|The Adventures of Wrathgar
In the fall of Wrathgar's twelfth year he and three other boys were given a hard-pulling longbow made from deer antlers and tamarack wood, a quiver of copper tipped arrows, and a greatsword, known amongst the Barstammderstarke as a Grosseklinge and given three lessons in Grosseklingenspiel (swordplay). There was a brief ceremony in the High Shaman's longhouse in which High Shaman Korflex smeared deer fat across their faces and spat in each of their eyes, repeating the phrase "You are not worthy of Kord's power!" to each boy.
Then they were tossed from the High Shaman's longhouse and they were driven out of the village of longhouses by young men throwing stones at them and shouting insults. The four boys knew they could not return until they had each killed something stronger than a man and carried it back to the village. Only then would they be worthy of Kord's blessing.
Outside of the village the other boys glanced at each other and Wrathgar did the same. It was a mixture of expressions, some sour and some excited to be out on their own. Each boy had hunted before, but always in the company of an elder and never too far from the village. Wrathgar's father hunted predominantly and he had gone hunting numerous times. He wasn't anxious to hunt alone.
Muddenklaw, a boy larger in height and in stomach turned to face the other boys and spoke loudly: "We should stick together. Between the four of us we can hunt down all the animals we need until we find a bear or deer each that we can drag back to the village."
"And why should we help you?" sneered Kleinver, the smallest of the four, but easily the smartest hunter amongst them. Even at a young age he was known for his trapping skill and could trap creatures both large and small. Kleinver had an important point. Muddenklaw was more known for his ability to eat than his ability to hunt. He would be a liability, not an asset in any hunting party.
Steinpfeil shook his head. "I'll stick with you." Steinpfeil was Muddenklaw's best friend, he followed the larger boy wherever he went constantly. Wrathgar wondered who would be leading the hunt, Steinpfeil or Muddenklaw, knowing that Steinpfeil was certainly the better shot with a bow.
"May Kord bring you good fortune," Wrathgar stated flatly. He nodded briefly to Steinpfeil and to Kleinver, deliberately avoiding Muddenklaw's gaze. He turned his back and headed east.
Away from any signs of civilization Wrathgar's first task was the dreadful copper-tipped arrows. They were meant for killing rabbits and small game. He would need something much better if he was to hunt down a deer or a bear. He drew his Grosseklinge and briefly admired the handiwork. Then he set upon the woods looking for straight branches or trees that would make spears, javelins or arrows. He knew where there was outcropping of flintstone east of here and he could fletch himself some flint-headed arrows by nightfall.
He worked his way uphill, keeping an eye out for game and pausing to inspect each tree for branches the right size and shape.
It was while he was foraging that he heard the screech-cry of a giant owl. It sent shivers down his spine and he glanced up just in time to see the beast fly by. He noticed the rider too, an ebony-haired wood elf who waved down at him. The owl and rider were heading for the clearing at the top of the hill.
The young barbarian ran uphill, trying to keep pace with the giant eagle in hopes of actually reaching the clearing first. He lost, but not by far. The owl landed in the clearing only a few seconds before Wrathgar entered the scrub grass that covered the area at the top of the rocky hill.
The giant owl screeched loudly and clawed the rocks in front of it as the rider dismounted.
"Corellon keep you Wrathgar," the rider said in a lyrical tone, patting her owl affectionately to get it to calm down. Giant owls were notoriously protective of their owners. The beasts were smart too, but rarely spoke except to their master and usually only in the Sylvan tongue, which Wrathgar was still learning.
"And Kord you, dear Vertia," Wrathgar responded, staring at the elf's supple and graceful movements. He felt like a clumsy bear next to her.
"I hear you are on your first hunt. I have something for you-" she started to pull a quiver of fine elven arrows from her back.
Wrathgar held up his hand. "I don't think we're supposed to accept help in the form of weapons. Sorry, but I cannot accept."
Vertia's face was downcast for an instant. "Can you accept help in the form of information?"
"Kord doesn't frown upon the truth, so information is fine and appreciated."
Her face brightened and she shouldered the precious arrows. "Very well then. Since you are traveling east I need to warn you of the lizardfolk that live in the swamps east of here. They forage into the woods from time to time. They have faces like a chameleon and their skin changes colour ever so slightly. They're not hostile, but it would still be best to stay clear of them. They welcome few outsiders."
"Kord teaches it is good to know your enemies and your allies," Wrathgar mused. "Thank you Vertia. I'd ask you to come with me but as you know its against the rules of the first hunt."
Vertia smiled. "Are you sure I can't convince you to accept the arrows?"
An hour later Wrathgar was chipping away at flintstone with a flat rock wishing he had accepted the precious gift. It would have saved him time and trouble and some bruises on his hands as he worked away. "What doesn't kill me only makes me stronger," he murmured to himself, a favourite saying amongst the Barstammderstarke.
It was difficult work chipping away at the stone and fletching together the arrows. Before he realized it the sun had set and he had made but a handful. He would have to make camp here in the outcropping of stone. He had foraged some berries earlier so he wasn't hungry, but he didn't feel very comfortable sleeping out in the open like this. It was his first time sleeping in the wilderness alone.
The next morning Wrathgar awoke and was glad to be alive.
But only for an instant when he realized that while he had slept all of his flint arrows had disappeared. Gone.
He looked frantically around the outcropping of flintstone, looking for his hardwork and found something he wasn't looking for: The muddy footprints of two different people. One large footed, the other about Wrathgar's size. There was no doubt in the young barbarian's mind that it must have been Muddenklaw and Steinpfeil who had snuck into the quarry and stolen his arrows.
Wrathgar clenched his fists and swore to Kord that Muddenklaw would pay for his treachery and that Steinpfeil would pay for following along. There was no rule saying one could not steal from others during the first hunt, but it was certainly not good sportsmanship either. After his anger subsided he paused to consider what to do next. He could try tracking Muddenklaw and Steinpfeil or he could make more arrows, for he would need them eventually.
He decided to make more arrows. It wasn't worth it tracking down Muddenklaw over a matter of five arrows.
Around midday Kord smiled on him and a pheasant landed near the outcropping of flintstone. Wrathgar promptly beaned it with a rock and cooked it.
By nightfall he had finished making 44 arrows.
Wrathgar awoke suddenly to the howl of a wolf. It was to the north, and likely far off, but it had seemed quite loud to him as he was jolted from his sleep. He decided to break camp and leave. If he was lucky perhaps he could spot the wolf from a distance and take it down with a handful or arrows, thus completing his first hunt.
He trekked northward spotting deer droppings along the way. They could be days old, so he decided to stay on his original goal of hunting the wolf.
An hour later he came to a sandy clearing with scrub grass and a few boulders. There was a firepit that was still smoking and the footprints of two people, likely Muddenklaw and Steinpfeil, both of which had also trekked northward. It looked like they had broken camp only a short while ago because the firepit still had a few glowing embers. Wrathgar reckoned he was directly behind them. He hurried his pace in hopes of catching up and tracking the wolf first.
But it was too late.
He heard the arrow shots up ahead a few minutes later and Muddenklaw whooping with glee.
Wrathgar slowed to a walk and crept silently through the woods off to one side, wanting to get a good angle at the two without them spotting him.
"Now I can go home!" Muddenklaw declared, grabbing the dead wolf by the scruff of the neck. "You're going to make me a coat for the winter!" he boasted to the dead wolf.
"Um, what about me?" asked Steinpfeil quietly. He shuffled his feet.
"You?!" snorted Muddenklaw. "You can go shoot a deer and drag it back by yourself. This is my wolf!"
"But I'm the one that shot it!" declared Steinpfeil, gripping the wolf's back fur in his fist. "By right this is my kill, not yours!"
"So what?! Its mine and I already declared it. It was my idea to track it. I would have killed it anyway if you hadn't got in my way!"
"I wasn't in your way! You tripped! Why should I have to go shoot another deer? I've only got one flint arrow left!"
"So go make more!" shouted Muddenklaw, pushing Steinpfeil away from the wolf's corpse.
It was too much for Steinpfeil to take. He punched Muddenklaw in the side of the jaw, causing the larger boy's head to whip around to the side.
Muddenklaw turned back to face Steinpfeil, his face turning a dark crimson colour as blood rushed to his head. He leapt on the smaller boy and started pounding him with both fists. Steinpfeil lost his balance and fell under Muddenklaw's weight, the two boys tumbling down the side of a hill and coming to rest against the side of a tree. Steinpfeil fought back as best as he could but Muddenklaw used his weight to bury the smaller boy beneath him and hold him down while he pummeled him with his fists.
Steinpfeil was unconscious and bleeding from his nose, eyes and ears when Muddenklaw's rage finally subsided.
The larger boy trudged back up the hill to where he had left the dead wolf.
The wolf was gone. There wasn't even a trail of blood to follow. It was just gone.
"Kord im Himmel!" swore Muddenklaw.
When Steinpfeil awoke he was beside a warm fire and his face was covered in dried patches of mud and blood. He looked up in disbelief, thinking Muddenklaw would never be so nice as to beat him up and then actually drag his body to a warm fire and patch up his wounds with mud poultices. He was disappointed when he saw Wrathgar sitting across the fire from him, but he was grateful and bewildered nevertheless.
"Thanks Wrathgar..." he murmured. "I'm sorry we stole your arrows. Muddenklaw said-"
Wrathgar held up a hand. "Shut up okay. Just tell me one thing: Why do you follow that idiot around all the time?"
Steinpfeil's face turned red, but not in anger. "The older boys beat me up sometimes. Muddenklaw stops them."
"Kord would never approve of that. You have to learn to stand on your own two feet and fight your own fights."
"But they're bigger than I am!"
"And so is Muddenklaw. You still punched him right hard, I saw it."
"I saw," said Wrathgar and then patted the dead wolf's corpse beside him. "This is yours by right. You can carry it home tomorrow."
Steinpfeil gushed out a thank you and started chattering about how Muddenklaw will have to find his own prize now. Meanwhile Wrathgar was deciding what to do about Muddenklaw. He didn't think Muddenklaw had gotten what he deserved yet.
The next day Wrathgar bid Steinpfeil farewell and trekked farther east, knowingly heading into territory where the lizardfolk hunted. He had last seen Muddenklaw headed in this direction and the large boy left a trail that a blind fool could follow. Everywhere along the path was broken branches, sword cuts on trees, deep footprints in the soft earth. Muddenklaw had vented a lot of rage as he had walked, leaving a trail of fallen trees he had chopped through at head level with his Grosseklinge.
It was a blatant disregard for traditional hunting practices and a warrior's respect for his weapon, from Wrathgar's perspective. He wouldn't be surprised if Muddenklaw's sword wasn't bent and battered by now and half the game in these woods scared off.
Wrathgar followed silently and swiftly, running across stones for fear of stepping on a twig like his father had taught him. He kept his bow ready and flint arrow nocked.
He passed by Muddenklaw's camp from the night before without even bothering to check the campfire. There was no smoke left in the air and it had long ago gone out.
Muddenklaw must have been moving swiftly too, for it was hours and miles away before he found the large boy's next camp site and the remains of a half eaten rabbit. Refusing to eat Muddenklaw's leftovers, Wrathgar backtracked and found a den rabbits where he waited around for one to return and shot it with a copper-tipped arrow. He tucked the rabbit into his belt and sped off on Muddenklaw's trail.
An hour later he found large clawed footprints joining Muddenklaw's trail. Three taloned toes on the front and one toe at the back, like a large lizard, but deep in the earth as if it was carrying a lot of weight. The lizardfolk were now hunting Muddenklaw too, but not for revenge.
Wrathgar quickened his pace until he was all out running through the woods.
Muddenklaw didn't hear lizardfolk coming up behind him. He was making too much racket of his own, swearing to himself about getting revenge against Wrathgar and maybe even Steinpfeil. That boy was going to get beat up again the next time he saw him. Muddenklaw was going to beat him black and blue. But Wrathgar, oh Wrathgar was going to get the worst of it. He wasn't going to use his fists on Wrathgar. No, Wrathgar was going to get the sharp end of his sword, and it wasn't going to be a quick death either. He was going to chop him to pieces, slowly.
Thus was Muddenklaw's state of mind and speech when he took a javelin in the back. He swore and bellowed and drew his sword, cursing his luck when he saw the lizardfolk closing in on him, their tongues lashing out between sharp teeth. One of the lizardfolk tossed a net over him and Muddenklaw thrashed against the net with his Grosseklinge, severing several of the vines holding it together but became thoroughly entangled in the process.
The lizardfolk surrounded him and pummeled him with the butt end of their longspears, keeping their distance from the flailing boy with the huge sword. Muddenklaw tried to fight back, his rage boiling over and his face turning red with blood and anger, but it was no use. The lizardfolk continued battering him with their longspears until he collapsed to the ground and dropped his Grosseklinge.
Wrathgar found the pool of blood, still sticky on the ground within the signs of a scuffle. There was shredded pieces of a vine net and plenty of footprints of both human and lizardfolk. There wasn't enough blood for Muddenklaw to be dead however and the shredded net definitely suggested they had taken the large boy alive.
There was a strange skull shaped marking written on a tree nearby with some sort of red paste. It wasn't blood or any kind of paint Wrathgar had ever seen. He could only presume it was draconic for "Stay Away!" or "Death!"
He followed the lizardfolk's path downhill. The land was becoming more muddy in this direction and there was water springing from small geysers in the side of the hill. There was also the distinct smell of sulfur in the air, an ingredient High Shaman Korflex sometimes used in rituals. As he traveled he noticed several other trees marked with the same skull symbol.
He also noticed wolf tracks too, but this wolf was far larger than any other beast he had ever seen. The footprints were about the size of a tiger's.
He stayed on the lizardfolk's trail. He had to find out what had become of Muddenklaw.
Muddenklaw awoke with a groan. He smelled something awful and it took him awhile to realize it was himself. He was dripping with lizardfolk urine. His arms and legs were bound and his eyes were so swollen he could only squint out of them. It took him awhile to adjust to the light.
There was a wood elf girl crying in the cage next to his. Her hands were bound and her hair had been shaved roughly off with a dull knife. She looked to be about eight or ten winters old, but it was impossible for him to tell with elves. She was clutching her right leg which was twisted in a strange angle and looked like it might be broken. She didn't look at him and kept her eyes firmly on the lizardfolk that walked by.
The lizardfolk camp was surprisingly well organized from Muddenklaw's perspective. There was stone walls and statues in the corners of the walls of lizardfolk carrying shields and spears. It wasn't a huge camp and only a handful of the stone buildings had thatched roofs. Smoke rose from several campfires spread around. The ground was muddy everywhere and there was a pool of stagnant water near the centre of the camp. Muddenklaw and the elf girl were inside wooden cages off to one side of the camp. The lizardfolk walked around casually, the children running about carrying small spears and playing with each other while adults in loin clothes and wearing wolf and bear skins went about their business, all carrying weapons.
Two of the lizardfolk were arguing loudly over the Grosseklinge, which stood tip down in some thick mud, buried a foot deep. Muddenklaw presumed they were arguing over ownership. Oh what he would give to get his hands on that sword and cut through the necks of these stinking lizards-
A human woman set a bowl of muddy water in front of him and then backed away from the cage. Her eyes were downcast and her feet were bound with crude iron shackles. She was incredibly thin and suffering from starvation. It took a moment for realization to sink in to Muddenklaw. He was now a slave. They would starve him half to death and beat him into submission and he would eventually die of starvation or from the beatings. He would have to escape somehow.
Wrathgar stayed in the shadows of twilight and prayed to Kord that lizardfolk can't see that well in the dark. He had managed to get quite close to the camp, but was unsure of how to get over the walls and get a better view. He stood in the darkness mentally arguing options in his head before he realized he could just climb a tree and get a better look.
He chose a tree close to the wall and stayed on the outer side of the tree so that its branches would obscure his shape. He secured his Grosseklinge to his back so it wouldn't make as much noise and climbed the tree until he was only a leap from the top of the wall.
He spotted the human slaves, and even a couple elven slaves immediately. It took him awhile longer to locate Muddenklaw in the cage on the far side of the camp because there was a campfire with thick smoke obscuring that part of the camp.
Next came a moral dilemma. Should he leave Muddenklaw in slavery or risk his life against an entire tribe of lizardfolk trying to save someone he despised? Then there was the other matter: What about the other slaves? Should he condemn them to death just to spite Muddenklaw?
No, he would make a rescue attempt.
But he would be rescuing all of them, not just Muddenklaw.
Later that night a human figure crept over the stone walls of the camp and made its way over to where two lizardfolk guards were standing near the gates. The figure drew a huge sword off its back and waited for both guards to turn their backs.
Wrathgar leapt from the shadows and sliced the one guard across the back of the neck, nearly severing it’s head from its shoulders. The other guard turned in shock and Wrathgar hacked it down the middle before it could raise a sound.
He glanced around to see if anyone had noticed and then dragged the bodies into the shadows. Knowing it would only be a matter of time before they were noticed missing he ran around the side of the nearest building and headed towards a set of cages where four of the slaves were kept.
Praying for Kord’s blessing he swung at the cage door and slashed it from its hinges. The slaves inside awoke with a start from the sound. He was certain other lizardfolk had heard the sound too but he didn’t care any more. All the excitement had worked him up into a blood frenzy.
He rushed to the next cage and slashed it crudely and kicked it in.
“Wrathgar! Get me out of here!” shouted Muddenklaw, awake from the excitement and noise.
Wrathgar didn’t notice him and went to next cage, the one with the elven girl. He slashed the door open but then noticed the girl wasn’t walking properly.
Not stopping to think, he lifted the girl onto his back and slashed open Muddenklaw’s door and spun about to fend off the tip of a longspear aimed at his leg. He looked up and saw a lizard woman snap her tongue at him and raise her spear again for another thrust.
Muddenklaw barrelled out of the cage, his face red with rage. He brushed roughly past Wrathgar and grabbed the spear from the shocked lizard woman. He spun the spear on her and drove it through her gut.
A javelin thudded into the cage next to Wrathgar and he charged at the offending lizardfolk who had thrown it, heedless of the girl clinging to his back. He sliced the unarmed lizardfolk down and stepped over its corpse, shouting something unintelligible about getting out of the camp, hoping the slaves would understand his words.
Muddenklaw tossed aside the longspear and ran for his sword, still stuck in the thick mud. The mud slowed him down but he managed to reach his Grosseklinge and draw it from the mud before any more of the lizardfolk reached him.
Wrathgar ran for the exit to the camp, stopping only briefly to chop at a lizardfolk guard swinging a battleaxe. His bloodrage wouldn’t last much longer he realized dimly. He took a javelin in the shoulder as he ran, but kept running.
Muddenklaw chopped his way through two more lizardfolk before running after the other barbarian. He had two javelins stuck in his back by the time he caught up to Wrathgar and both warriors were bleeding heavily.
They charged uphill away from the lizardfolk camp, the slaves leading the way. They cleared the top of the hill and Wrathgar paused to catch his breath.
It was then that Muddenklaw decided to take his revenge. He ripped the elf girl off Wrathgar’s back and stabbed the young barbarian through the small of the back, the tip of his sword coming out through Wrathgar’s stomach.
The warrior stumbled and fell, shocked. He looked up at Muddenklaw, his face a mixture of confusion and hatred.
Muddenklaw spat at him and fled.
When Wrathgar awoke he couldn’t move. He could feel earth worms and other creatures squirming around inside his bearskin hide and it was so dark he couldn’t see. He immediately assumed he had been buried alive. He let out a panicked shout.
“Sssh!” came a small lyrical voice that reminded him immediately of Vertia. “There might still be lizardfolk around. Be quiet!”
He wasn’t dead and he wasn’t buried either. Where was he? He decided to ask. “Where am I?” he whispered.
“You’re in an old log. Be quiet.”
That explained all the vermin crawling around beside him and inside his clothes. He decided to wait it out for now. His mind quickly turned to the last thing he remembered, Muddenklaw stabbing him in the back and seeing the sword tip sticking out of stomach. How had he survived that?
As if sensing his thoughts the elvish voice spoke again. “Corellon Larethian saved your life today warrior, as you saved mine. We can leave in a few minutes.”
Wrathgar waited, trying to ignore the worms and critters crawling all over his skin.
“My leg is broken and Corellon has not answered my prayers to heal it. Perhaps he sent you instead. Thank you.”
She shifted and crawled out of log, allowing light in so that Wrathgar could see again. It was morning by the looks of it, perhaps even noon. He groaned and pulled himself slowly out of claustrophobic log.
The girl was busy trying to brush off her muddy dress. She looked at her hands and realized they were covered in filth. Her face turned to an expression of disgust.
Wrathgar spat on his hands and washed them spittle. It was better than nothing. “I’m Wrathgar. Who are you?” he asked.
“Florianna,” she replied. “I hid your sword in a mud puddle over there,” she said pointing behind the log.
Good, thought Wrathgar. I know just whom to use it on, he mused, thinking of Muddenklaw.
"Thank you dear Wrathgar," Vertia said, embracing Wrathgar shoulder to shoulder as comrades do. "We feared she was dead and eaten by some beast. Everyday we prayed to Corellon Larethian for her safe return." She looked away from the young barbarian and at the surrounding encampment of wood elves who were celebrating. She paused thoughtful for a long time. "I could find the priestess and have her take a look at your wounds, but I know you would refuse help."
Wrathgar nodded. "I must leave anyway. I have two beasts to track."
"Will killing him really solve anything?"
"He dishonoured the first hunt with his treachery. Kord has no tolerance for such evil and neither do I. By Kord's will, Muddenklaw or I shall lie dead tonight."
"And the second beast?"
"A wolf of great size, possibly a worg."
Muddenklaw paused to rest on a fallen tree. He had abandoned the humans in the woods the night before, fleeing northward hoping to lose the lizardfolk tracking him. It had worked for awhile but somehow they had found his trail and he had been running for hours now. His strength was sapped and his will was beginning to falter.
He was hungry and tired and for the first time he realized he was also lost. He had lost his bearings somehow and now the woods seemed alien and forlorn, as if no man had ever tread through these parts. It had been hours since he had seen a proper hunting trail.
He decided it was time he found some place to sleep.
He wandered through the forest for another hour before finally crawling into a briar patch. The thorns pierced his skin but it was better than nothing.
Muddenklaw had a fitful sleep, constantly awaking to thorns in all parts of his body. He felt as if he was being punished by some unforeseen god who refused to let him sleep.
Hours later, rested but still in need of some real sleep he grumbled and pulled himself out of briar patch, swearing to himself that he would never sleep in such a place again.
There was a shout off to one side in a strange sibilant tongue and Muddenklaw realized he had just alerted the lizardfolk of his presence. He started to run but changed his mind. He turned about, drew his bow, nocked one of Wrathgar’s flint arrows, looking for the lizardfolk in the dim light of the forest canopy.
A javelin flew past the barbarian, missing its mark.
Startled, Muddenklaw turned in the direction of the javelin’s path and loosed his arrow wildly into the woods. It thudded into a tree, not even close to the lizardman who was well hidden. He cursed when he realized he had just wasted his last flint arrow.
More sibilant tongue in the woods, this time from a different direction. To Muddenklaw’s ears it seemed as if they were laughing at him.
The barbarian dropped his bow and drew his battered Grosseklinge. He took up a defensive posture, hoping to jump out of the way of any further javelins.
But no javelins came.
No net either.
Instead he heard a sharp twang and the tongues of two different lizardfolk fading in different directions.
“What just happened?” Muddenklaw wondered aloud. “Who’s there?” he demanded after awhile, holding his Grosseklinge up threatening.
There was rustling in the woods off to one side, the sound of something coming closer but no reply. Muddenklaw turned to face the new threat, holding his sword at ready and preparing to charge.
Wrathgar stepped into view from behind an ancient oak tree, his Grosseklinge drawn. His eyes were calm but there was a determination in his face that unnerved the exhausted Muddenklaw.
Muddenklaw stuttered for a moment, his face turning red with rage. His mouth started to froth spittle as he spat out incoherent words of hatred and disgust. He charged at Wrathgar, his feet flying across the ground as he jumped over fallen logs and bushes in his mad rush towards the barbarian.
Wrathgar waited, infinitely calm. He held his Grosseklinge up with one hand, his left hand and then dropped it.
Muddenklaw roared with victory. His cry was a great shout that scared the birds and all manner of creatures into hiding.
Wrathgar quickly drew a crude wooden spear from behind his back and braced it against his foot. He leveled the spear towards Muddenklaw as the barbarian came charging uphill towards him.
Muddenklaw’s cry became a gurgle and he swung at Wrathgar, his huge sword not even in range. He felt weak suddenly, as if a great weight was pressing down on his chest and it was difficult to breath. He swung again at Wrathgar, trying to push forward despite the weight against his chest. He looked down to see what it was and for the first time noticed the spear lodged in his chest, just above his stomach.
Wrathgar pressed forward with the spear, holding the barbarian at bay. Blood was gushing around the crude hacked off spear point that was lodged deep inside Muddenklaw. Through clenched teeth he whispered the words: “I will not sully the sword of Kord with a traitor’s blood. You will die today Muddenklaw, not for lack of strength but for lack of common decency. Kord shall punish you for your misdeeds.”
Muddenklaw gurgled a response. His Grosseklinge fell from numb fingers and the young warrior fell to the ground.
Wrathgar shoved the spear and Muddenklaw away from him. He could still hear Muddenklaw’s gurgling breath as he stooped and picked up his own Grosseklinge. He considered finishing Muddenklaw off but decided against it and started walking away.
“Let your last moments be prayers for Kord’s forgiveness for you will have none of mine.”
Wrathgar returned to the village three nights later half-carrying and half-dragging a wolf the likes the tribe hadn’t seen in generations. It was huge, about eight feet long and weighed between six hundred and eight hundred pounds. Its fangs were unusually large and jutted from its maw ferociously. Wrathgar had gutted its unedible entrails to make it easier to carry but it had still taken him two days to drag/carry the huge beast all the way back to village.
Once inside the village he lay the wolf down to rest while others came to inspect it. The beast was riddled with flint arrows, six in total and had several large gashes from Wrathgar’s Grosseklinge, the largest of which was across the beast’s throat. Wrathgar himself slumped against the side of the wolf, trying to catch his breath.
“By Kord’s Might!” declared High Shaman Korflex. “You have earned the right to sit at Kord’s table! Tonight we shall feast on the blood and flesh of this great beast! Tomorrow you shall wear the wolf-skin as a mantle of Kord’s power! You are one of Kord’s chosen!”
Wrathgar stood up slowly. The full weight of the last days had come to him. Not the weight of the wolf, or the weight of Muddenklaw’s treachery, but the weight of what he had become. He was now a man.
Water dripped down his nose and he awoke in pain and misery. It took a long time to realize he was back in the lizardfolk village and even longer for Muddenklaw to realize the true nature of his predicament. Yes, he was alive. He had somehow survived the chest wound that Wrathgar had dealt him but now he was heavily shackled, tired, starving, dreadfully injured and something worse.
He was now a slave.
Years past and Wrathgar grew stronger and broader. He spent a great deal of time escorting High Shaman Korflex and learning the rituals of Kord. He defended the Barstammderstarke from a gnoll invasion and was trained as both a warrior and a shaman of Kord.
When the tribe fell on hard times he took up hunting for meat to help feed the tribe and younger men took his place as the High Shaman’s escorts. His skill at hunting and tracking rivaled even the wood elf rangers. Some years were good years and some were bad. As a matter of habit Wrathgar began patrolling more and more of the woods and spending less time in training.
It was common knowledge that Wrathgar would someday be High Shaman of Barstammderstarke, but it was also common knowledge that High Shaman Korflex was half wood elf and thus very long lived. It would be many years before Wrathgar was ever needed to lead the tribe spiritually and perhaps he never would.
All seemed certain that Wrathgar would remain in the woods, hunting game for his tribe and never be called to serve Kord in a greater purpose.
So it was until one fateful summer day.
Wrathgar awoke to the cry of the nightingale. It was still dark outside the cave, barely even twilight. The moon still shone and the sky was clear, so he quickly rolled up his bedroll and knelt by the entrance to the cave.
“Praise be to Kord, Lord of Strength and all the Mighty Creatures across the land. Praise be to the strength he gives me and may he bless my people with strength enough to survive the world around us. Praise be to the wisdom Kord grants me and give me the spiritual strength to be his humble servant. Praise be to the mighty spirits through which Kord gives us strength of spirit and of body. Praise be to Kord’s messengers, the humble warriors of Kord and give us the power to do his will.”
Wrathgar rose and glanced at the nightingale that sang above. “May Kord bless you with strong wings wee creature. Fare thee well.” He nodded once, drew his bow and began his first hunt of the day.
Hunting in these northern woods was a difficult and dangerous venture. Wrathgar’s tribe, the Barstammderstarke, was much farther south with the High Shaman Korflex and the Chieftain Fyrestrom, but only an experienced woodsman could venture this far north in search of food for the tribe. Every few days he would meet with other hunters and their meat and furs would be placed in canoes and sent downstream to feed and the clothe the Barstammderstarke tribe.
This season had been surprisingly good. Many non-migratory animals were travelling south for some strange reason, as if driven by some unknown force. This bothered Wrathgar because it meant that whatever trouble was plaguing the northlands might be heading south too.
He thought of this as he plunged through the woods at a jog, silent and yet quick like a tiger. He had been trained years ago to be stealthy yet fast. He was neither the fastest nor the stealthiest in his tribe, but he was adept at both.
It was thus as he was travelling that he almost missed the cloved hoof prints of a great stag. Wrathgar was not the greatest tracker, his skill lying more in his strength, but he immediately concluded by the size of the tracks that it must be a stag of great size, perhaps even a dire elk.
He followed the tracks northward, travelling at great speed in hopes of catching up the great beast. When he came a sandy cliff it was a eighty foot drop and he immediately thought the beast must have killed itself by running headlong over the cliff, but nay, Wrathgar spotted its prints partway down the cliff on a section of sand jutting out from cliffside. The stag must have bounded down the cliffside like some great mountain goat, but Wrathgar knew of no goat large enough to leave hoofprints as large as these.
Taking two hunting daggers from his belt the barbarian started descending slowly the cliffside, moving slowly and digging the daggers deeply into the cliff-face to support his weight. Part way down the cliff he heard two sharp twanging sounds and felt a sudden and piercing pain in his back and he nearly lost his grip on the daggers supporting him.
Looking down he saw a wicked arrow sticking from his side and blood welling around the wound. Below him Wrathgar saw two jackal-faced warriors looking up at him. Both were drawing back their bows for another shot.
Now that just made him angry. They had attacked him from behind, a fellow warrior set upon as if like prey, but to add gravity to the insult (literally) they hadn’t even waited for him to finish his climb before attacking him. Wrathgar’s eyes pulsed bloodred and he jerked the daggers from the sandy cliff wall, spun around in mid air and dropped towards them.
“Kord shall punish you!” he cried as he fell and felt a surge of holy might sweep through him. He dropped the one dagger and gripped the other dagger with both hands as he angled himself towards the closest gnoll.
The gnoll didn’t even have to time to drop his bow and reach for his axe. Wrathgar plunged the dagger into the gnoll’s collarbone and used his strength and weight to drive it all the way to the gnoll’s gut, slicing through the gnoll’s ribs like a hot knife through butter.
The fall jolted pain up Wrathgar’s legs but he scarcely noticed as he drew his greatsword from his back in a sudden flash.
The remaining gnoll fell back a step and loosed his arrow. His aim was true and it thudded deep into Wrathgar’s chest, piercing a lung.
The barbarian barely noticed as he turned his blood-red eyes towards the gnoll, took a step forward and promptly cut the gnoll’s head and right shoulder from the rest of the body.
Breathing heavily and ragged, blood filling his lungs the barbarian dropped his sword and clenched the arrow in his chest. Chanting “Kord grant me strength and life” he pulled the arrow slowly from his chest and kept one hand firmly pressed over the profusely bleeding would. Holy fire leapt inbetween his fingers and he felt a soothing and strangely calming pain followed by a numbness.
Looking down, Wrathgar inspected his chest and was satisfied to see the wound was gone, healed through the might of Kord’s power. Had he been a lesser man, he should have been dead now.
The barbarian gathered up his daggers, tucked his sword back in his belt and paused briefly to spit on the corpses of the gnolls. “May your foul meat give strength to the vermin,” he muttered angrily and then resumed tracking the stag.
An hour later he tracked the stag to a river, where he immediately thought he must have lost it, for its tracks stopped by the river and went no farther. He paused to think of what to do and heard the sound of rushing water in the distance, downriver. There was a slim chance, but perhaps the stag had followed the sound of the river.
Almost running Wrathgar took off down the riverside heading towards the sound of fast water. As he got closer it became dramatically louder and louder, until at last he saw it, a waterfalls plunging over a steep cliff.
At the peak of the falls, where the water gushed over in thick frothy white stood a creature that was both wondrous and beautiful and incredibly strong: A pristine white unicorn.
The unicorn was standing sideways against the rushing torrent of water. Wrathgar couldn’t even fathom the phenomenal strength it would take the beast to keep from being pushed over the waterfalls. Its silver mane and pearly horn shone in the light of the morning sun.
Beyond the beast was the towers of a ruined settlement, a city of towers larger than any Wrathgar had ever dreamt of. The barbarian had travelled long and hard throughout the southern lands and had never seen a city so large. He was thus doubly stunned both at seeing the unicorn and the city, which looked strangely serene.
The unicorn spoke, a deep baritone voice that rumbled above the sound of the waterfalls, a voice like ancient thunder.
“Follow the waters to the shattered city below.
Walk to the west to the dome of yellow.
Find ye there a scout strong with bow.
And with its final words the unicorn leapt into the air and disappeared over the edge of the waterfalls.
Wrathgar ran forward, pressing through the fast waters and nearly losing his footing despite staying close to the edge and gripping the rocks firmly with both hands. He could not see the unicorn. It had not died from its leap, for surely he would see its drowned corpse. No, there could be no denying it. This had been a messenger of Kord.
The End, for now.
Born of the Barstammderstarke tribe, Wrathgar is a hunter raised amongst hunters. He was trained as a cleric of Kord and is essentially a shaman-in-waiting, as High Shaman Korflex is currently alive and very healthy (and a half-elf, which means Wrathgar will be ancient before he is needed as a spiritual leader).
The Barstammderstarke is a large hunting community who dwell in longhouses in secluded valleys in the south. Chieftain Fyrestrom leads the tribe and they peacefully coexist with a band of wood elves who live nearby. The tribe sometimes goes to war against gnolls from the desert that raid their camps and they've also been known to skirmish with lizardfolk who live in swamps to the east.
The Barstammderstarke believe that Kord manifests himself in living creatures through signs of great strength and goodness. Various strong and mighty creatures are revered by the Barstammderstarke and considered to be holy beacons of Kord's power. The creature doesn't have to be big to be a beacon of Kord's power because strength isn't always physical, it can also be strength of will. Small creatures like badgers and even birds are revered for their strength of will.
A semi-reclusive tribe the Barstammderstarke rarely has dealings farther to the north. They are more interested in trade with their neighbouring cities to the far south. By legend they are taught the north is said to be a wasteland of mischief, broken cities and dishonourable people. Those who have travelled north usually return with tales of how they were swindled or attacked as the result of misunderstandings.
Wrathgar's personal experience with the north is none. He has heard little but legends and some second hand info from Vertia, a wood elf ranger, who has scouted far to the north with her giant owl.
Wrathgar received what he believes is a message from Kord (details of which I will send you in an email tomorrow along with more biography on his heritage/beginnings) and travelled to the broken city. On his way he encountered Vertia and several others and they entered the city hoping to solve the mystery of why it was abandoned and why Kord had sent him there.
Vertia had seen the city before, but had always stayed away for fear of the dreadful flying beasts she had seen from afar. Sadly it was those same beasts which nearly killed her and laid waste to the rest of their party. After that battle she fled with her wounds, leaving Wrathgar alone in his quest.
Now that he is alone in a forsaken land Wrathgar must find both the physical strength, the strength of will and perhaps the most important of all, the strength of character to carry on and discover why he has come here.