Bryech made his way into a larger mining village near the base of the Great Wolf’s Hackles. It was a rather crowded community with people and miners moving in and out of homes and small shelters. The main road was filled with small shops selling a wide assortment of goods; from tools to trinkets. Bryech slowly waded through the crowds towards a smith of some renown who was said to live down in the smithy at the end of the main road next to the hall. Bryech finally made it to the home after several attempts at breaking through the crowd. Even though he was in full armor and armed to the teeth, the villagers had seemingly no problem shoving him in their attempts to make it to their destination. Bryech had gone from a calm and aloof demeanor to his infamous scowl which finally seemed to grant him a second glance and a little more space. As Bryech ran through the materials he needed to request of the smith, he was surprised by a man whom he hadn’t seen in years appear from underneath the open walled pavilion. The man gasped as he looked at the young Ulven; they both stood taken off guard. For a long time neither of them said anything, just stood there in the cacophony of moving people until the man broke the silence.
“You’ve grown my boy.” His voice was a strange mix of caution and pride. Bryech snarled and with only that as his only warning, punched his father in the face sending him backwards into the crowd of people who quickly moved away as Bryech moved in to continue his assault. Before Davrik could fully recover, Bryech pulled him up and began raining blows on him with his right hand and holding him by his tunic with his left.
“You coward! You abandoned us! You abandoned your own son!” Bryech roared as he punched his father again and again. As he drew back his fist for a heavier strike, he felt a dull thud on his back and turned to see a small blonde girl who couldn’t have been more than a year younger than him hitting him with what looked to be a rolling pin. Bryech released his father who quickly stood and backed away to wipe the blood off of his face. Turning, Bryech slapped the girl’s hand sending the pin flying into the gathered crowd. The girl made to slap him but Bryech grabbed her wrist.
“Don’t touch her!” screamed a reed thin blonde woman who looked like an older version of the girl as she stood in the door of the house attached to the smithy. A young boy stood behind her with wide eyes. Bryech pulled the girl and in a fashion threw her at what Bryech assumed was her mother. Bryech looked around at the assembled crowd of people. Some whispered amongst themselves, some cheered, other watched intently. Bryech began to stumble around, looking at the gathered Ulven. He saw it in their eyes. They thought he was dangerous, like a rabid dog. He felt fire and hate burn in his heart and snarled.
“Bryech, I’m sorry.” Davrik interrupted his son before he lost himself in his anger. Bryech stared back at his father in his usual scowl, surveying the damage he had done. A split lip and a small cut on his brow, as well as an eye that was already swelling shut.
“Gaia be with you father, for the Great Wolf judges harshly.” Bryech replied, turning his back and making his way to the road once again. The crowd parted as he approached. This pleased Bryech, while at the same time it filled him with anger.
Bryech sat next to his small fire as the sun disappeared behind the horizon and moonlight began to blanket the countryside. His mail lay wrapped in his cloak so that the morning dew wouldn’t cause it to rust along with his sword and scramasax. Bryech spent his evening eating the last of his packed provisions combined with some fresher meat he had managed to trap. The hare was healthy and had plenty of meat on it. It was a pleasant change of flavor from dried meats and bread. With no one to keep watch while he slept, Bryech was hesitant to sleep, but regardless of his attempts at merely resting his tired feet he felt his eyelids grow heavy as the moon reached its peak.
Bryech sleepily gazed at the moon and let his mind wander. He thought of Ingrid. He missed her smile, her laugh, he missed her. Part of Bryech told himself that he needed to forget her but he just couldn’t cut her out of his heart. His mind jumped to his father. Bryech instantly felt a growl unconsciously form in his chest. He felt cheated, deceived, and it made him boil inside. All of his former packmates were right. His father was nothing Bryech remembered him as. Bryech seethed as he pictured killing his own father instead of just bloodying him like he had. He futilely shook his head in an attempt to clear his mind. Finally, his mind drifted to war…
Bryech heard the screams of dying men and jolted awake. Looking around Bryech could only see mist, he was in an area completely foreign from his camp. He was confused, but the sounds of a nearby battle peaked his interest and held his focus. He rushed towards the cacophony of battle to only find more mist. Behind him Bryech heard movement and turned quickly to find the source. He was not searching long, for a large hulking figure stood before him. A strong cover of fog hid his face from view but his eyes glared with the light of the sun. He was Ulven.
“Who goes there?” Bryech asked, forcing his voice to be stable though he was wrought with confusion.
“You know me brother.” replied the figure. Readjusting his stance as he did. Bryech didn’t understand the stranger, he had no memory of that voice. He felt it was deep and gruff but he had no recollection of who carried the voice.
“No games!” Bryech barked losing his patience. His voice sounded strong but there was doubt in it, detectable by Bryech and the figure. The Ulven chuckled and began to step forward as Bryech tensed. As the figure strode closer it began to become clearer through the mist, he was in full armor chain with a plated brigandine and a specific helm.
“Harlok?” Bryech asked dumbfounded. He staggered backward a few steps before composing himself.
“That’s not possible. You died. I watched you die!” Bryech yelled, no longer attempting to act like he was in control of himself.
“I have a warning for you friend.” Harlok continued. Not offering any explanation.
“You’re not Harlok, Harlok couldn’t speak.” Bryech argued.
“My body couldn’t but my spirit is another thing boy!” Harlok barked, with the hint of a challenge in his words Bryech snapped out of his stupor of confusion.
“Is this the hunting grounds then, was I killed in my sleep by some Mordok mongrel?” Bryech snapped back, returning the challenging tone. Harlok laughed. This didn’t please Bryech who began to snarl.
“That’s the warrior I knew, now I have a warning for you.” Harlok said, his long fangs glinting in the strange light that permeated through the fog. Bryech nodded but did not say anything, he was still so confused. Suddenly the mist around them filled with dark figures like Harlok and one by one they stepped forward. Bryech recognized all of them though he didn’t remember all of their names, but he had seen their faces. Suddenly, familiar faces started to appear. Orando, Timar, Nikolai, finally two that stung him as they approached.
“Orrin, Krieger?” Bryech asked, his voice weaker than it used to be. Krieger nodded with a grunt and Orrin smiled that ridiculous smile of his that Bryech had seen so many times.
“A darkness is coming brother.” They all said at the same time causing the phrase to echo with surprising volume.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” Bryech replied with a hint of sarcasm.
“Do not take this warning lightly!” snapped Krieger, his tone was far more aggressive than Bryech remembered him by. Bryech was taken aback, but he nodded to show his understanding.
“What am I to do?” Bryech asked the figures surrounding him, looking at each individual waiting for an answer.
“Are you strong enough?” all of the assembled voices asked, with their crushing volume it physically staggered Bryech. There was something deeper in that collection of voices. It set itself apart from the rest. Bryech looked up from where he knelt to see a massive shadow moving from within the crowd. It was not Ulven, it was something else. Bryech gasped as his star of Gaia began to burn him underneath his tunic. When he looked back toward the figure it had already entered the small clearing in the fog. It was a massive midnight black wolf standing more than a full head taller than the tallest Ulven, eyes the color of the sun. Bryech stay staggered on one hand and one knee in awe. Could this really be him? Had Bryech been killed because of his carelessness and was now to be judged? Bryech felt his heart beating fast in his chest. He was sure all of the figures surrounding him could hear it especially, The Great Wolf. Bryech met The Great Wolf’s eyes and stood, trying to stand at his full size despite the questions stampeding through his mind. The Great Wolf looked at him for what felt like an eternity, Bryech could feel The Great Wolf sizing him up. Bryech awaited the question he knew he would one day hear. Instead, the beast threw back his head and howled, just like in The Song of Creation. It was deep and loud, full of loneliness and rage.
Bryech’s breath caught in his throat and he felt tears well in his eyes. The Great Wolf’s cry reminded him of how he had felt for so long, and how he felt after knowing what it’s like to not be alone. Bryech tried to control himself but he couldn’t. The memories and emotions were too strong and he began to sob as he once again fell to his knees. He roared through his tears, letting all of his pain and rage fill his howl. The softer cries of wolves began to rise till the sound was deafening. Bryech wiped the tears from his eyes and looked around. Harlok was gone, a wolf stood in his place. The same was the case for all of the Ulven that had once surrounded Bryech. Looking back at The Great Wolf, Bryech was surprised to see his eyes had changed color. They were now a deep red and they began to glow. Bryech screamed as he felt a splitting pain pierce through his skull and pulse in his eyes.
Bryech yelled as he panicked and bolted upright. He scrambled and stood upright, scanning frantically around his meager camp. His fire had died down to mere embers and he could see the dawn breaking. Bryech sighed an exasperated sigh as he dropped down and sat against a tree. Closing his eyes, Bryech scolded himself for not being more careful. Despite that Bryech began to laugh at himself, a small chuckle which grew into a laughing cough. Bryech shook his head and rubbed his eyes, wincing slightly as he did.
“Keep laughing like that and someone will think you’ve lost your mind.” said a voice very close by. Bryech jumped back into a better stance and found himself facing a cloaked figure sitting across the embers from him. Bryech saw the large dane axe sticking out of the ground in front of the stranger and he looked towards his bundled up cloak where the handle of his sword was sticking out.
“No need to worry, I’m not here to kill you.” The stranger commented nonchalantly. Bryech was once again confused, this stranger had an air of familiarity and Bryech couldn’t figure out why.
“I’ve already had enough roundabout conversations these last few hours so spare me.” Bryech barked, sizing up the man. He had red eyes that had a slight glow to them when the sun hit them. He smiled a wolfish grin, hitting Bryech with another wave a familiarity. His fangs caught the sun as did his eyes, revealing at least something about him.
“Who are you?” Bryech demanded more so than he asked. The stranger made a strange motion with his hands before responding.
“A memory, a fate, a doomed idea, I am many things.” Bryech snarled at his response. He was growing tired of hearing riddles and cryptic omens.
“Answer me!” He barked at the stranger. The Ulven grew quiet but made no attempt to challenge. Slowly the stranger reached for the hem of his hood and pulled it back, revealing a mass of shaggy hair and a long scar running down the left side of his face. Bryech growled, he looked just like him. Before Bryech could speak the stranger cut him off.
“I am Bryech Savagefang, warrior, leader of war parties, scourge of the Mordok.” Bryech’s identical stood and began circling the bed of embers. Bryech mirrored him, sizing him up again. They were similar in stature. The stranger seemed to be older than Bryech, something which puzzled him. His garb was different too, leathers and mail included. He even had a perfect copy of the star of Gaia he hung from his neck, except for one striking difference. The stranger had his necklace adorned with what looked like fangs.
“Tell me then, why do you bear trophies from the dead?” Bryech asked apprehensively.
The stranger chuckled and held the necklace in his hand, admiring it for a moment before looking back to Bryech.
“Because I know what I am and where I come from, but unlike you I embrace it.” The stranger was trying to aggravate him with that, the stranger knew about his past it seemed. The stranger cut Bryech off again.
“Tusks, cut from Mordok slain by my hand.” The two had finally come full circle and now stood next to their weapons. The stranger grabbed the haft of his axe and with one swift motion pulled it from the ground, holding it in his right hand, he pointed at Bryech who had already drawn his sword and held his shield down at his side.
“I am everything you could have been! I am glory! I am legend!” The stranger roared the same roar Bryech knew to be his own.
“So much for not being here to kill me, huh?” Bryech asked calmly. He felt his heart beat faster as he anticipated the coming fight. He knew this calm though. It was that of a warrior who had seen battle and sought more. The calm of a warfighter.
The stranger gave no response save a battle cry as he charged over the embers. Bryech raised his shield and braced his feet as he saw the dane axe come down with a strong overhead strike. Though his strike was strong, the stranger couldn’t break Bryech’s guard. Bryech stepped in and thrust his sword towards his opponent’s torso. Bryech watched as the tip of his sword met the strangers mail which exploded into countless shards of metal and punched through his torso just below the sternum. Bryech did not flinch when he heard the deep wet crunch that came with the strike, he had heard it far too many times for it to affect him. He enjoyed it even as the stranger made that gargling noise as he began to choke on his own blood. The dane axe fell off to the side and also shattered into pieces as Bryech lowered his shield and looked his opponent in the eye while still holding his sword. With a swiftness surprising for a dying man, the stranger placed both of his hands on the sides of Bryech’s face and locked eyes with him.
“Never forget who you are!” The stranger said, no longer choking on his own blood. Bryech tried to escape his grasp but the man held tight.
“For all you could have been is all you still can be.” The stranger said as he began to fall apart, almost like he was turning into ash. Bryech growled as the ash began to swirl around him, the pieces still burning with the small flickering orange glow on the edges. Bryech looked at the Ulven as he faded away.
“Never let your fire die, lest your heartsong end as well.” The man said before he finally turned wholly into ash. Bryech looked around him as the ashes began to move faster. Bryech felt a strong sensation fill his body. He felt a fire burn inside him with an intensity he hadn’t felt in some time. Bryech roared into the rising dawn and was overtaken by darkness.
Bryech’s eyes opened as a branch snapped in the distance. Bryech looked around his camp and it was exactly as he remembered it. Sitting up, Bryech saw no sign of the stranger and with slow and steady movements, looked around confused. Bryech tensed as he heard more noise approaching his camp. It wasn’t loud. It was meticulous, almost patient. Bryech had no time to ponder his dreams, he was being hunted. Bryech quietly hopped to his gear and drew his sword and scramasax. Quickly as he could without making too much noise, Bryech made his way to a fallen tree a few yards away and hid behind it. Seconds after he had mantled the fallen oak, two Mordok made their way into view. They crouched down, sniffing the air on the other side of a creek. Bryech guessed they were a hunting pair out searching for prey before coming upon his scent. Bryech watched as they crossed the creek with a surprising quietness. Bryech once again scolded himself for being so careless as to fall asleep while he was alone. The Mordok found his camp easily, his scent and poor attempt at finding a concealed position made it almost look like child’s play. Bryech crouched as he sized them up while at the same time pondering what they were doing so far south in Ulven territory. The closest one was a real brute with a vicious looking axe in one hand and a rusty unkempt dagger in the other. While his partner was a smaller mordok armed with a bow. The Mordok investigated the campsite. Bryech was sure they would’ve ransacked it if they thought the camp had more inhabitants. Bryech tensed as the brute suddenly turned towards him and sniffed excitedly. Bryech ducked down behind his tree and readjusted his grip on his sax. Dropping his sword, he waited in anticipation as he heard the Mordok begin running over to the tree. He heard a grunt as the beast jumped onto the log. Bryech looked up and saw it look out and over him. Without hesitation Bryech drove his dagger into the Mordok’s stomach and grabbed him with his free hand dragging him over the tree. The beast was caught off guard and fell off of Bryech’s sax and onto the ground with a dull thud. Before the Mordok could react he leapt on top of it, pulling his scramasax out with a fluid motion before flipping it in his hand and driving it through the brute’s temple once, and then twice. Bryech pulled back for a third strike before he felt a piercing pain shoot through his left hand causing him to drop his sax. Rolling off his quarry, Bryech took cover as an arrow sank into the tree with a loud thunk. Bryech growled as he looked at the arrow sticking through the center of his palm. He looked over the log as the remaining Mordok took aim again. Bryech sunk behind the log and grabbed his sword with his right hand after some reaching.
“You just made this more fun for me bitch!” Bryech roared as he jumped up and over the tree. He began to rush towards the Mordok as it loosed another arrow. The arrow flew just past Bryech’s face as he showed no sign of slowing down. The Mordok nocked another arrow as Bryech closed the distance but was a moment too slow. Bryech bellowed as he cut the bow clean in two and on his return drove his sword hilt deep into the archer’s chest and out through its back. Relishing in the sounds of the kill, Bryech growled. After the beast dropped to the ground, sword still buried deep in its chest, Bryech spat.
“Tell your friends about that you fuck!” Wincing, Bryech slowly pulled the arrow out of his hand. He looked at the hole in his hand and grunted. He hadn’t been wounded in quite some time. It was almost a foreign concept to him. Strangely, the throbbing pain in his hand seemed to be mirrored in his head as he felt pain in the front of his skull and down into his nose and eyes. After treating his wound and donning his armor, Bryech looked at his star of Gaia, the lone star glinting in the sunlight. Bryech contemplated his dream and what his ghost had told him. Bryech glanced at the corpses of the Mordok piled next to each other and drew his sax. Bryech spoke to himself aloud as he walked towards the bodies.
“No more hiding what I am.”