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.

Tips and Tricks On: How to Avoid Stagnation & Boredom in LARP

As a LARPer, I hear all the time that people are getting bored with their respective games. They are looking for new ways to spice up their experience after being a part of the same community for 20+ years, or looking for new ways to reaffirm bonds of friendship with their countrymen. The good news is that this is a fairly common phenomenon. The bad news is that it will take a little work on your part to get through it. We can’t always have a passive role in our own futures and leave everything up to the event holders that have enough on their plates. Below are some tips and ideas you can feel free to use to help you on your journey:

1.)    Consider what groups or orders might be appropriate for your character to pursue. Expand your horizons outside of your nation. Does your character worship a deity? Is there a religious order or a knighthood that might be appropriate for you? Do the research and make the connections within the community. Communicate what you’re looking for and people may be able and willing to point you in a direction. Most games have a wide variety of different organizations for you to belong to if you’re willing to put in the effort. If you can’t find one that you feel is appropriate, consider starting your own!

2.)    Open yourself up to learning a new skill or craft. There is always room for improvement in everything we do. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try leatherworking. Maybe you want to get better at foamsmithing or even throwing events of your own. Why not take the time to give it a go? Find someone in the community that can give you some starting tips and advice and work on building that weapon/piece of garb/monster/dungeon you’ve always wanted to. Just like learning how to fight, these are all valuable skills that are only going to get better with practice.

3.)    Assess your weaknesses and strengths, and push yourself to go beyond. If you’re an excellent Role-player that wants to fight better, start attending some practices or find a mentor that you trust to push you outside of your comfort zone so that you might be able to have the confidence to enter some tournaments. If you’re an amazing fighter but you’re too shy to engage in much RP the same applies. Find someone you like or trust to bring you in and get you involved. LARPing communities tend to be very friendly and most people will be all too happy to get you involved in the various aspects of the game that they are passionate about.

4.)    Plan active bonding activities with your nation and friends. If you have permission from the leadership of your nation you might want to try getting everyone together at an event for story time by the fire, a group ritual, group training or fight practice etc. Whatever you feel is an appropriate and enjoyable activity for your respective group of friends. Relationships take work, and if you want to keep people invested in the success of the group then you’ll have to be equally invested in those bonds of friendship. This is also relevant on an OOC level. Make plans to do things together outside of events. Maybe hit up a Renaissance Faire or go to the movies, have a craft night or a party at somebody’s house. All of these are valid ways to just enjoy each other’s company.

5.)    Consider setting goals for yourself. This can be very motivating for people who are driven and independent. Make yourself a LARP “bucket list” as it were, and think about all the things you really want to do that you haven’t yet accomplished. From there, break down your goals into achievable and measurable steps. As an example, say my goal was to become a well-respected shield fighter in a specific game. I might take it a step further and start by saying I’ll hit a certain number of practices a month, that I’ll participate in a certain number of tournaments and so on and so forth. I can expand on my goals as I achieve them, while keeping them reasonable. Don’t keep your goals so far out there that you get discouraged before you really have a chance to explore them.

Obviously this is a very limited list of what you can do to make your LARPing experience more enjoyable, but it is a good starting point on how to deal with a common complaint. Maybe it will even inspire you to come up with suggestions/ideas of your own. Either way, I wish you the best of luck! Remember, it’s okay to ask questions and it’s okay to fail! Learn from everything you do, and you’ll be far less likely to suffer from regret and stagnation.

The Okami Pack: Part 3 by Gundulf (Adrian Cronin)

Gundulf awoke as he had every day for the past few weeks. He made his bed impeccably then made his way to the kitchens to aid the cooks in preparing morning meal. They had taken a liking to the large wolf, bits of humor illuminating through cracks of hard work and dedication. It seemed that he fit in at this temple more than he would have expected to.

Once morning meal was served, he was allowed to eat with his broth… his pack. All seated at the long tables, indulging in polite conversations which Gundulf was delighted to engage in.

A well renowned story teller in his own right, he often found himself at a loss for words when hearing the stories of these monks. Some of their lives seemed so foreign to him. Sitting side by side as equals were Barons who left their wealth and lands behind to seek salvation from the beast blood and paupers who were granted asylum after causing mayhem in the gutters of great cities. All seemed content and treated one another with respect and dignity.

After breakfast came training. Gundulf had spent most of his life as no more than a brawler. He had never seen battle, let alone held a sword. Nonetheless, he had taken to Okami traditions with great vigor and curiosity, and grew stronger every day. Was this why Hygar sent him here? To become a warrior?

Such thoughts were a distraction, and the only way to keep up with his pack members was to empty his mind of all thoughts and embrace the natural flow of combat. This was the hardest part, for Gundulf above all else, was a thinker. It had been how he survived as long as he had.

This day Gundulf was paired with a particularly menacing monk by the name of Thrall. Thrall hailed from desert lands to the south and spoke very little. He appeared to have Orc blood but Gundulf had been too afraid to ask the brute too many questions. All of his focus was required in sparring the beast of a man, for even though he was quicker than Thrall, in terms of strength Gundulf was far outmatched.

Thrall swung high and Gundulf ducked beneath and delivered a quick jab to Thrall’s ribs. Thrall attempted to sweep Gundulf’s feet from under him but Gundulf deftly hopped over the attack and landed in a defensive position. The fight was going well.

Gundulf momentarily let his gaze drift to his blind master who was conversing with several of the older monks near the garden. He gestured to the petals and even took one of the wolfsbane flowers in his hand! This puzzled Gundulf, for a mere whiff of the plant nearly sent him to his end weeks before.

Suddenly Gundulf felt Thrall’s skull bash in his nose. The attack came far too quick for Gundulf to make any sort of defense, and he took the full force of Thrall’s blow and felt himself hit the ground.

A mixture of pain and rage filled Gundulf. As a wolf his nose was his lifeline, and never before had his senses been so overwhelmed. He felt his body begin to twist and contort.

The crowd gathered as they had before on his first day of arrival. Only now it was Gundulf who would stand before the blind master and his spear.

“Gundulf you will revert to your mortal form.” Gundulf heard through a murky haze.

“This is not how you meet your end, boy. Slow your breathing. Think of your friends, all of this will end. Look the beast in the eye and deny it.”

Gundulf closed his eyes and focused. He saw before him a giant wolf, and it snarled and growled in his face. But he did as his master commanded, he looked into the wolf’s eyes and whispered “no”.

 

***

 

Gundulf once again awoke, sweat covering his head and in a bed too small for him. “Is it normal to lose consciousness this often…”

“No. But you are alive. Waking up is a privilege only afforded to the living,” said the master.

“I’ve been to lands where the denizens would beg to differ, as soon they stopped gnawing on your face,” joked Gundulf, still getting his bearings.

“You met your wolf today. Truly met him. How did it feel?” Asked the blind master.

“It is hard to explain. I felt the terror of losing control and I could tell the wolf wanted to come out or maybe… I wanted him to come out? Is Thrall ok?” Asked Gundulf.

“He is fine. He apologizes for the cheap shot. But you should know, you didn’t transform. It took all of your strength and energy but you stopped yourself mid transformation,” said the blind master with respect.

“Wow, well that’s good,” said Gundulf.

“Was this the first time?” The blind master pressed.

“No, I have led quite the adventurous life, master. There have been many occasions where I have come back from the brink. Once I am the wolf my body is dominated so I do all I can to avoid transforming.”

“It is one thing to prevent transformation. Even to regain control and transform back from the wolf. These are common amongst true born wolves. But very few have been able to achieve what you have and even still only with years of training,” said the master.

Gundulf sat and in listened, at a loss for words.

“I will teach you to practice this skill. Once harnessed it can be a powerful weapon,” said the master.

“I don’t understand. I see how it could be useful in protecting those around me… but how is it a weapon?” Asked Gundulf.

“You see, by allowing the wolf to pierce the veil you can draw strength from him. For most the strength is too much, which is why their form shifts to that of the Lycan. It is the only way for the werewolf to regain balance. But to draw upon that strength and allow it flow through you will make you most formidable. How is it you think a man as blind as me is able to see? This is why you are here Gundulf.”

“When do we start?” Smiled Gundulf.

 

***

 

The next day, Gundulf left his room and readied himself for his duties in the kitchen. But the blind master was waiting for him in the hall and gestured for him to follow. The two walked into the courtyard and were coming dangerously close to the gardens before Gundulf stopped in his tracks.

“Breathe deeply my son. Do not fight the pain it causes you, only embrace it and focus on your discipline. Focus on your breathing.”

The two entered the gardens just as dawn broke. It took Gundulf quite some time to get used to the presence of the wolfsbane and they repeated this walk routine for many days. On the fifth day, the power of the plant was trivial. And the blind master instead elected for the two of them to meditate within the garden for a while before beginning their lessons. After some time had passed, the master broke his silence.

“You must learn that when you transform, it is still you. Your mind may be foggy, your senses overwhelmed, but it is still your spirit. It is only your fear of the beast blood which causes your shifts to be so chaotic. But even still, you have never tasted human blood. This is no coincidence, Gundulf. You are kind and gentle and so is your wolf. And once we expand upon the relationship with the beast inside you will find great peace.” The master looked into Gundulf eyes as they opened, and promptly slapped him in the face.

Gundulf was in shock. At first he smiled, wondering what possible lesson of peace could be learned from sucker punching him. But then the master slapped him again, this time much harder and the tips of his fingers caught Gundulf’s ear. Gundulf felt his control beginning to slip and the door to transformation begin to open. But this time he found himself standing in the garden, the master nowhere to be seen.

As Gundulf awaited some sort of explanation, he saw a large white wolf saunter over to him. He recognized the beast’s eyes and it looked quite familiar. Sensing no danger from the animal he decided to approach. The wolf, equally as curious, sniffed Gundulf and circled him playfully. Gundulf stroked the beast’s head a few times and touched his forehead to his. A blinding light consumed Gundulf perception. Then he opened his eyes to find himself in meditation before his master.

“You’ve met your wolf. This time on equal footing. A courtesy afforded to us by the wolfsbane we grow here. It prevents transformation, allowing a keen mind to enter the space between. It is a common practice here, it helps to mend the bonds between the two spirits which lie within those with beast blood.”

“I thought you said stopping a transformation was a rare practice…” Gundulf said in confusion, doing his best to remain respectful while absorbing all the master had to offer.

“Without this garden, for many it is. Once you’ve learned to commune with the wolf, we will practice this outside of the garden and hopefully one day outside of this temple and in the world beyond,” said the blind master.

For many days the lessons continued. It wasn’t until the full moon that the blind master changed their routine. When Gundulf awoke, eager to greet his master in the training grounds, he found no one there to greet him. Not knowing what to do, Gundulf went to the kitchens and helped prepare the morning meal as he had so many times before. He then ate with the monks, enjoyed their wisdom and merriment, but when he asked of the master was met simple shrugs.

Gundulf elected to search the grounds rather than spar with the other monks. He walked the halls of the temple, checked the various shrines and rooms of meditation as he passed. He even searched the gardens but could not find the man anywhere.

As midday sun came, many of the monks were meeting in the kitchen for lunch. Lunch was always less formal than breakfast or dinner in the temple because it was the closest thing to a break that any of the disciplined acolytes would receive. And so many of them elected to take their meals outside or even skip the meal in favor of recreation.

Gundulf walked through the courtyard, scanning his memories of the recent days in hopes of gleaming a clue to why he’d been abandoned. Had he done something wrong? Had he offended his master in some way? He elected to meditate by the cliff face and hope that a bit of peace might clear his rattled insecurity.

Many of the monks were making offerings to Luna in celebration of the full moon. Others were chanting to Gaia as they tended to the gardens and made necklaces of dried wolfsbane for some of the less disciplined monks to wear during the full moon.

After dinner the monks gathered in the square to perform kata; which were choreographed fighting moves which they often did to celebrate various aspects of their world. With little to offer to the gods, sweat and discipline were the greatest gifts they could offer. Gundulf joined in and allowed himself to get lost in the movements, even electing to wear a wolfsbane necklace as this was his first full moon in the temple.

Half way through the dance, Gundulf heard loud crashing against the temple gates followed by the ringing of an unfamiliar bell. Many of the monks fled to the temple for shelter while others elected to arm themselves with weapons. All looked around for someone to lead them, but found themselves with none of the masters in sight.

A large crash was heard at the gate and several monks, even those with weapons, ran for the temple with all speed. Those that elected to fight formed a defensive line in front of the temple steps. Gundulf stood with them.

Twilight was upon them and the full moon rose. The moon illuminated the courtyard and afforded the first glimpse of the intruder. A gargantuan werewolf stalked the courtyard, pacing back and forth. Upon first sight of him, a few of the temples defenders elected to run inside. Gundulf wondered if he should do the same.

The clash began with a flash. Half a dozen of the temple’s greatest champions swinging silvered blades and axes at the great beast. None connecting, for the beast was quick and would counter every attack with large swipes of his claws. Gundulf was knocked back several feet from one of the swipes and his necklace was torn from his body and the petals were taken by the night breeze.

As Gundulf lay there, he watched as his brothers and sisters fought valiantly against the beast. But more and more were forced to retreat as a result of exhaustion or some wound. One of them even gave into the moons call and attacked it in beast form. The large wolf clamped its jaws down around the wolf’s neck and promptly ended its life. The moon’s call began to claw at Gundulf, and he knew what he must do.

Gundulf hid himself behind a pillar, crossed his legs, and embraced the wolf’s call. He found himself face to face with his wolf. This time there was no snarling or growls, yet certainly an eagerness. But the wolf stood there, its eyes meeting Gundulf’s as if it were waiting for Gundulf to decide what to do. And so Gundulf petted the wolf and touched his forehead to his. The same white flash occurred as the last time he attempted this, but this time he didn’t close his eyes and he just held on to the wolf. When he opened his eyes he was still sitting behind the pillar.

Infused with the power of the beast blood, Gundulf stepped out and walked towards the great beast. Many within the temple screamed and pleaded for Gundulf to turn back, but he knew his course was clear.

And the clash began. Gundulf swung his arms and legs in a beautiful dance of death. Kicking and punching, using forms far beyond his training. The two battled long into the night, with the entirety of the temple looking on in awe. Gundulf was heard screaming out to the wolf: “Change back! Don’t make me do this!” For the young wolf had battled the beast with his fists up until that point.

It wasn’t until the beast, frustrated by the fruitless contest, turned his attention to the temple and began charging towards the spectators that Gundulf knew what had to be done.

 

As the morning sun gleamed over the mountain, it blinded all who had been watching the spectacle. When everyone’s eyes adjusted they walked towards Gundulf holding a naked, bruised and bleeding figure in his arms.

“Please… please… I’m so sorry,” they heard Gundulf say through gritted teeth and mournful tears.

Gundulf held his master close. A silver spear head pierced his chest. The master smiled and let out a wheezing laugh. “You are forgiven.”

 

***

Gundulf packed his things with stern conviction. He was eager to put the temple to his back. To think that his master would sacrifice himself in such a way just to teach him a lesson made his skin crawl. As Gundulf walked through the courtyard he witnessed the burning of his master’s body and decided, that despite his current feelings, he would stay for the funeral rites and see if he may gleam some deeper truth from the ceremony.

Many masters took their turn in speaking. Some offered comfort from godly edicts. Others offered lessons they had learned from the blind master. None spoke his name, at this point Gundulf was sure that few ever knew it. He certainly hadn’t.

The final speaker was a very old monk. Her body was bent over from the many years she had walked the earth. She did a sermon with a familiar tale which many from within the temple and even the realms at large were familiar. The tale refers to the two wolves which dwell inside of us all. One embodying anger, hatred, deceit etc. and the other: kindness, love, honesty etc. The two wolves are constantly at war within us all. And the wolf that wins is the one we feed.

“The Blind Master… I was a young girl when he first came to this place. For years he didn’t speak. Didn’t even train. He simply worked and kept to himself. He was only missing one eye back then and was constantly plagued by nightmares. After one particular fit, he scratched out his other eye. This was far from the man that you all would come to know. It was only through years of training and meditation that he made peace with the life he had lived. He had been a champion of Darkspire, and Gaia only knows how many now rest within the ground as a result of his wrath. Though he had learned to channel the power of the wolf, he knew it was only a matter of time before his beast would take over again. He longed for a pupil that would be able to give him the peace he desired and feared that he would one day bring ruin to the temple he considered his salvation. Gundulf. I know you don’t believe it now, but what you did was a kindness. His will asks that you take his ashes to the Wolf shrine. Spread them there and then read this scroll which he has left to you.”

The speech concluded with all eyes on Gundulf. Tears filled his eyes, but remembering his discipline, he humbly gathered the ashes and made his way out of the temple grounds. The Wolf shrine was a short walk from the temple, which was no great surprise.

Arriving at the cliff he looked upon the Wolf shrine with tear filled eyes. He spread the ashes as his master requested and opened the scroll left to him.

It read:

If you are reading this Gundulf, then you have freed me. Your purity of heart made you far more powerful a wolf than I ever could have hoped to achieve. Every moon brought me closer and closer to madness, for my sins upset my balance irreparably. The wolf within me was a cruel twisted creature, for he was me. And though I sought forgiveness and a new life, the wolf within me was too far gone. Or perhaps I was just better at pretending.

Nonetheless, I fear your journey is just beginning. I am honored to be the first life you have taken. I promise you, you’ve slain a wicked villain and avenged the lives of many innocents. Please continue your training at the temple. You are now free to do as you please. Come and go, and take your place among the people of Voraniss. But return, and train. Be better than I was.

For you are the descendant of Vangrim the wolf. It is the only way you could have learned my lessons so quickly. One day the Okami Pack will need a leader again. I hope when that day comes, you will rise to the challenge. 

The letter was signed “B”. A mystery for another day.

Gundulf slipped the parchment into his pouch. He now looked upon the Wolf shrine, wondering how sitting in a chair as a joke got him here. As Gundulf’s contemplations and grief took him well into the night, the second night of the full moon approached. He heard the howling off in the distance, and just before it became too dark to see, a familiar face walked up the path with a lantern.

Mouse approached the shrine and lit its ceremonial torches. She was unsurprised to see Gundulf, and it was clear that she had “divined” the details of the day. She laid a hand upon Gundulf’s shoulder before taking a seat not far from him. She then imparted to him the tale of the Wolf shrine to offer him comfort and answer the many questions he had about the significance of his heritage, before the two of them made their way back home.

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.

When magical creatures and their allies unite in defense of their freedom and the forest they love, there is no telling what kinds of shenanigans might ensue.