KL

My full name is Kathryn-Laura Joanne Cole. Shit, that's a mouthful, isn't it? My friends, when I had some, called me KL. The only people who ever called me Kathryn-Laura were my Mum and Dad. They added the Joanne when they were annoyed with me, which was pretty much all of the time.

I suppose you want to know about Mum and Dad. Well, my Dad, John Peter Cole, he's a big shot lawyer. My Mum used to be a para-legal before she had me. Hang around her for long enough and you'll hear her mention that. If you ever spend any time with them, they'd tell you how they met. Christ, I've heard the story so many times that I could tell it backward. He was just starting out, defending third or fourth case; it changes depending on which of them is telling it. She was working for the opposing party. They saw each other, "it was like animal attraction."

Makes you puke, doesn't it? I could explain the "animal" bit to them now.

Anyway, six years after they got married, along I came. Dad's pretty much a success by this point, they'd bought the big house in Wash Park, nice cars, the lot. Along comes trophy daughter #1. They didn't seem to be interested in having any more. I can't imagine why.

Most of my childhood memories are of getting into pissy fights with other kids, scraping my knees and getting lectured by my parents. It seemed that no matter who I tried to be friends with, which group I tried to join, my parents were too rich, or not rich enough, I was too rough, or not rough enough. I remember once, all the girls in Kindergarten were supposed to be drawing flowers while the boys were making buildings out of cardboard tubes. Now, the cardboard buildings seemed much more fun to me, so I kicked up a fuss. Of course, the teacher gave in. And then none of the boys would give me the glue, or the cardboard. I ended up in a fight with one, then sitting outside the classroom neither drawing nor building. That's pretty typical of my life.

I did have one friend, Suzanne. We were inseparable. One summer, when I was nine, we built a tree house in one of the beech trees in our garden. We spent a whole day dragging planks of wood up there. When it was done, we took sandwiches and a blanket up and talked about how we could move out of our parents' houses and live in the tree. Of course, our parents laughed at the concept. That night, it was a bit windy and the whole thing blew down. I hadn't secured it to the tree at all.

When I was ten, Suzanne and her parents moved to San Francisco. Nothing lasts forever. My parents asked me what I wanted, I guess to try and make me feel better. I said, "Learn karate." Surprisingly, they thought it was a good idea. That almost put me off doing it, but I'm glad I did. I'm not great, but I'm kind of useful at it.

Thirteen years old and I was in high school defining "unpopular". I wasn't with the popular crowd. Not with the geeks or the freaks either. In lessons I do OK. Seems a good place to be. Anyway, this girl Sandy, she and I had this running war going on, and it comes to a head one night. We actually arrange a fight, and she and I meet in a small copse in Wash Park just after dark. The fight wasn't going well for me, and she had me by the hair, slamming my face into a tree, when I felt something snap inside. Everything is a little blurry after that; the next thing I remember is coming to my senses five blocks away, with the tattered and shredded remains of my clothes hanging loosely around me. I ran for home, hiding from cars, passing people, shadows, thankful that the night sky was clouded.

The next day, the local news was running a story that a girl had been found in the park, apparently savaged by a wild animal. I skipped school and walked out of home. I'd probably left all kinds of evidence at what the police were no doubt referring to as "the scene of the crime." I packed a bag of stuff, grabbed what little money I could find around the house and left. I had no idea where I was running to, I was just running. At least until I could understand what had happened. There was no doubt in my mind that I'd killed Sandy. But how? And what was this wild animal business all about?

I walked to the bus stop, trying very hard not to look like I was running away, when a black van pulled up alongside. I heard a sort of "phutt" noise and then I was writhing on the floor in agony. Before I could do anything, I was tied up and helpless in the back of the van. At first I thought I was being arrested. Then I thought I was being kidnapped, and a ransom would be demanded from my Dad.

That was quite along way wide of the mark on both counts. I'm going to gloss over various bits here, you'll have heard them before. Basically, I'd been kidnapped (I think they'd prefer the term "adopted") by a pack of Werewolves, or as we call ourselves, Garou. It took me quite a while to get over the shock of that - apparently, I'd gone through my "first change" when I was fighting Sandy. Usually, potential Garou are spotted early, but my parents weren't known as being kinfolk, so I wasn't on the radar.

The leader of the pack, Julie Fights-With-Mouth-And-Brain, had a daughter a couple of years below me at school. Combining the "wild animal" report with what her daughter had told her, well, she decided I was worth investigating.

I spent a couple of months living with another member of the pack, Moira Red-In-Hair-And-Claw. I was learning stuff quickly, and some bits were falling into place. If you want my full description, I'm a homid, Ahroun, Black Fury. The homid bit just means my parents are human. The Ahroun bit means that I'm a fighter. I guess I always have been. As for the Black Furies? Hope we don't ever get on your case.

At that time, I was a cub - without rank in society. Now I'm a Cliath.

My time with Moira was ended in a slightly odd and very annoying way. I spotted this guy a couple of times, standing around the street, or sitting in a car opposite. I pointed him out to Moira and Julie, and they looked a little worried. It turned out that he was a private detective hired by my Dad to look for me. That night, I ran with the pack into the Rocky Mountains, west of Denver and towards Boulder. Julie had a Kin cousin living in a small cabin near Marshall, just south of Boulder itself. Julie's cousin, Sarah, was nice, if occasionally a little inflexible, and I stayed there for two years. It's not like I missed school much - nobody there for me to miss, and it was a relief to be out from the nazi-like oppression of my parents.

When I was 15, and had learnt the litany so well I could recite it backwards, I underwent my Rite of Passage. For the record, by the way, ritual baths under the light of the moon sound great and obviously provide protection but _are cold_.

The Ritemaster of the Sept summoned Pegasus to carry me away to face my test. I climbed somewhat nervously on the white spirit horse that flew gracefully in to the clearing that forms the heart of the Denver Caern. I couldn't ride, and still can't, but it didn't seem to be a requirement for me to do anything, as the flight was gentle and smooth.

I was deposited in an alleyway running alongside a bar in Golden. I paused, and listened intently. There was something I was supposed to do here, obviously, but I was unsure what it was. From the rear of the bar I heard yelping. Some animal, from the sound some canine, was in pain. I looked around quickly, checking for anyone watching, then walked down the alley. The sound was coming from the other side of a wall, it looked like the back yard of the bar. The wall was too high to see over, but had a decent ledge at the top. I jumped and grabbed, trying to keep the noise I made to an absolute minimum. I pulled myself up and peered over.

In the yard four men, late teenage, maybe early twenties, sat in a circle, lit by the light from inside the bar. Beer cans were scattered over the floor and the scent of alcohol was strong. The yelping I had heard was coming from a dog, who was tied at the centre of the circle. One of the men was poking her with a stick.

I slid down into the yard, relying both on my ability to move noiselessly and their attention being focused on the dog. I dropped to a crouch and reassessed the situation. Sickness and rage in equal measure flowed through me as I realised that the men had blinded the dog, an Alsatian bitch, in one eye, and by the look of it, broken her jaw.

"Do the other eye, Steve." One of them said. My time was short, and I had to make quick decisions. I couldn't use Hispo or Glabro without risking the veil. Crinos was risky as well. If I used Lupus, then the men would have a tale to tell. Decision made, I stood up.

"Leave her alone." I said, loudly and clearly. They started, and turned to face me.

"Hey! Look at this!" The one referred to earlier as Steve said.

"Yeah, it's our lucky day." Another one replied. "We've been sent a chick to play with!" I fixed him with a gaze, letting some of the fury I felt roil within me show. He took a step back. "Chick thinks she's tough." He said. I smiled tightly.

They came for me as a group. That surprised me; I expected them to start one at a time. I took a deep breath and let rage and training combine. They were less inept than I was expecting, and one of them had a knife. Moments later, they were on the floor, two unconscious, one holding his leg and wailing and the other cradling a broken right arm. All I had to show was some bruises and a rather painful knife slash on my right arm. I could do something about that later, but first I needed to attend to the dog.

I untied her and comforted her for a moment. I had to do something about the jaw before I moved her, I realised. I borrowed a length of cloth from one of the unconscious men's shirts. Well, he wasn't going to need it for a little while, and manufactured a makeshift bandage.

I left in a hurry, not wanting to be seen. I was sure the men were unlikely to report what happened to the police - not only were they involved in a criminal activity, but they had been beaten up by a fairly slight teenage girl. Not exactly something to crow about.

The dog I deposited on the steps of the local animal hospital. Not only would they look after her properly, but they'd find her somewhere better to live. I rung the doorbell, then shifted to Lupus and backed off. The door opened after a moment, and women came out, looked at the dog lying on the doorstep, then around. To my surprise, she spotted me lurking in the shadow of the building opposite, nodded once, picked up the Alsatian and went inside. As I started to run clear, I heard her calling for someone to come and help her.

I got back to the Caern, and told my story. The elders conferred, and told me I had successfully passed the test. Not only had I fought with rage and power, but I had used judgement and discretion well.

A year later and my past caught up to me. I don't know how, but my Dad's private eye came to Marshall. Whether I was careless, thinking I was safe after three years in hiding, whether someone betrayed me, whether the private eye was just real good at his job, I don't know. But it was clear that Marshall was no longer safe. And, probably, Colorado was no longer safe either.

The pack had a meeting. Nobody was happy. There was some talk of the whole pack moving with me, but the Sept would have been too weakened by it, especially with the loss of an nearly an entire pack nearly six months ago. The talk turned to where I could go. Septs were selected and dismissed as too obvious, too Get, too close, too far away. I didn't join in. It was nothing to me. There was only here and elsewhere, and which elsewhere didn't matter. In the end someone suggested St Claire, Washington. Smallish, but not too small, with at least some Black Fury representation. I've got a map, a contact name, some directions and some good wishes. Nothing lasts forever