Storytime: Wulf Manor
And here we have another short story. This one took me nowhere near as long as the last one did, thankfully, though it’s also not as long. This is more an introduction piece to the home of Rita Wulf and a glimpse at the surrounding area.
Many thanks to Cara who helped me set up the second draft, and Jarenth who proof-read that second draft in order to let me write this third one.
While I could probably keep nitpicking at it till the cows come home, I feel it’s now time to move on the next thing, whatever that may be.
I hope you enjoy this look at Wulf Manor and the people in and around it.
In a remote area on a remote world, situated near a large lake and extensive woodland, sits Wulf Manor. Now, it is not actually a manor as such, merely a rather large two-story building (three if we include the sizeable basement) erected on a big cleared field by the woods proper. There is a dirt road leading up to the house, which goes all the way to the highway about thirty kilometres away, where if we take a left when coming from the house it leads us to the nearest populated area another good fifty or sixty kilometres away. The road to the house looks practically unused, yet someone clearly goes to the trouble of keeping it maintained so the wilds don’t reclaim it.
The lawn stretching around the house also looks perfectly maintained, with only three blemishes upon its pristine green expanse; a tool shed painted red on the right side of the house from the entrance, a sandbox with a swing set on it sitting in the back yard roughly fifteen metres from the back porch and an outdoor barbecue area, made of rocks that do not look cut so much as shaped, another ten metres to the right of the sandbox. On the front of the house someone has put a significant amount of work into two lengthy flower beds, and we can’t deem those to be blemishes, even in jest. Beyond the lawn a mass of wild and untamed woodland stretches for many kilometres so we can not see the other end even if we climb to the top of the tallest tree near the house.
Looking at the house itself, it’s about forty metres across length-wise and roughly twenty metres wide with warm red wood panelling on top of a white stone foundation with a dark, nigh-black tile roof to top it off. It has a red brick chimney sticking out of the top a little left-of-centre when looking at the front. Considering there’s no soot in it, it doesn’t seem to be connected to a normal fireplace, though there is definitely some colourful residue in there. A large, golden telescope sticks out at the very right end of the roof, though it looks like it can be collapsed and the hatch it sticks out from closed if needed.
Each floor has its own row of windows going around the house to let the light in, including a tall, thin one right by the entrance door. Upon entering the door we find ourselves in a short, but roomy hallway with an assortment of closets, open-air coat hangers on wooden poles, commodes, shoe racks and two mirrors set up such that we can not actually see our reflection in one mirror from the other. Speaking of the shoe racks, and though there is no shortage of footwear, there does seem to be less than one might expect from such a large house.
At the end of the hallway there is an archway which leads to the back hall that runs almost the whole length of the house with a multitude of doors to different rooms and access to the stairs going both up and down. To our left in the entrance hall is a door which opens into a large playroom full of toys and activities for the only child of the house, and any friends he might have visiting. At current it seems to be empty with the exception of a small hammock hanging just below the ceiling in a corner in which a small bundle of fur is curled up and napping calmly. This is the resident flying squirrel, who is named Casper, the friendly nut, because his owner has a peculiar sense of humour.
Across the entrance hall from the playroom is the door to the main living and dining room. It holds a large viewing screen, basically a TV for all intents and purposes with a large five-seater couch facing it. Another tree-seater sits opposing a fireplace. It doesn’t hold any actual fire: it merely simulates a living fire’s heat and light through an advanced plasma construction that even manages to crackle quite realistically while active.
Other points of interest in the room are a large reclining chair in the corner by the door to the back hall with a handy reading light placed beside it, the collection of weird devices sitting by and in the stand below the viewing screen. There is also the dining table with six chairs around it that looks like it can be easily extended, the toy chest surrounded by a mess in the middle of the floor and an expansive cat tree in which a black cat is currently lazing.
This short-hair beauty is Dalrina, a 5-year-old cat with a few extra quirks to her. First off, she can speak. Well, every cat can speak, obviously, but Dalrina can speak in a language that people also use, and not just in the superior way that cats communicate among themselves. See, Dalrina has always been exceedingly curious, another normal cat trait, and once while accompanying her mum to a certain Bar & Grille, she bit into a magical wand which gave her quite the zap. She seemed fine at the time, a little frizzled perhaps, but a few days later said her first people word, and she’s learned quite a lot since (some of which her mum would prefer she hadn’t). The other quirk is that her form isn’t quite set. On a more recent occasion she snuck her way into mummy’s laboratory and knocked over a potion meant for her sister, and it soaked into her fur and skin. She did her best to quickly clean it off then bolt out of there afterwards, but by the time she got into the living room she was suddenly not so small, but rather a tall, thin, pale elf with black hair and green eyes. Though initially confused, she quickly learned how to control the change as cats tend to take things in stride.
She is currently watching over another reclining chair pulled up to the window in which a small boy is sitting and reading a book. His name is Weylin and he is 4 (and a half) years old. He brushes some stray dark brown locks of hair out of his face and his emerald-green eyes glitter as he reads intently about the exciting adventures of Captain Lupin, pirate hunter extraordinare. The sun is shining in through the window and onto him, but neither the heat nor the shine seem to bother him. He’s dressed in light, pale shorts and a thin, white shirt, with his bare feet dangling above the floor.
Moving a little further in we pass through into a large kitchen, nearly the size of the living room. On the right we have the windows, with a long counter running underneath them; the only things breaking it up is a drainage sink close to the door at the far end, and two large refrigerators at the end towards the living room. Under the counter there are several cupboards and drawers, and on the counter sit a couple of blooming plants, a large fruit bowl and little else. In the middle of the room two counters are running parallel away from the windows, about six metres long and three metres apart. They also have cupboards underneath them, facing eachother so everything is accessible from the middle. Aside from a dark sweater and a set of keys, they are both empty. At the end of each of them sits a stove, a gas one on the left and an electric one on the right. Along the wall opposite the windows is a counter interrupted by a double washing-up sink roughly in the middle, and lots of kitchen implements on top of the counter: steak knives, a toaster, a microwave, a coffee brewer and other more or less clear-to-identify gadgets. Under the counter is a row of cupboards and drawers and above runs a line of cupboards. The ‘wall’ between the kitchen and the living room is largely open apart from another, thinner counter where only a few potted plants stand, and there’s actually just solid wall running underneath. The wall away from the living room features a door in the corner, and is otherwise adorned with lots and lots of family pictures; dozens of them, yet only rarely do we see any person featured in more than one picture, and most of them have more than one person in it. And finally in the corner between the open wall and the back wall counter stands another gas stove and another electric stove side-by-side, which is where the Lady of the house is teaching her daughter how to cook.
“Now be careful to add just a sprinkling dear, or your mouth will be itching all night.”This is Rita Wulf: Mother, wife, sister, matriarch, wizard, warrior, werewolf, all-round shapeshifter and more. Dressed in a simple red blouse and dark grey trousers with a small hole in the back to fit her brown-furred tail through, she looks to be in her late 30s by human terms. She is far older than that, though. How much older? Well, one shouldn’t ask a lady that. Her hair colour matches her son’s brown (a couple of shades darker than the tail), though the hair itself reaches all the way down her spine, and her eyes are a clear and bright blue. Standing at 180 centimetres tall, she is leaning lightly against the counter towards the living room with arms folded and tail hanging idly while watching her daughter work.
Lyka looks over her shoulder and a mischievous tinkle can be seen in her amber eyes. “Well, you would eat it anyway.” She giggles and turns her attention back to the pot. Her long, white hair glides into place on her back and matches her white-furred tail perfectly. Rita simply assumes the white colouring is a fashion thing, much like the pink that came before it was. Lyka Wulf looks to be about 20 years old (and perhaps she really is, though she’d never tell) and she stands a little shorter than her mother by maybe ten centimetres. She’s wearing dark trousers, a black shirt and a green apron that she’d happily take off as soon as her mother left.
“Aren’t you the comedian,” Rita says with a huff, hiding a slight smile. “Well, you seem to be managing well, so I’ll go see to feeding the critters.” With that said she heads over to a door on the other side of the kitchen which leads into the pantry.
Lyka shudders visibly. “So long as I don’t have to go down there,” she says with distaste as her mother comes back out carrying a large crate that she hefts around like it’s almost weightless. Rita chuckles and exits the kitchen, passing her son and kitty as she heads for the back hallway and then down the stairs. Lyka swiftly removes the apron the instant she hears her mother set foot on the stairs, revealing the name and logo of her newest favourite band: Skrillin Flavours.
She passes a door that says Armoury before coming to an unmarked door that she uses her tail to open. Inside is a dimly lit room that becomes host to a flurry of skittering noises as the door slides open. Her eyes can see perfectly well in the low light, and so can the hundreds of eyes that regard her entry. “Frøydis, I have brought rations for you and your kin,” she announces.
“Much appreciated, Lady Wulf,” comes a raspy reply from a grey spider the size of a bull with 10 eyes that are all watching Rita. She unfurls her eight great legs and rises, beckoning the dozens of smaller spiders ranging, in size, from a small house cat to a sturdy calf, to also move forward. This introduction had become like a ritual between the two over the years.
Rita puts the crate down and rips the lid off with her bare hands, revealing several pieces of wrapped-up meat (almost like cocoons). “How are the hatchlings doing?” she asks as the spider matriarch starts distributing the food.
“They are growing fast, as usual. And some of the younglings are getting big enough to leave the brood, so they shall require new homes before long.” Rita cracks a smile at the news.
“Oh my, already?” She looks over at a quartet of spiders about as big as calves. “I shall make arrangements to have them moved shortly. Any preference on where they go?” she asks as she turns her attention back to Frøydis.
As they keep talking, let us move back out and up the stairs again, and even up the next set of stairs leading up to another long hallway on the top floor. Moving past two doors with the names “Lyka” and “Cara” on them, along with several unmarked doors before getting to an imposing door at the end of the hallway which leads into an observatory. This is where the base of the telescope we can see from the outside stands, and around the room we find several desks and tables cluttered with papers and weird trinkets and instruments. With the exception of a group of bats who have sought refuge from the daylight up in the rafters, the room is currently empty. Looking up we have a clear view of the sky and it doesn’t take much to imagine how spectacular the stars would look at night from here.
If we were to go back into the hallway and look behind all the unmarked doors we’d find six guest-rooms and four bathrooms in addition to the two named doors. It would be rude to peek into private rooms though, so we’ll move back down the stairs to find the final inhabitant of this house.
At the bottom of the stairs we are looking straight at a door that is different from the others. If we put our ear to it, we can hear the wood hum ever so slightly. This doorway leads to a completely different place where Rita’s youngest daughter lives with her family. That is a story for another time though.
Moving past the master bedroom and bathroom we find the door leading out onto the back porch. Currently it is standing open and a few bleeting sounds are drifting into the house and out over the yard. On the steps outside sits the Lord of the house; a tall man, just short of two metres, who is practising on his bagpipes. He is covered in a short layer of orange fur on most of his body with slashes of black tiger stripes, and paler beige or almost white fur on his chest and stomach. His long sleek tail is curled up behind him as he works the bagpipes, and his feline features reflect his concentration as he tries to remember old skills.
The trees are so different here, Hamish thinks as memories of his old home float through his mind. Though the company could certainly be worse. He starts to smile ever so softly.
While we are here, let us leave the house behind and go check in with its nearest neighbours. Going over the trees and over to the lake where a small tongue of land sticks out and two very large and special willow trees are planted. The ground around these trees looks different from the rest of the forest. More vibrant, more energetic, greener. The flowers blooming around them look to be entirely unique to this area. Sitting at edge of the water and chatting with their feet submerged are two Dryads. They are the only representatives of the Fae on this world, and loyal (if somewhat unorthodox) servants of the Seelie Queen. Between them they tend to the forest in its entirety, making it the healthiest piece of woodland on the planet.
As Dryads they were created at the same time by the same Godfather just four years ago, and as such consider eachother sisters. Their spirits are countless centuries old though, maybe even millennia. Neither of them really had a firm grasp of the passage of time in their prior form of being.
They are both short and supernaturally beautiful, with coppery skin, green lips, green eyes, green nails and exceptionally long, green hair that drapes itself around them like a cloak. The Queen forbids any type of nymph or nature spirit to wear anything she deems unnatural, though it seems she makes an exception for jewellery, as one of them has a couple of golden leaves affixed to her hair.
The biggest difference between them is (apart from personality) their shape. The one with the golden adornments, Sinoe, is very curvaceous on a slight frame that would probably be impossible or highly uncomfortable for someone not of the Fae to pull off. While Syke has a lithe figure which stands as a contrast to her sister, and her hair isn’t quite as long.
Sinoe traces a finger along a water reed, causing it to stretch a little. “So how is Godfather?”
“He is much the same.” Syke looks out over the water. “Cassandra is still keeping him entertained,” she adds with a smile.
Sinoe leans forward and runs her hand through the water, a faint trail of sparkles following her fingers. “That is good. No one is well served when he gets too serious,” she says warmly. “Oh! I wanted to show you this new sapling that sprouted at the heart of the forest!” She jumps up and her sister quickly follows her lead as they vanish in-between the trees.
Looking into the lake there is no way to see the bottom, even on the sunniest of days. None have yet gone down to check just how deep it is, but what is certain is that it is teeming with life, small, large and huge. At about fifty-four kilometres long from tip to tip, eight kilometres across at the widest, and of currently unknown depth (though it certainly extends well over a kilometre down), it is estimated to be possibly the largest volume of freshwater on the continent. It’s being fed by dozens of creeks and one river, and spawning one large river that heads towards the ocean hundreds of kilometres away. The people at Wulf Manor have all sorts of theories about what lies at the bottom, and keep saying they’ll have to go down to check some day soon, though soon seems to be a long time indeed.
Just an average, quiet day in the Wulf Manor and its surroundings. Its denizens have seen enough adventures to last anyone’s lifetime, and know to embrace the calm while they can. Soon enough someone or something always comes knocking.