This story was written by a group of players that took a chance and willingly signed up with their PCs for a special event that took place in January of 267 (2018). Joining this hunt forced the players to be at the mercy of the story where their preparedness, resources, and skills were factored into the impact they would have. In this side-story, players had a chance to lose their characters or be severely maimed due to injuries but also be involved in a unique story element and make a significant impact on the following event of that month. After rolling randomly to determine the encounters, their impact, and the wounds received during the fighting, the players involved decided to narrate what their PCs went through and turn it into a story.
Joining the Great Wolf’s Honored Hunt
In December of 266, visitors came to Clan Ironmound territory to meet with representatives and delegates of the different Clans of the ulven people. Tensions were high as wounded honor and feuds threatened to derail some of the focus of the upcoming Grand Moot. The leaders were able to discuss many options of what the future could hold and directions the ulven people could take.
Camilla Birchborne, acting High Priestess of Clan Riverhead, brought with her two important messages. The first, was that Clan Riverhead was no more; with the death of the Clanleader, the impending passing of the ill Warleader, and the breakdown of the High Priestess, the leadership of Clan Riverhead has been ravaged in a short amount of time. The surviving Chieftains have supported this new direction of being absorbed into other Clans, primarily Clan Shattered Spear. The second, is that Camilla believes there to be an upcoming great portent that the ulven people must not dismiss. In January of 267, the moon will shine full not once but twice, and she and the other priestesses feel that this is the time for action for the ulven people.
The Grand Moot was held and was over surprisingly fast. Setting aside differences… for now… the ulven people as a whole will begin coordinating with the colonists to sweep through and clear ulven lands, primarily the Great Wolf’s Hackles and the Great Forest, to prepare for a large construction project to build a series of defenses to the north called the “Shield of Mardrun” starting in the spring of 267. The time for ulven to sit idly by and allow each Clan to fend for themselves is over; the “Ulven Pack” is coming together and taking the fight to the mordok.
As the first step of taking the fight to the mordok, a group of ulven warpacks and their colonist allies are moving into the Great Forest to sweep and clear it of mordok. Forcing confrontation with the mordok is key to the victory as any tribes or group of mordok slipping through and rejoining other mordok will prolong the efforts of clearing ulven territory.
However, with the blessings of the High Priestesses of the Clans, the Warleaders have begun putting together warpacks of veteran warriors that will join the Great Wolf in his hunt on the first full moon of the year instead of staying indoors. Veteran ulven and warriors looking to gain word fame have pledged their support and hope to be chosen. This highly ritualistic event will spearhead the efforts to take the fight to the mordok under a united cause of both ulven and colonist alike.
One of the groups that quickly volunteered to be chosen were the warriors and hunters of Pack Longfang. They were assigned to a Clan Steinjottun Chieftain that was smart, reserved, and well respected by his warriors. He was not a Chieftain who earned the title by being too brash and bold; he liked to think, calculate, and then act. His name was Trygvy Steinjottun and he was pleased to be given the chance to fight alongside some of the veteran warriors of Pack Longfang. Trygvy’s warpack was well supplied, if rather basic, and able to move out and be a part of the Great Wolf’s hunt.
Among the assembled Longfangs were Ranmir, Halvar, Runa, Brynja, Thrand, Fritha, Bryech, Throm, and Dorn. Every volunteer to attend the hunt was ulven; syndar and human were forbidden from being allowed on the Great Wolf’s hunt. Dorn Tallstag had been traveling with pack Longfang for some time. On the first month of the year 267, he was not only one of the ulven chosen for the great honor of being allowed to hunt alongside the Great Wolf but he was also the only one with half human blood in his veins; a one-of-a-kind exception allowed on his momentous occasion.
The honored warpacks were blessed with sacred rites by numerous Witches of various ulven clans. This was not to be a military campaign or a sprawling war effort with allies and supply lines; this was going to be a dangerous and ritualistic fight against incredible odds and hardship. Ulven were going to die and be judged by the Great Wolf during this hunt in large numbers; they were all prepared for it.
Soon after assembling, the warpacks were given an estimated area to move into the Great Forest and fight the mordok. It was a simple plan… move and fight. It didn’t take long after venturing into the Great Forest when Trygvy’s warpack came upon a large group of mordok. Their numbers vastly overwhelmed the size of the warpack and worry was quick to darken the thoughts of the Steinjottun warriors. Too much fear would be judged harshly by the Great Wolf on this hunt. The Chieftain’s initial orders faltered a bit as his calculating mind tried to devise a plan of what to do. Then, worry melted away and eventually turned to bravado as the warriors looked to the veteran Longfangs and saw ulven that were not only absent of fear but almost relishing in the thought of the upcoming fight. Even outnumbered, the Longfangs stepped forward ready to do battle. This bravado steeled the resolve of the warpack and they marched straight into the larger group of mordok.
Dorn Tallstag, the newest member of Pack Longfang, and the small group of veteran Longfang warriors moved through the woods towards the group of mordok in front of them. His vision was limited due to his large helm, he saw mordok clustered around something, possibly a corruption site of some kind. Being half human and new, he was still coming to grips with the thought of being allowed on this honored hunt. He would not dishonor himself or his Pack and he would fight hard today. As they got closer, one of the other fighters tapped Dorn on the shoulder and gestured to something to his left. It was too late. An arrow flew out of the darkness, glanced off of Dorn’s armor and hit the warrior in the face. The ulven collapsed with the arrow protruding from his skull. Another small group of mordok slunk out of the darkness from which the arrow came. Dorn hefted his axe as the shield wall formed in front of him; he knew the fight ahead of them was going to be difficult.
“With me! CHARGE!” Bryech roared as he motioned with his sword and ran forward. The warpack followed, Bryech was sure much to the contempt of the Chieftain who led the Warpack. The force before them was overwhelming, the mordok outnumbered them at least two to one. This was no time to fight cautiously. If they wanted to win this fight they would need unexpected brutality. That was exactly what Bryech planned to deliver and the Mordok responded in kind. The two forces made a deafening amount of noise as they thundered towards each other. Bryech didn’t think, he didn’t worry about how strong the enemy was, all he wanted was to kill them all. Bryech sidestepped the first mordok to come in range and spun around making a long cut up the beast’s back with a noticeable eruption of blood trailing his sword. Moving onto the next Mordok rushing towards him, Bryech parried high with his sword and edged his foe with his shield knocking the beast over and followed up with a quick strike to finish the Mordok off before it could recover. The battle was on in full now; a rough battle line had formed with both sides fighting viciously. Bryech took down another Mordok after a small exchange of blows. Before he could move on, a sharp pain below his left shoulder caused him to drop his shield. Bryech knew an archer had hit him and went to pull the arrow from his arm. He broke the shaft in half and pulled hard through gritted teeth. The rest of the shaft came out clean but the head broke off and fell out of his sleeve. Bryech recovered his shield and made his way toward Halvar who had seemed to have gotten into an area of heavy fighting.
“Bryech!” He heard it but didn’t look to see who said it because immediately after an arrow deflected off his helm and knocked him back slightly.
“Now I’m pissed.” Bryech said to himself before rushing to Halvar’s side with a battle cry.
“Brace your shield!” Halvar exclaimed as Bryech approached. Halvar thrust his long axe past the head of one of the mordok in front of him and hooked it around its neck. With a strong pull back with his axe, Halvar smashed the mordok’s face into the metal boss of Bryech’s shield, breaking the jaw of the mordok with a crunch and splattering blood on the shield. As the mordok recoiled and grabbed its face, Halvar wound up and planted a heavy cleave into the mordok’s chest. It flew backwards several steps and crumpled to the ground.
As soon as Halvar recovered from the heavy swing, an arrow darted out and hit him in the upper part of his left arm. Grimacing in pain, he stepped backwards and took a knee to focus on tearing it out. Suddenly, Fritha’s shield appeared in front of him and was immediately met by a second arrow, her quick reflexes saving Halvar from the attack. Halvar and Fritha made eye contact and Halvar nodded in appreciation before tearing out the arrow with a grunt of pain and then returning to the fight.
Ranmir held back as the two opposing forces clashed. He thought to himself that with the larger opposing force, this would be a time for decisive shots, not distracting ones. He saw Bryech take an arrow to the shoulder and returned the favor with an arrow to the mordok’s eye.
Ranmir loosed arrow after arrow, each finding it’s mark. As one of the filthy black mongrels charged with an axe above his head, Ranmir loosed and watched an arrow sprout from its chest, just in time for Thrand to come down on it with an axe of his own.
Ranmir continued to peer at the enemy line, as he heard someone shout, “Ranmir! Behind you!” Was that Brynja? Or Runa? It didn’t matter now, he turned to see a mordok that had snuck around the lines barreling down on him, he loosed the arrow into the mordok’s arm, reached to his quiver, and grabbed…nothing…he had lost count. Like a deer facing a wolf, Ranmir froze for a second, then tossed his bow aside, grabbed his knife and dagger and drove them into the stomach of the mordok as he was tackled, and then felt…nothing. He expected a counter attack from the mordok but when he tumbled to a stop, the mordok was dead. Blood gushed from the two deep stab wounds of his weapons into the beast’s belly.
The blood pumped through Throm’s veins as his double bit axe cleaved through a mordok shield, splintering the once protective equipment into kindling. With a quick movement of his arm, the axe spun around and landed deep into the chest of the foolish beast. With that one falling another one came in fast and tackled Throm to the ground. A foolish mistake as he slammed the mordok down and pulled out a dagger and started to stab with terrifying ferocity. The mordok bit and tore at his shoulder a decent amount, the attacks being thwarted by the mail armor. The beast was felled when the blade of his knife went through its neck, relieving it of its lifeblood.
With a roar, Brynja threw herself into the fray. It had been far too long since she had fought by Bryech’s side, and his ferociousness and tenacity were infectious. As she connected with the first of the Mordok, she planted her shield in the beast’s hips and thrust upward, tossing it heavily over her shoulder and sending it sprawling. The warriors behind her would surely have that one handled, she knew without thinking, and pressed forward.
Brynja had grown accustomed to fighting side-by-side with the experienced Longfang warriors since she began lending her training as an instructor to the pack nearly a year ago. Their skill and coordination were evident as spear and shield and sword worked as one to slowly but surely slay Mordok after Mordok. She fell into a rhythm with her allies, allowing her reflexes to take over. Her mind drifted to Onsallas, to her mate who was waiting for her safe return. Like a bucket of cold water, the thought of Naveeve snapped Brynja back into the moment. Instincts be damned, she would make sure she would survive the day to come home once more.
Runa swung her hammer down over a mordok’s head, caving it in with a sickening crunch and coating the hammer in brains and blood. Another mordok ran at her from her left. She ripped the hammer out of what was left of the mordok’s skull and reeled back to swing again with a grunt of effort. The hammer was heavy and her swing easy to see but the power it generated was staggering. He opponent thought they were clear of the reach of the weapon. The mordok was dead wrong; Runa hit her target square in the ear, caving it’s head in from the side. Runa looked to her side and saw Thrand and Fritha fighting together, holding mordok away from her flank. Time and time again, Thrand’s long axe darted out to hack, pull, or cleave into shields and bodies. Fritha’s stalwart defense and use of her shield kept the mordok at bay, forcing them to endure the attacks from the Longfang’s support weapons. When an opportunity presented itself or when a mordok decided to close the gap, Fritha’s mastercrafted Clan Ironmound sword slashed out and punished them for it.
The fight went well. Dorn’s axe rained terror down upon the mordok. At one point one of the archers tried to get around to flank the Ulven group but Dorn charged the archer by himself. The mordok tried to shoot him but his armor was too strong for the arrows to penetrate; the arrow simply buried itself into the layered leathers and mail and snapped off before doing any real damage. The archer simply ran and fled, not wanting to close to melee.
The rest of the warpack traded blows with the mordok and killed them. Quickly, the ground became awash in bright crimson blood from both sides of the line. Steinjottun warriors bore witness to the ferocity and skill of the Longfangs and pressed in, consumed by battle lust. Then it was just… over. The mordok melted away from the fight almost as quickly as they had charged into it.
Bryech gave a yell of victory, encouraging the fleeing Mordok to run away faster.
“Bryech, are you injured? Let me tend to your wounds” said Thrand through labored breaths.
“I’m fine, tend to those who actually need it.” Bryech replied distantly, his thoughts obviously elsewhere. Bryech walked off to find the Chieftain of the Warpack; they needed to discuss their next move.
Ranmir checked over his equipment, sitting, “I didn’t realize there were this many in the Forest,” he said, to no one in particular.
Leaning heavily against a tree, Brynja began to count her many new bruises and tried to stretch out her aching shoulder. The joint protested every inch with searing pain; an axe had struck true during the battle. Though her armor had saved her from the worst of the damage, she would need to see a healer about the wound before the next fight.
After the mordok had fled, the group went back to camp where a caravan had dropped off more supplies. The warpack resupplied and took a small break to heal, rest and get any armor mended that they could. Throm sat down and started to hone his axe and hunting knife, his body slightly weary and battered, but nothing too worse for the wear for the moment. His shoulder did ache and bleed a decent amount, but it wasn’t something he couldn’t work with. Still, the pain was starting to become more than a slight annoyance as the adrenaline left him. It was a small break, energized by their overwhelming win- they yearned for more blood. The Steinjottun warriors seemed almost shocked at how the veteran Longfang warriors recovered so quickly from such a pitched battle.
They regrouped and went after the fleeing Mordok. Finding the mordok was was easy enough; the freshly disturbed ground and drops of blood an easy trail to follow. The mordok were found rather quickly much to both the surprise of the resting mordok and the assembled warpack.
“Cut, them, down.” Bryech ordered. He spoke with a calm fury. Bryech walked towards the small band of Mordok with the warriors that accompanied him, the two groups were almost even so he knew they wouldn’t run. When he got close Bryech struck out with surprising speed and quickly enveloped himself in the fight.
Despite the protests she could already hear from her distant mate, Brynja readied herself to crush the fleeing Mordok. Injured or not, she would not let her packmates have all the glory! With her shoulder still tender, she slung her shield over her shoulder and produced the large sword at her side. The Mordok had taken her deep in the swamp long ago: she intended to exact her revenge this day.
Bryech moved his group like a wolf pack making swift work of any Mordok still brave enough to fight them, but eventually grew more reserved as his warriors grew too tired or injured to continue the way they had.
The battle was going rather smoothly. However two mordok decided to flank and try and ambush Fritha and Thrand and Throm spotted the flankers as they approached. His blood was up and his legs kicked against the ground. All the flanking mordok witnessed was a large blur rush towards them roaring “Tell the Great Wolf Throm “Hell-Hound” Nightriver sent you!” An axe chop to a knee, a fist to the face, and a shattered jaw left the mordok out of the fight. Its partner tried to rush Throm with a large axe; a fatal mistake, for Throm was in no mood for humoring a one on one fight. Throm glared at the Mordok and spoke only these words with only bile in his voice, “The maw devour you!” Both Thrand and Fritha moved to assist and the three of them cut down the remaining flanker.
Halvar yelled to track them all down and kill every one of them all. The group gave chase and the Ulven who could still run, did. They gathered any arrows on the way, pulling them out of the dead Mordok. Handing the majority of them off to Ranmir or putting them in his quiver so he could start pulling them out and plugging them into the backs of Mordok so they could be pulled out and used again until they splintered from use.
After all of the Mordok who had fled had been cut down or lost in the woods, the Longfangs regrouped with the warpack to plan out the next move. While talking, a scout came with a message to the Chieftain in charge of this warpack; there was another warpack that was not faring well and the scout was asking for help immediately. The warpack was nearby and after a solid fight they were on their way back to a nearby staging area to regroup and were beset upon by a large group of mordok. They tried to fallback but the mordok force dogged them ferociously and they decided to stand and fight. The Steinjottun Chieftain, being reserved and concerned for his own pack, did not feel comfortable sending the group out so soon for another encounter. Although another warpack was in trouble, the Steinjottun warriors were simply too spent, exhausted, or hurt from the heavy fighting.
When the Longfangs learned of this they quickly grouped together to talk about it; this was not something they could let stand. They approached the Steinjottun Chieftain. Fritha stepped forward to speak on behalf of the Longfangs present and asked if they could be permitted to leave the warpack to assist the others. The Chieftain hesitated but gave his permission. The Longfangs, who stood for honor and protection in the face of adversity, quickly packed up, gave quick good byes and thumps on the back to their brothers and sisters in arms, and left to aid those who needed it more.
After traveling a fair distance and following the scout as quickly as they could, the Longfang veterans soon came upon a gruesome scene. Another large band of mordok was in a pitched fight against another warpack. Their clan origin was unknown and all that mattered is that there were ulven fighting against the mordok. And these ulven appeared to be losing.
With little delay, the Longfangs roared into the fight; their iconic bark ringing out three times above the clamor of battle as they crashed into the side of the mordok force. They fought their way through to where the other warpack was holding out. The shield wall didn’t hold for much longer after they got there, their presence attracted more and more mordok.
In a short amount of time, any semblance of two battle lines broke apart into a swirling mess of chaos as warriors from both sides broke off, paired up, or reformed to fight anything in front of them. It was in this moment that the ferocity of single combat could quickly decide the victor… something the mordok excelled at.
Bryech fought ferociously, his armor and shield broken beyond proper use. His sword had yet to fail him so he did what he could. Bryech swung at a Mordok but his attack was blocked and the beast took advantage of his lowered defenses and sliced just below Bryech’s knee. Bryech grimaced but fought through the pain. Throwing a punch with his left hand Bryech made solid contact with the Mordok’s jaw, sending it reeling. It wasn’t enough to stop the mordok as it dropped in and suddenly grappled Bryech. As quickly as he could, he went in and met the grapple; grabbing it around the waist and taking the beast down. Bryech followed with a series of quick strikes to the head and neck making the Mordok’s face a bloody mess. He knelt above his now dead opponent and surveyed the battlefield, his fatigue finally starting to catch up with him. Bryech heard footsteps behind him but he was too slow and tired to react quick enough. Bryech felt immense pain pierce through his back and out his front. Looking down, he saw a sword protruding from his lower abdomen. Bryech jumped back, knocking his attacker off balance and turned to hack into the Mordok’s neck. The strike was vicious, tearing just as much as it cut. The Mordok dropped, convulsing and making an awful gurgling noise as it choked on its own blood. Bryech staggered away and leaned against a nearby tree reaching for the short sword sticking out of his back. It was an awkward angle but slowly, painfully he removed the sword. Blood pooled in the hole it left but it didn’t bleed as bad as he had thought; apparently it hadn’t caught anything immediately vital. Bryech turned away from the tree, clutching his side, to continue the fight. After a short walk he managed to catch an archer off guard and knocked its bow from its hand only to receive a lightning fast dagger to the abdomen. Bryech dropped his sword and staggered, clutching the blade now embedded in his torso. He quickly realized that he would not be able to endure much longer. The Mordok pulled back and started to call for more Mordok to come and watch its kill. Bryech’s vision swam and his reality faded. He almost passed out until he heard a voice to his right.
“You promised.” it said. Bryech looked and saw Ingrid as if she was truly in front of him. He even felt her touch when he reached out to cup her face in his hand, felt her always cool finger wrap around the outside of his own hand. “I knew I would lose you.” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. Bryech felt a fire in his chest.
The Mordok turned back towards its victim seeing what looked like its prey hallucinating, reaching towards nothing before going into a light state of unconsciousness.
“You will never lose me,” Bryech began, strength flooding back into his body.
“If I can’t run to you, I’ll walk.” He whispered, his voice gaining volume as he spoke.
“If I can’t walk to you, I will crawl.” he grabbed the dagger in his side.
“I will do whatever it takes to come back to you.” he said, the wall between the real world and his vision blurred beyond all recognition.
“I will come back to you my love, I swear to you, all you have to do is ask.” Bryech said as he kissed his beloved before he woke.
The Mordok crept closer to the wounded Ulven savoring the easy kill. Bryech saw a dagger in his blood covered hands and he saw the shadow of the Mordok growing closer. Bryech lunged upward grabbing the Mordok by the shoulder and head-butting it. In one fluid motion, he pulled the dagger from his side and drove it repeatedly into the beast’s throat. Watching it fall to the ground, Bryech sat on its chest to pin its arms with his knees. Bryech began slowly and heavily punching the Mordok with his right hand, each strike gaining more speed and ferocity. Bryech stopped after the beast stopped making noise.
Pulling off his helmet, Bryech looked before him seeing a large gathering of Mordok before him. Bryech grabbed his sword and stood, slowly, a shocking amount of blood continuing to soak his clothing and drip down his body. Letting out a roar, Bryech was shocked to hear far more volume than he anticipated and turned to see a group of warriors rush past him to engage the Mordok. Bryech fell to his knees, a surprising relief sweeping over him. Two warriors from the Warpack came and assisted him to safety.
Slowly but surely the mordok gained the upper hand; warriors fell on both sides of Dorn. His axe continued to find its mark as it splintered shields and crushed bone. Arrows continue to bounce off his heavier armor until one found its way through into his leg. He grimaced in pain as he was able to pull it out. This took a moment he did not have and as he was doing this the mordok pushed the shield wall past him leaving him behind the enemy line. Mordok surrounded him and began to encroach on him and another arrow struck him in the chest. Luckily it didn’t penetrate deep enough to actually pierce his skin. One mordok recklessly pushed forward. Dorn dispatched it with some difficulty, the nearly constant fighting and the very armor that protected him from blades and arrows was severely wearing him down. This time two mordok came at him and he swung his axe into the skull of one of them but it got stuck. The second mordok jumped on Dorn’s back and began trying to bite through his pauldron. Dorn drew his sword and stabbed it through the back of the first mordok, spun it around and then threw it to the ground. He grabbed the arm of the mordok on his back and flipped it over his shoulder and onto his sword which was protruding from the first mordok. Exhausted, Dorn stood back up and freed his axe from the dead mordok’s skull with a sickening crunch. He squared up and hefted his axe, ready to fight again when a black orb of energy smashed him in the ribs, boring through and ripping flesh and muscle from his body. Dorn gasped for breath. The pain was unbearable. He could feel the life draining out of him but he managed to stay conscious somehow. He dropped his axe when he reeled from the pain of the magic. It was a few feet away from him and he couldn’t reach it quickly. A creeping blackness threatened to push Dorn to unconsciousness. With a vicious roar, Dorn howled in rage and with all the strength he could muster he got to his feet and charged the spellcasting mordok. It must have thought Dorn was out of the fight and it had turned to face the ulven shield wall and Dorn tackled it from behind. He dragged the stunned mordok down to the ground and beat it to death with his gauntleted fist. His fury running out, he finally lost consciousness and blacked out.
Everything was going wrong, the lines weren’t holding. The Longfangs couldn’t be everywhere at once. The Mordok were surrounding the Ulven and the warpack wasn’t holding. The Longfangs were trying to stay together and survive, but it wasn’t going well. They became separated, they had to for survival. The forest was thick in this area and Fritha used it to her advantage. She used the trees to dodge and separate Mordok, coming behind them and hitting them in any way possible to incapacitate them. Slicing their throats and barely registering the gargling of their blood spilling down their neck as she was on to the next one. She tried to stay close to her mate when she could. With all of her armor and years of training with the Longfangs, it wasn’t enough. Swords, maces and flails found their way past her defenses and were wearing on her armor. Pieces of it were being destroyed beyond repair and then the metal was finding flesh. Her movements were slowing down, her reactions weren’t enough. An arrow sunk into her left leg. She staggered from the pain. Fritha knew it can’t stay in; if she lost her ability to move she would be dead that much quicker. She gripped the arrow hard and broke the shaft, shoving it the rest of the way through her leg, and rips out the blood stained arrow. When she turned, a Mordok was running straight at her with an ax. She braced herself and when he met her in combat she parried the blade and used the edge of her shield to dent the side of its skull in. She didn’t see the Mordok to her right who charged right into her, slamming her off her feet and into the base of a tree. He lined up a javelin and pierced it in Fritha’s upper thigh of her right leg. She screams in pain and Thrand hears her nearby. He launched himself over a fallen tree and brought his long axe down hard and split the Mordok to his collar bone.
Ripping the axe out with a crunch and quickly setting it down, Thrand pulled out his healing kit and worked to staunch the bleeding on Fritha’s leg. She was getting dizzy from the exhaustion and loss of blood. He finished up treating her leg just enough to keep it from bleeding out and they look at each other. They are in in a bad situation but they are there together. Thrand stood up and reached out to help Fritha back onto her feet. He was right in front of her… and then suddenly he wasn’t. There was a loud clang of metal on metal. Thrand was gone and in his place was a Mordok with a bloodied axe. Thrand was on the ground beneath it, blood pooling from his head and face. Fritha picked up her sword and ran it through the Mordok’s chest with a scream of rage, twisting the blade and shoving into it with her shoulder. It fell down, blood pouring from its vicious wound. Racing to his side, Fritha quickly called out a prayer to Gaia to help save her mate. Tears welled up in Fritha’s eyes as she tried to roll him over but she was scared at what she might see when she did. There was so much blood. With a groan, Thrand looked at her with one blood soaked eye and gasped for air. He was alive, but just barely, and without immediate aid the axe wound to his face would surely kill him. Too wounded to continue any real fighting, Fritha pulled Thrand’s dead weight across the ground to get him away from the fighting, grimacing through the pain in her leg.
This is just like Pyre Hills, Brynja thought to herself. Everywhere she turned, there seemed to be another gap in their line, another of her packmates being struck and bloodied, another Mordok to press their advantage. Brynja had seen death before. She had stared it in the eyes and snarled until it backed down. This time, however, it seemed there would be no escape.
A hulking beast approached Brynja, tossing a smaller Mordok aside with a swing of its axe. Brynja noted that the axe was nearly as big as she was. Before she could begin her next thought, the axe was falling towards her as apparently the mordok was also fast. Unable to respond in time, the blow caught her shield and nearly tore it from her hand. Her axe shot out and responded to the attack with one of her own. Another blow. Another strike. With each swing of the Mordok’s axe, Brynja could feel her grip on her shield weaken. She knew that being cautious like this would only get her killed sooner, so she pressed her attack. Another swing and her shield was splintered, though she pressed into the Mordok and cut a deep gash in its thigh. Another swing and she knew her armor was spent, but her axe found its way into the mordok’s shoulder. A final swing caught Brynja in her calf, bringing her to her knees in front of her attacker. Trading blows worked out for the mordok who now had the upper hand. Sensing an easy kill, the Mordok hefted its great axe high, ready to bring the weapon down on Brynja.
This is how I die. Brynja couldn’t keep the thought from her mind. After all the battles I’ve fought; after all the victories I’ve won; after all the times I’ve spat in death’s face, this is how it ends. Her mind wandered in that instant: She thought of her home in Clan Axhound, and of the welcoming arms of Pack Blackpaw. She thought of the swamp, of the corruption which nearly ended her life, and of Manetho’s disapproving lectures. She thought of her new family, her packmates in Pack Longfang. She thought of Naveeve, and how-
Brynja’s mind stopped. She had made a promise to her mate before leaving on this hunt. Naveeve would wait for her to return and Brynja would find her way home. Her eyes grew hot and stung with tears but she didn’t seem to notice. All Brynja could see was red. Brynja roared ferociously and launched herself up, using her body to pivot and bring her axe up into the mordok’s stomach. Kicking the beast down with her good leg, she hefted the axe and brought it down with a mighty blow and caved in its chest. As the mordok’s labored breath gurgled through its now exposed lungs, Brynja staggered to the ground and grimaced from her numerous wounds.
Moving forward and swinging his axe in a wide arc to keep the mordok at bay, Halvar stepped forward to try to help Brynja. It would only buy them a few seconds of time, but he knew Brynja needed help. If she flew into a furious rage right now, she may cut down some mordok but Halvar was afraid they would be overrun. The mordok knew this too and several of them rushed Halvar. Grunting with effort and swinging hard, his long axe landed on the handle of the weapon of one of the rushing mordok and sent it reeling backwards and off balance. The second one charged even faster and before he could recover his axe, it was on him. Landing a heavy shoulder and pushing hard, the mordok took Halvar off his feet and crashing into the ground. Suddenly, Halvar noticed he was at a fatal disadvantage when he noticed the mordok also had a short wicked looking dagger in its hand. It darted the weapon out several times and made shallow but still painful stabs at his chest and arms. Halvar reached for the knife in an attempt to control it, his long axe now useless in a grapple, when the mordok dropped its body weight onto his chest and pinned his arm for a moment. It took advantage of Halvar being trapped to slice out with the knife, cutting into his face. It was not a fast and clean cut, but instead a tearing wound that was forcefully opened by pushing a pitted and rusty blade across exposed flesh. Blood gushed out from the deep and jagged cut and he shot his forearm up to protect his face and throat. The knife cut again, this time glancing off the heavy leather gauntlet. As the mordok was lining up another stab, this time aimed towards Halvar’s face, there was a sudden thump and the mordok went flying backwards. Halvar couldn’t see well with the blood in his eyes and he was cut and bleeding from numerous places. Stepping in to engage the mordok was Runa. Even though his eyes were blood soaked, her enormous hammer unmistakable. This gave Halvar a moment to crawl away holding his face from the grievous wound and move towards Brynja to help her get away from danger.
The two mordok surrounded Runa. One wound up and swung a flail, wrapping around Runa’s forearm tightly. The spikes tore through her armor and skin as the Mordok pulled back, exposing bone and ripping muscle. The hammer fell from her hand, which opened the opportunity for the mordok to bring up its shield and pin her arm to the tree behind her. The force of the shield edge ramming her into the tree snapped the bone of her upper arm. Growling through gritted teeth and pain, Runa reached behind her for her sax. In this moment, Thrand and Bryech’s teachings of keeping weapons close to hand and carrying an extra knife shot into her mind. She pulled the knife clear of its sheath and shoved it up the mordok’s jowl, hilt deep. It’s eyes went wide and blood oozed out of its gaped mouth. She yanked it out and the mordok fell at her feet, thrashing from the pain of the knife. Feeling the pain radiating from her arm, she looked down at the mordok’s body. Overcome with rage, she picked the hammer up with her good arm and swung it over and over again until there is nothing left of its face. With one last kick to its body, she stomped off in the swirl of the melee to find the rest of her pack, clutching her now dangling broken arm.
Chaos, utter chaos surrounded them. Left and right, no matter where Throm looked, he witnessed carnage and death before him. Friend and foe alike bled out and colored the soaked the ground in crimson. Ulven warriors fought for their life. Mordok fought for their life. Ferocity and blood lust gripped this entire battle as both sides knew that only one side was walking away from this alive.
Two mordok came around and started towards their rear flank, where they were already being pressed. Throm rushed forward blindly, knowing that if any more pressure was applied to that side of their warpack, they would fall. As he got close he felt something slam into his left leg. He stumbled and looked down and saw a crude arrow puncturing his tasset and it filled him with burning agony. He stood up and grabbed a dead mordok on the way up. With all his might he held it up and stumbled towards them as he used the body as a shield from their arrows. Several arrows slammed into the corpse. He felt another arrow this time and it hit him hard in the kidney. He roared with agony and hobbled on the best he could. The corpse was hit again and again as he held it there for a moment against his shoulder. Throm was in a bind but he couldn’t give up. If he did, the rear defense would crumble. He couldn’t give in, no matter what…
His mind wandered back to a speech that was given to the Hell-Hound warpack all those years ago in the war against the colonists.
‘Let loose… Give in, and be a fang once more… There is no mercy… only death. Now roar, howl, and maul!’
His eyes narrowed and with his fangs bared, Throm howled to the sky. The mordok only stopped for a single moment in confusion, a moment long enough for Throm to start his onslaught. In that one moment, Throm rushed in with the arrow-riddled body, throwing it at one of the others with a bow. A skirmishing Mordok came from the brush and started at him with two knives. In mere moments, his armor was in tatters and his arm bleeding like a stuck boar. He felt himself going down, down into the void that was death.
Then he felt it; his soul scream in denial. His blood lust boiled over into pure rage. If these beasts would take him down today, they are going to have to earn it and they will have to endure his fury.
In a final effort, Throm stood up and bellowed like never before. His booming voice shook the very woods and warriors from both sides gave pause and looked at him in surprise. Blood poured from multiple wounds. Several arrows protruded from his body. His eyes wide and filled with rage, Throm took up his mace and barreled forward and began to bludgeon one of the Mordok without mercy, without finesse, or form. Blood spattered up as the flanges of the mace tore and crushed more and more flesh. The mordok screamed and crumbled beneath the blows and the two mordok nearest him scurried backwards in panic. Repeatedly the mace pulverized flesh and killed the mordok and ended its screams. With a final roar that sent the panicked mordok near him fleeing away, Throm’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and he pitched backwards, smashing into the ground. A pool of blood began to form around him as his world turned to black.
The veteran Longfangs had been in the thick of the combat and exacted a heavy toll on the mordok. The dead had piled up around them and blood had been washed or pooled everywhere. But this close in and vicious fighting had a cost. As equipment was rent, blood was spilled, and bones were broken, even the veterans of Pack Longfang could not hold out forever.
Gruinar Fellriver, Chieftain of Pack Fellriver of Clan Grimward, took a moment to survey the battlefield when he heard final howl of rage from Throm Nightriver. Everything happened so fast; their warpack was doing well, moving through the Great Forest and skirmishing the mordok. Then they were beset upon by an enormous force of mordok and he was sure to be judged by the Great Wolf that day. He was honored to die in battle on this glorious hunt… but he was sad that he would never see his mate and his two daughters ever again.
However, instead of a swift crush of gnashing teeth and weapons that would fell his smaller warpack, his forces were joined by another group of ulven. They fought with tenacity and skill and took on mordok numbers larger than their own. Gruinar’s warpack was not torn down by the mordok but instead started to hold their own. His warriors fell in choking spasms of blood and final battle cries on their lips, but they fought like hell as they died. Then the battle began to shift and they began to push back against the mordok.
When Gruinar surveyed the battlefield, he saw the terribly wounded warriors with flags on their belts. It was a large curved and angular white fang; the banner of the Pack Longfang.
The Chieftain audibly chuckled in irony. The last time he had seen those flags were on the elite Ulfhednar of Pack Longfang during the civil war. He was not a Chieftain at that time; he was assigned to a Pack that was pressing and pushing to get into and take the final settlement of Clan Stormjarl during the Battle of Blackwolf Creek. One of the warriors had taken off their helmet and Gruinar was shocked to see Bryech Savagefang, one of the few and only survivors of that battle. He recognized him. He was there when Clan Grimward warriors cut him down and left him to die in a pool of his blood. And yet, here he is alongside his Packmates, defending Gruinar’s warpack from being massacred. How times have changed indeed, thought the Chieftain as he slammed his axe to his shield.
“Grimward warriors! Charge! Cut them down and send them to the Great Wolf!” Gruinar roared as he led the final charge into the mordok. His warriors pushed themselves despite wounds, exhaustion, and casualties and battered into the mordok group.
It was over quickly. The damage inflicted by the Longfang warriors and the time they bought by holding out and enduring the mordok assault gave the Chieftain’s warpack a chance to recover and then deal the final blow.
Dead, bloodied, and wounded lay everywhere. This was a vicious and brutal fight. Some of the more able bodied Grimward warriors had assembled the Longfang warriors in a group. Shockingly, none had died in the fight. Judging by their wounds… they should have.
“I am Chieftain Gruinar Fellriver of Clan Grimward.” Said the Chieftain in an authoritative tone.
Some of the Longfang warriors worriedly glanced to each other after they learned the origin of the warpack they rushed to help. A few inched towards their weapons or hands moved towards sheathed knifes and a fierceness began to creep back into the bloodied eyes of a few of those still conscious.
“I am honored to have fought alongside you this day.” Said the chieftain after taking a moment to size them up.
He extended an arm out to them, offering it for a forearm clasp.
– END –