VolykHuman

VolykWolf

I’d like you all to meet Volyk. He’s an oboroten’, a uniquely Russian kind of shape-shifter, and he first made his appearance in my Dreamspinner Advent Calendar story, “Ilya and the Wolf.” Now I’m almost finished turning Volyk and Ilya’s story into a novella, “Wolf, Becoming”. And I wanted to share part of that story with you. The short story didn’t give me room to show you Ilya’s first shape-shift. But now I have world enough, and time. And here it is.

*****

Ilya shivered in the narrow opening, his skin pebbled with goose-bumps despite the two sets of arms wrapped around him, his own and Volyk’s. “At least there’s no wind.”

Volyk didn’t seem bothered by the cold; his tanned skin was smooth under its varicolored dusting of hair. “Would you like me to go first, so you can see it happen? Or would you prefer I wait for you?”

“I think… I need to see. To know.”

Volyk nodded. “Then watch. It happens quickly.”

A kiss, and he withdrew his arms, stepping away from Ilya and out into the snow-brightened sunlight.

Even warned, Ilya almost missed what happened. It was as if a silver veil, one invisible until now, was pulled away. And as the veil fell away, Volyk changed. As if he plunged into some invisible fall of water as a man, and emerged as the great wolf Ilya barely remembered.

Yet he was the same. It was Volyk who looked up at him, his eyes burning amber, his ears pricked forward and his tail arched up over his back. His Volyk.

Impossible to doubt. Not quite impossible to be afraid… but Ilya set his fear aside. Time for a new life.
No. He had already found his new life. This…

…this was Christmas morning. A gift.

He could feel it happening, as he stepped out. He hadn’t expected that. Maybe the first time took longer. Or maybe it was different, for a man who had never been a wolf. Like unexpectedly deep water. Trying to breathe, drawing in nothing. Falling.

Not falling. He stared, stunned, at paws, his own paws, white paws crunching into new snow.

#You take my breath, wolf-mine.#

The voice was in his head. It was Volyk’s.

Ilya turned his head, wondering at the way his whole upper body turned with it. Volyk was watching him, amber eyes blazing; fur of black and brown and gray and cream was scattered with silver light.

#Volyk?# He took a step toward the wolf. Another. Another. Stopped, confused, as three feet obeyed his command to walk. The fourth joined them, and he sat down hard in the snow.

#What is it?# Volyk’s whiskers pricked forward. Ilya thought he looked amused.

#I have too many feet.#

Volyk threw back his head and laughed, silently, his breath forming crystalline clouds in the still air. The not-sound was so joyous, Ilya couldn’t help but join in, even as he blushed. Or did whatever it was wolves did when they were embarrassed.

#I think that problem should pass quickly.# Yes, the wolf was smiling, and not only with his inner voice. #I had the same trouble when I first changed.#

Ilya nodded, and this time the strangeness of the movement was less. #Going from four legs to two must have been harder than from two legs to four.#

#Here.# Volyk turned and bounded away, plowing a furrow through the new snow. Maybe twenty meters off, he stopped and turned back, his forepaws splayed, his tail fanning the air. He looked like a great playful dog. #Come to me, wolf-mine.#

Ilya tried to bound. His first few attempts landed him face-first in the snow. He didn’t mind, not when the reward for his attempts was more of Volyk’s rich laughter. And by the time he reached the varicolored wolf, he had figured out how to make his back end and his front end cooperate.

At least, until Volyk hit him broadside and rolled him over and over in the snow, still laughing. Snow flew, snow clung to his fur, a warm muzzle rubbed against his.

At last they came to rest, tumbled in the snow. #Wolf-mine,# Volyk murmured, the fire in his eyes bright enough to see even in the full daylight.

#Wolf-mine.# The thought was alien, but not, and wonderful. A shiver ran down Ilya’s spine, ending in a strange twitching feeling. At the very edge of his field of vision, something moved. Something that shouted ‘prey’, begged to be pounced on. Ilya leaped.

Volyk rolled in the snow, unable to contain his laughter, as Ilya chased his new tail, around and around.

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