What do werewolves have to do with vikings?

     First, The VIKINGS! Trilogy dances around a fine line around 3 religions. I wanted to treat each faith equally and respectfully. Each faith has one devout follower in the company. Each faith is turned to in times of trouble. And each faith has fantasy creatures: Norse has trolls, giants, dwarves, dragons, etc ... (they do travel through Norse realms), the Druid faith has elves and fairies, and the Catholic faith ... well, guess where the first mention of werewolves came from: a biblical king!

     Werewolves have existed in many ancient cultures. As the Seer said, the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar was the first to document the wolf-man affliction, which later became known as lycanthropy. Lands as diverse as China and pre-colonial America had legends of men who became animals under the full moon. The Dark Ages were ripe with legends and myths, and undoubtedly they believed in any creatures that reputedly existed both in biblical times and today.

     For The VIKINGS! Trilogy, I wanted to create a world that was complex, more than just about vikings. Many modern people consider all who lived in ancient times to be simple-minded; a man who could learn to drive a plow-horse could be employed forever, unlike today, where you have to know how to drive a car, use a phone, pay your taxes, etc... But this isn't true: people in ancient times had to know how to saddle a horse, pack a mule, hunt with bows and spears, fish with practically nothing, make anything that you needed (since most peasants couldn't buy anything), spin thread, weave cloth, stitch leather shoes, and survive a winter with nothing but firewood that you had to chop ... all in a world where failure to adhere to a single local religious custom could get you killed.

     And interpersonal relationships have never been simple.

     Since the dawn of civilization, human life has been complicated. Most modern people are secure in their understanding of the physical universe, but back then, they were just as convinced as us of their belief in the structure of the universe; perhaps more so, since they didn't have to worry about relativity, black holes, string theory, or dark matter. The fact that their concepts of the universe would, centuries later, be proven wrong is irrelevant; distant-future events seldom affect anyone's life.

     I like the Wolflord. The Wolflord is the first proof that The VIKINGS! Trilogy is a fantasy, not a historical fiction, which I wanted to establish right away. I personally find it annoying to be reading one genre and suddenly discover that it is another (with a few classic exceptions). The Wolflord made a powerful foe that would bind the companions together and give them a spirit of camaraderie. The Wolflord was my first introduction to real fighting; recall how fighting in the cramped, narrow cave made the swinging of swords more difficult? This was the first instance of how terrain and conditions affect fighting.

     Part of VIKINGS! is introducing fighting concepts slowly, teaching as it progresses: compare Eric's single-sword kills in Rafe's stable (in Castle Bristlen) with the final duel of the first book; VIKINGS! explains concepts and problems with medieval fighting, starting with simple fights, then progressing to group fights, fights with longswords against greatswords, fighting against archers, fighting against multiple kinds of weapons, fighting against amateurs, and fighting against professional killers, to fighting in a war: the earlier fights progressively allow readers to appreciate the final duel, which takes a great deal of martial understanding to fully grasp.

     The Wolflord also gave the company an inner difficulty that they would have to deal with throughout the entire trilogy. In Deathquest, the inner difficulty was Eloise's slow recovery from trauma, which transformed into something much worse in The Mourning Trail. All of their magical combats, even against illusions, began with the Wolflord. In many ways, this lone werewolf set the tone for all of the magic to follow.

     But the most important thing to me was that the Wolflord showed the balance between magic and reality in VIKINGS!. The Wolflord was a powerful magical threat with only one weakness, and Rafe alone, the companion who had been most afraid of him, managed to defeat him using the only the tools that every reader knew that he had. Like many of my challenges, the Wolflord was a puzzle; I described the pieces, and then I try to solve the puzzle before my readers figure it out. In this way, I hope to keep my readers turning to the next page; I hope that my readers try to solve the puzzles and become a part of The VIKINGS! Trilogy.