The Black Horse Resurrection
1860's schoolma'am turned Lorekeeper werewolf in the Wild West
Virtue: Prudence Vice: Sloth Auspice: Cahalith (Bard) Tribe: Iron Masters
Intelligence: 3 Strength: 2 Presence: 3 Wits: 2 Dexterity: 2 Manipulation: 3 Resolve: 3 Stamina: 2 Composure: 1
Merits: common sense, 4 resources, 2 allies (father) 1 Health 7 Willpower 4 Essence 7
Equipment: Colt Peterson 9” 5-shot, 100 balls
Special skills: academics 3 (History +2) empathy 1, (detecting lies +2) expression 1, (storytelling +2)
Gifts: Straighten, p. 137 Pack Awareness, p. 117 Partial Change, p.128
They call it the Change. You can hear the capital letter on it. The word is uttered with the same intonation used when a young man’s voice breaks for the first time, or a girl enters womanhood. However, it is clear to me now that this Change is far deeper and more powerful than those. Perhaps the reason is that the transition from childhood to adulthood is a natural progression that all young people realize they’re about to enter, whereas this transition was unexpected, unnerving, indeed almost unmaking in its breadth and force.
As is my wont, I am getting ahead of my story.
My name amongst humans is Victoria Stuart. (Just adding the phrase, “amongst humans,” shows something of how this Change has changed me. Not so long ago, it would never have occurred to me to imagine that there were others out there amongst whom I would be differently named. Once again, I digress.) I am the eldest child and only daughter of Dr. Charles Winthrop Stuart, of Boston, he who heads the history department at Harvard University. You may have heard of him, if you frequent bookstores and salons of higher learning. At present he is writing the definitive work on the subject of the recent War Between the States. Or at least, he was six months ago, and I believe the book was expected to take several years to complete, so I can only assume he labors at it still.
My family appears to be the height of academic normalcy. We have a well-appointed home in the nicest part of Boston, with rooms upstairs for five servants, all of which are currently occupied. There’s no difficulty finding people in search of work who can fill them, sadly. My mother is a society lady, very busy with her charity work that raises a great deal of money in ways that are designed to give members of her class a great deal of pleasure, while providing them with the comfortable certainty that they are doing their duty to God at the same time. During the War, her charity luncheons contributed large sums to fund field hospitals and feed orphans of those dead on the field of battle. I can only imagine how cold the comfort was, if any of them realized how much dancing and frolicking had gone into the provision of morphine to ease their pain. Thankfully, few likely knew or cared. My mother began her charity work as soon as her youngest son, my brother Winthrop, was placed in the full-time care of a governess at the ripe age of one year. I suppose I should be grateful that I got some five years of her frequent attention between my birth and his weaning, for there are four years between us. While the governess was a sweet enough girl, I missed my mother when she grew bored of us. It was not until I was a young lady, almost ready to be launched on the world, that she took much note of my existence again.
I say appears to be normal, for as often happens, this face my mother shows to the world is not all that she is. She never knew her mother. I grew up assuming that my maternal grandmother had died in childbirth, but in recent weeks I have begun to wonder. Our kind do not come from nowhere. Was it possible she was like me, this grandmother I never knew? If my grandfather knew any details, he never shared the information. He died when I was six. I wonder what lore is hidden in my mother’s heart about her past. Even more, I wonder what lore she has never known, and what I might discovere about my Kin.
My father was not so distant, though he perhaps had other motives for his interest in me. He craved a child to whom to pass on his wealth of knowledge. The second-born, my younger brother Charles Jr, proved an indifferent scholar in his childhood, preferring bugs to books and dirt to learned discussion. I was a fastidious child, not caring to play outside overmuch, and quite enjoying curling up in a corner of my father’s study with a book. He saw to it that the books were those he set for his students at the University, and that I knew how to discuss and compare them from an early age. As I grew, he would trot me out before his colleagues during dinner parties, to recite for them what I knew.
I was perhaps ten when I decided that reciting was boring. I had always taken the dry recounts in those tomes and turned them into adventures in my own head, and for the benefit of my younger brothers. Indeed, if Charles Jr. is now bidding fair to follow in our august father’s footsteps, it can be attributed more to the learning he soaked up, listening to me, than anything he was taught by tutors. In any case, at the age of ten I started embellishing the stories I told to Father’s guests. I never changed the stories in ways that got the facts wrong – I was too well-versed in the study of history even then to risk my father’s wrath had I attempted such a thing. But surely father would not object if I interjected how Napoleon must have felt as he saw the Prussian army on the hill beyond the battlefield, come to Wellington’s aid? Was it so wrong to insert a little pathos into the story of the Nine Days Queen, sent to her death by Bloody Mary because her father raised an army in her name? My father laughed and permitted it.
I was fifteen when the War Between the States began. Those years, which Mama would have liked to devote to finding me a husband, turned instead into dark times of worry – that my cousins would be killed, that my brothers would be old enough to go to war before it was over, that there would be no rich husband for me at its end, that Father’s department had so few students in it, it might close until the war was over. The worst never happened, but the toll of the war was still felt. I believe it will be felt by all those who lived it, for the rest of their lives.
Charles Jr. was old enough to sign up at the end, but Father talked him out of it until he was eighteen. He signed up, just in time to miss the final battles entirely and come home unscathed. Winthrop, on the other hand, was devastated not to be able to participate. Father knew that my hot-headed youngest brother would get himself killed in one of the first waves of any battle he fought, so he flatly forbade him from joining the Army. Winthrop wasn’t rash enough to go against father’s wishes – then. But he learned to shoot in defiance of our parent’s wishes, and he taught me. I admit to a certain shamed pride in possessing such an unwomanly skill.
The Change started late in me. I began having dreams the year the War ended, and they came slowly, with months between when I did not feel the rush of feral cravings. Winthrop was not so lucky. The first night he changed, it was completely, and it undid him. He took his pistols, all the money he could find, and two sets of clothes, and left a note saying he was heading West and not to try to stop him.
Father was furious. Winthrop was always a thorn in his side, and I’m sure Father wondered what he had done to deserve such a son. I was upset, too, but for a different reason. I had seen him change, you see – in the garden the night before he left home – and I recognized in what I saw the explanation for my own nightmares. I think I changed that night too, not for the first time but yet my first with any conscious control, entering my wolf form fully there amongst the towering oaks behind our home. I know my brother and I did not run together that night, for he never knew that I was like him. The next morning I awoke in the dew of the back acre, my tattered gown beside me, and went in to find him (after sneaking to my room to dress.) It was I who found his note, and I who hid it from the family for most of the day, to give him time to get further away.
Two days later, over my father’s protests, I packed two carpetbags, put on my second-best hat and some sensible shoes, and set out to find my brother. I believe only the feral light in my eyes that day kept my parents from locking me in my room. I am very glad they did not attempt such a thing, for one cannot keep a wild thing in chains and expect it to become tame, and I was growing increasingly wild at that point.
Using some ingenuity and all my money, I made it as far west as Dallas. I was here only a few nights when two important things happened: a woman approached me and offered to teach me what I needed to know to survive and control the Changed form I underwent regularly, and a different woman offered me a position as second teacher at the Dallas Institute for Select Young Ladies.
I have been here several months now, asking for news of my brother, knowing he is near but unable to find him. My mentor has taught me the Lore, finding in me a willing pupil. For was this not what I was raised to do, to tell the stories of our people, and instruct them, and bind them together? And was this not where I was meant to do it, in this wilderness that has freed me from the strictures of polite society?
Someday I shall find my brother, and Gaia willing (how much I have changed!) we will be, not just siblings, but pack mates.