Curse of the wolf girl, p.1
Curse of the Wolf Girl, p.1Martin Millar
Curse of the Wolf Girl
a Cursor publishing community
Not all werewolves are unhappy. Most of the MacRinnalch werewolf clan live quite contentedly at Castle MacRinnalch, hidden away safely in the Scottish Highlands. They’ve lived there for centuries, largely untroubled by the outside world.
But some werewolves are unhappy. Kalix, for instance. Her father was head of the clan, but after his violent death she was forced to flee the castle. She headed south to London, and there she existed for several years as a lonely teenage werewolf. Kalix pined for her lover Gawain and wondered if she’d ever see him again.
Life did improve when she met a pair of friendly students, Daniel and Moonglow, but Kalix still had problems. Her own clan was pursuing her, and the werewolf hunters were after her too. It all led to a terrible confrontation. Kalix survived, though many werewolves didn’t.
Afterwards she couldn’t go home, so she stayed on in London. Kalix MacRinnalch still wasn’t a happy werewolf, but she hoped her life might become more peaceful for a while.
“I think I might cry,” said Moonglow.
“Kalix is going to school.”
Daniel looked puzzled. “Why would that make you cry?”
“First day at school can be very traumatic. What if her teachers are horrible? What if someone bullies her?”
“Kalix is a werewolf with superstrength and a history of violence. If anyone picks on her, she’ll rip their head off.”
“Well, that wouldn’t be a very good thing to happen, would it?” said Moonglow, alarmed at the prospect. She poured tea from her delicate black china teapot into her favorite black mug.
“Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to encourage her to go to college. We shouldn’t have pushed her into it. She’s too young to manage on her own.”
“Kalix is seventeen! That’s only two years younger than us. And again, as you said, she’s a werewolf with savage strength. Even in human form, she can throw people around. I really don’t think there’s any need to worry. Anyway, Vex will be with her.”
“That’s not very reassuring.”
“I think it is. I mean, one teenage werewolf and one teenage Fire Elemental on their way to remedial college to learn how to read and write…What can go wrong?”
“Everything if people discover they aren’t human. Kalix is very sensitive about her poor reading skills. What if she gets upset and starts tearing the place to pieces? What if Vex bursts into flames?”
“Kalix can’t change into a werewolf in daylight.” Daniel remained unconcerned. “And I don’t think Vex even knows how to burst into flames. Maybe a little orange glow when she gets excited, nothing more.”
They were interrupted by the noisy arrival of Kalix and Vex, who clattered down the stairs into the living room, each clutching a bag of books. Vex was in a state of particularly high excitement. Since her aunt, Queen Malveria, ruler of the Hiyasta Fire Elementals, had agreed to let her move into the attic of the small house in South London so that she might attend a human college and learn something—anything—she had been beside herself with anticipation. Vex had become increasingly bored in Malveria’s imperial palace and was now exhilarated at the prospect of spending time in the human dimension, in London, with continual access to clothes, gigs, clubs, and enjoyment.
The same couldn’t be said of Kalix MacRinnalch. She stood forlornly with her bag of books and looked very young, and rather small and nervous. Though the MacRinnalch werewolf clan took care to educate its children in Scotland, the peculiar circumstances of Kalix’s life meant that she had received almost no schooling. She was close to being both illiterate and innumerate, and she was keenly aware of it. Though renowned for her savagery in battle, the prospect of displaying her ignorance in a class full of strangers filled Kalix with dread.
Moonglow had tried to reassure her, in her kindly way. Despite her rather foreboding black attire and heavy dark makeup, Moonglow could be reassuring. She’d told Kalix it wasn’t all that unusual for a person to reach the age of seventeen and still be unable to read or write. It happened to a lot of people.
“You’ll fit in perfectly well. There will be plenty of others there who missed school. You know, with family problems. Or they might have been ill.”
“Or they might have been in prison,” added Daniel, cheerfully.
Moonglow glared at him.
“It’s no disgrace catching up on your education. You’ll have fun at college.”
Kalix was unconvinced. She would never have agreed to go were it not for the offer of money from her mother. Verasa MacRinnalch, the Mistress of the Werewolves, cared enough about her youngest daughter to support her, even though, like the rest of the family, she was estranged from Kalix. Kalix could not return to Castle MacRinnalch in Scotland. Through the intermediary of Thrix, Kalix’s older sister, Verasa had offered Kalix an allowance if she remained where she was in London and if she went to college. It was better than having her wander off again to live on the streets and sleep in warehouses.
Kalix sat at the table, head bowed, her hair hung down to her hips. She was still the skinniest girl Moonglow had ever seen. When they’d first encountered her, Kalix had been achingly thin, filthy, and ragged. Now, several months later, she was clean, better fed, and reasonably healthy. Though she still refused to look after herself properly, her inner werewolf vitality was starting to show.
Kalix sighed. If only she could have refused her mother’s offer. Unfortunately, she needed money. Moonglow and Daniel had looked after her for the past few months, providing her with plenty of raw meat and buying her what secondhand clothes they could afford, but she knew that couldn’t go on. The two young students weren’t wealthy, and she couldn’t live off of them forever. London was an expensive city, and there were bills to pay.
Then there was the matter of laudanum. Kalix still needed money for her addiction, shameful though it was. Really, the offer of an allowance from her mother solved many of her problems. If only she didn’t have to go to college and let everyone know how stupid she was.
Vex bounded over to the table.
“Isn’t it fantastic? I never thought Aunt Malvie would allow it, but here I am, all ready to learn stuff! I have new colored pencils!” She glanced at her feet. “I could have done with new boots though. You might have thought she’d pay up for a new pair. It’s a scandal really, sending me to college in old boots.”
There was a violent flash of orange light in the small living room. Queen Malveria had arrived.
“The only scandal, dismal niece, is that you will soon inflict your dreadful self on an unsuspecting group of tutors who will probably be driven to despair trying to force knowledge into your head. A task made harder, no doubt, by the preposterous jumble you call a hairstyle.”
Vex grinned. She was dark skinned, like all the Hiyasta, which made the severe bleaching of her hair all the more noticeable. It stood out from her head in great peroxide spikes, each one welded in place with assorted hair products. In Queen Malveria’s elegant palace, it made the young Elemental stand out like a beacon, and it was the sight of Vex strolling into her last elegant banquet with her hair in flaming spikes that had finally made the Fire Queen decide that it might not be such a bad idea to send her niece away for a while. Her loyal subjects deserved some respite from Vex’s sartorial outrages, which were starting to reflect badly on the queen. Malveria was renowned for her elegance. She was dressed by Thrix MacRinnalch, and Thrix MacRinnalch was second to no one as a fashion advisor.
Malveria glared at Vex with di
“What on earth is that T-shirt made of?”
“Plastic,” said Vex.
“Where did you obtain such a garment?”
“I made it from a garbage bag.”
“You amaze me,” replied the queen, acidly. “Even young Daniel here, well known for the scruffiness of his attire, would know better than to wear such a thing.”
“Thanks,” muttered Daniel, and he let his hair flop over his face, slightly embarrassed to be called scruffy by the elegant Malveria.
“Now Agrivex,” continued the queen, “attend my words carefully. For me to let you live in this world, even for a few days, costs me a great deal of power. So I trust you will make better efforts to behave properly than you have done up till now. The most brilliant of my Hiyasta scholars were driven to despair by your unparalleled stupidity. Do not let it be the same at this human college. If you let me down, I will personally throw you into the Great Volcano, a fate which you have deserved for many years.”
Malveria turned her eyes on Daniel and Moonglow.
“Once more, young humans, you have my thanks for accommodating Agrivex. Though she can only live with you for three days each week—”
“Maybe four,” interrupted Vex, eagerly.
“—possibly four, though I would rather not expand such power—I regard it a great favor that you have let her live here.”
Malveria paused then turned her eyes back on Vex and Kalix. “So,” she declared imperiously, “are the pupils ready to begin learning?”
“I am so ready!” screamed Vex, and began jumping around the room.
All eyes turned towards Kalix, but the young werewolf made no reply. She looked down at her feet and wished she were anywhere else but on her way to college.
Princess Kabachetka was not happy. Though her status as most popular princess in the Hainusta nation was secure—with her hair a shade of golden blond unmatched by any other Fire Elemental and with her quite splendid clothes—she had recently suffered several disappointments. At the Sorceress Livia’s five hundredth birthday celebration, the princess had been eclipsed by Queen Malveria, ruler of the Hiyasta. In the fierce rivalry for the position of fashion leader, Queen Malveria had come out on top.
“And all,” mused the princess with some bitterness, “because that dreadful werewolf Thrix MacRinnalch designed her clothes. Without her, Queen Malveria would be exposed as the styleless fraud she really is.”
Thrix MacRinnalch wasn’t the only werewolf to arouse the princess’s ire. Perhaps unwisely, she’d recently taken an interest in the affairs of the MacRinnalch werewolf clan. The princess had found herself deeply involved in the feud over their leadership, supporting the great werewolf Sarapen and developing something of a passion for him. But Sarapen had been defeated, thanks to an assortment of werewolves who’d opposed him; notably Kalix MacRinnalch, her cousin Dominil, and, once more, Thrix, the Werewolf Enchantress. Not that this motley collection could have defeated Sarapen and the princess had it not been for the aid they’d received from Queen Malveria. Ever since, the princess had burned with anger against Malveria and her shabby assortment of werewolf companions.
The Empress Asaratanti, ruler of the realm, was surprised to receive an early-evening visit from her eldest daughter. At this hour, Princess Kabachetka would normally be busy in her chambers, dressing for her evening engagement. As far as the empress could recall, this process had never been interrupted. Asaratanti eyed her with some suspicion. If she had come to borrow money again, the empress would want a good reason. The princess did suffer from an unfortunate tendency to profligacy.
The empress’s throne room was bright and splendid, as befitted the ruler of the Hainusta Fire Elementals, and the deep red jewels on the empress’s throne reflected the bright, flickering light from the torches on the walls. Hainusta torches were particularly splendid, and they never went out.
“Empress Mother,” said the princess. “I’ve come to you for advice.”
The empress waited. If her daughter wasn’t here to borrow money, it could only be that she found herself involved in some fashion crisis. Possibly she was looking for a new designer.
“It concerns the werewolves,” said the princess, surprising her mother.
“Werewolves? What werewolves?”
The empress was puzzled. The Hainusta had little contact with the Earth these days, and almost none with the MacRinnalchs or any other werewolves.
“I need to punish them,” continued the princess.
“Punish them? For what?”
“For illegally attacking Sarapen and placing Markus MacRinnalch at the head of their clan.”
Empress Asaratanti could make nothing of this. The MacRinnalchs lived in Scotland, a small country on the planet Earth, a whole dimension away from the Fire Elementals. Why the princess should pay them the slightest attention was beyond the empress. “Why should I involve myself with a small subspecies of the race of humans? I have affairs of state to occupy my mind, and no time to waste on obscure groups of ill-bred creatures in different dimensions.”
“‘These werewolves’ actions have affected our dimension. They should be punished.”
“The only effect I’m aware of, dearest daughter, is that Queen Malveria now seems to be better dressed than you. Which is regrettable, as it reflects poorly on our people, but hardly enough reason for me to start breaching the dimensional walls.”
“I have suffered!” cried the princess, her voice rising in anguish, “and I want revenge! I appeal to you, Empress Mother, for help in taking this revenge.”
Queen Malveria transported herself to the apartment of Thrix MacRinnalch, Scottish werewolf and enchantress, currently residing in London. She composed herself before knocking.
“My dearest Thrix!”
“Malveria. Is there something wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong, Enchantress. Why do you ask?”
“You’ve got flames coming out of your fingers.” Thrix ushered Malveria inside before anyone appeared in the corridor. The Fire Queen knew how to blend in with the human realm, but there were times when her emotions got the better of her. Malveria had been known to destroy a new pair of shoes, scorching them with the force of her excitement. Not that Thrix could blame Malveria too much. She felt as much excitement over new shoes as the Fire Queen.
Malveria quickly extinguished the flames.
“I’m sorry. I’ve just seen Agrivex. One tries not to become upset, but really, she is an immense trial. Do you know she was actually wearing a plastic T-shirt?”
Thrix winced. It did sound bad.
“And then she proceeded to call me Aunt Malvie, which I particularly hate. It shows such disrespect. Also, it makes me feel old. Do you have a glass of wine?”
Thrix snapped her fingers, bringing a bottle and two glasses from the drinks cabinet.
“At least she’ll be out of your way for a while.”
Malveria nodded in agreement. “Her three days a week at this human college will be a blessed relief. One only wishes it could be longer. But much sorcery is required to allow a Fire Elemental to remain in this world, particularly one with so little natural power as my appalling niece. The foolish girl would wither and die without the spells of protection I’ve placed around her.”
The queen sipped her wine with some relish. “No doubt she will never study but will instead spend her time swarming around boys, musicians, and dubious market stalls. Disaster will ensue, I am certain.”
“Wasn’t the whole thing your idea?” asked Thrix.
“Yes,” admitted Malveria, “but I had to get her out of the palace somehow. I was driven to desperation by the hedgehog affair.”
“Agrivex had been wearing a T-shirt featuring a picture of a hedgehog, though I had forbidden her to do so, naturally.”
“Hedgehogs are foul and dangerous creatures, filthy and taboo in the land of the Hiyasta. Is it not the same here? No? Very strange. I would have thought that hatred of hedgehogs was universal. Agrivex’s T-shirt was a clear act of rebellion. What goes on in that girl’s mind is a mystery to me.”
“Perhaps what was going on was a desire for you to send her to college in London.”
“Quite possibly. While lacking intelligence, Agrivex is not without her share of devious cunning.”
Thrix had been the one responsible for finding a suitable college for Kalix and Vex. It wasn’t a task the enchantress had relished, given her aversion to her younger sister, but she’d felt obliged after the request from her mother, the Mistress of the Werewolves. Thrix had turned the task over to her assistant Ann, who’d come up with a range of likely establishments. There were plenty of places willing to teach remedial skills to slow learners, for a price. It had been only a matter of making sure that Kalix and Agrivex ended up somewhere reputable. The small college they’d settled on was associated with the university that Daniel and Moonglow attended, and that was reassuring. Thrix didn’t much care for Daniel or Moonglow, but she did admit they’d had a beneficial effect on Kalix.
Malveria picked up a copy of French Vogue. She couldn’t read French, but was very attracted by the shoes on the cover. “A pleasing shade of lilac. But I am already well equipped with lilac shoes for the coming season, am I not?”
“You are,” replied Thrix, who had successfully kept Malveria ahead of the trends for some time now.
Malveria looked pleased, though even the knowledge that she was well supplied with fashionable shoes could not entirely drive Agrivex from her mind. “It is strange. The Hiyasta used to persecute mankind. When men lived in caves, we would make war on them over the use of fire. Now I’m spending my gold sending my niece to a human college.” The Fire Queen frowned and shook her head. “My advisory council found it hard to understand, though they did appreciate that desperate measures were permissible in getting rid of Agrivex. Her hedgehog garments had already caused widespread offense. As had her mittens.”
Curse of the Wolf Girl by Martin Millar / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes