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Authors: S. A. Swann

Wolfbreed

BOOK: Wolfbreed
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Wolfbreed
WolfBreed [1]
S. A. Swann
Ballantine Books (2009)
Praise for
Wolfbreed

“Lilly lives in a world so strange that even werewolves have to fight for survival, and I found myself rooting for her from the very start. Before long, I was falling for her, too!
Wolfbreed
is a thrilling yet deeply moving journey that I never wanted to end.”

—R
OBERT
M
ASELLO
, author of
Blood and Ice

“A mesmerizing story that entertained me thoroughly and moved me deeply.
Wolfbreed
is an exciting nonstop action-adventure involving the supernatural. More than that, though, it demonstrates how the human spirit, even when in a not-entirely-human body, can be transformed and redeemed by the power of love. I adored this book.”

—M
ARY
B
ALOGH
,
New York Times
bestselling author of
First Comes Love

“S.A. Swann has written a spellbinding fantasy of the Teutonic knights and the great Northern Crusade, set in a little-known period of history amidst the gloomy forests of Prussia and Lithuania. Vivid and visceral, dark and delicious, this one kept me turning pages from start to finish.”

—G
EORGE
R.R. M
ARTIN
,
New York Times
bestselling author of
A Feast for Crows

This book is dedicated
to my wife, Michelle, for putting up
with me and this book.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ots of research goes into a book like this, and while I can’t note every source, I would like to mention
The Northern Crusades
, by Eric Christiansen, which is probably the best English-language reference on this time that I had access to. I would also like to mention the Web site The ORB: On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies (
http://the-orb.net
), which provided a number of translated primary sources, including the rules and statutes of the Teutonic Knights. Google Books was also a major help with finding various out-of-print resources from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including
The History of Prussia
(vols. 1 and 2), by Captain W. J. Wyatt, and
Die altpreußischen Personennamen
, by Reinhold Trautmann. I would also like to thank my critique group, the Cajun Sushi Hamsters, whose members read parts of this before it had a real setting. I would like to thank my agent, Eleanor, for representing this and giving me a bunch of good suggestions, and my editor, Anne, for buying this and giving a bunch more good suggestions.

ast, and most important, I want to give credit to Lynn Oka-moto, author of the manga and anime
Elfen Lied
, which provided the initial inspiration for this novel.

Prelude
Anno Domini 1221

n the darkest woods in Burzenland, south of the Carpathian Mountains, a knight of the Order of the Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem, Brother Semyon von Kassel, ran as if he were in pursuit of the devil himself.

Mud smeared his mail, leaves and stray twigs poked out from tangles in his hair and beard, soot darkened his skin, and crusted blood smeared his face. His lips cracked and bled as he whispered a Pater Noster over and over. The scabbard for his longsword dangled empty at his hip, and in his hand he clutched a shiny dagger too ornate for one of his order.

He stared out at the dark woods with eyes wide, shiny, and hard.

Drag marks in the loam of the forest floor marked the trail he followed. Occasionally, tarlike smears of old blood marked a tree or an errant part of someone’s armor. He had passed half a dozen remnants of his brother knights; helmets, gauntlets, boots, all marred by their knights’ blood and occasional shreds of flesh or hair.

Half a dozen signs of his dead brethren Semyon had passed since he had burned a respect for the Lord God into the pagan priest who had bequeathed him the dagger in his hand. Semyon prayed that in the excruciation of the pagan’s punishment, the man’s lips had been compelled to speak the truth.

The beast he followed showed no impulse to hide its trail. Why would it? What fool would brave these woods against it? To confront a creature that hunted men the way a man would hunt a hare?

Eleven men it had killed. Eleven men armed with sword, shield, and the grace of God; eleven that would have been twelve if the master of his priory had not sent Semyon away alone to meditate on his sins.

Semyon’s late master had chastised him for showing an impulse toward cruelty. Now Brother Semyon knew that the hand of God moved with him, because by meditating on his own cruelty he had been spared the cruel fate of his brothers.

He had left his decimated camp and hunted down the priest of the false pagan religion that infected this region. That priest had perished in his own sacred fire, but not before telling Semyon of the beast that had taken his brother knights.

Again, Semyon prayed that the pagan’s last agonized breaths had whispered truth.

He followed the trail over a deadfall. Bone-gray branches clawed at him, tearing at his armor and his uncovered skin as he climbed past. On the other side he faced a clearing about fifty paces wide.

Past the clearing, opposite the deadfall, a dark hole sat at the base of a rocky mound projecting from the forest floor. The ground in front had been swept clean by travel in and out of the den. Semyon saw a human skull, cast aside a few paces away and half buried in a pile of dead leaves.

He clutched the dagger so tightly that his knuckles ached.

A growl resonated through the clearing, and every bird in the
trees around him took flight at once, the beating of a thousand wings overpowering the beast’s growl. Semyon braced himself and stared into the abyss of the burrow. A pair of eyes glinted back at him—

A nightmare of black fur and muscle erupted from the burrow. The monster was shaped in broad outline like a wolf, but a wolf that had aspirations to become a man. Even in the flashes as it attacked, Semyon saw perverse echoes of the human form in the way its head was attached to the torso, in the way its forelimbs ended in something like deformed hands, and in the way it was almost upright as it leapt at him. Its fangs glistened in its lupine muzzle and its near-human eyes burned with hate.

Semyon felt God’s hand move his own as he brought the priest’s ceremonial dagger up. The silver blade sank into the creature’s throat, and Semyon pulled it across, tearing open windpipe, tendons, and arteries. Its muzzle snapped shut short of Semyon’s own throat as hot blood gushed over his arm and face.

For a few moments, they stared at each other, the brother knight and the demon wolf. In its too-human eyes, Semyon thought he saw surprise. It shuddered, breath frothing from the wound in its neck.

Then it fell to the side, still.

Brother Semyon von Kassel, last survivor of his convent, had survived again. In Brother Semyon’s mind, there was now no question of God’s providence.

Not even when he heard the cry of a human infant coming from the dark hole of the dead creature’s burrow.

BOOK: Wolfbreed
3.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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