Almost Winter 1.1

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“Messy,” I said, looking down at the body.


“No shit,” Kyra snorted. “Come on, Winter, tell me something I don’t know.”


“Messy” was an understatement. The man had been virtually shredded. The skin was largely missing from his forearms, and most of the underlying tissues had been ripped apart. The gaps were large enough to see bone in several places, including the broken one in his left arm, and his hands were so badly damaged as to be unrecognizable as human. Defensive wounds, almost certainly—you don’t attack somebody’s arms on purpose. Moving up I saw that there was a chunk of flesh missing from his right shoulder near the neck. It probably would have bled enough to kill him, except that I was pretty sure the throat wound had done the job first.


There was more damage to the body, although I was guessing it had happened after he was dead. Several ribs had been snapped and wrenched away, exposing the chest cavity, after which something had gone to town on him. The heart was missing, the blood vessels raggedly snapped off and hanging, and large hunks had been torn from both lungs. His abdomen had been ripped at until it more closely resembled hamburger than living tissue, and I could see that both the liver and stomach were gone as well. Laminate flooring doesn’t absorb blood very well, and a large pool of it had formed around the body.


I imagine this is where most people would have needed to go outside and throw up, or at least been nauseated by how icky and pungent it all was. I didn’t, and I wasn’t. I felt mildly curious, and rather hungry. I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and I’ve always associated the smell of blood more with food than anything.


The most disturbing part about corpses for me has always been how little they disturb me. I know people are supposed to find dead things unsettling and creepy, but I’ve just never felt it. I mean, we’re all made of meat, and I’ve seen enough meat that it doesn’t bother me. I suppose it’s an indication of how broken I am, but deep down I have to wonder whether maybe it’s everyone else who’s crazy for making such a big deal of it.


“Is there anything else to see?” I asked.


Kyra, who’d been here already, shook her head. “This is it,” she said.


“All right. Come on, you’re buying me lunch.” Kyra snorted, but didn’t argue as we left and she locked the door behind us.


I marveled, as we left, at how ordinary things seemed. The street, a narrow back road one step up from an alley on the western edge of town, was quiet. There’d been a teenage girl sitting on the lawn across the street reading a magazine when we went in, but she’d vanished by the time we exited the house, and there was no one else in sight. It was the middle of the day and there were only a few cars parked on the street, old enough to look somewhat battered but not enough to be collectable.


I shivered. Corpses don’t bother me, but the contrast between something like that and the calm, peaceful world outside gets me every time. It makes me think of all the secrets that might be hiding behind every closed door and curtained window, and that is a creepy thing to consider.


Even against that background Kyra’s car stood out as being hard-used. It was a beat-up sedan maybe fifteen or twenty years old, the original color long since buried under a thick layer of accumulated dirt. The interior upholstery was largely held together with duct tape, and neither the heater nor the air conditioning had run for at least four years. About the only good thing you could say about her car was that, somehow, it ran nine days out of ten.


On the other hand, the stereo worked reasonably well. And, in any case, I didn’t have much grounds for complaint. My wheels are on a bicycle, because I can’t afford a car. So I got in the car and we drove back into town in silence.


I should make something clear right now. I’m not a detective, private or otherwise. I’m not a hardboiled gumshoe with a dark and troubled past, a substance abuse problem, and an inexplicable tendency to use the word “dame” in casual conversation. I have never in my life worked for or with the police. I make furniture. I do have a friend who’s a police officer, but we avoid the topic of work studiously.


Kyra, contrary to what you might now be thinking, is not that friend. She has also never worked with the police in any capacity, and wouldn’t have anything to do with them of her own free will. She’s a waitress in a bar that attracts a very unusual clientele.


What we were just doing was, as a result, illegal as hell. Cops tend to get upset when you trespass on their crime scenes, and that guy didn’t wind up in that condition by natural causes. It was fresh, too; the smell of rot had been hardly noticeable. I was guessing he’d died after midnight the night before. It was entirely possible that we’d been the first people to take a serious look at the scene.


Fortunately, neither of us was really the type to be concerned by that sort of thing. I try to stay on the right side of the law, but that’s pretty much just out of pragmatism. I don’t think of it as being a moral obligation or anything. Kyra doesn’t pay it even that much respect.


She wasn’t stupid, though. We’d gotten a chance to look at things in privacy—which I highly doubted was a coincidence—but there was no guarantee of how long it would last and we really didn’t want to still be there when the police finally started swarming the place. That’s why we didn’t stay there any longer than we absolutely had to. We could talk about it anywhere.


We ended up going, as we usually did, to the bar and restaurant where Kyra worked. Pryce’s was a fairly small bar a little closer to the center of town than my home that catered to members of the preternatural community. Most of his customers, and all of his employees, were something not quite human.


Somehow people, on the rare occasions they think about things like werewolves and vampires at all, never think about them in a mundane setting. Even people who know they exist, and really ought to know better, somehow get surprised when they learn that a werewolf works in retail.


There’s a funny thing about werewolves, though. They like to eat as much as the next guy. Actually, they often like to eat more than the next guy. Now, most supernatural critters know some interesting tricks, but I don’t think any of them could manage an infinite supply of money, which they need to survive in the modern world. Following this line of thought to its staggering conclusion you may realize that most of them have jobs, just like ordinary people. A few of them do the kind of work that seems more appropriate—extortion, say, or tracking, things on the gray edges of the law. Society can only support a limited amount of that kind of thing, though, and mostly we have boring, everyday jobs.


The supernatural creatures still living in this world are good at hiding, at blending in to the background. Most of them take jobs that are conducive to that—they’re waitresses, construction workers, computer technicians. They work in sanitation and telemarketing, as prostitutes and migrant workers. There will always be people who society doesn’t examine too closely, who go unnoticed because people don’t want to acknowledge that they exist.


The things that go bump in the night have blended in to modern society so ubiquitously that you’d never guess they were there at all.


In fact, you probably know one.


Pryce, who has much the same attitude, doesn’t advertise, not even by hanging a sign. He doesn’t need to. He isn’t interested in attracting tourists or impulse customers, and word of mouth is more effective with the beings that make up his clientele anyway. As a result, there’s nothing to distinguish his restaurant from the old warehouses around it except the absence of graffiti.


If the building is unremarkable on the outside, the same can’t be said for the interior. On the other side of the heavy wooden door a half-flight of stairs leads down to the oak floor. Pryce keeps the room dim—not dark, just dim enough that a human would have a little trouble seeing until their eyes adjusted. It didn’t slow Kyra or I down a bit.


I come to Pryce’s fairly regularly, but I’m always impressed. To the right of the door the bar takes up most of the room, a twenty-foot work of art crafted from black walnut. Tables are scattered throughout the rest of the room. None of the handmade wooden furniture matches, having nothing in common other than excellent craftsmanship. Kyra picked a small table in the corner opposite the bar, where we weren’t likely to be overheard or bothered. Pryce’s is arranged so that there were several such tables; wanting a secluded spot in the shadows with your back to the wall and a clear view of the door was a fairly common thing, with this crowd. If you want to survive any length of time in the sort of environment they frequent, paranoia’s sort of a necessity.


There were only a few other people in the restaurant, which wasn’t much of a surprise considering the time—Pryce is open twenty-four seven, but most of his business comes in the evening and night. Currently there was one table of four college-age kids, a grizzled man fifty or sixty years old sitting alone at the far end of the bar, and a pair of young women playing pool in the back of the room.


Pryce himself, of course, was behind the bar. I’ve never seen him anywhere else. He’s a big man, eight inches taller than me and probably twice as heavy, although I doubt much of it’s fat. With vibrant red hair just going to grey, a bristling beard, and a moderate Irish accent, somehow he’s always struck me as exactly what a bartender should look like. The only discrepant note was that his appearance hadn’t changed, at all, in the five years since I’d met him.


I doubt he’s human. No human could keep the kind of crowds his bar attracts in line. That’s okay, though; mostly the people I interact with on a regular basis aren’t human. Neither am I, although I fake it better than some. I look human, more or less, and I act human, generally, but genetically I have less in common with the average person than, say, a chimpanzee.


Kyra placed our order and grabbed our drinks herself—one of the few benefits of being a waitress. Pryce is a relatively benevolent boss, but that doesn’t change the fact that her job sucks. I mean, it might actually be worse than mine, and there are bums who can’t say that.


“So what do you think?” she asked me, leaning most of her weight on the table—though I wasn’t sure whether that reflected nervousness or eagerness. Possibly she didn’t know herself.


I took a deep swallow of iced tea before I answered her. “I think it looks like werewolf. The wounds look mostly like bites, the moon is waxing full, and there’s a residue of magic that could be from a wolf,” I said, keeping my voice low. There wasn’t any need for the other people in the room to know about this. “I also think that you don’t need my help to point that out. It’s pretty obvious, and you wouldn’t have been there in the first place if you didn’t think it was a werewolf. So why’d you call me?”


“Because it doesn’t smell,” Kyra said quietly.


I blinked. “What?”


For the first time that day Kyra looked me straight in the eye—a confrontational gesture among both werewolves and their natural relative, the grey wolf, and I was quick to look away. “It’s true,” she said hotly. “There’s no smell from the killer. None.”


I frowned. “Could it just have been overwhelmed by the blood?” Blood has a rather strong scent, and one which werewolves, for obvious reasons, tend to place importance on.


Kyra rolled her eyes. “Please. I’m better than that.” Then, proving that she’d thought about it, she continued, “Besides, I checked all the exits. None of them held a scent, and there wasn’t any blood on any of them.”


That was bad. Kyra’s senses were only average by werewolf standards, but that still meant that in human form they were more acute than mine, and vastly more than human, more than adequate for tracking. Wearing fur, and I had no doubt that she had shifted to the wolf for this task, they were several steps beyond that. She should have been able to get some scent, even if it wasn’t good enough for identification.


“Could a werewolf do that, Winter? Hide his scent like that?” She asked me because, even though she was a werewolf and I was not, I knew more about them. When I first met her, she’d been a werewolf for more than a year and she barely knew what werewolves even were. I, on the other hand, had had my entire life to be educated on the subject.


I shook my head. “Not a new werewolf. There are a couple wolves who might be able to, but I doubt they were involved.” They were all experienced enough to be smart, and a smart werewolf would have just shot the guy if they wanted him dead. Generally speaking the only reason a werewolf would kill somebody like that would be if they wanted to send a message—which Kyra would have known about—or if they were new.


When a human becomes a werewolf, he—and it usually is a he; Kyra, as a female werewolf, was distinctly in the minority—gets all kinds of instinctive urges that humans aren’t accustomed to dealing with, things like territoriality, hunting behaviors, that sort of stuff. Mostly they manage to keep it under control, but it can take a while to get used to it. In the interim, a lot of new werewolves are erratic, and sometimes violent. It sometimes leads to deaths, especially on a wolf’s first full moon.


Kyra stood up abruptly. “Hang on, our food’s ready.” She went to get it herself, because Pryce would hardly leave his bar just to deliver food. He had employees other than Kyra, of course, but at the moment the only one working was a cook. There just wasn’t enough business at this time of day to justify more.


She grabbed sandwiches, fries, coleslaw, soup, and mashed potatoes in one trip, balancing them easily on her arms and still managing to grab a refill for my tea. She was a professional, after all, and the weight was hardly a problem. Popular culture sometimes exaggerates the superhuman strength of werewolves, but there’s definitely a base there to build off.


“Listen,” I said while she arranged the various plates and bowls so that all of them would fit on the table. “I know some people who might have some idea what’s going on. I’ll talk to them and get back to you when I have a better idea what to do, okay?”


She nodded, her mouth already full of hamburger, and for several minutes the food was all either of us paid attention too. Werewolves tend to be like that, particularly near the full moon, and I couldn’t afford to eat this well often enough that I took it lightly. Pryce’s food was always excellent.


The next time she spoke, fear had been replaced by mischief and curiosity in her voice. “You know, Winter, I never asked how it is you know so much about werewolves.”


That’s one of the ways werewolves are different from humans. Most of them don’t place much importance on the past or the future, because the part of them that isn’t quite human is so tightly bound to the present. Besides which, it had taken almost a year since I met her for Kyra to express curiosity around me at all. She was still broken in some ways, but she was making progress.


I finished chewing and swallowed before I answered, taking the time to think about what I should say. This wasn’t a topic I had ever been comfortable with. “I guess you could say it’s genetic,” I told her eventually.


“What, you mean your father was a wolf?” Kyra asked.


“No, my mother was.” I paused. “I’m a little surprised nobody in the pack’s ever told you about her, actually. She had a pretty impressive reputation.”


She grinned. “As a brutal dictator who ruled with an iron fist?”


I snorted. “No, she had a reputation for being the least discriminating slut in North America.”


Kyra blinked. “Wow. I was not expecting that. Was she bisexual or something?”


I considered that for a moment. “More like omnisexual, I’d say. She’d have sex with men, women, other werewolves—male and female, and in every combination of shapes possible. I’ve heard she slept with at least three of the fae and a vampire, too.” I’d heard more stories about her exploits growing up than I cared to remember. It was a hell of a thing to have hanging over me when I was young.


Kyra glanced aside. “Sorry to bring it up,” she said. She could tell I wasn’t comfortable with the topic, of course. Werewolves aren’t polygraphs, and the myth of them being able to smell fear is patently ridiculous—a werewolf can smell sweat, especially in fur, but that doesn’t say all that much about what a person is feeling. In spite of that, it’s surprisingly hard to deceive most werewolves. They pay a lot more attention than most humans to things like body language and breathing rate, and it’s difficult to lie with those.


I shook my head. “No, that’s okay. It doesn’t bother me much anymore.” Which was also a lie, but not one she was likely to catch. I’ve had quite a bit of practice at lying to werewolves.


After that the conversation died out; I guess both of us were too caught up in memory to make small talk. Not that either of us is actually any good at it to begin with. Kyra made her food disappear like only a hungry werewolf can, and I wasn’t far behind her. When all that was left of the meal were empty plates, I stood up to leave while Kyra cleared the table.


“You want a ride?” she asked.


“No thanks, I think I’ll walk. It’s a nice day.” The truth is that I walk almost everywhere; I have a bicycle, but I’ve never been comfortable riding it in the city. Being run over in the bike lane isn’t how I want to die. I don’t really get out much, anyway. Pryce’s restaurant was less than a mile from my home, and walking wouldn’t bother me a bit.


As it turned out, I didn’t go home right away. I thought about it, but I just wasn’t in the mood. This was pack business, and getting involved in pack business always makes me feel rather unhappy. On top of that, this meant I was going to have to talk to some people I’d been spending several years avoiding, and I wasn’t looking forward to that conversation at all. Going home would leave me with nothing to do but stew on it, and that’s never a good idea.


In the meantime, well, I had work to do. Work always makes me feel better.


I work at a tiny shop not too far from either Pryce’s bar or my house. When I say it was small, I mean it seriously; the owner and I were the only ones who worked there. His name’s Dvalin Kovac, although he usually goes by Val so that Americans can pronounce it. He is, at risk of sounding like a broken record, not human. Unlike Pryce, though, I didn’t have to guess at what he was. He’d told me years before, not too long after I started working for him, that he was one of the fae.


That really wasn’t all that informative; saying that someone is fae is akin to saying that an animal is a vertebrate. It might be true, but there’s so much variation in the group that it becomes meaningless. Likewise, “fae” is a catchall category that covers everything from leprechauns and pixies to Norse trolls and creatures you’ve probably never heard of unless you happen to have a fetish for obscure folklore. They have a few things in common—most of them are weakened or harmed by iron, for example—but trying to apply those things as hard-and-fast rules can get you burned, hard.


In popular culture they’re commonly referred to as fairies; I wouldn’t advise calling them that to their face unless you have a serious death wish. Even before the homosexual connotation, they considered the term an insult—and insulting the fae ranks near picking fights with werewolves when it comes to ways to commit suicide. The fae are often both easy to anger and quick to act on that anger, lethally. Not quite the reputation they hold with the uneducated, but then Disney isn’t exactly a great source to rely upon.


If you want to get an understanding of what the fae are like, try reading the uncensored version of Grimm’s fairy tales. Then remember that those stories downplayed how dangerous the fae were, too. In the days before Christianity the strongest of them were worshipped as gods, and not the merciful kind.


Val didn’t seem much like a scary, merciless god. He appeared—or chose to appear, which with the fae means essentially the same thing—to be a thin, somewhat short man in late middle age. He liked knock-knock jokes and B-movies, poured sausage gravy on everything he ate, and was a dedicated fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs even though they hadn’t won the Stanley Cup since before I was born. Honestly, there aren’t all that many people less intimidating than Val.


That’s most of what I know about Val, and I’ve been working for him for five years now. He doesn’t talk much, and he likes small talk less than I do. I don’t know how old he really is, how long he’s been in Colorado, or why he runs his shop when I know for a fact he could be getting much, much more money doing other kinds of work. You get used to that kind of thing when you interact with nonhumans a lot. Heck, even I hadn’t ever told Kyra about my past. It’s just considered standard, socially.


Although neither of us was human, a decent proportion of our customers were, and as a result Val had to be a little more obvious than Pryce about his business—not a lot, but a little. There was a wooden sign over the door reading “VAL’S REPAIR SERVICE” in large, faded black letters and a smaller paper sign in the front window proclaiming “Locksmith services available.” That sign wasn’t as faded, probably because it only dated to when I started working for Val.


I learned to pick locks when I was seventeen, from an old werewolf who collects odd skills the way some people collect rocks. I think mostly that’s why Val hired me; he loves learning new things. Even though he could open just about any lock with his magic, and had been doing so for some time when I met him, he still insisted that I teach him how to do it with a pick as soon as I started working for him. By the time he’d learned all he cared to, he liked me enough to give me a steady job. The better part of a decade later, nothing much had changed.


It was Saturday and the shop was officially closed. That didn’t matter for me, though; I had a key, and there was always work to be done. A lot of the money I make is from side projects, which I can do any time I want. I pay Val for the materials, but he lets me use all his tools for free—a very generous gift on his part. It would cost thousands to buy even a fraction of the equipment he’d accumulated, which was money I couldn’t easily afford.


I let myself through the steel door with the key Val had given me my first day on the job. The first room in was a sort of combination office and waiting room, and not much different from any other such room: small, and a little claustrophobic despite the large front window, with a few old chairs and a table with some even older magazines sitting on it. Val literally hadn’t replaced some of those magazines for thirty years.


I didn’t bother lingering there, proceeding past the desk into the shop proper. Val had a fairly small garage, empty at the moment but capable of holding two or three cars—in addition to all the tools he kept in there. It was a fairly broad selection, by which I mean that there were fully equipped machine shops that couldn’t match it. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone other than Val who could actually use them all.


See, while Val has to advertise to attract business, he doesn’t like it, and he doesn’t advertise most of the services he’s willing to provide. In the time I’ve been working there I’ve done automotive work, appliance repair, bicycle maintenance, locksmithing, gunsmithing, jeweling, plumbing, and carpentry.


Basically, what Val did was very simple. He fixed things. It didn’t matter what, exactly, they were. It didn’t matter what was wrong with them. He could fix it.


I don’t mean that in, like, a metaphysical way. He wasn’t a doctor, a psychiatrist, or a priest; he didn’t work on people, and in fact preferred to have as little to do with them as possible. Other than that, though, he would work on anything. Cars, of course, were one of the big sellers, but we did at least as much work on appliances, power tools, bicycles, and a ridiculous variety of random things. I honestly think some of the more regular customers sometimes bring in the most bizarre things they can think of to be repaired, just to see whether Val can do it. (Spoiler: he always can.)


Some of the jobs he did were, to put it lightly, shady. Sometimes people bring in safes for us to open without necessarily knowing what the contents are, or being willing to say where they might have come from. Other times they ask for modifications to firearms which are only legal with certain very restrictive licenses, which they don’t particularly want to discuss. Stuff like that. Val doesn’t ask questions, mostly because he doesn’t care. Human laws don’t mean much to him.


I usually avoid working on those particular jobs, and Val doesn’t try to convince me to do otherwise. I try to avoid breaking the law, unless I have a good reason to. Not that that had stopped me this morning. I tend to be better at making rules for myself than following them, as evidenced by my total inability to keep my nose out of pack business.


In all fairness, I went a few years without any contact with werewolves. That’s more impressive than it sounds, when your mother is one. She died not long after I was born, but the pack looks after its own, including the children of its wolves. I was in large part raised by my mother’s pack.


When I moved to Colorado Springs, though, I didn’t make any effort to contact the local pack. I’d had my fill of lycanthropy and then some. Kyra was the first local werewolf I met, and that was by total coincidence while I was eating at Pryce’s.


It should have stayed like that, but there is some truth to the saying that werewolves are like potato chips—you can’t have just one. Six months after I met her, I realized what a monstrosity her pack had become, and…well.


I’m not a saint. I’m not a hero. I’m not even a particularly good person. But even I have my limits.


You have to have a little background for this one to make sense. Seven years ago Kyra was going to college in Denver. I’m not quite sure what she was studying—something to do with math. I think maybe some sort of engineering. Not my thing, but apparently she was pretty good at it.


Anyway, the salient fact here is that one weekend she decided to take a day trip to Colorado Springs. It wasn’t a particularly long trip, nor one that should have exposed her to danger. It was true that she was alone, but she was smart about it.


Unfortunately for Kyra, the Alpha of the Pikes Peak pack at the time was an old werewolf named Roland. At some point not too long before Kyra took that (at risk of absurd melodrama) fateful trip, Roland started going crazy. It happens, sometimes, to werewolves who get too old. They get out of touch with reality and, at some point, they just snap.


Age-related insanity manifests differently in every werewolf. For Roland it meant paranoia. He was obsessed with rooting out disloyalty in the pack, convinced that his wolves were conspiring against him. In Roland’s defense, in many cases he was right, just because he was so crazy that even loyalists wanted him dead or, at the very least, removed from power. Nobody sane wants to serve a madman.


The end result of this was that he killed a number of werewolves in his own pack. Trying to make up the difference, he ordered his people to replenish their numbers by the traditional method. Although being attacked by a werewolf isn’t as foolproof a way of becoming one yourself as some of the more recent stories claim (only about a third of victims change successfully, and a lot of those die shortly thereafter), it works often enough to make it a valid means of making more werewolves. Insane, but valid.


So he had his wolves target anyone who they thought might make it as a wolf. And, more to the point, people they could attack without being noticed.


I’m not sure why Roland’s second, a werewolf even crazier than his boss who was addicted to the hunt, chose Kyra. Probably we’ll never know, because anyone who might have is dead now. Whatever the reason, he did attack her that night, she did beat the odds and survive, and she did become a werewolf.


Ordinarily, the pack supports new wolves until they’ve come to grips with what they’ve become and they can keep it under control. Well, it shouldn’t surprise you that when it comes to a pack like Roland’s that all goes right out the window. They didn’t do jack to help Kyra. In point of fact Roland encouraged some of the worst of it, on the basis that it would break new wolves’ spirits and keep them from rebelling. He didn’t want to go to the effort of bringing in new blood just for them to turn traitor as well.


Of course, being crazy, the notion of just treating them well enough to inspire loyalty never occurred to him.


Normally it takes about, oh, three or four months for a werewolf’s sanity to stabilize, or for the pack to decide it never will. After that period things calm down for most wolves. In this case, things worked differently. The new wolves—Kyra was only one of several that were changed in the same way—were physically and emotionally abused in a continuing effort to break them. The slightest display of defiance would provoke him to a screaming rage. I’m not going to go into detail about what was done to them. Suffice to say that it was bad, and you can probably guess most of it. I suppose it could have been worse—there was no rape involved, and no outright torture—but it was still pretty awful.


Eventually, after four years of abuse and at least one suicide attempt, she came in to work at Pryce’s with a bruise covering half her face on a day I happened to eat there. She interpreted it as a come-on (incorrectly—after my werewolf-heavy youth I have no interest in becoming romantically involved with one) when I asked her what had happened, and brushed it off as an accident of some sort. Probably walking into a door; that does seem to be the traditional choice, although honestly it seems a little ridiculous to me. I mean, does anybody buy that line anymore?


Anyway, the salient fact is that she was lying. More importantly, she was lying badly. Her tone, her posture, everything about her made it clear she was being dishonest. (The ridiculous excuse helped a lot, of course. I might not have noticed it otherwise, but come on.) She started to walk away, and I reached out to touch her wrist. I was planning on just telling her that it was fine if she didn’t want to talk about it, but she should at least have a believable excuse.


My first indication of what was really going on was when she flinched away from even that minimal of contact. She wasn’t angry, either—just afraid, absolutely and instantly terrified, for no real reason.


So, long story short, I got the real story out of her. Once called on it she seemed almost desperate to finally talk to somebody about what was happening. The bruise was from one of the other werewolves, needless to say. I forget what, exactly, was the pretense for it. Something inconsequential, I know that much.


I try not to get involved in other people’s business, and I’m generally pretty good at it. Once I realized what was going on, though…well, let’s just say it trumped my standard policy of noninterference. I went straight home and called some people. When the dust settled, there were a number of bodies. Roland’s was one of them.


Even after that, though, I made it out all right. Kyra was the only werewolf I thought of as a close friend, and the only one I’d seen more than a handful of times in the past three years. I left the pack alone, and they returned the courtesy. It had been the most peaceful and maybe the most pleasant time of my life.


And whaddaya know, here I was sticking my nose into pack business again. You’d really think that someday I’d learn.

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One Response to Almost Winter 1.1

  1. Emrys

    This is an author’s commentary written after the completion of the series. Spoilers are in a rot13 cipher; if you aren’t familiar with that there are a number of very easy deciphering websites to use. These spoilers may cover the full series, not just this book, and they may make reference to major plot points and character development. You have been warned.

    Okay, as the first chapter of the story this is arguably the most important chapter of the whole thing. This is what makes people either keep reading or put it down and walk away. As such I would have liked to do something a bit better with it. Looking back on it it’s too busy and scattered; I was definitely trying to do too much too fast, here. A more focused chapter, without so much exposition, would have been a stronger opening.

    The first scene is fairly gory and graphic. I think I was trying to make it come across as intense, and I don’t really regret that scene, but it would have worked better if it were presented more casually and in less detail. I was definitely trying too hard here.

    The rest of the chapter is fairly straightforward, mostly setting the scene. Again, it would have been improved if the exposition and backstory were more naturally integrated into the flow of the story. That’s something I struggled a lot with in the first few books.

    Overall, this isn’t the opening I would have liked for it to be. But it does set the scene and get right to the main action of this book pretty quickly, so it’s more or less doing its job.

    Gur grrantr tvey npebff gur fgerrg sebz gur ubhfr va gur ortvaavat gurer vf Nvxb, purpxvat bhg gur crbcyr jub ner vairfgvtngvat gur fprar. V’q npghnyyl sbetbggra gung fur jnf va gur irel svefg puncgre, juvpu vf xvaq bs avpr tvira ubj vzcbegnag bs n ebyr fur pnzr gb cynl yngre ba. V vavgvnyyl vagraqrq sbe ure gb unir n irel qvssrerag ebyr va gur fgbel; zber ba gung yngre.

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