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Offline Demonslayer

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Path of the wolves
« on: February 06, 2013, 02:51:05 PM »
2182, Middenheim, temple of Shallya

Why were they up so early? The sun wasn't even up yet! He blinked, eyes sticky from sleep, and saw a familiar face standing over him. 'Sister Magda?' He hadn't intended to sound so sleepy. Sister Magda didn't like children who were sleepyheads, and he wanted her to like him. She was so pretty, prettier than any of the sisters at the temple's orphanage, with her bright blue eyes, pale skin and long, curly black hair.

'Come now,' she said, looking sad. He didn't know why she was sad, but he didn't want her to be. So he got out of bed, quickly got dressed and followed her outside. There, three men stood, waiting. The large, strong men looked like something from a nightmare, standing there in the darkness. A single lantern cast their faces in a ghostly light- thick beards, bald heads, and grim, very grim eyes. He didn't like the three men and tried to hide behind sister Magda.

One of the men gestured at him, his wolf-pelt cloak falling open to reveal a shirt of mail. 'This is the boy?' His voice sounded hard and low. He didn't like the man at all. He looked up at sister Magda, who only nodded, her face expressionless. 'Yes.' Then she knelt down beside him, looking directly at him. 'I want you to listen carefully now, child.' He didn't like her calling him child- he was seven, after all, so he was hardly a child- but he knew sister Magda only called him "child" when he had done something wrong. He felt scared. Why was sister Magda angry with him? And why did she take him to these men? Had he done something wrong?

'You will go with these men,' she said. 'They will take care of you, understand? You must forget your old life. Your name is Ulmgrim now.'

It felt like his heart stopped. Tears welled up in his eyes when he put his arms around the sister, almost pulling her to the ground. 'No sister Magda, please no! I'll be good, just don't send me away! I promise I'll be better!' He screamed at the top of his lungs, but it was no use. He kicked and struggled when one of the men picked him up, but the man was just so strong. He tried to fight back but the man just walked away, not listening to the screams.

As he was carried away, sister Magda walked back into the orphanage, silently.

One week later, Middenheim, temple of Ulric

Ulmgrim- because that was his name now, after the priests had beaten the memory of his old name from him- ran through the dark hallway despite the pain in his body. The priests and the older boys here had hurt him- beating him, kicking him. Combat practice they called it, but he didn't know a thing about fighting. He had wept as they'd shaved his head, cried out in pain as they had given him tattoos, but even though he now looked like the men who had come to take him from the temple of Shallya a week ago, he only looked like them on the outside. On the inside, he was very different from the loud, angry men. And so he ran, and wouldn't stop until he was safe, back in the temple of Shallya.

Footsteps- behind him, getting closer. Ulmgrim's stomach clenched and cold sweat appeared on his back. He couldn't get caught! They were hard enough on him when he didn't do anything bad- he feared what punishment they held in store for the children who tried to escape.

Suddenly something jumped at him from a hallway to his right. The dark silhouette tackled him, twisted his arm around his back and sat on him, pulling his arm while Ulmgrim screamed out in pain. Then his attacker leaned in close, growling near his ear. 'Did you think you can escape from the wolf pack, boy?' Despite the pain Ulmgrim grew silent. Father Volgrun. Even the other priests feared the almost feral man. 'You failed because you were afraid- too afraid of the wolves chasing you to see the wolf in front of you. Think on that while we punish you.'

That night, Ulmgrim learned that the beating he got when sparring was nothing compared to the beating he got when being disobedient. His screams taught the same lesson to all the children in the temple, trying their best to ignore the awful sound.

2184, Middenheim, Temple of Ulric training grounds

The boy was on him before Ulmgrim could respond- he was fast, for sure, and heavy too. Ulmgrim was quickly wrestled to the ground, where the other boy sat on him and pummeled him with his fists. One particularly hard blow knocked two of Ulmgrim's teeth loose. But the fight wasn't over yet.

Raising his arms in front of his face to ward off the incoming blows, Ulmfir threw up his legs behind his attacker, crossing his ankles around the boy's face and throat. Then he pulled, hard, until the other boy was frantically trying to claw at Ulmgrim's legs so he'd release him. But Ulmgrim didn't release the boy. Instead he repeatedly punched him in the abdomen and groin with both fists, until finally he felt the boy weakening in his grasp.

Jumping up, Ulmgrim now had the upper hand, but unlike the boy he was careful not to give his opponent any room to move his legs. His fists broke the boy's nose, knocked teeth loose, and Ulmgrim thought he heard the boy's jaw crack. Ulmgrim felt two priests pulling him away from the boy, who lied still but breathing on the floor. Ulmgrim didn't care. He was a prisoner here, and this was a victory over his captors. He let out a feral roar at the priests dragging him away- only to see the men... smiling?

'You did good, Ulmgrim!' One of the men who restrained him laughed. 'Very good! You showed the spirit of Ulric in there! An extra meal for you tonight!'

Ulmgrim looked confused. He nearly killed that boy, and they rewarded him for it! But killing was bad, wasn't it?

Wasn't it?

2187, streets of Middenheim

Ulmgrim rushed through the streets, knowing his pursuers were not far behind. Four times he had tried to escape. Four times he had failed. Each time his punishment had been worse- what started with a simple beating ended had gone from whipping to scarring to ribs being broken. But now he was free. The guards at the gate hadn't expected his ferocity, his kill-urge. They had underestimated him, and because of it he had escaped after knocking them to the ground, unconscious.

Instinctively, he jumped to the side when a shadow came at him from an alley. And it was good that he did- the shadow belonged to no other than father Volgrun. He jumped out of the way of the priest's lunge just in time, and Volgrun smacked unceremoniously against a wall. Ulmgrim then kicked him in the face, knocking the priest out while he fled.

Finally he reached the temple of Shallya. For five years, he had dreamt of this place- a happier place, where people did not encourage each other to murder one another with their bare hands. When he arrived at the front gate, he found sister Magda in the garden.

She was every bit as beautiful as Ulmgrim remembered her, despite the shocked expression on her face at seeing him again. Exhausted, Ulmgrim walked over to her, falling to his knees at her feet.

'What- what are you doing here?' Her voice trembled with disbelief. 'The priests of Ulric came and took you with them to their temple. What are you doing here?'

'I escaped,' Ulmgrim panted, his body filthy and sweating from the long run through the dirty streets of Middenheim. He gazed at Magda's eyes while holding the sister's apron in his fists. 'I came back, but I forgot who I am, sister Magda! Please, tell me my name.' Embarrased, he looked away before adding 'I forgot.'

Sister Magda looked at him then, her eyes filled with pity. Then she straightened. 'Your name is Ulmgrim, pupil of the temple of Ulric.'

Ulmgrim's eyes went wide, tears welling up behind them. 'No, sister Magda, no, no! Don't you remember me?' But the sister's face remained hard. 'I remember a boy who does not exist anymore. Your life here was over when the priests collected you, Ulmgrim. Go back to the temple of Ulric. That is your life now.'

Then she walked back inside, leaving Ulmgrim crying at the closed gates. He banged those gates with his bare fists for what seemed like an eternity, screaming in rage at the sister's betrayal, until finally the priests of Ulric came for him.

Father Volgrun walked up behind him, face bloodied, and to Ulmgrim's surprise gently placed a strong hand on his naked shoulder. Ulmgrim looked up, and for the first time in five years saw the priest smile.

'To try and escape is worthy of punishment. To do it five times, is perseverance made flesh. Ulric's eye is upon you, Ulmgrim, as is his favour. Come now. Let us go home.'

Ulmgrim got up, allowing the priest to gently guide him back to the temple of Ulric. He looked back towards the temple one last time. And he realized.

Mercy was an illusion. It was only as true as the people who gave it, and people were fallible. Only strength, the feral soul of man could be trusted.

The soul of Ulric.

2191, Middenheim, temple of Ulric's summit

The flame of Ulric burned brightly against the twilight sky. Ulmgrim had prayed before it for a whole day, and now, finally, his prayer came to an end.

He rose, slowly, when he heard father Volgrun approach. The old priest smiled as he ascended the final steps of the temple, looking in the eyes of the young acolyte, who today would be acolyte no more.

Volgrun slapped Ulmgrim on the shoulder, grinning. 'Rejoice, young one! For today you shall join our ranks as a priest of Ulric.' Ulmgrim smiled back, his chest rising with pride. Then the old priest turned serious once more. 'Are you ready, son?' Ulmgrim nodded, and Volgrun bowed his eyes. 'Then hereby I name you, Ulmgrim of Middenheim, initiate of the order of Ulric.' He smiled then. 'Not for us the elaborate rites. Ulric values action, not endless prattling from old priests. You have slain your wolf and you wear his pelt. You have prayed before the flame, and Ulric has found you worthy. Now you are one of us, my son.'

Ulmgrim bowed his head in thanks. 'I shall not disappoint, father.'

2192, Petragrad, Kislev

The woman screamed in pain one last time, tears running down her cheek as the child left her body. Her husband bowed down, cradling her wracked body in his arms, kissing her forehead while his tears of joy mingled with her tears of pain. She faintly heard the midwife speak, too exhausted to understand her words. Questioningly she looked up at her husband, who gently, proudly repeated the midwife's words.

'A boy, my sweet Irisa. A baby boy.' Irisa smiled thinly as they placed her second son in her arms, looking at the crying child with overwhelming joy. 'He is perfect, Fyodor,' she whispered hoarsely.

The midwife smiled. 'Have you decided on a name, boyarin Irisa?' It was Fyodor who replied. 'We have,' he said, smiling. 'Tell the people that today, you witnessed the birth of Yvgeni Mozorov, boyar of Petragrad!'

2198, Middenland, Battle of the Swiftaxe

'Charge now, wolf-kin of Ulric! Bring the wolf's justice to these heathens!' Ulmgrim charged across the battlefield, the grim warriors recruited from the wolf-kin close behind. The Norscan jarl Thialfi Swiftaxe had invaded their lands, and Ulmgrim would not rest before they were all driven back into the cold sea from whence they came.

The ranks closed soon enough, and Ulmgrim swung his massive hammer at the head of a giant Norscan. It cracked like a walnut, and the priest of Ulric felt the gush of blood on his flesh. Roaring, he spun around, keeping up the momentum of his swing while dodging under the fresh corpse of the northerner, directing his attack against another who fell as easily as the first.

Around him the wolf-kin jumped at their opponents, some running into waiting axes and the embrace of Morr, others slashing at the Norscans with their axes. Ulmgrim saw one of the wolf-kin knocking over a Norscan and landing on the giant's chest, ripping torso and bone apart with crude axes before being decapitated by another Norse. The heretic had little time to enjoy his victory, for two more of the wolf-kin were upon him. The Norscan deflected the blow of one, breaking the Ulrican's arm in the process, but fell when the other broke his spine with a well placed warhammer.

Ulmgrim screamed to the skies, his savage roar whipping the wolf-kin even deeper into their frenzy. The Norscans responded in kind, with a savagery bordering on the feral. The wolf-priest grinned as another Norscan fell under his hammer. This was how wars should be waged, bloody and brutal. Once more he roared to the skies and jumped into the fray.

Ulric would be pleased this day.

2211, Lubrecht, Ostland

The kossars formed up before the walls of Lubrecht, their banners fluttering in the cold wind, bows at the ready as the Imperials had holed up in their fort. Boyar Fyodor Mozorov rode to the castle, his gaze showing a barely constrained rage. On the battlements he saw the commander of the fort appear, signaling his desire to parley. Fyodor gave the signal that he accepted the request, if only to pay proper respect to tradition.

'Your men have come unexpected, Kislevite!' The captain of the fort seemed not in the least impressed with the pulk arrayed before him. 'Perhaps in your land, forces of armed men may come and go as they please, but here in the Empire we appreciate a messenger of some sort to announce one's arrival.'

Fyodor let out a joyless chuckle. 'Your men showed no such adoration of etiquette when they came to Plowce, my stanista! Nor did they when they stole our supplies or murdered the people!'

The captain raised his eyebrows in confusion, looking at his men before shouting his answer. 'You must be mistaken! We have been sitting here ever since we have been assigned to this fort, two weeks ago!'

Fyodor looked at his sergeant, then looked back. 'The attack on my stanista took place two months ago! Tell me who was stationed here before you, and we will leave peacefully!'

The Imperial captain's face turned serious. 'Or else?'

'Or else,' Fyodor intoned, 'we will come in and drag the answer from your worthless mouths!'

At that remark the captain raised his sword. 'Good luck!' he shouted, before lowering his sword at Fyodor and his men. The captain's men correctly interpreted the gesture and loosed their crossbows, sending dozens of bolts at the boyar and his bodyguard. Before the eyes of the pulk, they killed its boyar.

After a moment of shock, a cry of range came from the Kislevite ranks. Yvgeni Mozorov stepped forward, turning to the kossars who now fell under his command.

'They killed my father! They killed your boyar! Will you stand for this slight?' As one the kossars charged forward, screaming their warcries as they reached the wooden gates with an improved ram. Other kossars rained hails of arrows at the walls, providing cover for those breaching the gate.

On top of the battlements, the Imperial captain realized he had gravely miscalculated his position.

*****

At the end of the short battle, Yvgeni held the wounded imperial captain by his throat, pushing the bleeding man hard against a wall while keeping a blade pressed to the man's abdomen.

'I will repeat my father's request, krowa,' he hissed through his teeth. 'Where is the svolich who is responsible for the attack on Plowce? Tell me now and I shall spare you his fate!'

The man gasped, coughing up blood. 'Captain Reiner... has been reassigned to Gruyden in the west.'

Yvgeni took a step back, letting the man slide to the floor. Then he placed the tip of his sword against the man's heart, and slowly slid it in. The captain screamed as blood gushed from the wound, looking up in disbelief before life left his eyes.

A nearby kossar raised an eyebrow. 'I thought you said you would spare him the svolich's fate?' Without taking his gaze off the dead captain, Yvgeni answered. 'I did. What I have planned for this captain Reiner is far worse.'

Then he walked away, out of the castle. 'Take their supplies, burn what you can't carry! We ride for Gruyden!'
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Offline Mogsam

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Re: Path of the wolves
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 08:59:57 PM »
Great work! Those priests weren't very nice. Though they do hate the weak!
Curse you and your ability to stay within the lines.

Offline Demonslayer

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Re: Path of the wolves
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2013, 01:24:35 PM »
Indeed they do :P. I figured being tossed into such a violent place after living at the temple of Shallya for seven years would break Ulmgrim enough to make him the near-feral killer he is today.

Got another bit;

Quote
2211, Gruyden, Middenland

Ulmgrim fought as hard as he could, but it was no use. His superior was dead, lying face-down in the cold wet mud somewhere, and his wolf-kin, while performing as admirable as ever, could not prevail against the overwhelming odds they were up against. To make matters worse, whatever idiot was in charge of the battle had chosen to fight a defensive war- against a force consisting mostly of archers, no less. True, scout reports prior to the battle indicated sereval units of heavy cavalry, but those were nowhere to be seen, and now the fool didn't change his tactics accordingly.

Suddenly the call for retreat came- the Middenland general responsible for this mess had finally realized his error, and ordered a retreat. Ulmgrim was more than happy to comply; there was no way to charge forward, and sitting here waiting for an arrow to pierce his skull was not his idea of proper warfare. Perhaps they could make it to Krudenwald. There was no way of making it out of the warzone, and fleeing was not appropriate for the priests of Ulric anyway. But the wolf-kin could break through the Northern League forces besieging the town, then settle in for the inevitable siege. The wolf-kin's prowess in close combat would be welcome indeed should the enemy breach the gates or climb the walls.

Yes, that was the best course of action. Snarling, Ulmgrim bode his wolf-kin to follow. This fight was far from over.
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Offline Derek Contyre

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Re: Path of the wolves
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2013, 12:20:24 AM »
Awesome. I like Ulmgrim the wolf priest. :) 
A man who builds his army around his fluff . . . respect . . .  :::cheers:::

Offline Demonslayer

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Re: Path of the wolves
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2013, 03:07:01 PM »
Thank you :)!

Quote
2211, Krudenwald, town walls

Yvgeni breathed in the cold air of winter as he looked out from behind the battlement. The forces of the Northern League stood arrayed there,  confident of their victory. It was a small army, but theirs was smaller- just his kossars and several Imperial regiments. The town's walls provided an advantage, but Krudenwald was no fort- it was a small town, after all. Even with its shoddy construction and rather limited height, the stone walls seemed simply out of place. Not that anyone inside was complaining.

Well, except the wolf-kin, Yvgeni thought. Middenland's barbaric religious warriors. They stood side by side with his kossars to repel any League attacks from the north, but they made no secret of it that they'd rather be down there, before the gates. Their urge to fight in close quarters was difficult to contain. The kossars, too, valued to cut down their opponents up close, but they at least saw the benefit of whittling down the opponent with archery before the battle started.

The wolf-kin's leader, a warpriest named Ulmgrim, came to stand beside Yvgeni. The two of them had been assigned to protect the wall, and while Ulmgrim had finally accepted Yvgeni's proposal of holding the wall, the priest had been reluctant not to sally forth. Without him, his men would have done so regardless.

'They enemy stalls to break our nerves,' the priest stated in a baritone voice. 'They shall be on us soon, as rats on the last sack of grain.' He pulled his wolf-pelt cloak tighter around him. 'Let us hope your "Ursun" can keep your men from fleeing.' The priest's tone was mocking, accusing even. Yvgeni simply smiled. 'Actually,' he retorted, 'my men are every bit as Ulrican as yours.' Looking at the big, angry wolf-kin, he added, 'well maybe not exactly as Ulrican as yours, but you know what I mean.'

Ulmgrim raised an eyebrow and smiled, his eyes nonetheless joyless. 'Are you now? That is good to hear. It would sadden my heart to know that I spent my last moments with a heretic. I thought all Kislevites praised Ursun?'

Yvgeni smiled. 'Hardly. I grew up in a stanista not too far from the Imperial border. My father, boyar Fyodor Mozorov, was a devout Ulrican who demanded piety from the smallfolk.'

'Then why the bows?'

Yvgeni looked back at his kossars. 'You'll see,' he said. Then he drew his blade. 'I am afraid we will have to continue our conversation some other time,' he said, motioning the blade towards the League forces. As Ulmgrim's eyes followed the gesture towards the approaching League banners, he nodded. 'I'll hold you to that, Yvgeni of Kislev.'

*****

The siege towers were as laughable as the walls they was built for- short things, some twenty feet high, just enough to reach the battlements. Three there were, and they were approaching fast, pushed onward over the soggy ground by League soldiers.

The kossars' arrows were fired in rapid succession- Yvgeni's had drilled his huntsmen to the point where they fired several arrows before the first found its mark. Their skill with the bow was appreciated by all defenders save the wolf-kin; some fights had broken out on the walls between kossar and wolf-kin, the latter accusing the former of fighting without honour and "stealing the prey". One particularly upset wolf-kin had actually grabbed some of the kossars and thrown them off the wall. They were soon joined by the wolf-kin himself after some of the remaining kossars had decided to repay him in kind. The three men lay outside on the cold ground, with no escape from the League soldiers- there was no time to open the gates again.

Finally the siege towers reached the castle, the broad makeshift bridges lowered to allow League soldiers onto them. A large group of halberdiers charged across the wooden planks, meeting kossar and wolf-kin who sought cover at the battlements. They used their long polearms to stab at the defenders while others held up large wooden boards to protect them from the kossar's arrows. Many of the wolf-kin and kossars, unable to reach, were themselves stuck by vicious barbed hooks on the halberd's tips, tearing horrific wounds in their flesh. Several of the defenders attempted to climb onto the bridges and fight back, but they were too tightly packed to move quickly, and the prodding halberds kept knocking them back.

Finally the defenders gave way, and the attackers stormed the walkways. This lifted the attacker's advantage somewhat as now they had to get up close to the defenders. Meanwhile kossars had manned the towers and rained  arrows on the League soldiers as they crossed the bridge. The soldiers screamed as arrows found their way past wooden shields and dug into shoulders and legs, some losing their balance and falling from the siege tower.

Yet on the walkways the soldiers pushed on, finally forming a line of prodding halberds while those in the back used their polearms to chop at the defenders. The center tower was especially successful, as the warriors protecting that section of the wall were systematically surrounded by the other tower's soldiers, giving them nowhere to retreat to.

It was then that Ulmgrim reached the front of the conflict on the left side of the walkway, pushing the wall of halberds aside with his massive warhammer. Some of the weapons managed to tear at his sides, but the wolf priest gritted his teeth and ignored the pain. Snarling, he swung his hammer in a wide arc, smashing some of the halberdiers off the walkway and onto the waiting blades of the Middenland soldiers, who stood below to reinforce the heavily contested gate.

On the other side, it was Yvgeni and his kossars keeping back the League soldiers. Yvgeni stood at the front of the battle, he and his kossars denying the Leaguers any more ground while other kossars fired their bows at the oncoming soldiers. Deprived of the benefit of their wooden shields, the League bodies started to pile up, although there were always more to take their place.

Angrily, Yvgeni spun around, barking orders at his men. His last order was for a trio of archers. 'Kossars! Switch to kvas arrows and take out that tower!'

The kossars looked at one another, pained looks in their eyes, but Yvgeni was away before they could protest. Grudingly, they took out their kvas, the strong beverage popular in Kislev and infamous among even dwarves, and set the bottles down in front of them. While their They dipped their arrowheads in the potent alcohol, used a torch to light them, and fired them into the wooden frame of the towers. It took two score flaming arrows before the fire began to spread, slowly consuming the siege tower and the League soldiers on them. Panicking they ran back down the siege tower's ladder, while some chose to take their chances and jump from the bridge.

A loud cheer from the Middenlanders alerted Ulmgrim to the pillar of smoke rising from one siege tower. Grinning, he fought on relentlessly, breaking metal and bone while making his way to the closest siege tower. When he reached it he jumped up and onto the bridge, howling his fury as more halberds rakes his flesh with their tips. His howls drove back the League soldiers, creating a bit of space between him and the halberdiers.

It was all he needed. He broguht down his hammer on the wooden bridge, again and again, until finally cracks began to appear. Seeing the Leaguers refinding their resolve, he jumped down again. The halberdiers stormed after him but the damaged bridge could not hold the weight of so many and broke, sending the halberdiers to the ground.

With the two outer siege towers gone, Yvgeni and Ulmgrim both worked their way to the central tower, their kossars and wolf-kin fighting and dying beside as the League army was soon pushed back. Side by side the wolf priest and boyar stood on the bridge, keeping the enemy from reaching the wall while more kvas-drenched arrows set the tower alight. Before the inferno could take them the pair jumped back, while the siege tower came falling down.

The third tower was set alight with several thrown torches, and as the three constructs burned among the League warriors on the ground, they had to give up their assaul or succumb to the smoke. The League forces retreated, chased by the cheers of the Middenlanders.

The fight was far from over- a battle won, but the siege hardly broken. However that day Middenland was victorious, and that night both Ulmgrim and Yvgeni were hailed as heroes.
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Offline Grumbaki

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Re: Path of the wolves
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2013, 12:12:35 AM »
Very well done. So much better when you get to see a character's backstory, and not just start off as a [hardened mercenary/berserker priest/arch wizard, etc].
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Offline GamesPoet

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Re: Path of the wolves
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2013, 08:30:17 PM »
Playing ctahcup on the fluff reading ... and glad I am after reading this story! :eusa_clap: :::cheers:::
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