Name makes me think Space Wolves, as well as the tracking and such, and the story makes me think Descent of Angels, also from warhammer 40k. Nicely written.
An early morning haze shrouded the dense cluster of trees in a veil of mist as the first hint of the sun peeked over the horizon, giving the sky it's first deep pink blush of dawn. The silence of the night was ending, giving way to the gentle song of birds nested in the trees. Villagers groaned as they shook off their waking dreams. Today was to be a monumental day. I was among those shaking off the dreams that clung to consciousness, finding it momentarily difficult after a night of fitful rest. Today was to be my Hunter's Test, and the excitement burned in my blood through the night. It was my turn to prove myself capable for the village; my turn to become a full-fledged hunter. I swept open the door to my dwelling to greet the day, the early morning chill prickling my skin.
"Eager for the day, I see." A voice said too close to my ear. I turned and was greeted face-to-face with bright amber eyes.
As I jumped at such close proximity, the source of the voice threw her head back and burst into laughter, making me wince. The sound was beautiful, but felt a bit loud for such an early hour. Her eyes crinkled with the wide smile that spread across her heart-shaped face.
"And jumpy too," she smiled.
I sighed with exaggeration, "I can't help it, Tria. I was too excited to sleep well last night."
It wasn't lost on me when her smile faltered and transformed into a concerned frown. She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth as her brows knotted together, a habit borne of both nervousness and deep thought. I know what she worried of. For many a young hunter died during the test. It was dangerous in the wilderness alone, but needfully so for a hunter needing to prove his mettle. A careless mistake, be it from overconfidence or weariness, could mean the last breath for a young hunter. But we are Brudvir, and a careless mistake as a full hunter could mean hunger or even starvation for the entire village. If you cannot provide for the village, you may as well be dead anyway.
"I'll be fine, Tria." I reassured her quickly. Perhaps too quickly, as she didn't seem convinced.
"Are you sure? Jader and I will be sent out on our test in other directions, but we can circle back and join you."
I eagerly shook my head, "No, that's against the rules. It would be foolish to try. Please, I'll really be fine."
Tria's lips pressed into a thin line, her eyes searching my face in silence for what felt like several minutes before a heavy sigh signaled her relent.
"Just be careful," and she turned to walk away, her wild white-blonde hair trailing behind her like a cloak.
I breathed, not realizing I had been holding it as she walked away from me to approach an elder. My chest ached as I watched the way her face lit up as a smile played upon her lips, revealing her impressive pointed fangs. The way her eyes sparkled under the rising sun, casting them into a dim fiery glow. Nothing would please me more than to hunt at Tria's side, to run through the trees and fell a great beast together. But for this test I would need to cast my feelings aside and do my best alone, or fall while trying. It was too late to look for anything else.
It had only taken a few hours to break my fast and gather my essentials for the test. Bow, arrows, a light midday meal, and a water skin. Every young hunter would have food for their midday meal, but only enough to keep hunger at bay for a couple hours. With the setting of the sun, the hunger would return, and then the real test would begin. Should you fail to make a kill, you experience the pain of your failure through the night only to return to the village starving and ashamed. It was a fate no young hunter wanted to experience, many would gladly die instead.
Leaving my dwelling once more, I noticed first the sun had risen further into the sky. Sunlight rained in from between the trees, mottled upon the grass as a gentle wind blew from the West.
Taking a deep, calming breath to settle my nerves, I smelled the damn soil beneath my feet melding with the scent of roasting Dryas Elk. Despite having just eaten, my stomach growled and whined with need at the smell of Dryas Elk meat. I ignored it, shrugging my quiver strap further up my lean shoulder as I walked, the arrows within clattering with the movement. Tria's wild curls of silvery-gold caught my attention, and I quickly made my way to take my place beside her and Jader gathered in the center of the village with the rest of the village folk gathered for the event.
"Today marks a momentus day," the village leader began, "a day when young hunters go out to taste of their own first kill, as tradition demands. A kill made without the guiding words of a mentor, or the assistance of their fellow young hunters. They have only their training and instincts to rely upon now, and should they be successful they will emerge from the trees with the new day as full fledged hunters."
The gathered crowd burst into boysterous cheers and joyous howling. Jader and I were among those raising their voices with pride and excitement. Tria, in contrast, merely smiled with her hands folded behind her back in a posture that never made her seem more beautiful or serene. The exhuberant noise from the crowd died with the raised hand of the village leader, wordlessly asking for silence.
"May the trial participants step forward and take their places."
Jader grinned at me with a sideways glance with his blue eyes, eyes that reflected my own.
"Good luck, cousin," he whispered, roughly patting my shoulder.
"No need for luck when you have arrows." I quipped under my breath, loud enough only for his ears.
He laughed and I watched as his head of dark hair pulled back into many small braids receded from me to take his place facing East. Pushing through the crowd, I took my own mark facing due North. I ignored words of well-wishes from villagers as festive songs began to wind their way through the village. The excitement of the hunt began to course through me, and I became only vaguely aware of the village leader's excited speech full of praise or the people in the distance dancing to the songs strummed on lutes and panflutes. The hunt called to me, the forest sang a Siren's song, casting out all else including the weariness from the night before. I stared straight ahead into the forest before me.
The forest was thinnest at the village edge, the light from the mid-morning sun streaking through the boughs in both brilliant white-gold and shadowy beans. The wind changed direction, caressing my face with a subtle chill from the North-West, and with it was carried the scent of the forest; the smell of dead wood becoming fresh soil and drying morning dew upon the ferns.
The signal horn blasted it's call behind me so loud, it shattered my focus, but my legs had been anxiously poised for this moment. Muscle and sinew, blood and bone all worked in tandem as I surged through the trees.
Startled birds took flight as humming insects droned on; and still I ran over twisted roots and vaulted over ancient fallen trees seeping into the forest floor, no doubt felled by violent storms long passed and forgotten. Here, time was inconsequential. Hours or even seconds did not matter upon these grounds. Only daylight and darkness, an endless dance between sun and moon that took place between the the misplaced pieces of sky seen far above the trees.
I ducked under a low branch that may have married the face of a lesser hunter, leaping over thin winding creeks and their slippery rocks. Everything blurred into a dizzying blend of Earthly color, and my eyes scanned all of it for the slightest sign of my prize.
What was that?
A glimmer of sauntering movement in glowing white out of the corner of my eye halted me to a standstill, my boots digging into the dirt beneath my feet. Had the sun been playing with shadows to create an illusion? Or mayhap my restless night had caught up with me. Whatever it has been, it was no longer there now.
Shaking off the illusion, I pressed my hands against my knees and breathed deeply, giving my lungs and muscles the well-deserved reprieve they needed.
Closing my eyes after a few breaths I straightened my spine, breathing deeply through my nose.
In the forest I breathe in every way that is possible to expand: in lungs, in mind, in spirit. In the forest there is a sense of kinship with all that exists, of ancient souls that stretch into everything that lives. It is here under nascent rays of sun born to rise and fall each day, like the circle of life, death, and rebirth that the forest holds sacred like a Faedin rite, that I feel most alive.
It was the claw marks rather than the large paw prints beneath that first caught my attention; five long, deep grooves sliced through the drying mud like a knife in soft clay. It was the distinguishable tracks of a bear, and these tracks were larger than others I had seen before. The thought of a bear nearby sent my heart thundering into my throat, until I noticed the mud around the edges cracked and drying. The prints were hours old, perhaps even made long before the rising of the sun. However, the tracks were pointing in the direction I had been running. Had I not found these tracks and kept that pace for a while longer, as I intended, I may have found the bear that made these tracks. Or perhaps he would have found me.
Other prints, fresher than the last, overlapped older impressions in the softened soil. Crouching, my forearms rested upon my knees as I balanced upon the balls of my feet for a better look.
The prints had four uniform oval toes like those of a feline or canine. The lack of width to the pad and the presence of claw indentations pointed to the latter. This set of prints was, however, accompanied by several other similar tracks that seemed to keep as neatly close to the other sets as possible. Wolves, no doubt. Unlike the bear tracks, these pointed more toward the East before disappearing behind some brush. Very likely they had scented the bear as they came through and chose to give it a wide berth. Just as I intended to do.
These tracks were a sobering reminder to why young hunters sometimes never come back from this test, and yet these beasts weren't even the worst of what lurked out in the wilderness. The most fearsome didn't make tracks, they didn't need to. They took to the skies, where they ruled from on high where they could ambush an unwary hunter at a moment's notice.
I shivered at the thought, casting my gaze tentatively skyward as I stood, rubbing my arms as they prickled into gooseflesh with an unpleasant memory.
Finding the skies thankfully empty save small songbirds, I returned to searching the dirt where, further to my left in mud still damp, were very fresh tracks of a large bovine. These were not as large as a cow, but something large enough and with enough mass for the tracks to make a deep impression in the mud. They were hoof prints, the cloven hooves of a large deer, most likely. Or even, perhaps, a small Dryas Elk. They weren't alone, either. Unlike wolves that tended to move more uniformely as a cohesive unit, expending as little energy as possible, deer and Dryas Elk moved more carelessly in large herds. They paid no attention to how far apart they travelled, making them easy to separate from the main body of the herd. Even better, these travelled in nearly the complete opposite direction from the wolves. With any luck, it would be Dryas Elk for supper tonight, and by the morning I would be carrying it's antlers back to the village to craft myself a new bow. Or perhaps the hilt of a hunting knife.
Further into the forest the sky vanished almost completely, only a few fragments of blue and white remain- like scattered shards to a shattered mirror. The air is rich here with the fragrance of leaves and loan, damp from previous rains. So long after a previous rain, the ground remains wet this far in, slowly releasing a heady fog. Beyond the canopy, the sun had begun it's early evening decline; but in here the heat of the day would not fully reach. It was still as cool as it had been at sunrise, and the colors held the same softness that comes just before twilight.
Moving soundlessly over thick, gnarled roots buried deep into the softened soil, my eyes scanned my surroundings for any sign of my quarry. The only movement I find is the occasional bird, fluttering and chirping excitedly in the trees or a squirrel dashing up a nearby trunk. In the distance I hear the bubbling sound of running water in a stream and silently stride to a closer tree, perching upon it's roots. I place a tentative hand upon the trunk's rough bark and look over a sharp incline in the distance.
Ahead the forest trees thinned, giving way to a Glade where the stream ran through. On the other side of the stream, I spot them. The herd of Dryas Elk drinking from the cool waters offered by the stream.
My heart leaped with excitement as I hurried to navigate the embankment safely without a sound- not an easy task, even for a seasoned hunter. Mere feet from the embankment was a cluster of bushes huddled between two large elms that I could use as a vantage point for my shot, without raising suspicion to the herd. If I could only get over there.
The branches above me swayed with the wind, and I sent a momentary glance their way- the wind was still blowing my scent away from the heard. My scent would not give me away.
I crouched low to the ground, balancing on the balls if my feet, bow drawn. Shuffling slowly through the dirt, dead leaves, and discarded branches I made my way toward the bushes.
Mere feet from them, one of the large Dryas Elk- a male with an impressive set of antlers- grunted with displeasure, giving me pause. I slowly peeked around the trunk of an elm to see the male's flank twitch, stamping his leg in annoyance at the pesky insects that called the glade home. He bent his head to graze, and I felt every taut muscle in my body relax with relief. He hadn't noticed me.
I dug one knee in the dirt as I came behind the bushes, pulling an arrow soundlessly from the quiver at my back. I wanted that large, fat male that had complained so loudly. His antlers would make a beautiful bow.
Notching the arrow, I pulled the drawstring to my cheek and aimed for a spot on the beast I knew would be instantly fatal. It would be over before he even felt the bite of my arrow.
Mere seconds before I had loosed my arrow, a deep and resounding singular howl more ethereal than anything I had ever heard before swept through the trees and into the glade. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end, and the herd shift and complained uneasily. Others chose to run. An old female had startled, jumping in the path of the arrow meant for the prize buck, before it sank into her neck and sent her to the ground flailing and gasping loudly.
"NO!" I shouted angrily, jumping to my feet.
What remained of the herd bolted at my outburst, including my prize buck as he bounded away, taking the antlers for my new bow with him.
Anger sprouted in my belly like a red hot fireseed taking root, boiling my blood. I swung my arm and my bow flung from my hands, disappearing into the tall grass. I tilted my head skyward, a scream from somewhere deep within forcing it's way from my mouth. All I feel from the tips of my fingers to the soles of my feet is the insatiable, burning fire of my anger as it consumes me. Another scream, louder and fiercer than the last, leaves my throat sore and raw.
My feet carried me through the tall grass to where the old doe lay dead in a pool of blood, drown in it's own gore. Staring into it's dull, lifeless eyes I felt a brief pang of guilt and pity for the thing. But it quickly fizzled and hissed into nothing against my anger like water in a hot pan.
Working the flesh from bone, anger gave way to bitter frustration and I was alone to work with my thoughts.
~ ~ ~
By the time I had properly carved the doe, leaving only remnants of flesh for the scavengers, I had little time to gather my bow and return it to my back and gather wood for a fire to roast the meat for my supper. But when I had done all these things, the last vestiges of the setting sun had disappeared over the tree-covered horizon. Golden hues had long since begun giving way to dusty purple, and on the chill forest clad horizon, a storm brewed with the promise of nothing but winds and mighty rains. The darkness and damp air would render me helpless unless I sought adequate shelter, and soon.
Jagged cracks of pure light sliced the distant sky in two. Thunder rumbled minutes later, a warning of things to come.
But for now, the fire crackled in the dying light, celebrating with a wild and lonely flickering dance, projecting long shadows on the tall grass surrounding me. The dark trunks of nearby trees was illuminated by the fire's flickering glow. Yet as the strips of meat upon sharpened sticks roasted, fat sizzling and dripping upon the charred logs, I could not bring myself to feel happy or proud of my kill. Only disappointment gnawed at my insides.
"Aidik?" A voice questioned in the distance, pulling me from my thoughts. Even in the dim firelight I could make out Jader's strong features, the broad set of his shoulders, and long, dark hair. I did not miss as he took a seat at my fire, placing his hands close to the flame for warmth, the rabbit pelt fastened to the pack on his back.
"I saw Tria earlier, she has done well. She is already seeking shelter from the approaching storm. It seems we will all be hunters in the morning." He smiled, and I could not help myself from smiling back.
I pulled a stick with roasted meat on the end and handed it to him. He took it with a mumble of thanks and ate greedily, the rabbit he had killed had likely not been a filling meal.
"So you found a Dryad for your kill," he said with awe in his tone. "That's very impressive."
I sighed, "This was just an old doe. She jumped into the shot meant for a stag with an impressive set of antlers."
"It still makes a meal," he lifted his stick for emphasis, "and the stag isn't going anywhere. You can hunt it again another day and take it's antlers."
I nodded, staring into the fire. I still felt disappointed, but Jader was right about this. I could always hunt the stag again, or find an equally impressive stag. I had found myself grinning when Jader snapped me from my thoughts.
"The storm is getting close, we had best hurry."
I agreed and together we had begun to put away the cooked meat and throw dirt upon the fire.
I had just begun to wrap the strips of Elk meat in cloth for storage when a familiar, white glow appeared at the edge of my vision. I paused. It was large and more brilliant in this darkness, easier to notice. But when I turned to cast my gaze upon it, it was no longer there.
"Something wrong?" Jader asked.
"Did you see the-"
We heard it only moments before we saw it. In the span of a heartbeat, the heavy thudding of running paws carrying a massive bulk, and the deep panting that screamed "bear!" And we hadn't heard it until it was too late. Jader was faster than I, on his feet and instinctively reaching for his knife when the brown bear barrelled into him. Jader screamed with fear, fumbling with his knife as he fell to his back. The bear was on him in an instant, using it's weight to pin him.
I stood, frozen with fear and dread in equal measure as it filled my insides with lead and turned my blood to ice. I watched, wide-eyed and with horror as Jader screamed for help. Teeth, sharp and white like daggers, tore into the flesh between his shoulder and neck as the bear's paws pressed on his chest. I watched him flail, aiming his dagger uselessly at anything he could hit; a leg, a shoulder, a neck, anything. But the bear's fur was so dense, and Jader was getting weaker by the moment as he struggled to breathe from beneath the bear's hulking mass.
One lucky plunge of the knife struck home into a shoulder, pulling free with blood staining to the hilt. The bear roared with fury and bit into Jader's shoulder once more, making him scream in agony. Only to scream louder when the bear used all of it's mass to shake Jader between it's clamped jaws. A sickening snap made bile rise into my throat, a cold sweat sliding down my spine. Jader's cries for help became strangled and gurgled as blood flowed into his mouth. In that moment, the ice shattered.
Wet, hot tears streaked my face as lightning pierced the sky above with a pronounced threat of what was yet to come. I drew my bow and two arrows as thunder rolled, one swift movement as I took no time to think. Instinct and a need to save my friend took over. Jader couldn't die, not now. Not tonight. The three of us needed to become hunters together. Jader was the best of us, if we lost him, it would be felt for years to come. My life was inconsequential compared to his. At this distance, aiming was hardly necessary.
Thok! An arrow found it's mark in the beast's neck.
Thok! Another sank deep into the flesh closer to it's shoulder.
The bear released Jader and turned his focus on me. The bear's gate was languid as he approached. Jader lay still, his skin pale like fresh snow as blood flowed down his arm and stained the entire front of his tunic. Please, let him survive this. Whatever spirit was listening, let him live.
Thok! Another arrow pierced the bear's hide.
The bear roared and charged me. I quickly abandoned my bow and drew my knife, spinning aside as the bear passed me. My blade sliced flesh as he passed, carving open the same shoulder Jader had managed to stab.
The bear cried out with pain, and swiped at me, narrowly missing as I jumped away and set some distance between us. My advantage would be keeping on my feet and at a distance, wearing the bear out until he either bled out or had enough. The bear ran faster at me than I had seen previously, and I made to roll out of the way, but the bear's paws snagged my leg and I lost balance. I fell.
I rolled across the ground as quickly as I could before the bear could find purchase atop me, and found my feet again. Blade still in hand, I faced the bear and bent my knees, ready to leap away from the beast at a moment's notice. He was weakening, I could see it in the way he moved. The way he held his head, and the gait of his charge as he moved to close the gap between us yet again. This time when I moved to elude the bear, it followed me, tripping me and sending me to the ground. It was upon me in an instant. My heartbeat thundered into my throat and the next thing I felt was white hot, searing pain shooting up my leg and into the core of my being. I screamed so loudly I heard birds in the distance startle from the trees. I screamed with agony, I screamed as I saw the bear sinking it's fangs into the meat of my thigh and use it's immense strength to try and sever meat and sinew from bone.
Anger, panic, and self-preservation all swarmed together in my pain-addled mind until only one thing to do thrummed at the forefront of my mind. The pain needed to end, I would be torn to pieces. Gripping the hilt until my knuckles turned bone white, I used every ounce of strength I could muster to plunge the blade of my knife to the hilt into the monster's skull.
The beast paused for a moment, as if considering, before it's jaws went lax and the body collapsed on to it's side.
Relief washing through me, I collapsed upon the soil as the skies opened and released their deluge. The water was crisp and cool upon my skin, and a welcome feeling after fighting with a monstrous and hungry bear.
"Jader, are you... " I drifted off, my voice raspy and spent after so much screaming.
Only the sound of rain answered me, and I felt my heart stop. I sat up again and looked in his direction, finding his body still laying as the bear had left him.
The familiar white glow fell around me, stronger than the flame of any torch or lantern, yet soft like the first rays of morning.
I turned my head to look behind me, only to find myself staring up a canine muzzle into twin pools of crystal blue. Eyes so piercing, they seemed to perceive my very soul. The wolf staring back at me was whiter than the first snows of winter, save it's black nose. It was taller than any wolf I had ever seen before, and had I been standing it may very well have reached my shoulder.
"Fate is a strange and fickle creature, Aidik, son of Lorn. Twice one has died in place of another, one by my hand, and one by his."
The voice I heard was not a voice I heard with my ears, but rather one felt upon the mind. His voice was beautiful and ethereal, musical even in it's baritone. The wolf lifted it's face to stare at Jader's body.
"It is he that I guide into the next life this night, not you as it should have been."
Again the wolf's large head moved, it's eyes once more locking with mine.
"Do you know why that is, son of Mann?" He asked.
"I... No," I shook my head.
"Because I saw great potential in you. Potential that would rise once the anger, and greed, and desire to prove yourself had been carved away." He explained, "Great hunters could one day stem from your line, Aidik, son of Lorn. Still it would have mean nothing without the great sacrifice granted you."
"Sacrifice?" I asked, confused. "What sacrifice? He was attacked by a bear, it was an accident. I was too coward to save him when I should have."
My voice, raspy as it was, had become strained as my throat constricted. Tears threatened at the corners of my eyes, and I could feel their sting.
The wolf shook it's large head this way and that slowly, as if swaying to a tune.
"No, there is a lesson to be learned in all of what you experienced this night. The lesson is thus: the hunter is patient, the prey is careless." The wolf huffed,* "You were careless, Aidik. The bear was hungry and drawn to the smell of your food. He had not eaten in days, and he was desperate. You were overwhelmed by your own anger and blinded by your greed and self-prescribed failure. It was you who were meant to die tonight because of those mistakes, not Jader, son of Brask."*
I shifted myself around in the mud, my body aching with being twisted for so long. But it was not merely my body that ached as I moved myself to better face this strange creature somehow speaking to me.
"He... how did he sacrifice himself?" I finally asked.
The wolf was quiet for a time, with only the sound of rain to fill the silence, as if assessing me, before he spoke slowly.
"I knew your fate the moment you sprinted into my forest, Aidik, son of Lorn. I saw your potential immediately in your love of the forest, how it makes you feel alive. How you love it like a second home. I found Jader first, and told him of your fate. He was eager and demanded you be saved, at any cost. He believed in your future as much as I do. And so, Jader made the deal to trade his life for yours. It was merely a matter of guiding you after that."
"Jader... " I began, stumbling, "It wasn't an accident that Jader found my camp, was it."
My words weren't a question. Still, the wolf shook his head and regarded me with saddened eyes.
"He sat at your fire where he knew the bear would attack first."
The dam keeping my tears at bay shattered, and the wails of a grieving child escaped me then. I cried for my friend. I cried for Tria, who would never see him again. I cried for the child I once was who Jader had protected from a fiendish Bobcat. Jader, my friend and cousin. I would never see him again. Never notice his dark hair in the crowd again. And it was because if my mistakes. He had rescued me again, and I had no way to repay him.
Grief turned to anger as I glared at the wolf, "Who are you to decide whose life is more valuable? I would have died willingly if it meant he might live-"
"The same sentiment Jader held for you," the wolf interrupted calmly. "He made his choice, I merely offered it to him."
After a moment in silence thinking on the wolf's words, feeling silly to be pondering an overly large wolf's words, I finally spoke.
"Jader was the better hunter. He should have lived."
The wolf lay upon the wet dirt, rain falling all around him, and shook his head again.
"He knew what he was doing. He will be honored for many years, and never forgotten. But you are an essential piece now."
"Essential to what?"
The wolf looked away, into the distance as the rain fell. Thunder grumbled low like a groggy giant, the rain never once seeming to touch the giant wolf.
"The hunt." He finally answered, "We find ourself on the precipice of change, Aidik, and your family will be needed. More than that, I cannot say."
I bit on my lower lip, hesitating to ask my next question. Ascertaining if I truly wanted the answer.
"But," I began, gathering my courage, "who... what are you?"
The wolf's gaze snapped back to me, as if bemused. He regarded me carefully, thoughtfully, as if weighing his answer.
I sat in silence, listening to the thunder and rain, feeling the violent wind rake against me. Yet my companion never once seemed effected by any of it.
"I am a spirit given shape, given form, given words. I was a spirit of the hunt once, a primal force driven by hunger. I remain a spirit of the hunt, yet I became this." His words seemed full of amusement, before he added, "You may call me Fenris."
"Are you... A god?"
The wolf's mouth fell open, tongue lolling in a wolfish smile. The voice in my head laughed.
"No, spirits, no! I am merely a... stronger spirit than most."
I felt my consciousness fading, my weariness of the day, the night before, and my injuries catching up to me. The edges of my vision blackened.
"I... " my words faltered.
"You must rest now. When you wake again, you will find yourself safe at home and bombarded with questions."
Fenris spoke happily, rising to all four paws. He sauntered over to Jader's body and sniffed at his blood. I watched, fighting my fatigue, as Jader's body began to glow subtly. Fenris turned his face face to meet mine as a glowing shape seemed to begin to sit up from Jader's body.
"Tell Jader... " I forced myself to say, mind racing with everything I wanted him to know, "I will miss him."
The last thing I remembered was feeling the splash of water as my body fell upon the wet earth.
Afternote: When Aidik awoke again, Fenris had been right. He found himself back in the village, his leg tended to, and the villagers bombarding him with questions to what had happened. Aidik told everything, leaving out no detail. Jader became a village hero and honored post-humously for his bravery and sacrifice. Not everyone believed the entirety of Aidik's story, one of the skeptics was Aidik's own friend Tria. She never fully forgave Aidik for his cowardice, blaming him in some part, for Jader's death. Eventually she left the village, never to be seen again which left Aidik heart-broken. Aidik did eventually marry and have children. One of those children would father the leader of the Fangs of Fenris after passing down the story of how his father had come across the ancient and powerful spirit known as Fenris.
Name makes me think Space Wolves, as well as the tracking and such, and the story makes me think Descent of Angels, also from warhammer 40k. Nicely written.
Evil? More like Chaotic Neutral...ish
Congratulations Kestrea on another absorbing story!
A forested billabong, with nary a jumbuck