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Introduction: I’m not the only person who writes fiction set in Trollworld. Here’s a character pieces by Roy Cram, who has created more than one adventure for Tunnels and Trolls, and is also a stalwart member of Trollhalla.

Wulfe and the Pilgrims

    c. 2015 by Roy Cram

      It was a hot sultry day on the old trade road that led to Khazan. Here the forest pressed in on the trail on both sides. Over the crest of a small hill two men came, dragging a young woman in a nun’s robe with them. They came to a halt at the edge of the woods, and together they forced her to the ground. The fat brigand held her arms and slobbered on her face trying to kiss her. The taller thief managed to hike her robe up over her hips and then dropped his trousers. He then bent to remove her undergarment.  At that point someone behind him gave him a terrific kick in the rear end. He flew, tail over teakettle, over the woman, and landed, cursing, on top of his pudgy friend. The pair struggled to get free of each other and regain their feet. The skinny brigand had a hard time of it with his pants encumbering his ankles. As they reached a standing position again they drew their daggers and turned to face the kicker.

    They found themselves confronted by a man six feet tall and weighing at least 200 pounds. He wore a chainmail hauberk, and carried a scramasax in one hand and a morningstar in the oher. He was obviously a warrior by the look of him.

    “Wot thuh-!” began the skinny brigand.

    “I am called Wulfe,” the stranger said quietly. “Soldier of fortune and former captain of the army of Baron Vogun. I used to kill a dozen men like you before breakfast.” He began to swing the morningstar.

“If you are wise this is where you run away.” Wulfe began to advance. “If you want to try your daggers against my weapons, come on. I always enjoy a little workout.”

    The two brigands swore and ran off as fast as they could run, the skinny man cuffing his companion as they ran. As they fled they hurled insults at the warrior and each other.

     Wulfe watched them go, and then helped the young woman to her feet. He helped her adjust her robe.

    “Are you hurt?” he asked her. “Are these the only ones?”

    “No, no, good sir,” she gasped in reply. “There are three more over the hill robbing my companions.”

    “If they are as brave as these two stalwarts I will take their measure,” said Wulfe. Follow me, but not too closely. My weapon has a large swinging range.” He then hurried up the hill with the young nun close behind him.

     As he crested the hill his trained soldier’s eye appraised the situation. A small group of five male and two female pilgrims were being shaken down by three brigands. One of the monks was lying on the ground, obviously hurt. Wulfe trotted down the hill, his weapons ready.

     The leader of the thieves was the first to notice his approach. “To arms, me hearties,”  he yelled to his comrades. “Here comes some shepherd to try and rescue these lambs. Take him down!” The two men, one armed with a cutlass and the other with a large club dutifully charged at the warrior.

     Wulfe let the man with the club take a swing which he dodged, and then whacked the club wielder on his arm with the morningstar. Bones and flesh crunched, and the man screamed and dropped his weapon. Undeterred by his companion’s misfortune the swordsman tried a simple thrust at the warrior’s middle. Wulfe parried it easily with his sax, and punched him in the face with the fist that held the morningstar handle. The sword dropped from the bandit’s grip and he fell backwards, spitting blood and teeth. Wulfe took just a moment to make sure these two were out of the fight, then he turned and advanced on the leader. Snarling, the brigand grabbed the nearest pilgrim and held his knife to the man’s throat.

     “Surrender, you dog,” he demanded, “Or I will kill this monk!”

     “I will make you a counter offer,“ said Wulfe glaring back at the man. “If you hurt that man or any of his friends in any manner, I will make you beg for death before I am done with you. If you run away now I may let you live.”

     The two men glared at each other for a few more seconds. Then the brigand chief swore! “I will see you again, dog!” he called, and turning on his heels he ran away at a good pace. Wulfe followed him a ways to be sure he kept running.

     When he returned to the pilgrims they were giving first aid to the injured monk and also to the two injured brigands. While they ministered to the wounded, Wulfe confiscated the thieve’s daggers, and secured the cutlass and club they had wielded.

     “Where are your weapons?” Wulfe asked the apparent leader of the group. “Have you no guards to defend you from this sort of vermin?”

     “I am Deacon Bella,” replied the monk. “We are members of the Holy Order of Omvar, and are sworn not to do harm to any person.”

     “Your God is too kind,” replied Wulfe, smiling. “Had I not chanced by when I did these petty thieves might have raped and murdered you all.”

     “All kindred are the children of the Allmaker,” said the monk. “We can not hurt them in any way.”

     “What shall we do with these two?” asked Wulfe, indicating the two wounded bandits. They cringed when he looked straight at them.

     “We must treat their wounds and let them depart in peace,” said Bella. “We are only allowed to help others, never to harm them.”

     Wulfe sighed. “Well then,” he said. “I will do them no further harm if they offer me none.” He addressed the cowering thieves. “Go back to your brave leader,” he growled. “Tell him Wulfe the Wayfarer promises to go with these folks. If you, or he, or any more of his people return to try and rob these good folk or harm them, I will make every effort to arrange for them to meet the monk’s kindly God. I spared you scum this time. Next time I will use all my skill to make you regret your actions in Hell.”

    “Would you send us away unarmed,” whined the bandit with his arm in a sling.

    “I will send you away with my boot print on your asses if you don’t leave now,” said Wulfe. The monks all shuddered and crossed themselves. But the two bandits hurried off down the road swearing softly under their breath. Deacon Bella shook his head.

    “That was very cruel,” he said.

    “I am sorry but I have little pity to spare for this kind of vermin. They certainly have none to spare for others whom they cheerfully rob, rape, and murder when given the chance. They will be hot for revenge now so I will go with you to your destination. You are indeed like a flock of lambs, and these isolated woods are full of hungry wolves. I will give you what protection I can until we part ways.”

     “What God do you worship, warrior?” asked one of the monks. “Does He not enjoin you to be kind to other men?”

     Wulfe replied, “My people worshiped the Horned Lord of the Woods, the Wolfather. It was not a ‘church’ religion. We were taught to be brave, strong, and to care for and defend out families and our clan. We respected those who respected us, but we were fierce foes to any that offered us harm. We lived in a hard land where to be weak was to be enslaved or to die.”

     The young nun Wulfe had rescued, asked, “Why did you leave your country?”

     “There came a time of little rain, and game was scarce. We were attacked by rival Wolf clans aided by the Bear people. We fled from the slaughter but my faher and brothers were slain. I alone escaped.”

      “How sad, to lose your family,” said the young woman. The other monks and nuns agreed.

      “I left the woodlands, and was adopted by a retired warrior who ran a village inn. He taught me the use of armor and weapons. The Uruk barkeep taught me how to fight. I prospered in that family. Then one night three customers we had to throw out for bad behavior returned and set the Inn on fire. I alone escaped. I had to leave the village. I fought in the Fief wars for Baron Vogun until he and his foes ran out of money and stopped their stupid war. Now I am on my way to Khazan. I was told a good fighter could make a living there.”

       “Perhaps you could join our order and be freed from your life of violence,” said the young nun.

     “I would most likely make a poor monk. I could not stand idly by and let thieves abuse innocent people”

      Bella said,”I am glad that we were spared being robbed or otherwise harmed, but we still cannot allow ourselves to do harm to anyone.”

       One of the other monks, the one who was beaten, said, “We could use a guard, Deacon. None of us suspected that there would be ruffians in these isolated woods that might try to harm us.”

      Bella replied, “We can never do any actions that might do harm to our brothers and sisters. Even those who do not share our beliefs are sacred.  We must rely on the grace of the Allmaker to defend up from harm.”

     “Perhaps this Wulfe was sent by Omvar to defend us,” said the old nun. And the rest of the group gathered around the Deacon and a quiet but heated debate began.

      “While you decide what to do, I will go recover my pack and gear,” said Wulfe, and he hurried down the road to do so. When he returned Deacon Bella met him.

     “You will be welcome, Brother Wulfe, to come with us,” he said. “We cannot offer you much in payment, but we will share our food and water with you on the way. “

     “I am not worried about the money. Save it to serve the poor. But I will be glad to share your provisions. I was running low there on this long journey. And I feel it would be a good thing if I went with you anyway. Your little flock is in dire need of a shepherd. Your nuns are women and my people held the women of our clan in high regard. I could not with a clear conscience leave them unguarded with these brigands nearby. My hard God would frown on me for such an act of cowardice.”

     Bella replied, “We will eat our noon meal here now. Then we will go on.” The monks began their noon prayers. Wulfe sat a little apart from them, and watched. What an odd and interesting group of people they were. Then, Agnis, the oldest nun, brought him a plate of bread, cheese, nuts, and dried fruit. As he accepted it and thanked her, she looked into his eyes. What she saw caused a look of surprise and concern to pass over her wrinkled visage.

      “Brother Wulfe,” she said quietly. “Your body has two souls!”

      Wulfe was startled by her comment. “How can you tell,” he whispered.

      “I was a seeress before I joined the order. I can see things hidden from ordinary people. But I will not tell this to the others. They would not understand. I can see that you are a good man who will not do harm to any that do not first attempt to harm you.”

     “I call on my wolf brother only in times of dire need,” said Wulfe. “I pray that I won’t need him while we travel together.”

     “Omvar forbid it!” said the old nun, and she returned to the monks to serve them their plates.

     Once lunch was concluded Wulfe told the monks that he would go on a little ahead of them on the road. With his warrior training and forest skills he felt he could best avert any unpleasant surprises. It would give him the best chance to spor an ambush and do what was necessary.

     The group then moved on. Wulfe found it slow going, used as he was to a soldier’s marching pace that covered a lot of distance in a short time. He frequently had to wait for the monks and nuns to catch up with him. The young nun, Angeline, brought him water to drink at frequent intervals and again thanked him for rescuing her. She seemed inclined to talk, but he found her something of a distraction. The presence of this attractive female made it hard for him to keep his attention on the path ahead, and as kindly as he could, he sent her back to the group. As the afternoon wore on, some of the monks came forward to talk to him and to try and explain their beliefs to him. They were truly good people intent on doing good to all, but Wulfe could not see how they could survive in a dog-eat-dog world. He argued good naturedly with them, and when he began to tell them about his own animistic and pagan ideas, it was usually enough to send them back to the rest of their company.

      They made good time with only a few short rest breaks. Finally as the sun began to settle in the west, Bella brought his flock to a halt to take an evening meal and camp for the night. Wulfe did not like this location much; the woods were too close to the road on both sides, but the monks did not seem worried, and so it was done. As the group made preparations to bed down for the night, Wulfe began a last survey of the surroundings.

     At a point up the road where the trees were quite close to the road. Wulfe detected movement in the nearby bushes. Before he could raise an alarm, a large sling stone sruck him in the forehead knocking him off his feet and stunning him. Before he could clear his head the bandits were upon him dashing out of the bushes. They assualted the groggy warrior with clubs, fists, and boots, driving him to the ground. The best Wulfe could do was curl into a ball and try to protect his head as he was viciously beaten, slugged, and stomped by the bandit mob.

     “Don’ kill ‘im yet,” ordered the bandit leader. “tie the bastard up.” He tossed some vines to one of his cronies. “I will make HIM beg for death when we finish shearing his flock! Come on, men!” And the rest of the gang set off to attack the monks and nuns.

In the dark center of Wulfe’s being his other soul woke up. It’s body was being attacked. And the pack was in danger! Fury boiled up in its heart This must not be permitted. And it took control of the meat.

     Filk, the thief who was tying Wulfe up, had finished binding his ankles together.  But as he clambered over the larger man he noticed that the flesh inside the hauberk was moving and shifting in some very odd and unnatural ways. And the man was suddenly getting very hairy. Filk tried to turn him over to get at his hands, when Wulfe abruptly turned himself over. Filk stared into the eyes of the huge wolf’s head that stared at him from where a man’s bloodied head had been moments before. Before the thief could scream the big jaws snapped up and bit his face off. Fur covered and wickedly clawed hands tossed the brigand’s body aside and sliced through the vines binding its ankles. The wolfman rose to its feet, and ran back towards the camp with murder in its heart.

     One of the thieves had grabbed old Agnis and dragged her apart from the rest. He was preparing to strip the nun when she saw a chainmail clad figure dash by. It’s clawed hand lashed out as it passed them and decapitated the brigand. The headless body stepped back a couple of paces, its neck spurting blood like a fountain, and then it fell. Agnis mercifully fainted.

     Two of the thieves were busy beating up one of the monks who had tried to resist them. They did not see the wolfman but they felt the terrible claws that ripped big chunks of bone and flesh from their backs. They fell dying, one on each side of their intended victim, and left him with the vision of a warrior with the head of a wolf that would haunt his dreams for years to come.

     But now the remaining brigands were aware that something had gone very wrong with this caper, and that something awful was loose in their midst. The leader who held Deacon Bella in his grasp yelled at the other bandits to look out. The monks still standing all wisely hit the ground, and then the wolfman was among the thieves, like a buzzsaw. The razor like claws flashed and slashed and the fearsome jaws snapped and bit. Chunks and pieces of bandit flesh and limbs flew about in a spray of blood. In a few savage seconds the carnage was complete. Only the wolfman remained standing.

      The monster, bespattered with blood, not his own, advanced on the Deacon and the Bandit boss.

Bella then simply fainted and slipped from the thief captain’s grasp.

      “Get away, get awa-” cried the thief waving his dagger in front of him. The wolfman simply knocked it aside, and slashed his claws across the brigand’s abdomen. The latter looked down and stared in horror as his intestines fell out on the ground. Then the monster shoved him aside and rushed on into the dark. It had caught the scent of Angeline and her attackers.

     A short distance away the skinny thief and his fat friend were struggling for the second time that day to disrobe the young nun. So far she had thwarted their efforts by curling herself into a ball. Angry now, the skinny man raised a fist to knock some sense into the bitch. As he raised his arm there was a swish and a whack, and he found himself staring at the bleeding stump where his forearm used to be. Then, powerful hands seized him and hurled him with bone shattering force into he huge trunk of a nearby Oak tree.

     Angeline shut her eyes and prayed. She suddenly felt the fat man release her. Something carried him squealing into the nearby brush. The man’s squeals turned to screams; he was not dying a quick death as his cronies had.

      “No, Wulfe, no!” she cried.

      The screams stopped abruptly. Angeline opened her eyes and saw the wolfman, covered with blood and gore, not his own, standing over her. But now, Wulfe’s eyes looked out of its gory face.

      “Omvar save us all,” cried the nun. Then the wolfman threw back its head and howled, a dreadful sound. And turning, it ran away swiftly into the woods until it was out of sight.

      With the monster gone, the monks and nuns grabbed their gear and literally ran the rest of the night until they finally arrived at their monastery in the wee hours of the morning. They would argue for a long time as to whether Wulfe the warrior that had defended them was from heaven or from hell.

     That next morning Wulfe awoke at the edge of a little pond. He was sore, ill, and weary, and he stank to raise hell. A swarm of flies buzzed about him until he managed to clean himself and his armor and clothes from the clotted gore he was covered with. It took him an hour and  he twice threw up. He did not want to know what it was he had held in his stomach. At last he made his way back to the campsite. The unburied bodies of the bandits were still there. Flocks of carrion birds took to air protesting as he approached. The sight of the carnage sickened him. He wasted no time here, but quickly recovered his pack and his weapons, and then hurried up the road towards Khazan.

     As he walked the lonely road towards the great city he pondered his fate. It seemed each time he found a group of people whom he had a chance to be part of and relate to, his dark secret other soul would eventually rise up and ruin his chance. How he longed to find a family again, a pack to run and hunt with. But where there was still life there was still hope. Maybe in Khazan he could find the family and the peace of mind he so desperately wanted.

     And in the monastery of the Brothers and Sisters of Omvar, Angeline prayed for the souls of the warrior who had twice saved her life, and her friends.

     

      

     

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One Comment

  1. This story becomes even more poignant because (as the story references) it’s the prelude to Wulfe’s heroic fate. He has yet to enter the city of Khazan.


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