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Authors: Carole Cummings

Wolf's-own: Koan

BOOK: Wolf's-own: Koan
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Dreamspinner Press
www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Copyright ©2012 by Carole Cummings

First published in 2012, 2012

NOTICE: This work is copyrighted. It is licensed only for use by the original purchaser. Making copies of this work or distributing it to any unauthorized person by any means, including without limit email, floppy disk, file transfer, paper print out, or any other method constitutes a violation of International copyright law and subjects the violator to severe fines or imprisonment.
CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Glossary

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

* * * *
Acknowledgments

Not enough (because there will never be enough) thanks to Jenni, who loves me enough to beat me over the head with a tree until I see the forest. To Linda, who lets me borrow the brain, even though I always return it folded, spindled, and mutilated. To my LJ Enablers—Caroline, Connie, Donna, Julia, Marinella, and Marlene—who alternately wave pom poms and shake sticks at me, depending on what I need at the time.

To my husband, Eric, who continues to love my weirdness and continues to be proud of me. To the rest of my family—Jenna, Rachel, Eric Jr., Olivia, Aidan, Ellie, and Ethan—for existing and acquiescing to coexist with all the people in my head. And to my mom, my dad, my stepdad, and all my sisters and brothers, who apparently always knew I could, even when I didn't.

Finally, to The Readers. Because “putting it out there” is not an easy thing, but you make it worth the angst.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Glossary

Ada

Once Jejin, the land ruled by the Jin, until they were conquered by the Adan.

Adan

The people of Ada. They shared a close relationship with the Jin until the Binding War, when the Jin used their magic against the Adan and so severed the kinship. Decades later, the Adan overrode the Jin and began stamping out those of the Jin who had magic.

The Ancestors

Descendants of Temshiel and mortals. They were once the guiding Voices of the Untouchables, who spoke for the Ancestors and advised the Jin, until the violence of the Binding War sent the Ancestors mad, and thus the Untouchables.

Banpair

Magical beings who were once maijin but who have angered their god in some way and been banished. They maintain their magic but can no longer draw strength from their god and so must draw it from the emotions of the mortals around them.

Beishin

A term of respect for one's teacher or master.

Catalyst

An alternate title for Untouchable. Their purpose is to serve as a channel and Voice for the Ancestors, and to influence individuals and events per the Ancestors’ wishes.

Change

A term used by the Jin to describe the point at which a child with magic begins to manifest his/her powers.

Doujou

Ada's guard unit, like a police force.

Doujoun

A guard of the Doujou.

Eremite

Hermit

Ghost

A derogatory term used to describe an Untouchable.

Gods

Bear, Dragon, Owl, Raven, Snake, Wolf. Each god is represented by his/her namesake moon and reaches his/her apogee of strength when his/her moon is in its primary Cycle.

Heldesan

A country to the north of Ada.

Incendiary

The paradigm upon which the Untouchables were molded. Nonmagical beings and servants of Fate whose job it was to influence world events to Fate's desires. They were deemed too dangerous generations ago and stamped out by the gods.

Jejin

The land once ruled by the Jin until they were conquered by the Adan. The Adan annexed Jejin and made it a part of Ada.

Jin

A magical people of the land once known as Jejin before the Adan overran it and took the Jin prisoner. Jejin is now known as Ada. The Jin are descendants of the Ancestors, who were themselves descendants of Temshiel.

Ken-ken

A particularly vicious dog, known for its “happy puppy” appearance and used for guard dog purposes.

Kente

A country to the south of Ada.

Kiwa Shuua

Tsunami; tidal wave

Kurimo

Chariot

Maijin

"Children” of the gods, but more involved with mortal concerns. Maijin are magical beings whose purpose is to interpret the laws of their gods in the mortal world and carry out the gods’ orders. Meant to balance out the Temshiel and represent mortals, where Temshiel represent the gods. Each maijin is sworn to only one of the six gods but must obey the laws of all of them.

Misin

An honorific used to address a woman, as in “ma'am” or “madam."

Niijun

Rainbow

-onna

An honorific added to the end of a woman's name.

Rei

A word that means “ghost” in the Jin's language.

-seyh

An honorific added to the end of a man's name, used as an address, like “Sir."

Temshiel

"Children” of the gods. Some Temshiel were once mortal and some were created whole by the gods. Temshiel are magical beings whose purpose is to interpret the laws of their gods in the mortal world and carry out the gods’ orders. Meant to balance out the maijin and represent the gods, where maijin represent mortals. Each Temshiel is sworn to only one of the six gods but must obey the laws of all of them.

Thecia

A country to the south of Ada.

Untouchable

An individual of Jin descent who hears the Voices of the Ancestors. Known also as Catalysts, their purpose is to serve as a channel and Voice for the Ancestors, and influence individuals and events per the Ancestors’ wishes.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Chapter One

Malick had always been enamored with aesthetics. Always.

Even in the time he thought of as Before—back when he was mortal; back before he'd seen the terrifying delicacy and elegance of life, of the Balance of the gods, of the universe, of a single beat of a mortal heart—he'd admired beautiful things, beautiful people. He collected them, studied them, until he found something yet more beautiful and redirected his attention. Umeia told him quite often that his attention span was that of a two-year-old child; she would change her opinion eventually and tell him his attention span was actually that of a gnat.

His mother was the first to have held his attention. Not for aesthetic reasons, though yes, she'd been quite beautiful. Then again, didn't every son think so of his mother? Still, the lines of her face and the drape of her hair had not been the things that Malick had heeded.

The carefree nature with which she'd approached life; the hard practicality with which she'd lived it; the gentle but stern hand with which she'd led her children—those were the things that Malick had seen beneath the near-perfect set of her cheekbones and the supple tilt of her mouth. But the ferocity with which she'd tried to defend herself and her children, when their father decided he wanted his family back and that a knife and a cudgel was a good way to get them—that was what had solidified her place in Malick's heart forever. Turned a poor, mortal woman into something tragic and iconic, an ideal to which no one else could even attempt to aspire.

Malick thought perhaps he'd caught Wolf's eye that same night, when his thirteen-year-old self—still all knees and elbows, but under the delusion that shock and grief and rage really could turn him into a giant—had driven off their father with his own cudgel. Malick was only sorry he hadn't killed him. Sorrier that he'd taken the time to grieve his mother and let his father slip away like a ghost into the darkness. That single regret kept his attention for years.

Umeia had been rather secondary in Malick's attention, ‘til then.

She was beautiful in a different way, almost up there on their mother's pedestal in Malick's heart, but not quite. More their father's daughter, really, with his looks and his disposition, and that streak of temper that turned to violence in their father, but in Umeia veered into protective instinct. She'd get violent, surely, if anyone threatened her own, and Malick was certainly her own. But she'd also come into their mother's pragmatism, somewhere along the way, and she was wily, Umeia, so she hardly ever had to opt for violence. Brains, brass, and boobs, Malick would tell her, always laughing and with a snarky grin, and he'd generally get a healthy swat for it, but he'd also get real smiles and cackles, and sometimes even a hug.

She'd been sixteen when their father killed their mother and Malick had almost killed their father. She'd had four genuine offers of marriage when it had happened, even without a dowry or a swath of fallow dirt to bring to a binding bed, and then another three afterward. She'd refused them all, taken Malick out of Kente and to Thecia on money she'd made selling everything they owned, had taught him cards and charm and petty fraud by the time they'd gotten there, and set him loose on the unsuspecting.

Malick had known he was aesthetically pleasing; now he knew what to do with it.

He'd loved all of his marks. Every one of them. Strange, though, how their beauty didn't seem to hold up to constant scrutiny. Blemishes of the soul were a lot harder to see than those of the flesh, but they almost always revealed themselves eventually. And then the beauty would fade for Malick, and the love would go with it, and he'd move on to a new love, a new purse to plunder, a new body to debauch, because none of them ever complained about the debauching. Malick had always made it a point to be very good at everything he did, and sex was just something else he did.

He didn't have to trick or steal their purses from them. They handed him fortunes without him ever having to ask.

Beautiful women had left their husbands for him. Beautiful men had threatened to lock him up and keep him for themselves. Only one had ever really tried it. Umeia had helped to dump the body in a swamp when Malick was through with him.

"Someone like that doesn't deserve the fire,” she'd told Malick, satisfied. She'd been one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen, in that moment.

He didn't know if Wolf had been watching him all along, but he thought probably. It had been Desi, though, that had made Wolf decide that perhaps Malick might have his uses. Malick knew this because he'd had the audacity to ask.

Beautiful, of course, they all were, in their own ways. Desi had been special. Malick supposed that might just be because Desi had been taken away before Malick had found her flaws, and so she would therefore remain always beautiful in Malick's memories. Still, though, Desi had been something else.

Sold to a Thecian lord when she'd been six, coddled, really, perhaps even a bit spoiled, and taken to the old man's bed when she'd been twelve. She'd been seventeen when Malick had first seen her, her purse heavy and her dark eyes handing him an easy in.

She'd learned her art just as thoroughly as Malick had, and that bit of fractured steel inside her, covered over with layer after layer of silk, had bitten him deeply. She had fire in her, did Desi. Smothered to near suffocation beneath the oppression of captivity disguised as wealth and favor, but it was there, and she'd kept it kindling for over a decade. Here was one whose beauty was her strength, and whose strength was her beauty, he remembered thinking. Here was one who could laugh and bite and moan and snarl, and yet he thought she might—
maybe
—accept a cudgel to her beautiful face for her children, should she ever be blessed with them. Or cursed. Her lord was rather an old, ugly little man.

Malick had Desi twice, and then he didn't see her again until her mutilated body had been displayed on the gates of her lord's manor.
FAITHLESS
, the placard had stated.

Malick hadn't wept. He hadn't lost control. He hadn't done anything but stare, mark each score and welt on what had been flawless ebony skin, mark each bruise and slash on her bloodied, disfigured face. Knowing,
knowing
, that Desi would go unavenged and unmourned, because she was chattel, and a man could do as he pleased with what he owned.

Malick wouldn't understand it for many years, but he thought now that that was the moment he became Kamen, even before Wolf had turned him. Back then, he'd only understood that justice didn't come for everyone; sometimes you had to go and get it.

So he'd watched.

And he'd waited.

And then he'd hunted.

It wasn't easy. It took patience. It took charm. It took finding the right people and asking the right questions. It took amiably bedding those he didn't even want to touch and wringing secrets from their mouths as he wrung orgasm from their bodies. It took finding that sliver of cruelty, a legacy of his father, and letting it blossom, take root, flourish.

Malick didn't only take care of Desi's lord in her honor—he took care of every man in the lord's employ who'd marked her, who'd taken her broken body and used it as she'd spent her last breath on a cry of agony. Malick made them scream just as loudly and desperately as he was sure Desi had done in the end. Malick was thorough. Malick was methodical. Malick hunted them down, one by one, and showed them what “merciless” really meant. And when the last two had divined the too-obvious pattern and fled, Malick had stalked them across two cities and the reach of a sterile wasteland between, and taken care of them too. Thoroughly and methodically.

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