The history of Leek Denaa (loosely translated to “Men of the Wolf”) traces its origin to 1986, four years after the first recorded case of Lycantrosis in the United States. Extreme prejudice against werewolves and their families caused population displacement into unincorporated U.S. land. With its low population and harsh weather, Alaska became an ideal sanctuary for many infected, and Leek Denaa quickly became the largest wolf settlement in North America.
Fearing the state would be lost to the growing settlement, a joint offensive was launched by US and Canadian forces on March 8th, 1988. The attack was deemed excessive by critics, viewing it as an excuse to secure Alaska’s rich silver mining operation.
— The Wolf Historia, 2014
Chapter 4: The Sisters Who Shared a Mouth
The servants had surrounded Char–one at her feet, another at her fingers, and the last one in her hair. They worked diligently in the candlelight–trimming, filing, polishing, waxing. Char felt none of it, sitting in an upholstered chair in the center of what she prayed would be her temporary safe house. The candle flames shifted more than Char thanks to The Warg’s new prescription, leaving her frozen and doll-like.
Char watched the young servants busy themselves in a vain attempt to make her feel beautiful. Their slender forms were accentuated by dresses of cured leather, and Char wondered how they stayed warm during the Alaskan winters with such little meat on them. She dressed in loose-fitting furs she had found packed in her bedroom dresser. They were the only clothes that fit her overcrowded body.
Her litter had taken to tickling her from the inside. What little movement Char possessed was used to adjust to their kicks and stretches. Despite their outbursts, Char gained peace of mind knowing they still thrived inside of her. The loss of one baby had nearly driven her mad. Had The Warg spoke any more callously about it, Char would have ruptured his eye with a sewing needle.
The grandfather clock rung at the stroke of 9 a.m. as if to initiate conversation.
“You have lovely nails, Mistress,” said Trisha in between blowing on the polish. “I bite mine when I’m nervous.”
“I used to smoke when I felt nervous,” said Char in a low mumble. She thought of Gator buying her a new carton the night before she told her father she had gotten married. You walked a mile after midnight to the Seven Eleven in our shit neighborhood for me. I guess that kind of support from you was finite huh, Gator?
“So what do you do now?” asked Trisha as her sister Emilie parted Char’s hair into three long locks.
“Now I smoke when I feel anything.” The joke may have been too subtle.
“Would you like us to fetch you a cigarette, Mistress?” said Trisha. “The general store was just restocked last month.”
Char had thrown what cigarettes she owned into the fireplace after discovering her children may not all be wolves. Why her own father had withheld that information still haunted her. “It would only fall out my mouth in my condition.”
“I can hold it for you if need be,” said Trisha. “Perhaps I could just blow the smoke in your face?”
Trisha’s persistence and optimism reminded Char of Danny. He could see the hole Char and Gator had dug for themselves, but he was always quick to find a bright side. Did that part of him endure the Bedlam? thought Char. Was he even still alive? She did not know what she would say to him if he was standing in front of her now other than to beg for forgiveness for what she did to him that night in Warren.
“Where’s The Warg?” interrupted Char. “He said he would see me first thing this morning.”
“You’ll want to look your best at the Chief’ Reka’s mansion, yes?”
“I never agreed to go there again.” The memory of that day clung to her. At night she repeated the charges against her father in disbelief. Two-hundred and thirty-eight counts of torture, and the murder of one-hundred and three children.
“I see he wasn’t very clear with his invitation,” said Trisha. “He’s not coming to you–you’re going to him.”
“He makes pregnant women march through snow to see him?”
“We’ve arranged transport to bring you to his quarters at the east wing of the mansion. Tehmot and Mesa will carry you–just like the day you arrived.”
“Why does every word out of his mouth come with some horrible catch? I just…I just need to see my father. I know he can explain everything if I can get a moment alone with him.”
“Then The Warg is the only way, Mistress.”
“I’m not playing his game! Call that asshole! Send a bird, make smoke signals–however you people communicate, and tell him to come HERE!”
Trisha took hold of Char’s hand and clasped it to her chest. “The Warg is Leek Denaa’s head scientist. His research keeps him at the mansion laboratory most of the day. This appointment might be the only way he’ll see you prior to going into labor. Please don’t squander this opportunity.”
Char felt her strength come back in the trembling of her fists. She took her hand from Trisha in an attempt to regain her composure.
“Do you know anything about the accusations against my father?” said Char.
“You asked me this already,” said Trisha. “News travels with the wind, but I know only as much as you.”
“You would tell me if you heard anything more?”
“You asked me that as well, Mistress.”
“Did I tell you to stop calling me ‘Mistress?’”
“You…did, yes.” Trisha’s eyes fell humbly to the floor.
“Then how many times do I need to tell you something before it sinks in?”
“Get angry!” said Char. She felt all three sisters pause.
“I’m carrying five children–each one pulling me in a different direction–in a place where my closest family for thousands of miles is being held in prison for alleged mass murder. I need someone in this fucking house to lose their shit and smash something before my goddamn head explodes! Now can you do that for me or not!?”
Trisha looked about the room. Her sister Constance left the file near Char’s feet and reached for a vase on the table. She lifted it overhead and hurled it at the wall. Porcelain shards rained on them and scattered across the floorboards.
“Constance!” scolded Trisha.
Constance only shrugged as Emillie giggled softly behind Char’s head.
“That was…good, Constance,” said Char. “I’m starting to feel a little better.” She turned to Trisha. “I’m sorry for treating you like that. You don’t deserve abuse–none of you do.”
“You’re not the first pregnant woman we’ve tended to,” said Trisha. “I’d be nervous if you didn’t lash out after what you’ve been through. It proves you’re not done fighting.”
Char did not see it that way. She saw herself as a woman unraveling, but she let Trisha feel helpful for now.
“You mentioned the Warg is a scientist,” said Char. “What exactly does his research entail?”
Trisha took a moment before speaking.”He tried to explain it to me long ago, but I couldn’t grasp it. Something to do with medicine. I suppose I could have asked him more questions, but I didn’t want to show him any more interest than necessary.”
I shouldn’t be surprised, thought Char. He always came off as predatory during the little time I spent conscious around him.
“The three of you are quite beautiful,” said Char. “I take it The Warg has noticed this on more than a few occasions?”
“The village can be too small at times,” said Trisha. “We seem to cross paths at places he has no business being. He once told me he ranked me and my sisters among the three prettiest girls in Leek Denaa. He ranked me third…because I could still speak.”
What a charmer. “I’ll see that he keeps his distance from all of you.”
“You still need him to deliver your babies safely. Don’t risk that for us.”
Char realized Trisha had a point. The Warg was certainly petty enough to take his inadequacy out on infants.
“I’ll see that something gets done, even if we have to bide our time,” said Char. “I promise.”
“Perhaps when the time is right you could reach out to Chief Reka. She’s reasonable and would be sympathetic.”
She expects me to get sympathy from a woman who cuts out children’s tongues? “I’ll see what I can do.”
Trisha’s face lit up in the darkness as she stood and looked at her sisters. “I think now is a good time to bring out that surprise we spoke of earlier.”
Emilie finished braiding Char’s hair with a final tug before bounding through the front door. The chill air rushed up Char’s legs and nearly blew out the candles. So they are capable of keeping secrets, thought Char.
Emilie returned with a husky pup nestled against her bodice, bringing it close to Char’s face as she brushed its ears back.
“We’d like you to meet ‘Studebaker,’” said Trisha.
“‘Studebaker’?” said Char with a grin.
“I told you girls, didn’t I?” said Trisha. “No one can his name without smiling.”
“Yes, and it’s beautiful. He’ll be one of your sled dogs when he gets older.”
Char looked into the puppy’s sweet eyes and thought of Danny once more. “He’s so handsome,” said Char as she cupped his face with her hands. “I’m sure he’ll be…I’m sorry, did you say my sled dogs?”
“It’s the best way to get around the village–unless you prefer being carried.”
Char leaned back in her chair.
“Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine…I just never thought of living here long enough to need sled dogs. I’ve only been here a few days, but it’s felt like…”
Char looked into their pained expressions. They have been through so much today already, and all before 10 a.m.
“Like what?” said Trisha. All three sisters waited for Char’s answer.
Like a penance for the worst of sins, thought Char. But they just want to make me happy. Hurting them solves nothing.
“This new medication makes it hard to concentrate sometimes. But I agree–Studebaker will make an excellent sled dog.”
The sisters seemed to like that answer as they went back to their duties in silence with the little husky nipping at their skirts. Char adjusted herself in the chair and closed her eyes to wait for the transport to arrive.