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Authors: David Clement-Davies

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The Sight

BOOK: The Sight
5.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


David Clement-Davies




Phoenix Ark Press


Part One - The Cave
1 - The Stone Den

‘I cannot tell my story without going a long way back.’ Herman Hesse, the prologue to Demian


In the beginning was a castle high on a craggy precipice.  The air around it was so cold that it seemed that the sky itself would crack like ice.  Night was beginning to fall around its walls and the great stone stairway which rose up and up towards the castle through the vaulting pines.  The huge, weathered steps disappeared into darkness and the shadows reaching out from the forest far below clawed their way towards a little village nestling just beneath the cliffs.

All around the sky was draining of colour, the air growing pale and bloodless, as the dying circle of the sun finally disappeared behind the crags.  Beyond the castle the range of the Carpathian mountains rose into the distance, like mighty clouds frozen into lonely monoliths below an infinite heaven.

The conifers climbing the valley slopes were laden with snow and their tops smoked eerily in the coming darkness.  Now and then a mound of snow would topple to the forest floor with a muffled thud that quivered through the air like the boom of distant thunder.  It was the only sound in the wood.  The stillness that settled now across the country was as deep as the blackness beginning to swallow up Transylvania, the land beyond the forest.

But there was life in the wood; a single pair of hungry, searching eyes.  They were moving rapidly through the twilight, glittering furiously in the shadows as they came.  Their intelligence, the ancient cunning of the predator, and their febrile, nervous brilliance made them seem thoroughly human.  But they were far from human – for they belonged to a Lera, a wild animal.  There was a longing and profound curiosity in those strange, semi-transparent orbs, and as night swelled they became even more aware of the shadow world around them.

As the darkness thickened, the wolf’s pace through the trees grew even faster and its pupils opened wider, seeming to draw in the last rays of light.  Then, as it came to a sudden stop at the edge of the wood and peered out towards the glow of fires twinkling from the village at the western edge of the valley, those eyes changed colour.  For the wolf has a power that Man himself has always longed for, the power to see in the dark.  Gold suddenly turned to a brilliant greenish yellow.

It was a grey wolf, very common to Transylvania, but its strength and size was unusual.  It was clearly a Dragga – an alpha male, dominant in its pack – but it was bigger than most.  Its fur was a beautiful glittering silver grey, though its tail was tinged with red.  It had a strong, handsome face, with brilliant white fangs and gums as pink and healthy as the flesh of a new plum.

From where the wolf was standing he could just spy humans moving about on the edge of the village, stooping in the night to collect wood for their fires, and his nose curled into the beginnings of a snarl.  But suddenly a wind raked the forest, and in the surrounding air giant flakes began to flurry from the heavens.  The wolf swung up his head and there was fear in his eyes.

‘It’s starting again,’ he growled bitterly.  ‘The cave.  I must find the cave.’

The wolf started to run once more.  To ordinary eyes he was almost invisible against the snowline and he seemed to float as he came.  His ears were up and his senses so alert that his muscles quivered as he ran.  But he had hardly gone any way at all when he heard the snap of a twig in the wood.  He swung round instantly and the snarl that came from his jaws had a killing threat in it.  But as another muzzle appeared through the trees, the wolf relaxed a little, although his eyes were still blazing.

‘Palla,’ he cried angrily, ‘don’t ever sneak up on me like that.  I thought you were a Night Hunter.’

The female coming towards him was a dominant also, or Drappa as wolves call them, but she had a beautiful sleek muzzle and bushy, silver ears.  She was as lean and graceful as a mountain leopard.  Only her swollen stomach and the exhaustion in her tread spoke of the cubs that now lived in her belly.  Palla was close to her time.

‘I’m sorry, Huttser.  You don’t think they’re still following us?’

‘No, Palla, I think we lost them long back.  But there are other dangers for the wolf now, with Man so close.’

The wolves’ fierce yellow eyes had become wary and attentive as they flickered like little lights in the darkness.  This was before the time when Man hunted the wolf and the forests almost to extinction, but the wolves had learnt from birth to fear Man above all the predators.  All too often the wolf had suffered too, caught in the grip of their terrible battles.

Since the ancient Dacian empire had fallen into decline, the land of Transylvania had been invaded and fought over by a seemingly infinite variety of peoples and cultures.  The Romans had come here, and after them the succeeding tides of nomadic conflict.  The land beyond the forest was still bitterly disputed by the Magyars from the kingdom of Hungary, by the Saxons from the German lands and by the Vlachs who owed their allegiance to none.

‘Yes, Huttser,’ Palla growled.  ‘When you left us to scout, Brassa’s paw was caught in one of their traps.’

Huttser’s eyes widened in alarm.

‘She managed to pull free, Huttser.  But we should get her inside as soon as we can.  The cave is just far enough away from the humans’ dens to be safe.’

‘We should get you inside, you mean,’ said Huttser.

Palla seemed to be looking through her mate rather than directly at him.  Wolves rarely look at each other directly in the eye for fear they might raise each others’ anger.  But their muzzles lifted in agreement.

Their flight had been a harsh one and they both feared their cubs would be born in the deathly grip of winter.

‘The Stone Spores and the den on the mountain,’ growled Palla suddenly, looking towards the giant stairway and the castle.  ‘It means we’re close now, thank Tor.  I’ve never known weather this bad.’

‘At least it’ll be impossible for the Night Hunters to track us in this, Palla.  Even if Morgra has told them to follow us.’ Palla winced and the unborn cubs kicked in her belly.  Morgra was Palla’s half-sister and it was Morgra, not Man, that the wolves were fleeing now.  Though she had not seen her in years, Morgra always stirred painful memories in the Drappa.  When Palla had been little more than a whelp Morgra had been driven from their pack for killing a cub, and wolves believe that once a wolf tastes the blood of its own it gets a liking for it.  Now Palla was coming back home to where it had all happened, strangely Morgra’s presence seemed closer than ever.

Morgra lived far to the north.  She had always been a fighter, and she had long sought to be leader of all the wolves of Transylvania.  In time she had managed to win control of the Balkar, which in the wolf’s language meant Night Hunter, a group of six wolf packs made up entirely of fighting males.  With leadership of the Balkar came the title of ‘First of the Wolves’, and never before had a she-wolf laid claim to it.

That past autumn Morgra had also put the seal on her power by ordering the free wolves, as the rest of the wolves in Transylvania termed themselves, to present their new-born cubs to her.  None knew what her strange edict was for, but Palla could not forget what Morgra had done to the innocent cub in her pack.  So Huttser and Palla had decided to flee towards the Stone Den, where Palla had been born, and Morgra’s Balkar wolves had followed them, until Huttser had managed to lose them in the deep gullies and snowy defiles of the Carpathian mountains.

‘But, Huttser,’ whispered Palla suddenly, ‘if Morgra really has the Sight, as many believe, then couldn’t she follow us in any kind of weather?’

As soon as Palla spoke of the Sight there was a strange frustration in Huttser’s look.

‘Hush, Palla,’ he growled nervously.  ‘I’ve told you a thousand times before, it’s a foolish superstition, nothing more, and we have left Morgra and the Night Hunters far behind.’ Huttser prided himself on being a clear-thinking wolf and he hated the superstitions that were spreading once more through the land beyond the forests.  Dark rumours had grown up around Morgra, which she was carefully fostering, and she was known to dabble in the black arts.  Some said she was trying to enchant the animals and sought allies among even the wolf’s bitterest enemies, like the bear and the mountain lynx.  Others said that she possessed the gift of the Sight, an ancient though largely forgotten myth among the wolves.  In essence it was the power to see far off visions beyond one’s own body, though few gave much credence to the fable any more.

‘Huttser,’ said Palla suddenly, ‘I’m tired and our cubs-’

‘We must keep moving.  Where are the others?’

‘They should be close.  I ran on a little to find you.’

The fur around Huttser’s muzzle glittered as he lifted his head.  The wolf’s powerful howl quivered on the air, climbing higher and higher until the sound seemed to hover like some winged bird above the forest.  Suddenly there was an answering call and they both swung round to see three more wolves springing across the white.  The pack was coming through the trees towards them.  There were two females and a male.

At the back a proud old she-wolf was limping badly and she kept lifting her paw in pain.  The right pad was very swollen, Brassa’s blood still matted thickly around the fur.  Luckily the trap’s angry metal jaws had been left in the wet too long and rusted through, so she had been able to escape.  It had been dangerous for the whole pack though, especially with Huttser scouting ahead, for wolves will rarely abandon their own in times of trouble and Brassa’s accident had slowed them up badly.

Just in front of Brassa came Kipcha, Huttser’s sister.  She was smaller than Huttser but she had her brother’s boldness in her tread.  Kipcha looked exhausted, though, and her heavy coat was thick with snow and frost.  Beside her ran Bran, the Sikla, or Omega wolf, and the weakest in the pack.  Bran had a particularly wary look as his tongue lolled from his mouth.  His features were distinguished by the ring of black around his right eye.

There was a frantic whining and dipping of heads as the wolf pack was reunited and the others greeted Huttser.  The wolves rubbed their flanks together tenderly as they wagged their bushy tails.  The Dragga spent a while inspecting Brassa’s paw and whining in sympathy as he licked the wound above the pad.  When Huttser was satisfied it was not too dangerous, he lifted his head again.

‘Very well.  Did you see any Lera?’

Suddenly the pack heard the angry screech of a bird somewhere high above the clouds.

‘A while back,’ answered Bran immediately, ‘I saw two sets of pads in the snow.’

‘Dog or Varg?’

As Huttser used the formal word for their own kind Bran raised his tail proudly.

‘Varg,’ he answered.  ‘They weren’t meandering about like a foolish dog’s, Huttser, but moving in a straight line, like the hunting wolf.  At first I thought it was Khaz, but it was travelling in the direction of the village.’

‘Good.  It’s probably just a loner, looking to scavenge.’ ‘But I don’t like this place, Huttser,’ sniffed Bran mournfully, peering up through the snowy air at the strange castle, high on the mountain.

‘No, Bran, and we must keep a keen eye.  But it’s too cold for even Man to hunt.’

‘Man,’ growled Palla scornfully.  ‘We may have escaped Morgra but Man will never stop hunting us, Huttser.  We weed out the sick and weak among their animals, and they repay us by chasing our pups and killing our brothers and sisters.  And by seeking out the untamed places and laying waste to the wood.  I’ll never understand why they do that.’

Kipcha was looking towards the village.  A wolf has a powerful instinct for danger, but it is a highly intelligent and inquisitive animal too, and Kipcha’s interest at least was suddenly roused.

‘The humans fascinate me, Palla,’ admitted the she-wolf almost guiltily, ‘and I’ve never been this close to them before.’

BOOK: The Sight
5.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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