The Great Wolves of Ealdromere
Stewart AS XXXV
Long ago, when the northlands were naught but wild expanses of field and snowy forest, when the people were fractured into separate clans and tribes and fought with each other, when the Dragon from the South roamed our woods with impunity, lived the Great Wolves. These Great Wolves were lord of the forest, glade and glen, huge beasts larger than a bear, with thick pelts and paws the size of a man's head. Of all things in the north, only the Great Wolves struck fear in the Dragon from the South, and he took great pains to avoid them.
The greatest of the Great Wolves were a mated pair, called Gar and Weyra. Gar, the male, had a coat of smoke grey, with fierce yellow eyes and a scar across his back. He was the strongest of the males, the alpha, and had won many victories.
The female, Weyra, had fur like newly fallen snow, with eyes the colour of a crisp winter sky. She was gentle and compassionate, but as fierce as her mate when the need arose.
For many years the Great Wolves and the humans of the northlands lived in peace with each other, though the humans kept fighting amongst themselves, a thing that filled the Wolves’ hearts with sorrow. And all the while the Dragon of the South preyed upon them all.
Among the Great Wolves there had long been a prophecy, that one day two members of their kin, though not of their kin, would lead them alongside the men and women of the north into battle to drive the Dragon from their land.
And so it came to pass that one Twelfth Night, as Gar and Weyra ran through the woods, they came upon a scene of slaughter.
A family of northmen lay scattered about a smoking fire, their bodies shredded by great claws, their gifts to each other smashed to pieces.
A noise from a toppled tent reached their sensitive ears. Within the tent, they found two young humans, a male and a female, clinging one to the other and crying in fear.
Taking pity on them, Gar and Weyra adopted the young humans as their pups. They called the boy Clave, and the girl Bisret, though humans would later call them by other names.
In the years that passed, Clave and Bisret lived as Wolves, learning to hunt, to track, to fight, and to respect life.
Gar and Weyra loved their odd pups but knew, deep in their hearts, that their adopted children yearned to know others of their true heritage. And so they took them, silently, to watch the tribes and clans of the north.
When Clave and Bisret saw other beings like themselves, beasts who walked on two legs, they were filled with joy. But Weyra, with sad eyes, bade them watch on. And soon they saw the clans and tribes wage war amongst themselves.
Then they took Clave and Bisret to see the den of the Dragon of the South, where he encroached on the lands of the north. There they saw him torture and kill northlanders and knew, deep within their beings, why they had been spared by fate so many years ago.
They must drive away the Dragon.
The following Yule, Clave and Bisret called on all the tribes and clans of the north to a moot. And they came. Those who followed the bear, and those who followed the ram, and the hare, and all the others. All came, for all had heard of the two raised of Great Wolves. All had heard of Clave, of his powers of arms, of his justice and righteousness, for Clave was second amongst the Great Wolves to only Gar in power. And all had heard of Bisret, and her strength and love of those born in the north, and knew she was second amongst the Wolves to only Weyra in compassion.
There, in a great circle of pine trees, the people of the northlands talked, and all were swayed by Bisret's heartfelt pleas to set aside hostilities, and to love each other as siblings. And all were swayed by Clave's proud words, and united behind him as a single force to drive the Dragon of the South from their lands. And the Great Wolves came from out of the trees to fight alongside them.
That Twelfth Night, twenty years since Clave and Bisret's family had been murdered most foully, the Great Army of the north marched on the forces of the Dragon of the South. But the Dragon had learned of their plans, and his army was ready to meet them. Worse, he knew that the Great Wolves were on the march, and had called to him famed hunters from a far off country, hunters who had killed kappa in the Marches, and wyverns in Drachenwald. Nothing frightened them, no animal or beast alive, and they set a trap for Gar and Bisret.
The Dragon called them out for single combat. He would fight with Gar on a snowy plain, called Lythredd, while Weyra stood second. For his own second, the Dragon chose the strongest of the hunters.
Gar and Weyra met them on the plain, while their armies watched. The Dragon of the South danced about Gar, refusing to engage him, and instead luring him towards the trap. For the hunters had found a large hole in the earth, and had placed great spikes of banded wood within it, and covered it with reeds, and covered the reeds with snow. When Gar's heavy foot fell on the reeds, he crashed into the pit, and, at that same moment, the hunters rose from hiding, armed with bows. As Weyra ran to the edge of the pit she became impaled with arrows and fell herself into the hole.
And, knowing their leaders had died through treachery, all the Great Wolves howled in sorrow and fell lifeless themselves into the snow.
The Dragon of the South was now sure of his victory, but he did his enemies discredit. Rather than flee the field, the people of the north rallied behind Clave and Bisret. So too did all the animals of the north: the bear and fox, the badger and squirrel, the raven and jay. For they had loved Gar and Weyra and would avenge their death.
In the face of such a determined foe, the Dragon of the South knew his cause was lost, and retreated back to his own lands, losing fully a third of his army as he ran, including his hired hunters, who fell to Clave's own sword.
And then, with their lands free from tyranny, the tribes and clans and even all the animals swore fealty to Clave and Bisret. As the oath was sworn, the spirits of the Great Wolves joined with them; Gar with Clave, Weyra with Bisret, and other Wolves with all who swore fealty. From that day forward, the Wolves lived within all those born in the northlands, the lands that would one day become Ealdormere. They still reside within us, if we but listen.
And even unto today, the Great Howl, let loose at the moment of the Great Wolves' passing, can still be heard on cold, clear, winter nights, by all those of true Ealdormeran birth.
Dedicated to the rulers of Ealdormere,
Past, Present and Future.