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

- Frederick the Great

Friday 7 February 2014

Editors remarks on "Night Music" and "Memoirs of an Eighteenth-Century Werewolf"

Those of you who have been following Andronica’s blog may have wondered how a three-thousand-year-old werewolf came to have a human friend named Brian. Now that she has agreed to publish her life story and to accept my assistance in editing these memoirs, it seems appropriate that I should explain how we became acquainted.

Andronica Llewellyn first visited my family sometime in the late 1950s, when I was a small child. She claimed to be a distant relative of my maternal grandfather (who was Welsh), so we always called her Aunt Andronica. My parents accepted her quite readily and never questioned her identity, perhaps because she always brought gifts and told such entertaining stories about her adventures during the war, when she had been a spy for MI6 in France and Germany.

What I remembered most about Aunt Andronica – apart from the striking amber colour of her eyes – was her remarkable knowledge of history. Her expertise covered an extraordinary range of historical epochs and events, including ancient Britain and Rome, the Crusades, the Black Death in the fourteenth century, the Thirty Years’ War, the American and French Revolutions, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, both World Wars, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not only did she know the facts as any historian might, but she could also describe minutiae from everyday life with exceptional vividness.

Of all these periods, Andronica had a special emotional connection to the eighteenth century. She could talk for hours about the Seven Years’ War, the splendour of Dresden, the politics of William Pitt, the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, and even the enormous sexual appetite of Empress Catherine of Russia. Her countless anecdotes from the lives of famous people – Handel and Mozart, Frederick the Great and Maria Theresia, Thomas Jefferson and Marie Antoinette, to name a few – were always told in such lively detail that one could have sworn she had known them all personally.

Among her other talents, Aunt Andronica was an excellent harpsichordist, at a time when that instrument had not yet undergone its renaissance. During my teenage years, she frequently gave me phonograph recordings of eighteenth-century music and pointed out what the performers were doing right or (more often) wrong. Her favourite composer was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, whose music she seemed to understand as if she had composed it herself. Because of her, I was inspired to play the harpsichord myself and to study musicology at university.

For all her vivacity and wit, however, there was something vaguely sad about Aunt Andronica. As far as we knew, she had never married – though with her great beauty she must have had countless suitors – and she always seemed if she didn’t quite belong here with the rest of us. My parents thought this might have been because Andronica spent so much time in India. In any case, her irregular visits gradually became fewer, and I finally lost track of her completely during my student years in the 1970s.

You may well imagine my surprise, therefore, when I received a telephone call from Andronica Llewellyn a few weeks before Christmas in 2008. By my reckoning, she must have been nearly ninety years old, and I supposed that she was in a nursing home somewhere. On the contrary, she said, her health was perfect and allowed her to travel extensively around the world. At present she was in Germany (where I now live), and wanted to visit me at my earliest convenience. We agreed that she should come the following Friday afternoon, the 12th of December.

When the bell rang at the appointed time, I opened the door and nearly fainted from the shock. Andronica Llewellyn had not aged in the slightest since I had seen her last and still did not appear to be a day over forty. After recovering my wits sufficiently, I invited her in.

“You needn’t stare,” said Andronica as she removed her coat and knocked the snow from her boots. “My appearance is actually quite easy to explain. It’s all here in this manuscript.”
She handed me a CD case containing nine disks, each marked with a range of years spanning the period from 1748 to 1793.

“What is this?” I asked.

“My autobiography,” she replied, “the first part anyway. Please read it.”

“What, you mean right now?”

“Yes. It’s quite important. I wouldn’t have come to you otherwise.”

Seating herself in the armchair by the fireplace, Andronica gestured toward the computer expectantly. Since it was obvious that she would not budge until I had done as instructed, I inserted the first disk and spent the next two hours reading an incredible account of lycanthropy in the eighteenth century.

“You realise that there is only one way to convince me that this tale is not a wild fabrication,” I said after finishing. “Will you show me, right here and now?”

Andronica laughed.

“The proof you request would likely drive you mad, or at least provide the stuff of nightmares for the rest of your life. Besides, if I were to show you, I would have to kill you. Under the circumstances, it might be better simply to take my word for it.”

“I admit that your unnaturally youthful appearance does give some credibility to your story,” I said, “but there could be some trick involved.”

“True,” she admitted, “but here – you must admit that these are genuine.”

From her bag, Andronica produced a pair of triple-barrelled flintlock pistols.

“I’m sure that an examination of these will reveal that they are loaded with silver bullets,” I said.

“What use would they be otherwise? You may add them to your collection of eighteenth-century memorabilia if you like. Nowadays I pack more effective weapons. The Apostates are still out there, you know.”

“Then at least answer this question: why have you come to me with this account? Are you not violating the laws of your Sisterhood, revealing these things to me? Shouldn’t I be afraid that your friend Lysandra will be lurking behind the next tree to bite off my head?”

Andronica’s face assumed an expression of profound sadness at the mention of that name and she fought to retain her composure.

“The last time I saw Lysandra was in February of 1945,” she said finally. “I had been captured by the Germans and was being held at a Gestapo prison in Dresden. Lysandra learned of my whereabouts through Soviet intelligence and devised an escape plan. It was the evening of the 13th when she came to rescue me. The plot succeeded, but we were just fleeing the prison when the bombing started. We became separated in the chaos of the firestorm and I never saw her again.”

She paused and took a deep breath before continuing.

“For decades I haven’t known whether Lysandra had died in the flames or was perhaps still alive somewhere. Last month, one of my ex-KGB friends left a message at my dead drop in Tel Aviv that someone matching her description had been seen in eastern Siberia. With some difficulty, I managed to convinced my section chief at MI6 to send me on a six-month assignment to Vladivostok, which will allow me to search for Lysandra, or at least to verify Alexei’s report. That is why I have come to you now.”

“What on earth can I do?”

“I need a friend,” she said. “Someone I can trust – a human – and you immediately came to mind.”

“That’s very flattering,” I said, “but surely there’s someone in your Sisterhood…”

“They’re trying to kill me.”

“Does it have anything to do with these CDs?”

“In part, yes. But that’s not the only reason. There’s no time to go into it now.” She pointed at the CD case. “I need you to keep this for me while I’m away.”

“Why don’t you store it in a safe-deposit box?”

“The international banking system is run by Apostates.”

“That explains a lot,” I said. “What if I refuse?”

“Then I would be forced to eat you.”

“Right. I’ll just lock this away in my desk then.”

As we were talking, the clock struck half-past seven.

“Well, I must be going,” said Andronica. “My flight to Moscow leaves at ten-thirty from Frankfurt. Would you fetch my coat please?”

“Wait. You can’t just leave me like this. What if your werewolf friends come looking for you?”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s unlikely that I was followed here. But just in case they do manage to find this location, you might want to keep these pistols near at hand. Aim for the chest or the head. At close range, a silver bullet is usually fatal.”

“That’s very reassuring.”

She wrote something on a slip of paper.

“Here is where I can be reached in case of trouble. It’s the address of my dead drop. Any message sent there will be forwarded to me. I’ll respond as soon as possible.”

“But that could take days.”

“Weeks, more likely.”

“Wonderful. I could be dead by then.”

“Or worse.”

“Even more reassuring.”

Andronica waved good-bye as she climbed into her rental car.

“I’ll be back as soon as my assignment in Siberia is completed. Until then, be sure to keep your powder dry.”
* * *
Andronica did not return as promised, and for three and a half years I slept with her pistols on the bedside table. Fortunately there were no lycanthropic visits during that time, and I kept her CDs safely locked away.

Last summer, Andronica waltzed into my house unannounced, offering no explanation for her long absence. She would say only that her “differences of opinion” with the Sisterhood had been resolved. When asked if she had found Lysandra, she merely shook her head. The rest of the story you already know if you have been following Andronica’s blog.

Likewise you will recall that Andronica recently reminded me of the CDs still in my possession. After reading the story about her father, I was convinced that her memoirs should be made available to a larger audience. Surprisingly, she had no objections and even said that the Sisterhood would not particularly care, as no one would believe the account anyway.

Indeed, most readers will naturally assume that Andronica Llewellyn’s memoirs are fictional, and it is perhaps better that way. Nevertheless, as scholars of the eighteenth century will recognise, the circumstances and persons which form the background of her story are quite accurately described. While many aspects of the account offer a radically new interpretation of certain key events and personalities of the period, the narrative is eminently plausible from a historical perspective.

Even if you do not believe the veracity of this account, at least you might find it entertaining and informative. There is much more to lycanthropy than what Hollywood would have us believe.

Enquiries may be sent to andronica.llewellyn@hotmail.com.

(Originally published June 2012)

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