The Wolves of Promeneur Castle

Section I

Tearlach De'loup Promeneur left with his two eldest sons Absolon and Chayne at midnight, and did not return until well after sunrise.

Philippe De'loup Promeneur; the third son, and almost twenty-one, knew well what they were doing, and as the third son, a position to which had plagued him all of his life he longed desperately to go along, even knowing the full extent of the deeds that would be done on this night and the terrible consequences that would render them so in the end. From another room in his father's castle, far away and blocked by many walls of stone and mortar he heard the weeping and cries of his sister Courtney. He heard the horrible bangs of her clenched fists hitting the locked door that kept her away from stopping her father and brothers, and in a way, though she was nearly on the other side of the castle, he could feel the ache and pain of her wrists, and he could see the blood that must be falling from the cut and scrape of the wood that she pounded against. He looked down at his own hands, feeling his own bones ache for hers, and for a fleeting second he could see red blood pour from his knuckles and his wrists. He looked away, don't be ridiculous, he commanded himself. He tilted his head back toward the window and watched as his father and brothers disappeared into the thick woods on the other side of the compound.

The wind was chilled, and he felt it prick at his skin as he turned his back and sat down again on his bed, and pulling up the book that he had dropped when he had first heard the screaming. He nimbly paced through the pages until he found the one that he had been on and began to read again.

That was when he heard it...

A howl so strange and beautiful to him that he bolted upright, dropping his book again and wasting no time in running to the window again.

It was a wolf, the lead wolf of the pack from the hills. Philippe squinted his eyes to the tree line of the forest where his father and brothers had just entered. The night was very dark and the glow of the torch lights that his father and brothers carried out was hidden from his sight. Oh, if only he had seen that fire, nothing would have stopped him from running out after them, joining them on their devils work tonight and hearing that beautiful lullaby of the wolf so near to him. But he did not see the glow, and he knew that going out now would be useless. He would get lost and wander the woods or the neighboring lands, haunted by the wolves call and never able to find the source of them - it was only his father and brother's that were well skilled in that kind of tracking. -

Philippe waited, anxious and anticipating, but everything was quiet. All the noise in the castle seemed to have died with the wolf's cry, including Courtney's weeping and cries. She knew, just like everyone else, what the cry meant, and she, like everyone else recognized what would happen on this night.

Death...

There was an order in the De'loup Promeneur household that all of the children abided by, even Courtney, who's many sobs had now made her hoarse from the hours that she wept and as the night went on was now silent. "Never turn your back on our heritage or power!" That was how Tearlach, the head and leader of the family always put it, but in his words and the way that he said them to you made you understand if he deemed you worthy to know most of them or not. Tearlach was full of secrets, secrets to be shared and secrets to be denied but only one person knew all of those secrets and she herself was so deranged that you couldn't establish truth or fiction from her anymore. She was Berangaria De'loup Promeneur, wife of Tearlach and mother to all of his legitimate children, she was also his younger sister. However, now she was not sister, her first role to Tearlach, or wife, her second, or even mother, her third, now all she is, is the insane prisoner in the tower, clinging to whatever life she had left with the youngest of the De'loup Promeneur children, a girl named Kadienne who had been in Berangaria's womb when the sickness of the mind came on her and since it occurred while she was with child, the baby inside her had been inflicted with the disease as well, thus sealing her fate to grow up and die up in the castle with her mother. Philippe had only seen his youngest sister once, after his mother escaped from the tower and made it all the way to the great hall clinging to the tiny baby that even after birth Tearlach refused to recognize as his own. That night, and Berangaria's escape, had been years ago now and he had seen neither mother nor child since.

The long hours of night dragged on and not a sound could be heard outside or inside the castle. No animal, and no member of the De'loup Promeneur family would stir on this night. Philippe knew and understood this as he once again checked his dangling pocket watch that rested in his vest and was covered up by a navy blue waist coat. His father and brother's departure, and the wolf cry had happened exactly one hour ago.

The night grew darker and the book in Philippe's hands was wet from the warmth of the hands which held it, the pages became blurred and unfocused as he tried to concentrate, but all that he could see or understand was the cry of the wolf and how near he had been to it, how close it had been, had he just reached out. Had he gone with his father he would know the power of the wolf, instead of just hearing it from within the Castle's walls. Philippe's breathing became labored and harsh, the rattle of breath from his lungs was the only sound, he was sure, that could be heard for miles.

Philippe closed his eyes as if to sleep, his face tilted against the wall, his book dropping in his hands. A dream was just in his reach, behind his eyes and on his lips when he heard the cry again, and this time it was followed by another, and then another. In his mind Philippe could see it, dozens of wolves tilting their heads back and howling, obeying the command of the De'loup Promeneur. Perspiration dripped from Philippe's forehead as the cries echoed into the castle, startling every living soul to the depths of their being. "It has begun!" He heard himself say, though barley in a whisper. He heard it from others in the house as well.

Philippe's younger brother Emilo De'loup Promeneur as he stirred from a night filled with dreams, his fourteen-year-old form could hear the wolves cries even in his dreams and even in his restful state he himself shouted: "It has begun!"

"It has begun!" His mother, still locked in the tower shouted, her voice carrying over the hills as though she herself were a wolf crying out to Tearlach. Philippe saw her in his mind for only a second and he could see the face of his sister Kadienne, no more than six; whisper the words as well, coming out of the sleep that she had been in before the cries, and untangling herself from her mothers arms she ran to the open window of the tower and with the cold wind whisking her golden curls around from her face, she, with the voice of a woman shouted to the hidden stars who were fearful on this night.

"It has begun!"

Through tear filled eyes Courtney said it as well, and for a moment as he saw her in his mind Philippe was taken aback at how alike she resembled Kadienne, this sister whom she herself had never seen. "It has begun!" Were her words but she also said, her voice practically gone from her: "Protect him from the evil that will find him on this night!"

With her words Philippe had ended the vision, his eyes were hard and dry behind skin and he longed to find the comfort of sleep but it was not long until his eyes rolled back and new and more important sights were given to him through vision. He saw the neighboring town of Afton; its many lights all burned out except one, in a tiny room, on the street level of a cheap boarding house. The room was bare with just a simple wooden desk piled high with papers, a chair sitting beside the window and a bed to which a young man sat on, his name was Tyeis Barrett, a stranger that Philippe only recognized from church and other outings around the town. In his hands was a pocket sized portrait of Philippe's sister Courtney, the detail of his sisters features was striking and he easily recognized her beyond the well-blended oils. Tyeis sat unaware of what was about to happen, but Philippe, miles away, and only seeing this in his mind could hear the wolves calls from the woods, and he could feel their bulky paws hitting the cobble stone road again and again until Philippe's very skull was shaking from the violence of so many wolves running. He could hear their breathing, he felt their tired lungs fill with air and then deplete again only to refill and move on. "Close the window!" Philippe wanted to say, or "Leave the room before its too late!" But he could do none of that, he wasn't even in the town, and if he spoke it would only be in his bedroom at Promeneur Castle.

From the street the wolf jumped in through Tyeis' window. It hit nothing and disturbed little in the room as it climbed onto the bed so fast that Tyeis didn't even have time to realize what had happened. The wolf stood on top of Tyeis, its front paws holding down Tyeis arms and his back paws on top of his legs. Philippe watched as Tyeis clutched the picture of Courtney tightly in one of his pinned hands, a movement that sent the wolf into a tailspin. The animal growled and snarled until large drops of saliva fell from its tight mouth and dripped onto Tyeis shirt. Tyeis wanted to cry out, but he couldn't look away from the wolfs eyes, they were hypnotizing him into submission and silence, keeping them locked together so that the idea of screaming out for help was strange and made no sense to the poor man. The wolf waited only a second longer, then, with his razor teeth exposed, he slashed into Tyeis. Going first for the head, clawing and biting into his jaw until he had no way of crying out and then gouging out the eyes. Then the beast moved to the chest were he began to eat, fresh meat was a prize for an animal from the hills and Philippe, though disgusted by watching, realized that, by the way the beast tore into Tyeis.

Philippe looked away, he wanted to see no more. He began to see the tiny room in the cheap boarding house disappear and his own room at the Promeneur Castle reappear into his line of sight. He was almost out of the vision when he heard a strange sound from back inside the tiny room he had left behind, and turning back he saw blood spurt out of Tyeis mouth, as though he were trying to speak through his many wounds and injuries, while trying to grasp at a life that only moments before had seemed so full and long. With one last spatter of blood from his lips the dying man uttered "Court," then took in a blood filled breath and finished with "ney." The wolf quickly raised its paw again and with one final swipe at the mans head, killing Tyeis, and then the beast went back to its meal.

The morning was sweet and natural to Philippe's eyes as he rose from the few hours of sleep that the night had afforded him. The sky was a delicate white that promised only rain in the afternoon but for now was only crisp and clean. Everything was fine and normal until he remembered the night before. Philippe swallowed hard against his dry throat. Father had been right in what he did, Philippe thought, wanting more to tell his father that, and please him, rather than really believing it, though his methods were rather harsh. Though Philippe had no idea of the extent of Courtney's affair with Tyeis Barrett, he knew well enough to know that she should have been doing no such thing. Courtney was barely sixteen, and though mature and well natured for her age, she should not be opening her heart to the first boy that she sees, or that has a mind to tell her that he loves her. She will move on, he told himself, this was simply a crush and father had to destroy it as best he could for her own safety and the safety of the family. Philippe had no doubt that his father had the best interests of the family at hand with what he did in every aspect, though still his reasoning and manner were sometimes elusive to his children.

"Have you heard the news, Sir?" One of the new servants inquired as the De'loup Promeneur, including a silent Courtney, sat down to breakfast in the great hall. This new girl was Irish, and Philippe could barley understand her through her thick accent.

"News, what news?" Tearlach asked, sitting back in his chair and stroking the head of his large dog named Mars, who sat beside his master diligently.

"Well, Sir," the servant began, "There's been a murder in the town last night."

"A murder," Tearlach echoed, "No, I had not heard."

Courtney dropped her knife against the china plate and made such a burst that everyone at the table turned to her. She said nothing, but her eyes were fiery and staring only at her father.

"Is something wrong, Mon Chéri?" Tearlach inquired. To anyone outside of the family there would be no doubt of his innocence in all of this. His eyes were wide and his voice was attentive to any troubles that she might be having. Courtney, who being the oldest and only girl in the family that was not locked in the tower, sat at the head of the long table opposite her father. Philippe watched as her father again said: "Mon Chéri?" Courtney's lip quiver as their father cooed his pet name for her against his lying lips. Tears filled Courtney's eyes but she said nothing, she just sat and stared and allowed the alarming silence and awkwardness of all of this fill her and her family and the servants around her. Courtney grasped her fingers up and folded her hand around a gold locket that hung around her neck like a talisman, it gleamed in the candlelight and Philippe realized that he had never seen it before. Had her lover Tyeis Barrett given it to her? Was she wearing it now to defy her father? Courtney held the locket as though it were regenerating her strength and saving her from her father's questioning stare. Finally she lowered her eyes, and with one of her hands still over the necklace she stood up from her seat, one of the servants scurried over to help her with her chair, but he was too late, and Philippe could tell by the look on the servants face that he expected to be punished from being too late to help the young Lady Courtney from her seat. With one last look at her father, and her brothers, who surrounded her at the table, two of which had helped to kill Tyeis, and the other two unwilling to help her, she lowered her eyes again and began to walk away from the table and out of the room, turning back only once. What Philippe saw in her eyes startled him, he hadn't seen so much pain in her expression since their father had sent their mother to the tower and she, just a little girl then, was left alone with a father and a handful of brothers to please.