Bit of Ivory

Bit of Ivory random header image

Well, here it is:

January 31st, 2004 · 1 Comment

In some ways, this one was harder than LtYD. It’s a shorter fic, and yet I almost put more thought into it than any of my other fics. But at the same time, this fic was much more organic– the basic idea presented itself in an instant. I’d almost say it was inspiration. Anyway, here it is, for what it’s worth.

The Way of the Wolf commentary:

The Way of the Wolf

by Wahlee

was written for the SQ
Forbidden Forest contest, so it’s quite a bit different than any of my
other fics. For one thing, it’s really short. The contest had a 1000
word limit, although I exceeded that by about 200 words. For another,
there were three very specific rules. You had to have 1) A canon
character, 2) a magical creature and 3) it had to take place in the
Forbidden Forest. I knew I wanted to enter the contest, but I had no
idea as to plot, which creature it would be, or which character. I was
at work about a week before the entries were due and just decided to
start writing.

The forest was already dark, though the sun had just set. It was
always dark in this forest. She
preferred it that way; the darkness gave her privacy, and protected her
from undesirable things.
Man-things, chiefly. They were afraid of the darkness, and so it was
her friend.

That was my first paragraph, almost
exactly as originally written. I didn’t know who “she” was, I didn’t
know anything, until I got to the word “man-things.” After I had written that, I knew. It was used often
by Poledra, a character in David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series– a wolf who can
turn into a woman. At that moment, I knew not only who my creature was,
but who my character was.

She was surprised, then, when she smelled a man-thing in the air.
The scent of this particular
man-thing was intriguing, for it carried with it the smell of her own
kind–the scent of a wolf. So
she did not run as it approached. Curiosity was ever a trait of her
kind. Note that my wolf is not a
magical one, but just a normal, everyday wolf. I wasn’t sure if this
would satisfy the requirement of the contest, so I put in another
creature to be safe.

It was not hard to tell that this man-thing was in pain, even for a
wolf unfamiliar with men. The
air around him shimmered with the scent of sorrow, and as he walked he
paid no heed to his
surroundings. Then he suddenly stopped and looked at her.

“Good evening, little sister,” he said in the manner of wolves. In Eddings, sorcerers can change shape.
Once you’ve changed into a wolf, you can communicate with wolves, even
when you’re in you human form. When I discovered that my creature was a
wolf, I knew that Remus was my character, and because he’s a werewolf
he had the ability to communicate with a wolf.

“How remarkable,” was her startled reply. Dispensing with courtesy,
she immediately asked “How is it that a man-thing has come to know my
language?” I had to go back to the Mallorean and re-read the wolf
language to make sure I was getting it right. Eddings cheats, though.
At first he has the wolf speak all in “one” instead of “I” and “you.”
But then in the next book the wolf’s language becomes much, much less
formal. She starts to talk more regularly. I finally decided that “one”
was formal, as one would use with new acquaintances, and with
familiarity comes more normal pronouns.

“Surely one has smelled the scent of the wolf upon me. One suspects
it was that scent that kept
you from hiding. Is one correct?”


The man-thing sighed, one full of a long-held burden. “I was born a
man. As a very small pup I
was bitten by a werewolf. Ever since, on the night the moon is
round–like it will be tonight–I
become a wolf, one who lusts after the flesh of men.”

“One sees,” replied the she-wolf, keeping her language formal
despite the stranger’s informality. “One has heard stories of such a
creature, but one has never
encountered such.”  Her earlier
informality was more a result of her surprise than any feeling of
familiarity with Remus. She jumps back into formality here, and Remus
follows suit.

The werewolf raised an eyebrow. “Has one been in this forest long?” Any wolf in the Forbidden Forest would have
been familiar with werewolves, thus Remus’ surprised reaction.

The she-wolf shook her head sadly, revealing a great sorrow of her
own. “One became separated
from one’s pack. The man-things came and killed one’s mate, and took
one’s pups. One came
here in hopes of finding another pack to join, but there is none.” At first the wolf was a native of the Forbidden
Forest, but as the fic evolved I wanted to give her a sorrow of her
own, so she could have something to share with Remus. I have no idea
whether there are still wild wolves in England and Scotland, but I’m
hoping there are still a few.

“One is sorry,” and the she-wolf could tell that he meant it. “One
has also lost one’s pack.” And
with these words the werewolf sank to his knees and began to weep. I set this in the first full moon after
Sirius’ death. The grief is very near for him on this night.

“What is this water?” asked the she-wolf, alarmed. I don’t think wolves would be familiar with
the idea of crying because of sorrow. She did not know
what was happening,
though she could smell the sorrow redouble in the air. The werewolf
could not answer, and it
was many minutes before the tears subsided enough that he could. She
watched in silence as he
cried, his body shaking with grief.

“One is sorry,” he said at last. “The water is what are called
tears. We man-things shed them
when we are sad.”

“Ah,” said the she-wolf. “Your grief is a recent one.”

“Yes–and no,” answered the werewolf. “My grief has been long
endured, but very recently, a
new grief has been added.” Remus is
not mourning just the loss of Sirius here. He’s mourning his whole
life, the tragedies that he has endured. He’s feeling the death of
James and Lily all over again

“Did one lose one’s mate as well?”

“No,” said the werewolf. “No, he was not my mate, but in many ways
we were as close as mates
are. Note: I am *not* a follower of
the One True Way. I do believe that Sirus was close to Remus, as
friends. That’s plenty of grief to be getting on with. We were
pack-mates–brothers, almost. The last of my pack–such as
it was. What a pack!”
he continued in a slightly bitter tone, “a werewolf, a dog, a stag, and
a rat.” He paused and gazed
at the she-wolf. “One can see that you are confused. My pack-mates were
men also, but they
could transform themselves at will into animals. One turned into a rat,
one a stag, and one a
dog.” Originally Remus’ explanation
was much more in-depth, but that darn word limit made me cut it back.

“How remarkable.” Poledra says
this all the time.

“The dog I mourn now. The stag was killed many years ago, along with
his mate, although their
pup survived. The rat–separated himself from our pack, and is as good
as dead to us.” It took a long time
for me to figure out a way to explain this, because in Eddings lies are
unknown in the wolf community. Betrayal would be completely unheard of,
and it would have taken too many words to try to explain the concept to
her. Remus is aware that betrayal would be difficult for her to
understand, so he simply avoids the issue.

“How very odd you man-things are. Are you sure you do not want to be
a wolf always?” Voluntarily
separating from the pack is strange enough.

The werewolf started. “Hmm. In many ways, the offer is tempting.
But, no. Sirius would be
ashamed if I let others fight while I did not.” Being a wolf would be running away from his


“My pack-mate the dog. His name was Sirius. He died–oh, Merlin,
he’s really gone.” And he
started to weep again.

“I came here. . .to forget,” he gasped between sobs. “Or. . .to
remember. Soon I will. . .be transformed
into a wolf for the first time. . .since I lost him. I wanted to. . .be
in the place where. . .my pack had been
complete. . .to return to
happier times when I was not the last of my pack.” I knew that this wolf would be able to
comfort Remus, but until I got to this point I wasn’t sure how. In
reading over the wolf-speech in the Mallorean
I got my idea.

“One may be wrong, but did not you say that your pack-mate
had a pup?” The she-wolf’s speech
becomes less formal again here, showing her empathy towards Remus.

“Yes. Harry.”

“And this pup still lives?”

He looked at her in surprise. “Yes–yes, he still lives. That in
itself is a miracle.”

“Then you are not the last of your pack. And the well-being of all
is the responsibility of all.” This
line is from the Mallorean.
It seemed to resonate with Remus’ situation.

The werewolf fell back. “Harry. I. . .I almost forgot. Yes, Harry
needs me. He needs me more
than ever now.” I really, really hope
that Remus become more important to Harry now that Sirius is gone.

“Care for the pup, and he will care for you, and your pack will not
die. That is the way of the
wolf.” They can find strength in each
other. The ties are all they have left.

He nodded, and tears filled his eyes once more. “Yes. Yes, little
sister. Thank you for your

“One does one’s best,” was her reply. Silk, another character in Eddings, says
this all the time. I couldn’t

The werewolf gazed about, noting the increased darkness. “It is
almost time for moonrise. I will
leave you now, little sister.” He rose to leave.

“Wait.” The she-wolf pushed her muzzle against the man-and-wolf’s
hand. “You will transform
to a wolf shortly?”

“Yes. I do not wish to cause you harm.”

“Would my presence cause you pain?”

He paused before answering. “No,” he said at last. “It may help, as
a matter of fact.”

“Then after you have transformed, I will accompany you. We will hunt
together. For tonight, at
least, I will be your pack, and you will be mine. Your presence will be
a comfort to me as well.” They’re
both lonely. I have a feeling that it’s been a very long time since she
had any companionship, and she doesn’t want to lose it again so soon.
She also feels very connected to him.

“As you wish.”

And so it was that the she-wolf remained as the man-thing turned to
a wolf. It certainly looked
painful, despite the drink the man-thing took from a flask just before
he transformed. When he
finally arose, shaking slightly, the she-wolf lowered her muzzle to the
ground in a gesture of
respect. Another borrowing from
Eddings, as far as wolf culture goes. I had Remus transform here
because Zsenya said that Remus could count as both creature and
character if he appeared in both of his forms. My little extra
insurance in case my wolf didn’t count as a magical creature. Plus it
helped illustrate the friendship.

“Come,” she said, “Let us hunt.”

And they walked off together in search of prey.

Another part of wolf-culture– the
hunt is a very important ritual, and serves to bond the two wolves
together. I want to continue this friendship– I think it could be a
very important one for Remus. But Albus comes first. Darn it.

I love this fic. I think it’s
definitely my best work thus far. The word limit helped me to refine my
prose– every word counted. I also had it betaed, like, 87 times. None
of my other fics have been through as brutal a revising process as this
one. Unlike my last DVD commentary, going through this one doesn’t make
me want to revise it like mad, which I did with LtYD. I’m still VERY
satisfied with this one. Even though it didn’t win first place. :P

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Lou // Jan 31, 2004 at 6:34 pm

    Yes, it was my favorite too.

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