The anxiety of kalix the.., p.1
The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf, p.1Martin Millar
THE ANXIETY OF
KALIX THE WEREWOLF
Copyright © 2014 by Martin Millar
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
SOFT SKULL PRESS
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THE ANXIETY OF
KALIX THE WEREWOLF
Eighteen years in the past.
Markus MacRinnalch was used to being treated with respect. As the son of the Thane, he was an important figure in the werewolf clan, and he was popular at the castle. Women in particular were always fond of him.
Apart from Dominil, thought Markus. For a nine-year-old, she’s certainly mastered the art of withering contempt.
His young cousin regarded him with scorn. “Don’t you know anything?” she said. “I’m not an albino. I’m leucistic. It’s a completely different condition.”
“All right,” said Markus, raising his voice against the wind. “You’re leucistic. Now could you put some clothes on and get back to the castle?”
Dominil, standing in her underwear, in a snowdrift that reached up to her waist, showed no inclination of putting her clothes on.
“It’s really a foolish mistake,” she continued as the snow fell. “Albinism is a result of the reduction of melanin only. Leucism refers to the absence of all pigments. Hence my white hair and pale skin. But if I were an albino I’d have pink eyes. Clearly, my eyes are not pink. They’re dark. Eye pigmentation derives from a different source.”
Faced by this barrage of biology, Markus struggled for an answer. He attempted to steer the conversation away from Dominil’s unusual genetic makeup.
“Why are you standing in the snow in your underwear?”
Dominil’s long white hair perfectly matched the snowflakes that were settling all over her; her skin was hardly any darker.
“To see how it affects me.”
“It has very little effect.”<
Markus shook his head. The whole MacRinnalch Clan already knew that cousin Dominil was an odd character, and this only served as further evidence. He felt himself starting to shiver but stopped it by an effort of will, not wanting to show weakness in front of the nine-year-old werewolf who was apparently determined to prove that she was unaffected by the elements.
“Did he send you to look for me?” asked Dominil.
“No,” said Markus.
He thought he noticed the faintest trace of disappointment on Dominil’s features, but it vanished immediately.
“Then why are you out here, Markus MacRinnalch?”
“To get away from the childbirth. There are so many werewolves fussing around the chamber.”
Dominil nodded somberly. “Is it really going to happen tonight?”
“So they say.”
“It’s most unusual,” said Dominil, thoughtfully. “Werewolves are hardly ever born on the full moon. Unfortunately the clan doesn’t keep proper statistics.”
“I don’t think we need statistics,” said Markus. “Everyone knows how rare it is.”
MacRinnalch children were almost always born in their human form. No one could remember the last time a child had arrived when the moon was full and actually been born in a werewolf shape. According to Doctor Angus, it was going to happen tonight.
“We should keep proper statistics,” insisted Dominil. “I’ve told Clan Secretary Rainal time and again but he never listens.”
Not wishing to be sidetracked by Dominil’s peculiar obsessions, Markus tried encouraging her to return to the castle.
“Everyone in the castle is waiting to see the new cub. There will be a party when she’s born.”
Dominil was clearly unimpressed by the prospect of a party. Markus began to feel frustrated. The MacRinnalch werewolves were famously hardy, well used to the harsh rigors of the Scottish Highlands. That didn’t mean they wanted their children to stand around nearly naked in the snow.
“Wouldn’t you like to see the baby when it arrives? If it’s really going to be born as a werewolf, you won’t see that again for a long time.”
Dominil considered this. “Perhaps I should observe it,” she conceded. “I’ll come back to the castle after the moon’s risen and I’ve made the change.”
Tonight, on the full moon, every MacRinnalch in the castle and surrounding lands would take on their werewolf shape. It was a welcome event. The clan could always feel their health and power being boosted by the moon.
“Why not come back now?”
Dominil gave Markus another withering look, something that, for someone so young, she seemed remarkably good at.
“I need to compare my resilience before making the change to my resilience afterward.”
Markus was unable to prevent himself from shivering. The snow was coming down harder and the freezing wind was gathering strength.
“It’s part of my regime,” declared Dominil. “I’m charting my results on the computer I’m constructing.”
Once again, Markus experienced the uncomfortable feeling of inferiority that could only be brought on by talking to Dominil. He wearied of the conversation. If the clan wanted Dominil to get out of the freezing cold they could fetch her themselves. He nodded stiffly to his young cousin, drew his long coat around him, and departed. As he marched back to the castle, his boots made deep imprints in the new snow.
Dominil wondered briefly why Markus had been concerned. She was in no danger. Her recent experiments had demonstrated quite clearly that she could stand in the snow for hours without coming to harm. Dominil didn’t enjoy the freezing cold but was prepared to put up with it, both as a means of improving her self-discipline and as an interesting scientific observation.
She waited till night fell. When the moon rose, full and low in the sky, the change came upon her swiftly. There was no notable reaction on her part. One moment she was a human girl, the next she was a white werewolf, standing on two legs in the deep snow. Dominil made a brief entry in her notebook, then remained where she was, observing the differences she could feel.
As a werewolf, I’m almost impervious to the weather, she thought. The wind and snow can’t penetrate my coat at all.
The snowdrift was now several feet deep, backed up against a row of tall ash trees. Dominil sat down and looked at her fur against the snow. Both were pristine white.
“I could hide in the snow,” she mused. “No one could see me.”
An hour later, she made her way back to the castle. If Doctor Angus had been correct, which he normally was in werewolf matters, Verasa should have had her child by now. Dominil had many cousins and couldn’t raise much enthusiasm for the birth of another, but she did have some curiosity to see the child born in its werewolf shape. She entered the castle through the small post gate beside the portcullis. The tall werewolf at the gate barely acknowledged her. Dominil had once lectured him on his gate duties, and since then he’d never liked her. He wasn’t the only adult werewolf in the castle with an aversion to the girl.
Dominil had expected to find signs of celebration, but the castle seemed quiet. There were lights on in the courtyard but no sounds of revelry from the chambers above. The Scottish werewolves were capable of raucous celebrations—on Hogmanay, the party generally got out of hand—but there didn’t seem to be any exuberance in the air tonight. A few werewolves emerged from one of the stone stairwells. Mostly their fur was a dark, shaggy brown, but one of the younger werewolves had a coat with a slightly redder hue. Dominil recognized her cousin Decembrius. She greeted him formally and asked if the child had been born yet.
Decembrius nodded. “We’ve been to see it. It’s funny, a baby werewolf. Are you going to . . .?” His voice trailed off as Dominil lost interest in the conversation and walked on by. She climbed the stairs that led to the Mistress of the Werewolves’s chambers. She passed a few other werewolves on the way. None of them seemed particularly happy. When she reached the west wing of the castle, the outer chamber had obviously been set up for some sort of celebration. The chamber was warm, with a great log fire burning in the grate, and there were bottles of the werewolves’ favorite whisky, the MacRinnalch malt, standing on the tables. Plates of venison lay half-eaten beside them. Dominil frowned. It was unlike her clan to leave a celebration before the whisky and venison were finished, particularly on the night of a full moon, when appetites were at their strongest.
She wondered if her father, Tupan, was around. There was no sign of him. Nor was there any sign of Thrix, the Mistress of the Werewolves’s daughter, or Sarapen, her eldest son. Dominil carried on toward the inner chamber where she met Doctor Angus. The doctor was a renowned physician, both as a human and a werewolf. The clan depended on his services, as did his human patients in Edinburgh. Angus was frowning, but he forced a smile when he saw the young white-haired werewolf.
“Hello, Dominil. Come to see the baby?”
Dominil nodded. “What’s it called?”
“Kalix. It’s a girl. But I’d wait a while if I were you.”
“Why?” asked Dominil.
At that moment, furious yells erupted from the private chamber beyond. The Mistress of the Werewolves was shouting, and so was the Thane. Their voices were clearly audible as they insulted each other. Dominil looked at Doctor Angus.
“How long has this been going on?”
“Ever since the birth.”
Dominil nodded. No wonder the celebrations had been muted. The Thane and his wife had been on bad terms for some time; the werewolves in Castle MacRinnalch had come to dread their violent arguments, and they tried to avoid them whenever possible. She made to enter the chamber. Angus put a hand out to restrain her.
“You should wait.”
“I came to see the baby,” she said, removing his hand. She slipped through the great wooden door into Verasa’s private chamber. Inside, Verasa was sitting on the edge of her bed, half shouting and half growling at her husba
The room, like Verasa’s chamber, was not as warm as the rooms outside. The Mistress of the Werewolves’s private chambers were large but not particularly luxurious. There was a small, old cot in the center of the room. Dominil looked in the cot and there was Kalix, a werewolf baby, tucked up under a green tartan blanket. It was indeed an unusual sight. A tiny little werewolf, only an hour old. She had thick dark fur, which made it difficult to make out her features. Dominil studied the baby objectively. She wondered, in her inquiring manner, if the unusual birth might have any long-term effects.
Dominil could still hear the thunderous argument going on in the next chamber. She looked down at the tiny werewolf, who twitched in her cot and whimpered a little.
“Welcome to the MacRinnalch Clan,” she said.
Moonglow considered organizing a surprise party for Kalix’s eighteenth birthday; Daniel persuaded her against it.
“Kalix doesn’t like surprises,” he pointed out. “We’re liable to end up with an angry werewolf looking for someone to bite.”
“Kalix has never bitten us!” protested Moonglow.
“She once knocked you across the room. You know she has a violent temper.”
“Her temper’s not as bad these days,” said Moonglow. “But I suppose you’re right. The surprise might upset her. We’ll give her plenty of warning so she can get used to the idea.”
As far as Daniel and Moonglow could gather, Kalix had never had any sort of birthday party before.
“It’s a pity her eighteenth birthday’s actually on the full moon,” said Moonglow. “She’ll have to make the change. So we can’t invite anyone who doesn’t already know she’s a werewolf.”
“I don’t think she has any other friends anyway,” said Daniel.
Moonglow looked slightly troubled. “I hoped she might make a few friends at college, but she doesn’t seem to want to.”
“Unlike Vex,” said Daniel. “She makes friends with everyone.”
Agrivex, the fourth occupant of the small flat in South London, attended the same remedial college as Kalix, who had never learned to read or write properly. Since meeting Daniel and Moonglow, the young werewolf’s skills had gradually improved. Vex’s literacy and numeracy were not that impressive either, but she had the excuse of English not being her first language. Vex was a Fire Elemental and had been born in a different dimension.
“Does Vex have a birthday?” asked Moonglow.
The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf by Martin Millar / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes