I had always understood something was wrong with my lord, but was guided to believe any danger to himself or others was only a remote possibility. I knew there was some kind of misuse of magic involved that had, in a way, damaged him. But the belief of Marrok and others who knew of this problem was that with the mischief maker dead, the power of that curse upon our lord was fading.
I do not think I had any inkling of exactly what kind of wolf my master was underneath his seemingly normal exterior. I had no clue how monstrous a shape he could assume.
It’s fair to say that none of our cousins really did.
While I may, in a fit of good conscience, burn most of these papers… I do need to keep this committed to paper. I do not think the future Wolframs should be kept so ignorant of exactly what we had faced that winter day.
Imagine, if you will, a presence as tall as a three-story inn in an average town. It might have looked like a wolf one minute, and then a rather black shapeless thing with miserable eyes the next. What was worse than its misshapen appearance was the feel of cold that came from it – like it was living in a world of dead things – and how being near it seemed to suck all warmth and joy from you.
That’s what an Unthing is, I now understand. It’s an unmaker, an eater of body, spirit, and mind if given enough time to do what it wishes.
And I look at my lord and wonder what to make of these subtle changes I see in him. What happened to him when he disappeared and became like those things? Did he lose some part of himself? And for the better or worse?
Did the elves know someone like him, from our blood, could fall to them so easily?
If yes, have these elves in the past, conspired not only to protect this land against dark things but protect the land even against its appointed watchers? Oh – I know Marrok won’t talk of these sorts of things, but it struck me that our lord may have suspected something himself. Could he have been asked to stay in this place to prevent the monster within him from coming out?
What if he hadn’t been contained? What if he was slipping into some sort of shadowy madness? Those affable lions who then gnashed mercilessly at the Unthings… would they have been able to hold back should my lord have completely changed and lost his mind? Or would they have torn him from limb to limb?
It’s not my place to consider what-ifs and speculate, I know. But I hope there will never be a need to test the loyalties of the lions. Is their desire to serve the lord of this place stronger than their need to destroy the creatures of darkness?
And what masters could accept such a risk? Not humans, for certain. For while the Wolframs might eventually forgive that sort of logical dilemma that the lions would face, even up to accepting the death of their lord, I doubt the humans could deal with it.
* * *
It really would be easier if everything were managed by Marrok and Tala. There’s nothing unclear between them, nothing tricky about either of them. They are completely and inherently dependable in how they think and act.
They manage all of those who follow them really well. Even the mayor and guildmaster have developed a good relationship with them both. Obviously they see them in a good light as do I.
But I know that sometimes dependability isn’t enough. The unusual circumstances this winter point to changes that mean that something else is needed.
We all know it. We have other cousins with us, those who are bound less by brotherly love and more by familial duty. But even they would not challenge the lord in a winter like this. We fought off one rather unlucky wave of creatures but we are vigilant still. Until we see spring ourselves,we feel uneasy with the way things smell now. You can sense it upon the wind — something else is out there watching and waiting. Something that smells damp and bloody.
My lord and lady seem to make every effort to appear together. This soothes the older wolves greatly.
I think we all know that he finds her physically suitable to his tastes. But the humans don’t understand this arrangement very much in that they do not seem very loving. “A shrew and pig,” is how the less sober and kind of the lot see the two when they are together.
Of course, I know quite well that the shrew and pig still are sharing the same bed, which to us is enough. But tenderness is something lacking for sure.
How did I explain this to the young lady? Ah yes. I told her that their sense of humor is pretty degenerate and that their fighting is proxy for flirtation.
She gave me such a look that I had to laugh and tell her to ask the lady herself if she didn’t believe me.
* * *
My lord and lady do behave as wolves at times, but I constantly am reminded of the scene in the courtyard. I have to sternly remind myself that they are no longer simply wolves or humans, but something beyond simple creatures like us. I don’t think they see each other the same way as a result.
At times, I see them looking at people as more than what they are. It’s a bit weird to catch them studying you intently and all that.
I’ve noticed how they look at Edmund in particular. And the guildmaster is on my ladyship’s mind as well. She is careful, perhaps even strategic in how she charms him.
She’s asked me a few questions about him – mostly about what I’ve heard. I told her simply that he was ambitious and, at times, authoritarian.
I think I’m relieved that I’m not one of them… worthy of such staring. I’m not a big cog in the wheel, I know. And maybe that’s better than anything. I like my freedom. And making plans for myself.
* * *
I am worried at the moment about what my lord’s lurking magic may mean for the future.
Marrok has tried, gently, to ask that lady what we might do to make sure our lord is truly recovered.
All she has said so far is that he must never be left alone.
* * *
I think I know what has Princess upset. I think the word is “extremely nervous” actually. The old ladies of the town filled her head with stories about their wedding nights. And then I think the Lady must have said something to her as well. The Princess can’t even look at the Count now without blushing. I admit this might be my fault. I think I goaded her into it.
Poor Edmund. She seems to run away every time he wants to see her alone. This makes the old ladies cackle because it only serves to make the situation even more comical.
These townsfolk are rather irritating. If it weren’t for the continued concern about the winter, it would be nice to be rid of them and their superficial gossip.
Word about this has reached my lord’s ears. He made a comment to me about the young man’s mood. I made the mistake of agreeing with him that all males, whether human or not, have the same afflictions.
Of course his response was to interfere. He’s asked me to approach the mayor with his suggestion. If she accepts it and then presents it to the Ormonds, then they might follow along with this proposal. I’m pretty sure the guildmaster must have told him about some other custom, for where else could that idea have originated?
I sincerely hope that this isn’t the guildman’s way of rattling Mrs. Winchester’s sensibilities.
I assure myself that at least this idea I can’t be blamed for should it blow up in our faces.