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[Fiction] Dorothy Roberts - An American Werewolf in Londinium


Doctor Nova Madigan

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An American Werewolf in Londinium

Dorothea Glensdottir filled two ornate ceramic pitchers from the spring behind the kitchen. When she had been an infant, 14 years prior, moonless nights in Britannia were pitch black. Now the flickering illumination of Roman civilization held the darkness at bay. Londinium had grown from a tiny garrison of a hundred soldiers into the thriving seat of the distant Roman state of Britannia.

An uneasy peace had fallen over Londinium in recent years. The Roman army had been checked in its expansion by the savage tribes of the Celts who roamed the countryside, and their dread inhuman champions, The Revenant and Niveus Rat. To counter the supernatural ferocity of the Celts, the Romans had co-opted the support of their own supernaturals, the Misty City Knights. The Misty City Knights were natives of Britannia, and had no love for the Romans, but lacked the strength to preserve the light of civilization on their own, so they had no option but to support the Roman cause.

The Roman army and the Knights frequently met the Celts in pitched battles and espionage, but neither force could overcome the other. A stalemate ensued, and civilization in Londinium prospered.

The lamplight from the territorial governor's home spilled into the courtyard and lit Dorothea's path back to the kitchen, where she set the pitchers upon a tray and walked out the kitchen's other door, leading into the home of Governor Cesta.

She'd been taken at an early age from her father, Glen Augur of the Misty City Knights, to live as a house slave for the governor. Glen Augur produced a steady stream of miraculous concoctions for the Roman garrison. With his daughter held close, the cooperation of the Misty City Knights was guaranteed.

As Dorothea approached the governor's chamber with the pitchers, she listened to the voices coming from within. She'd learned at an early age to gauge the mood of the governor and his military commander Centurion Clavicus before entering, so that her demeanor would be the most pleasing to them.

This evening, their voices were muted in a conspiratorial tone. She paused in the corridor, considering her options. It was her duty to bring refreshment at this time of day, but for her own sake she had no desire to intrude upon secret discussions. Then she heard a third voice from the governor's chamber, an inhuman voice that carried icy dread.

It's The Revenant, she realized. Why is he here? she wondered.

She split the difference between curiosity, duty, and caution, and stood in a shadow just outside the room's arched doorway. Partly obscured by the tapestry that divided the chamber from the corridor, she dared to peek inside. There, the Governor paced thoughtfully, his head nodding in a businesslike manner. Centurion Clavicus stood at ease near the fire, his thoughts concealed behind his steely eyes and set jaw.

And lounging on a low sofa reclined The Revenant, as at-ease as if he'd been at home among his Celt marauders. Dorothea listened intently, astonished that the governor would be meeting with his foe in his home.

"My people grow restless," The Revenant said. "Niveus Rat has been stirring up the warriors again, and if we don't sack something soon, then the pent-up lust for battle will spill out in ways that cannot be predicted."

Governor Cesta nodded. "There is a village two leagues west of here, I'm sure you know the one. I will arrange for the garrison there to be otherwise occupied in three days' time."

The Revenant leaned forward. "An easy fight will not slake the thirst for blood," he replied. "We need more than that."

Governor Cesta exchanged a look with his centurion, then returned his gaze to The Revenant. "I'll see to it that some of the Misty City Knights are there. That should make the battle sufficiently exciting for your purposes," he said.

In her hiding place, Dorothea became dizzy with shock. The Romans and The Celts are in league, she realized. They play the Celts off the Knights, and care nothing for the lives that are ruined and lost in the process. Inattentively, her arms had lowered, and the pitchers of water abruptly tipped from her tray, shattering on the hard floor with an impossibly loud sound.

The governor, the centurion, and The Revenant all looked directly at where she stood, concealed and shaking in fear.

"We have a spy," The Revenant said, without emotion or inflection.

"Kill her," Governor Cesta hissed.

The Revenant smiled and stalked across the rug toward Dorothea. "Always a pleasure," he smiled.

Dorothea looked into The Revenant's eyes and saw no pity, no remorse, and no life. She looked through his eyes and saw nothing but death inside. Unable to break his baleful gaze, she backed away, tripping over a low table and falling to the floor. She scrambled backwards on the floor, but The Revenant relentlessly stalked her, his expression set in a cruel smile.

And then the universe opened up and poured into her. Her vision filled with incomprehensibly white light and her hearing rang with impossibly loud noise. She felt her body respond physically to her fear and her need for escape, and muscle and sinew stretched and grew abruptly, changing her from a 14-year-old girl into a powerful fell-wulf in an eye blink. She snarled fiercely at The Revenant, her fur bristling and her fangs slavering.

The Revenant paused and laughed heartily at the sight. "Oh, this is unexpected," he said, turning to Governor Cesta. "Did you know of this?"

"Of course not," the governor snapped.

Taking advantage of the distraction she'd created, Dorotha bounded away, turning at the corridor's junction and barreling past the guards at the mansion's main entrance, leaving them slack-jawed in surprise. Her claws scraping on the stone pavement, she rapidly covered the short sprint to the hall of the Misty City Knights, leaving panic and confusion in her wake.

"Sorry about that, coming through, excuse me!" she tried to say as she ran, but all that came from her muzzle was a series of unbelievably loud barking, snarling, and roaring.

Well that's just great, she thought. As she neared the Knights' hall, she saw that The Gladiator was standing watch at the gated courtyard. The Gladiator drew his already erect frame even straighter and pointed his gladius at the approaching fell-wulf.

"Halt right there, savage woodland beast!" he shouted, his steely voice carrying as though from a mountaintop.

"Gladiator, it's me!" Dorothea shouted as she skidded to a stop just out of sword's reach, but her words came out as a series of plaintive whines instead.

The Gladiator paused, confused. This was unusual behavior for a fell-wulf, and he needed time to puzzle out his next move.

Before he could, Alabaster emerged from the hall at a run, leaving a trail of chalky white dust across the courtyard. The Knight whose skin resembled the white cliffs which overlooked the sea crossing to Europa stopped at The Gladiator's side and grabbed him by the sword arm.

"As you were, Gladiator," she ordered. "There's something most unusual about this fell-wulf," she said. "It seems that it is supernatural the way we are."

The Gladiator boggled. "But we lack fur," he replied in puzzlement.

Dorothea felt the spirit of the fell-wulf leave her, and a moment later she lay naked before The Gladiator and Alabaster, exhausted.

"So, it seems, does Dorothea," Alabaster replied to The Gladiator, kneeling at Dorothea's side. She took Dorothea in her arms and carried her into the hall, encountering Glen Augur and The Jager coming the other way.

"Dorothea!" Glen started in concern. "Are you well? What's happened? Why are you not at the governor's mansion?" he asked, rapid-fire.

Alabaster gently laid Dorothea onto a padded bench and stepped back. Glen sat at her side, holding her hands.

"She came here in the guise of a fell-wulf," Alabaster said. "It looks like your bloodline runs true, Augur."

"She's like us?" he said, distantly. So much for a normal life for my daughter, he despaired.

Dorothea sat up and embraced her father, burying her face in his shoulder. After a moment, she disengaged the hug and looked to the assembled Knights. "I have awful news," she started. "The Governor is in league with The Revenant and the Celt barbarians," she said. "I saw them parlaying with my own eyes, but was seen, and they nearly killed me before I," she paused. "Before I changed and fled the mansion."

Alabaster connected the dots instantly. "They know that we know," she said. "And if they dictate the actions of the Celts, then we'll be caught between them and the Romans. We must act now." She whirled to The Jager. "Do you know the current disposition of their warlord, Niveus Rat?"

The Jager smiled like a predator. "He doesn't urinate on a tree without my knowledge," he replied smugly.

"Good," Alabaster replied. "Kill him. Do it quickly. That will cast the Celts into disarray and buy us some time to shore up our position here." The Jager turned and departed quickly. Alabaster looked to Dorothea. "The Romans are a problem now, too," she mused. "And you know the layout of the governor's mansion."

Dorothea's eyes widened with realization as she grasped where Alabaster was going with this thought.

Glen Augur locked eyes with Alabaster. "You're not sending my daughter back there alone," he said fiercely.

"Of course I'm not," she replied. "You're going with her, and take The Gladiator too. I need Governor Cesta and Centurion Clavicus here alive within the hour. With them in our custody, the Roman garrison will be cast into confusion, and then we will be the ones driving the destiny of Londinium."

"For the glory of Londinium!" The Gladiator shouted, inappropriately, eliciting pained winces from everyone else.

"Dorothea," Alabaster continued more gently, ignoring the lummox. "You have a special gift, and with the wise employ of that gift you can help the people of Londinium shake off the rule of the Romans and eliminate the fear of the Celt barbarians. It will be hard, but will be the best for everyone."

Dorothea took a deep breath, drawing confidence from Alabaster's steady gaze.

Glen squeezed her hand and smiled proudly. "I'll be with you," he said firmly, "And I'll never let you out of my sight again. Let's do this together."

To live as a citizen of Londinium and as a Misty City Knight, she thought. And not as a slave to the Romans. She nodded once, and sat up straighter.

"Let's do this together," she confidently replied to her father. She glanced at The Gladiator, who was struggling to hold back tears of inspiration. "And we'll do it for the glory of Londinium!" she giggled.

The Gladiator's facade broke, and he wept openly. "For Londinium!" he sobbed in unashamed joy.

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