Chirp and Chatter Pages

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

PBG Christmas Titles: The Volk Advent (Kristen Joy Wilks)

About The Volk Advent
An orphaned Siberian teen loses her job and home on Christmas Eve. Left on the streets to freeze, Faina flees to an abandoned castle for shelter. At the castle, she discovers the animal-torn body of a local recluse. No wonder Eurasian wolves are not recommended for the first-time pet owner. Can a girl with no past, preserve her future from accusations of murderer and a pack of escaped wolves?

The Wolves and Ms. Melora are Restless
Cheery Christmas songs blared through the orphanage, clashing with the background noise of hurried cleaning and howling wolves. The Christmas music I was used to. The orphanage had a total of five American Christmas CD’s that Ms. Melora, our orphanage director, had played constantly since they arrived free with a magazine subscription eight years ago. Those CD’s had been here as long as I had, and they sounded just as twitchy and nervous.
The cleaning, I was also familiar with. When I, Faina Smith, turned eighteen last month, I should have left the orphanage and struck out into the fierce Siberian countryside on my own. I know, Smith? But one takes whatever name they give you, when one shows up as a ten-year-old amnesiac. Anyway, despite my age, Ms. Melora was loath to hire another girl to do my work when she could get my toil for free.
The incessant howling of wolves…I’m afraid I was not as accustomed to that.
Oh, sure, we had wolves. Deep in the misty forest, along remote stretches of the dark Lena river, behind the stone pinnacles that slashed the thick forested ridges. Siberia was deep within wolf territory. Most of the time the creatures stayed where they belonged. But these wolves were different. They lived in a vast, crumbling castle that crouched like a shadow on the edge of town. A bit of intermittent howling was normal, but something was different tonight.
What? A castle in Siberia seems unlikely? Of course it is. Who in their right mind would build a castle in the far north? But that is the question, isn’t it? Was Kirill Volkov in his right mind? It’s hard to say. The man did own wolves, after all. Perhaps he felt he must live up to his name. Volk meant wolf in Russian. Whatever had caused his extreme fascination with the
origins of their family name, Kirill Volkov hadn’t built the castle. It wasn’t built here at all, only moved, and it was his father who’d moved it.
I took a cloth and wiped down the face of every child in the room. They were none too happy with me, but cleanliness was vital today, and so I persisted. After struggling to wipe the breakfast off eight squirmy babies, I paused in my work, drawn by the deep throaty song of the wolves.
I peeked out the frost-streaked window. It was late afternoon on January sixth, Christmas Eve. The village was lit with a fading, dusky light. A bitter wind kicked up a few small tornados in the snow, blowing them through the market. Wood smoke curled out of every chimney as each village family prepared the meatless feast that would break their Christmas Eve fast. When the first star appeared on the horizon, the birth of Christ would be celebrated with sweet smelling hay scattered on the floor, glowing white candles on the table, and twelve traditional dishes, representing the twelve apostles.
The Volkovs’ castle seemed separate from all of this. It rose out of the gloom of the forest, not quite in town but not far enough away to be forgotten. It clashed with the quiet ambiance of the small village of Zamok Drakona.
The name meant Dragon’s Castle or more precisely “The Lock of the Dragon.” I’m sure the village had a different name once. But when Kirill Volkov’s father was inexplicably gifted a gargantuan castle from the Ukraine and had the whole thing shipped to Siberia block by block, what else could they call the place? He had a wall of river rock built around his new home, but apparently ran out of resources at that point. No further improvements were made after that.
The castle sat, long and gray and dark, at the edge of town. Three stories of rain-streaked stone topped by a black slate roof. Row after row of leaded glass windows glared out into the Siberian gloom. Only one or two of them ever showed a glimmer of light. It had remained exactly the same for the past eighty years.
Eventually, the first old eccentric had died, leaving the monstrosity to his equally eccentric son. Our new hermit did little to improve the place, but he did bring in some pets. Kirill Volkov hired some men from the village to build an immense cage that stretched across the castle grounds. Then he acquired his very own pack of Eurasian wolves. These critters were well cared for and large. In the wild, Eurasian wolves top the scales at about 100 pounds, although there were always exceptions. I’d heard whispers that some of Volkov’s pets weighed in at the upper limit for their species, 160 to 170lbs. Eurasian wolves are definitely not recommended for the first time pet owner. But Volkov had gotten away with it so far.
Why I used phrases like “first-time pet owner” and thought in pounds and inches rather than kilos and centimeters, I had no idea. My vocabulary was a personal peculiarity. Words and phrases I’d never heard spoken aloud in Russian filled up my mind. Perhaps the smack to the head that had taken my memory was at fault. But regardless of my mental glitches, the wolves were usually much less vocal. Had old Kirill Volkov left his nephew to feed them again?
That had not gone well. Vladim Volkov hadn’t fed them at all. He’d tried the first night, but wolves demand strength and according to rumor, fear had wafted off that young man like stink off a week-old fish. After the first bite, he left them to starve. Their low angry howls had surely kept him awake every night until his uncle returned.
Kirill Volkov hadn’t left the castle since, as far as I knew. He would never forget to feed them. I mean how could he? They were incredibly loud. And wasn’t his niece at the castle right now, decorating for her big Christmas gala? Surely even a city girl would notice that something was up with her uncle’s menagerie.
The wolves continued to howl. The American Christmas music continued to blare. I yanked my attention away from the window and jogged to the older babies’ room. Ms. Melora had a guest coming, and she would be around to inspect soon.
The children in the next room were toddlers. None of the little ones wore diapers. Instead they cruised back and forth in a large communal pen, wide-eyed in their threadbare nightshirts and silent. But something extraordinary happened when I bustled into the room. Those serious little faces broke into grins and a few brave souls even clapped and reached for me. This never would have happened my first year here, but I held a dark secret close to my heart. I had defied Ms. Melora and my risk was bearing fruit.
I rocked the babies.

About the Author:
Kristen Joy Wilks lives in the beautiful Cascade Mountains with her camp director husband, three fierce sons, and a large and slobbery Newfoundland dog. She has blow-dried a chicken, fought epic Nerf battles instead of washing dishes, and discovered a stealthily smuggled gardener snake in the bubble bath with her sons. Her stories and articles have appeared in Nature Friend, Clubhouse, Thriving Family, Splickety, and Havok MagazinesShe writes funny romances for Pelican Book Group, including Copenhagen Cozenage, The Volk Advent, and Athens Ambuscade. Kristen writes about the humor and Grace that can be found amidst the detritus of life and can be found at

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