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Wolf spirits & ritual purges

Eleanor Konik
Written by Eleanor Konik

I write stories & articles inspired by all eras of history & science... so I wind up putting notetaking software like Obsidian & Readwise thru their paces.

3 min read.
The following story stands alone and can be read without any knowledge of my prior works, but is a direct prequel to The Impossible Knife

It took six Swordwulfen to hold Alpha Camfelder down long enough for the mage-counselor to pull his wulfespirit out and bind it to a blade, but at last the purgative ritual succeeded.

Half a guardian, trapped, was better than an intact rogue who cared only to protect his wife.

From the counselor's perspective, at least.


There's a certain trope that shows up a lot in spy thrillers and action movies involving a retired badass who only gets back into the game because of a threat to his family. Movies like Taken exemplify the trend, although I generally prefer movies like The 355 where the badass is at least allowed to have a few scenes involving a beloved family — and they're only threatened at the end.

Stuff like the Bechdel Test focuses on how many women show up in the story and whether they talk about anything other than a man. It's important that we tell stories that are by women, for women, and involve things women care about — not exclusively, but I do think they should exist. Personally, though, I tend to be more aware of what our media says about relationships, particularly long-term relationships. I've written before about heroes and parenting and why Hawkeye was historically my favorite Avenger, but when writing Bind I was mostly thinking about how in many stories women just weren't around, at least not in meaningful numbers. Or if they were, they weren't significant.

It's not ahistorical, of course. For every whaling ship in the arctic that travelled with families aboard, there's a Polynesian ship where the women stayed on shore farming and handling the other half of the business necessary to allow their menfolk to hunt. For every king whose wife went on campaign — Isabella, she-wolf of France; Catherine of Aragon casually stomping Scotland while her husband was off gallivanting across the channel — there are many more whose royal wives stayed home and managed affairs of state in their castle. It's something I'm always aware of, though, in a way that many narratives just never bother to pay attention to. Perhaps because the Western philosophical tradition owes a lot to Athens, and Athenian philosophers were pretty terrible husbands, which I'm given to understand was pretty common among the Athenian upper-crust in general.

Especially since getting married and having a kid, I try to pay special attention to when reading stories (historical or fictional) about soldiers and sailors and raiders and, well, anyone, is the impact of familial relationships on their lives. It's really given me a new perspective on comparing philosophers like Kant (a university bachelor) & John Stuart Mill (who famously married another man's widow after what was probably years of scandalous affair), or rulers like the Emperors Justinian (whose actually listened to his surprisingly awesome wife, Theodora) versus Marcus Aurelius (last of the Five Good Emperors, and the first one to appoint his actual blood soon as his heir, which I bet are related phenomena...).

Being honest, Bind isn't really any better in that regard — certainly the Alpha's wife doesn't make an appearance. I think it means something to me that Camfelder at least tried to prioritize his family over duty, even if he suffers for it. That's the trope I'm a real sucker for, and it's I think becoming more popular every year — certainly the world of Mad Men, where dads spend all day drinking and screwing in the office and only dust off their families when necessary for networking purpose, is no longer considered normal.

I think it's one of the reasons I really love stories where people colonize a new world — the narrative usually considers building a functioning family to be a critical component of that goal, instead of a threat to it being the inciting incident, or the wedding being the end of the story.

Unfortunately, since I wrote The Impossible Knife before Bind, Camfelder's story does not have a happy ending. I think he'd be happy to know, though, that his daughter does eventually manage to escape the clutches of the mage-counselors, even if he himself could not. I like to imagine that he thinks the sacrifice and the pain was worth it, for her sake.

Further Reading

  • If you're interested in other stories and reflections on ancient relationships, check out Vulpine, which considers the lives of war brides when the fighting is over.
  • I've written about the tension between heroism and parenthood before, ironically for a story in this same storyline about Swordwulfen, although with a different set of characters. This one's more about rebelling against parents and not wanting kids.

Note: There are a couple of affiliate links & codes scattered around, but these always come from links I was already recommending and usually I share them because they benefit you too (i.e. getting you extra time on trials).

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