A fictional story created and written by Damian Galvin, to capture the magic and beauty of Romania and its people. Reading time: 20 minutes. Please like and share if you enjoy this story.
Reina was a shy and mysterious young woman, who grew up in Transylvania, near the city of Targu Mures, on a small cattle farm with her grandparents. She was indeed a lover of animals and yet, always felt an internal conflict somehow. She felt torn between wanting to care for them, but at the same time, she felt she had an inner hunter instinct that she could not explain, and showed little or no remorse when they were slaughtered for food purposes.
One day, she confided in her grandfather, Nicolae, a former soldier in his youth. She described having dreams, that scared her, in which she was a she-Wolf, hunting prey with ruthless efficiency.
“Bunicule, sometimes I have nightmares that I am a grey wolf, prowling the forests around the Calimani mountains in the night. When I see the moon, it fills me with joy and causes me to sing. I am the alpha female, and along with my mate, the alpha male, we are the only ones in our pack with the right to breed. I spend my time caring for, teaching and organizing the pack, determining who eats first, who runs at the front, who stays at the back, and on rare occasions, who should be excluded from the pack. Each spring, I give birth to new pups, and the entire pack are responsible for raising these offspring. Usually, there is from each litter, some cubs with strong personalities and great strength of character who after 3 or 4 years, leave us to become Alpha wolves of their own packs, and others who are weaker, who become the Omega wolf, the weaker one, who is usually the scapegoat of the group, who instigate play, but they eat last and remain on the fringes of the pack.
Her grandfather, Nicolae listened intently, his wise face and kind smile were comforting to Reina, and he showed no signs of judging her wild imagination, so she continued.
“I have a torment, but I don’t know if I can express it fully. My wolf personality has 2 sides. A cruel one, jealous, bitter, suspicious of all, and vengeful. The other side is a strong and fair leader, kind, protective, loving and supportive. It confuses me and I am often sad because of this conflict. I think I am comfortable with these dreams but I wish I could choose the good side over the other. Sometimes I see the evil side gaining power within me, and other times, the good side wins my internal fight. How can I resolve this conflict within me, because it consumes me?”. Her grandfather reached out, took Reina’s hands and said simply, “Just like your wolf pack, whichever wolf you feed the most will be the strong one and will grow to dominate all around it. Whichever one you starve, will die”
This helped Reina enormously and she began to daydream more positively about her wolf character and even more vividly. She could seemingly transport herself to the forest in her dreams within just a few moments of closing her eyes. Reina would wake with a head full of thoughts and note them down in a secret journal.
In her dreams, Reina’s wolf name was Hera, after the Greek Goddess of Women. Her Alpha partner was named Torak, Torak and was no ordinary wolf. His colours and temperament were different from the native grey wolves of Transylvania. Somehow, he was a decedent of the North American, now extinct species, Canis Edwardii.
Reina’s journal was overflowing with stories, memories, anecdotes and sketches. She would try to organize them to formulate a pattern, a story, to make sense of it. One day, she woke from a vivid dream and was able to recall the whole story, and she put pen to paper to recall the following events.
Hera and Torak were out hunting with the pack in early spring, high up in the foothills of Calimani mountains near Targu Mureș. Left behind in the den were the cubs, safely hidden several meters deep in a clearing at the base of the den. It seems that while they were gone, the Omega cub, Seiko, became restless and went exploring playfully, but alone. Unguarded and unwise, he ventured into an upper region of the forests of the Calimani mountains known as the Zaspas Peak, an area that even the fearless Alpha wolves would never go. It had strange mysterious energy about the place, like a smell, a feeling, but in truth, it was a sense not of the usual five. It just gave one a feeling that could not be described in words.
Ardelean folklore writings of this area, say that there existed a truly evil place, The Celestial Hollow of The Burdened. It was rumoured to be guarded by beasts of the underworld, and at its centre, was An-Ona, the Grove of the Devout Demon. Indeed, many strange happenings of slaughtered cattle were found by farmers and shepherds over the years, but always the wolves were blamed for these occurrences. As a consequence, locals hated wolves and would hunt them for trophies, hanging their corpses on trees to ward off others. In turn, this angered the wolves of the region greatly and they were known to attack humans at any opportunity.
Upon returning from the hunt, Hera and Torak could see that Seiko was missing. Normally, Hera would have not cared so much about the missing Omega cub, blaming him for his stupidity and lack of sense, since it was the weakest and least valuable, but she remembered her human reasoning to feed the good wolf, not the evil one. With this state of mind, she instructed Torak to go looking for Seika.
Quickly, Torak followed the still warm trail, using his incredible sense of smell, high up into the forests, just below the snowline. After some time, Torak found fresh traces of blood, wolf blood and his warrior instinct took over. His fur bristled with anticipation, his muscular form contracted, his eyes narrowed, and his senses were all heightened. Now, Torak was in hunter-mode.
Hera meanwhile, was tending to the pack, organizing the feeding in pack ranking order. Suddenly though, there came a scream like no other, an agonizing wolf cry, mixed with fearsome noises of battle. Hera soon realized this was the screams of Torak. Immediately she set out to aid him in battle, followed by the pack.
Upon arriving at Zaspas Peak, she too found the blood-stained tree debris. Hera was surrounded now by a strange green fog, and she seemed to lack the strength and energy to enter it, but she pressed on, fighting for her breath. The putrid air smelled of Sulphur and flesh, like the gates of an evil place. Frantically, she searched for Torak, howling in her unique voice, but nothing, no sign of Torak. Only bloodstains, and strands of fur, which appeared as if something had put up a strong fight. After some time, she discovered part of a back leg. As Hera sniffed the still warm, bloody limb, she realized it was indeed belonging to Torak. He had been mutilated by something far more vicious and strong than the warrior wolf.
When Reina woke, she wrote this all down. She realized that she was indeed devoted to Torak, and she was heartbroken. Reina became obsessed with the Romanian mythology surrounding the area of Zaspas Peaks. Some years passed and Reina always carried with her, an inner sadness she could not quell. She wanted revenge. But who to fight and how to compete with something much stronger than her? How to vanquish a demon?
Reina researched every possible topic surrounding her dreams. Geography, mythology, religion, even the dark arts of magic and witchcraft. She aimed to be able to program her dreams with the knowledge required to seek virtual revenge, within her dream. She became something of an expert on The Celestial Hollow of The Burdened.and An-Ona, the Grove of the Devout Demon. During her research, Reina stumbled on some alleged witches from Targu Jiu, an area of Romania famed for them. Reina ventured there one day, and after much searching, met with a seemingly innocent old lady, perhaps in her eighties, who lived alone in the old part of the city. Andromeda was not all that she appeared though. With her deep, gravelly voice, bony long fingers, long grey hair, long sharp nose, pointy chin and slight frame, Andromeda had a strong presence about her, one in which you knew she had strong powers. Reina simply knew this lady was a Black Witch, and confided her whole story, sharing the contents of her journal. Reina asked her directly “do you think you could help me avenge my true love, who was probably taken by demons in a recurring dream I have?” Andromeda shivered forcefully and involuntarily as if chilled by a sudden wind, before responding. My child, this is no ordinary foe you wish to challenge. And there can be only one winner in such a fight. It is well known when you go after revenge of this kind, you should dig 2 graves because almost certainly, it will not be you who is the victor. But, if you truly believe you have nothing to lose, and you are willing to sacrifice your life, then I will help you”. Reina remained unmoved, for she knew, she must vanquish this demon within her dreams. Andromeda could see her warning had little effect to deter Reina, so continued, “I want you to return home and I want you to carry out some tasks for me. You will need to have a soul that is whiter than white, and your body and mind must be in perfect health, peak performance. I can see into your thoughts and you are not ready for this right now. Come back to me when you are ready. I want you to perform 6 acts of heroism, on 6 days where that night is a full moon, to save the 6 souls from perishing. It is up to you how, where, when and why. For this is the number of the beast, 6 6 6, and by carrying out selfless acts of bravery, for the benefit of others, will cleanse your Karma. I want you to make notes of every negative act, gesture, comment or deed that you perform, and to make amends by carrying out 2 good acts for every bad one. Do this, until your list is empty, and you have become a naturally good person. This is the antithesis that will be used to carry out an evil act, for good purposes.
If, and when you return, bring to me 3 types of flowers that you picked with your own hands. 6 of each. Mătrăgună (Mandrakes), Lavandă (Lavender) and Trandafiri (Roses). I will need these for a potion, but I will explain more if that time comes. But do not waste my time by returning sooner than you deserve to.
Reina was alive with enthusiasm. For the first time in her life, she had a real purpose, real determination. She became a new person. At every spare moment, she would read avidly, novels, history, philosophy, geography, literature and poetry. Her mind was becoming sharper by the minute. She became less judgemental of others, less suspicious, more kind and charitable, forgiving whenever she had the opportunity. She changed her diet and started running around Herastrau park in her lunchtime break as well as after work. Reina took up yoga, swimming, and circuit training. Although small in size, her body was transformed into a lean mean fighting machine. The months passed quickly, summer ended, then came a very short autumn and a long dark winter, but still, Reina relentlessly trained her body, mind and soul. A single vision remained at the front of her mind. To avenge the loss of Torak in her dreams.
Reina also studied the Lunar calendar and planned her acts of bravery on days coinciding with full moons. She volunteered at the local emergency ward, and at weekends, joined mountain rescue teams. During the summer she would visit the seaside and volunteer as a lifeguard on Black Sea beaches such as Neptun, 2 Mai, Costinesti and so forth. In short, within a year, Reina had fulfilled 6 acts of bravery demanded of the Witch.
Early the next Summer, Reina returned to Targu jiu to see the Witch, having completed all her tasks diligently. She stood taller, straighter, stronger, more confidently in front of Andromeda, and she carried with her, the 18 flowers requested of her. Andromeda was surprised to see the wolf-like spirit in Reina but was soon convinced, she was very much ready for this fight.
Andromeda explained to Reina that the only way to challenge the demons in her dream was to transform herself physically into a wolf, the process of lycanthropy, and to confront the demons head-on, in reality, not just in dreams. Few believed this idea of transformation of a human into a wolf was anything more than myth and legend, but Andromeda told Reina, she had the power to do this. However, she had no powers to make Reina be accepted by Wolves once transformed. If they didn’t accept her, they would devour her in seconds, for they did not trust, or like humans. If they accepted her, however, she would have significant powers over them as she could think both as a smart human, and as a cunning wolf, and would therefore quickly gain the respect of any wolf pack. As you can imagine, Reina was both shocked and spellbound at this point, never imagining for a moment she would be doing anything other than resolving her torment within the safety of a dream. But she had come this far and her determination was ever strong.
Andromeda gave Reina the greatest challenge of her life, and possibly death, at this point. She instructed Reina to visit the Calimani mountains and to befriend the wolves. If they accepted her, then she had a good chance of success in the next phase of the mission. If not, well, she would simply not be around to tell the story. Reina was instructed to return with a clip of hair from the Alpha wolves, as proof to Andromeda she was both accepted by and trusted to get close enough to the wolves.
Reina returned to Targu Mures with trepidation, fear, uncertainty, but at the same time, an inner voice told her she was getting closer to her goal. She waited for fair weather one weekend, and set out on a hike into the forests around the Calimani mountains, taking with her, a tent, sleeping equipment, fire-making materials, a knife, weatherproof clothes, a torch and dry foods for herself, as well as wild boar meat as bait to attract the wolves to her She didn’t tell anyone where she was going, not even her grandfather.
Reina took the usual walking trails from the lowlands until she reached the forest. Once there, she made her own path into the higher areas, where the fauna was densest. Here, she made her camp, applying the skills learned in Mountain Rescue training. First, Reina found a hollow, below eye line of trekkers. Then she cleared all rocks and sharp objects where the tent would sit, then placed the tent ensuring the head end was slightly uphill to avoid waking with a headache. Then she made a firebase from rocks and prepared it with dry leaves, kindling, and dry wood. Reina allowed herself a smile, at her achievements. She felt confident, strangely unafraid of the wild as if she had experienced it many times before. As darkness began to fall, Reina lit the fire and sat down to warm herself. She felt a strange ease fall over her. After a short while, she retired to the tent to wait. As she lay listening to the many animal sounds washing over her subconscious, she thought about Torak.
Time seemed to drag on for eternity, as she waited to hear the wolf cries. But sure enough, at around 3 am, the distinctive cry of distant wolves could be heard. She unpacked the freshly cut wild boar meat that she had brought with her and went walking around her camping area. She laid cuts of meat every ten paces or so, in a circle around her tent. Then she waited, both afraid and excited at the same time, like being on a first date, knowing this is something she wanted badly, but also completely unsure how to react if her bait was successful in attracting the wolves.
In time, the howling grew louder, and at around 5 am, in the first morning light, she was awoken from her sleep by the distinct sound of animals sniffing around her closed tent. She rose, unzipped the tent, but the animals ran for cover and by the time she had scrambled outside, there were no wolves to be seen. Daylight came, and Reina realised it was pointless remaining there during the day. So she left her camp, made up, and returned down the mountain to the town, to fetch more supplies of wild boar, favourite meat of the carnivorous wolf.
The following evening, Reina returned to her camp, finding it undisturbed. Again, she carefully laid the same bait but this time, she kept some back, so she may be able to feed the wolves by hand, should they approach the tent. Again, she retired to sleep, more at ease this time, and trying hard to stay awake, but alas, fell asleep sometime before midnight. She was awoken by the distant wolf pack cry once again, but this time, much earlier, and approaching her tent much sooner than the previous night. She even tried wolf cries to encourage them. Soon enough though, the familiar sniffing around her tent reappeared. This time, Reina had not zipped her tent and was able to crawl out slightly without scaring the wolves. She managed to throw out a piece of fresh boar meat in front of the tent, Soon enough a huge grey wolf appeared from the bushes in front of her, standing 90cm in height, weighing maybe 80 to 90 kg. It was the Alpha male of the pack, and behind him, she could see a faint outline of the rest of the pack, pacing side to side. Reina repeated the gesture of throwing meat to the Alpha male, taking care not to look him directly in the eyes to avert confrontation. She repeated this several times until all the meat was gone. At which time, afraid she would become the next meal for the wolves, she reached inside and took out 2 metal camping cups, clapping them rapidly together to create an unpleasant clanging noise, which indeed worked, as it scared the pack away.
Reina was delighted, scared but relieved to have come through this first interaction unscathed. She waited a few more hours until first light, then hurriedly packed up camp and left for home. The following weekends, she repeated this exercise, each time drawing the pack to her camp, and each time feeding them. After a few visits, she no longer needed to scare them away when the food had gone. They merely retreated.
Over the coming months, Reina would repeat this as often as possible until finally, she was able to feed the alpha male and female by hand. Indeed a privileged status. Reina had finally gained the trust of the wolves. It had taken many weeks and a lot of patience, but now she was able to caress the head and shoulders of the alpha male. The alpha female, however, would not allow Reina’s touch, snarling when she tried to reach. However, after one feeding, the alpha male sat down in front of Reina’s tent, allowing her to brush his thick main with her fingers. Although she had brought small scissors with her to take a cut, she did not dare to reach for them, in case the shiny unfamiliar material would startle the wolves. Instead, she just grew braver in her caresses, pulling at the fur in the back-stoke of her caress. Alas, she was able to gather a few strands of hair. She carefully placed this hair in her left hand, and from there into a small plastic bag nearby, while continuing to stroke the wolf with her right hand. Then she offered a piece of wild boar meat to the Alpha female, who stepped forward. With one hand feeding, she raised the other to caress. As the wolf backed away, so Reina removed both hands at the same time, making it clear to the She-Wolf if she wanted the food, she had to allow touch. Both hands or none, that was Reina‘s offer. Eventually, the wolf stepped forward and allowed to touch her. She repeated the same technique, albeit much more gradually, to win the female’s trust, and to take some fur strands. Reina could hardly contain her excitement at her success. She gave the last of her food away, and the wolves left her voluntarily. She de-camped and returned home. The following weekend, she returned to see Andromeda in Targu Jiu with the hair samples.
Andromeda told Reina to wait in her living room, while she disappeared upstairs to a back room. She retrieved the now dried flowers from Reina’s previous visit, as well as some raw materials to concoct a strange mixture. From a cupboard, she retrieved an old stone mixing bowl into which she added dried Roman chamomile, ginger plant extract, garlic cloves, turmeric, white vinegar, and the wolf hair, that she clipped into tiny pieces. She mashed this into a paste, adding rainwater from a glass container that she kept for such rare occasions. It was hard work for the old lady mashing the contents into a paste, but with persistence, she produced a fine, brownish-yellow paste. She scraped this mixture into a small bowl, and sealed it with plastic film, and returned downstairs to Reina.
Andromeda gave the bowl and a small bottle of rainwater to Reina, explaining “you should take this potion with you to the mountains, but ensure it does not dry out fully. If it does dry up, just add some of this rainwater, if required. Once you arrive, in daylight mind you, to the area where you know the Wolves frequent, you should eat all of the mixture. Make sure you are not followed, nor can be discovered, and do not take anything that will draw the Wolves to you before you would want, so, no food, no perfumes or makeup, and wash well with simple unscented soap. Before dusk, take the potion. You will feel dizzy, probably you will fall unconscious, and you will undergo a physical transformation, lycanthropy in fact. This will take anything from half an hour to several hours. When complete, you will be a fully grown female wolf. I cannot determine if you will be the Alpha wolf of the pack that you join, or they will reject you and attack you. But you probably will not be rejected.
Once you have become a she-wolf, you are on your own. I cannot guide you further. I have no knowledge, nor power, over the demons you seek, nor do I want any involvement in your fight. I simply refuse to be involved in that battle”
To be continued, read Hera, and the seven deadly sins here