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The Wolves of Cove



Gouts of flame tore along several sections of the wooden walls of Cove. Billowing black smoke smeared the twilight sky like a bruise, choking the crisp Winter air with a bitter, oily tang impossible to breath.

The fire painted blood upon that which it sought to devour, before leaving it charred and pitted and ruined. The furious blaze twisting timbers and scorching earth. Casting grotesque shadows.

Sinuous, insubstantial spectres clawing in flickering agony.

Beyond the wall, a tide of shrieking green roiled in the throes of violent lust, as it seemed that every hole and hut for miles had belched forth its noxious occupants and set singular purpose to a thousand minds...to scour these lands of men.

And with the setting of the sun, when light diffuse dwindled, so rose the strength of the orc.


Thick limbed monsters flung pots of explosive chemicals with wild abandon. The resulting conflagration causing raucous howls from the mobs no matter what burned.

In swarms, brutish warriors in bleached, skull-faced helms hacked upon the wood barrier with axe, club, and claw, heedless, and often drawn to the fire's scathing intensity.

Illuminated so, the teeming mass seemed a hellish, many headed thing, all flailing limbs, and crashing steel.

Hooting their unclean language, the orcs heaped mounds of their own dead against the walls in effort to gain purchase and height. Greenskins scrabbling atop the macabre hills eager for a kill, but more often adding their own corpse to the growing pile, felled by spear and arrow from the parapets.

The body count added upon itself as orcs struck out at one another when too densely packed, or simply lost in a lust for blood.

Dotted in the dark, pale, sickly lights marked the savage horde's shaman. The primitive buildup of mystical energies haloing the gibbering creatures in a sallow shield the color of infection. The sudden release of the pent up magicks wildly unpredictable, but devastating.

The broadest, and most dense of the race clustering around the spellcasters like moths, acting as a living shield wall. Many bore mutiple growths of fletched shafts, and still did not fall.

The orcish throng was implacable in its single mindedness. Uncountable in its sheer size.

The roar of holocaust, the guttural shrieks, and howls of the monstrous army...

The cries of the dead and dying drowning out all thoughts of sanity. Dimming the colors of light and life.

Hope dwindled.


Thygrin had been High Warden for less than a year. The oaths he had taken to his home and his people included the inevitability of great sacrifice, even unto the ending of his life. The title, while honorable, was not one to be envied. It was a promise, and a weight he had taken without regret.

He had sent men to their ends.

Personally bore grave tidings to new widows ignorant of their sudden change in station.

He had lost loved ones. Bonds to kith and kin equally strong, and equally painful in the severance.

He had turned his face from all thought of a simple life of routine and comfort for sake of diligence. To play a role that few would. Never once daring to dream that all his works, and personal sublimation would be reduced to blood and ashes in a span of hours.

Grim faced, the men and women of Cove strove in force of arms with methodical efficiency. The rise and fall of halberd, and spear creating a grisly, droning dance of death. The tempo allowing for no rest, nor respite.

Hacked orcs fell from the walls with some great regularity. The beasts found bristling barbs shot through the steel latticed gates at close range. And still their numbers seemed undiminished, while every Warden that fell was an irreplaceable cog in a machine slowly grinding to a halt.

Defenders died without ceremony, looked upon by their fellows as an empty gap to be filled. Knowing with certitude, that for all their effort, their company they would soon share again. The ceremony of remembrance utterly unnecessary.

With one voice sang they a dolorous song taught to them by their fathers.

The language was old.

A psalm of wind and sea, shoring their hearts to their Fate, and at once, binding them to a greater whole.

Thygrin, ever at the fore where the fighting was fiercest, mouthed the dirge soundless, and knew the words for a farewell to the waking world.

He had never felt such pride as this.


Gylve Nagell had seen twenty winters before this night. The carnage and tireless horrors hemming him in were of an intensity he had never seen before. No raid, or skirmish was ever so violent, nor unremitting.

He was afraid, and felt no shame because of it.

For what seemed the hundreth time, he recited the Warden's Oath, amending the words with a vow to die well. Laughing aloud as the absurdity warred with the integrity of the promise, and safe in the notion that on a night such as this, he would not seemed crazed.

And so he stood, shoulder to shoulder, with his brothers against the shrieking mass, as unsewn, thread by thread, his life became...

Until all was suddenly silence.

Gylve found himself alone on the walls. The town behind him emptied and still, the sea calm, and grey.

The world in hues of black and white.

Something like a sigh brushed across him.

A last breath.

A first breath.

A memory which stirred the blood within him.

With a caress that grew firm, and stolid, a presence not unfamiliar to him marked him as Its own.

It bid him to see.

There was a clearing, lost in the trees, where the snow still caught the unfettered stars, and gathered their cold light upon its unsullied surface. Glittering as if strewn with silver coins. Treasures laid aside in secret, but not forgotten.

An old magic made this place Its own. It wove Itself into the cool Northwinds, and sang songs in the highest swaying boughs. Shaking leaf, and sweeping down through the grass. It carried the fragrance of Spring when it dawned, dew laden, and new, and the tang of salt when the tides were fair, and gold with dancing sun.

But always tempered with the promise of Winter, and the lean times. Where forests became like shrines. Pristine and sacrosanct, and heavy with ice and frost.

And jealous of the day, for it was the Moon who most loved Winter.

All these things were told to Gylve, and he saw far, and was whispered a bargain.

The magic did not offer peace, but terms. They were not lengthy, but set out plainly.

Thus was the deal struck with a simple nod, and Gylve found himself on a mist laden path of which he had no recollection of ever having tread though he lived in Cove for all of his years. He shed his concerns, and walked as shadow parted before him.

In the dim distance, a howl beckoned, but he was not afraid.


Thygrin's sword screamed over the cacaphony as steel across stone, cleaving red ruin wherever it struck in a desperate bid to stem the multitudinous tide. Pressed flush to his left side was Solv Forfalsket, a relic crafted by the first men of Cove, and passed down as a mark of the office of High Warden.

Thygrin could recite the names of every man who had ever bore the shield in service to this land, as was proper to so weighty an honor.

More than half as tall as him, Solv was of burnished silver and shone with an intensity found only in the Nightsky when the air was clear, and pure. The symbol of the Serpent was carved upon its face, encircled by a field of raised studs.

The art, and subtlety in making so fell an armament was said to be lost in the old days. The original artificers' secrets buried beneath time, and the growing of the world.

The last of the unique metal, said to be birthed from a storm, spent and left without a name.

Proof against fire and dart, the argent shield served as both rallying point, and target. For even in the black, Thygrin blazed like a raging star. And as with all things that hate, and rail at the light, the orcs were moved to snuff it.


Lyssen stood perfectly still, hunched slightly and intent on the scene beyond the window. The fires from afar cast ghostly reflections on the glass, and played across her face in a twisting wave of reds and beaten copper. Clearly audible, the tumult of steel, and screams of the dying hardly registered to her. Barely scratching at the edges of her recognition.

A play and its dying players.

Behind her, all the town's children too young to fight, sat quietly on the floor against the far wall. Some huddled together, and some fidgeted, rocking themselves nervously, but none cried. And no one asked questions.

Older than Lyssen by nearly two decades, Jaela sat cross-legged in front of the children and told stories. Sometimes singing familiar songs to keep the fears at a distance from her cloistered corner. She kept her face serene, and happy. Laughing and calling each child by their name. And when they lent their little voices to the song, she was given brief moment to truly feel the way her role dictated.

The room was lit only by candlelight, and cold. Heavy shifting shadows covered the walls like curtains in the wind, pouring over the two women in ripples. Giving life to movement that did not exist.

On the sill in front of Lyssen, a long, thin dagger caught flame and darkness along its edge. While loosely tucked into the folds of her skirt pooled around her, Jaela fingered the hilt of its twin.


The quay was destroyed.

What few ships were sent to defend the shores lay as broken, useless husks. Sundered timber pierced the waters surface here and there. Contorted limbs in agony, before the icy waters claimed everything.

From the decks of their massive galleons, the orcs howled with perverse glee as they littered the churning seas with barbed arrows. Gifting the helpless, bobbing survivors, who had lived through the destruction of their vessels, with one last touch of spite.

There was little sport in letting them drown.

The orc fleet did not number many, the ships monstrous and crude. Cobbled together with refuse, and scavenged bits of salvage. Daubed in blood and excrement with noisome sigils venerating chaos and death, dizzying and hurtful to look upon. And the sails were of any number of skins sewn together with thick, wet leather.

Like fleas on some beast, the ships crawled with movement. The crews far too large to be practical, and laden so, they sat low in the water, and were possessed of very low mobility.

Even thus, it was madness to engage them.

Archers sent withering, angry swarms through the night air, while primitive ballistae and mounted catapults sent iron stones, and heat sharpened stakes through ships and buildings on the coastline.

A terrible red tide washed through. Bearing savaged bodies uncountable, suspended in the frothy waves like so many marionettes with severed strings.


Thygrin heard, then felt, the northern section of the wall fall before he actually saw it. Crumbling beneath its own weight with a shuddering groan, the sundered wood sent a massive eruption skywards that would have seemed spectacular under any other scenario than this. The suddeness of the destruction was like a living thing in pain to his ears, and an omen of shared fate.

Greedily, with writhing apendages, the fires caught the tumbled bodies of the walls defenders and fed with ravishing grimness. Their screams cut short or drowned out by the hissing roar.

Gibbering orcs fell by the dozens in their madness to assail the town. Heedlessly flinging themselves into the flames as though just another wall to bring down. The thicker specimens emerging bodies ablaze before the postern, howling and flailing in agony. Dropping with a sick popping sound when mortality caught up with zeal.

Glowing embers billowed and hung suspended on the heated air in whites and yellows.

The sprites and wisps in the tales of children.

Petals tossed lazily, set adrift on placid waters without care.

Stars set on gossamer threads connected below a starless night.

The slow dance caught Thygrin in its terrible certainty, and held him rapt.

He saw the death of every spent spark as a black and withered tear in the canvas of a life he once knew. An unrepairable rent that marred his everything.

Head, heart, and hand upon a precipice and stilled.

His breath ghosting the frozen air, he rasped in whisper, "To the breach," over and over. A mantra he could find no voice for.

A redundant warning that robbed him of hope.


She watched without reaction as the walls fell. The blast sending ripples through the glass and smearing the colors across the reflective surface like polluted water. At once, it seemed the room was momentarily robbed of all sound. Hanging precariously, an illusion of peace...until the world reset, and the horrors just outside found their way in with a rushing torrent of noise.

Lyssen was young, and hale enought to have stood on the walls. Her hands were quick, and the spear was no unfamiliar partner to her. She had volunteered for this. With a quiet word, she had taken the burden upon herself, and even until now, had no regrets in her decision. There were none to gainsay her, and with great solemnity, Thygrin himself, had laid daggers into her hands.

Behind her, Jaela sang softly.

...Led to the edge, then pushed to falling
For we must answer to our calling...

The children no longer joined voices, but listened still. Their eyes wide, and uncomprehending. Darting often to the windows.

"Another song, Jaela," Lyssen hissed, "A different song."

Rising mechanically, she took her dagger from the sill, and saw to the candles. Snuffing each in turn between her fingers, leaving grey serpents twisting in the cold air, until only one remained. The one directly behind Jaela. Its fragile, tiny light danced on as witness, yet dwarfed by the inferno pouring molten light through the windows, it seemed insignificant.

Draped in somber shadows embroidered with red and gold she did not own, Lyssen stood and for long moments memorizing each child's face.

Jaela's light touch startled her from her reverie. She had not seen her stand.

"It is time sister."


Walk then near to me
Sweep aside the winds
'Neath swiftly rising sun and moon
Walk this land's memory
So to honor its past
For we die
Before we reach the end
And every step is grace

-Cove Travelling Song