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Chronicles of Athium: The Wolf's Cry

The hot sun beat down as Oskar swung his scythe, working to harvest the remaining crops before nightfall. Sweat dripped down his face, stinging his eyes, but the young man continued his daily work.

Oskar was tall, and muscular, having worked the Ordovic clan farmlands for the majority of his life. He had a dark shock of black hair, and piercing blue eyes that conveyed a high degree of intelligence; something not often seen in the farmlands of Athium.

Most families would have sent away any children showing signs of aptitude beyond farming, to study at the arcane college, or under the tutelage of a minor lord. Oskar’s family wasn’t like most, though. They worked together, ate together, and hunted together. Outsiders were only welcomed by marriage, and even then, they were kept at a distance until there was a child. It was simply their way of protecting themselves from the threats of the outside world.

As the children grew, the family would split off from the main house, building their own lodging on the family land. This practice continued for many years, building up a small village that was eventually named Wolfwater, after the river that ran through the farmlands. To further enforce the rigid laws of the clan, the town had a curfew for any who did not belong to the family, either forcing visitors to stay within their rented rooms, or removing them from the town altogether once nightfall came.

When children of the Ordovic clan turned 16 they began travelling to neighboring towns and settlements to choose a wife or a husband. The surrounding towns were larger than Wolfwater, but lacked the organization and loyalty that the family had always relied on to prosper, resulting in a diverse range of districts separated by financial, racial, and guild lines.

At 19, Oskar had been free to pursue a wife outside of Ordovic territory, choosing isolated rooms to rent, far from the bars and taverns. He spent the time outside the village gathering information to better the clan, but had only recently managed to get permission from the clan to study minor agricultural spells under the tutelage of a retired professor in Stormbrook.

Oskar finished loading the last of the field’s crop into a wagon and headed back to the barn. He was to set out from Wolfwater that evening, having secured a lodging in one of the more private districts of Stormbrook. Moving at a quick pace, the wagon was unloaded and Oskar headed to his father’s house to gather what supplies he needed.

Stormbrook itself was one of the primary cities in Athium, and boasted all the comforts and conveniences that any nobles would require, however, the road to Stormbrook was a three-day journey. It was a fairly well-worn route, despite the infrequency of visitors to Wolfwater, and Oskar knew it well.

“Oskar! My son, I half expected you to hide your pack in the barn and leave without a word. You know how upset your departure makes your mother,” Vulcar laughed deeply.

The man stood a full head taller, and almost half a body wider than Oskar, dwarfing almost all visitors to Wolfwater. He had a long mane of black hair, and dark, piercing, grey eyes. Most were shaken when they first met him, but he quickly disarmed them with a wide, jovial smile, and hearty laugh. Oskar saw past it though, the eyes held little warmth for those outside the clan and he was quite simply the most dangerous man that Oskar knew.

“Oh, stop teasing him, Vulcar,” his mother, Varulv, said as she came up beside them.

Varulv was a stark contrast to his father. Where he was large, she was slight, where he was loud, she was silent as the dead. Light brown hair hung midway down her back, and her eyes, no less frightening than his father’s, were a brilliant blue like his own.

Varulv had been brought into the village by Vulcar many years ago when they were both 16 years of age. They married quickly, but nearly 10 years had passed before they had Oskar, yet Varulv, in those 10 years, proved herself as a member of the clan purely through action in defense of the Ordovic land. To his knowledge, she was the only outsider to have done so without first bearing children.

“Hello mother, father,” Oskar said, acknowledging each of them with a quick hug, before grabbing his pack by the door.

“Oskar, I know the road is usually safe, but there have been rumblings about a target on any Ordovic clan members. It’s likely nothing, but it would be best to have this with you,” Vulcar said as he tossed a sword and belt to his son.

“As your father said, it’s probably just one of the villages nearby trying to stir up trouble. I wouldn’t worry much about it,” Varulv tried to reassure him.

Oskar nodded, tucking the belt and sword into his pack before heading into the kitchen, “Any salted meat left from that vendor a few days ago?”

“Already wrapped in your pack for you, ready to go, along with a flask of ale, and a few choice cutlets from one of the little lambs in the back,” Varulv said.

Oskar gave her a tight hug, patted his father on the shoulder once more as he bent to pick up his pack, and left the house. The fire inside shone out through the windows, casting a warm glow on the path before him, slowing his feet just slightly in hesitation at leaving that comfort behind. He looked back once more before putting his head down and trudging away from the house, the bleating of his mother’s ‘little lambs’ fading in the distance.

As night grew darker, a shape seemed to flit silently from shadow to shadow behind him. At first Oskar did not see or hear his stalker, but the individual had a pungent odor that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Oskar broke into a light jog, preferring the cover of darkness to outright confrontation if he could avoid it. Glancing back just once, he saw an older man, slight of build, and dirty as a street urchin with a blade of what appeared to be stone held tightly in his hand as he tried in vain to keep pace with the young Ordovic. It was clear to Oskar that the man had set out on this perilous mission out of desperation, and would not pose any serious threat if he did manage to catch up. However, a man like this, attempting to hunt down one of the Ordovic clan meant that there was indeed a price on their heads, and that the contract was open to any who wished to attempt it.

Oskar slowed as he heard a scream behind him and the odor faded away. The man had evidently been unsuccessful in navigating the forest in the dark. Continuing to his first camp location, Oskar scouted a broad circle around the clearing before returning to set up camp, setting a low fire crackling through the early hours of the morning. After catching a few hours of sleep, and scarfing down one of the cutlets his mother had packed, Oskar packed up and began walking towards Stormbrook, slowing his pace in favor of caution.

The next day passed quietly, with only a small bear troubling to cross his path, but as his steps moved closer to Stormbrook, the threat hanging over the Ordovic’s grew in Oskar’s mind, as though the proximity of civilization was like the tightening of a noose. Oskar shook the thoughts from his head as he reached his next camp location. Circling again to ensure that the site was safe, he was quickly snoring beside a small fire.


Oskar jumped, his hand pulling the sword from his pack as he rose to his feet, searching for the threat. His eyes slowly moved in a 360-degree sweep, as he slowed his breathing to listen for any further sounds. Taking a deep breath of the air and finding nothing amiss about the scent, the tension fled from his body. Still skeptical of the sound, he began packing up, eating the remaining cutlet, when the dying fire let out another loud crack. Oskar stared at it in disbelief for a second before breaking out into laughter. He finished packing, doused the fire, and embarked on the second half of his excursion.

Oskar’s second full day was much like the first, until he came upon a girl. She was slim, and fair like his mother, but her hair was completely white, and her eyes were a deep crimson color. She wore high, black boots, slight black shorts, and a tight black vest, laced up the middle. Oskar stared for a few seconds, lingering on her figure, but grudgingly began to circle around her, wanting to avoid as much contact with unknowns as possible before reaching Stormbrook, but paused when he noticed that she seemed to be lost. Against his better judgement, and in part due to the desires of a young man, he approached her.

“Hello, you, uh, appear to be lost. Is there anything I can help you with?”

The girl jumped at his first word, swinging a small, but vicious looking blade in his direction.

“Whoa!” Oskar shouted as he jumped back out of range of the sword.

“Get back, I’ve already had three others try to ‘help me.’ I don’t need whatever meager offering you have in your pants,” the girl hissed at him.

Taken aback by the abrupt verbal attack, Oskar stood with his mouth slightly open for longer than any man of intellect should have. When he finally regained his composure, he raised his hands up in a compliant gesture and tried again, “I am sorry, I must have startled you, but I really do just want to help…and not with anything, um, er, in my pants.”

The girl looked him up and down as he spoke, seeming to come to a decision about the honesty in his words, and lowered her blade, though, Oskar noted that it still rested comfortably in her hand.

“Alright then, how can you help me, gallant knight?”

Again, her criticism seemed to grate against his bones, but he pressed on, “As I said, it appears as though you are lost. I know the region well and could point you in the direction of your destination, if that does not impose too much on your independence,” he said this last phrase with more than a slight hint of derision to his tone. Expecting a brusque answer, Oskar prepared himself for her response, but was startled when she began laughing.

“My independence? Ha, ha, ha. I guess I had that coming, though your banter could use a sharper edge when fencing with a superior opponent.”

Oskar smiled back at her, “I didn’t want to confuse my opponent by bringing a sharpened weapon to bear against a blunted instrument.”

The girl paused abruptly, looking him straight in the eye, then broke out laughing again. Soon Oskar joined her, and whatever tension that had been there between them disappeared entirely.

“My name is Amiya, and yes, I would appreciate it if you could point me in the direction of Stormbrook,” she said, as the sword was finally put away.

“Hello, Amiya. I am Oskar, and as it so happens, I am heading to Stormbrook as well. It is straight along this road, though if I may suggest, it would be safer to travel together. The city is another full day walking from here.”

Amiya thought about that for a moment, before nodding her head in acceptance and, taking up her modest pack, she began walking in the direction of Stormbrook. Oskar quickly caught up and kept pace with the girl as they settled into a not quite comfortable, but not quite uncomfortable silence. They marched like that for an hour, before Oskar’s uneasiness crept back in and he felt the need to better familiarize himself with his travel companion.

“So, Amiya, why are you going to Stormbrook?”

Amiya glanced in his direction and seemed to hesitate before answering, “I suppose if I am travelling with you I may as well trust you.” She sighed deeply before continuing, “I originally lived in Stormbrook, but a few years ago I journeyed to study at the arcane college of Aqremore, leaving my mother and two brothers behind. I was to become apprentice to Anshag, the dragonkin sorcerer, famed for his work with living fire. I spent three years studying with Anshag, but recently I stopped receiving letters from my family and grew concerned. I was given leave to investigate and rushed home immediately.”

Oskar listened quietly, but something didn’t sit right with him about Amiya’s story. As he waited for her to finish his hand slid to the small knife in his belt. His steps slowed slightly, dropping back just behind the girl. Before she could notice his absence at her side Oskar grabbed her arm tightly, twisting it behind her and moving his knife to her throat.

“There is a problem with your story Amiya, if that is your true name,” Oskar said with a growl.

The girl, shocked at the sudden attack, began weeping quietly, unable to move or speak. Oskar gave her a small shake, unwilling to believe the emotional show as he continued, “If Stormbrook is your home, why would you have needed my help in locating it? Answer quickly now, or I will let you bleed out right here on the road.”

Amiya’s voice shook as she tried to turn to look at Oskar, but he held her tight, eliciting a wince of pain from the girl.

“Speak now, do not move, I will not ask – ARGH!!!”

A burning, searing sensation in Oskar’s leg caused him to release Amiya and jump back. Looking down he could see flames licking at the bottom of his pant leg. Oskar frantically began beating the flame, trying to douse the searing heat, but the flame refused to go out, when all at once it moved away from him. The flame did not move the way a spreading fire moved, slowly crawling over an area, instead it seemed to slither like a snake down his leg and away from him.

“Do you believe my story now,” Amiya asked as the flame coalesced into small serpent, standing between them with a blue tongue of living fire flicking in and out of its reptilian mouth.

Oskar looked both angry and shocked, as he tried to calm the feelings of pain radiating up his leg. “Fine, you did study some of the arcane works, but that still doesn’t explain your confusion.”

Amiya rolled her eyes at the young man in front of her, “Is it not at all possible that when I left Stormbrook I went by ship, and that my return by land, completely alone, is the first time that I have ever walked this road? Stormbrook is surrounded by villages, but the citizens do not generally have a need to travel outside the walls. Such is the benefit to living in a city frequented by nobles.”

The young man winced as the words hit him. Of course that was a possibility; of course that made sense; and if he had not been on guard against attacks against the Ordovic clan Oskar would not have batted an eye at her story.

Still biting back the pain Oskar finally dropped his guard, “I-I apologize. I had not considered that option.” Oskar fell onto his backside and started moving away as the snake in front of them changed to a bright white colo

r and began moving towards him.

“Stop moving,” Amiya said with obvious annoyance, “Living flame magic is primarily used for healing. Let the serpent fix your leg and we can be on our way.”

Oskar blinked in surprise, “You still wish to travel with me?”

“It doesn’t matter whether I want to or not, I need to find my family, and to find my way back to Stormbrook I require your help, so stay still and let me heal your leg.”

The snake curled around Oskar’s leg, and immediate relief washed over him as the angry, red whorls of seared fleshed began returning to their original color and texture, leaving the burnt edges of his pant legs as a reminder of the dangerous power still residing in the luminescent viper encircling his calf. Soon Oskar’s leg was completely healed and, with a motion from Amiya, the snake vanished in a small puff of violet smoke.

“Well, are you going to keep sitting there, or can we continue?”

Oskar climbed to his feet, testing the strength of his leg before picking up his pack where it had fallen. The two proceeded towards Stormbrook, falling back into a silent trudge, either unwilling, or unsure of how to pick up the conversation.

After a short while, Oskar broke the silence, “I truly am sorry for my reaction.”

Amiya looked at him without responding and kept walking. Oskar reached out to stop her, but pulled his hand back as he noticed a small flicker dancing at her finger tips. “I know this doesn’t excuse my actions, but a contract has been taken out on my family. I have already had one person attempt to follow me just a day and a half ago, and from the way he approached I am sure that he intended to kill me.”

Amiya stopped walking and looked back at Oskar, “Why would anyone come after your family? What have they done that would have caused someone to pay, what I can only assume would be a substantial amount of money, to kill your family?”

Oskar felt an immediate surge of aggression at Amiya’s callous words, but halted himself and thought about the point that she was making. The other villages surrounding Wolfwater would definitely benefit from the elimination of the Ordovic clan, but Oskar could not think of anyone with enough resources to pay the potential bill for the destruction of the entire clan. So, if it was not to increase the holdings of one of the other villages…

“My mother says that it is likely one of the neighboring villages trying to destroy us so that they can take our land, but I have no idea why the Ordovic clan is being targeted, and it doesn’t matter.”

“How would it not matter? If you knew who had the contract then you would be able to put a stop to it,” Amiya asked incredulously.

“I don’t know the contract holder, and I have to focus on my studies in Stormbrook. Since I cannot do anything about it, I don’t see the point in concerning myself with the problem. Regardless, I was telling you about this situation so that you knew why I was on edge, not so that we could solve the problem ourselves.”

Noting the tension building in his tone Amiya decided not to push the point, “Fine, let’s find a place to make camp. After all the time we spent fighting each other we are losing sunlight.”

Oskar nodded, and the two set off. The third camp site that he had selected was just an hour away. After a quick scout around the area, Amiya used her living flame to set a quick fire before settling down for the night, with Oskar quickly following her.


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