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Watchwolf Culture and Folklore

Clan Watchwolf

Clanleader: Sigrurd Watchwolf
High Priestess: Anjan Ravensmark
Warleader: Rolf Aeisborn

Watchwolves and the Colonists

The Watchwolves were one of the last clans to have contact with the colonists, having only encountered them after the Nightriver treaty had already been signed, and having infrequent contact with them since their initial meetings eight years ago. Following portents on the wind, and the concerns of their Priestesses, however, the Watchwolves and allied packs drafted the Watchwolf Resolution in order to head off a terrible apocalyptic premonition. The Priestesses believed that if the Humans could not be convinced to change their burial practices and pay their respects to the land of Gaia, that their doom would arise in this land as it did in their native land, and that the Ulven would be destroyed along with them. Though received with much resistance, the colonists did, for the most part, comply. Perhaps it was too little, too late, or perhaps the wheel of fate cannot so simply be stopped turning, because despite their efforts, the Undead have arisen on Mardrun. As blame for the undead presence was tossed back and forth, the political climate between not only the races of Mardrun, but between the different Ulven clans became more and more hostile. The Watchwolves and Nightrivers tried desperately to resolve the situation peacefully, and forge an alliance of all three races against the Undead threat. Sadly, however, their efforts failed, and the peace summit ended in violence that sparked the first large scale Ulven civil war in history. The Watchwolf Clan now finds itself allied with the Humans and Syndar of the colonies in a two front war against not only the Undead, but the Ulven of Clan Grimward.

Watchwolf Spirituality and Mythology

Ulven spirituality centers on both the harmony of living with nature, and the conflict of the age-old Mordok wars. The Ulven see themselves as the stewards of the land, and consider protecting it to be their greatest charge. They view the Mordok as an unnatural race, or even an invasive species. The two races have been at war ever since they first encountered each other.

Ulven mythology centers on the belief that the Ulven people are descended from the union of a humanoid nature spirit and a primordial dire-wolf. Their mythology consists of long heroic sagas and heroic poetry. Surprisingly, these seemingly feral and barbaric people have a very eloquent written language, though few Ulven can actually read or write. Whereas many other cultures rely strictly on the oral tradition, the Ulven maintain detailed written records of their history and culture. The Watchwolves have a unique connection to the Sun and the Moon, dating back to ancient times, and the first written records. The oldest Ulven writing, in fact, is the story of how the Watchwolves gained the favor of the Sun and the Moon. The story tells of how Watchwolf ancestors Skol and Hati, the first sons of Gaia sired by the Great Wolf, were given the gifts of reading and writing in exchange for oaths of dedication to perform sacred duties which assist in the rising and setting of the sun and moon every day by chasing the Sun Horse and Moon Horse across the sky.

Totem animals which are important to the Watchwolves include the Wolf, the Raven, and, because of their connection to the Sun and Moon, the horse. Proper horses, however, are not believed to be native to Mardrun, or if they ever were, they are no longer kept by the Ulven, and have not been for many generations. There are instances in the sagas of Ulven heroes riding horses, but no other records exist. The only equines that appear to be native to Mardrun are elusive, shaggy, foul tempered wild ponies, which are far too small to carry even a small adult, let alone a heroic figure such as Agnon, who was reportedly so big that he once ripped a door from its hinges to use as a shield, and uprooted a tree for a club. There is not an elder alive today who remembers how to ride a horse, nor a blacksmith who knows the first thing about shoeing one. According to Ulven lore, the horse is a sacred creature associated with the Sun and Moon. It is speculated by some Ulven lorekeepers, that in addition to the gift of reading and writing, the Ulven were also given horses by the Sun and Moon, but that all of those horses, as well as their lineage, are gone and long forgotten. Horses, therefore, seem to be something more akin to a mythological creature than a natural one. Ulven artwork would seem to support this theory, as horses are often depicted as having wings, or sometimes a horn upon their heads.

The spiritual leaders of the Watchwolves are almost always female. Every village has a Priestess. In the case where multiple packs are living in the same village, it is not uncommon for each pack to have their own Priestess. These Ulven holy-women fulfill the roles of village healer, spiritual advisor, historian, and all around wise-woman. Some Priestesses are also military advisors or even officers. Every Watchwolf Priestess has a Warder. Warders can be either male or female. The Warder is a warrior who has pledged a life oath to the protection of the Priestess. The Warder follows the Priestess by day, and sleeps with her at night. It is a 24 hour job. The intimate relationship between Priestess and Warder makes them soul-mates in the eyes of the Watchwolves. It is not uncommon for a Priestess to have children by her male Warder.

Watchwolf High Priestess Anjan Vakr-Ravensmark. Though blind, she is one of the most powerful spell-casters in the Ulven Nation

Watchwolf Family Life

Marital Fidelity is very important to the Ulven. The Ulven respect and admire the wolf above all other totem animals and try to emulate its nature with many of their cultural practices. For this reason, the Watchwolves believe in mating for life. Compared to other warlike cultures with short individual life-expectancies, including other Ulven, the Watchwolf courtship process is very long. Typically, proposals are made by the female. The male will do everything he can to get her attention in hopes that she will select him over any other suitors. Once the female has made her selection, and a pairing has received the blessings of both of the families, the pair must also receive the blessing of the Priestess. The pair will move in with the Priestess and her Warder for at least a month. The Priestess will observe the pair during this time, and the Warder will often challenge them with tasks requiring teamwork and cooperation. The Priestess will ultimately determine whether the couple will be sent home to their families, or allowed to build a home of their own. Once a union has received the blessing of the Priestess, the two are mates for life. These Ulven do not have anything resembling divorce. Only death can separate soul-mates.

Children take the last name of whichever parent is of higher social standing or rank, which could be the mother just as easily as the father, especially if the mother is a Priestess or professional Soldier. Some children choose to use both names, a practice which is frowned upon by many elders.

Watchwolf children have to grow up fast. Because both parents are often either career soldiers, or at the very least, members of a militia, the children of these warlike people learn to fight at an early age. The children also are expected to learn trades. These Ulven rely heavily on their extended family and packmates to raise their children, especially in cases where both parents may have to leave on a campaign. It is not unusual, therefore, for an Ulven child to be entrusted to the care of a non-warrior family member or friend for extended periods of time. In many cases, this is where the Watchwolf child will learn a trade. A child left in the care of a blacksmith, for example, will likely learn something of metalwork while their parents are away. The care and rearing of that child, however, would not likely be limited to one family member or friend so much as the entire pack. Like the Wolf totem that they so highly revere, every member of the pack is likely to play a role in the upbringing of the child. Interestingly enough, Female Ulven even seem to share a unique physical biological trait with wolves. Whenever a new baby is born to the pack, all of the female pack members will begin to lactate, so potentially anyone of them can serve as wet-nurse should the need arise.

Watchwolf Society

Every Watchwolf belongs to one of two camps, which are located on the Northeastern and Northwestern shores of Mardrun. The first of the camps is the Eastern camp of Sol, and the other is the Western camp of Luna. Watchwolves maintain the identity of the camp they were born to, regardless of whether they intermarry or move between the camps. Watchwolves of either camp refer to a member of another camp as “cousin”, regardless of any actual family relation.

The Watchwolves mercilessly hunt and destroy the Mordok, but never take anything from these encounters. To do so is believed to bring misfortune. Mordok property is considered taboo and is destroyed by fire. Ulven property found in the possession of the Mordok can be recovered but must undergo rites of purification at the hands of the Ulven Priestesses. Prisoners recovered from the custody of the Mordok must also undergo rites of purification with the Ulven Priestesses before they can return to society.

The warrior caste is highly revered in Watchwolf society, but contrary to popular belief, not all Watchwolves are professional Soldiers. Because these Ulven do not rely on raids like other barbaric cultures, the society requires that much of their population work in agriculture, or as artisans and craftsmen. Ulven people as a whole, however, do pride themselves on their ability to fight when the need arises. Even a humble Turnip farmer can pick up a sword, having been trained how to fight from a young age. Throughout history, the Watchwolves have developed a reputation as wise and cunning military leaders, and many inter-clan alliances have elected Watchwolf heroes as their Warpack Leaders or military advisers in times of war.

Honor is very important to the Ulven. The only thing that is valued more highly than personal honor is the honor of one’s family and Pack. Whilst prowess in combat is important to the Ulven, it is not necessarily the basis of their honor system. Honesty, wisdom, cunning, competency, loyalty, and generosity can all affect reputation. This is especially true of Ulven who are not of the warrior caste. A Blacksmith, for example, might be highly revered and honored due to the quality of his armor. Likewise, that same Blacksmith might be ostracized if he made swords and tools of inferior quality. Honor can also be gained by association, as in the case of a warrior who is accepted into an elite and prestigious military unit, or a poet who immortalizes the exploits of a fallen hero into verse.

Though the Watchwolves are a warlike people, they are not Raiders like other similarly developed barbarians. Until the recent bloodshed at the Greytide peace summit, there was very little infighting among the Ulven Clans. For the most part, they seemed to respect each other’s territory, and it had been many decades since the last clan skirmishes.

Watchwolf Folklore

Like other primitive cultures, the Ulven Mythology features heroic individuals performing unbelievable acts of strength and martial prowess. Ulven heroes will also use cunning and trickery to accomplish their tasks, especially if the story features the appropriate totem spirits. Unlike the ubermensch barbarian folklore of similar cultures, however, the Ulven hero is undeniably mortal, and seems to rely heavily on their friends and elders in order to accomplish their tasks. A perfect example of this is the following excerpt from Howl’s Homecoming. The characters are trying to return home after a campaign against a barbarian tribe of giants (which was presumably eradicated by the Ulven and exists in no other records). All of the party members are wounded or sick. The significance of this verse is that these are all named and mighty heroes from other tales, but here we see them at their most vulnerable.

Howl’s Homecoming:

The sun burnt hot on the heroes five
From a faraway war, in a faraway land, the last of the pack alive

Freya, Grin, Agnon, Jenesis, and Howl

Held together by stitches and linen strip
The heroes trudge on, the bandages drip

Freya, Grin, Agnon, Jenesis, and Howl

Howl is the worst of them, wounds so deep
He sees the Great Wolf on the road in his sleep

Freya, Grin, Agnon, Jenesis, and Howl

The biggest and strongest of the five brave fighters
His friends all now wish he were a little bit lighter

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

For many a mile they carry him, until they can no more
Their strength is failing fast, these remaining four

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

On unsacred ground, the burial rites must Jenesis have Spake
For nowhere near, was stream or lake

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

Here is placed the stone
Of Howl, buried alone

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

He deserved a funeral barge, engulfed by holy fire,
But settled for less, than even a funeral pyre

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

The bite of the iron is sharp, as vigil they cannot stand
Runes of shame are self inflicted, with a red hot brand

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

They gnash their teeth and stumble ahead
Their duty failed, their friend is dead

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

To die on the field is much preferred
Than to die on the road where no one heard

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

Now out of water, they struggle on,
The next thing they know, Jenesis is almost gone.

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

The three take turns, dragging her
On a litter made, from staves and fur

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

The dust, it blew
The Carrion bird flew,

over

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

And Jenesis, in fever spake,

“None should lie alone,
upon that plain of bone.”

“Please leave me here or take me back,
to Howl, a brother of my pack.”

“But never homeward bound.
The Wolf our friend did meet, is surely still around.”

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

Agnon, her Warder, turned around,
And dragged her back towards burial ground

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

All four they turned around, to face their fate as five,
Rather than return, with runes of shame alive

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

Upon return to barrow mound,
The four in shock, without a sound

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

Rocks were scattered all about
And a body, was that grave without!

Freya, Grin, Agnon, and Jenesis

When suddenly, across the plain, there came a fearsome Growl,
Standing there as plain as day, the heroic figure of Howl!

Spake He:

“Those runes of shame befit thee, you stupid pieces of shit.
After all our years together, you forgot I have True Grit!”

Freya, Grin, Agnon, Jenesis, and Howl

Further examples of mortal heroes in Watchwolf folklore can be found in the following tale. The story carries an interesting message because it seems to glorify the cunning of a very vulnerable hero at first, but then shifts gears and becomes a lesson about honesty and self-acceptance. Such complex themes are not found in other similarly developed barbaric cultures, especially ones that place such high value upon animalistic aspects.

The Courting of Greta Kitakitzyadigzvadig

Long had her people wondered when Greta would settle down and take a Husband. Her adventures had earned much fortune and renown. But such a fearsome warrior was she, that none of the menfolk dared approach her for courting. Who could be man enough to satisfy the strongest, fastest, and toughest woman in the world? Everyone remembered the tale of how she arm-wrestled the Hill Giant and broke his arm, and they also remembered how she broke the white dragon’s neck with her thighs. It was rumored that she was the daughter of a nature spirit. Therein was the problem. Greta was beautiful, and she was a War Pack Leader, but who could survive the wedding night without being crippled or killed? This was a woman who once accidentally killed an ox by swatting a fly that had landed on his back, and she had a fearsome temper to boot. Clearly, she would be more than a handful for any man who dared to court her. The men were shamed, because none of them would try.

One day, three strangers traveled into the land. They were brothers, and all looked alike. The brothers were short, pudgy, and freckled. The first brother had a magic belt that made him as strong as the King of all Polar Bears. The second brother had a magic ring that made him as fast as the Lord of all Horses. The third brother had a magic necklace which gave him the constitution of the Chieftain of all the Wild Boars. One Thursday morning, while the three brothers were traveling towards the capitol, they were passed on the road by a skinny girl in ill-fitting clothes. It was very cold, and the third brother offered her his cloak. She kissed his cheek, and promised to leave the cloak at the next Inn, hanging on a hook near the fire.

The three brothers arrived in town very late that night, and the first brother went into the Inn to pay for a room. He did not have any money, so he asked the Inn keeper if there was anything he could do to earn his keep. The Inn keeper told him that he could earn his keep by rebuilding the stone chimney. The Inn keeper expected that this would take the stranger several days work, but the first brother was so strong that he rebuilt it, better than new, in a matter of minutes. The Innkeeper was amazed, and gave the brother a room for the week. He couldn’t wait to tell the townspeople what he had seen. The first brother’s deal had only paid for one person, so the second and third brothers had to sneak in through the back, and they all shared the room.

The next morning, the second brother went out to catch some game for their breakfast, while the first and third brothers remained hidden in their room at the Inn. Because the brothers all looked alike, the Inn keep did not know that this was a different person. While he was out, the second brother was spied by an old trapper, who recognized that the second brother was a stranger in these lands. The second brother chased down a swift and mighty stag, caught it by the antlers, cut its throat, and wrestled it to the ground. The old trapper was amazed, and he headed back to town to tell the people what he had seen.

The next day, the third brother went downstairs with his harp, to earn some money performing. Many townspeople were there, telling and retelling the rumors of this amazing stranger who was stronger than a giant, and swifter than a stag. When they saw the third brother, they cheered him. Everyone wanted to buy him a drink. Surely, they thought that he was a hero straight out of the Sagas. The third brother sang songs and played his harp, and the people were moved to tears. Soon, the people at the Inn were all very drunk, and they had given the third brother all of their money, so he took his harp, fetched his cloak from the fireplace, and left to go to the next Inn. He was not drunk at all due to his amazing constitution.

On his way to the next Inn, he spied a beautiful woman riding out with an entourage of footmen. She was obviously someone of great wealth and importance, as she was the only person he had ever seen to ride a horse. Not drunk, yet emboldened by the drink, he asked a turnip farmer who she was. The turnip farmer told the third brother that the woman was none other than the mighty Greta herself. The impetuous brother ran out after her and stopped her party on the road. He introduced himself, and announced that he wished to court Greta. The rest of the party laughed at him, for he was short and fat, but the War Pack Leader seemed impressed by his courage. The third brother played a beautiful song on his harp, and she accepted his invitation. The two rode off to see the Priestess. The Priestess decided that the couple would have to face three challenges together in order to earn her blessing, and she conferred with her Warder on this.

First, she challenged them to build a new stone bridge at the South fork of Two-Rivers. They were to start at first light the next morning. The Third brother ran back to the Inn. In the morning, the First brother went in his place. The Priestess and her Warder were amazed when the couple returned the same day. They had expected the construction of the bridge to take at least a week, but the job was done. That bridge still stands today.

The Priestess and her Warder decided that the next challenge would be to send the couple on a quest to the top of the tallest mountain to fetch the rarest of moss, which only grows on snow-covered peaks. The couple was to leave at first light. The first brother ran back to the Inn. In the morning, the second brother went in his place. The Priestess and her Warder were amazed when the couple returned the same day. They had expected the journey to take at least a week, but the moss was delivered the same day. The Priestess and her Warder were frustrated. Usually the courting process takes at least a month, but at this rate the pair would run out of challenges in the first few days.

The Warder was so frustrated that he said,

“Fine, if you can do two weeks work in two days, then let’s see you drink a weeks worth of mead in one day.”

The challenge was to start at first light. The second brother ran back to the Inn. In the morning, the third brother returned to Greta. The two started drinking at first light, and not only were they still standing, but they were still drinking at sundown. The third brother held his drink well, but the Pack Leader was beginning to get very rowdy. Suddenly, Greta fell off of her chair and began rolling on the ground, laughing heartily and clutching her sides. The Priestess and her Warder were amazed. The townspeople cheered.

“Finally,” they said, “someone has tamed Greta!”

Upon hearing these words, Greta became enraged.

“No one bests me!” she said, climbing back up to the bar.

She challenged the third brother to an arm wrestle on the spot. The third brother was trapped. There was no way for his brothers to help him now, and he was easily defeated. The third brother was shamed. He admitted to his deceit of the Pack Leader and told her the truth about his brothers and their magic. Greta was shocked. As the third brother turned to leave, she stopped him.

“Behold,” said she, “a leader who has been deceitful not thrice, but always and ever since I came to this place!”

With these words, Greta removed her girdle. Her hips shrank, her chest deflated, and her thick braided hair became dull and stringy. Before the townspeople’s very eyes, their mighty warrior transformed into a scrawny little scarecrow of a girl, covered in pimples.

“I am not the daughter of a nature spirit! Before I put on this girdle, I was no warrior, but a humble thief! Look on me now, and tell me if you still love me!”

The third brother replied,

“Of course I love you. That was why I gave you my cloak when first we met!”

And so the couple continued their courtship trials without the aid of any magic, and earned the blessing of the Priestess. They were married, and their offspring were numerous. They were true to each other as long as they both lived.

The following story explains the origins of the Watchwolf Clan, the significance of the position of Lorespeakers to the Ulven in general, and supposedly how their written language came to be. It is the oldest known written record in the Ulven nation.

This story takes place long ago, back when the eldest children of the gods still walked the earth.

The first sons sired by the Great Wolf, born of Gaia, were Skoll and Hati. These two brothers, along with their many younger siblings, were the first Ulven. Back in those times, our people were much closer by blood to the Great Wolf, and could walk in his likeness when they so wished. This was good, because the world was much more dangerous back then. Everything was larger, from the trees that nearly reached the heavens, to the beasts of the earth, which would swallow the likes of you or I whole. The children of Wolf were not the only ones closer by blood to their gods. It was a time of legends, and giants.

Skoll and Hati both had large families, with many children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, for the direct descendants of the gods do not age, though their children do. It is one of the tragedies of their immortality, that they do not pass it along, and so must bear witness to the passing of all that they create. Half-gods cannot create anything eternal. Only true gods can do that.

Long before even the mating of the Great Wolf and Mother Gaia, there was night and day, caused by the passing of the Sun Horse of Sol and the Night Horse of Luna crossing the sky. The two horses did this every night and day without fail, from the very beginning to the time of legends. One morning, however, the Night Horse turned around and ran the wrong way. No one knows why for sure. Some say that the Great Devourer tricked the Night Horse. Some say that the Night Horse just wanted to see what went on during the day. Regardless of the reason, the two horses collided at noon, and fell to earth, leaving the moon and sun hanging motionless in the sky together in an unnatural dusk, as the moon was between the sun and the earth.

The two horses crashed into the mountains called Wolf’s Hackles. They were very angry at each other, and began to fight. Their magic caused the plants to die, and the rivers to run backwards. Without the passing of nights and days, the seasons became confused, and the different types of weather all tried to happen at once. Skoll and Hati saw the withering of Gaia all around them, and knew that they had to do something to save their mother. They did not know that the two horses had fallen, but they could see both the sun and the moon just sitting in the sky.

They asked the river spirit who was Lord of all Catfish what had happened, but they could not understand him, for he was talking backwards.
They asked the Grandmother Birch Tree what had happened, but before she could answer, she withered, lost all her leaves, and went into her winter trance. Trees speak so slowly in the winter that they are not worth talking to.

They asked the little Grey Mare of Misfortune, who makes the storm clouds go across the horizon, and who is a younger sister to the Sun and Moon horses, what had happened. The little gray mare of misfortune was confused, however, by the crazy weather and her out of control clouds, and she just didn’t know what went wrong.
Finally, the two brothers asked the Raven what had happened. Raven flew up through the stormy skies, and returned with the Sun and Moon, one in each claw. The Sun and Moon were beautiful. They had skin of gold and silver, and wore robes made of dawn and starlight. The Sun and Moon told Skoll and Hati that their horses had fallen from the sky and were fighting in the mountains. The Sun and Moon said that it was possible to set things right, but that to do so would require great self-sacrifice. The Sun and Moon promised that if the brothers helped them they would pass on the secret of immortality to the descendants of Skoll and Hati, that though the bodies of their children may die, their memory and deeds would never be forgotten. This was important, because the half-gods were the only ones who could remember everything that ever happened, and they feared their culture would be lost without them. In the end, the two brothers swore to return the horses to the sky, no matter the cost, for without the movement of sun and moon, their people were doomed, and there would be no one to pass the stories on to, anyway.

Raven gave each of the brothers a feather, and told them to wear it behind their ear so that they could fly. Taking the form of their father, the two brothers ran to the Wolf’s Hackles. The horses were gone, though, as they had decided to race each other across the world to settle their dispute. Skoll and Hati sniffed the air, found their tracks, and ran off in pursuit. Finally catching up to the stray horses, the brothers each broke off and chased one horse, separating the two. Skoll chased the Sun Horse to the Eastern end of the Earth, and Hati chased the Moon Horse to the West. Leaping from the ends of the Earth, the wolves chased and herded the horses back into the sky and returned them to their rightful patterns. The rivers returned to normal. The weather and seasons returned to normal. The plants recovered, and Gaia was saved. To assure that such a catastrophe never happens again, Skoll and Hati must chase the horses tirelessly, and shall for all of time.

The children of Skoll and Hati were given the gift of reading and writing by the Sun and Moon, lest they forget anything important in their short lives. They were told to spread the new language to their cousins in other clans, and charged to watch the Eastern and Western horizons. That is how the Ulven came to have reading and writing, and how the Watchwolf clan came to be.

Recent/Current Events
264:
To the West, the new year brought with it preparations for a battle the Watchwolves feared they could not win. Meager aid from their allies and the Grimward army on their doorstep led to abysmal morale around the settlement, with many preparing to either abandon their homes and their sacred charges or to die defending them. Though the Coalition did eventually send reinforcements and supplies to the western settlement, it was too little, too late. Grimward overran the western territory of the clan, claiming it for their own. Many of the Watchwolves who stayed behind were amazed by the dignity with which they were treated by their conquerors. They were fed and protected better under Grimward rule than in the Coalition, and many even retained their home, allowing them to continue to watch the horizons as they have for generations. With the proposed treaty to be signed by Clans Grimward and Nightriver, the western settlement would remain under Grimward control, a point which has a number of proud Watchwolf warriors concerned and angered.

To the East, supplies were in high demand as they were sent to the west to reinforce their clan mates, though the smaller clan was unable to stand against the might of Grimward. Many smaller villages have been struggling to accommodate the large number of refugees who made the journey from the western settlement. Working to provide food and supplies for their brothers and sisters to the west, those in the east know that they lack the numbers to return their ancestral home to its rightful owners, though tales of the generosity shown by Clan Grimward has reassured them.

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