The setting sun had dropped below the trees on the hill overlooking the Ulven village of Onsallas. It was a warm but tolerable summer evening, but that didn’t help the run up the hill through the Pineed tree field any easier.
Fatigued from their previous bloody fight through the Clan Grimward lines, a group of warriors ran full speed up the hill. A pack of howling Clan Grimward warriors gave chase directly behind them and gave them plenty of motivation to keep running. Two ulven warriors, Harlok Longfang and Rogar Shadowfang, ran beside two humans, Imara and Solus and they rapidly approached the outer wall of the village. Venator had already made it to the village previously and stood with the Longfangs at the gate.
“Quick! Get inside!” shouted Stanrick Longfang from behind the village gate as a Pack Longfang hunter on the wall let loose an arrow, zipping it past Harlok’s shoulder. A painful grunt from behind the group confirmed that the arrow hit its intended target.
The group ran through the opening as Venator and Stanrick heaved the heavy wooden gate shut. They were too late and the two closest Grimward warriors shouldered the gate, threatening to push it back open. If the remaining Grimward caught up and battered the gate, they would not be able to close it in time. In the split second where the gate was being pushed on by both sides, a mumbled incantation of magic escaped the lips of Rill Longfang, who also stood near the gate. Standing to the side of Stanrick, she calmly stepped forward and spread her palms toward the closest Grimward warrior through the opening. A blast of magical energy hammered into the chest of the warrior, sending him flying back from the gate. Now outnumbering their attackers, Venator and Stanrick roared and pushed the gate back into place and closed. A wooden bar slid into place and locked the gate from the bloodthirsty Grimward warriors just outside the wall. The twang of bowstrings rang out as several Longfang hunters loosed arrows into the attackers.
For now, they were safe from the attack outside the village.
Catching their breath from the run, the group continued to move towards the center of the village with a purpose.
“Will someone tell me what is going on?” roared Stanrick as he followed the group. Rill and Venator followed closely behind. Yawn slowed to a walk, having just run to the gate to find out what the commotion was all about. They both looked shocked to see Imara and Solus, two humans, inside the village. They were the first humans to ever step foot inside the gate. Harlok led the way and stormed towards the communal longhouse, a seething mass of angry Ulven in armor and splattered with fresh Ulven blood.
“We were attacked… by Clan Grimward warriors… The outpost is under attack right now… we ran to warn the village.” panted Imara as she hurried to keep up with the group.
“You are a little late, human, we already know Clan Grimward is attacking us. We have barred the gates and our warriors are keeping them outside our walls” said Rill in a tone that betrayed her apprehension of knowing that humans were inside the village uninvited.
“I think Imara means the other threat to the village… the Clan Whiteoak warriors.” said Rogar from behind the group after having caught his breath.
“Clan Whiteoak? They are here as allies! They are no threat to us, they have pledged to aid Clan Nightriver and Pack Longfang against Clan Grimward.” said Rill.
Before Rill, Yawn, or Stanrick could ask further questions, the group walked up to the massive doors of the large Ulven longhouse. With all the confusion of the Grimward attack, Harlok knew that the warriors would be there figuring out what to do next. Without breaking stride, Harlok reared back and kicked the large wooden door hard enough to send it flying open and stepped into the entryway to the longhouse.
“… and that is why our warriors will help at the gates and protect the Runeseer…” finished an unknown Ulven in Whiteoak markings at the end of the table. He stopped at the thundering sound of the door being opened.
Rogar and Venator flanked Harlok and all three stood in the door with weapons drawn and at the ready. Imara, Solus, and the others were gathered around them as well.
“Harlok? What is going on?” said Azra Steelfang as she rose from the table. It looked as if she were discussing some battle plans with a Clan Whiteoak warrior. She seemed surprised to see two humans in the village and her body language betrayed a bit of cautious hesitation and confusion. She knew there was an immediate threat but didn’t know from where.
Solus, the human cleric that joined Imara in helping the Ulven protect their village, stood next to Harlok and Rogar and held up a piece of parchment.
“Proud Pack Longfang, my name is Solus and I am a cleric of the divine. I am human, I am not one of your kind, but I have joined sides with Pack Longfang to help them and Clan Nightriver against Clan Grimward. I hold in my hands a letter, proof that Chieftan Khulgar orchestrated an attack on the outpost and the village. It was written by the hand of Torlin Whiteoak. Clan Whiteoak intends to betray you and raze your village to the ground. Even now, Grimward warriors are attacking the outpost. Magrat, the green skinned Syndar that wears your markings, coordinates its defense against attack even as we speak.” said Solus as he held out the letter to the group.
“Watch your tongue, outsider! What you claim is insane! We have pledged our warriors to defend this village and to ally with Clan Nightriver!” roared a large and burly ulven warrior with the markings of Clan Whiteoak. A dozen other armored Whiteoak warriors instinctively shifted into better fighting positions in the room or discreetly moved sword hands closer to the grips of their sheathed weapons.
A dreadful realization of what was unfolding came across Stanrick, Yawn, and Rill. Imara and Solus stood next to Rogar and Venator, ready to help if needed. Harlok stood at the tip of the group, snarling with anger and staring with a feral gaze into the eyes of the Whiteoak Ulven that had just spoken.
The tension in the room was thick enough to cut with a knife as warriors from both sides waited. The Longfangs knew the claims were outrageous and hard to believe. No Clan in Ulven history had ever committed such a betrayal.
But these were not normal times for the Ulven.
It wasn’t the letter that told the truth to Azra. It wasn’t Harlok’s reaction to the Whiteoaks, knowing he would never jest about such grievous matters. It wasn’t the words spoken by Solus. It was the whiteoaks themselves. They stole glances at one another, as if trying to wait for some kind of signal. It was the eyes of the Whiteoak leader, how he tried to defend himself of such accusations with his words yet shifted his eyes counting the number of warriors in the room and who to attack first. It was how he shifted his body away from the table so his sword would draw clear. It was the look of someone caught in a dangerous lie and calculating how to come out of it alive.
Suddenly, the room burst into chaos. Swords cleared sheaths and were swung with deadly force. The Longfangs were prepared for this kind of tension, their years of training and bodyguard work made them expect situations to escalate into violence. But this was different, these were allies inside the homes of the Longfang village. A few Longfangs in the room were struck mortally during the initial seconds and the fight was on. Stanrick and Harlok roared a battle cry and charged shoulder to shoulder into the room. Azra’s blade cleared a fraction of a second after the Whiteoak’s but her blade landed first, gashing open a deep wound and clanging against his armor. Rogar and Venator ran in to support the other Longfangs in the room and cries of pain, fury, and oaths of vengeance rang out in the longhouse.
Solus and Imara stood in the doorway, not sure how to get involved or to help, when a Whiteoak warrior charged out of the battle and straight into Solus. It caught him off guard and knocked him aside, but not before his mace thudded hard against the warriors side with a crack. Imara stood her ground and took the abuse of his attacks on her shield, the recent months of training paying off. She landed a series of blows on her assailant with skill until he collapsed in the dirt outside of the Longhouse.
“Clan Whiteoak is attacking the village!” shouted Imara, trying to warn the other Longfangs at the gate and throughout the village. Usually quiet and reserved, Imara even surprised herself with her call to action. Suddenly, pockets of fighting broke out throughout the village as the Whiteoak warriors finally attacked.
The next few minutes were filled with brutal and bloody battles. Clan Whiteoak, knowing their treachery was discovered, had nowhere to run with the gates being barred. They fought like savages inside the walls of the village. A majority of the Whiteoak warriors lay dead or bleeding in the longhouse and in the village. Joining them were a number of Longfang warriors. When the gates did not open, the Clan Grimward warriors outside the wall broke off their attack. The village had been saved but it had come at a terrible price.
“You will all wait at the outpost and speak with the Runeseer. You are the first outsiders to walk inside these gates. A lot has happened tonight and I am sure she will have plenty of questions… and do not lie to her, she will know. ” said Rill quietly to Imara, Solus, Rogar, and Venator. She was trying to wash the blood off of her hands and her tunic. Rill knew that the next couple days would be busy and escorting the humans inside of the village and to meet with the Runeseer, one by one, will take time.
Bruised, bloodied and exhausted, the group began the somber task of assembling the dead. Although the selfless act of a handful of people trying to warn the village helped save many lives, there would be a number of funeral pyres tonight for the fallen Longfang.