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Wolf of the Northern Star (The Wolfkin Saga Book 2) by SJ Himes (1)

Prologue

A Memory

There is a legend, my cubs, that is older than the wolfkin. At the dawn of mankind, before men learned to build walls with mud and straw, before the first metals were scorched into shape, there was a Power amongst us all. This Power existed within all creation, from the lowliest blade of grass to the mightiest mammoth.

This Power was an entity, what the world would come to call a deity. Before the word goddess was even conceived, She roamed the forests and steppes of the far north, Life and Death walking at her heels, the most devoted of companions. Fierce and deadly as the high winter blizzards and immovable as the glaciers that choked the mountain ranges, She encompassed all that mankind sought to survive.

She watched as humans learned to stand tall, to cover their frail selves with the pelts of their prey, as they conquered fire and chipped away at the ice and snow that covered the world. Always hidden, always observing, she was charmed by the tenacity of this intrepid species. They grew in numbers, and spread across the land.

She followed a collection of tribes over time, a group of three clans combined under the leadership of Red Fang Clan. They ignored the warnings of their kin, trekking north, the brightest star in the fiery heavens their guide and new, fertile hunting grounds their hope. The tribe journeyed further than they had intended, to a place unfit for mankind, for even with their fire and stone-shard tipped spears, it was too much for their thin furless skin, blunt nails and teeth. Yet temptation was too great for these hunters, for in the far north, roamed the mighty mammoths, capable of feeding dozens of people from one kill.

And in the north, were the beasts who hunted the mammoths.

Dire wolves, pack hunters that flowed over the steppes in waves of single-minded, predatory determination, relished the incursion into their hunting lands. For these wolves did not see mankind as predators, but as prey. Humans were small and weak, their senses dull, their fires and stone spears easy to avoid. The clans, besieged by these great hunters, fell in ever increasing numbers, until grief affected every family and the clans were left on the edge of ruin.

A wise man, heavy with the weight of scars and long years, walked one night out into the steppes with hunters from each of the clans. He was the canniest and most experienced hunter of Red Fang, and he walked with the men who would one day lead Red Claw and Bright Moon clans. Three men in total, convinced they had no other option but sacrifice. They went with weary steps, their blood and flesh chilled by the deep winter; they were to die. They were a sacrifice to the Wandering One, the One Who Walked the Trails, the Woman. Only glimpses of this Power had been caught by humans over time, yet they knew, as surely as the sun melted ice and that winter meant Death, that She was out there, and watching.

They went to the steppes alone, expecting to die in a last helpless plea to the Power.

She Who Was watched, curious. Never had humans appealed to Her directly, and that this young species would even be aware of Her in such a manner drew Her near, her curiosity roused.

‘Great Mother,’ the Red Fang hunter cried into the cold winds, ‘spare our kin. The last of our people. Take our flesh, drink our blood, and give our children the strength to survive.’

She came to them, cloaked in starlight and a coat of mist-gray fur. She took the form of those who hunted the humans, and they fell back, certain they were to die. As vast as the sky, tall as the glaciers that swallowed the mountains, Her breath the icy winds that scoured the earth, She eclipsed the night.

‘You would die for your people?’ She asked them, Her words shaking the ground beneath their feet as the men shook with terror. The oldest hunter met the eyes of the celestial wolf, eyes that blazed brighter than the steadfast star overhead in the night sky.

‘Yes,’ the Red Fang hunter replied, baring his neck, falling to his knees, his companions following. ‘For our children, our mates, we would die. Take our flesh, and spare them. Give them the strength to survive.’

Such bravery was a new concept to Her. She could see fear in the old hunter’s heart, but it did not stifle his desire to see his people safe. Selfless and brave, devoted to one another and willing to die for each other, the humans were far more than even She had seen.

It was then, in that moment, my little wolves, that the wolfkin were born. Stirred by the novel idea of sacrifice, She gave to the men instead of taking their lives. In their hearts She saw their greatest fear, and gave it form and flesh.

Pelts and spears became fur coats and fangs; limbs trembling from the arctic chill grew sturdy and sure; claws gripped the frozen tundra and muzzles lifted to the sky, songs spilling from thickly muscled throats. She poured Her will into the men and they became more—they became our forebears, the First Wolves.

The First Wolf, the greatest hunter of Red Fang, grew strong again in body, his spirit matched in flesh. He walked at Her side, listening to Her words on the wind, the songs She sang among the stars and forests. Her words, Her will, his duty and honor to obey. He sought Her guidance, and our people flourished.

The early years of our people are shrouded in mystery and ancient legend—but one thing is certain. Our Great Mother, our Goddess—she walked with us, as one of us, guiding our path and teaching us the ways of our new forms. Her First Wolf lay the foundation for our society. And in those ancient days, the First Wolf became known as the Wolf of the Northern Star. She was a constant, as faithful and static as the unmoving star in the infinite sky. He followed Her as he had once led his people north looking for life and hope.

Wolf of the Northern Star was an honor given to the wolf who walked at Her side, to denote his place, that his words were Hers. As eons passed, and the First Wolf left this mortal coil and his spirit ran free among the stars, his true name long forgotten, the title was eventually returned to the Great Mother, our Goddess. As surely as the northern star burns in the sky above us even now, our Goddess is with us.

She is both the Star that led us to our birth as a people, and the Wolf who guides the clans.”

—From the teachings of Shaman Gray Shadow