J P Relph

August 4th 2023

Bedburg, Germany – 1579

I run. Lanterns chase me through skeletal trees, like the darting eyes of many beasts. Moonlight quivers on needles, ebbs away. I run. Clouds thick as snowfall cover the moon’s melancholy face. In the green-black dark I feel the change, fear the change, run faster. If I lose myself now, I will be cut down. Cut open.

I crash into the deepest heart of the forest, a clearing never explored. Devoid of life: no foliage or fungi, just soil that smells bitter and old. Seeming to hover in this dead space is a doorway of shadow. Impenetrable darkness. I hear fearful dogs yelping; musket shot cracking off skinny pine trunks, fragrant splinters lodging in my fur. One carves a burning line over my brow. I growl, snap at the shrapnel-filled air. I’m out of choices, out of time. I tense, leap through the shadow door as the lanterns turn the clearing flickering-yellow and muskets turn it to certain death…  

South Lakeland, England, 2019

I linger in the shower; eucalyptus heat soothing road-rash scars. For a moment this morning, when the alarm yanked me from ancient German forest, the spike of cervine blood had been in my teeth, gunpowder and pine smoking my nostrils. For a moment I was wolf again.


Freya’s at the cooker, filling the kitchen with charred smells, I bunch my nose at the crisping bacon. She laughs – a gregarious thing that always shakes the room – and gives me those cornflower-blue eyes.

I remember so vividly being drawn to those eyes as I’d somersaulted from the shadow door onto hard, flesh stripping ground. Dazzling in a face pale with terror as her car fishtailed to a rubber-stink stop. I was certain I had died and landed in Hell – a great, growling, belching devil come for me. Then Freya was beside me, pressing a scarf to my bleeding forehead. Blue eyes widening when rivulets of hair retreated into my spine. When fangs wet-clicked into my gums, my face settling into that of a pain-shrouded man. She’d touched my shifting cheekbone, an unwavering touch, and I realised I’d made it to heaven.


Then, a whirlwind year. A learning curve sharper than lycan claws. A new language that faltered on my guttural tongue. Freya was my guide in this new world of technology and medicine, science and travel. Books, movies – lycanthropes shown as slavering monsters, nothing of the passionate wolf heart – pizza, ice-cream. It was all so incredible to me.

I devoured the information, the education, when it became clear I wasn’t going home. Going back. We’d been unable to locate the strange portal I’d travelled through – in either Lakeland or German forest. I was here to stay. And I was to stay as a man only.


This modern moon, even as it glowers and gleams, brings nothing of the change. The first full moon night, crouched naked in garden shadows, I wept at the loss. This new time gave so much: a life unimagined, a love unexpected. Yet it had taken much more – my wolf-soul.

I navigate forests on two legs now, boots crushing forth the scents that once powered me to hunt. I listen to the screech of goshawks, the bark of foxes – the battles of life and death unseen. Smells and sounds so familiar, yet muted by my human senses. Freya walks beside me, smiling with sweet sadness. She knows the massive heart of the wolf left an unfillable hole inside me – but she gives all of her heart regardless, and I love her for it.


Still, I recall the moon on wintered earth, turning the snow crust to diamonds. The quiet tear of flesh, white turned scarlet. The moon on summer meadow, playing across night-purpled flowers like a child’s hand. The sweet burst of blood spattering rubies onto petals.

The moon on my skin, then my fur – a caress that goes bone-deep, awakens. I was born again and again in the light of her gravid face, lived according to her calendar: Flower Moon, Buck Moon, Harvest Moon. Truly lived.


It’s mid-winter, we drink dark beer on the deck, enfolded under a blanket, watching the cold sun’s blister burst, slither away. Freya touches the blade of scar on my forehead, an aberrance my human form can’t heal. I kiss her night-chilled lips as the moon elbows past stubborn clouds, coats the garden in a silver shiver like wolf fur.

Not just the garden.

Freya jerks as my facial bones shift, click-grind. I growl, drop onto all fours – the wolf howls in my blood, calls my name. I hold the change back – like a weak human hand quavering against the chest of the beast – for an agonising moment. For her. Freya grasps at the air between us, as if trying to catch the moonlight, send it back.

‘Steffen, stay with me.’

But the moon is prizing fur from my shoulders and buttocks. I crawl to Freya, grab her hand with fingers buckling. My eyes will be flaming green-gold as I lock onto hers – that cornflower-blue spilling over – my voice trapped in the crush of muscle in my chest, pushed between quicksilver fangs.

‘Come with me.’

Then I’m fully transformed. Filled with brutal purpose. Filled with my wolf heart. I thunder to the treeline: a silver bullet hot from the barrel. Leaving Freya pooled on the blanket, faced with a choice I never had. Frost cracks under my paws, my breath screams white. I inhale the wild stink of the forest floor. The goshawk and the fox. The Wolf Moon and the hunt. A love I can never deny himself. A life I truly live.


I return when dawn gilds a winter sky; naked, filthy, lycan blood still burning. Freya at the door, her eyes a blue mystery. I take the proffered blanket; bring the house’s warmth to my skin, familiar smells of charred food and her ginger shampoo. Freya strokes my cheek, a struggle shadowing her face. ‘

When?’ she asks. I know she means the moon calendar. The next time I change, leave.

‘A month,’ my voice grates like bone on fang, ‘Snow Moon.’

Freya’s fingers move to my forehead, the skin there finally renewed. The last reminder of German forest gone – she presses warm lips to the loss of it.

‘Will it hurt?’ her voice is a shiver of frost. I pull her to me, the blanket around us both, residual lycan heat enwraps us. She inhales the dusky smells of wolf and blood, tastes the savagery in sweat on my neck. Her heart gallops like a young deer.

‘Only for a moment.’

‘A moment,’ Cornflower-blue eyes spilling over, ‘and after? How will it feel?’ I press her hand to my chest, the last beats of the wolf heart before it slumbers.

‘Like the moon knows your soul, dangerous and razor-sharp, loves you anyway.’

Freya nods, leads me back to the simple perfection of our life. Another life waits, a month from now. The next full moon and the hunt. I hope Freya comes with me. I imagine her howl will shake the forest to its moss-greened knees.


more stories here

Wyldblood 13

Wyldblood 13 is available now
buy from us or from Amazon

Nine great new short stories and two drabbles in a fine new collection from Wyldblood. These stories cover death (and its aftermath), identity (and its pitfalls) choices (and their consequences) and much more. We have aliens with time travel machines and buildings that want you to stay just a little bit longer – like, forever. Thought provoking fantasy and science fiction available in print and digital formats.

From the Depths

Our latest anthology is packed with tales of the murky deep. We’ve got fifteen stories stuffed with selkies and sea monsters, pirates and meremaids, intrigue, adventure and more. Available in print and digitally.

ISBN 978-1-914417-15-3

Follow us and get our weekly Wyld Flash and occassional update posts here.
Download a free sampler of Wyldblood Magazine here.
Buy the latest Wyldblood Magazine here or get a six issue subscription here.
an interview in Black Gate with Wyldblood editor Mark Bilsborough here.
Read the Milford blog about Wyldblood here.
See us reviewed here and here.

%d bloggers like this: