Authors: A. E. McCullough
The Coming of the Wolf
Tales of the Wolf – Book 1
By A.E. McCullough
This book is dedicated to the two women who ALWAYS believed in me. Unfortunately, one didn’t get to see my work published while the other stood by me during the long hours involved in following my dream.
To Mom: I did it! I love and miss you daily.
To my wife, Felicia: I did it!
Thanks for all your love and support.
I love you now and always.
Copyright © 2011 by Andrew McCullough
This book is a work of fiction. Names, character, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover Artwork by
First Edition: June 2011
Revised Edition: January 2012
Second Edition: January 2013
Novels by A.E. McCullough
Available on Amazon in print or eBook format
The Tales of the Wolf Series
The Coming of the Wolf (Book 1)
Enter the Wolf (Book 2)
Darkness Falls (Book 3)
Coming the spring of 2013
The Last Spartan Series
The Last Spartan: Different Paths
The Last Spartan: DJ’s Mission
The Last Spartan: The Great Hunt
Coming in the fall of 2013
Lost Lands: the Game
A different kind of fantasy novel.
Coming mid 2013
That was the one thought that drove the heavily cloaked figure through the forest. Barreling through bushes and shrubs, scrambling over roots and rocks, the figure moved with the grace of a deer but with a total lack of abandonment of a charging bull.
Run! It didn’t matter where, just keep moving!
A cold gust of wind blew through the evergreen forest causing the trees to sway with the wind. A large owl hooted its displeasure at the rocking of the tree, while two squirrels and a raccoon bolted from a small clearing as the running figure came into view. The heavy layer of pine needles which covered the forest floor shifted and stirred with the breeze and a few snowflakes floated lazily through the evergreen canopy overhead.
Leaping over a small bush, she hazarded a quick look over her shoulder into the darkness. She didn’t see any sign of pursuit but she didn’t dare slow down.
Suddenly her foot was hung on an unseen root and she was falling. Years of training took over as she tried to tuck into a ball and roll out of the fall. Unfortunately, her muscles were so fatigued from her flight that they wouldn’t respond quickly enough. Instead of making a gentle roll out of the fall, all she managed to do was land flat on her back.
An explosion of pain washed over her as all of the air was forced from her lungs. For several minutes, only the ragged sounds of her breathing betrayed that there was still life left in her. Grunting softly, she pushed herself into a sitting position. A blast of cold wind rushed through the small clearing blowing her long red hair in all directions.
“Damn it Tatianna! You’ve got to be more careful.”
Reaching up with her two delicate hands, she pulled her long mane back and loosely tied it in a knot. Her pointed ears poked through her silky strands as they danced in the breeze, marking her heritage as one of the elven folk. Glancing around at the forest, Tatianna noted that although it was dim with the evergreens blocking most of the sun’s light, it was not gloomy. Closing her eyes, she focused her attention on the sounds of the forest. She could hear the rustle of an owl overhead and the chatter of some squirrels off to her left. Satisfied that she was safe for the moment, Tatianna spoke softly to herself.
Her voice was soft and melodious. “Good! If the creatures of the forest are relaxed, then I can take a moment to rest.”
Tatianna smiled as the last golden rays of sunlight momentarily poked through the dark clouds overhead. Letting the sun’s warmth wash over her, she lifted her arms high above her head. With her eyes closed, she silently prayed to her goddess, Aurora the Morning Lady, the Mistress of the Sun. For a brief moment, she was at peace with herself and the world. She could feel the sun’s warmth spreading through her body, revitalizing her spirit.
The fading sunlight illuminated an intricate tattoo on the underside of her right forearm of a red eagle carrying a slightly curved sword with the words “Ve Et Animo” engraved on the blade; which in the ancient tongue of her people meant, 'By Strength and Courage.'
Opening her eyes, Tatianna watched the setting sun paint the evening sky a beautiful red. Unbidden, an old saying went through her mind and without realizing it she recited it like a magic charm.
“Red sky in morning, warriors take warning; red sky at night, a warrior’s delight.”
Giving a half-hearted snicker at the irony of that old adage, she had no reason to believe that saying would hold true tonight. As the sun passed behind the distant mountains to the west, the surrounding forest took on a more sinister aspect. However, the emerald in her tiara continued to glow dimly, comforting Tatianna with its light.
Sitting down heavily, Tatianna dropped her arms to her lap and lowered her head. A chill ran up her spine as the wind whipped around her and she pulled her cloak tightly around herself. After a moment she withdrew two items from her backpack, a true-silver axe and an ivory scroll tube.
Tatianna took a moment to study the axe. It was a beautiful but deadly work of art. Made entirely of true-silver, it had the burnish of silver but the strength of thrice-forged steel. But the true beauty of the axe didn’t rest there. Its grace lay in the simplicity of its design. It wasn’t flashy or ornate; it was simple, functional and straightforward just like the dwarves. At the base of the shaft was a large ruby set in a fist of true-silver while bold dwarven runes covered the razor sharp blade. The axe was not very large but it was extremely heavy.
Obviously designed for throwing, Tatianna hefted it with one hand and tested its balance. A slight frown crossed her face as she felt its weight settle in her hand. It almost felt as if the axe was filled with water. The weight seemed to flow to the handle, making it easy to hold. Even when she held it upside down, the weight still stayed at the pommel. This would make it a terrible throwing weapon. The weight needed to be at the blade for it to be any good for throwing.
Still puzzled but extremely curious, Tatianna took it through a practice throw. Not releasing the axe but going through the motion, she felt the weight flow from the pommel to the blade in one fluid motion.
“Yes, this is a throwing axe of superb craftsmanship. I bet I could throw this axe fifty yards, easily.”
Carefully setting it aside, Tatianna turned her attention to the ivory scroll tube that was yellowed with age. The two tarnished silver end-caps that sealed the encased scroll from the elements were decorated with ornate runes of ancient elvish. One was engraved with the elvish rune for truth while the other was of a cross with a loop on the top; the Ankh, the ancient symbol of Aurora.
For several moments, she traced the patterns made by the ancient symbols with her fingers.
“I wonder what this scroll really contains. Was it really worth our sacrifice?”
For a moment Tatianna turned her face toward the heavens, while the faint light from her tiara illuminated the surrounding trees. Taking a deep breath, she returned the ancient heirlooms to her backpack.
Lowering her head in her hands, her eyes welled up with tears as she rocked her body back and forth with a gentle motion as the slight sounds of her sobbing filled the night air. Weary to the core, the nighttime music of the forest, the hooting of owls and the steady chirping of the crickets, slowly enveloped her and lulled her to sleep.
A great howling split the night air. Bolting upright, she scolded herself. “Damn it, Tatianna, you shouldn't have fallen asleep. Now the pack is that much closer.”
Gathering her stuff, Tatianna sprinted off to the west as the howling grew louder and closer. Knowing that the pack had gotten her scent by now, she realized there was no way to outrun them. She knew that wolves are amongst the fastest runners in the wild. Another old adage ran through her mind. ‘The wolf is kept fed by its feet.’
Tatianna scanned the surrounding woods for a good defensible position. Nothing looked promising and she was just about to give up hope when the full moon broke through the clouds and illuminated the surrounding forest.
Noticing the pale moonlight glinting off something white on a nearby hilltop, she glanced up at the full moon. “Thank you Luna, for your gift of moonlight.”
Another chorus of howls echoed in the night air.
“Now I just wish you would call off your dogs.”
A few moments later she arrived at the bottom of a hill that seemed completely out of place in the surrounding forest. There were no trees growing on it, nor were there any flowers, weeds or bushes, just a thick layer of grass. The whole area radiated a very peaceful feeling.
Pausing briefly to wonder about the obvious magical properties of the hill, she glanced over her shoulder at the dark forest. A loud howl split the silence, the pack had probably reached the clearing where she had stopped earlier which meant they would catch up to her in minutes.
Tatianna clambered up the hill. Reaching the crest, she was confronted with nine pillars of white stone standing in a great circle about thirty feet across. The stones looked very old and majestic. In the pale moonlight, she couldn’t see if the stones had any carvings or writing on them. Hearing the wolves approach, she hurriedly scanned the ring of stones for the best tactical position.
In the center of the circle lay an altar of white stone that glowed slightly in the moonlight. It was not very big, being only about three feet tall and seven feet long but Tatianna could sense the magical energies that pulsed from the altar. They were the same peaceful feelings she felt at the bottom of the hill; only these were more intense. Tatianna almost felt safe within the ancient stones...almost.
Shrugging off her backpack, Tatianna retrieved the axe and placed her backpack at the base of the altar. Kneeling down, she muttered a quick prayer to her goddess Aurora and quickly added an open prayer to whichever god or goddess this shrine was dedicated.
Pulling off her once fine cloak, she threw it across her backpack. Her clothes, once a beautiful gold and blue silk tunic, were ruined. They were ripped and covered with mud and dried blood but underneath was a finely crafted vest of chainmail. Small scratches and cuts covered her arms, yet none looked serious.
Drawing her long sword in one fluid motion, it glowed with an inner light that illuminated up the surrounding area.
Her blade was slightly curved and ended in a chisel style point designed for punching through armor. It was made entirely of starmetal; a brilliant silver-gray metal harvested from fallen meteorites and very susceptible to enchantments.
Tatianna assumed a fighting stance and waited.
Twelve large black wolves broke through the trees with a howl. They continued to circle the base of the hill until a black wolf of a tremendous size stepped out of the woods, the other wolves stopped their circling and sat down. The pack had the hill surrounded. The large black wolf took several steps up the hillside before stopping. Sitting back on his haunches, he howled long and loud. The other wolves picked up the song and howled one after another.
Tatianna couldn't remember ever hearing such a terrifying sound. Just as suddenly as it started, the howling stopped. Tatianna wasn't sure what that meant. Tensing with expectations, she waited.
Feeling her breathing increase and the muscles in her shoulders tighten, she tried to remain calm but the deep silence scared her more than the howling.
A deep, guttural voice, full of contempt, broke the silence. “Come out, Elfie! We won't hurt you....not much anyway!”
There was a chorus of rough laughter.
“You gave us a very good chase, one that we won't forget for many moons but it has ended. And it has ended the only way it could, with your defeat. Your friends have already fed us. You should know that they died quickly.”
Hoarse laughter filled the night air.
The laughter stopped as the voice turned menacing. "Don’t make us come in there for you. You won't like it.”
Tatianna felt her throat tighten and her stomach flip at the mention of the fate of her family. Moments passed. Finding her voice, Tatianna spoke with as much conviction as she could muster.
“By Aurora, the goddess of my ancestors, I swear I'll take as many of you as possible before I fall! So when you’re ready to visit Gaul and his realm of the dead, come on! I’m not afraid to die!”
Only laughter answered her. Tatianna readied herself for what she knew would soon come. However, her sharp and highly sensitive elven ears picked up part of an argument going on near the bottom of the hill. She couldn’t tell who was arguing but she guessed that one must’ve been the leader.
". . . But Blackfang this is the Shrine of Luna, our ancient ceremonial site.”
"Maybe we should let her go; we don’t want to offend Luna. I think. . .”
Whack! There was the sound of someone getting hit, hard!
"You’re not allowed to think! I am the warlord! I decide who, when and where we attack! I will have this elf-bitch! Luna be damned! She’s trapped with the rest of the gods anyway and powerless to help this little snot-nosed, pointy-eared elf!” His voice grew louder. “No one is to kill her! She’s mine!”
Tatianna glanced around and thought, ‘So, this is a sacred place of Luna, the Moon Goddess. The barbarians are supposed to be the chosen followers of Luna. Well, it doesn’t sound like these werewolves were her followers anymore. I wonder what Blackfang meant about the gods being trapped.’
Shaking her head to clear it of those thoughts, Tatianna deepened her breathing and prepared herself for the imminent attack. She didn’t have to wait long.
Approaching slowly from all sides, Tatianna noted that they were in their hybrid form, half-man/half-wolf. She allowed herself a small smile at the one advantage they had given her. She knew that only the leader was allowed to make the killing attack, which meant that everyone else would be going for a crippling or grappling attack. It was a small advantage but given the situation, she would take what she could get.
She quickly counted her attackers and noted that there were only twelve of them which meant one was either posted as a guard or out of commission from the argument. She hoped it was the latter of the two.
When the werewolves were inside the ring of stones and just out of swords' reach, they began circling her which continued for several minutes. Then one attacked, not from her front or even her sides which she could see, but from behind. The attack came in fast and low. She felt claws rake the back of her legs and her right leg felt afire. Pivoting quickly to counterattack, her right leg buckled, dropping her to one knee. Tatianna lashed out with her sword but the attacker leapt back before she could score a hit. Another flash of pain, this time on her back, as another werewolf attacked. As soon as she twisted to counterattack, she felt more pain, again from her backside. This went on for several minutes. She knew that with the overwhelming odds, she was fighting a losing battle. They had landed at least a dozen blows and she had yet to return a single one.