Chapter One

Children were taught from young to fear them; the Wolves, the fierce warriors of the Midnight Forest; Sons of Adoff. They were proud and isolated themselves from the rest of the world, save for their women. They ignored the wars of the Falgrice and her enemies, considering the causes too petty for their concern. But trained from the time they could walk, they were the most powerful band of fighters in the Mingorian Lands.

The Wolves were a tribe. They dressed themselves in black and bore tattoos over half their faces and down one arm. Always, the tattoos were in the same places, never anywhere else. No one knew how this had begun, not event the Wolves themselves. Around their necks, they wore leather cords hung with wolf fangs. The wolf fangs were painted in nine colours: silver, white, gold, bronze, black, tawny, fawn, fallow and yellow.

The tribe could communicate with howls. Different patterns and lengths gave coded meanings that only they understood. It could announce the approach of an enemy or the celebration of a good hunt.

On the night of the full moon, they adorned themselves with silver and scattered throughout the Midnight Forest. Each lit his own fire and paid tribute to the Wolf God, Reule, and the Wolf Father, Adoff. Under the blessings of these two idols, the Wolves thrived.

But the Wolves were without women. So they raided villages and towns and stole women back to their home, deep in the Midnight Forest. When a child was born, they kept the infant and took the woman back to the edge of the forest. Whatever she did after that was her own choice. The child was always male. Never had a Wolf fathered a daughter. It was never questioned, never pondered over.

But then Bryony was born…

On the day that she was born, there was a great uproar in the Den of the Wolves. Zev, father of the child, stared at the infant held out to him by the woman of his brother and said nothing. Fenris, the chief of the tribe, also looked at the girl with an unreadable expression. The elders argued among themselves over what to do with the infant. Warriors in their prime looked at each other to see if any of them could provide explanation to this phenomenon while the boys whispered to one another of how the mighty Zev had been the first Wolf to ever father a girl.

It was Felan, Zev's brother, whose voice finally broke through the chaos. "Well, what are you waiting for, Zev? Name your she-wolf, you dimwit."

The noise immediately ceased. She-wolf? Surely Felan must be mad. To accept the girl so carelessly, without a unanimous decision from the elders. A female Wolf. It had never been. Women were not born into the tribe. They were taken from villages and towns, brought to the Den, bore infants and returned to whatever lives they chose.

But was the girl not one of their own, despite her gender? The child of a Wolf was a child of a Wolf. If a girl had never before been born into the tribe, who was to say what should be done?

"I-I know of no names suited for a woman," Zev stammered out.

Felan snorted impatiently. "Then name her after an herb, a gem, a bird. Practically anything can be a woman's name."

Some of the women standing around the fire, pretending to be working while they watched the scene, scent him scathing looks, but he pretended not to notice.

It was then that a bowl of bryony flowers caught Zev's eye and he said, almost without thinking, "Bryony. She shall be called Bryony."

There was a general murmur of approval. Bryony was a good, strong, hardy plant; a proper name for the child of a warrior.

Fenris then stepped forward and placed his hand on the infant's head. "I name you Bryony, daughter of the warrior Zev, of the Tribe of the Wolves, of the Midnight Forest; First She-Wolf."

And so she was named and would be called for many, many years to come.

A.N. So I finally put the prologue and the first chapter together and I don't know how long it is 'cause I haven't done word count, but I apologize if it's too short - which it probably is.