Lore of Voraniss: The Okami Pack by Gundulf (Adrian Cronin)

As the packs within Voraniss began to intermingle, wolves who had spent generations in complete ignorance of each other were sharing their culture and finding common ground. Great warriors were learning how to use their beast blood to heal others instead of just themselves. Members of the nocturnal pack, who grew up without any human comforts, were trying their first sips of ale and many of them were wearing clothes for the first time in their lives.

This brought the Druidic Circle within Voraniss great joy. For though Voraniss was host to a number of magical creatures and human settlers, if the wolves rejected the inclusive goals of the Voraniss hierarchy then the forest would surely fall back into chaos before long.

Within the great gathering of Alphas, Hygar sat at a large round table shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of the Voraniss packs. The table had been modeled after one of Hygar’s favorite legends. He had invited Gundulf and a few of the other settlers there as guests to get a chance to meet their neighbors and to make their faces and scents known in case they wandered off where they shouldn’t.

There was one seat at the table which remained empty. Ominously so. No one seemed to pay it any mind. Although the many alphas were packed tight at times, leaning in to have words with one another, they avoided entering even the space which the chair occupied.

In front of the chair was an empty plate and glass; perfectly clean, pristine even, all set for a guest that would never come.

Gundulf took note of the strange behavior and assumed, that like many things within Voraniss, it was something routed in superstition. So of course after a few drinks when the Moot turned into a celebration, Gundulf wanted to see how close he could get to the chair and measure everyone’s reactions.

And so first he bumped into it. Seemingly no one in the room paid any mind.

After a few more drinks, he leaned on it. A few Alphas saw him, but made no real outward reaction toward him.

And finally, he decided to make his move. Gundulf lifted his foot up and untied his boot stealthily. He then walked up to the empty chair, pulled it out, sat on it and began tying his shoe.

The room didn’t exactly fall silent, but the change in volume was obvious. As many of the other wolves looked to one another, some in astonishment, some in amusement and others in anger.

One gaze had been fixed on Gundulf throughout this entire escapade. Hygar Athame. But apart from a dead stare from across the room, even Hygar didn’t make public comment.

When the meeting had ended and many of the wolves were running off into the night, Gundulf gathered himself and prepared to head back to his grove where he was building his home. But before he was able to stumble out the door, Hygar put a firm hand on his shoulder. He then spoke to him very sternly.

“When you get home, pack your things. I’ll be there to collect you in the morning,” Hygar stated without a hint of emotion.

“Come on… is this about the chair? No one seemed to mind!” Gundulf yelled to a Hygar who was already gone and paying him little mind.

And so, Gundulf traveled home to his grove. Electing to walk in human form this night, enjoying the stark beauty that was Voraniss. He couldn’t believe he’d jeopardized his place in his newfound home. Utter despair washed over him and he slept not a wink.

When morning came Hygar arrived with Mouse. Both seemed in a chipper mood, laughing and gossiping as they made their way towards Gundulf’s camp. Gundulf didn’t know whether to be offended or relieved by the revelry that he heard approaching.

“All of my things are packed. I’m so sorry for offending you, Hygar, and I’ve made my peace that I will be leaving my Voraniss adventure… a bit sooner than I had hoped.” A terribly exhausted and anxious Gundulf stated while trying to appear stoic, if not for the visible tears in his eyes.

Hygar and Mouse looked at each other and burst into laughter.

“You aren’t being banished, Gundulf. And it isn’t Hygar you’ve offended,” said Mouse.

They then explained to Gundulf that there was one pack that was afforded a seat on the Alpha council that chooses not to attend. But that the seat remains empty as a sign of respect.

“Well why couldn’t you have just said as much?” asked Gundulf.

“This Pack has a very ancient way of viewing transformation and even the world at large. There are as many opinions about their way of life as there are wolves in Voraniss. We make it a rule not to bring up an unrepresented pack without their presence. It keeps the meeting’s integrity intact and fosters respect between the Alphas,” explained Hygar.

Gundulf held his face in his hand. His mischievous nature had gotten him into trouble before, especially where drinking was involved, but usually he had the upper hand in these matters.

 
“So I’ll take you as far as the mountain path, then you are going to apologize to their elder. You are not to return home until you’ve apologized and made amends. Please take this seriously Gundulf, for if you return without things being set right you will have to leave Voraniss. We can’t risk destabilizing everything we’ve built for one wolf’s pride,” said Hygar.

The three of them marched off into the woods for what would be a full day’s journey, which for Gundulf was a nightmare. Having had no rest the night before and still very little understanding of where he was going, not to mention the hangover! To Mouse and Hygar’s dismay he was uncharacteristically quiet on the journey. But Mouse and Hygar treated it as any other day, a beautiful walk through the woods within their borders.

***

It was nightfall when they finally made camp at the bottom of the great mountain.

“Are you going to tell me anything about these wolves? Are they friendly?” Asked Gundulf as he chewed on a bit of bread he had brought with him.

“All will be revealed in the morning,” said Hygar, poking the fire.

Mouse sat staring at the moon and singing a song in elvish. Gundulf didn’t speak elvish, to his dismay, for the song was quite beautiful. He was able to make out the words “Luna” and “Gaia,” for the names of gods had often had a way of transcending language.

Gundulf passed out almost as soon as his head hit his pillow.

When morning came he awoke to an empty camp site. Apparently he’d slept through breakfast for the first time in his life. In the dirt there was a huge arrow drawn pointing towards a narrow path up the mountain. Also, he found a small parchment wrap filled with a biscuit, bacon and a few sardines folded far too eloquently to have been folded by Hygar.

“Vandor! God of vengeance and breakfast!” Gundulf heard himself yell a bit too loud in excitement. For a moment he feared Mouse may have heard him…

Gundulf ate his breakfast and began his long hike up the mountain.

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