A hefty reward attracts countless bounty hunters into the heart of this 16th century Christian empire. Thal emerges from hiding with his young wife Altea who is barely recovered from torture at the hands of witch hunters. With his werewolf powers, he battles the bounty hunters and begins a daring journey across the Holy Roman Empire.
But more than men stalk him. Servants of Tekax, sorcerer to the Turks, have been unleashed upon his trail.
The werewolf Rotfeng covets the enchanted fur that lets Thal change form at will, regardless of the phase of the moon.
Worse yet comes Janfelter, an undying fext created in the dark fortress of Tekax.
These heartless killers are tasked with stopping Thal from reaching his father Sarputeen, the arch nemesis of Tekax. Thal’s only refuge awaits him in what is left of the Kingdom of Hungary after a Turkish conquest. In the remote castle Vlkbohveza the ancient sorcerer Sarputeen lives untouched despite widespread persecution of magic users and pagans.
Although Thal longs to be with his own kind, he worries about the reunion with his father. It was Sarputeen’s magic that made Thal a werelord, a master of wolves. But what shall the sorcerer require of his creation now that Tekax aims to settle an old score?
Mileko left and Thal bundled his possessions in his cloak. Holding the fur around his waist, he waited. Anticipation nibbled beneath his skin. His deep longing for the time when he had been only a wolf welled up. The legacy of his many years in the forest approached. They were slipping over the mountain top. Their hot breath passed over meaty tongues. They had been running all day. From the sky a raven streaked down like a black stone and seized upon a perch near Thal. A single tired croak was its greeting. The horses uphill neighed nervously, and Thal prepared his heart to meet his kin.
The wolves appeared among the trees like bubbles breaking the surface of still waters. On wide silent paws they loped on lanky legs. They were sleek in summer coats, brown, gray, and black, and eyed him with the utmost interest.
Thal gasped when their spirits collided against him. After months as a man he saw again the beauty of the animal that was his soul. Wise faces held brutal jaws. Their strong bodies glided over terrain, every step an instantly choreographed marvel of movement.
The wolves slowed, overwhelmed as well by the sight of he who had called them.
“My children,” Thal whispered reverently.
As they advanced, their menace diminished into excited curiosity. Thal went to his knees and beckoned them. Twenty two wolves surrounded him but there was no malice in them. They circled and whined.
Thal breathed in their lupine scent, and vivid memories filled his head. He was back in a den surrounded by a pack and enclosed by the Earth.
A big gray male with white legs and chest came closer. A scar across the top of his skull told of a hard battle on a bitter day, but this fine alpha had only been made stronger by it.
Sniffing and with his tail high, he went to Thal who gently touched the pack leader’s fluffy cheek. The wolf leaned against him and Thal embraced him.
“Thank you for coming,” he whispered.
Then the other wolves mobbed him and he had to pet them all. They licked and sniffed his body and fur and armor. Their adoration pushed aside his sorrows and regrets and for a moment he knew only love and acceptance.
This fleeting joy ended when several of the wolves raised their snouts into the wind and growled. The rumble from the biggest alpha male was especially disapproving.
“Our enemies are coming,” Thal acknowledged sadly and stood up. When he began to chant the spell of transformation the wolves backed off and watched him with awe.
He was panting at the completion of his transformation. Fatigue weighed on his thick muscles and ravenous hunger tore at his gut. His great physique was not powered by magic alone and he felt the bony grip of hardship as he faced fierce battle.
Without question the wolves accepted his magnificent leadership.
He led them down the slope at an angle to flank Rotfeng’s oncoming group. The riders were just starting up. Their tired mounts stepped slowly and often snorted in protest. Thal and his wolves faded into the shadows with the stealth of their kind.
Because I always had the childhood fantasy of running away and joining the circus, I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1995 and lived there until 1997. Those who only stay a week are wimps, but I will say that it's the second year in Vegas that wears you down. Then I realized the pioneers were trying to get to California, so I moved to Chico, in Northern California and lived there until 2009.
In 2000, I earned a journalism degree from California State University, Chico with the conscious ambition of becoming a fiction writer. With the rapid demise of the newspaper industry and journalism in general, novelist is not such a daft pursuit after all. It's not like I'm actually going to get a job that values my education. Luckily I'm cursed with the impulse to write in a popular yet competitive genre.
My wandering has circled back and I'm currently residing in Battle Creek, Michigan, and for now my existence within the post-apocalyptic Rust Belt is suitably fascinating.