The following is a first draft of chapter 1 of Werewolves & Wizardry (Out 21 December 2021). It is set directly after The Last Light (Kat Drummond Book 14) and has heavy spoilers for that book. So make sure you read that first!
Also, if you haven’t already, make sure to pre-order your copy! The pre-order price is only $2.99 and will be rising to $4.99 after release. You can pre-order it HERE.
This is a first draft, so errors will be corrected before the final release. Hopefully…
A colossal, spotted werewolf with a maw that looked closer to a hyena than a wolf took one of the Gibson twins by surprise, roaring its challenge and biting into the smaller, blonde wolf with an agonising crunch. Drawing blood.
The smaller wolf squealed. To the untrained ear, it was a pitiful cry of pain. To mine, it was a call…
If I’d learnt anything being an alpha to a bunch of bestial werewolves – it was that you don’t pick on twins. You’ll always be outnumbered.
The other twin, I never knew which was which when they were in wolf-form, snapped hard, going for Hyena’s neck, and drawing blood. Hyena didn’t let go, shaking his victim brutally side to side. Until he found his eye slashed by his previously hapless victim.
Hyena was big. The largest werewolf in the pack. But when he’d joined, he’d been a mangy, flea-bitten rogue from somewhere across the In Between. The Gibsons had had almost a year to train, and just as much time to consume valuable protein.
Together, they were a war machine.
Hyena screeched as his eye was turned into a bloody mulch. He dropped the twin, his or her neck covered in matted, red and blonde fur. The twins didn’t relent, biting into Hyena and pulling him to the ground.
This had all happened in the five seconds that it took for me to sense the fight from across the estate and come bolting towards my errant pack. I transformed mid-run, letting my muscles expand and bones bend and grow into something very inhuman. I felt my heart race faster than it had any reason. It took awhile in the early days to get used to that. Werewolf hearts beat fast. Like a machinegun. Even when we were in human form. Even after all this time, I could see worry in my boyfriend’s eyes when he felt my pulse.
Pranish knew it was okay. That I was healthy. Well, healthy for a werewolf. But it took awhile to get used to.
Black fur burst from underneath my clothes. Muscles ripped apart my jeans. And I’d just bought these. Just my fucking luck! Well, should be used to it by now. I’m not allowed nice clothes anymore.
The twins circled the bleeding, panting Hyena and then lunged forward, just as I fully transformed, using my full werewolf strength to knock the twins over. The pair of bloody, vicious golden retriever lookalikes whimpered as they rolled across the lawn and dirt, landing at the feet of Stalker – the skeletal, dark grey bastard of an ex-rogue wolf.
I stared Stalker in the eyes, growling. The creature stared back, eyes alien and unwavering. I had no idea what original race Hyena and Stalker were. They weren’t from Earth. Could be anything. And because they hadn’t transformed back into their original forms yet (if they ever would), I didn’t know what sort of thoughts were going through that mind.
Werewolves were beasts. Take that from one. But human werewolves still had an essential humanness in them. Pranish and I believed the pack nature of human werewolves was more due to being human than werewolf. Humans were social, hierarchal animals. Perhaps, even more so than wolves.
Stalker looked at the whimpering twins at his feet. I growled louder. A deep rumble emanating from my throat.
Leave them alone, you creepy bastard.
He opened his mouth, and then leapt clean over the twins. At me.
A red wolf tackled Stalker in mid-air, smashing the skeletal creature into the dirt. A blood-red haired elf bearing twin daggers sprinted right after him.
I growled an order. Senegal, the red wolf, stopped, and jumped off Stalker. Ari, the elf, pulled back, glancing between me and Senegal. Her expression was impassive, but I smelled confusion. She had to get her orders through following Senegal’s lead. Didn’t have the sort of wolf intuition that the rest of us had.
Senegal stood back, Ari by his side. At least some of the pack were still following orders! I was supposed to be their rifts-damned alpha, after all.
Stalker rose to take revenge on Senegal. Instead, he found my close-fisted paw in his face as I knocked him into the dirt again. With my clawed hand, I gripped him by the throat and rose him above my head, staring him in the eyes.
Obey, you emaciated little shit!
Stalker slashed his claws towards me. His arms were long. Lanky. A few of his claws raked across my extended maw. I didn’t flinch. Even as he drew blood. I’d faced worse. Well, until Hyena dug his teeth into my leg.
With a whelp, I dropped Stalker to the ground. Hyena let go. Surprised by the sound even though he had caused it. I doubled on him, punching his head into the ground, just as Stalker leapt towards me.
Before Senegal or Ari could intervene – I caught Stalker in mid-air, lifted his arm to my mouth and snapped the bone like a twig. The iron taste of blood flooded my overly sensitive taste buds. It simultaneously made me excited while also feeling wrong. They were my pack. Even if they were fighting each other. Even if they didn’t know it yet.
I threw Stalker away, catching Hyena as he rebounded towards me. I exhaled under the force of this monster of a wolf-thing’s weight, and then dug my teeth into the back of his neck.
Hyena squealed like a chastised puppy and went limp.
I pulled back my teeth. Stalker was already fleeing, tail between his legs as he cradled his broken arm. Hyena’s ears were flattened. His thick, short tail hidden underneath his bulk.
I let out a low growl, rumbling from the back of my throat, and he sprinted away, whimpering.
As soon as the troublemakers were out of sight, I fell to my knees. I felt a sudden cold as my fur dissipated and my bulky muscles shrank down to still hard and toned, but much more human flesh.
Senegal, now naked and in human form, placed a blanket over my shoulders. I wanted to smile and thank him. He was a good boy, wasn’t he? Never had these problems with him.
I spat out the blood in my mouth and rubbed the blanket against my teeth. Ugh! Would need to brush my teeth with petrol to get this taste out. Stalker always tasted the worst.
I never knew how lucky I had been with Senegal and even the twins until I adopted these damn off-world lycanthropes during the almost-apocalypse.
Those were the days! Just four werewolves, an elf and a wizard. No drama. No power plays or grasps for dominance. Didn’t need to discipline anyone. Most I’d ever had to do was pinch the twins’ ears when they tried to play tug of war with a steak inside the grocery store.
“Go…” I stopped to catch my breath. That was odd! Never had to do that in the past. But in the past, I was tackling weak-boned zombies and beasts that seldom could fight back. Not werewolves. And definitely not werewolves that I actually cared about, despite all my complaining.
It was an odd feeling – loving these beasts while despising them. Wanting the best for them while wishing they’d never set foot on my world. Being an alpha was hard!
“Go make sure the kids don’t fight,” I ordered, waving my arm in the general direction of the werewolves. The twins were licking each other’s wounds underneath the shade of a tree. One of the better-behaved ex-rogues, a female named Ginger, watched from the edge of the fae wood – yawning as if the entire thing bored her.
Glad she was comfortable! Would be nice if she helped.
“They’re pretty banged up, alpha,” Senegal replied, forehead creased. I could sense what he was thinking.
Why do we have to keep the rogues here?
“They’re a part of the pack,” I said, responding to his thoughts. It wasn’t like I could read his mind. I had just gotten really good at guessing.
But Senegal’s eyes always widened when I did this. I pretended it was mind-reading. Funnier that way.
“You should rest,” Ari added, sheathing her daggers. She looked wistfully in the direction of Hyena and Stalker, as they probably sapped up the healing magic of the fae wood while licking their wounds and waiting for their bones to reknit and flesh to regrow.
I’d never been one to like discipline. Don’t get me wrong! When Kat babysat those damn rich brats, I wanted to clobber them. But I never would have!
But with these wolves, I had to. And because I knew they could take it, I had to go in hard. That meant broken bones, ripped flesh. And a lot of blood.
In the months since these wolves joined the pack, I’d long since gotten used to my mom and dad seeing me covered in the blood of our new family members. They seemed to have gotten used to it to. Or just become really good at pretending.
Even so, I was glad my parents were out working today. I liked to minimize the amount of violence they saw. A vain effort, I know. In Hope City, mass violence was often just a Tuesday. Especially after the bastard who’d killed Kat’s parents had released an endless horde of monstrosities on the city.
The rifts had stopped, but too many of the creatures had remained. The organised and smarter creatures made strongholds. Went into hiding. Collected their strength. The big baddies, like giants and drakes, moved into abandoned buildings, caves on the mountain, or just claimed entire city blocks for themselves. Already, a bunch of moronic treasure hunters had been eaten trying to steal some treasure from a dragon in Kalk Bay that looked a lot like a salamander – who unfortunately didn’t collect treasure.
On top of that, there was still a giant roaming around Cape Point, eating livestock. And the kobolds had turned Chapman’s Peak into a death trap. Not to mention all the undead, demons and dark spirits roaming about…
I stood up and turned back towards Tokai Manor. Our home of three months. In the past, I’d have told everyone that the home of my dreams was a sleek, modern villa full of feng shui design and glass walls.
Tokai Manor was none of this. It was an over two-hundred-year-old Cape Dutch manor house designed by a Frenchman. It was so old that Kat had to exorcise it. Only right that she’d then inherited it from the owner, and then rented it to us. Well, she’d wanted to give it over – but I wasn’t going to screw my best friend out of her inheritance. Even if that’s what she wanted.
The house was anything but modern. Thick walls that blocked wi-fi signals, bad heating when it was cold, and an interior design that would make a modern decorator or weyline optimiser scream.
And I loved it! Shows how much my younger self knew about me.
Tokai Manor felt like home. It was spacious, breathed history and just felt alive. It helped that my entire family was there. Perhaps, that was the part that mattered most.
I glanced at my home and saw some curtains in the window shift. A human wouldn’t have noticed. I wasn’t entirely human. Mandy Caleb. Kat’s aunt. She was living with us now – adding fae and werewolves to her extensive knowledge of elves as she pursued the lucrative career of shut-in, unemployed scholar.
Well, so long as she was happy!
Senegal and Ari did as I asked and went to check up on the wolves. I went inside to change. There was always a collection of new, cheap clothing to change into by every door. Just in case. Now decent, I trudged towards the elevated veranda and took a seat on one of the steps of the manor.
“Struggling to keep the troops in line, alpha?”
A cold, critical voice came from seemingly nowhere.
I almost jumped. Almost. But being alpha meant being strong. Meant pretending to expect everything. Even damn dark elves who you couldn’t see, hear or smell unless they wanted you to.
I turned towards one of the new packmates. The only one who had regained his human – elf form.
Aratax had long, dark blue hair tied into a ponytail. His skin was an obsidian black. His eyes were also black. Only distinct from the rest of his features by the shimmer of moisture. A shimmer that always seemed to convey a sense of overwhelming distaste.
Unlike other werewolves, his eyes never became gold. Ever. Even when he was in wolf shape. They just stayed that unfathomable, glittering black.
Aratax was a Drentari. A different type of elf to Ari’s Sintari – but an elf, nonetheless. When he first transformed back into his humanoid shape, we all turned to Ari. I’d been excited for her to have another of her kind in the pack. Elves all get along, right?
Well, it seems racism was mutual among all species. Ari immediately proceeded to swear at Aratax in Sintari, and Aratax responded in kind. It was only by Senegal holding Ari back, and me swiftly chastising the Drentari that they didn’t come to blows.
Now, the best we could hope for was that they just kept ignoring each other.
Yep, we’re one big happy family!
Drentari are interesting, though. Mandy knew a bit about them, but from the admittedly scornful sources of their Sintari cousins. We didn’t know much else though. They were quite rare on Earth.
Drentari and Sintari were similar languages, so Mandy had been teaching Aratax English. It was going well. Like almost all elves, he was a fast learner.
“The pack is facing growing pains, little pup,” I responded, looking for signs of irritation in the unfailingly arrogant elf.
He showed none. Aratax had never really misbehaved. Not like the others. And my instincts told me that he was loyal. No attacks on the other wolves. Not even a scent of treachery. A model wolf of the pack. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that he felt oddly superior to the rest of us. And that our pack hierarchy grated on his sensibilities. It didn’t help that his alien appearance unnerved me. Think humans and elves can be racist? Werewolves are programmed to detest difference. Something we had to bury deep within ourselves.
“You are too lenient on those beasts. All of them,” Aratax said. “You give a dog room to bite, and it will bite.”
“Lenient?” I scoffed. “I snapped Stalker’s arm and bit out a chunk of Hyena’s flesh. What do you want me to do? Kill them?”
That was out of the question! Well, maybe I’d make some exceptions. Starting with this elf…
Aratax raised his hands, diplomatically. It was a habit he’d picked up from watching us. We couldn’t understand his normal expressions, so he compensated with hand gestures.
“I do not doubt your power, alpha. Never! And I will always be thankful for freeing me from the worst of this…curse.”
He almost spat the last word. I noted that his English was almost perfect now. Mandy was an excellent teacher. Or Aratax already knew English and was just screwing with us.
“I admit, I do not know much about being a werewolf,” Aratax said, sounding as non-conceited as I’d ever heard him before. “I wasn’t given much of a chance. I was infected by a vile beast and when I rightfully reported the attack to the authorities, I was thrown out of my korax. Left to fend for myself, until the beast took me…”
“Korax?” I asked. He seldom spoke about his life before he joined the pack. Well, he’d only been speaking English this well for a bit over two weeks. But he usually practiced it criticising everything and everyone.
“It is like a city, but more…” he seemed to frown. “Like a city, but all the people are connected.”
“Like a family?” I offered.
He hesitated, but then nodded. “We Drentari have a different notion of family than you humans – and perhaps wolves. Family, korax, is about duty. Loyalty. We all work towards a greater end.”
“It is nice.” Aratax stared longingly into the distance for a few moments, but then his air of arrogance returned. Too soon. “Other races do not understand duty and obedience as we do. Drentari do not need to be whipped or coerced to do the right thing. But others…they require prodding. A prodding you must give them. I may not understand werewolves, alpha, but I understand obedience. To get the pack to do the right thing, you must tighten their leashes.”
I smelled Ari and Senegal before I saw them. The elf stopped at the foot of the stairs as Senegal climbed up the steps, his head in the clouds.
Aratax and Ari stared daggers at each other, without sharing a single word. How ancient was their people’s feud? Was it personal or inherited? Or was it just plain old prejudice?
Unfortunately, their scents didn’t give that complex an answer.
I only knew that they hated each other.
I couldn’t order Ari to stand down. Well, not without persuasion. But being an alpha had its perks when it came to werewolves.
“Aratax, go gather some wood for the fire tonight.”
A low rumble emanated from Aratax’s throat. Without his eyes becoming gold, it was easy to forget that he was a werewolf.
“A pack…” he growled. “Should be one kind.”
I caught a whiff of another scent. A sweet scent of cologne and ironed clothes, failing to cover the musk of ancient books. A scent that filled me with joy.
Pranish. A human. Different.
Someone I’d never kick out of the pack. Ever.
I matched Aratax’s growl with my own, becoming deeper than he ever could despite his superior stature and age.
Aratax’s black eyes widened. An expression I did understand. Fear.
He turned around and retreated, going the long way so to avoid passing me or Ari.
The front-door opened, and the scent of my boyfriend mingled with the fresh air.
“Can you get those scrolls translated for me?” Pranish asked, as he hefted a satchel full of paperwork and books over his shoulder.
“Of course. I can get them to you after your hearing,” Mandy responded, waving Pranish off.
Oh, Rifts! The hearing. Another damn ceremony to explain the exact same thing to slightly different people and to promise that: no, guv’na, we don’t plan on bombing parliament anytime soon.
With all the wolf drama and stress, I’d forgotten about this one!
Even months after the Mentor’s onslaught and all the monster attacks, we were still facing the legal aftermath.
My best friend, Kat, was framed for murder. My employer, Kat’s Crusaders, was banned. And we were out of a job as monster hunters. Not that I had the time to go gallivanting around the city anymore. I had a handful of monsters here already.
Pranish came into view, adjusting the strap on his satchel. His hair was combed, white dress shirt ironed, and grey sweater vest clean of all errant dog hairs. Which was a real accomplishment in this household!
My machine-gun heart skipped a beat at seeing him. For just a moment. It skipped a beat again when he looked at me. His eyes flashed concern, for just a moment. Before his expression went impassive. Serene.
I felt a tinge of sadness and a tinge of pride at that. Pride, because Pranish was an amazing beta. Despite not being a werewolf, he had the most important job in the pack. Keeping me, the alpha, sane.
But it also filled me with sadness. Because he had been pushed into this role. And I knew it wasn’t easy on him.
“Are we admitting to mass murder this time around?” Pranish asked, a sly grin appearing underneath his concern and impassivity.
“Why…” I began but then remembered. I rubbed my lips and saw the blood on my hands. And that’s why my hair was matted!
Ugh! Today of all days to need to wash the blood out of my hair!
I stood up and bolted up the stairs, stopped by Pranish’s side.
“I’ll wash up! The Council can wait a few more damn minutes.”
“Fortunately, I factored this into our schedule,” Pranish replied.
Of course, he did!
“What would I do without you?”
“Go to hearings covered in blood.
I laughed and kissed him on the cheek. He winced, as Hyena and Stalker’s blood stained his cheek and the cuff of his shirt.
Well, now we both needed to wash up!
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