Harlok stood on the edge of the path and stared out across the field in front of him. The Longfang warriors had regrouped after the Grimward summit incident and had linked up with a number of travelers heading to the Onsallas Outpost. They had been traveling a lot lately. The Runeseer would want to know about what is going on.
Word had reached them that directly after the Longfangs left the Wayward Inn that a hunting party of Pack Graytide warriors attacked it. They burned it to the ground and killed a number of people. Harlok unconsciously growled under his breath, remembering the two Pack Goldmane females. They were both part of Clan Grimward and were probably behind the attack, scouting it out and waiting to send word as soon as the Longfangs left. A snarl curled Harlok’s lip a bit as he remembered his duel with the taller female. She had a fire in her and some skill with a blade and shield, but he hoped some of the cuts he gave her scarred over and reminded her of her place. He should have killed her and her mate then and been done with them. If he ever met them again, he may just have to finish what he started during the duel. Dria had glowered at him after the honor duel for attempting to finish the Goldmane right then and there, to turn the duel lethal. Harlok remembered it well but knew he did not need to explain himself to Dria. She was but a pup yet and he found her reaction quite cute. This wasn’t a duel over a mate or some farm land or even a bad insult. This was a duel between warriors on two different sides of a war; the first civil war in Ulven history. There is no quarter for Clan Grimward and their allies after they did such horrible things at the summit. He still wasn’t sure what Azra saw in her or why she tolerated Dria, but it was not his business to question her. As long as she didn’t get in his way and fixed their armor, he didn’t care.
Harlok turned and watched the small group of travelers passing by him. They weren’t ordered to do so, but the Longfangs had taken up the role of caravan guard and escort for this group of people. A mix of humans, Syndar, and Ulven walked with their belongings and carts along the path. It is a dangerous time, the Mordok are just as vicious as ever and now Grimward warriors prowl the roads and attack the settlers and Ulven that have not pledged allegiance to them. The world has been turned upside down and it will only get bloodier. One of the travelers stumbled and fell, dropping some personal belongings and getting dirt on their clean clothing. Harlok grunted in mock amusement as he pondered how weak and pathetic most of the colonists were. Half of them are barely worth a damn in a fight and the other half are just useless. The culture of the humans and Syndar was amusing to Harlok. How such “great” civilizations could spring up from such a frail stock of people was beyond his comprehension. It amused Harlok that half of them had no idea how to fight the Mordok. Some of them just clambered around in their heavy metal armor and expected the Mordok to fight them. Some others expected the Mordok to line up on some pretty grass field and fight on equal terms. The Mordok do not fight such a way, they run away from you if you are too strong, attack you if you are weak, and every fight is bloody and lethal. The Ulven know, especially Pack Longfang… the very armor that protects you from their wicked blades could be the reason why you can’t catch them. Harlok growled in frustration at this train of thought and decided to abandon it; some of them will never learn.
He hoped that Raskolf of the Watchwolves was right, that aiding the colonists was the right answer. Branthur and Kragen from Clan Nightriver are fully committed to this cause even if it means violence against other clans. It didn’t matter to Harlok; he simply followed the orders of his Runeseer and she had decreed that the Longfangs support the Watchwolves. Until she deems it otherwise, he would fulfill his duty to her and his pack. If she changed her mind… well then he may be on the other side of this war. Only time will tell.
Harlok reached up to stare at his bandaged left hand. He flexed his hand back and forth, feeling the new tissue strain against the scabs and the pain that came with it. His bandage was still bloody, the result of continuing to fight and hold weapons. It was not given the proper time to heal and was taking much longer than expected, but he would live with it. Anger flashed behind Harlok’s eyes as he remembered the Graytide summit. The escalation and the bloody fight that broke out boiled his rage. Khulgar… he was so close to smashing his head into a pulp on the great hall floor. Wigwald stood up to Khulgar to save Magrat and Yawn and he paid for it with his life. Harlok knew that Khulgar would recover from the wounds and the beating that Harlok gave him. Maybe they would all get lucky and he will catch an infection and die a straw death in his sleep. Graytides and Longfangs have crossed paths in the past and he knew there would be very bad blood between the packs before this war was through. The Graytides claim to be strong warriors but Harlok relishes in the thought of crossing blades with them again.
Harlok’s thoughts changed to that of bigger and darker things. Mardrun is engulfed in civil war. The dead now walk the sacred lands of Gaia. He still could not wrap his head around it. Maybe Clan Grimward was right… maybe things are the way they are because of the colonists. In only 10 short years after the colonists arrived, the Ulven are at war with each other and the dead roam the land. It is hard to denounce the coincidence.
The walking corpses terrified Harlok. Harlok Longfang… proud son of the heroic Hanseth Longfang, candidate for the legendary Tundra Wolves, slayer of hundreds of Mordok, Ulven vanguard and veteran of the first conflict with the colonists, experienced warrior of the strong and elite Pack Longfang and survivor of the grueling Fang Trials… was scared. The stories that the colonists spun had always been alien to him, like exaggerated tales of monsters. But facing them first hand… Harlok was ashamed of himself and his reaction to them. Luckily, it was dark so that the others could not see his terrified face. Luckily, Raskolf had been there behind him, so that when his faltering legs wanted to take steps backwards and away from the Lich, he was instead forced to press onward. He could not understand how the others were so casual about this. Were these not the monsters that destroyed the entire continent of Faedrun? The humans… they carried on about finding fungus and rocks and earning a couple stupid coins. How are they not terrified? Magrat seemed to know, she was the one who knew how to prepare for the fight with the Lich. Harlok was not ashamed to say that he needed her knowledge and resolve that evening. She is one of them now, a Longfang, and his fellow warriors would need to rely on her to combat this new enemy. Even if we are scared, Pack Longfang will not shy away from this or any other fight.
Harlok’s mind pondered about the new addition to his pack. Some of her customs, and her actions, concerned or confused him a bit but this was a very different world now. At first, he thought she was weak, until she accompanied him on a patrol deep into the swamp at the outpost months back and she impressed him. She was the first outsider to be accepted into the village. He couldn’t imagine some of the others, like the timid green shirted female or the loud human male in metal armor, ever earning a place inside the elite Pack Longfang. The green Syndar still had a lot to learn. She could fight but was still no match for most of the warriors. Harlok didn’t blame her; he knew her people raised her with different skills and beliefs the same way that other packs and clans of Ulven will have different backgrounds. She may not be prepared for stand-up heavy skirmish fighting, but she was a hunter and a shaman. She brought new skills to the Longfangs that could support them. But she took to the Longfangs quickly, and respected them, and became one of them. Harlok remembered her strike that left a ragged scar on his neck during her induction trial and he grinned a feral grin. She fought like a cornered animal and it pleased him that she could tap into that. She earned her place and he would break the jaw of any Ulven that didn’t respect that. He promised that he would step on the shores of Faedrun to return her home to her people and he relished the thought of it.
Harlok hefted his spear onto his shoulder and regarded the traveler’s like he would a convoy of bugs. Sometimes he couldn’t even stomach the weaker packs of his own kind, watching the rabble of outsiders was both cynically amusing and painfully irritating. If only he could talk, he would tell them exactly what he thought of most of them. He also decided that the next time someone laughed at him when he tried to gesture, he was going to break their jaw.
It was a different world indeed, thought Harlok as he stepped back onto the path and in line with the caravan of travelers.