Category Archives: Nature

Legends of Voraniss: Sariandi the Sly

If Mon’ghora was the Queen of the Forest, Sariandi would have been her advisor. The vixen always had the Queen’s confidence, and was found at her side sharing in her secrets even before the start of the War of the Giants; but when Mon’ghora was flung far up into the sky things began to fall apart. The animals of the land found themselves without strong leadership in the face of a new wave of Giant aggression. They were hunted for pelts that the Giants would drape about their shoulders like morbid fashion statements or used for rugs in the cold, stony, and damp caverns that most of the Giants called home.

In a panic, the animals scattered. They had no desire to be the next to fall and their will to fight was decimated when they saw their loved ones being used as trophies. How cruel the world was when fear was so great that the fires of vengeance had been completely smothered by it.

Sariandi knew that if something didn’t change, and soon, the Giants would win this fight and forever change the face of this great land. Unlike the others, her passion for victory had not entirely faded. She kept Mon’ghora’s face in the forefront of her mind, remembering the love the two friends had shared. She clung to those memories and used them to keep herself going. She ran with the others, all the while plotting and scheming her next move.

One day the animals had a terribly close call. A small group of them had stopped by the lake to drink, swim, and refresh their weary bodies when they heard the rumbling of nearby Giant feet. One Giant was enough to tip them off to the danger, but there was definitely more than one. All around them the startled animals could feel the ground shake. Even the trees were trembling, losing their leaves against their will as the Giants intruded upon the quiet paradise.

“Run!” they cried. “The Giants are coming!” And run they did, though many were lost as the Giants seized up the limbs of trees and batted at the slowest animals in the back; clubbing them over the head to stun and grab them up. The whole earth shook as they pursued the fearful creatures. When they laughed, it surfaced as a cruel and odorous wind that the animals thought they could never unhear.

“Get the beasts! Get them! Let their hides be trophies for King Velindahl!” One Giant shrieked above the others.

King Velindahl was the leader of the Giants, and Sariandi was not impressed by him. He boldly claimed to be descended from the earth itself, and was often depicted sitting upon a throne of gold and rare gems that had been expertly handled to make each facet shine as bright as a star. Mon’ghora had always said he was a braggart, thinking that the advanced smithing techniques of the Giants put them far above the other creatures living in this land. It was that same sense of superiority that had started this war, Sariandi believed. King Velindahl had always been jealous of Mon’ghora’s popularity and status and so it only made sense that his Giants lashed out at her because of his ego. If only there was some way to use it against him…

Sariandi continued to run, fleeing for her life as the Giants began to gain on them. It wasn’t looking good. Their long strides gave them an unavoidable advantage, and their advance wasn’t going to be stopped by brute force; not without organized resistance anyway. The vixen grit her teeth, feeling the pounding vibrations of their pursuers beneath her paws when she was struck with an idea. She paused, suddenly, urging the others to continue.

“Go, run! Save yourselves! I have a plan!” she cried.

“No Sariandi! You can’t!” the animals pleaded, “They’ll kill you!”

“Do as you’re told,” she growled back in frustration. “I will be fine knowing that you made it to safety.” This uttered, the vixen turned and started to run back towards the Giants. Everyone stared in shock, surprised by the sudden audacity of this little fox. Sariandi wasn’t a brawler like Mon’ghora had been. Nor was she huge. She may have even been runty by fox standards, with tiny black paws and a crooked fluffy tail, but at least she was quick. She ran as fast as she could, trying to get the attention of her enemies. “Hey! You there! Let my people go and you’ll be rewarded!”

The Giants looked up in surprise upon being addressed. “Are you talking to us? What do you have that could possibly appease us beside the fur upon your skin and the meat upon your bones?” they teased.

Sariandi was careful to not stop running. If the Giants caught her before her bait had been delivered, then this entire maneuver would have been for naught. “I have information for King Velindahl. Information about the location of Mon’ghora’s secret treasure.”

“Secret treasure?” One of the Giant’s scratched his chin, unsure if the fox could be believed. “Why don’t you just tell us? We can bring it back for him.”

“I tell King Velindahl, or I tell no one. Your King wouldn’t like it if he found out that you had lost this information for him…would he? I hear he has quite the temperament,” Sariandi said coyly. She knew she had them now. Velindahl was notorious for his barbarous attitude towards those that had failed him. His own reputation would be his undoing.

“Well, no. Of course he wouldn’t like that,” the biggest of the Giants said. “Fine. We’ll stop chasing your friends for now, but you have to come with us and tell the King your secrets. If you don’t, we’ll crush your skull and use the splinters of your bones for toothpicks. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” said Sariandi, and she cautiously ventured forward into the waiting palm of her enemy. “I am with you.”

The Giants marched back in the direction of the mountains and took Sariandi with them. At their pace they were able to travel distances that might have taken Sariandi days by herself. Despite her anger with the Giants, she was still impressed by this and marveled at the speed with which they traversed the countryside. They were eager to get home and make their King happy, thinking they were bringing him the greatest gift he had ever received.

When they arrived at the entrance to King Velindahl’s cave, Sariandi realized that it was far more than some dark hole. This was a mountain stronghold built directly into the stone and disguised as a natural feature of the land so that its true entrance might not be so easily discerned by outsiders. Their stone craft was so impressive that for a brief instant, Sariandi lamented that the Giants were her adversaries. What they could have learned from each other if only their existence hadn’t been plagued by war and competition.

She was brought before King Velindahl and set upon a stone pedestal so that she was higher off the floor than she would have liked to be. The King wasn’t keen on bending over to listen, the Giants explained when she looked confused. Sariandi tilted her head as she regarded King Velindahl up close for the first time. The throne of gold hadn’t been a myth after all, but it was Velindahl himself that really caught her undivided attention. His skin was like marble; stone painted with darkened veins that curled around his arms and down his body. His long hair sparkled like a waterfall of crystallized quartz, and his beard was equally extravagant. He must have been a sight to behold in the daylight, casting small rainbows all about him.

He sat tall upon his throne for the moment, refusing to bend down and make eye contact. “What is this?” he asked, motioning to Sariandi on the pedestal before him. “You bring me a live one? What use have I for such? Kill it and be done with the deed.”

“My King, please. This one claims that it has information for you regarding the whereabouts of Mon’ghora’s treasures. It wouldn’t tell any but you,” one of the Giants explained.

“Mon’ghora’s treasures?” King Velindahl lifted one of his brows, trying not to give away just how excited he was by the prospect. He inched forward and finally looked at Sariandi as though seeing her for the first time. “Is this true, beast? Do you have this information?”

“I do, great King. May I just say what a pleasure it is to finally make your acquaintance? I had heard stories of your majesty, but I am humbled seeing it in person for the first time,” Sariandi said with a smile. The best lies always came with a kernel of truth.

“Is that so?” The Giant King bristled with a bit of pride at the flattery. “Well now, most of your kind don’t share your keen senses.” He chuckled to himself, slowly blinking his large eyes. “How do you know Mon’ghora? What was your relationship?”

“I was one of her servants, your majesty. I helped take care of her family, and often aided her with family matters,” Sariandi replied. This too was not entirely a lie. As a friend and confidant, Sariandi had seen more of Mon’ghora’s personal life than most were privy to.

“Mmm-hmm,” the Giant mused, pinching his chin between his thumb and pointer finger. It was a boring relationship, so he had no reason to question its validity. “What do you want in exchange for this information? I assume you want something. Most do.”

Sariandi looked up at the Giant and tilted her head in the other direction. “I am not sure how much I can trust that my wishes will be granted. How am I to know that you or your kin will not just kill me when I have divulged my valuable secrets?”

Velindahl slammed a fist against his chest before pushing a hand back through his hair. “A good King always keeps his word.”

“Would you swear upon a standing stone?” Sariandi pressed. She knew that most folk were highly superstitious about the mysterious rocks, none more so than the Giants.

“I would,” Velindahl said sternly.

Sariandi nodded and bowed her head. “I should have known that the King of the Giants would be so generous and virtuous,” she said in praise, “not to mention strong.”

“It is often the strong that are in the position to offer mercy,” he bragged. “Come now. Tell me what you seek in exchange for Mon’ghora’s treasure.”

Sariandi paused a few moments to make it seem like she was deep in thought and carefully considering her desires. When at length she spoke again, she had one simple request. “I wish to see a demonstration of your strength, mighty King. How deep a hole could you punch into the ground in one go? I’m guessing at least a mile by the size of your arms. You’re probably even a better digger than me.”

“Child’s play,” the King scoffed, “But my word is my word and I will keep it.” He rose from his throne and plucked up Sariandi in his hand as he strode outside, placing her down when he came to a wide, flat place that he found suitable to her challenge. “Steady yourself, little beast,” he cautioned. He pulled his arm back and bent his elbow so that it stood above his head.  With a powerful yell, he drove his fist forward into the ground and shattered the rock beneath him. The earth moaned in pain as the wounds ran deep, but King Velindahl was laughing too hard to hear it. “See? The stories of my greatness rival the might of the Primals themselves!”

“Is that so? Wow! I’ve never met anyone as great as you,” Sariandi kept goading him on. “I bet you could beat one of those in a fight too, huh?”

“Of course I could!” Velindahl kept laughing, snorting air in through his nose. “No Primal could withstand the might of my fist! I can break mountains and shatter diamonds with my fingers!”

But Sariandi wasn’t the only one that heard the claim. Deep beneath the ground there stirred a force so ancient that it was there when the world was made. An Earth Primal had awoken, and it was not pleased with the wound it had already sustained from this Giant, nor the ensuing taunts and challenges.

All around Sariandi and the Giants the mountains began to groan and crack, shifting into earthen appendages. The world shook as it came alive, and those angry hands lashed out as a man might lash out at a bug. The mitts of stone pushed together and squished everything into their palms, destroying King Velindahl, his palace, his minions, and Sariandi all in one fell swoop. Where there was once a vibrant civilization of Giants and their skilled craftsmen, now there was only a stone tomb; and a mountain carved from their corpses.

The few Giants that did manage to survive that day surrendered to the Animal-kin and retreated into the mountains never to be seen again; humbled by the true power of nature. Sariandi’s people began to worship her as a hero after her death, learning of her deeds from the Giants that loathed her for this trickery and manipulation. All that was left of Giant-kind after that were bits and traces of their peoples; lost artifacts and swirling runes that can be found all over Voraniss to this day.

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Legends of Voraniss: Mon’ghora the Sky Boar

Unlike the tales of Osag and Riel’iefyr, the story of Mon’ghora isn’t about the heroic deeds of some Man or Elf. Her story reminds us that there are ancient places upon this earth where humanoids still fight for power against the mighty primordial beasts that once controlled the world. You see, Mon’ghora was not in fact a person, but an enormous boar that towered over six feet high. In her prime she was a walking boulder; a huge creature with jagged tusks and an angry squeal that could split the heavens when she was in a foul mood.

Many hunters tried to slay her, but they always met with disaster. Her toughened hide turned away their spears like harmless children’s toys, and her charge could not be halted by any wall they could build. Her ferocity went unmatched, and she became a Queen of the forest like no other as warriors of every specie fell in line behind her as a sign of respect.

Unfortunately for Mon’ghora, her great power invited the envy of the Giants. It was they, with their great height and close proximity to the clouds, who should command the hearts of the masses they believed. In secret they plotted, keeping an eye on Mon’ghora and her followers so that they might strike when the time was right.

One day when Mon’ghora and her people were traveling close to the Calandia mountain pass, the Giants attacked. Some of them covered the exit to the pass with huge rocks along with their bodies; trying to prevent escape. The other Giants had climbed up the cliffs, looking down upon the trapped Animal-kin and various humanoids that usually traveled beside the Queen Boar, as they lifted logs and enormous stones like projectile weapons.

Protectively, Mon’ghora urged her followers to run back the way they had come and away from the trap the Giants had sprung…but she was not to go with them. Never one to back down from a fight, the she-Boar turned angrily to face the barricade that had been constructed before her and used her own body to plug up the pass and prevent the giants on the ground from pursuing those that fled.

Stomping her hooves into the dirt, the earth began to shake and tremble beneath her. Several Giants tumbled down from the cliffside and crashed into the rock below where they were buried beneath an angry landslide. Mon’ghora didn’t stop there. The mighty creature began to scream and squeal, causing her remaining opponents to cover their ears in desperation.

Sensing the weakness of her enemies, Mon’ghora charged forth as she mustered all the fierce and righteous rage that she could. Panicking at the sight, the first Giant in her path lowered his spear to skewer her; but the weapon snapped upon impact and she gored him through the legs on her way by. Blood littered the ground of the mountain pass and Giants dove out of her way as fast as they could; terrified that they too would be on the receiving end of her furious punishment.

Unable to see clearly through the haze of mayhem, the last Giant in her path saw her coming only when she was already on top of him. He didn’t have enough time to raise his weapon, so he did the only thing he could think of in the heat of the moment. The Giant grabbed Mon’ghora by the tusks and started to swing her. Round and round he spun until he was so dizzy that he could no longer see straight. Nauseous and drunk with terror he let out a fatalistic scream of his own as he finally released her.

Up into the air Mon’ghora went sailing, boring a hole through the clouds and sky. The friction of the fast moving wind upon her skin caused her to combust into flames, but still she didn’t stop charging. This was how the sun was born the locals tell me. Each day you can see Mon’ghora running around the world as she eternally chases the Giants that dared defy her, and each day she disappears for a short while as the world mourns her departure to the heavens and the sky turns dark with despair.

Some of the Orcs tell the story a little differently. They say that Mon’ghora only went berserk in the pass because she was trying to protect her family and infant child. They also suggest that they are descended from her, the peoples that were chosen to carry on her bloodline of strength and unwavering ferocity in the heat of battle. It might explain their cultural attitudes, and maybe even their tusks. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Orcs alive today, which we know of, that were around during the time this legend began.

Either way, the story is an interesting one and showed us just how much respect still exists within our lands for the once powerful Queen.

Understanding the Broken Spears Treaty with Voraniss: By Adrian Cronin(The Barbarian) and Renee Booke aka Mouse

At Tournaments of Creathorne this year, while nations took to the field to establish their prowess in combat, other interesting things were going on. The Broken Spears and the nation of Voraniss were busy signing a treaty. To understand this document, and the story behind it, one must first understand the parties involved.

The Broken Spears were formally a group of refugees from the land of Corbach. The prominent members of the company range from a rebellious street magician to a secretive scholar. From peasant farmer to elven ranger. The one thing they had in common was an enemy. And this enemy was born of political corruption and tyranny.

Things in Corbach slowly degraded in the decades before the rebellion. Taxes and tariffs became so cumbersome that many businesses were forced to close. Their military was involved in so many conflicts that it seemed their soldiers would never come home. As tempers began to rise, curfews were instated and traveling at night on the road was punishable by death. This and many other burdens fell upon the people of Corbach. But it was the death of their King, and all of his heirs which ignited the rebellion to its greatest heights.

The rebellion had no true leader, but instead was organized through a series of secret correspondences which were organized and directed by persons unknown to this day. But one particular group grew too large to hide and too dangerous to ignore. This group of war veterans, highwaymen and freedom fighters began raiding the homes and estates of the new Corbach royalty. Burning down fields of crops that they knew fed the incredibly large Corbach military. Causing disruption and devastation with each passing victory. They were precise, efficient and savage. But as their momentum grew, so did the response from Corbach. Through propaganda and fear mongering, it was the very citizens the rebellion was fighting to protect who became Corbach’s greatest weapon.

Once their location was known, it was only a matter of time. Their camp was burned, their men slaughtered or worse captured and made example of. Most of the rebels whose identities remained secret, returned to normal lives within the country, where they would wait for the spark of rebellion to return. Unfortunately for some, their methods were a bit too ostentatious as well as their appearances to hide in plain sight. Plus many of them had no homes to return to. And so, with the threat of imprisonment or worse at their heels, the rebellion was squashed and scores became refugees fleeing to the south.

The greatest and wisest among them rose to leadership positions within the caravan. The burden being shared by three men. Cronin the Barbarian, a great warrior from the rebellion stood as a figurehead. His judgment and level headedness had seen the rebellion through hard times. It was he who promised to find those who followed a new home for which to settle. Helkias the Blackraven, was nothing short of a legend within the rebellion. He used his wits to keep the group well supplied and well armed, and trained those who were willing, in the ways of battle. Matthew had lost more than any man or woman in the caravan. His origins were known only to Helkias and Cronin. Matthew elected to keeping people fed and healthy. More than anything, he lifted the spirits of the refugees.

The road through the lands to the south was fraught with peril. It seemed each new land they visited was plagued by undead or worse. As many of the refugees began to take up the sword and join the front lines of these conflicts, Cronin began to see potential where burden once stood. And so Cronin the Barbarian, with Helkias Blackraven as his second, formed, “The Broken Spears Free Company.” The Company fought alongside the heroes of the realms in many battles and finally found promise when Cronin met with Hygar and Kindrianna Athame and found that they could assist one another for the mutual gain of both their peoples.

 

It was at this junction, that Hygar and Cronin forged the bond that would change the fates of both of their peoples.

 

Voraniss, although a relatively young nation, had seen hardship in recent days when the Shadowlands rose up from the ocean. The small city of Kenkilit had been destroyed by this process, and consumed by mountains and spikes of land. What was left of it was certainly natural, defensible territory, but Hygar’s attention was focused on other issues. The population of his lands was growing quickly, and with trouble brewing in the neighboring country of New Verai; not to mention the threat of the Night Pack, the Archdruid had his hands full.

At its heart, Voraniss was a place with great affinity for magic, ritual, and respect for the natural order. These values allowed the forest’s denizens to live in harmony with the wilderness around them, but also gave them compassion for those creatures and beings without a home. This is what Hygar and Kindrianna saw in the Broken Spears when their Free Company of refugees first arrived.
After much deliberation and discussion, Hygar offered The Spears what remained of the Keep and surrounding territory of Kenkilit. This mountain refuge was severely damaged, and in desperate need of repair and occupation, less it becomes a staging ground for some invading force. The Spears, in turn, offered protection to Voraniss and now act as its first line of defense in the event of war from their neighbors from the east.

Autonomy was freely given to the Spears, as long as they followed the laws of the land. However, seeing the opportunity to unify the two groups, Hygar also included a clause in the treaty which would deepen their relations. Should half or more of the Broken Spears decide to settle in Voraniss and pledge themselves to Hygar, then Cronin would rise to the position of “Druid of the Circle”, which is the ruling council beneath Hygar, Kindrianna and Gavin. This would allow Cronin to look out for his people and continue on as their Commander. No one could have predicted that the groups would get along as well as they did, for not a day had passed before Cronin was granted the title, though ceremonies and rites still remained.

And so it stands. The Broken Spears stand vigil in the east. Offering protection to the people of Voraniss while restoring Kenkilit to its former glory. Many adventures still await the great nation of Voraniss as well as many perils, but they will be met with the full fury of the Broken Spears and the Druidic Circle of Voraniss!

 

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.

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.