Dragon's Moon - By Lucy Monroe


Millennia ago God created a race of people so fierce even their women were feared in battle. These people were warlike in every way, refusing to submit to the rule of any but their own…no matter how large the forces sent to subdue them. Their enemies said they fought like animals. Their vanquished foe said nothing, for they were dead.

They were considered a primitive and barbaric people because they marred their skin with tattoos of blue ink. The designs were simple at first, a single beast depicted in unadorned outline over their hearts. The leaders were marked with bands around their arms with symbols that told of their strength and prowess in battle. Mates were marked to show their bond.

And still, their enemies were never able to discover the meanings of any of the blue-tinted tattoos.

Some surmised they were symbols of their warlike nature and in that they would be partially right. For the beasts represented a part of themselves these fierce and independent people kept secret at the pain of death. It was a secret they had kept for the centuries of their existence while most migrated across the European landscape to settle in the inhospitable north of Scotland.

Their Roman enemies called them Picts, a name accepted by the other peoples of their land and lands south…they called themselves the Chrechte.

Their animallike affinity for fighting and conquest came from a part of their nature their fully human counterparts did not enjoy. For these fierce people were shape-changers.

The bluish tattoos on their skin were markings given as a right of passage when they made their first shift. Some men had control of that change. For others, the full moon controlled their change until they participated in the sacred act of sex. The females of all the races both experienced their first shift into animal form and gained control thereafter with the coming of their first menses.

Some shifted into wolves, others big cats of prey and yet others into the larger birds—the eagle, hawk and raven.

The one thing all Chrechte shared in common was that they did not reproduce as quickly or prolifically as their fully human brothers and sisters. Although they were a fearsome race and their cunning was enhanced by an understanding of nature most humans could not possess, they were not foolhardy and were not ruled by their animal natures.

One warrior could kill a hundred of his foe, but should she or he die before having offspring, the death would lead to an inevitable shrinking of the race. Some Pictish clans and those recognized by other names in other parts of the world had already died out rather than submit to the inferior but multitudinous humans around them.

The Faol of Scotland’s Highlands were too smart to face the end of their race rather than blend. These wolf shifters saw the way of the future. In the ninth century AD, Keneth MacAlpin ascended to the Scottish throne. Of Faol Chrechte descent through his mother, nevertheless, his human nature had dominated.

He was not capable of “the change,” but that did not stop him from laying claim to the Pictish throne (as it was called then) as well. In order to guarantee his kingship, he betrayed his Chrechte brethren at a dinner, killing all of the remaining royals of their people—and forever entrenched a distrust of humans by their Chrechte counterparts.

Despite this distrust but bitterly aware of the cost of MacAlpin’s betrayal, the Faol of the Chrechte realized that they could die out fighting an ever-increasing and encroaching race of humanity, or they could join the Celtic clans.

They joined.

As far as the rest of the world knew, though much existed to attest to their former existence, what had been considered the Pictish people were no more.

Because it was not in their nature to be ruled by any but their own, within two generations the Celtic clans that had assimilated the Chrechte were ruled by shape-changing clan chiefs who shared their natures with wolves. Though most of the fully human among them did not know it, a rare few were trusted with the secrets of their kinsmen. Those that did know were aware that to betray the code of silence meant certain and immediate death.

Stories of other shifter races, the Éan and Paindeal, were told around the campfire, or to the little ones before bed. However, since the wolves had not seen a shifter except their own in generations, they began to believe the other races only a myth.

But myths did not