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"A man who seeks truth and loves it must be reckoned precious to any human society."

- Frederick the Great

Friday 30 September 2011

Werewolves and Cannonballs

“So, have you got Cynthia properly sorted?” asked Brian as I collapsed onto the sofa in his study. “Is she now all pointy teeth and hairy legs? Or did you decide to eat her after all?”

My afternoon flight from Heathrow to Stuttgart had been delayed nearly two hours and I was exhausted after a week of MI6 debriefings about Libya. Thus I was in no mood for Brian’s questioning.

“The Initiation proceeded exactly as expected,” I said, resting my feet on his expensive coffee table, “and Cynthia does make a very attractive werewolf.”

“A natural blonde, is she?” He offered me a cushion to protect the mahogany finish from my boots. 

“That’s a typically male question,” I observed. “If you must know, she is blonde from top to bottom – rather a novelty among the Sisterhood. Beautiful fur, but hard to get clean after the hunt, with all that blood.”

“You took her hunting? Presumably the steppes of Russia provided ample game for the purpose.”

“In fact, the Initiation is the only exception to the Sisterhood’s rule prohibiting the killing of humans, and the ceremony concludes with a ritual sacrifice. In the past, when Initiations were more common, dozens of virgins were often sacrificed at once. Last week we had trouble finding even one, however, so I suppose it was fortunate that there was only Cynthia.”

Brian turned pale and reached for the wastepaper bin.

“It is a great honour for the human thus chosen,” I reassured him. “In her next lifetime, she will be initiated into the Sisterhood herself.”

“Rather poor consolation for the murdered girl,” commented Brian, still holding the bin. “And where is Cynthia now? You haven’t brought her back here, I hope. By now the Russian authorities will be searching for the killer, and they will surely make a DNA match to Cynthia’s CIA records.”

“Not to worry,” I said. “Our DNA undergoes the transformation as well, and is quite untraceable. As for Cynthia, after the Initiation we took her back to the CIA outpost in Libya, where she pretended to have escaped from al-Qaida. I’ve put a request through channels for Cynthia to be transferred to Cairo next week, so that Kasaqa can begin training her before the next monthly bleeding. We don’t want any uncontrolled transformations.”

“So Kasaqa is to be her Companion? I thought you two…”

“Yes, well, things don’t always work out. But perhaps it’s for the best. Cynthia’s dreadful American accent was beginning to get on my nerves. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a shower. I’m completely worn out.”

“Have you got a new assignment from MI6?” Brian was being annoyingly persistent today.

“They were considering sending me to Syria, but I declined – no more Arab dictatorships for a while, thank you. Maybe I’ll be assigned somewhere relaxing, like North Korea.”

“You’re joking of course.”

“Not at all. The hills outside Pyongyang are beautiful in the wintertime. Besides, I’m not likely to come under artillery fire there. I had quite enough of that in Tripoli.”

“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of artillery? I thought werewolves could only be harmed by silver.”

“And fire. The Sisterhood thinks that the flash from a high-explosive round might be sufficient to cause fatal injuries, and I certainly don’t want to find out. Besides, being struck by non-silver weapons is quite painful, even if ultimately harmless. I once took a direct hit from a three-pounder, and would not care to repeat the experience.”

“A three-pounder? Sounds like an extra-large McBurger…”

Friday 2 September 2011

CIA Cynthia and the Jackal Hunt

“You did what?” Brian nearly spilled his morning coffee. “Have you gone completely mental? You can’t just kidnap a CIA agent and turn her into a werewolf.”

“First of all, we didn’t kidnap her,” I said. “She asked for this. And second, we haven’t turned her yet. We’re taking her to the Circle of Initiation at Ryazan in Russia. Too many tourists at Stonehenge this time of year. But in the meantime, the CIA has gotten on our tails. They think she’s been abducted by al-Qaida and are searching for her. So we’ve got to drop off the grid for a few days. I told MI6 that I’ve gone under cover to find Gaddafi.”

“Okay, so where have you hidden her?”

“She’s outside in the car.”

Now he did spill his coffee.

“Are you bonkers? Any minute now, the house will be surrounded by black SUVs.”

“Don’t be silly. This isn’t America.”

“Right, black Mercedes then. But there will still be men in black suits with black sunglasses and automatic weapons. The GSG 9 don’t mess around. At least bring her inside where the neighbours can’t see.”

I went to fetch Cynthia from the car we had stolen in Genoa. Kasaqa and Caterina had come along for extra protection. I had briefed them about my human friend Brian, saying that he was helping me find Lysandra. Kasaqa was more than suspicious.

“You can’t trust any males,” she said. “How do you know he isn’t in league with the Apostates?”

“I’ve known Brian over fifty years, since he was a child,” I said. “He’s completely harmless. A former college professor.”

“You realise that this goes entirely against the Sisterhood’s laws,” said Kasaqa. “By rights, we should eat him.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll take full responsibility. If at any time he starts acting suspiciously, I will munch him myself.”

Sunday 21 August 2011

Report from Libya

You may recall from my last blog post two weeks ago that I was called by MI6 for an assignment in Libya.  I’ve been there ever since.  Anyone who has been following the news will know that a real war is happening here.  Followers of this blog will suspect that more is going on than you will hear about from CNN.

Soon after my arrival in Tripoli, where I was staying under cover as an oil-company executive, three Apostates tried to kill me.  In my work for MI6, I’m used to being shot at, but rarely with silver bullets.  These Apostates were mean and armed to the teeth (literally).  Last Sunday, I lured them into a trap by sunbathing at the hotel pool in a string bikini, with my twin Berettas concealed under the towel.  It was evening before they came.  Under the full moon they approached with the intention of making a meal out of me (I was already broiled to well-done by the sun) and Bang! two went down with silver between the eyes.  The third turned tail and fled.  That was a week ago.

I later learned that the third Apostate had escaped over the border into Egypt – probably heading for the secret Temple of Sutekh in the desert west of Karnak.  There he would no doubt find reinforcements. 

The day after the incident at the pool – and yes, there are still luxury hotels operating in Tripoli – I was called to act as MI6 liaison to a CIA listening post near Zawiya.  The Americans use these to monitor Libyan military communications and to co-ordinate the air strikes against Gaddafi’s troops.  There I met Cynthia, a very attractive CIA operative, fluent in Arabic and an electronics expert.  We hit it off quite well, which led me to enquire via Facebook/Twitter whether the CIA has a DADT rule (Google it, if you’re unsure).  I thought it would be too forward to ask her directly.

Some of you may be shaking your heads and thinking What about Lysandra?  After all, she has been your Companion for three thousand years!  How can you do this to her?  My answer is simple: Lysandra has been missing since 1945.  Just how long do you expect me to remain celibate?

Sunday 7 August 2011

Werewolf Fact and Fiction

“You’ve been coming here for several months now,” complained Brian the other day, “and I haven’t once seen you transform into a werewolf, not even at the full moon.  What good is having a werewolf friend if you never show me anything?  There’s nothing at all unusual about you, apart from your admittedly inhuman-looking yellow eyes – and those could simply be contact lenses.  How do I know that you haven’t been pulling my leg about this whole thing?”

I held my right hand in front of Brian’s face and willed my forearm to shift, just enough for him to see sufficient hair and claws to convince him of my sincerity.  He went white at the sight.

“It’s actually forbidden to allow humans to observe our transformations,” I said.  “If I show you any more, I will have to kill you.”

“That won’t be necessary,” he replied, wiping his brow.  “You’ve made your point.”

“A moment ago, you said something which reveals that you harbour a common misconception about us.  We don’t ‘transform into werewolves’ – we are werewolves.  My human form is just as lycanthropic as my other shapes.”

“Shapes, plural?  You have more than one?”

“Of course.  Haven’t you ever wondered why Hollywood cannot agree on how werewolves should look?”

“I supposed it was because – as you have said yourself – the movies always get everything wrong when it comes to lycanthropy.”

“Not quite everything,” I replied.  “Most werewolf films do have some basis in fact, though it’s mixed liberally with half-truths, legends, and a great deal of rubbish.  If Hollywood wants to get it right for once, they should hire me as a technical consultant.”

“OK then, let’s start with the basics,” said Brian.  “What do werewolves really look like?  The quadrupeds-on-steroids of Twilight, or the seven-foot monsters of Dog Soldiers?”

Thursday 28 July 2011

Music Lessons with Mr Handel

Last week I was on assignment for MI6 in Syria, a very unpleasant affair indeed.  When I returned, my human friend Brian began asking questions about the business of international espionage, as he is a great fan of spy movies and was wondering if the reality is anything like the fiction.  Since MI6 doesn’t take kindly to their secrets being revealed to outsiders, however, I politely refused to go into detail, except to say that spying in repressive dictatorships is always a risky undertaking, even for a werewolf.

“Of course I understand that you can’t say anything about your current assignments,” said Brian, “but surely you can tell me something about your experiences in the past, spying for William Pitt and Frederick the Great, for example.  They’ve been dead long enough that they shouldn’t mind.”

“That’s a good point,” I agreed.  “Very well, it won’t hurt to tell you a few things.  First of all, the most important principle of espionage – whether in the eighteenth century or the present day – is to have a good cover.  It’s much easier to hide in plain sight, behind a profession or activity which arouses no suspicion, than to fight your way out after being discovered.”

“Yes, I’m familiar with the principle from watching Alias,” said Brian.  “So you were the Sydney Bristow of the eighteenth century?  You do faintly resemble Jennifer Garner…”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.  Unlike your television heroine, however, I only used one cover during all my years of service as ‘private correspondent’ to Pitt and the Prussians.  My profession was that of a travelling harpsichord virtuoso, which gave me access to the highest circles of the nobility.  Invitations came from all the royal courts, and naturally I used my concert appearances to gather intelligence about the goings-on behind closed doors in the great European palaces of state.  No-one ever suspected me – ‘a mere woman’, as Frederick the Great often said – of political and military espionage.”

“But weren’t musicians generally regarded as servants in those days?  How did you gain acceptance at the courts of kings and emperors?”

“Don’t forget that I was a duchess myself, though the Duchy of Caerfyrddin was rather insignificant by Continental standards.  In addition to my title, I also had impeccable credentials as a musician, since I had studied with Mr Handel in my youth.”

“Handel was your teacher?”  His eyes went wide in astonishment.

“He actually pronounced it Hendel,” I said.  “After all, he was German, even though the English like to believe otherwise.  And yes, I began studying composition with him in 1749, shortly after I arrived in London to live with my aunt.  Handel rarely accepted pupils, so I was very fortunate that he agreed to teach me.”

“This is incredible,” said Brian, “I know several professors of musicology who would give anything to interview you and learn about Handel’s teaching methods.  It could shed new light on his entire creative process…”

“Sorry, but you know the rules.  No interviews and no public appearances.  I’m sure that there are professors in many fields who would love to interview a centuries-old werewolf.  Some would doubtless like to dissect me as well.  But as I’ve told you repeatedly, this little experiment of ours must retain the appearance of fiction.  No-one must ever suspect that I really exist.”

“Well, can you at least tell me something about your studies with Handel?”

“All right, I’ll let you read a passage from my memoirs.  But you must agree not to reveal anything on to your academic friends.  Otherwise, I will have to eat you.”

Saturday 16 July 2011

A Roman Werewolf at Maria Theresia's Court

In my last post, I revealed several things about the Sisterhood’s most perfidious opponent, that sect of male werewolves known as Apostates.  One astute reader observed that amongst the pictures of my enemies recently posted on my Facebook page appears the likeness of Wenzel Anton Graf von Kaunitz, and wondered if he had been an Apostate as well.

Historians of the eighteenth century will know Kaunitz as chancellor to the Austrian Empress Maria Theresia and as the mastermind of the Seven Years’ War, that great conflagration which engulfed Europe and North America from 1756 to 1763.  Readers of this blog will already suspect that Kaunitz’s motivations were not entirely political. 

I first encountered Graf von Kaunitz almost two years before the war began.  Through my activities as “private correspondent” to William Pitt and Frederick the Great, I had been aware of Kaunitz’s political machinations for some time.  Through the Sisterhood, I also knew that he was an Apostate.  The following excerpt from my memoirs describes our first meeting, at the palace of Prince Esterházy.  At the time, my “cover” (as my present-day colleagues at MI6 would call it) was that of a travelling harpsichord virtuoso, a circumstance which provided access to the highest noble houses in Europe, where the topics of conversation were often of interest to my employers in the chanceries of London and Berlin.
* * *
Vienna, November 1754
It was the first autumn soirée held by Prince Esterházy after his return to Vienna from Eisenstadt where I finally met the most influential of the Apostates at the Austrian court, Wenzel Anton Graf von Kaunitz.  With his rise from relative obscurity to become Maria Theresia’s ambassador to Versailles in 1750, Kaunitz had first attracted the attention of the Sisterhood.  Now that he had been named chief advisor to the Empress, we were observing him very closely, as his efforts to engineer new alliances between the European powers were obviously positioning Austria for a new war with Prussia.  What made the matter all the more alarming, however, was that we knew nothing whatsoever about Kaunitz’s origins, and an unknown enemy was a dangerous enemy.

I had just finished playing a new sonata by my young friend Haydn when Graf von Kaunitz entered the salon.  He was a small man, impeccably dressed, and he moved with the self-assurance of one who felt himself vastly superior to everyone around him.  The assembled lords and ladies all bowed to him, except Prince Esterházy, of course, since his rank was higher.  But even the Prince inclined his head slightly, acknowledging the Count’s position of power in the Empire, which in the meantime was second only to Maria Theresia herself.

After he had greeted the Prince, Kaunitz approached me and bowed floridly.  Because my own rank exceeded that of everyone else present, the Count was formally obliged to make this obeisance to me.  I never insisted on such protocols, however, so I suspected that the Apostate had other motives than the strict observance of courtly etiquette.

“My dear Duchess Llewellyn, how splendid to make your acquaintance finally,” said Kaunitz in a tone which bespoke complete sincerity and thus made me even more suspicious.  “Please permit me to say that you are far more intriguing in person than the stories about you have led me to believe.  I do regret to have missed your performance, as I have heard that you are a very fine harpsichordist, but surely there will be other occasions.”

This Apostate was like no other I had ever met.  There was none of the malevolence exhibited by his fellows; in fact, he appeared to be the perfect gentleman.  Even his scent was relatively inoffensive, and his breath lacked the odour of decaying flesh which most Apostates exuded.

Friday 8 July 2011

Birds, Bees, and Werewolves

Perhaps you have been wondering how werewolves reproduce.  Considering all the claws and fangs involved, some of you may think “very carefully”.  Others may recall the sex-scene from The Howling and suppose that we do it “with animal passion”.

My first admonition is never to believe anything Hollywood says about werewolves – it is nearly all rubbish.  In some future post, I will discuss Werewolf Fact and Fiction.  But for now, forget the lycanthropic legends and movie mythology.  Here is the straight story.

We do not reproduce.

I know that sounds frightfully dull, but once you have learned about the males of our species, you will understand why. 

DISCLAIMER: This article frequently mentions “our kind” or “our species”.  Here I am referring exclusively to the Homo lupus europae (Common European Werewolf), which has been indigenous to Europe, North Africa and Asia since about 10,000 B.C.  The characteristics described here may or may not apply to other werewolf species on other continents.

Among European werewolves there are two main “tribes” – for lack of a better word, since only natural wolves form packs – one female and the other male.  Our two tribes have been mortal enemies since time immemorial.  In fact, most werewolf deaths are caused by inter-sex violence.  (At least this is true of all the lycanthropes I have ever encountered, but once again, your experience may vary.)  The males of our kind are vicious, sadistic creatures, and pretty much live up to their popular image.  We females, on the other hand, are usually more spiritually inclined and therefore less violent, though we can be just as dangerous as males, should the situation warrant.  This behavioural difference has nothing to do with gender, however, but is the result of our social organisation and cultural traditions.

Sunday 3 July 2011

A Welsh Werewolf in Facebook

After my human friend Brian had browbeaten me into starting this blog, I thought that would be the end of it.  But no.  Yesterday he went on incessantly about a thing called Facebook, saying that I should definitely start my own page.  At first I assumed that Facebook was a collection of photographs, like those which American policemen call “mug shots” and use for identifying criminals.  Because my last really serious crime was in 1757, however, when I ate parts of two nuns during the Siege of Prague, I thought that the statute of limitations would have cleaned the slate by now.  Besides, I have reincarnated since then, and am certain that the paw-prints left at the scene would not match my present ones.

Brian corrected my misapprehension, saying that Facebook is what modern people call a “social network”, which humans use to remain in contact with their friends around the world.  He discounted my objection that all of my friends died more than two centuries ago, as with Facebook I would surely find some new ones.  Furthermore, using Facebook would significantly increase the chances that Lysandra will find me, he said, because it would generate more potential Google hits (whatever they are).

So once again, I have allowed myself to be swayed by the argument that the Electronic Media can aid in the search for my beloved Lysandra.  You can help me find her as well.  Simply go to the Facebook page I have created and have a look at the photo album entitled My friends.  The first portrait shows Lysandra as she appeared around 1745.  I appeal to anyone who might recognise the woman in this picture to contact me immediately by eMail.

Kind Regards,

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Can An Old Werewolf Be Taught New Tricks?

I had just finished tuning the harpsichord the other day, when my human friend Brian said that I should consider getting an electronic one to save the bother.  This was but the last in a series of ridiculous suggestions, which began when he decided that I needed to embrace the various technological advances of the twenty-first century.

The most absurd of his proposals, however, was that I should write a blog.  Since I am now obviously doing so, you will doubtless be wondering how he put me up to it.

Before I get to that, you need to know that I am not a total stranger to technology.  In fact, I have been using a PC since they first appeared in the early 1980s, when I began writing my memoirs about being a werewolf in the eighteenth century.  (In those days, I was known as Lady Llewellyn, the 26th Duchess of Caerfyrddin.)  After centuries of writing long letters by hand, I was intrigued by the possibility of making corrections elegantly, without the messy business of ink erasers - you know the kind, which scratch the ink from the paper, likely as not making a hole - or simply striking through the unwanted text and probably making a huge ink blot.  Ever wonder what the sand-shaker was for?

In any case, I began with WordStar 3.3.  Any of you humans who are old enough to remember WordStar will recall that it was a classic “green screen” programme, where What You See Is Not What You Get.  Nevertheless, I loved WordStar, as it really made writing a pleasure instead of a chore.  Back in those days, I even bought one of the first “schlepp-top” computers, so that I could write while travelling, which I do a great deal.  (In some later post, I may tell you something about my job at MI6.  To you Americans out there: MI6 is like the CIA, but with a British accent.)

After WordStar came WordPerfect, also a green screen application but with a real WYSIWYG preview, which greatly saved on wasted paper.  At about the same time, Microsoft Word first appeared, but I remained loyal to WordPerfect for quite a long while.  Of course, hanging on to antiquated systems is one of my foibles, and has often gotten me into trouble in the past.  I was on the wrong side in 1793, for example, and had an unfortunate encounter with a guillotine.  (Yes, I got better, thank you.)

I seem to have digressed, as the topic of this post is actually how I am learning to use new technology.

For years, I have been content to use the computer as a glorified typewriter.  When someone first told me about the “World Wide Web” back in the 1990s, I was quite sceptical, partly because I am deathly afraid of spiders, but also because it seemed highly unlikely to me that the medium would ever become anything more than a playground for technology enthusiasts.  History has proved me wrong yet again, though not quite as badly as in 1914, when I tried to prevent World War One (you see how well that worked).  But I digress again.  As you know, the Internet has turned out to be more than a passing fad, and in fact I have used it occasionally myself. 

Which brings me to the actual point I was trying to make.  I was just saying to Brian the other day how much I prefer reading books to reading on a computer screen.  He is a former college professor, so I assumed that he would agree with me.  Quite the contrary.

“It just goes to show that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” he said.

“I beg your pardon, sir!  While I may be three thousand years old, I don’t look a day over forty.  And I am most definitely not a dog.  That is a term which we werewolves find most insulting.”