“…and when she saw the beast in all his terrible beauty, she knew he was for her. She took him as her lover and lost herself in his fury, just as he was lost in the depths of her calm; they were one, and the result of their union was the Ulven“
-From the Song of Creation, Lycanthia Moonsinger, Ulven High Priestess
The Ulven People
The Ulven culture is one of duality. They attempt to live in harmony with nature, taking only what they need, while at the same time call for the complete extermination of the Mordok race. This duality can perhaps be explained by the religion of the Ulven; in their central creation myth, Gaia was the first woman, living in harmony with the creatures of the forest, loving and caring for them as they did for her. One day she came upon the bloody remains of a stag, torn limb from limb by a wild beast. The stag was so large she could not imagine the creature capable of killing it. She knew she must see this great beast with her own eyes, so she began tracking it. After many days and nights, and many more carcasses, she saw him. Perched on the edge of a cliff was the largest wolf she had ever seen. His fur was black as the night sky and his eyes were the color of the sun. As she stood there in awe, The Great Wolf did something she did not expect: he threw back his head, opened wide his mouth, and sang to the moon. The song was long and lonely, filled with rage and sorrow, and she was in love. Gaia took the Great Wolf as her mate, and the joining of such rage and sadness with such peace and harmony created the Ulven.
Ulven daily life is mostly centered around the pack – perhaps the single most complicated word in the Ulven language, loaded with meaning and subtle distinctions depending on the context and circumstances of its use. Although the word ‘pack’ is used to describe everything from a close family unit to the entire Ulven race, it is also used to indicate political membership, much like how a human would say they are from Vandregon or a Syndar from Tielorrien, although the nature of packs is such that they are smaller than the various kingdoms of Humans and Syndar. A pack is many things – family, friends, comrades, and lovers – and any Ulven will tell you that their pack is the most important thing to them.
Much as a group of Ulven form a pack, a group of packs form a Clan. Much more political than familial, Clans are a closer analogue to the Human and Syndar nations on Faedrun, with each Clan having distinct customs, modes of dress, social rules, and other cultural mores. It is difficult to rally an entire Clan to do anything – few Ulven see the point, as the point of these Clans are guidance, organization of territory for hunting and farming, and the recognition of a single leader from amongst the packs in an area. The first encounter with the Ulven occurred with members of Clan Nightriver, who graciously ceded some of their territory after long negotiations with the Colonists.
Contrary to what most people believe, the majority of Ulven are not warriors. While all Ulven pride themselves on the ability to fight if need arises, the warrior caste is something else entirely. Most Ulven live what would be considered a normal life: they work trades, raise children, and strive to enjoy all that life has to offer. While deceptively simple – there is no such thing as an Ulven noble – they do possess an appreciation for beauty and aesthetics, with many skilled craftsmen, musicians, and artists. All Ulven strive for greatness in their chosen profession, as this will make it more likely that The Great Wolf will recognize them when he comes across them in the afterlife. One of the greatest compliments an Ulven can give is to say that “His ears will ring with your name” – to an Ulven, this means that the recipient is so good at what they do, The Great Wolf is sure to have heard their name over and over again.
The Ulven afterlife is referred to as The Journey, with a number of rituals associated with this process. It begins with freeing the soul with fire – the Ulven believe that burying a body prevents the soul from passing on, as it would be trapped beneath the world If there is no way to burn the body, an Ulven would rather let it rot in the sun than to bury it in the earth. The first part of The Journey is an area much like the wild, untamed forests of Mardrun. This is where The Great Wolf prowls, feeding on all those unworthy to continue through these forests. The Ulven believe the only way to prevent The Great Wolf from devouring a departed soul is to tell him their name. If he has heard it enough times, he will know them by their deeds and allow them safe passage through the first stage of the Journey.
As part of their beliefs, the Ulven seem entirely certain that the Mordok share the same afterlife – or, at the very least, that they begin their Journey in the same place as the Ulven. If a warrior dies a violent death, The Great Wolf will ask who sent them on the Journey. A soul must answer truthfully, and so the renown of warriors is found in the souls that have passed before them as much as it is found in the stories of their deeds. This may, perhaps, explain some of the Ulven’s tendency towards a war-like culture, despite this warrior culture seeming completely at odds with their philosophy of never making war upon one another.