Northern Italy, July, 1620
The dimly lit streets are barren. The people occupying the upper half of the country were informed of the threat to their safety the previous week. They’ve remained locked inside their homes since, not one soul daring to glance outside. Not while the Devil Incarnate walks their streets.
Their absence makes his escape an easier feat.
The babe wails in his arms. He tries to hush and comfort her as he runs but she carries on. Only a few months old and already she’s seen death. He swore no harm would come to his people the moment his brother’s head was mounted on that pole back home, and now he can’t see past an impending doom.
His feet hit the cobblestone at an inhuman speed. The familiar sound of wind chimes is lost in this country. The silence without them is daunting. He runs and refuses to look back. He’s being followed, he knows. He need not see to believe. The cooling air of the summer night brushes his cheeks as he nears his destination. He can smell the sweet scent of rose, slightly calming his racing heart. She’s close.
He turns a corner, then another, then another, until finally he’s back where he left his comrades. He’s back at the border. It’s somewhere he should feel safe, but he can only register panic as he stops before this small group. There’s no time.
Margarete sobs as he hands her the distressed infant, her fingers trembling until she feels the weight of her child in her arms. The others gather around to inspect the babe and just as he is about to address them, she repeats the slew of panicked and rushed thoughts she tried to communicate to him when he found her abandoned just outside Milan.
“Konrad,” she cries. Her cheeks glisten in the soft moonlight and her throat can’t seem to control the cracks in her voice. “The creature, I saw what he did before they disposed of me. He held her, he was speaking so deeply, she cried and screamed but I heard him–”
“Margarete please, there isn’t time,” Konrad grabs her shoulders. “You must go. All of you. Follow the others to England–”
“–and board the ship to the New World.”
“No! I will not leave you!”
“You will not stay.”
“Anfang is my home,” she insists over the infant’s wails.
“It’s no one’s home anymore,” he breaks his own heart. Their land has been infested. They must flee, and he must buy them time. He steps closer and cups the woman’s face. “Go. Run from here. When the ship docks run until you see water again. Keep Elsebeth far away from their grasp, whatever they want from her they cannot have.”
“She needs you, I need you.”
“You need to be far from here before they find us,” he leans down and presses his lips to hers. “There is not a moment spent with you that I regret. Now run away with our daughter and let me protect you both the way I’m meant to.”
“N-No, Konrad,” she begs. He looks up at the men and nods once – permission. Two step forward and grab her arms, careful not to harm the screaming child. They pull her away from him and he feels her absence with every step she’s forced to take. He watches her, memorizes her face until they disappear behind the trees, leaving himself and eight men.
“Uncle,” young Frederich steps forward. “I wish not to leave Switzerland. Anfang is no longer safe, but we, the firsts, must maintain refuge in the land where we have found peace and established ourselves. If you allow it, I will reject my father’s blood which runs through my veins and accept yours. I will follow in your footsteps. I swear to refrain from acting out as he did and step in as a fierce and ethical leader for the remaining Anfang natives – your people.”
"Your people,” Konrad says, looking his nephew in the eyes. He has not one shred of doubt when it comes to his ability to lead with dignity and strength. “Abolish Anfang, but never forget. Erect a new settlement, do better than I did, and remain hidden. War is headed for Deutschland. Italy has encouraged their cleansing of evil.”
“The Origin Land.”
Konrad nods then looks to the rest of the men. “Go. All of you. Now!”
He watches until they’re gone, headed North. He looks West. He can still smell her. And then a gust of wind carries her scent away. He refuses to show his fear, so he squares his shoulders and turns to face his enemy.
A face made of pure stone. Skin unnaturally shiny and glistening. Complexion too pale and ashy to be human. Almost transparent. He’s seen this face before – this evil, abnormal face. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth – sure. They’re made to blend in as much as possible. But they’re irregular all the same.
A simple tunic and breeches of the same shade of its skin maintain its human-like facade. Dark hair sprouts from his scalp. Passersby would assume they are a very sick and helpless peasant. But they are far from sick and helpless.
As he stares into the creature’s eyes, he slowly lifts his hand behind his back and brings it under his coat until he feels the dagger he tucked away with the help of his belt. Anfang’s first encounter with these beings could not be deemed successful, but they did learn one thing.
The creature stares at him patiently. They don’t speak the same language, so he knows this thing will not understand his German like he does not understand its Latin. Nevertheless, he feels the need to boast about his win.
“You’ll never find her,” he sneers. “Whatever you want with that child, you cannot have.”
Unceremoniously, he snatches the dagger from its hiding place and pierces the creature’s chest right where its heart is. Or is not. He does not know. When three seconds pass with no reaction – unlike at Anfang when these aliens met their match as soon as the dagger hit their chests – Konrad’s confidence lessens. The creature simply glances down to the dagger and the hand holding it in place and then back up at its attacker.
Slowly, a wicked smile forms on its face. Too wide to be normal. Too sinister. Konrad has not seen an expression as dark as this. His hand drops from the handle of the dagger and his jaw slackens. It’s only been less than a day since he saw four of these creatures crumble this way.
“O fortuna,” the creature speaks. “Sero est tibi.”
Konrad watches as it yanks the dagger from its chest and throws it to the side. When it turns its face back to him, the smile is gone and a chill of evil overcomes him.
“Ero sanguinem vestrum adprehendet illam.”
In a flash, its hands find the sides of Konrad’s head and a pain unlike anything he’s felt booms through his entire being. Seconds is all it takes.
And then he’s gone.
Western America, December, 1620
After ten weeks of rough travels at sea they all want it to be over, but they don’t know how much longer it will take. When the Mayflower docked in a place called Cape Cod, Margarete and her people – what was left of them – followed Konrad’s instructions. When the ship docks run until you see water again.
They’re running, but they’ve yet to see water.
Margarete is blessed to have as many people with her as she does, though it’s only half of the original Anfang settlers. Among those who stayed behind are close friends and family. Young Frederich, who she helped raise, has taken over for Konrad.
She felt it the moment it happened. Part of her soul is gone, never to return. Half of her light is out. Her body and mind, weakened. Her hope and will, torn apart. Until she looks into her daughter’s eyes and part of them all come back to her. She can survive without Konrad. He would want her to. She has to.
Every day, sprinting turns to running, running turns to walking, and walking turns to desperately dragging their feet. Their bodies are more tired than they are accustomed to. Their stomachs are empty. Their hearts are broken. Their determination has dwindled. It’s been three weeks since they set foot on this land – the New World.
They know from their journey that there were already people here.
Her eyes want to close as she walks. The only parts of her that are really awake are her arms where Elsebeth sleeps. Not once has she let her out of her site. Her vision swirls and she becomes less aware of her surroundings. The rhythmic crunch of leaves gets quieter and quieter. Her upper body begins to fold over against her will.
She bolts upright and looks around. She’s lagged behind, nearly at the back of the group now. Her people stare at her with wide eyes. Concern?
“Do you hear that?”
She looks to Nikolaus, following his voice. He’s staring at her, waiting. Then she remembers what he said. She extends her hearing until she can no longer hear just leaves and branches and squirrels and birds, but rather open air and... “Water?”
She widens her eyes until her expression matches those of her people. It wasn’t concern, it was hope.
“Water!” She confirms, running forward. They follow behind her and they don’t stop until there’s finally a permanent break in the trees. They’re atop a small mountain looking out at water. A huge, expansive ocean. Some ice closer to the shore, but water nonetheless. The crisp winter air washes over her refreshingly and she feels as if her body has awoken.
Margarete sighs in content, her emotions finally catching up with her. We did it, Konrad. We’re safe. Her chin trembles as she looks out at the never-ending blue surface. It finally hits her that she’s left her home and that she can’t go back. But no matter, they’ll make do here.
“Luna?” She turns and is met with a nervous-looking Agnes. “What do we do now?”
Margarete lets a breath out through her nose as her eyes roam over each and every member of her pack. Her new pack. She closes her eyes and pictures Anfang, Switzerland, Deutschland, Konrad, one last time before she fully turns to face them. “We settle. We do better than we did before. This is our home now and no one will take it. Anfang will live on through our resilience, but no one will speak of what happened there. The horror has passed and it’s time to move on. From this moment on we are the First Wolves of the New World, and we will live in peace with the new settlers and existing inhabitants of this land should we need to show ourselves, but our goal is to remain hidden. Our kind will find solace on this side of the world as they have where we come from, and that starts with us.”
“Is that our pack name, Luna?” Nikolaus asks. “Die ersten Wölfe?”
“No,” she shakes her head. “English.”
Eyes widen and many exchange glances. Anfang and the Origin Land must truly be forgotten.
“We are the First Wolves.”