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Wolves Of Dacia
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-394-6
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Science Fiction
eBook Length: 457 Pages
Published: January 2018

From inside the flap

Transylvania, 1941: as the spectre of the Holocaust reaches Romania it falls to Andreea Petrescu, a Romani biology student, to go on the run from an SS Einsatzgruppen with her irascible, superstitious father. Their flight leads them to seek refuge in ancient Dacian catacombs, where they discover they are not the first to have taken shelter.

Though her father is repulsed by their discoveries, the scientifically-minded Andreea finds herself fascinated by the activities of the mysterious resistance unit that has set itself up in the area, and of their leader, the charismatic and ruthless Miss Bendice. She seems eager to recruit Andreea to her cause, and offers her an opportunity to escape from her degrading circumstances, but at no small cost.

Forging unlikely friendships with a naďve Wehrmacht lieutenant, an amnesiac teenage vampire, and a scatterbrained Welsh parapsychologist, Andreea’s knowledge, courage, and integrity are put to the test as she struggles to survive, save her loved ones, and stay true to her principles, though it may entail sacrificing her dreams.

Wolves Of Dacia (Excerpt)


Prologue - The Scapegoats

As Mihaela Petrescu read her daughter's letter, she forced herself not to cry, and resisted the urge to retreat into her hut, read it in privacy, and there cry to her heart's content. They all saw it being delivered, she thought, taking good note of the coldly curious glances she was drawing from several of her neighbours. They'll realise. They would realise everything sooner or later, of course, but their sneers would be easier to bear when she was better composed.

Berlin University, October the 25th, 1933.

Dear Mum,

Love to you and Dad. I expect Father Vadim has told you the bad news by now. I just thought I'd better make sure, in case I surprise you by coming home right in the middle of the semester.

I have been expelled. Herr Hitler's government has decreed that German universities mustn't have more than a few students from 'inferior' races such as ours polluting their hallowed halls. The dean says that it was a tough decision, but in the end I was not one of the few chosen to remain. Professor Freund has been very kind. He offered to give me a reference if I want to continue my studies elsewhere in Europe, but only being able to speak German, Romanian, and Romani (for all the good that would be … don't tell Dad I said that), I would not have many options. Besides which, I don't suppose Father Vadim has the money to pay my tuition again from scratch, not that I'd be comfortable accepting any more of his charity. Dad always said that this would never work out, and I only wish I had listened to him.

Yes, he did, thought Mihaela, bitterly, and now we'll never hear the end of it. Steeling herself, and resolving to 'lose' or destroy the letter at the earliest discreet opportunity, she read on:

I'll be catching an early express from Berlin on the 28th, and staying overnight in Vienna with some friends of Professor Freund. After that I'll take the train to Budapest, change there, and all going smoothly I ought to arrive in Brasov hopefully not very late in the afternoon on the 30th. Father Vadim will meet me at the station and drive me back to the settlement, though I don't suppose I'll be very welcome after having lived for so long in gadje society. If there are likely to be any issues with the elders or the kris, I can stay with Father Vadim until they've blown off enough steam for me to dare show my face there. See you soon …

"Mother Petrescu!" called out a shrill, strident voice from right outside her door. "A couple of punters here to see you!"

Cursing under her breath, Mihaela put down the letter, wiped her face, and turned her bitter, stinging eyes upon the source of the irritating sound. It turned out to be a young lad, barefoot and malnourished, although not quite as sorry a sight as he might have been without the handful of one-hundred lei banknotes which he clutched possessively to his chest. At any rate, he did not cut so wretched a figure that Mihaela would have refrained from giving him a clip around the ear, but she resisted that urge on account of the two strangers who stood a little way behind him. The couple were taking in their surroundings - the bare dirt yards, the squalid wooden huts, and the open drainage ditches of the Romani settlement - with nervous looks. They were both middle-aged, pale-complexioned, delicate of frame, and wearing high-quality riding outfits. The man was also carrying a top-of-the-range hunting rifle slung over his shoulder, which only succeeded in making him look like a well-armed invitation for anyone contemplating highway robbery. The woman had a Gladstone bag and a large embroidered purse, no doubt the source of the young messenger's wealth. Haggard-looking passers-by eyed it up greedily.

Pitiable and naďve though her visitors were, Mihaela did not have any sympathy to spare at present, and although she was not given to prejudice, a polite conversation with a pair of rich and successful gadje tourists, no doubt come to gawk at the 'quaint gypsies' and their 'primitive' settlement like animals in a zoo, was more than she felt equal to right now. She was about to make a curt apology, when the woman started towards her with an open, outstretched hand, and spoke. Her accent was flawed, but her Romanian was fluent, to say nothing of excited:

"Mrs. Petrescu?" Mihaela received the enthusiastic handshake with a listless nod. "Mihaela Petrescu, the drabarni?" Mihaela nodded again, no more warmly, but her uninviting air did not seem to dampen the ardour of her questioner. "This is really quite an honour for us," declared the woman. Behind her, Mihaela saw the man looking around the settlement with furrowed brows and a curled lip, and she was confident that his wife did not do him justice in speaking for both of their feelings, but allowed her to rattle on. "My name's Meredith - Moira Meredith - and that's my husband; Professor Bernard Meredith. We're from Cambridge University. Perhaps you've heard of it."

Patronising though this comment was, what really struck Mihaela was its hideously poor timing, and she made no effort to conceal her resentment:

"Oh, how wonderful for you. So tell me, Mrs. Professor: how many Romani students does your university have?"

"I, err, really wouldn't know," replied Moira, but her tone miserably failed to conceal that this was a lie.

"I only mention it because my daughter just got booted out of Berlin University. She's as bright a young lady as any you ever saw, but not, I guess, the right sort to be keeping company with good, clean gadje girls and boys. So, if you've an opening for her and you don't mind that she's of an inferior race, do please leave us your address."

"Well … that's the Nazis for you," said Moira, awkwardly and evasively. "I mean, who don't they hate? I don't expect they'll last long, though. Herr Hitler may talk big, but I'm sure he's got no real head for government."

"Gadje politics mean nothing to me. All I know is that your ancestors were killing and making slaves of my people long before this Hitler was even born, so you'll have to pardon me if I can't find much comfort in-"

"Hold on: my ancestors?" interrupted Moira, suddenly paying back Mihaela's bitterness in kind. "Where do you come off knowing my family tree, all of a sudden? For your information, drabarni, my ancestors have been solidly Welsh, give or take, since the time of Henry VIII, and even if they had come from around here, even if they had been guilty of all of that, exactly how many generations of their sins am I supposed to atone for?"

Mihaela momentarily had the urge to bite off her own tongue. Her last remark, she could hardly avoid admitting to herself, had not been the height of fairness, and the worst of it was that she now felt obliged to offer some gesture of civility in recompense, though she would much sooner have been shot of her visitors.

"So … what can I do for you?" she asked, with obviously forced politeness. This was good enough for Moira, it seemed, as she immediately assumed a brisk, professional tone, thankfully lacking any of her former infuriating affability.

"I'm conducting a study," she explained, "collating information on certain phenomena that many people believe in, but few in the scientific community would take seriously. I believe that you can help me with that. I realise that your main duty as a drabarni is holistic healing, but you do also tell fortunes, don't you?"

"That I do, but you're wasting your time. Now, I wouldn't tell this to just anyone," unless I wanted to get rid of them just as much as I do you, she mentally added, "but fortune-telling is all a load of nonsense. I only do that for the entertainment of superstitious gadje: tourists, and the like, who've got money to burn on a few vague, mysterious, encouraging words, and cheap, home-made 'charms' and 'amulets.' Your scientists are quite right not to believe in such foolishness."

"Of course, of course. I know all that … but in your case it isn't quite the whole truth, is it?" added Moira, knowingly.

"I don't have the faintest idea …"

My friend, you always were a hopeless liar.

" … what you mean," said Mihaela, with only the slightest hesitation betraying the invasive, alien words that had crept into her mind mid-sentence. Absorbed in her subject, Moira completely failed to notice the small hiatus.

"I had a chat with some of the local peasants," she continued, "and they told a different story: that you are, in fact, possessed of a very great gift indeed."

Indeed you are … would that you only appreciated it.

"Shut up!" hissed Mihaela, unthinkingly, to her inner voice.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Oh, nothing. Those gadje peasants don't know what they're talking about, any more than you do. I've never seen into the future in my life, I swear to God."

"Yes, but you have had visions, haven't you? Known things that you couldn't possibly have known? Like the time you led your clan to that man who'd assaulted your niece? The way I heard it, you saw into his mind, and you knew at once where he was hiding out."

I'm not sure you deserve the full credit for that insight … although I suppose I owe you gratitude for not betraying any knowledge of me.

"Whatever I might have seen or known … my 'gift,' if you will call it that, is not some sideshow amusement," replied Mihaela, feeling as if she was being attacked on two fronts but rallying her defences. "I've no idea what you hope to gain by prying into these things. No-one will thank you for it, trust me. Why don't you and your husband just …"

Wait. I would learn more of these two. Humour them for the present.

"What do you mean, no-one will thank me?" asked Moira, studying the drabarni's very disturbed expression curiously. Mihaela wondered how open-minded her visitor actually was, whether she was actually capable of believing the truth, and if that might serve to scare her off. Or, worse luck, it could spur her on. Better not take that risk, she decided, and gave a guarded reply:

"Because … Because my gift isn't some 'mystic power' that I can turn on and off like an electric light. It comes and it goes of its own will. I can't force it to happen, nor can I stop it if it does come upon me. It would seem like madness to some. I sometimes wonder if that isn't so far off the mark. You can't harness it, or bottle it, or control it in any real way. You wouldn't find it a very profitable subject to study."

"Perhaps, but just think: if I can prove that such spiritual experiences are real, and not mere delusions, it might mean so much to the world. People these days will hardly believe in anything if it requires the slightest imagination. If I can only open a few closed minds with my work, I'd consider myself well-paid."

Ah, the lofty sentiments of wise fools … yet she interests me. Invite her in.

"No!"

"Oh … I'm sorry you feel that way," said Moira, surprised at how passionately Mihaela seemed to object to the innocent enough purpose she had expressed. "I don't want to seem insensitive … but if it's a question of money-"

"You did hear what I just said about not being a sideshow amusement?" asked Mihaela, managing to be offended at the condescending offer even while sincerely attempting to save the life of her extremely unwise visitor.

Invite her in, drabarni, or you will force me to claim someone else, declared the intruder, with as much implied threat as could be concentrated into a disembodied collection of ideas. Someone closer to you, perhaps.

"Go to Hell!" Mihaela muttered, not quite quietly enough.