder, before it, er, well…doesn’t.
Now for this next bit I’m sure you’ll wonder why I’m telling you all this stuff about Con Shelby. Heck, I’m a writer. It’s what I do, taking notes and interviews and recollections and trying to fit them into a coherent whole for your enjoyment…because real life never makes as much sense as a good story.
And what’s life without a good story, anyway?
Con shifted from owl to coyote form and meandered along the back trails of the canyon, re-enchanting the marker stones that both warned and warded the area against unwanted supernatural intrusion. He lifted his leg on each to remind the mated pair of natural wolves Jackson and his pack had brought into the area that these stones defined the limits of his influence.
The Montana Grade Wolves had arrived on schedule, and aside from a few minor issues with some local wild talent, had settled in nicely. Well, perhaps the issues weren’t so minor, but Con was determined to make them so. During his last century of wandering, he’d come to believe that an important part of ruling effectively was knowing what was beneath his notice, what to pay attention to and what to ignore.
Stirring the pot often ruined the stew, as his sire had once told him, and a peaceful demesne was a happy demesne.
And Con appreciated his own happiness as much as any immortal.
A vampire was like a landholder, he mused. The supernatural denizens were his vassals, whether they knew it or not. The animals of the night – the bat, the owl, the rat, the cat – were his eyes and ears, and the wolves, being pack animals and by temperament more amenable to leadership, were his enforcers. It had always been this way – vampire and wolf in alliance, protecting a territory and a secret, policing themselves and with deadly efficiency dealing with those who broke the conventions.
Finished with his chore, Con shifted into a thick charcoal vapor that whirled and swirled, a splash of paisley against a painted fabric sky. The dark slipstream of the vampire’s passing slashed toward the lights of the twinkling city below.
The town of Knightsbridge had lain blanketed in a supernatural muffling for decades. Churches on every corner and the piety of the faithful meant that incarnations of the Goddess in the town were usually limited to manifestations of the Blessed Mother. Other practitioners, such as the Street Witches and those who met regularly at the White Rabbit for lunch had struggled, inhibited by the disapproving atmosphere.
This lack of an embodied imagination regarding the Divine Feminine meant that Knightsbridge had been uninviting to most supernatural types until recently, when a new generation of its children, raised on social media, told stories of the town’s idyllic allure, putting the Knightsbridge Canyon area on the popular map once more.
Too quickly, the nearly forgotten Coventry of Knightsbridge became inundated with wealthy transplants from the chilly Bay Area or congested Los Angeles, seeking the perfect California combination of climate, natural beauty and upscale cuisine. With them came jobs and the people to fill them, and naturally, not everyone was mundane.
For the vampire community, all of this meant the place was finally worth appointing a master, and Con was the first since the bust of the Gold Rush of 1849 made it all but a ghost town.
Survey complete, his misty foot touched down at the base of the canyon and he strode onto the safety of his own estate, his form solidifying into an alabaster idol of chiseled flesh, his lean musculature ashen, drawn and tight with the absence of fat.
His innards growled at him, the result of the exertions of repeated shifting and the enchantments he’d performed.
The more sated a vampire was, the more color he retained and the better he could pass for a mundane human. When his well of blood ran dry, he took on a chalky appearance and might be mistaken for a marble statue.
He disappeared into the Victorian gothic structure of the old wood-and-stone rectory, his abode nestled in the velvet woods past Knightsbridge Commons, and left a parted group of fireflies bobbing to light the remnants of his presence as he prepared for the day.
Con opened his double-wide stainless steel refrigerator door, grabbed a plastic blood bag and sucked it down, wrinkling his nose against the unpleasant cold. He put up with it for the sake of his thirst as a mundane might have drunk yesterday’s stale coffee to clear his head. It didn’t take long for his reflection to take on the pink glow of humanity.
Next stop was his expansive, well-equipped bathroom, and he reveled in the modern convenience of indoor plumbing as the hot water of the steaming shower washed the remains of his nocturnal prowling down the drain.
Once finished, he called for those intimates on duty – even thralls needed days off, after all – and took and gave pleasure, feeding on their warm
as a gourmand might sup at a fine table
Later, at his dressing table, he glanced in the mirror at himself and chuckled at the old superstition about vampires. There was magic in the world, but it was practical, sensible, and it conformed, more or less, to the constraints of physics. When it didn’t, the cost to the user was quite high.
Clothing himself in the conservatively tailored garments of a successful businessman, he ran his hands across the soft-as-butter fabric of his white silk shirt, brushed navy trousers and mustard-colored waistcoat, smoothing away the wrinkles and adding a bronze pocket watch and chain to tie up the look.
He wasn’t a tall man, but he had a presence about him borne of confidence in his power and authority. Clear spectacles and a coat of silver at his temples and brow made him appear to be in his mid-forties, with salt and pepper hair, a cross between Doctor Strange and Doctor Who.
Once he’d brushed his teeth – one couldn’t be too careful with them, after all – they shone with a whiteness even greater than his fair skin, and he practiced his smile in the mirror, making sure to call up an internal emotional reality that reached his eyes. It was an actor’s trick, an illusion that served him as he looked forward to bringing this land to heel.
It also served his continued dalliance with the lady Margaret Stenfield, a widow and mother of two, grandmother of one. He stopped by his bedroom where she lay, still asleep, and kissed her forehead. She stirred, but didn’t wake. His code, his sense of
and responsibility for his vassals – what substituted for morality in his unbeating heart – was fulfilled by the good he was doing for her.
It didn’t hurt that his paramour was mother to the lupine girl’s lycanthrope lover, which allowed him to keep an eye on those two through the relationship. As with everything Con did, pragmatism figured prominently.
Thus far, his accomplishments this first year had made him content, if not entirely happy. Resolving to continue his improvements until everything fell into place, he made his way to the garage and the sleek silver Mercedes with tinted windows.
The people of Knightsbridge demanded he look the part, and unknowingly became sheep to his shepherd, the wolves serving as his sheepdogs to watch the flock.
Flocking sheep. He smiled at the image and drove across town to his place of business, the Grand Illusion Magic and Curio Emporium, arriving before the sun crested the horizon.
Inside, he greeted Edward, his day manager, and allowed the man to fill him in on the significant events of yesterday: who came in, what they bought, what they might be interested in acquiring. The shop provided Con a cover for his evident wealth and status, and its uniqueness and selection of antiques ensured that most of the upper crust of Knightsbridge – the people who mattered, anyway – visited from time to time. This was one way he kept his finger on the pulse of the mundanes and picked up tidbits about more important matters.
As he had been a competent stage magician in his former life, the shop also allowed him to keep in touch with that part of himself. He’d been performing shows at the university each semester, open to the public, to stay in practice and to provide a further entry into society.