This story is set in 1513 Ireland and is part of my Arcane Universe. You do not need to know anything to read this story as it’s a prequel and most things are explained quickly. That being said, it will be deleted 30 days after the last update. This is a rough draft and still needs things sorted, but has been briefly edited. I do appreciate comments on anything that’s not understandable. The first chapter is intended to be public. – TC
The earth was moist beneath Fiadh’s paws as she padded through the edge of a thick forest. Dew covered the fields and forest, left behind by a heavy fog. Soon, the heat of day would lift the fog and she wouldn’t be able to track her prey as easily. Fifteen men and women, heavily armed and armored. They followed a muddy road, following wheel ruts that had worn out the ground over many generations.
The procession rode upon majestic creatures that appeared as horses to human eyes, but not to hers. Familiarsis. These people were not the farmers and hunters who populated the land, but Arcadians. Arcadian Hunters, come to seek Lycean packs and wipe them out. She should have run home and warned her family so they could flee and hide deeper in the woods, but she lingered.
For days she followed them, leaving her family territory far behind, unable to tear her attention away from the call that came from the travelers. It took a full day to pinpoint the source among so many powerful energy auras. A young man at the head of the line emanated a brightness unlike any she had seen in her short life—and she was drawn to him.
He rode upon a white mare, a kelpie. The older man next to him rode a white stallion, a second kelpie. A mated pair. Droplets of water glistened on their manes and tails, giving away their true nature. Their eyes shone an unnatural shade of dark green, and they walked in perfect step, side by side.
A shiver rolled up Fiadh’s back and into her shoulders, setting her fur upright. Arcadians dealt in fire, not water. That was the realm of the Atlanteans. She, a Lycean, by nature clung to the forests and life itself. Arcadians were death in the flesh, an all consuming, never quenchable fire.
Curiosity overwhelmed the instinct to run.
Since the thaw, as the earth burst into bloom and green overtook the land, conquering what had been taken over the winter, she had wandered. Intolerable loneliness at the prospect of another spring without a husband drove her from home. Her entire family was in a state of love, each having someone to warm their bed, but her foolish husband had passed the spring before.
Twice she had lost a husband and while she might find a new one during a summer or fall gathering, it did nothing for her now. Less than three cows away was a powerful match, one that made her first two pale in comparison.
And that was why she followed.
He was an enticement, drawing her to him. There was no ignoring the pull, even with the danger he presented. Somehow, she would find a way to meet him, to see if he was as vile as she had been told Arcadians were.
Fiadh growled in dismay as the road arced away from the edge of the forest, cutting through a field. Ash and smoke floated on the air, coming from a smoldering scar in the land. The remnants of a town rose into the distance. Is that where they’re going? Doesn’t look welcoming.
She slunk around the roots of an massive oak tree and paused, a paw lifted in the air. The stench of burning wood stung her sensitive nose. Masculine scents mingled in the area as though a crowd had stood beneath the oak. A crowd of men.
Nothing in the woods moved. No birds sang. No deer foraged. There weren’t even any squirrels. Fiadh swiveled her ears, remaining still. Her skin crawled, the fur on her back rising higher.
Paw prints mingled with bare human feet in the soft ground. Wolves would leave their scent, but Lyceans, even though they looked like wolves, smelled like any other human. The fur on her back settled. Whoever they were, they were gone now.
Putting together the burned town, Hunters, and a pack of Lyceans was simple. The pack and the humans were fighting and whatever had happened led to retaliation on the town. Hunters had been called to deal with the Lyceans–werewolves to the locals. The Lyceans burned the town and would then run and hide, because they were stupid.
“Idiots,” whispered Fiadh, dropping into a hollow beneath the tree to investigate the scents further. Her family would have relocated before such a thing happened. Killing humans was unnecessary and always brought Hunters.
I should leave. They will settle in and start hunting tomorrow.
She sat beneath the tree, using a hind leg to scratch her ear. Even as she sat with her back to the Hunters, a tug pulled on her being. This one was special.
Men were the same, human or Arcane, Lycean or Arcadian. They were distracted by pretty women and it would allow her a moment to get close. He would never know what she was unless she told him. She dropped to her chest, stretching her paws out before her.
They aren’t going anywhere and this is as good of a place to rest as any. She yawned, digging her toes into the earth. I’ll be able to get close tonight.
Fiadh fell into a shallow sleep, a bird alighting on a limb overhead. It broke into song and further away, more creatures stirred in the woods. Animals had a way of sensing who the real predators were, and she napped peacefully, dreaming of meeting the faceless man and enticing him to run away with her—far, far away from whatever he called life.