Category Archives: Nature

Creatures of Voraniss: The Kul’Matha

Apart from the poachers and trespassers that occasionally venture into Voraniss, you won’t find a more despised creature than the Kul’Matha. Standing on average around five to six feet tall, their bodies are covered in green, brown, and black scales that look slimy to the touch; the perfect colors to help them blend in with their surroundings. Best described as lizards that walk around on two legs, they have claimed ownership of the Voraniss swamps for generations and don’t take kindly to anyone asserting otherwise. Some people speculate that they are the cause of rumors stating that Voraniss has alligators in its southern freshwater. This is not in fact true, for the climate of the temperate forest would not support such things.

 
Upon first glance one will immediately notice not just the claws and razor sharp teeth, but the long tails of these creatures. These tails are prehensile, meaning they have the ability to grasp or hold objects. Additionally, the tails help the Kul’Matha with balance, swimming, and even their ability to find and eat food that lives up in the trees.

 
One of the reasons that the Kul’Matha have lasted as long as they have, despite being surrounded by enemies, is the fact that they are venomous. One bite or scratch from a Kul’Matha can kill if the wound is not tended to; and the death is not a pleasant one. Reports suggest that discomfort begins with redness and swelling around the area of impact. This can quickly lead to tingling, burning, stinging, or other rather abnormal feelings upon the skin. Things will then escalate into nausea, dizziness, breathing difficulties, confusion…then finally either paralysis, coma, or death depending on how fortunate the individual is. The strangest part of all of this is that each victim will begin leaking green fluid from the eyes, nose and ears, usually right before the final stage of the venom’s journey. When a Shaman or Healer see this in Voraniss, they know they don’t have a lot of time left to save the wounded.

 
To make matters worse, it isn’t just the venom that makes the Kul’Matha feared. They are also harbingers of diseases that effect the rest of the populace. Besides the mites and threat of rabies, the Kul’Matha have a wide variety of bacteria that live on their body that can cause outbreaks. Warriors getting into confrontations with the Kul’Matha, if they were lucky enough to survive the venom, soon learned that cleaning up after a fight was just as important as the battle itself.

 
Being semi-aquatic creatures, the diet of the Kul’Matha consists of a lot of fish, snakes, and frogs; anything that they can catch in the murky swamp waters that they call home. Particularly aggressive Kul’Matha have been known to climb trees to chase after birds and fat squirrels that they think might make a good meal. It is worth noting that these creatures are not opposed to eating other humanoids, but they won’t go out of their way to hunt them except during the summer solstice. More often than not they like to be left to their own devices and are ultimately opportunistic hunters that will take advantage of anything or anyone that enters their territory without permission. They won’t bother the Lycan population if the Lycans don’t bother them.

 
That being said, if a Lycan or other humanoid does happen to enter the territory of the Kul’Matha, they’ll need the help of whatever benevolent spirits they believe in. The Kul’Matha do not fight fair; hunting in small raiding parties while using their stealth to its fullest advantage. They can see perfectly fine in darkness and will never fight you directly if they can help it. Instead they will rely upon surprise attacks and ambushes to minimize their losses. They are clever hunters who have adapted to a savage environment and don’t concern themselves with civilized concepts of honor and decency. To them, survival is the most important part of any violent exchange whether hunting food, or hunting an enemy. They have been found to be more active during the daylight hours because of their reptilian biology. The darkness seems to leave them slow and sluggish.

 
This biology is one of the reasons locals believe the Kul’Matha are so active during the time of the summer solstice. Celebrating the sun during its highest altitude of the year, the creatures become emboldened and construct a variety of ostentatious floats and river barges. They use these creations to cross over the rivers from the swamp and into Lycan territory where they teach their young brood to raid; “blooding” them as it were, and teaching them to become full-fledged warriors. This practice is just another reason why such hostile tensions exist between the two species.

 
There is more to them than their brutality, however. The Kul’Matha are also highly intelligent and have developed a language of their own, both verbal and written. They should be praised for their contributions to herbal medicine as well, for their own Priests somehow manage to take swamp plants and turn them into very sophisticated medicines that are far beyond anything any other species in Voraniss has been able to accomplish thus far. It is also said that the Kul’Matha are experts in reed weaving, making many baskets and primitive pieces of furniture using the techniques passed down through their culture.

 
Their villages primarily consist of clusters of small huts on stilts that you can find scattered throughout the swampland region. None of the villages are enormous and individual populations never seem to exceed beyond the low hundreds. While they can see in the dark, the Kul’Matha seem to love fire and will announce the presence of their homes with an abundance of torchlight almost like they are warning you “We’re over here. Stay away.”

 
Despite their love of stealth and keeping quiet while on the prowl, the Kul’Matha have a fondness for ceremonial dress and will adorn themselves with bright plumage and necklaces of clinking teeth and bones when gathered together in their own villages. Outsiders speculate that these collections of trinkets and feathers are a Kul’Matha’s way of attracting a mate, or proving that one can provide for another. The more trophies a Kul’Matha has, the more powerful and respected they seem to be. Unlike many species, size doesn’t seem to play a role in how they choose their leadership, leading many to think that the Kul’Matha place much value in action over words or ideas and assumptions of weakness.

 
This concept seems to be true in terms of gender as well, for the females of the Kul’Matha do fight alongside the males from what most have reported. What is peculiar, however, is that the females seem to be highly valued to the males. Warriors have said that after slaying a female Kul’Matha in battle, the remaining males have beserked and raged all at once. Researchers hypothesize that this may be evidence that the Kul’Matha are matriarchal in nature. The only visible difference between the two genders as far as we can tell, is that the females seem to possess extra glands upon the cheek bones that house a more potent venom that is capable of disintegrating flesh.

 
The last interesting piece of information we have on the Kul’Matha pertains to their sense of spirituality. Like many of the creatures that make their home within Voraniss, the Kul’Matha have reverence for the natural world and its bounty. Instead of worshipping a variety of totems or spirts though, they focus on one creature: a very large winged serpent they call Kul’Mathanigalurgtha. Supposedly they believe that they were born when this serpent laid her eggs upon the earth and breathed her fire across the world.

 
Love them or hate them, the Kul’Matha have lived within Voraniss for many years and are here to stay. Most of the locals have learned just to leave them alone out of respect and fear for the capable creatures, but every so often tempers will flare and fights will break out. This is just life in Voraniss. The wheel will always keep on turning.

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A Day in the Life of a Mischievous Fisher Cat: Books, Naps, and Jumping, Oh My!

By Cat White aka Esther

Sunlight streamed in through a small opening in a room of the ruined keep, a few doors down the wing from Kindrianna’s room. Inside the room was simple, with a small sleeping pallet in the corner, a trunk against the wall, and a small table with a chair on the other end of the room that held assorted rocks and other mysterious finds from the forest. A mountain of furs and wool blankets were piled atop the sleeping pallet with no indication that perhaps there may be someone or something under them. That is until a small wiggling nose slid from under the cave of furs and blankets. The nose moved to the right, then to the left, sniffing about. Suddenly, the nose slipped back under and an arm stretched out lazily in its place.

A mop of black hair poked above the blankets and a small young woman, Esther, sat up looking around the room blearily. She squinted at the sun light as she stood and stretched. Her eyes briefly danced over the black and green scarring on her right arm, but quickly she forgot about it. She ran to her door and darted around the corner, nothing but a brown furry blur.

As she ran down the hall, she noticed a candle lit in Kindrianna’s room. She poked her small under the door and sniffed, but she didn’t actively smell Kindrianna. Up to her tricks, Esther squeezed her furry bottom under the door to see if Kindrianna was in her room. Sometimes if she was lucky, Kindrianna had some jerky or something so she didn’t have to hunt for breakfast. Looking around she didn’t see Kindrianna, or Mouse, anywhere. She walked up to her table and hopped up on the chair and sitting up on her hindquarters peered out the window. She didn’t see anyone, except for a few of the other wolves that she tended to keep away from. It may just be her nature, but she didn’t full trust them either even if they did follow Hygar.

Something to the side caught the little fisher cat’s, as she peered over and saw something shining and twinkling. She dropped down to the chair and peered up at it and realized whatever “it” was, was sitting on a shelf with a few books on it that she heard Kindrianna call a library several times. She wasn’t really sure what exactly a library was. She carefully sat back up and gently rested her paws on the edge of the shelf to stare at a strangely glowing crystal that was really pretty. Esther picked up one of her paws to bat at it, but put too much weight on her other paw and toppled down to the table bringing half the book shelf down and a few books down on her head, creating a mess of the table. Esther sat up on the chair, rubbing her now human head.

Esther looked at the table with realization. “Oh no, Mouse is going to be so angry,” Esther said to herself. She hopped up on the window opening back in her natural fur, as she was continuing to regard the mess she made, her stomach gave a protesting growl. She darted out the window in hopes of finding a nice fat porcupine for breakfast, completely forgetting the catastrophe she left behind.

In a large grassed area around the keep, all looked serene and peaceful, until one’s eye caught what looked like dirt flying out of the ground. It was Esther digging what she deemed a rather perfect hole for napping after having a filling breakfast. She popped out of her in progress hole, though at this point it may as well have been a burrow, and looked around. It was a mine field to a poor unsuspecting soul who unlike the pack, knew not to look before walking. Though the pack still had a hard time with quelling and reigning in Esther’s digging habits having struggled themselves almost breaking an ankle regardless of two legs or four.

After a great nap in her very warm and snuggly hole, Esther crawled out stretching with a tongue curling yawn. Esther walked towards the keeps armory, paws and fur sliding into limbs and skin. She pushed the door open as she arrived and was instantly irked. How many times does she have to tell these mangy wolves to keep her armory orderly? Weapons and armor of all sorts were lying around and haphazardly put away, it was a mess.  As she picked up a piece of armor and inspected it, it was dinged up and dirty and it looked like the rest would match. Sighing and muttering to herself she began her work of cleaning and fixing the armor and weapons, putting them away as she went. As she came out of the armory, she heard Kindrianna yelling. Straining her human ears, she tried to make out what she was saying. “What in the world? My books! Hygar!!! Kodan is at it again!,” shouted Mouse. Esther cringed, uh oh. Esther had completely forgotten about the mayhem she had created and left in Mouse’s room. She hugged the wall and slipped towards Osag’s Den to avoid Kindrianna’s wrath.

“Esther what have I told you about jumping at people without warning?” asked Hygar as he held up a squirming fisher cat by the scruff in his hand, bringing her up to eye level. Esther stopped squirming, legs and tail hanging limply. She looked around at some wolves Hygar was training. She was wandering around looking for pack members, she wanted to play. Then she found Hygar in the middle of training some new straggler wolves and she jumped at him in her excitement. However, Hygar had caught her by the scruff before she could make contact. “That I….,” Esther began looking contrite. “Shouldn’t do it?” She asked bright eyed, hopeful that giving the right answer would forgive her the transgression. Hygar shook his head at Esther’s antics, “Exactly, now maybe you should go work on your reading and writing.” Esther pouted, “I don’t wanna, it’s no fun and it makes my head hurt”

In the end, Esther sat cross legged on the floor of Kindrianna’s room her tongue sticking out to the side in concentration as she drew a new letter she learned today while Kindrianna watched her progress as she worked on a scroll. After working on her reading and writing, Esther lazed around on Osag as he patrolled, played one sided hide and seek with Stewhart, played with Wynn, and ate dinner with the pack. At the end of a nice moon lit run, well more like a ride, with the pack, a very sleepy fisher cat comically slid to her room and into her warm mountain of furs and wool.

The Okami Pack: Part 2 by Gundulf (Adrian Cronin)

Gundulf felt like he had been climbing for ages. Looking back he could barely see the bottom, but looking forward, the top was far from sight; a mist clouding his ever pressing destination. His exhaustion grew and grew, far beyond expectation. For although Gundulf was well known for his over indulgence when it came to food and drink, and his physique reflected such lifestyle, his wolf blood often afforded him greater stamina than the average man.

On this occasion he found the sweat to be pouring off of him, and air coming in measured breathes. Finally, he was forced to take an early rest.

As he sat, patting his head of sweat and embracing the cool mountain breeze, he found his comfort return albeit slowly. He had never felt such exhaustion, even after a night of heavy drinking. Looking about, he noticed the path flanked by rich vegetation. Hoping to find a bit of food, he decided to cut through some of the brush.

In his haste, and his exhaustion, Gundulf failed to see that beneath the brush was the largest grouping of Wolfsbane he had ever come into contact with. Tearing away the vines and brush that had grown over the Wolfsbane caused the deadly fumes to fill his lungs. And alas poor Gundulf fell to the ground, and into that heavy space between life and death.

***

Gundulf suddenly saw a great temple. Upon the gate were massive claw marks and a great padlock that was intricately adorned with all matter of runes.

He approached the gate, each step feeling weighted, terror reaching up inside of him and grabbing hold. Where was he? How did he get here?

As he touched the gate, after several moment which felt like an eternity, he felt words form absent intent.

“Hello?” He cried, as a child would call to their mother in the night.

He heard a horrible snarl behind him, yet he lacked the courage to turn and face it. Instead he banged on the gate, failing to remember that it was clearly locked from the outside.

Gundulf could feel the air currents rushing past him as if something were bearing down on him yet again. He could not turn head to face it. He felt tears welling up inside as he crumbled to the ground.

***

Gundulf opened his eyes and sat up straight, taking a measure of his surroundings. He was in a modest bed, although feathered and expertly crafted, it wasn’t quite as large as would be needed for a man his size to consider “comfortable”. The room he was in was strange, even by the worldly bard’s standards. The walls were a mix of paper and bamboo, but expertly crafted to give the impression of absolute security. His bed was also quite low to the ground and the ceiling just high enough for him to stand straight without bumping his head. A single candle burned within a lantern across the room, the dim light illuminating the room delicately in a mesmerizing way.

After wiping the immense amount of sweat off of his head and face, he drank deep from the pitcher of water that had been left on the nightstand next to him, ignoring the glass beside it altogether.

It was indeed water, though herbally infused and quite refreshing. From across the room, a stranger watched him curiously.

“I am quite pleased to see you on the mend young wolf,” said the stranger, who had decided to make his presence known.

Gundulf, still quite delirious, sniffed the air in hopes of catching some glimpse of who or what he may be dealing with. No wolf was accustomed to being taken unaware after all. But all he could smell was the sweat from his lips and a bit of incense that must be burning somewhere nearby. Gundulf sprang from the bed and readied himself.

“Now, now young one. You are a guest. It takes only a snap of my finger and you become an intruder. I should state that many have visited our great temple as guests, however, no intruder has ever left alive.”

At this, and at a complete disadvantage, Gundulf relaxed and decided to take on a more amenable position.

“Apologies. I’m afraid I am a bit disoriented. I’m having a bit of trouble remembering how I’ve gotten here. My name is Gundulf, of Voraniss.”

With the statement hanging in the air, Gundulf’s memory of the climb, and the events that had proceeded it, came to memory. Small fragments of the Wolfsbane mashed together with his fever dreams also rushed forward and caused him to hold his head in his hands.

“Come, Gundulf, I must show you something. Then we will take morning meal and discern your purpose here.”

The two walked slowly through the darkened halls of the temple domiciles, only that same ornamental lantern carried by this strange man to light their way. Their walk at last led to a door which opened up to a small balcony overlooking the darkened courtyard.

They stood there but a moment before dawns first light broke over the mountain top. The sun’s rays came crackling down the mountain, giving way to all manner of beautiful flora. A wondrous waterfall streamed off of one of the cliffs which broke into a stream that led right into the side of the temple, and crystalline pools of water, expertly crafted, took up a large portion of a great garden.

The garden was something from a storybook, artistically tended to with love and devotion. But all of the flowers were of a singular color. Purple.

Gundulf’s eyes followed the newfound illuminations from the sun as it revealed a true spectacle. Standing in the courtyard as statues were dozens of men and women in modest temple garments. As the sun hit them, they broke into a series of coordinated movements. Some movements appeared as a dance to Gundulf while others seemed to be combat maneuvers. Whatever the case was, their movements were quite beautiful.

Stunned, and honestly wondering if the Wolfsbane had killed him and this were some afterlife, Gundulf followed the tiny man back into the temple hallway and down a spiral staircase which led to a large eating area.

The room was filled with long benches and tables, and many servants seemed to be placing large bowls of soup with baskets of freshly baked rolls. Gundulf didn’t need his werewolf sense of smell to appreciate the aroma within the hall that morning. Several of the temple’s patrons were funneling in and taking their seats when Gundulf and his compatriot made their way to one of the benches.

None of them paid Gundulf much mind. The room was filled with quiet conversation, smiles, and a sense of community. Gundulf took his meal slowly, enjoying every bite and waiting for his shadow to broach conversation; which of course finally he did.

“So have you decided yet?” asked the strange man.

At this question, many of the table’s occupants subtly quieted themselves and turned their attention towards the question, in curiosity towards its answer.

“And what decision am I to be contemplating?” asked Gundulf in genuine curiosity.

“Have you decided if any of this is real or not?” asked the man with a grand smile.

At this, the table and much of the room laughed politely. All eyes were on Gundulf at this point.

“To be quite honest, no, I haven’t decided. But though this place has the staunch beauty of an afterlife, it isn’t one I’m deserving of. So either it’s real and you are all having a laugh at me, or it is indeed an afterlife and I’m in line for some sort of torture. But considering the Goddess of werewolves is also the Goddess of madness, I’m a bit at a loss for what a faithless wolf may expect from the afterlife. So why don’t you tell me?”

The room quieted at this answer, as if a practical joke had back fired. But his shadow, this curious man who still wore his cowl over his head obscuring his face, wasn’t the least taken back.

“Perhaps we should start with something simple. Why are you here?”

“I’ve come to apologize to an elder werewolf whom I seem to have offended with my reckless nature. I am not to leave without his forgiveness,” said Gundulf, who decided being forthright may be his only hope of getting out of this place and back to his home, which he was beginning to sorely miss.

“That may well indeed be why you came, but why you are here remains to be seen,” said the hooded man. Upon completion of his statement, he removed his hood to reveal his visage. The monk was bald, with small dots tattooed on his forehead. He appeared to be quite old, however, there was no slouch in his body and he moved quite gracefully. There was a claw scar across his face in which two claw lines went across his eyes. This revealed the man’s eyes to be pale grey and lifeless. He was blind in both eyes or at least appeared so.

Gundulf instinctually averted his eyes for a moment before returning his gaze for closer examination. A large smile crossed the monks face.

“I seek only to apologize to your master….” Gundulf began to explain, but all within the room began to clear and clean the tables; which happened with such haste and precision Gundulf took too long staring to realize it may be courteous to help and missed his chance.

The monks all made their way out of the room, some staying behind to tend to the kitchen and sweeping the dining area. Gundulf followed the precession of monks outside and found many of them to be stretching and gathering bamboo staffs and unusual looking weapons from weapon racks which lined the courtyard.

He decided to keep to the side, his shadow no longer in sight, and observe all he could from these strange people. The demonstration did not disappoint. Many of the monks paired off and began sparring vigorously to dazzling effect; their movements precise and swift.

Letting his eyes wander to take in as much of the courtyard as possible, he was again drawn to the garden and decided to move in for a closer look. As he approached, he realized had he entered the garden it would have meant his end, for it was filled with Wolfsbane. Gundulf quickly turned around and moved towards the main courtyard once more to seek out answers as to why so much of this poison was being grown here. His mind racing, he wondered if Hygar had sent him to investigate this folly with virgin eyes. He quickly turned from the thought. Hygar wouldn’t endanger Gundulf’s life without telling him so, would he?

When Gundulf reached the courtyard he witnessed the monks gathered in a circle, all whispering to each other and backing away slowly. In the center of the circle was a man. He was convulsing on the ground and tearing at his robes. Many of the monks began to cry out in a language Gundulf did not understand. Other bowed their heads and prayed. Where once stood the monk now stood a gargantuan werewolf, bloodlust in his eyes and foaming at the mouth. And standing across from him was the blind monk, a long spear in hand.

The wolf charged crazily towards the blind monk, and Gundulf attempted to make his way through the crowd towards the clash; but too many stood between him and his destination.

The blind monk sidestepped the beast and launched a palm into its side. The beast fell to the ground in a roll. When once again the beast charged, the monk sprang into the air, stepping on the beast’s head and running down its back. The monk then spoke to the beast, and although once again in a tongue unfamiliar to Gundulf, it seemed like a plea.

The beast rushed towards the monk a third and final time, and with a flash barely visible by the naked eye, the beast was impaled by the spear and was quite dead.

The monk yelled first in that same strange language, then again in the common tongue.

“Junji gave into his bloodlust. He betrayed himself and this temple. This is a result of lack of discipline and a sickness of the spirit. He is not the first to be lost to us, nor shall he be the last. Mourn him, clean his body, and remember his sacrifice. Training is finished for the day in light of this tragedy. Meditate on this my brothers and sisters, or follow in his wake.”

Gundulf stood in terror. He wanted to run straight back to Hygar and Mouse, and all of his friends in the tranquil woods of Voraniss; but before he could claim his thoughts, he found himself face to face with the blind monk.

“Follow,” muttered the blind monk. And so he did.

He took Gundulf to a pair of stones that were smoothed into seats. The blind monk gestured and the two sat down.

“I fear tragedy pushes our revelations quicker than I would have liked,” said the blind monk.

Gundulf had no words and elected to remain silent, yet focused, on the man.

“You are in no danger here, Gundulf. You remain a guest as I’ve explained. Junji was here for different reasons. This place is a sanctuary where a wolf may learn control. Many wolves travel here as a last effort to control the wolf inside. Many struggle with it every day. By joining this monastery, Junji made a promise to never shift within these walls and, more importantly, to never again taste human flesh. But he only sought to control the beast within in the hopes of unleashing it upon his enemies, for personal gain. This is a path to ruin.”

“Are all who dwell here werewolves?”

“Most are. Some have beastblood from different animals. We have been host to all sorts of magical creatures, but we all seek the same thing: Harmony with body, mind and spirit.”

Gundulf looked out down the mountain towards the woods of Voraniss. This was such a strange place and he longed for the revelry of a campfire.

“I would but deliver apology to your elder. I’m not to return until I have received forgiveness for sitting in the chair.”

The old blind monk perked an eye brow up at the remark and smirked slightly at the young wolf.

“You have no right to ask of me anything. Not now anyway. I saved your life upon the mountain trail and would see debt repaid before we speak of forgiveness and chairs.”

Gundulf sighed, knowing it wasn’t going to be this easy after the spectacle of the day. But if it meant balancing scales so that he may return home, then so be it.

“What would you have of me?”

The blind monk smiled and gestured towards a broom.

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.

Creative Showcase Double Feature

The Dream by Lyra Corvo

Alligator

She cleared her mind of all but that longing, that deep need of her beautiful hidden world she shared with none. As she walked out into the water, her bare feet sinking comfortably into the soft silt of the bottom, she could think of nothing else. Lazy dragonflies welcomed her as she waded deeper, then finally dove beneath the still surface.

The water was muddy green-brown with spears of light giving her glimpses of turtles and tadpoles before her eyes adjusted to the filtered glow. Effortlessly, she glided far below the murky surface through a wonderland of tangled mangrove roots. Reaching out to touch their algae slick surface, she marveled at the beauty of it all. Everything was connected and she was a part of it.

Forests of gently waving lily pads dance far above her, and the wind whispering through the swamp grass knew her true name. Home. She was home. Here in the murky depths, looking up at the pale checkered belly of an alligator, she found solace. Quick as an eel, she wove in and out of massive root systems, and all the awkwardness of society melted away.

Poem of Wind by Artair

Wind Clipart

 

Mischievous child of earth and fire
constantly fleeing from the freeze
stirring dust and agitating trees
throwing around water causing ire

fueling storms that soak and mire
adding more energy with every breeze
you whip up frenzy and cause unease
constantly moving with unknown desire

though your energy cannot be restrained
you bring about much needed change
spreading words and warning    longer

with whispers and scents of life contained
you carry seeds to places strange
because of you the world is stronger

 

Don’t Kid Around With Kidding: By Amara Shael

As we enter the time of the Ram, also known as the month of March, Gaia begins to wake up from her long slumber and life starts to return to the Realms as a whole. For some, this means more feasts, questing, and adventuring now that the snows have started to melt and trails across the land become easier to travel. For others it is birthing season, which makes for a busy time around a farm as the newest animals are being born. It’s a lot of work getting ready and then caring for newborns after all. So, in the spirit of spring, I have decided to write this to help those that are raising goats for the first time and going through process of “kidding.” Hopefully it will make it easier for others, or just to let them learn a little more about the process.

One of the most important things you can do is have an idea of when the nanny (female goat) will be giving birth. You will want to be there to help with the process, and to be fully prepared in case of difficulty.  Thankfully there are several signs one can look out for to see that the time is coming closer for your nanny to give birth. One of the best hints is the state of the nanny udders, as within 24 hours of the birth her udder will fill with milk for the coming kids. This gives you enough time to get things in order and watch for behavior changes like separating herself from the herd and nesting; both signs that she will soon be entering labor. This is an also an excellent time to change into some clothing that you don’t care about getting bloody, because from here on out things will get messy. Ultimately it may be a little bit of a waiting game. Every goat is different.

The waiting will be at its end when a bubble or thick slime begins to come out of the uterus. This is a sign that the kid is being pushed out. At this point look for a hoof coming out, and the direction the sole is pointed. If the sole is up the kid will be coming rear first. If the hoof is pointed down, it means that their head is coming out first. You can softly grab the hoof and pull while the nanny pushes to help. When the other hoof is out you can alternate pulling on the legs with her pushes until you can see the neck.

At this point we come to the hardest part for the nanny, getting the kid’s head out. At the same time as the nanny pushes, pull harder with both legs until the head is free. The nanny may choose to rest a bit after this, but thankfully the rest of the kid should come out easily at this point with a few more pushes. Once the kid is out check to make sure the nose and mouth are clear of the fluid. Then hold the kid up by the rear leg’s ankles so that any extra fluids in the mouth and lungs drain out. Make sure you have a good hold as they will be slippery!

After that, put the kid down next to the mother so that she can help you clean the baby and bond with them as she gets ready for round two. You can use this time to clean up some of the mess from her giving birth. This process will be repeated until all the kids are born, though thankfully after the first kid the nanny should be more stretched out so it should be easier for her. The kids should be moved to a cleaner part of the stall once you’re able. The nanny will also move to a new area when she’s ready.

The final thing that needs to be taken care of is to make sure that the kids get their first meal. Get a feed bag and feed the new mother. She just did a lot of work and should get a reward for it. While doing this, make sure that her teats are not plugged. If no milk is coming out, squeeze them until the plug comes out. Then guide the kids to her teats for their first meal while encouraging them to stand.

All that’s left now is to finish cleaning. Make sure all the afterbirth is taken care of, as well as the nanny’s hind quarters. You’ll also want to make sure the kids are completely dry. With your work done, you can now leave your goats to bond with each other and maybe even take a short nap.