Загрузка...

Warrior's Moon

Children of the Moon - 5

by

Lucy Monroe

For Patty and Curtis, dear friends and family by marriage. Curtis, your music has helped me write hundreds of pages, and Patty, your appreciation for my stories and characters always touches my heart. Much love to you both.

THE BEGINNING

Millennia ago, God created a race of people so fierce even their women were feared in battle. These people were warlike in every way, refusing to submit to the rule of any but their own…no matter how large the forces sent to subdue them.

Their enemies said they fought like animals. Their vanquished foe said nothing, for they were dead.

They were considered a primitive and barbaric people because they marred their skin with tattoos of blue ink. The designs were simple: a beast depicted in unadorned outline over their hearts. The leaders were marked with more elaborate bands around their arms. Mates were marked to show their bond.

And still, their enemies were never able to discover the meanings of any of the blue-tinted tattoos.

Some surmised they were symbols of the tribe’s warlike nature and in that they would be partially right. For the beasts represented a part of themselves these fierce and independent people kept secret at the pain of death. It was a secret they had kept for the centuries of their existence while most migrated across the European landscape to settle in the inhospitable north of Scotland.

Their Roman enemies called them Picts, a name accepted by the other peoples of their land and lands south…they called themselves the Chrechte.

Their animal-like affinity for fighting and conquest came from a part of their nature their fully human counterparts did not enjoy. For these fierce people were shape-changers.

The bluish tattoos on their skin were markings given as a right of passage when they made their first shift. Some men had control of that change. Some did not, subject to the power of the full moon until participating in the sacred act of sex. The females of all the races both experienced their first shift into animal form and gained control thereafter with the coming of their first menses.

Some shifted into wolves, others big cats of prey and yet others into the larger birds—the eagle, hawk or raven.

The one thing all Chrechte shared in common was that they did not reproduce as quickly or prolifically as their fully human brothers and sisters. Although they were a formidable race and their cunning enhanced by an understanding of nature most humans could not possess, they were not foolhardy and were not ruled by their animal natures.

One warrior could kill a hundred of his foe, but should she or he die before having offspring, the death would lead to an inevitable shrinking of the race. Some Pictish clans and those recognized by other names in other parts of the world had already died out rather than submit to what they considered the inferior but multitudinous humans around them.

The Faol of Scotland’s Highlands were too smart to face the end of their race rather than blend. These wolf shifters saw the way of the future. In the ninth century AD, Keneth MacAlpin ascended to the Scottish throne. He was of Faol descent through his mother; nevertheless, his human nature had dominated.

He was not capable of “the change,” but that did not stop him from laying claim to the Pictish throne (as it was called then) as well. In order to guarantee his kingship, he betrayed his Faol brethren at a dinner, killing all of the remaining royals of their people—and forever entrenched a distrust of humans by their Chrechte counterparts.

Despite this distrust but bitterly aware of the cost of MacAlpin’s betrayal, the Faol of the Chrechte realized that they could die out fighting an ever increasing and encroaching race of humanity, or they could join the Celtic clans.

They joined.

As far as the rest of the world knew, what had been considered the Pictish people was no more.

Because it was not in their nature to be ruled by any but their own, within two generations, the Celtic clans that had assimilated the Chrechte were ruled by shape-changing clan chiefs who shared their natures with wolves. Though most of the fully human among them did not know it, a sparse few were trusted with the secrets of their kinsmen. Those that did, were aware that to betray the code of silence meant certain and immediate death.

Stories of other shifter races, the Ean and Paindeal, were told around the campfire, or to the little ones before bed. Since the wolves had not seen a shifter except their own in generations, however, they began to believe the other races only a myth.

But myths did not take to the sky on black wings glinting an iridescent blue under the sun. Myths did not live as ghosts in the forest, but breathing air just as any other man or animal. The Ean were no myth, they were birds with abilities beyond that of merely changing their shape.

Many could be forgiven for believing tales of their prince nothing more than legend. For who had heard of a man shifting not only into the form of a raven, but that of the mystic dragon from ancient tales as well?

If the dragon were real, then were the conriocht as well? Those whispered about Faol that had defended the race in ancient times, able to shift not only into a wolf, but the fearsome beast: the werewolf.

Chapter 1

To abandon one’s sacred mate is to abandon one’s very soul.

—CHRECHTE SACRED LAW, FROM THE ORAL TRADITIONS

Sinclair Holding, Highlands of Scotland 1150 AD, Reign of Dabid mac Mail Choluim, King of Scots

“Mummy, they’re giants!”

It wasn’t her son’s excited shout that sent a shard of pain spiking through Shona’s head, but the sight of soldiers wearing the Sinclair colors approaching at speed on horses every bit as oversized as they were.

And not a one of them was smiling in welcome, either.

The headache had arrived with the large brown wolf, which had paced them for the better part of the morning. Only, the pounding in her head hadn’t left when the beast did.

Terrified the animal would attack, she’d ridden tense in her saddle with a dagger to the ready. It had maintained its distance, however, finally running off just before the noon sun cast its shadow.

Her mind and senses already stretched to the point of exhaustion with what had come before this journey, the appearance of the wolf had pushed Shona that much nearer collapse.

But she would not give up. Her children’s lives and those of two loyal friends depended on Shona maintaining both sanity and composure.

So, she had taken her daughter back onto her horse from where little Marjory had taken turns riding with Shona’s companions, Audrey and her twin brother, Thomas. And then Shona had continued on as if the wolf had not scared her out of her wits.

Вы читаете Warrior's Moon
Добавить отзыв
ВСЕ ОТЗЫВЫ О КНИГЕ В ИЗБРАННОЕ

0

Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату