Shifters have walked among humans for aeons, hidden from our knowledge, their war and politics hidden from our view. Now, a great convulsion in their world threatens to send our civilization back into the Stone Age. Again.
Chapter One: The Legend of the Goddess
She didn't always hide. In the beginning she had walked amongst them, the goddess and her people. Side by side. That was before the Great Wars. The schism that tore Shifterkind in two. After the final battle, Imrael, the daughter of the omniscient god Avistor and the immortal, achingly beautiful water nymph Kattra; Imrael, goddess of the Shifters, her beauty and power surpassing that of both her parents combined and personification of all that it was and is to be Shifter, she vanished. Fading into history to become a whisper, a rumour of a myth.
The Great Shifter wars. From the present date, around 11,500 years ago. The Ancient Greeks were at the peak of their powers, according to human records. Shifters, with their lifespan of around 3,000 years, know the truth. The Ancient Greeks, for all their cleverness, exploited the island province of Atlantis, using it as a source for all their power. When the Great Wars were unleashed onto the world, the final battle, taking place in modern day Greece, sent all of that clever science, all that power, the Greek's gentle slaves, with a language that sounded like song and a culture based on balance and respect, with intelligence not seen in a single civilization before or since, all that beauty and power was sent to the bottom of the sea, never to be recovered.
In so doing, Shifters sent human history back around 1,000 years. However, Shifters lost something infinitely more precious. Imrael, their goddess. Soon after losing her, in the chaos that followed the Final Battle, the Shifters lost sight of what it was to be a Shifter. They lost part of themselves, along with their goddess.
Four generations and over 11,000 years later, the Shifters have still not recovered, still divided and still warring, sending Hunters to the opposite factions.
Yet again, the elegant young she-wolf let out a vicious yelp of pain as she slammed into the ground. Her silver coat, usually sleek silver-grey, scattered with russet hairs, was matted with blood, some crusting a rusty brown, most fresh and an indecently bright red.
Her front paw, blackened as though she had stepped in ink, was lifted slightly from the ground, as though it was unable to take her slight weight. An ugly slash of red marred the white blaze on her proud muzzle. Her sides heaved with exertion as she attempted to hobble away, all of her clever agility lost. She craved the cover of deep shadows, or holy ground, where the creature couldn’t follow. She whined slightly, near to the end of her strength after weeks of pursuit and torture by the First Rank demon, the most powerful of its kind that still followed her now.
The marshy scrubland that they had been struggling through gave way to the Louisiana bayou. A full moon shimmered on the ground in front of the she-wolf. The demon snapped its jaws in frustration as it lost its footing yet again, barely two metres from her hind legs. The damp ground hissed as the liquid boiled away from its true form. They were both nearing death, dangerously wounded and determined to be the sole survivor of this encounter.
Just as she was considering a dive into the bayou out of desperation, another growl sounded, cold, menacing and very close in the undergrowth. She flinched away, recognising the sound of a fellow wolf and began to run the best she could along the edge of the bayou, not daring to look back.
However it was only the demon that approached as she suddenly lost her footing, crashing through vegetation down a muddy, rocky slope, adding rock strikes to her numerous injuries. She eventually landed heavily, splashing on the very edge of the water. She fought to regain her footing, the slick mud stealing the last reserves of her strength as she struggled. Her head splashed down again, her muscles quivering from exhaustion. Her consciousness flickered as the demon approached her slowly, savouring her pain. Clouds of steam wreathed all but it eyes, glowing the colour of blood. She scrambled away as best she could, coating herself in more and more mud, all her pride and elegance forgotten. As a single claw reached for her, a bloodthirsty growl stopped both the wolf and the demon cold. A pair of eyes flickered to life to one side of the she-wolf, opposite the demon. It paused an instant before disregarding the sound.
The snarl ended in a summoning howl as a massive, powerful black wolf sprang from the undergrowth, striking the demon squarely. Before it had a chance to recover, the wolf tore the demon’s head from its shoulders, dropping the thing as it disintegrated before swinging his powerful head to the she wolf. She tried again to get to her feet, splashing into the mud, unable to free herself from its grasp.
Darkness began to gather at the edges of her vision as the black wolf approached. Her eyes flickered. The last image she had was of an excessively attractive man bending to pick her up. His eyes were those of the wolf.