Prologue

 

“Callum! It’s time.”

“I don’t want to! He still has more growth to do.”

“If our boy is to live, we must. His aura is most intoxicating.” Asu was insistent.

Esa joined in, “And you know he can never live among us. He is a strong pup but he is a human pup. Maybe the purest human I’ve ever seen but still just a civilian. That powerful aura would draw dark creatures from across the world. His blood would be most tasty. Beyond the ranch, you would have to be right next to him for protection. At best it would be perpetual battle.”

*****

My name is Reynald. (Well, it is really Collin but I’m going by Reynald for now.) I’ve lived here at the St. Mary’s Orphanage for 5 years. You may not believe my story, but it is true.

I was born 15 years ago. My father, Callum, is a mighty Scotsman with pale orange hair, a huge beard, and skin as white as the snow. My mother, Nomsa, is of Zulu heritage, tall and graceful, blessed with skin of the darkest ebony. Five years ago they feared I could not survive and still live with them, so I was placed here with a large enough contribution to the orphanage, the church, and anyone else involved that I would never be abused or feel needy.

*****

“I fear you are right.” Nomsa added. “My son is a brave boy. Yet I would keep him here at my side if I could.”

“Come now. What kind of life would that be? He must find his own pack. You know he will be alpha, no matter who joins him. He must find the female alpha. There will be pups to raise. You can be grandparents and great-grandparents and so on down the generations. And he will die, like an ordinary human, regardless of what you do. Would you keep him here in a glass jar, aware of the world but unable to explore it?” This was the wisdom of the Great Wolf Spirit, Esa.

“Aye,tis true. We have tried everything there is to do to join him to a being of power but his chakra is the stronger. It canna take.

“Then husband, let us do it quickly. If we delay I will not be able to go through with it. I will prepare the woad. You prepare our boy.”

*****

You see, my father was a vampire. A vampire is a human who has been joined with a blood demon. It is not a demon itself. Over time, the demon’s traits begin to express themselves in the human’s body. His already considerable strength was doubled. His already pale skin became extraordinarily sensitive to the light, a supernatural case of xeroderma pigmentosum. Unlike the human condition, this is because he is merged with a demon that indeed would explode into flames in sunlight if unprotected by a human body. He had to wear full body coverage in daylight or suffer excruciating burns. They healed of course but still hurt like hell.

The demon wants blood. The human says with absolute certainty that he will kill himself and the demon if the demon ever drinks a drop of human blood. They compromise and decide to operate a family farm/ranch with livestock and a thousand acres. The demon gets its blood, my father gets his beloved pork chops. They soon became best of friends. You see, the demon cannot take over and my father cannot expel it. They had no choice.

The demon does not wish to die. It is within its power to repair any damage to my father very quickly. He does not have to age and could even grow younger if he chose. This comes in handy. One can move into a community as a young man, grow old, and disappear to be assumed dead. Repeat process. He is still a comparative youngster in vampire terms having not yet cleared a century.

*****

Her heart ached. This was the child of her womb, of her breast’s milk. A decade of injuries to be kissed, of bedtime stories told, of lullabies sung, and childish wonder at the smallest of things. Of crawling in bed between her and her husband when the nightmares and terrors struck.

It was the nightmares that weighed heavily upon her and Callum’s heart and made such a choice even thinkable. The dreams were real. Some of the demons in them could even be identified. They awaited him. Yet it would be wrong and eventually impossible to confine the child to their domain. Since he could not be joined, he must find his life’s fulfillment as a normal human – a civilian. Both parents had known this moment was coming since neither Asu nor Esa had been able to infect him.

“It is time, son. The ritual must be done. We love you and that is why it must be done.” Callum’s voice broke with the emotion behind the words. For years he and Nomsa had gently tried to prepare him for it. Asu had been nagging about it for months. And now that puberty was just beginning, it was the very last chance they had to save him. Testosterone was starting to flow.

*****

You could kill my father if you injured him so severely he bled out in seconds or crushed his head, but with the demon augmenting his speed, strength, and reaction time that would be unlikely. The demon gave other powers as well. The power to cloud minds. The night vision of an owl and a bear’s power and speed. The power to command creatures with significant brains. Insects are not on the list but birds and mammals are. One time as an experiment he was even able to take control of an octopus at the aquarium.

All those things you hear about turning into bats, fearing crosses, holy water, and garlic, and needing to be invited in? Sleeping in coffins all day? Silver bullets? Nonsense. All very useful disinformation spread by vampires and others thru the ages. A stake thru the heart would kill anything, so would decapitation or a bullet to the brain.

My mother… Almost 6 ft. tall but slender – and more graceful than any ballerina. She moves with superhuman agility and endurance, running from sunup to sunset almost nonstop. She is a lycanthrope, also known as a skinwalker, another not-so-mythical creature that passes through the ages untouched by time.

*****

The special bath of woad had been drawn. The boy had willingly allowed himself to be submerged and scrubbed, repeatedly, until every square inch of his body was dyed. Then, at the center of a pentagram within a circle, stood an athletic boychild of glowing blue. On one side of him a tall and massively muscled man with pale skin, orange hair and a mighty beard. On the other a tall, slender woman of darkest ivory skin shining like polished glass and having muscles of steel. All were skyclad as the ritual demanded.

They held the boy’s hands as the father and mother chanted the incantations dictated to them by their cohabitants, verses spoken in the language of the blood demon and the elder wolf spirit.

As the magic sounds were repeated over and over, the star and the circle rose around them to form two concentric columnar shapes spiraling upward to the boy’s full height and then snapped to him as if he had been inside a balloon that suddenly deflated. The sacred woad turned to fine ash and the boy collapsed into his parents waiting arms.

*****

My father and mother fell in love with each other instantly, for you see, my mother cohabited with the Great Wolf Spirit. The Great Wolf Spirit is, of course, mightier than a mere demon but she also sensed the greatness of his heart. The very first thing she did for him was to fix that annoying sensitivity to sunlight, something that baffled the demon.

A demon may die but a spirit is forever. So my mother cannot ever truly die either. Even if you were to detonate a hydrogen bomb right on top of her, the Great Wolf Spirit would reform in the spiritual plane and take my mother’s spirit with it. She would become a goddess in her own right. If my father were to die, my mother would take his spirit – as well as the demon – to the spiritual plane as well.

My mother keeps the wolf spirit quiet and calm by singing to it. I remember her lovely Zulu soprano would also relax my father and I as well. Wolves are creatures of the pack. The puppies are the most important thing in a pack’s existence. Even when she is quiescent, I’m sure the Wolf Spirit is watching over me even though I am far beyond my mother’s senses.

Wolves do not stay quiescent forever. They must hunt. They need to kill. Another good reason for a family farm with a lot of acreage. Mother transforms into the most astonishingly beautiful black wolf. One of the sheep is selected. The pack forms, father, mother, and later me. Since father and I can’t transform into anything, she takes the lead while I tag along behind. We harry the sheep and chase them about until the selected victim is isolated. Mother brings it down and Father delivers the killing blow with his fist. The demon is ecstatic, the Wolf Spirit is satiated and mom and dad set about processing the animal. Blood for the demon and mutton for everyone else.

Another day perhaps a pig – or a steer. Occasionally one of the deer who frequent our land.

*****

“It had to be.” intoned Asu. “The magic is absorbed thru his skin and will penetrate his basal cells. His brilliant chakra will be forever shaded and draw no particular supernatural attention.”

“And his memory is being rewritten as he sleeps”, added Esa. “Any memory attached to either of you will be gone, as will be his nightmares. Muscle memory will be retained and some language and math skills. He will have to start over but should learn whet he needs quickly.

“Only the highest level spells will work with absolute certainty on such a subject. You could not have casually wiped this one’s mind.”

“He will be unconscious for days while the magic works”, spoke the blood demon.

Goodbye, son!” Cullen choked on his words.

“Asu and Esa will both be watching over you from a very great distance, child. Fare thee well.” Beyond that Nomsa could only sob.

*****

All canids defer to my mother. The dog we kept for a pet, the fox in the field, the wild dogs and jackals of Africa, even the timber wolves of the far north, they defer to her. All wild animals show her respect – for the Great Wolf Spirit is an embodiment of pure nature – but canids especially.

At best, my father can ask animals to do something and hope they don’t argue too much. Sometimes he will give suggestions to the creatures we hunt to make it more difficult for my mother. She likes a challenge.

How my father became bonded with a minor demon and how my mother’s body cohabits both the daughter of the Zulu and a Native American spirit is a story for another day.

Being the child of supernatural beings is not an easy thing. I am really the child of two humans. Spirits and demons have no DNA nor can they have children of any sort. It is the price for immortality. What they can do is affect the growth conditions in the womb. Perfect nutrition, perfect oxygenation. They can catch cells with damaged DNA – and repair them and that includes sperm and ovum. I was born a perfect child and raised in an environment where I was physically and psychologically pushed to my limits – in a very loving way.

They tried to make me supernatural too. It didn’t work. The demon and the spirit did their jobs too well. My biology had no chinks to take advantage of. I’d been exposed to supernatural infectious agents so long my immune system rendered me impervious to such things.

*****

The plan had already been laid well in advance. He was to be turned over to one of the more progressive orphanages.

Intermediaries with a powerful interest in staying out of legal sight had been annonymously contacted, then more legal intermediaries beyond them had contacted the orphanage. Money was transferred untraceably using techniques typically restricted to organized crime or espionage and then transferred again, then guaranteed untraceable by a slight memory wipe.

St. Mary’s had a reputation of successfully handling the mentally damaged and the incorrigable along with the dirty poor that nobody else wanted. It’s techniques based on love, patience, and faith were deemed highly successful in bringing out the potential in every child, regardless of impairment or social stratum.

However, it had a failing. It’s residents didn’t have a lot of resources. They were, after all, orphans. Few in the private sector were willing to pay to support such activity, the government wouldn’t subsidize it beyond the basic benefits its residents were entitled too. Then that money often disappeared into the pockets of lawyers, along with the meager estates of the residents.

Even the church, it seems, had higher priorities than orphanages. St. Mary’s was barely staying afloat.

*****

I’ll probably live a long and healthy life. Without effort, I’m an outstanding athlete and a top grade getter. Girls love me. Even a few guys. (And one or two of the Sisters.) I hate no one and nobody is my enemy. Even so, I learned to fight from the best with everything from fists to machine guns. (Or at least as much as a ten-year-old could.) I’ll do okay.

But life in the supernatural culture would still have been my undoing. I’ll never have half my father’s strength nor a quarter of my mother’s endurance, nor his eyes, nor her hearing and smell. I heal as quickly as any human could but it is nothing compared to being to reattach a severed arm by holding it in place or to excrete a bullet and heal the wound in minutes.

The world of the supernatural is a tough place. Most men can’t face down their demons and then befriend them. Most women cannot lull a spirit to sleep with their voice. Death and killing were a hobby for many possessed creatures and a tasty morsel like me would be irresistible. I could be taken and used for ransom or extortion or even experimentation. I would never be able to stand up to that and my spirit couldn’t immediately go to the spirit plane if I died. Yet I couldn’t stay within the boundaries of the farm forever.

One fateful day they said goodbye. My father wept like a baby and couldn’t stop blowing his nose. My mother’s eyes were large and worried. I was told I would be going on a long journey to a different and better kind of life. I was told to be strong for the weak and weak for the strong, whatever the hell that meant. They painted me from head to toe in woad. Then my mother told me her spirit’s name: it was Esa. My father told me his: it was Asu. This is the greatest show of love and act of trust a supernatural can do. Knowing one’s spirit name could give one great power over them.

I was confused but didn’t try to fight. My mother wove a magical ring around me which rose up into a shinning spiraling vortex. Then both of them cast the deepest and most powerful memory spells available to them. I fell asleep.

*****

It was assumed that Reynald, the new name he’d been given, would need special care. After all, a lot of who he had been was now gone. He’d be confused, a boy without most of his past.

Reynald arrived in St Mary’s under the cover story that he’d been the illegitimate son of a very rich man and had been brain-damaged in a terrible accident. The parents had also died, leaving Reynald the impaired heir to a very large estate.

They said the currently sleeping boy didn’t remember his father or mother and probably many other things and it would be up to St. Mary’s to bring out his potential while deep financial secrecy protected the child from financial predators. It was all to preserve the estate of the child for when he became an adult. It was up to St. Mary’s to give him the tools to handle it from there on. The deal also included a very large stipend for the ongoing maintenance staffing and expansion of the orphanage.

*****

When I woke up I was at St. Mary’s. I’d been washed off and put to bed. A school uniform lay neatly folded on a small table and several other copies hung in a closet. However, my memory was still intact.

Whaddaya know? I guess I’m immune to spells too.

I shucked off the gown I’d been dressed in. I suppose I’d have to start wearing clothing, at least in public. When you live with a blood demon and a wolf spirit, skyclad was the rule at home. (Unless we had civilian guests…)

I walked to the window overlooking the yard and opened it. It was busy with boys and girls of all ages, playing soccer, tag, or just walking around and talking. Scents, some intoxicating, some disgusting and some merely banal wafted my way. My experience with civilians, as we called them was limited. I’d met the children of the Shoshone and the ranchers where we’d made our last home in America so I knew what to expect in general terms.

I decided then and there that when I grew strong enough, I would seek out my parents, supernaturals be damned. Always did have a streak of disobedience in me.

Now my story really beings.