It was Leonora Jeansdottir who first introduced me to the Great North Pack. The Pack’s Human Behaviors teacher, she felt that it was time to introduce the Pack to humans. Come out of hiding, even if only in “fiction.”
This pack lives and has lived for 350 years in what is now call the Adirondacks. They are not werewolves. I made the mistake of calling them that early on and Leonora snapped at me. Although she usually dressed in knock-off Chanel and spiked heels, she is a very large woman (6’ 4” in said spiked heels) and when she snaps it is…disconcerting.
The Great North are not “werewolves.” They call themselves Pack and are wolves first and foremost. That is their truest and most sacred form. It is what defines their culture and their hierarchy.
Despite that minor setback early in our interactions, Leonora eventually decided that I could be trusted. She introduced me to a number of what they call Offlanders, Pack who live mostly as humans doing whatever needs to be done to protect their territory.
There are a lot of lawyers.
But then I asked Leonora about the other Pack, the ones who did not live with humans. What about their stories?
Leonora decided to introduce me to Silver. I think it was meant to show me how truly “other” they really are and to warn me to keep my distance.
That’s not quite the way it worked out.
Writers are always saying ‘show, don’t tell’. So maybe the easiest way to explain is to show you the transcript of that first meeting with Quicksilver and Tiberius.
[Maria] Hello Ms. Nilsdottir, Mr. –
[Silver] What’s a Mizz?
[Maria] Excuse me? It’s…I’m…
[Tiberius] It’s an honorific, Sil. She’s trying to be polite.
[Silver] She doesn’t know me. Why would she honor me?
[Tiberius] Can we talk about this later? She’ll just call you Silver.
[Waitress} What can I get you folks to drink today?
I’ll shorten this part to say we managed to order three iced teas without a hitch. Almost.
[Silver] Without the plastic teat.
On the recording, I clear my throat uncomfortably, though I don’t remember doing it at the time.
[Tiberius] She means no straws.
The waitress couldn’t wait to get out of there.
[Maria] Tiberius, I understand you are not Pack.
[Maria] But not human either?
[Silver] I don’t think that’s what she meant, Ti.”
[Tiberius] I know that’s not what she meant. But she is human and will understand facetiousness. Ms. Vale—
[Maria] Maria, please.
[Tiberius] I am half Pack. The other half is Shifter. We are descended from the same ancestor, but while Pack must spend part of every month wild, Shifters don’t.
[Maria] That must make life easier.
[Tiberius] Easier, maybe. Not better.
[Waitress] Ummmmm…You might want to…Your hand…There’s blood.
At this point my tape goes quiet as does the room, because Silver is licking the deep bleeding scrape on her hand.
[Silver] Raccoon. Leonora said I should eat before meeting you here, because the place serves only carrion.
I wasn’t sure how to respond and in that silence, the tape picks up the scratching of nearby chairs as several diners have asked to be moved.
[Silver] I feel like I missed something. Leonora did warn you that I failed Introduction to Human Behaviors four times? Am I supposed to apologize here?
[Tiberius] You, Wildfire, apologize for nothing.
It was an eventful lunch. Tiberius was perfectly capable of functioning as a human: He knew when to be aggressive and when to be ingratiating. He knew how to lie and dissemble and disguise. He knew when to parade learning and when to keep it hidden.
Silver was his opposite. She was smaller than any other Pack I’d met, more human-sized, so she should have blended in but she didn’t. Right from the beginning, I understood that her humanity was a thin veneer over something much more wild.
Leonora had given me a few choices, and not this one. But this was the story I wanted to tell. The story of an untamed woman and the man who loved her.
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For three days out of thirty, when the moon is full and her law is iron, the Great North Pack must be wild.
If she returns to her Pack, the stranger will die.
But if she stays…
Silver Nilsdottir is at the bottom of her Pack’s social order, with little chance for a decent mate and a better life. Until the day a stranger stumbles into their territory, wounded and beaten, and Silver decides to risk everything on Tiberius Leveraux. But Tiberius isn’t all he seems, and in the fragile balance of the Pack and wild, he may tip the destiny of all wolves…
Maria Vale is a logophile and a bibliovore and a worrier about the world. Trained as a medievalist, she tries to shoehorn the language of Beowulf into things that don’t really need it. She currently lives in New York with her husband, two sons and a long line of dead plants. No one will let her have a pet. The Last Wolf was released in February. A Wolf Apart will be released July 31st. Find more information at MariaVale.com.