Lancelot: In the Name of Love (and Drama)

I’m cutting it close on this month’s post and cheating anyway, because this story is so long I’ve split it into two parts – the other half will be posted next week. I am grateful to a plethora of memes for confirming that March lasted about a decade and April stuck around for about ten minutes. Anyway! On to April’s Arthurian adventure, ‘Lancelot: the Knight of the Cart’ by Chrétien de Troyes.

Chrétien de Troyes himself is something of a mystery man but his versions of Arthurian legends, written in French in the twelfth century, are deservedly famous. I am using D.D.R Owen’s translation from Arthurian Romances, published by J.M. Dent & Sons in 1987.

Before we get started, full disclosure: I am a Lancelot girl. In the pre-Le Morte d’Arthur era, I was pretty lukewarm about all of the Round Table men except Gareth, but the Malory version of Lancelot was such a delight that I’ve been in his corner ever since. Malory’s Lancelot is an instinctive big brother figure who just sort of takes people under his wing and then beams proudly when they succeed at things, and while he’s just as much of a drama magnet as the rest of the Camelot crew, he at least tries to solve his problems instead of dumping them on someone else (looking at you Culhwch, looking at you as well Erec, would never dream of taking my eye off you Mordred). Anyway, all this is to say, I am predisposed to take Lancelot’s side. I may yell a little bit when people are mean to him. And they will be.

The romance of ‘Lancelot: the Knight of the Cart’ begins with Arthur holding court at Camelot in celebration of Ascension Day, which is the Thursday forty days after Easter. The king, queen and their nobility are enjoying themselves and more or less minding their own business when in charges a fully armed knight who announces, like a man beginning a supervillain monologue, that he has in his power a group of captives from Arthur’s kingdom and even from his own household. “I give you this news of them not because I intend to return them to you,” declares Sir Supervillain, “on the contrary, I wish to tell and inform you that you lack the strength and resources to be able to get them back. And you may be sure you’ll die without ever being in a position to help them.” Way to kill the party atmosphere.

As a parting shot, Sir Supervillain offers an unpalatable bargain: if there is a knight who holds Arthur’s complete trust, then that knight can come to the woods to fight Sir Supervillain one-on-one. If Arthur’s knight wins, all the captives will be released. The kicker being that if Arthur’s knight loses, Queen Guinevere will join the captives, and she must be present at the fight to play the role of trophy.

No one seizes hold of the knight to keep him captive, I assume because it would not be chivalrous or something like that. Let me tell you, if I heard someone threatening Guinevere, all bets would be off and I am deeply disappointed in the entire court for not sharing this opinion. Heads up, I’m also a Guinevere girl.

The seneschal of the court, Sir Kay, overhears all of this, and immediately goes to Arthur in a fury, announcing his intention to quit service at the court and take his leave. He will not give any sort of explanation of himself. Arthur sends Guinevere to appeal to him. She tries reasoning with him, to no avail; eventually, she throws herself on the floor and out-dramas him by saying she won’t get up until he promises to stay at court. Kay consents to that if she agrees to what he wants. This is where we see what a manipulative piece of work Kay actually is, because all that song-and-dance act was just to bully Arthur and more importantly, Guinevere, into taking Sir Supervillain’s deal. Kay is convinced he can beat him and release all the captives and is totally okay with dragging Guinevere along as surety. Arthur is less okay with it, but gives way. Guinevere is described as ‘extremely dejected’. The court rises slightly in my estimation by reaching the consensus that Kay’s plan is ‘arrogant, outrageous and absurd’. But no one stops him either.

On her way out, watched by grim-faced courtiers who are acting as if this is a funeral procession for an unusually lively corpse, Guinevere whispers “Oh! If only you knew, you would never, I think, allow me to be led away a single step without opposition!” The only person who overhears this remark is Count Guinable, who is standing nearby, but take a wild guess who she’s talking about.

At this point, Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawain loses his patience. “Sire,” he says to Arthur, “you’ve done an extremely silly thing which astonishes me. But if you take my advice, while they’re still close at hand you and I and anyone else who wants to come will follow them. Nothing could keep me from going after them immediately.” THANK YOU, Gawain! Arthur eagerly agrees to this suggestion and a large company sets out to pursue Kay and the queen – too late to be of any use at all. As they near the edge of the wood, Kay’s horse runs towards them, riderless, with blood-stained leathers. Take another wild guess as to how Kay’s duel went, and what happened to Guinevere.

Gawain is well in the lead, the best prepared of the company with two back-up chargers handled by his squires, so he is the one who sees another knight emerging from the forest on a horse half-dead with exhaustion. This knight greets Gawain and asks for the loan of one of his chargers. Gawain offers him his pick of the two and the knight immediately mounts up. His poor horse falls down where it stands, overworked to death. Apparently back in de Troyes’ day nothing said knightly valour like animal cruelty.

Anyway, the as-yet-unnamed knight sets off at a fierce pace, with Gawain in hot pursuit. When Gawain catches up, he finds his horse dead too, surrounded by the broken lances and shields of a battle. The knight, he sees in the distance, has accosted a cart. A point of significance here: the only people who travelled in carts in this place, at this time, were criminals being paraded before a jeering public. Even the knight, who has killed two horses in his desperate haste, hesitates before setting foot in the cart. He does it anyway, because the dwarf driving the cart has implied that he can bring the knight to the queen.

Until the narrative names him (and you KNOW who it is) I shall be calling the knight Wild Card.

Gawain rides up, gives Wild Card some side-eye and inquires after the queen himself. The dwarf tells Gawain the same thing: if he wants to go to Guinevere, he needs to get in the cart. Gawain nopes out of that bargain and decides to simply ride along with the cart. As such, he is treated with respect by the people they encounter along the way, while Wild Card in the cart is set upon with a clamour of enthusiastic abuse. Then they stop for the night at a keep where a beautiful woman welcomes both knights, offering them both courteous hospitality. When they are ready to sleep, she indicates two beds set up in the hall, but a third bed waits and Wild Card asks why neither of them can sleep there. His hostess responds with chilly mockery, stating that a knight who rides in a cart has no right to ask questions and definitely no right to lie in state on that bed.

So obviously Wild Card immediately goes to sleep there. It is extremely comfortable with rich coverings, but at midnight becomes significantly less comfortable when a lance drops from the rafters and spears through the mattress, nearly spearing Wild Card too. It sets the bed ON FIRE. How does Wild Card respond? He puts out the fire and hurls the lance into the hall without getting of bed, then goes back to sleep. There’s a reason I gave him that nickname.

In the morning, Gawain and his hostess make conversation after mass and Wild Card broods by a window. This proves to be a good vantage point when a procession passes below: a litter bearing an injured knight with the queen herself riding behind with her captor. Wild Card is so desperate to see the queen that when she passes from his sight, he goes to throw himself out the window. Gawain grabs him and begs him to just calm down. You speak for us all, Gawain. Their hostess coolly remarks that since Wild Card travelled by cart, he might as well kill himself. You need to stop talking, lady.

The two knights leave in pursuit of the queen but fail to catch up and instead meet a young woman at a crossroads. “In return for a promise on your part I could easily direct you and put you on the right road,” she tells the pair of them, “and I would tell you the name of the land and that of the knight who is abducting her. But anyone who wished to enter that land would have very great trials to undergo and would suffer great tribulations before he arrived there.” Gawain gives a carefully conditional promise; Wild Card recklessly vows to do anything she wants. The young woman reveals that the queen’s captor is Meleagant, son of King Bademagu of Gorre. Anyone who enters that kingdom is never permitted to leave. To get in at all is difficult enough. There are two roads: the Water Bridge, this being a bridge that runs under the water, and the Sword Bridge, which is sharp as a sword and so impassable that no one has ever been known to actually cross it.

Guess which road our wild card knight takes. No, go on, guess.

SHOCK, SURPRISE, Gawain takes the marginally less impossible Water Bridge and Wild Card rides off for the Sword Bridge. Both men leave the girl at the crossroads with a concerningly vague IOU, to be cashed in at her discretion. What can possibly go wrong!

Wild Card is lost in thoughts of the queen, completely ignoring his surroundings. As his horse approaches a ford, an armed knight calls out for him to stop and Wild Card doesn’t even hear him through the refrain of ‘Guinevere Guinevere Guinevere’ going on inside his head. The guardian knight, failing to get his attention, knocks him furiously from his horse. This, at last, pulls Wild Card back to the here and now. He demands to know what the hell is going on, how would this weird guardian knight like to be yanked around? He proves his point by getting hold of his leg and hauling so hard that the guardian knight implores him to let go so that they can have a proper fight. Wild Card wins the fight and takes the guardian knight as his prisoner, but a young woman watching the fight asks for a trade: the guardian knight’s surrender for her own. Wild Card seems to wash his hands of the situation. He doesn’t go around ravishing random women and he doesn’t have time for this.

The world is conspiring to throw ravishment opportunities his way, however. The only lodging Wild Card can get for the night is in an apparently empty castle with a lady who will give him no bed but her own. She coyly tells him to entertain himself outside until he thinks she is in bed and only come to her then. Wild Card delays outside as long as he can, then goes indoors to find the bed empty. When he looks for his hostess he finds her at the mercy of a strange knight who is tearing at her clothes, with a host of men-at-arms standing at his back. Wild Card takes them on WITH HIS BARE HANDS, so quick and strong that the men coming at him end up hacking at each other instead. He snatches up the axe of a fallen opponent and prepares to take on the remaining men.

Satisfied with his performance, his hostess calls off the men-at-arms and takes a very displeased Wild Card to her bed. The whole thing was just a test. Wild Card lies down and refuses to talk to her. The lady gracefully gives up on him and retires to her own bed. Now, in this time and this place, the code of chivalry declares that a woman travelling alone must be left in peace but a woman travelling with a knight can be ‘won’ from her escort regardless of her personal wishes – so when, the next morning, Wild Card’s hostess asks if she may accompany him, it comes with danger to both of them. Being who he is, Wild Card declares that anyone seeking to trouble her will have to go through him first, and they set off together.

Wild Card is a terrible travelling companion with a one-track mind, unable to hear a word that the lady is saying over the loop of ‘Guinevere Guinevere Guinevere’ that is playing inside his head again. This makes it easy for the lady to divert him from a Clue, but Wild Card realises that he is being led astray in time and turns back to find a beautiful comb laid out on a rock with distinctive golden hair tangled in its teeth. It is recognisably Guinevere’s and Wild Card nearly collapses with the force of his feelings. He presses the strands of hair to his mouth and hides them away next to his heart, and it is NO WONDER that the entire court knows what’s up if this is his idea of subtlety.

As they continue on their way, the lady notices a knight approaching and warns Wild Card that this is a man she has rejected, who will take the opportunity to try and carry her off. He demands a duel in front of his father and a large audience of their courtiers, among whom are those who saw Wild Card in the cart. They are quick to spread the mocking word but the challenging knight’s father does not think this will be the easy contest that his son desires and asks him to bow out. “It’s true that a man does poor deals with those close to him: I’d do better to bargain elsewhere, for you’re out to cheat me,” snaps Rebel Just Because. “I’m certain I’d be better off among strangers…I’ll fight in spite of you.” In a rapid escalation of a familial disagreement, the knight’s father orders his men to seize Rebel Just Because to prevent the contest and says they will follow Wild Card to see what kind of man he is before deciding whether or not it is worth fighting him.

What does Wild Card do next? He stops at a church and asks to see their cemetery. There he sees tombs bearing familiar names. ‘Here will lie Gawain,’ he reads, ‘here Louise and here Yvain’. The newest of the tombs is as yet nameless. The monk who is showing Wild Card around warns him that it would take seven men to open the tomb. “And it carries an inscription,” the monk adds, “saying that whoever raises this slab alone and unaided will release all the men and women who are imprisoned in that land which no serf or nobleman can leave unless he is a native of those parts…Foreigners are held prisoner there, whilst the inhabitants come and go in and out as they please.” Wild Card lunges at the slab, hauling it up like it takes no real effort. He asks the monk who is to lie in this tomb. “That man, sir,” the monk tells him, “who will deliver all those trapped in the kingdom from which none escapes.” Huh. That does make sense.

Wild Card rides away, leaving the monk to spread awed rumours in his wake. Rebel Just Because and his father hear the story of Wild Card’s feat. “Now you really understand who was in the wrong and know well enough whether it was you or I,” Rebel’s father says smugly. They decide to go home and leave Wild Card to his heroics. When the lady cannot needle Wild Card’s name out of him, she turns back as well and he rides on alone.

That night Wild Card stays at the house of a tenant knight who is less a tenant and more a prisoner. Yes, we have now officially entered Meleagant’s lands, which single-handedly turn every ‘wish you were here’ postcard into an active threat! The tenant knight and his family are very distressed to learn that Wild Card comes from the same place as themselves, from Logres, since to come here is to be stuck for life. Wild Card frankly explains his mission and asks for advice on taking the fastest route to the Sword Bridge. The advice he gets is: don’t take it. When he insists, his passion fires up two of the tenant knight’s sons, who volunteer to travel with Wild Card.

They reach a narrow stony passage, where they are ambushed. Wild Card forces his way through, much to the admiration of his new companions. As they travel they hear word that the prisoners from Logres have heard that their saviour is on the move and are rising against their captors. Fighting has broken out across the land. Eager to support their people, the three knights ride for the nearest fortress…and promptly get themselves trapped. Wild Card possesses a ring that allows him to see through enchantments, a gift from his fairy foster mother, but all it shows him in this instance is the wrong side of a portcullis. Together with his companions, he manages to hack his way through the postern gate to get to the fighting on the other side. Wild Card makes a good case for being the prophesied hero, being a whirlwind on the battlefield. When night falls, everyone who can offer him a bed for the night is competing for the honour, which annoys him. “It’s not good for us to quarrel among ourselves: on the contrary, we should be helping each other,” he says. “…As God may grant me joy and health, the intention cheers me as much as if you’d each already done me great honour and kindness. So let the word stand for the deed.”

Having won hearts and minds, he continues on his way. He is soon accosted by a haughty knight, wanting to know who it is seeking to cross the Sword Bridge. When he finds out that it is Wild Card, he is outraged. “You should consider how you might finish and end up,” he sneers, “and you should remember the cart into which you climbed.” The knight challenges Wild Card. This does not go well for him. At the end of a savage contest he is forced to ask for mercy and Wild Card replies, “You’d have to climb into a cart.” The boy’s got a secret mean streak. The situation is further complicated when a young woman rides up to the scene of the contest and asks for the fallen knight’s head in return for her help.

Wild Card doesn’t know what to do. Giving women what they want is kind of his purpose in life, but he won’t execute an unarmed man. So he arms the knight again and they fight once more. Wild Card wins for a second time; the girl gets her enemy’s head. She contemplates it delightedly. “May your heart find great joy in whatever it most desires,” she says, “just like that which my own heart now feels regarding my fondest wish.” She leaves Wild Card with the promise of her support when he needs it, and goes on her happy murderous way.

Late the next afternoon, Wild Card finally reaches the Sword Bridge. The water beneath runs black and wild, while the bridge itself is literally nothing but a long, gleaming blade. And if all that isn’t bad enough, the bridge is guarded by lions. “I’m not afraid of this bridge or this water any more than of this solid ground,” declares Wild Card. “No…I’d rather die than turn back!”

Tune in next week for romance, revolution and even more bad ideas!

Humanity for Beginners: Chapter Five

Humanity for Beginners

by Faith Mudge

Chapter Five

“He wouldn’t believe me.”

Gloria looked up from her laptop, where she was running through the week’s accounts, to see Louisa slumped in the doorway. It was getting late and the only light on in the tiny office was the desk lamp, which left Louisa in the shadows. Tomorrow was full moon. It was showing in all of them but Louisa particularly; her eyes gleamed in the dark and when she spoke, her voice was deeper than usual, throaty and miserable. This was clearly going to be an important conversation; Gloria shut her laptop and gestured for Louisa to sit down.

“When we were kids,” Louisa said, “Dad was always giving us chores. He’s big into responsibility. But he’d always check every detail, even if we’d done that thing a hundred times before. If he didn’t like the way we did it, he’d take over and handle it his way. I don’t think he’s ever taken my word for anything. When I told him I was gay, he was…” She shook her head. “Indulgent. Like I was five years old and insisting I was a fairy princess. He was always perfectly nice to my girlfriends, they didn’t understand. It took him two years to believe I fancy girls. Can you imagine how he’d be if I told him I turn into a wolf once a month?”

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Humanity for Beginners: Chapter Four

Humanity for Beginners

by Faith Mudge

Chapter Four

He stayed on all week. Though it was very clear he was accustomed to someone else dissecting his vegetables before he encountered them, he took Gloria at her word, peeling patiently while Nadine hovered at his shoulder. He even put up with Damien’s passive-aggressive teasing and Lissa’s thoughtful stares. Wellington was sighted rubbing his ankles at one point.

Eben’s relationship with Louisa was considerably more strained. He was still furious about being left hanging, and Louisa was resolutely non-apologetic about it. They kept dancing around the issue of their father. Piecing together what was half-said, Gloria gathered that this man would not take Louisa’s revelation very well. Also, he seemed to think Eben was hiking in Scotland, not tracking down a lost sister.

“But you can’t just leave him wondering,” Eben said, during one of the arguments that had become a predictable kind of daily show. He and Louisa had a way of forgetting that other people could overhear, whether or not they wanted to. “As far as he knows, you could be dead in a ditch somewhere, or, I don’t know, shacked up with an anarchist.”

“An anarchist?”

“Have you met your friends?”

“Budge up,” Damien said casually, walking past them to the fridge. “I could be an anarchist,” he added to Louisa, “if you’re into that.”

Nadine, whisking eggs at the stove, rolled her eyes at him. “Aren’t you already?”

“Well, at least my friends don’t talk in spreadsheet,” Louisa growled, glaring at her brother. It was a true growl too, coming from deep in her throat, and Gloria―who had been trying to tune out everyone while she downed her tea―saw Eben start back at the inhuman sound. Louisa saw it too. Her lips whitened and she burst suddenly into tears, banging out into the dining room. Eben, looking shaken, fled into the garden.

“Is he worth all this drama?” Damien wanted to know.

Gloria shrugged. “That’s Louisa’s call. Stick to gardening, please.”

Personally, she liked Eben, but his presence was certainly causing stress. She came out of the kitchen with her half-drunk tea to find Louisa crying on Lissa’s shoulder. Lissa was taller but slighter in build, and was swaying a bit as she took most of Louisa’s weight. Her hands stroked lightly over Louisa’s shoulder blades, drawing delicate circles through the cotton of her blouse. There was such a look of wonder and doubt on her face, like she could not quite believe the honour she was being granted, that Gloria’s heart ached. She slipped out before she could be seen and put on another load of laundry.

It had been a long time since she felt like that about anyone. She had thought, when she first met Nadine… but that was before she realized Nadine had taken her for an alpha, and the fight that followed had nearly ruined their friendship. Even now, it still rankled a little. Gloria was a human first, woman second, soldier third. Her identity as a werewolf barely scraped into the top ten. If it had to be her life, she’d do it on her terms.

It wasn’t like that for Nadine. She had been turned so young; she had been part of a pack for half her life and would never really shake the habits. Maybe she didn’t even want to. The thought scratched at Gloria’s nerves in the way only conservative politicians usually could. Between hauling out baskets of freshly washed sheets and pillowcases, wrestling a stray sock away from Wellington and helping a departing guest load their dozen or so suitcases into a tiny convertible, she could feel unease simmering low in her stomach.

She did not want Louisa to go. Or Nadine. Not Lissa, not Damien… hell, she was even growing used to Eben, found herself planning rotas with him in mind. There was a small, possessive part of her that would not stop growling its displeasure, and the best she could do was pretend she didn’t hear it.

As part of her avoidance strategy, she stopped past the kitchen to grab the week’s shopping list and took off to the shops. The guesthouse was some way outside the nearest town (“nothing scenic about a supermarket,” her grandfather had once sniffed, and she couldn’t argue) and the big weekly grocery run could easily take two or three hours, longer if she stopped at the library or got chatting with someone she knew. Gloria did not have many close friends outside of her daily circle, but she kept up nodding terms with as many people as she could, to stay in the loop of local news.

She picked up Damien’s items first, crossing them off as she went: paint for the exterior lattice, a new pair of gardening gloves, a particular type of insecticide that he claimed was more environmentally friendly. It was also more expensive, but Damien was the reason she didn’t have to buy half as many vegetables anymore, so it went into the trolley. Louisa wanted more candles and Lissa had asked for a scratching post, so Wellington would stop going for the sofas.

The bulk of the list had been written up by Nadine. In the early days she had included little notes beside some items to indicate the brand she wanted or the scent of the cleaning supplies; by now, Gloria had all her preferences memorized and grabbed three bottles of lemon disinfectant without thinking. All werewolves had strong feelings about scent. Nadine loved sharp, clean smells; the association was so strong that it always confused Gloria when someone else who used the same lemongrass soap walked past. Lissa tended towards floral scents, Louisa to vanilla. Gloria picked out each type of soap and shampoo almost by muscle memory, adding the mint variety she favoured as an afterthought.

At the check-out, she glanced at the list again to be sure she had everything. Five different types of handwriting wove in and out between each other, and even Eben had scribbled down a request for ‘skim milk’. Gloria couldn’t imagine writing her shopping list alone anymore; the thought made her ache.

And wow, here she was getting sentimental over a crumpled piece of paper while queuing in a supermarket, that needed to stop right now.

While she was loading up the car, a four-wheel drive pulled up a few spaces away. She barely noticed the engine cutting out, but then the doors opened and her whole body tensed with awareness. Werewolves. Two distinct scents, both male. She didn’t need the burst of raucous laughter to identify them as young, or as trouble.

It took them longer to notice her. She jammed the last bags into the boot and reached for her car door; that was when one of the boys whipped around with sudden interest, catching her scent. They were both what Nadine would have dismissively described as ‘white boy wannabes’, heads shaved, gold piercings in lips and noses, sleeve tattoos of howling wolves. No subtlety at all. The quicker boy nudged his friend, jerking a thumb in Gloria’s direction, and she sighed, pushing the key into the ignition so she’d be ready for a fast exit.

“Hey,” the first boy called, seeing she was about to leave. He loped over. “Hold on, lady. It’s all good. We’re on the same team.”

“Whoa, is she?” The second boy leaned towards her, sniffing. Gloria snapped her fingers under his nose, frowning, and he pulled back with an offended look.

“Personal space,” she told him, trying not to be too harsh about it. The boys were around the same age, in their late teens or early twenties, and might not have learned the right etiquette. “Is there something I can help you with? I’ve got milk sitting in the boot.”

“Yeah, you had a lot of stuff, I saw,” the first boy said. Definitely the bright one of the pair. “We’re passing through, new around here, you get me? So, like, what’s the low-down? Your pack local, or are you just here to stock up?”

It made sense to check that kind of information, since some packs were notoriously territorial. Gloria shook her head. “There is no local pack. You can go where you want.”

They both looked confused, like she’d answered them in German. “Say what?” the second boy said. “Seriously? Then you’re, what, lone wolf?”

The first one added, “But you’re a female. That’s crazy, lady. It’s not safe.”

Gloria’s goodwill screeched downhill. “It’s been just fine so far.”

The boys looked at each other bewilderedly. It would almost be funny if Gloria wasn’t so insulted. There was a warning snarl building in her throat. This close to full moon, it was unwise for her to get angry, and she bit it down.

“But how do you, like, at that time of the month―”

“If that’s all you wanted,” Gloria snapped, getting into her car.

“No need to be a bitch… bitch,” the second boy said, and they both laughed.

An alpha would respond to a joke like that with a fist. Power got under your skin. Gloria had seen it in the army, the higher-ups who needed constant deference, and that was without the rumbling undercurrent of the wolf’s urges.

She slammed the door shut and drove away, breathing carefully in and out until the anger faded enough to be in balance with her sense of the ridiculous. She caught sight of herself in the side mirror―a long, narrow face and a wry mouth, rusty brown hair pulled tight in a short ponytail, forty-something and showing it. Dressed in well-worn jeans and a plain button-down shirt, she looked practical, and hopefully capable, but she did not look dangerous.

Gloria was not an alpha. She didn’t need to prove anything.

All rights reserved. First edition published by Less Than Three Press, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Faith Mudge

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Humanity for Beginners: Chapter Three

Humanity for Beginners

by Faith Mudge

Chapter Three

Alphas fought. That was how you knew they were alphas: they won.

Gloria knew her kind when she met them, but she had steered well clear until Nadine. Then they’d met Lissa in a supermarket and been so rapidly and enthusiastically adopted that Gloria had been morally obliged to take the girl in before a pack found her; and Lissa, in turn, had brought them Louisa after weeks of exchanging messages on Tumblr. Gloria had not intended to start a halfway house for lesbian werewolves, it had just sort of happened.

There had never been any question of dominance or leadership. Gloria owned the guesthouse. She paid the wages and handled the tax returns, and whenever a decision came up that no one really wanted to deal with, Gloria usually dealt with that too. It didn’t make her an alpha. It made her a responsible adult.

She sat at the front desk, brooding. It was usually a comfortable task, giving Gloria a chance to catch up on emails and look over accounts in between answering the phone, or tinker with the website if she was in a creative mood. Louisa had suggested they start an Instagram account to show off Nadine’s cooking and Damien’s garden, and Gloria liked scrolling through the pictures during a lull.

Today was not that kind of day. Her senses were all strained, listening for the first signs of conflict. Eben had at least not gone running for his car and Gloria had heard no shouting either. That seemed like a good sign.

A selfish part of her would almost have preferred a fight. It would have been a distraction from her own thoughts.

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Humanity for Beginners: Chapter Two

Humanity for Beginners

by Faith Mudge

Chapter Two

Gloria had not rescued Nadine. She had not known her, to know that help was needed. What she had done was put an advertisement in the newspaper for a chef, aware enough of her own limitations to recognise she’d kill business before she really started if she tried to feed guests with her own cooking, and a few days later Nadine had shown up on the doorstep with a cut-out of the ad in her hand. They had realised within the first two seconds of meeting that this interview was going to be both more and less complicated than they had anticipated.

Joining a pack at the age of seventeen, specifically one run by an alpha whose mindset would have been considered antiquated half a century ago, had not exactly provided Nadine with many career options. It was part of the reason she had stayed with the pack so long. One thing she knew inside out was how to handle a kitchen; she even had a couple of references from summer jobs before the bite and a small bed-and-breakfast seemed like the kind of place that might take her on. Gloria, who had been wondering how she was going to explain the gamut of full moon weirdness to staff, was faced with an unforeseen solution. They had been running the place together ever since.

There were eight guest bedrooms upstairs, carefully decorated and maintained―there was a cork-board in the kitchen where redecorating suggestions were pinned up, currently dominated by Louisa’s detailed ideas–and four staff bedrooms below. Gloria’s original plan had been to attract experienced wait staff with the prospect of a working holiday, and if that hadn’t exactly worked out, she found she rather liked having everyone under her roof. Everyone except Damien, that was; he lived in a caravan behind the orchard, but appeared in the house at all hours, the better to be bothersome.

I saw him talking to the new guest,” Nadine remarked in the morning, chopping spring onions at top speed while Gloria gulped toast. “It didn’t look too friendly.”

Damien being friendly would probably worry me more,” Gloria said, “but I’ll ask.”

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Humanity for Beginners: Chapter One

Humanity for Beginners

by Faith Mudge

Chapter One

The thing no one warned you about when you became a werewolf―apart from the whole ‘becoming a werewolf’ in the first place, because it was hardly a popular lifestyle choice―was how your sense of proportion would get hijacked by a constant low-level grumble of ‘why don’t we just kill it’, like having a homicidal toddler grizzling away at the back of your brain.

That was the worst part, as far as Gloria was concerned: determining which emotion was you, the human, and which was the wolf, and whether either of them had a point or if you really were just a seething mess and couldn’t trust your judgment until you’d had a nap and a cup of tea. Or killed something. That worked too.

Everyone coped in their own way. In hindsight, it should not have been a surprise that Lissa brought home the cat, any more than it was surprising that she still drank milk straight from the carton and forgot to change the toilet roll. She was not so much thoughtless as thinking on a completely different track that only occasionally converged with the main network. Certainly, it should not have been surprising after that weekend in April when she took off to a music festival and didn’t think to tell anyone where she was going, so that by the time she got back everyone was so sick with relief to see her alive and well that the secondary (though still almost overwhelming) urge to throttle her was successfully repressed.

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Humanity for Beginners

My paranormal romance novella ‘Humanity for Beginners’ was published in February 2017 by Less Than Three Press. I am still very fond of this story but as the publisher has closed down, it’s no longer available for purchase anywhere and I’ve been trying to decide what to do with it. Review site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books recently recced the book as a favourite comfort read and a reader reached out to me, asking where to find the book. Since my plans for republication have been on a very vague timeline, I’ve decided to started posting daily chapters of the book here on my blog so that anyone in need of a comfort read – which, let’s be honest, is a lot of us right now – can come and give it a try. If you’re into found family and queer werewolves, this may be your jam! If you are more into portal fantasy with a dash of time travel and sneaky Alice in Wonderland references, you might enjoy the Chandler and Musgrave stories. The first can be found here.

I am posting the first chapter of ‘Humanity for Beginners’ tonight, Sunday by Australian Eastern Standard Time, and the last chapter should go up on Wednesday 6th of May. Subscribers to my Patreon will be able to download the full ebook by Monday, complete with the gorgeous cover art by Kirby Crow.