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Danse Macabre

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Entry in the Book of Lore dated July 1923:
The case of the ziegevolk that came to River City, Iowa
By Winthrop Paroo, Grimm

Now that I have come of age and inherited the full-fledged powers of my Grimm ancestors, I wish to add the following tale to this diary, in the hopes that it will inform and guide those who possess the ability to discern the true forms of the Wesen who walk among us.

In 1912, I was a lad of ten years old. It was in July of that year that a ziegevolk named Harold Hill came to River City, Iowa. True to the nature of his kind, he displayed the powerful ability to make both men and women fall under his spell, seemingly with nothing more than the rhetorical device of honeyed words and cordial manners. (Note from Nick Burkhardt: It was not discovered until 1986 that ziegenvolk secrete a pheromone that makes them irresistible to humans.) Driven by instinct, this ziegevolk wandered the country in search of as many women as he could possibly find to sate his carnal appetites. When he came to River City, spinning a grand and fanciful tale of being a traveling music professor who sold boys’ bands, it wasn’t long before he had the entire town marching along behind him in rapt attention. Only my dear sister Marian immediately knew what Professor Hill truly was. For you see, she is also a ziegevolk.

Before I continue with this tale, I must explain my family’s rather unusual history. My mother is a ziegevolk. My father was a Grimm. I understand the reader may be inclined to dismiss such an unheard-of union as a mere fairy story, just as humans dismiss the existence of Wesen as over-imaginative children’s prattle. But I assure you, it is the truth. My parents’ union was a happy one, though they were both irrevocably disowned by their families for having the temerity to fall in love and marry outside of their own species. My sister inherited our mother’s Wesen form, and I took after our father, though I did not know it at the time (it wasn’t until I failed to experience the first involuntary woge during early adolescence that we surmised I was a Grimm, and my full powers did not manifest until I came of age). Sadly, my father was killed by a Reaper not long after I was born. Though we were all devastated by Papa’s death, it was my sister who suffered the most. Not wanting to attract the attention of those who travel the world hunting creatures like her, she suppressed her Wesen side completely. This had the unfortunate side effect of making her a feared and mistrusted pariah in our town, as humans instinctively recoil from ziegenvolk who do not use their wiles to charm them.

After Papa’s untimely demise, both Mama and Marian lived quietly and modestly, doing their best not to attract too much notice. They never expected to meet another Wesen, let alone a ziegevolk. But as it turned out, Professor Hill’s curiosity about Iowa was piqued by Charlie Cowell, a Grimm who made it his life’s work to destroy each and every ziegevolk he could find, as one of these creatures had abducted and impregnated his wife. Mr. Cowell also masqueraded as a traveling salesman – of anvils – and Professor Hill had been getting a bit too famous as a “music man” for his own good, so the Grimm was determined to hunt him down. When Mr. Cowell baited Professor Hill about not being able to succeed in seducing the stiff-necked people of this state, the ziegevolk couldn’t resist taking the Grimm up on this challenge. Supremely confident of his ability to prove his tiresome pursuer wrong, he arrived in River City, ready to woo any and every woman who caught his fancy.

But to his surprise, he came across an old friend, Marcellus Washburn. While ziegenvolk are usually loners, this one had achieved the dubious distinction of meeting and befriending a reinigen. As these rat-like creatures are at the bottom of the food chain, Mr. Washburn jumped at the chance to form an alliance with such a powerful and charismatic creature as a ziegevolk.  But Mr. Washburn, who preferred to stay in the shadows as is the nature of his kind, eventually tired of all the attention that Professor Hill drew in their travels, so the two ultimately parted ways. We were not initially aware that Mr. Washburn was a reinigen, and he did not know Mama and Marian were ziegenvolk, but he sensed there was something strange about the Irish matriarch and the “maiden-lady librarian,” as he called my sister. He warned Professor Hill to steer clear of Marian Paroo, but of course, that only whetted the ziegevolk’s appetites – he immediately saw my sister as a delightful challenge.

When Marian marched coldly by Professor Hill in the town square just after he’d finished whipping the townspeople into a moralistic frenzy about the mayor’s pool table (as it turns out, the poor man was a steinadler who was mostly aboveboard in his business and personal endeavors), he was instantly smitten with her, feeling an attraction far more powerful than usual, but not knowing why. However, when he followed her home, spoke sweetly to her and placed a persuasive hand on her arm, she harshly rebuffed him. He was stunned. Until that moment, he was a master at the sport of seduction. Was he somehow losing his allure? Refusing to give up, he rallied his wits and spoke to her again as she opened the front door to our home. Losing both her temper and her control, Marian turned to face him with a glare, her visage morphing into that of a goat. Instantly resuming her human form, she informed the now-completely dumbfounded Professor Hill that she knew exactly what his game was – she could smell his distinctive scent as soon as she exited the library and stepped out onto the street – and that his usual tricks weren’t going to work on her.  As he continued to gape at her, she went inside and slammed the door firmly behind her.

Skedaddling down the street when my mother opened the window to see what the commotion was, Professor Hill marveled over such a treasured find. Female ziegenvolk are exceedingly rare and notoriously picky about the mates they choose – so much so that many die without ever producing offspring. They are also immune to the methods in which a male ziegevolk is able to dazzle humans and other Wesen, so the males of the species have to work extremely hard to woo them. While most ziegenvolk are content to direct their attentions entirely toward humans, as they can mate with as many of these specimens as they please, a female ziegevolk is the ideal – the offspring of a ziegenvolk union are far more potent than the majority of their species, who have mixed parentage nowadays. (Among Wesen in general, there are very few pure bloodlines remaining.) Female ziegenvolk are difficult but not impossible to win over – to do so simply requires a tremendous amount of patience and persistence. Ziegenvolk mating is highly ritualistic and complex, involving a lot of dancing, which plays a key role in awakening the female ziegevolk’s passion.

So Professor Hill danced around Marian as often as he possibly could. The first occasion he had the opportunity to do so was during the Fourth of July exercises at the high school gymnasium. But she remained stubbornly stone-faced and seated as the crowd, helpless before the power of his ziegevolk charm, danced in response to his speechifying.  Mr. Washburn also assisted in weaving this web, as reinigen are exceptionally skilled at subduing and mesmerizing rats with music. Mama and I remained seated as everyone else marched out of the gymnasium. As a withdrawn and surly boy, I was intrigued but wary of the spectacle, but my mother was charmed enough by the ziegevolk’s display that she judged him a mate worthy of her daughter. My sister, however, was not convinced. So Professor Hill’s next move was to convince the town’s most prominent ladies to form a dance committee, in the hopes of ensnaring the reluctant female ziegevolk with further dancing.  While this was easily accomplished, he forgot to account for the fact that my sister was an outcast, and would not be invited to join. This intrigued him – he had never heard of a ziegevolk refusing to sway other humans through the natural charisma of their species.

Determined to persevere, Professor Hill visited Marian at the library one evening to attempt an even more intricate dance. This time, he met with a bit more success – not only did she almost let him kiss her, she danced with him for a brief interval in return. However, fearing that she would lose control of her emotions and inadvertently reveal her Wesen nature to the entire town, she once again rebuffed the ziegevolk’s attempted pursuit. But Professor Hill was indefatigable by this point. While male ziegenvolk are incapable of maintaining monogamous relationships with females of other species, they mate for life with females of their own. So now that he had his sights set on my sister, he could no longer see any other woman. Coming to our home, he and my mother danced together in the backyard, which both signaled and cemented her approval of him as a member of the family. My sister was furious when she came upon this display. In her anger, she not only morphed into her Wesen form, she revealed our family’s difficult situation and demanded that he leave the premises at once. Mama watched these proceedings with both frustration and interest, knowing there was nothing further she could do except wait for nature to take its proper course.

Although I was more immune than most to the ziegevolk’s charms, I was not entirely incorruptible. When the band instruments came, I was so taken by my shiny new cornet that I fully warmed up to Professor Hill. This, in turn, caused my sister to reassess her opinion not only of this male, but her own Wesen nature. When Professor Hill continued to woo her at the Candy Kitchen and pulled her into a dance during a Ladies Dance Committee rehearsal, she charmed the ladies so well that they immediately invited her into their circle. Bolstered by her newfound acceptance, Marian danced the Shipoopi with Professor Hill at the ice cream social – the final signal indicating that she wished him to proceed in his courtship. Upon the dance’s conclusion, they immediately arranged a rendezvous at the footbridge so they could continue their mating dance in private.

And so they met at the footbridge, where they began the lengthy process of consummating their union. However, the sudden arrival of the Grimm Mr. Cowell put a halt to the proceedings. Having concentrated the entirety of his talents on winning over Marian, Professor Hill’s spell on the townspeople was starting to wear off. (Note from Nick Burkhardt: It is likely that Charlie Cowell applied a Geruck Gland Neutralizing Potion to temporarily disable the ziegevolk’s ability to emit pheromones, as he was known to use this concoction as part of his arsenal.) As the townspeople returned to their senses, the vengeful Mr. Cowell stirred them into a frenzy. Mr. Washburn tried to convince Professor Hill to flee, but at such a crucial juncture in the pair bonding process, he was incapable of abandoning his mate. The reinigen attempted to use his own brand of meager persuasion, leading the townspeople on a wild goose chase à la the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but they ultimately caught the ziegenvolk before their consummation was complete.

It was my brilliant sister who saved the day. Using her charisma, she singlehandedly convinced the entire town to not only forgive Professor Hill, but embrace him as one of their own. And with a little help from Mr. Washburn, the children were even able to play a passable Minuet in G, which was enough to pacify even those rare few who possessed enough strength of will to resist a ziegevolk’s charms. Although Mr. Cowell no longer had any allies in his vendetta – indeed, the townspeople glared at him, ready to do battle on behalf of their now-beloved son – he still looked as if he intended to get his revenge, no matter how much mayhem.

Once again, my sister took command of the situation, marching right over to the Grimm. No one knows precisely what she said to Mr. Cowell, but it was enough to make him turn ashen with fright and skedaddle right to the freight depot. I know that female ziegenvolk are ferociously protective of both their mates and offspring, so much so that even the most bloodthirsty of Wesen and Grimms are loath to make such a tenacious and unforgiving enemy. I also know that if Mr. Cowell decides to set foot in River City again, my sister will personally ensure that it is the last place he’ll ever go as a living man. Although the Grimm was ultimately defeated in his purpose, he can at least take comfort that another male ziegevolk has nevertheless been neutralized. Harold Hill and Marian Paroo now wholly belong to each other – my sister no longer shrinks from her Wesen nature, and my brother-in-law will never again be a threat to another man’s wife. And they have already succeeded in producing viable offspring – two strong and healthy twin daughters, who even at their young age are already demonstrating the effortless and spellbinding charm of their parents. They are sure to grow up to be potent ziegenvolk, and perhaps two males of the species will someday be fortunate enough to win them as mates.

And so I close this tale as both a paean and a warning, in the hopes that it has shed some much-needed light on the nature and habits of these mysterious and intriguing creatures.