The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.34

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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Ulfgorr lunged aross the fighting pit, his long legs eating the distance in a single step. Jaws slavering, eyes wide, slashing at me with talons like wicked knives.

Giving ground too quickly would leave me in a bad place, so I stood and swung my greatsword into his wrist. The force of the blow stopped his swing and my blade cut to the bone and came back bloody.

Rather than stop or flinch like any sane being, Ulfgorr simply snarled and kept coming, swinging his other set of claws at my face. I turned and took the hit on shoulder, The talons did not cut through my Kingsmail, but they did drive the rings through the leather undercoat and into my flesh, which was uncomfortable enough.

Worse yet, I staggered, almost losing my footing as Ulfgorr swept in, that nightmare mouth seeming to devour the light above as it snapped toward my face.

My only option was to fall. Ulfgorr’s feet were less dangerous than his teeth and claw. I hit the ground and thrust my blade up with desperate strength. Ulfgorr snapping down to bite me, took the sword in the shoulder. His foul blood spilled out of the wound, flowing down the channel in the middle of the blade and over my hands.

Rather than pull away, the beast reached out with his talons, seizing my helm from either side. I kept pushing on the blade, but a chill ran down my spine as his thump claws snapped into focus inches from my eyes. I twisted my face quickly and they scored my cheek and upper lip. Ulfgorr growled and inched his thumb talons along my face toward my eyes. I twisted the blade, but he did not flinch. My boot connected with his knees and groin, but he did not budge. I thrashed as he closed. Desperate, I lashed out. This time my hobnailed boot connected with the side of his leg. To my surprise that made the beast move. He let go of my helm and grabbed the leg that I kicked him with. As he stood, I felt his weight pull off the sword. I swung it backhanded toward his leg. I felt the shock of the hit and Ulfgorr stumbled.

Pulling my foot away, I heaved myself to my feat. Ulfgorr was already upon me. I barely had time to swing, catching him in the side where my kick hurt him; the burnt side where Git’s fire had melted flesh and fur. He slammed into me, bearing me to the ground, roaring in pain and fury as my steel ripped into his flesh. It was a hideous sound, made all the worse by his charnel breath and the smell of burnt flesh.

Ulfgorr held me down and slashed a talon across my chest. My kingsmail finally gave way a little under his assault, and I felt those grim claws bit into me.

But my sword was still in his sore spot and I jerked the blade deeper into the cut. Ulfgorr threw back his head and howled. I drew blade my blade and smashed it into his face. Blood splashed from the beast and he fell back, freeing me. I stumbled to my feet.

Ulfgorr stood, a great cut across his face. He regarded me through hate-filled eyes and snarled showing teeth through the blood.

I lifted my blade, ready for the next clash.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.33

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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It is disconcerting to lose track of something as large as Ulfgorr, let alone in a space where he would be within striking distance. I fought the temptation to strike the spot where he faded into the shadows, knowing it would be a fatal mistake. Calm was elusive, and my heart thundered in my chest.

Backing into a corner was tempting, but I did not want to back into my enemy. If Ulfgorr got a solid grip on me, I was done. He was just too strong.

I listened, tuning out the sounds of the crowd, jeering Ulfgorr and calling him to fight. The jingle of mail and weapons from dozens of heavily armed warriors. the sounds of footfalls and shifting wood. The sound of the storm above us. My own heart. My own thoughts.

And as it all came into focus, I heard the beast, right behind me, his jaws inches from my neck. Ulfgorr was leaving nothing to chance. I had but a heartbeat to act as his arms closed around me, lifting me off the ground in a gruesome embrace. His jaws closed around my neck and the only thing that kept me from dying in that moment was the thick steel gorget that protected my spine and throat. Even so, Ulfgorr’s teeth pierced my flesh in places, and blood ran down my chest. Through the din I heard a woman’s voice cry out.

I did not struggle against his grip. Ulfgorr was too strong. But as he had grasped me I had remembered the small glass flask that Git had given me. For a long moment I struggled to get it off my belt. I almost fumbled and dropped it. But in the end fate smiled upon me and I got a good grip on the orb.

Then I pushed into into Ulfgorrs leg until the glass broke. When the air touched the concoction within it burst into flame. Even through two layers of armour, the heat made me scream.

But for Ulfgorr, it was far worse. His fur and his skin burned. For a moment, he tried to hold on, his teeth digging further into my neck. Then abruptly, he let go and staggered away, howling in pain. It was a terrible sound, and those above us recoiled.

As Ulfgorr staggered away, his leg burning. I had other concerns. My gauntlet was aflame. The pain was terrible, like setting my palms on a hot skillet. Pulling the knife from my belt I stuck it in through the wrist and pried the gauntlet off. Much of the skin on my right hand came with it. It was a gruesome sight.

Ulfgorr batted at the flames, but the cruel liquid fire only stuck to his hands. He yowled and staggered about, too tough and stubborn to lay down and die like a sensible creature. As I heaved myself to my feet, he thrust his talons into the earth of the pit, snuffing the flames. Then he started grabbing handfuls of the mud and slapping it on his leg.

By the time I reached my sword, the fire on his leg was out. I did not intend to give the Demon Wolf of Darkvale time to recover. Two ground-eating strides carried me to him and I swung with all my might, bring the blade down upon him.

With unnatural speed, the beast leapt away. I caught him with the tip of the blade, opening a long cut from his collabone to his abdomen. Ulfgorr snarled and a long arm whipped out. Dagger-like talons flashed in front my face and I stopped.

My eyes met Ulfgorr’s and I saw the fathomless hatred and hunger within them. He growled at me, showing jagged teeth.

I raised my burnt hand, making rude gesture. “Ulfgorr, your face is as rotten as your heart, come at me and die.”

And he came.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.30

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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She handed me a sword. It was a greatsword, a big Nordan blade of the finest craftsmanship with a pedigree of enchantments second to none. I recognized the blade, even before I drew it.

I was not the only one.

As I pulled the sword from its scabbard the last rays of the sun touched the edge. There could be no doubt then.

It was the sword of Siggurd the Stormbreaker, bane of The Devout, High King of the North. My king, the king I served, who fell at Drajinskyg where I died and rose again before my exile.

Memory washed over me like a hurricane swell.

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The Skraeling boiled out of the woods, a foul tide of screeching hate. We faced them, but we were taken aback. The Spearmarch was near settled lands. How could such a horde appear so close to all we held dear? Such was the sense of disbelief that men who would normally throw themselves into danger without hesitation lost heart. When the enemy charged, shaking the ground under their innumerable boots all seemed lost.

Their javelins blackened the sky, and though we were well armoured and shielded, men began to die.

But, Siggurd the Stormbreaker, the High King of all the North, was not one to run from an enemy in his own lands. He moved calmly to the front of the army, pushing his way through his protesting Kingsguard, myself the only member of the Shadow Wolf Clan honoured with a position among them in more than a hundred years. His gaze swept the enemy and then he spat dismissively and lifted his sword, Garmsbita, above his head. Invoking the Gods to witness the battle he rallied. His last line, the last words from my king are still clear in my mind.

“Nordan, do not fear. Stand with me now brothers and let us show Gods and Ancestors that we are brave and true; Come ruin! Come glory! Come courage and red joy!”

As he spoke, he raised Garmsbitta above his head and then, as now, it caught the last rays of the sun. It seemed like the coming of dawn to those of us around him. Our lines reformed and we met them like the heroes of old come to life.

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Siggurd was a canny fighter. He knew that such a horde would have more than Skraeling chieftains pushing it. He led the fight to them, and we followed him.

“Looks like the Gods have seen fit to give us a little excitement,” I said to Thyra.

“A keg of Furis’s finest, if you can best me in the tally, little wolf,” she said.

We fought, shoulder to shoulder, a rock in the stream, until misfortune struck

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Siggurd faced the wight king and struck him down, separating head from body with a single great blow from Garmsbitta. It was a glorious moment, worthy of song, and we raised our voices, drowning out the Skraeling din. Our enemy began to panic, several other wightkin fell to Nordan blade, and the joy of battle was upon me.

And then came that dark moment, when a shadow fell across the king, and he fell, never to rise again. Victory game way to ruin and though I fought to the bitter end, I was dragged down, and torn apart, tasting blood and despair and then darkness.

Before, no matter how hard I tried to focus on that moment, on that shadow behind the king, on what truly killed Siggurd, I was never able to. 

This time I saw. I remembered it all.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.28″

It has been an eventful week here. A windstorm blew shingles off my house yesterday, which is not common in this part of the world. I am dead tired, but here nonetheless. This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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The fortress of Cassander’s Shield brooded, outlined in red and gold as the sun set behind it. The docks were thick with longships showing the shields of every clan, with the heraldry of many prominent Nordan among them.

They did not challenge me at the gates of the bridge to the Nordan quarter this time. Instead, the guards, four grey-bearded veterans clasped hands with me as I passed.

“Gods be with ye, Grimfang,” said the eldest.

It appeared that Ulfgorr was even less popular than an exile.

“My thanks, warrior. It is unfortunate that you are stuck out here on guard duty.”

“Mayhap he has no stomach for slaughter, old wolf,” said another of the veterans. They all laughed at this, and I did as well; Nordan have a peculiar sense of humour. Behind us the Twins exchanged glances with Murith,

“If I die, at least I will die with honour.”

“That is true,” said the first.

“Let us hope that the gods smile upon ye, Shadow Wolf,” said the second.

“And that your sword strikes true,” said the third.

“And that your shield is as strong as your will,” said the last.

I nodded and led my procession through the gates. The Twins were with me, of course, as was Murith, Git, and Renoit. There were a great many more besides; friends from The Doxies’s Union and people that I had helped or adventured with over my decades in Myrrhn. Whores and mercenaries bumped elbows with scholars and merchants. It was quite touching.

As we approached the steps leading to the great metal doors of the fortress, I caught a familiar scent. I looked up to see her standing before me, clad in bright armour and bearing her fell spear.

“Thyra! I did not expect to see you here.”

“Old fool. I crossed half an ocean riding Hurn’s own storm to get here. I would not fail to bear witness when my sword-brother faces the demon wolf himself.”

“Ah, you do me too much honour Thyra. You are a hero of the North, the last of Siggurd’s Kingsquard. I am but an exile, shamed for falling before my king.”

“Put away the long face brother. You are not so shamed that this cannot lift your heart.”

And she held up a suit of armour identical to the one that I last wore on the day of my exile from Nordan lands. It was finely made kingsmail with black plate pauldrons, gorget, and vambraces. On it was the insignia of Siggurd ‘Stormbreaker’, once the high king of the North and with that of his successor.

“The Queen?”

“No, the boy. He is old enough to lead now. When I asked, he gave his blessing. Perhaps this will give Wolki pause.”

My mind had trouble keeping pace. The young High King had given me permission to wear this sacred armour; it was a great and unexpected honour. I could not understand why it was being bestowed upon me, save as a courtesy to Thyra, who was a real hero.

“Thank you, old friend.”

“May it bring you victory this time, Ragnar.”

Of course, one might look upon the armour as a last comfort from a merciful king to a fallen exile meeting an honourable death…

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.27

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“You’re going to face Ulfgorr in single combat? Did I hear that right?” Git did not look impressed. Being from Kanung, he understood the concept of honour, but he was not an adherent at all.

“Living in Myrrhn has made you cynical.”

“Not at all, I came to live in this city because I found that the culture aligned with my view of the world,” said Git. “Did you come here to say farewell before you commit suicide by ascended werewolf?”

“Some thing like that. But just in case I change my mind, do you have any of that concoction that Murith used when we fought him.”

“I do,” said Git. “Do you want it as a weapon oil or a throwing flask?”

“Won’t it ruin any weapon I place it on?”

“Will that matter if you are dead?”

“I think the flask is a better option, if only for the element of surprise.”

“Just don’t drop it. Once the white sparkstone within is exposed to the air it will start to burn and light the sunfire oil immediately.”

“That is good to know.”

“I would warn you against using it to kill yourself, but I don’t think that is necessary now.” said Git.

“I can beat him.”

“Let’s not equivocate possibility with probability, Ragnar. You and I have not always had an easy time as friends, but I do not want to see you die. Thus I cannot approve of your actions here. Wolki would never have sent Ulfgorr to challenge you if he thought you would win.”

“That is true. But there is always fortune and the favour of the gods.”

“And what secrets do you have to sell to Skygge that would cause him to favour you over the Lord of his clan?”

“I’ll think of something. Thank you for everything Git.”

“I hope you do Ragnar friend, I really do.”

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“I could fight him for you, Ragnar. We could do this if you Challenge Wolki, he will name Ulfgorr as a Champion and you can name me as yours.”

“I don’t think I can regain my honour if I let a Loragonian Duellist fight my battles for me. Besides on the off chance Ulfgorr were to best you, we would both die, which is not a risk I wish to take Renoit. You have stood beside me through many a tough battle, but this battle I must face alone.”

“May I come to witness the duel?”

“I would be honoured Renoit. But before that day comes, there is another way you can help me. I feel a few practice bouts with you would help sharpen my skills; I will need to use finesse to stand against Ulfgorr in a duel.”

“And finesse is definitely not your strongest asset… I don’t suppose I could convince you to use a sabre?”

“I prefer to stick with a Nordan blade; we don’t have enough time to break in a new weapon, let alone learn a new style of fighting.”

“That is unfortunate. I have a silver sabre that would do the job nicely. I call her Adrianna.”

“I hope Adrianna does not feel spurned, but I am loyal to my own blades.”

“Very well Ragnar, let’s see if I can teach you something useful this time,”

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.26

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“Are you certain you want to face Ulfgorr in one on one combat Ragnar?” asked Vethri, looking me in the eye. “I know that it is the honourable thing to do, but from what you have told us about him, it seems like it will be tough to win.”

“That is putting it diplomatically. Ulfgorr will likely paint the challenge ring with my blood.”

“Then why do it?” asked Carmen.

“Its a Nordan thing,” responded Eiskra. “The nobles are big on honour and single combat, even the women.”

“Without honour I will never be free to return to Nordan lands.”

“It seems like a foolish thing to throw away your life for, Ragnar,” said Carmen. “I know you love your homeland, but even without it, you still have a good thing going here. I envy you.”

“Do you really Carmen?”

I was a little wroth, but she did not seem to care. “Do you think that I would have fallen prey to someone like Sildus if I had friends like yours, Ragnar? The Nightblades recruit ‘most of us from pickpocket gangs and the like in the run down parts of the city. I don’t ‘have very many good memories of my youth; just little victories like getting enough to eat or finding a warm place to sleep when it got cold. I used to think that I was special, just to have escaped that, but now I know better. You have so much more than I do in that regard.”

I nodded. “What you say is true: I have always been fortunate to find myself in good company. But I cannot shirk this fight. Ulfgorr will not stop until one of us is dead. Fighting him in the challenge ring ensures a fair fight, and a chance to regain my honour. I cannot pass it up.”

“Fine,” said Carmen. “What are the rules of this fight? how can we help you win?”

The rules are simple. We both enter the challenge ring. We fight until one of us is dead. No one outside the challenge ring can help.”

“Can I poison your weapons?”

“That would be dishonourable.”

“Can we spend a small fortune on an enchanted blade?” asked Vethri.

“We could, If we had time. It is not exactly sporting, but then again Ulfgorr is a wolf-changing berserk. Sadly, there are no smiths that I know if in this town who could produce a better blade than I have now in the time before the fight.”

“I’ll see if I can get Git to make something useful for you with that fire concoction of his,” said Murith. “It seemed to work well on Ulfgorr the first time.”

“It would have to be thrown though; I don’t want to warp my blade.”

Carmen laughed. Cackled more like. Everyone looked at her.

“This has given me an idea that might help you out Ragnar. I have to return to the tower…”

“Are you going to give voice to this though of yours?”

“Nope. Nightblades prefer surprises. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt your honour, Ragnar.”

And she slipped out of the carriage and melted into the crowd.

“This should be interesting,” said Murith.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.25

Hello! this is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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“What was that?” asked Carmen as our carriage lurched into motion and began to roll down the cobbles and away from The Pink Pearl.

“We cut Diamond Silvermane loose,” said Eiskra. “Now no one can claim that we are forcing them to remain in the Union.”

“Without membership in The Doxies’s Union she cannot speak at our gatherings, either,” said Vethri.

“And without the Union she will have to find her own doormen,” I added. “Some of the bouncers that I saw there were mercenaries. It takes a very select temperament to tend the door at a brothel; mercenaries are prone to violent solutions and intimidate the patrons.”

“I’m glad it was well thought out,” said Carmen. “The look on her face as you left was pure gold. I loved it. This is fun.”

“Good, I’m glad you think so,” said Eiskra. “We have your first client waiting at our house.”

Carmen laughed, looking down at the array of devices that were part of her costume. “I would hate to be that guy.”

“Who said that the client is a man?” asked Vethri flatly.

Carmen’s eyes went round. Even I had trouble telling when Vethri was lying. After a moment they both burst out laughing.

“Sorry, Carmen,” said Eiskra. “There actually is a client waiting for us at the house. After all this I’m eager to see to her. Our business requires strict confidentiality though; you never know what they will let slip during the… interrogation.”

“It does sound like fun,” said Carmen.

“Should you be discussing this in front of me?” asked Murith.

“You would need to join The Union, and swear an oath,” said Vethri.

“I will get back to you,” said Carmen. “We have members in The Doxies’s Guild, of course, but I am not certain what my superiors would think.”

I was about to respond when the driver lost control of the horses. The carriage rocked violently and then came to a stop.

“You better come out and see this Ragnar,” said the Driver.

I stepped out of the carriage, hand on the hilt of my hammer. I could smell him. There, standing in the street like a lunatic was Ulfgorr. He was in human form, wearing an old overcoat. There were still signs of burns on his face, but I was dismayed at how quickly the damage seemed to have been undone.

“I see that the burns have made you less ugly, Ulfgorr. Did you come back for more?”

Ulfgar rippled, a grotesque sound rising from his throat. I heard Murith load a bolt in her arbalest behind me. Then, with visible effort, Ulfgorr relaxed.

“Wolki…” he began, spiting out the words as if they were spoiled. “Wolki bade me speak to you Grimfang. He wishes to meet and settle differences. To negotiate, or fight if that is your desire. At the fortress, in the challenge ring.”

My heart sank. The challenge ring was used for single combat. For a warrior of renown to refuse a challenge there was a great dishonour. This was a setup for humiliation or death.

“I will be there.”

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