Prologue- Curse of the Lycans
(Moldovia, 1465 A.D.)
Crepuscular moonbeams quivered down through narrow cracks in the dark veil of wisping clouds, spreading silvery lunar light across the eerily silent field of slaughtered soldiers and discarded weaponry. Their mutilated bodies, clad in tarnished medieval armor, laid woven together in mangled bloodied heaps. Crimson rivulets flowed out from their tattered and lacerated flesh, slowly trickling down to the damp trampled ground below.
That was all that remained of the Moldavian army who had set forth to battle the Wallachians over the siege of Chilia. Under the orders of Stephen the Great, and led by the infamously fearsome and bloodthirsty warlord, Hadeon of Hades, the battle was predicted to be an easy victory. They had not anticipated that their enemy would have had such strong reinforcements. And so, the gruesome battle had been excruciatingly long, and was lost on both sides.
Hadeon stood alone among the sea of carnage and butchery, panting heavily through his nostrils, with blood and sweat trickling down his distraught and weary face. The suffocating stench of death and iron surrounded him. His crimson smeared armor glistened in the dimly flickering lunar glow. A few loose strands of his thick dark umber hair had fallen out of his high ponytail, and dangled across his handsome face. As his russet eyes glanced around, desperately searching for any remaining comrades, a very cruel veracity pierced him deeper than any sword ever could.
None had survived but him.
“My brothers...” His deep voice despondently whispered in his native tongue, the sound wasted on dead ears.
With his newly found grief came a surge of rage. It burned through his veins until his heart was scorched with fury. It wasn’t fair that he should live to see his cherished comrades die. That he, and he alone, should suffer with the memory of their failure. With his emotions in utter turmoil, he dramatically lifted his sword high above his head, and screamed out in agony as he forcefully stabbed it into the laden blood-soaked soil. His armor clanked as he weakly fell to his knees, resting his forehead against the hilt of the blade. And there he began to weep.
“My brothers.” He sorrowfully whispered again through his tears, his voice far softer the second time.
While he continued to disconsolately mourn, the clouds began to slowly part above his large heaving frame. A single silvery moonbeam gently started to brightly glimmer down upon him from the celestial heavens. For up in the empyrean sky, a beautiful goddess, pale and pure, had been watching him with pity in her kindly heart.
She empathized with his grief. For many of her own beloved and loyal followers had recently been slaughtered, and forced to convert to an oppressive foreign religion. With the violent destruction of ancient pagan practices and knowledge, very few honored the moon anymore. When they did, it had to be done in secret out of fear of being labeled a witch and murdered. And so, the goddess saw an opportunity for both of them.
Out from the soft lunar rays she appeared, elegantly floating before him. Moonflowers with silvery vines were threaded through her white luminescent hair, which cascaded down past her hips like a glowing ivory cloak. Her silken silvery raiment shimmered like the stars, and slightly fluttered in the warm summer breeze. Lips of the palest pink were gently turned up into a smile, as she gazed down upon him with twinkling eyes of celestial light.
His tears glistened and his sword gleamed in her brilliance, yet he remained unaware of the phenomena before him, too blinded by his grief to notice. She reached out with a dainty colorless hand, tipped with sharp white claws, and with a touch as light as lily petals, she gently lifted his filthy blood-soaked face up to meet hers.
“Hadeon...” She softly cooed with her crystalline singsong voice.
Hadeon’s watery brown eyes widened dramatically. His body went rigid, while his breath hitched in his throat. “Who- Who are you?” He rasped, taking in the awestriking sight of the divine beauty before him.
The goddess’s smile grew wider, while her hair softly blew in the wind. “Who am I?” A small musical laugh chimed from her lips. “I am she who dances and twirls around the earth. Either merrily shinning my silvery light upon the mountains, valleys, and seas, or mournfully veiling myself in the shadow of darkness. I am the one who sways the mighty waters of the ocean, both drowning the highland stones, and revealing the sands of the deep. I am one with the divine feminine, singing to the fertile wombs of the daughters of man. I am the moon, the great celestial mother, the goddess, Selene.”
Both reverential bewilderment and slight fear sprouted in Hadeon’s soul. Why would a powerful and heavenly being such as Selene grace one such as himself with her presence? What could her intentions possibly be? Dare he allow a bud of hope to grow inside of his heart? He was a strong and ruthless killer, feared by most men, and yet, he found himself trembling before her.
His dark gaze peered up at the glimmering goddess, a lustrous light amongst the oppressive darkness and death surrounding her, then he bowed his head in reverence. “I am honored to be in your divine presence, beautiful and radiant goddess of the moon.” He sucked in a deep nervous breath. “May I humbly ask why you have so graciously chosen to appear before me, here at this unsightly place of bloodshed, during such a grievous hour?” His heart hammered in his chest, as he awaited her answer.
Amusement twinkled in Selene’s luminous eyes. “Because there is no better time nor place for what I intend to offer you.” Her toes gently landed on the trodden ground, and she crouched down before him. She gently lifted his head yet again, so that their eyes could meet once more.
“I have seen your pain, Hadeon of Hades. Pain which reminds me all too much of my own. And so, for you, I will raise your beloved bothers out from death’s shadow. I will grant them a new life, making them far stronger than they ever were before. You and your people shall give up your humanity, merging with the power and spirit of my sacred beast, the wolf. With this strength you shall be able to easily defend yourselves against those who wish to harm or oppress you.” She lightly ran her thumb over his full lips.
“And I shall bless each one of you with a destined beloved. A mate. One whom you will cherish all throughout your adult lives, so that you may never be lonely as I am. Your first mates shall be human, and those who are already wed will be bonded to their wives. But your descendants will always be paired with one of your own kind.” Hadeon softly nodded, assiduously taking in all the goddess had to say. “All I ask in return is the undying devotion and worship of your people. I shall be your most reverenced goddess, and you will be my children forevermore.” She slightly leaned back, awaiting his answer.
The bud of hope vibrantly bloomed within him upon hearing her generous offer. He almost couldn’t believe what she had spoken. Not only did he have an opportunity to resurrect his beloved brothers of war, but they would return far stronger than any human man. They could be undefeated. Legendary warriors. He would be a fool to refuse such a proposal.
Warm putrid wind blew his ponytail off to the side, while he gazed at the goddess with pure gratitude. “I accept your offer, My goddess, Selene.” He respectfully bowed his head once more.
Selene smiled, greatly pleased by his answer. “Then it is done.”
She stood and walked a sort distance away, facing the obscured murky skies. Her hands gracefully lifted high above her head. Then the rest of the clouds swiftly parted, allowing the most brilliant moonbeams Hadeon had ever seen to brightly enwreathe the dead armies in glimmering celestial light.
Ever so slowly, he began to hear gasps of breath and the clanks of armor all around him. Up from the bloodstained soil, the Moldavian army began to arise from their fresh uncovered graves. Their flesh stitched back together, and lost limbs regenerated. Hadeon watched in wide-eyed awe, with both disbelief and overwhelming excitement.
He suddenly felt pressure in his fingertips and front teeth. Confused, he looked down at his hands and watched in bewilderment as his fingernails loosely fell off, then were replaced by short black claws. He warily ran his tongue over his canines, feeling them elongate into a sharp fangs.
His feeling of perplexity was soon overtaken by a feeling of extreme vitality wildly flowing though his veins. All weariness from the battle vanished, and he felt his strength grow tenfold. He had the urge to run through the forest, jump into a raging river, and howl at the moon all at once! He was becoming a lupine beast.
"Well, well, well... Now what’s going on here?” An angry disembodied feminine voice sardonically sneered, ripping him away from his sudden and strange newfound ecstasy.
A look of dread flashed across Selene’s delicate features, as a wisping black column arose from the earth beside her, forming into the shape of a woman. Then, adorned in a tattered gown of silken darkness, a second goddess manifested before them. Shadowy floor length hair wisped around her deathly pale figure, with her beautiful but cruel face shaded by rage.
“Libitina...” Selene warily drawled. “This isn’t what you think.” She tried to reassure the dark goddess.
“Then do tell me, dear sister, what exactly is it!? Because these souls rightfully belonged to me!” She screeched while furiously gesturing around at the resurrected warriors. “I gave you no such permission to take them! Thus, you have stolen them from the realm of the dead!”
“Libitina, please. I did not intend to cause any conflict. They were not within your realm for very long. I doubt they had even crossed your bridge yet.” Selene mentioned with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
Libitina dismissively waved a thin clawed hand towards Selene. “That doesn’t matter.” She hissed. “They’re still mine!”
With an icy obsidian stare, glazed with the fog of death, she began to predatorily stalk towards Hadeon. Each time her bare feet touched the ground, sanguinaria and asphodel flowers swiftly bloomed around them, then withered and rotted before her next step was taken. Maggots and worms bubbled up from the soil, and greedily devoured the decayed remains of the ephemeral blooms.
“And I’m taking them back!” She growled to Selene, yet her hateful piercing gaze stayed locked on Hadeon.
Although Hadeon feared this unknown, and apparently very ticked off, goddess of death, he found that he feared losing his comrades again much more. Panic gripped his heart, and he made a quick and rather foolish decision.
“No!” He shouted. “Is there anything, anything at all, that I can offer for you to spare them?” His voice grew softer as he desperately plead.
Amused by his pain and fear, Libitina softly laughed. It was a ghastly sound. She sinisterly floated the rest of the way over to him, and caressed his cheek with her sharp black claws. “Would you die for them?” She asked with a wicked smirk.
He sucked in a deep shaky breath of the warm air, and gazed out towards his brothers. Most of them stood off in the distance, quietly murmuring amongst themselves, while watching the otherworldly spectacle with uncertainty and confusion. With courage and pride, he lifted his head and looked the wicked goddess straight in the eye. He was a strong and feared warlord after all, and he would do anything for his men. It would bring him great honor to die for them.
“Yes.” He bravely agreed with confidence in his deep masculine voice.
The goddess of death maniacally cackled as if that was the most absurd thing she’d ever heard. “I’ll tell you what, Hadeon of Hades.” She sniggered his name. “Because you’ve humored me, and I could use a handsome new face like yours to brighten up the underworld, I’ll generously agree to exchange your life for all of theirs.” She flirtatiously twiddled a lock of his hair with a gaunt finger, while widely gesturing out towards his army with her free hand.
“However, I shall also curse the men who follow the moon, to punish my sister’s rapacity!” She darkly added. “Once a month, they will transform into abominable beasts, consumed by uncontrollable bloodlust and rage. They shall slaughter and feast upon the flesh of man, helpless to stop themselves.” She villainously smirked at Selene, who’s pale brows were now furrowing in distress. “And it shall always happen on the night of the full moon. Because I want you to watch, my dear sister.” Her shadowy hair hissed and twisted around her like serpentine tendrils of smoke, as her smirk fully widened into a wicked grin.
“No! That is not what I agreed to die for!” Hadeon growled, furious that this goddess would damn his men to such a cruel kismet. “How can you condemn them to such a heinous fate? Have you no mercy!?”
“Death is mercy, my dear, Hadeon.” She evilly cooed with a sly smile. “Perhaps to show you just how merciful I am, I’ll give you a way to break the curse.” She glanced over at Selene once again, with a cunning gleam in her deathly eyes. “My sister over here is the most pathetic hopeless romantic I know. Forever separated from the one she truly loves. I know she’d never wish for any of her devoted children to suffer as she does. And so, I know that she must have agreed to pair you with a mate.”
“No, Libitina! Don’t!” Selene fearfully exclaimed, seeming to already know what her sister had in mind. “Please, don’t. You’ll destroy him.” She pleadingly held her shimmering hand out towards them, with a distraught look on her face.
“And?” Hadeon curiously asked, giving the death goddess all his attention.
He had never been in love with a woman before, always too busy fighting to get attached. And so he didn’t really care much for the mate promise anyways. He cared more about breaking this new and horrifying curse on his men.
“You must spill the blood of your mate, and as soon as her soul steps foot in the underworld the curse will be lifted.” She playfully walked two fingers up his chest. “Although, that’s going to have to wait until your next lifetime. I want your men and their descendants to have the chance to give me many more new souls, after all.”
Using her talon-like claws, she abruptly ripped through his armor, and violently tore his heart out. Frozen in absolute shock, Hadeon gasped in horror. Rivers of blood gushed out from his gaping chest and poured from his mouth, while Libitina tauntingly tossed his severed heart up in her hand before him.
Heartbroken over what had become of this, tears of blood began to lachrymosely trickle down Selene’s ivory cheeks. As she wept, an ominous crimson shadow was cast over the full crestfallen moon. The glimmering moonbeams turned to threads of scarlet light, painting the macabre scenery in red. Harrowing sounds of snapping bones and vicious snarls resounded through the air, mingling with Libitina’s sinister laughter.
Hadeon strenuously glanced up at the sanguine moon for the final time. And as he did, crimson over shadowed the brown in his eyes. A strangled dying breath fell from his parted lips, then he weakly collapsed into a puddle of his own blood.
A tortured howl violently pierced through the silence like a knife shredding through silk. Where once stood the men of the Moldavian army, now stood harrowing beasts twice their size. Black fur covered their huge humanoid lupine bodies, and their eyes glowed golden. Muzzles full of razor sharp teeth gnashed and growled, while long menacing claws ached to sink into tender flesh.
The curse had already clawed it’s way into their minds, forcing them into a frenzied bloodlust. A symphony of ghastly howls followed the first, while they began to tear into the enemy soldier’s lifeless carcasses, greedily feasting on the flesh of man. Bones crunched and blood splattered, dripping from their gaping maws and onto the laden soil below.
“Well my sister, I hope you enjoy your new janissaries. I know I certainly will.” Libitina mocked as she carelessly tossed the heart away, indifferent to the grotesque carnage happening all around them. “Unfortunately, I must be going now. I’ve got a new resident in the underworld to attend to, after all.” With a wicked smirk and a cackle, she disappeared in poof of shadows, leaving little skittering black spiders behind.
With a heavy heart, Selene dolorously glanced out over the disastrous scene once more. Then she too disappeared, ascending back up to the scintillating heavenly realm. And as she sat amongst the bejeweled midnight sea, looking down upon her cursed children with grief, she began to conspire against her sister.