Taken by Alika to restore the rangers mind deep within the confines of Shudderwood, Alika begins the ceremony to call forth a servant, aspect or arvatar of Earistil. A shining white unicorn with a golden mane answer her calls to help the ranger Ulli from his ailment.
She placed several items in front of the unicorn for payment. The unicorn spoke in a soft voice. “The poultice will cure your friend from his madness. Drink and he shalk be restored”. Drinking the poultice Ulli had his memories return to him. He could feel his reflexes return, his hand eye co-ordination, his knowledge of the woods and his skills in tracking creatures. Thanking the unicorn which soon faded away, the pair packed up there gear and headed back to Ascanor.
Ulli and Alinka walked along the forest path, back towards the Ascanor Lodge. The shadows of the trees crept back slowly and their tops seemed to glow in the afternoon’s closing light. Ahead, through the treetops he could see the lights of the Ascanor Lodge.
Ulli looked to Alinka and smiled. She was quite attractive, he thought to himself. But she was no Yselda Sain. She had given a lot to bring the herald of Erastil into being to mend his shattered mind and he had more respect for the cleric than he had before. He would repay the debt immediately and happily upon return to the lodge, as the paymaster there held a small fortune of Ulli’s payments for tracking, escorting, hunting, guiding and so on.
All things that Ulli may no longer be able to do should the madness that consumes the woods remain unchecked.
The madness seemed to hear his thoughts and in an explosion of leaves and branches a mangled body was thrown from the treeline and into the path in front of them. Alinka jumped back in shock, her red hair whipping into her face as she unshouldered her bow, notched an arrow and drew the string. Ulli merely flinched. Whatever threw the body at them knew that they were there and if it wanted to attack them they wouldn’t have had a warning dumped at their feet.
“I don’t care for your words, your false explanations are meaningless Ulli." Ulli peered into the treeline and saw the speaker. He smirked to himself and stood to full height and folded his arms.
“Hello, Vollensag.” He said as a tall, broad powerful werewolf stalked into sight. The leader of the Primordial tribe was a towering powerhouse of muscle and fury that dwarfed the ranger in every way.
‘Is he insane?’ thought Alinka, noting that Ulli was treating the meeting as a conversation rather than the issue of a threat.
“Go tell whoever sent you to stay out of wolf affairs!” The massive werewolf barked, his yellow eyes blazing with his anger, “Let him know that his dealings with Mathus Mordrinacht and the Silverhide pack do not sit well with the other tribes of this wood.”
“Modrinacht?” Ulli said, “Modrinacht’s in charge of the Silverhides now?”
Realising that the ranger had no idea what had happened in the woods, Vollensag smiled. “Yes, he has taken charge of the tribe in the wake Kvaka’s death,” he spat at the mention of his old enemy’s name, “All of us know why and we will all punish the Silverhide dogs for this!”
“Do you think that Silverhides really want to follow bloody Modrinacht?” Ulli asked, “You, of all, knew Kvaka Sain as your greatest rival, even you would have to acknowledge that she and her tribe would never resort to treachery.”
“Never,” growled Vollensag. Ulli knew that the word was a lie sharpened with pride. “There shall be much blood spilled between our kin before another Silverhide packlord sits upon Highthrone.”
Ulli placed his hands on his hips and listened intently to Vollensag. Alinka, who had lowered her bow, shifted on her feet nervously.
“Mathus the betrayer shall never claim the title, and should you and yours continue to support him, the wrath of the wolf packs shall fall upon him and his friend at the lodge!” Vollensag continued, pointing a clawed finger at the ranger.
“So Modrinacht betray Kvaka after all,” Ulli said, without surprise in his voice, “And his friend at the lodge- a man named Vrood?”
Vollensag snarled at the mention of the name before nodding.
“And this Vrood, he travel with four? A fat-man, a goblin, a man and an elf woman who carry a… " Ulli motioned in the air by miming to hold and swing a scythe, “A wheat-cutter?”
“Yes,” Vollensag said, his hatred subsiding, if only slightly, “They stalk the woods, close to the centre, near the-”
“-Demonwolf territory?” Ulli finished. Vollensag’s anger quickly returned to him.
“Can’t you see?” Ulli began, “More than you one man who wanted Kvaka dead was bloody Modrinacht. He not like you, he is coward. He make plans and plots with this Vrood and his men. Plots that shit on the honour and pride of all tribes of Shudderwood. The same tribes who were pushed from the centre of the wood by bloody Demonwolves!”
Alinka relaxed her bow arm. The werewolf was listening intently to Ulli.
“They kill Kvaka and ignore ancient rites of Highthrone. These bloody Demonwolves and their friends will kill this wood, your wood, my wood! Why fight Silverhides? I’ll give you Modrinacht and you and other tribes can make this madness stop!”
“Hnh,” Vollensag began, baring his fangs in a cruel smile, “One by one the other tribes will follow me. Khamalia and her Broken-Ones are already mine. It’s only a matter of time before the other tribes are as well. The only alleigance between the wolves of the woods will be to crush the Silverhides!” He clenched his fist in the air in front of Ulli’s face, “And they are powerless to stop it! Even now the Silver-hand are attacking them daily!”
Alinka knew that there was no reasoning with the Primordial leader. But she knew that Ulli wanted the madness in the woods to stop, more perhaps than any other.
“And then what? The Silver-hand turn on you too! You have been deceived, Vollensag! Your ‘alleigance’ is nothing more than revenge! You know that in Shudderwood revenge and stupidity are close friends.”
“Speaking of close friends,” Vollensag said with a sneer, “You need to keep an eye out for your little bitch Yselda. We all know about yours and her courtship. It would be such a shame if-”
Quick as a snake Ulli stepped up to the Werewolf and seized his fanged necklace and wrenched his head down to his level.
“You will not fucking touch her,” the ranger scowled with a degree of wrath that exceeded the werewolfs, “None of you.” He released the necklace and stepped back from Vollensag, who watched Ulli in stunned silence, nodding gently, the threat understood.
“You know that Silver-hand have declared you as great trophy, don’t you?” Ulli said to Vollensag, his composure returning to him, “You know they want your head on their cabin wall, yes? I have seen the place they reserve for you.”
“It is no secret they hunt the most powerful lord of the woods, Ranger.” Vollensag replied, his chest swelling slightly with pride.
“But always they have upper-hand over you. Why? They have silver. They have Wolfsbane. And you retreat from them. I cannot blame you. They have killed Primordials before. They would enjoy killing you.”
“What if I give you the Silver-hand?” Ulli said, opening his hands as an offer, “Served them up to you and your Primordials? Let you take them?”
Silence hung in the twilight air as Vollensag contemplated the offer.
“I’m listening.” He rumbled intently.
“If I send them to you, you can ambush and destroy and I give you Modrinacht as good faith. Would you leave Silverhides and reconsider offer to unite and kill Demonwolves before fighting for Highthrone?”
“I might.” Vollensag said quietly.
“Very good. Then these men you shall have in return for alleigance against Demonwolves. Do I have your word of this?” Ulli asked, holding his hand out to the predatory lord.
Vollensag looked at the hand and then looked to Ulli’s eyes.
“Yes,” Vollensag rumbled, shifting on his powerful legs and shaking Ulli’s hand. “You have my word. But you must also deal with the third co-conspirator whom helped Vrood and Mordrinacht kill Kvaka, it is someone at Ascanor Lodge”
Alinka narrowed her eyes and looked at the calculation in the Werewolf lords cruel, yellow eyes. ‘Has Ulli been so far from contact that he doesn’t know deception when it has been played upon him?’ She thought to herself.
Retreating from the handshake, Vollensag stalked over the remains of the Silverhide he had thrown onto the path and with a powerful bite, twist and wrench tore off the dead Werewolf’s head. He threw it to the ground at Ulli’s feet and smiled wickedly.
“Call it a token of our little agreement… Now leave our territory and return to your cozy wooden den, or share the fate of this poor little sheep!”
Vollensag chuckled to himself before he turned and bounded into the treeline, crashing loudly through brush and branch as he did so.
Alinka shouldered her bow and walked over to Ulli’s side as he bent down and gently picked up the Silverhide’s head in his hands. He recognised the man, he was a woodsman who used to live near the edge of Primordial territory.
“Ulli, did you see the deception in his eyes?” Alinka asked, “He will not keep his word.”
“I know,” Ulli said, smirking up at her, “Neither will I.”