The territories between Central and Eastern Europe have strange histories and are inhabited by even stranger peoples and beings. It is this characteristic oddness that attracted me to the area from London decades ago. A history of werewolf and vampire occupation changed these territories, and the regional magical practices are of the sort that legends and folklore are made of. Especially during the centuries prior to my lifetime, traveling outsiders spoke of the lands along the Rhine and in the most inaccessible depths of the Transylvanian Alps in the same way they spoke of the uncharted seas—as the dwelling place of monsters.
The Schwarzer Mond clan has roots in much older clans, one of which is the Helvetii Clan in Wallachia. Since about 1150 werewolves have slowly spread into Central and Western Europe from their ancestral homelands in Eastern Europe. The first werewolves, as I have said, originated in Siberia and the Siberian arctic. The most modern incarnation of the Helvetii culture is the Paris Clan, who practice the spiritual traditions of typical Eastern European clans. Helvetii, or “Moondown”, religion, which can only loosely be defined as such, is a natural religion which revolves around the moon and its phases. It references a system of symbols relating to lunar activity, such as the tides and moonbloom—a flower that blooms only at night under the moon and folds up during the day, revealing red spots on the underside of its petals. The symbol for the Order of the Blood Moon references this trait of the flower. The symbol is easily recognized as three spots surrounded by a fanged crescent moon.
Helvetii Clan custom and cultural influence can be seen in many modern clans, though modern clans do not consciously follow older werewolf traditions. There is an obvious disconnect between Eastern European clans and clans that have cultivated in the West in recent centuries. This is because Helvetii religion does not agree with dominant religions, whose propagators do not tolerate it. Werewolves who follow the Helvetii spiritual code are marked as heathen, because their texts do not mention a god, though the werewolves themselves believe in a paternal force that governs the natural world. Instead of acknowledging this, Western religions point to the figure werewolves call “Luna Mater” (Mother Moon), the maternal counterpart, and mistake this for a god. The moon is important to Helvetii werewolves because “she” commands the fluctuations of the werewolf curse, just as she commands the tides.
My personal interest in the Helvetii lies in their contributions to magic. Magical practices are crucial to daily life in the East. The werewolves living in Wallachia rely upon the Helvetii Stone for healthy growing seasons and harvests, as well as protection from plague. In addition, Manus Magus was born in the east. In monastic fashion, the martial art was developed as an answer to outside aggression, but specifically in response to the Crusades between 1095 and 1291.
July 7, 1833
Castle Hainburg was more than just a haven for an Eastern European clan in Austria. It was the most successful stepping-stone settlement for lupomorphs before Henriette Petit established the Paris Clan and procured a legally ordained commune for a minority immortal population in France. Felix, a man whose last name I never learned, and may never know, was infected with the lupomorph curse when he was an Austrian soldier fighting on Ottoman soil. Among the soldiers in the Ottoman armies were werewolves conscripted by the government, mimicking an old Roman tactic. Some of the Ottoman werewolves infected Felix and a number of his fellow Austrian soldiers. They came home carrying a curse that would change their lives and their status as Austrians. It is fortunate that the Habsburg Empire did not feel the same way about its lupomorphs as the Ottoman powers, lest lupomorphs would have had no choice but to face one another in war for the first time in history. Many, including Felix, believe strongly that violence between clans in the East would have, and still could, prevent settlement progress and the future of Helvetii culture in Europe.
Life in the East, for werewolves, is much like life in Spain. There are more pressing issues on the governing powers’ minds than immortals. The Habsburg Empire, for instance, is busy expanding its borders and competing against the Ottoman presence to the southeast in Turkey and the rest of the Islamic world. The Habsburgs have a dynamic culture and developing domain on their hands, and not yet the leisure to pick and choose the ethnic groups that will or will not comprise the nation they may become. Further, when not occupied by the Ottomans, the kingdom of Prussia is always near and applying pressure to the Eastern European territories.
I have said life for werewolves in the East was feasible during the time Thomas and I passed through on our way to Wallachia, but let us not forget that there is a historical clause to consider. Before the Habsburg Empire grew to near maturity, Islam drew the attention of northern Crusaders into Eastern Europe and too close to nascent clan settlements for comfort. Lupomorphic descendants of Siberian Inuit were new to the region, and, lacking any forewarning, planted their culture in between two warring religions, with no other choice but to last the duration of two hundred years of military campaigns. The end of this centuries-long contest was not the end of unrest. On the contrary, the region has forever been subject to bloody rule and savage violence, including that of a certain prince of Romania …
A mysterious new presence penetrated Austria only a few months before Thomas and I met with Felix at Hainburg. What was described as a nameless, independently operated army of magic-wielding, highly trained soldiers were launching raids on small and vulnerable clans and cults. An army of undeniably similar description had also appeared in and around British colonies in India, targeting primary sources of magic and a specific following of sorcerers called zoomancers, who practice the creation and control of mythical animals. The “White Army,” as it is called, is named so for the tailored, high-collared and lightweight, yet impossibly strong white uniform that its soldiers wear on raids. The garment is said to be nearly impenetrable to a wide spectrum of blades and resistant to gunshot, despite having the flexibility of fabric. When the army was mentioned in Austria, my suspicions turned on the British Empire, whose military was the only one during that time whose efforts could have produced such a well-organized, specialized and widespread unit, but Parliament’s agenda was recovering from its loss of the American colonies, not hunting immortals on the other side of the world.
July 10, 1833