1 First Light
On the plains of the Warriors Domain, just bordering the Starklands and half a day’s walk from Fang Forest, there lived a Wolf within a snow cave; a hole in the ground that had been dug out over time to the size of a single room, where eating, sleeping and sheltering from the winter winds all took place. Its structure and design resembling an igloo, tucked under the earth. The Wolf had crystal blue eyes; a thick coat of silver fur; a white belly and a tale which stood proud like a silver sword. This young and ill experienced creature was named Markco by his parents. But where were his parents? The word that he had used for so many years was not around.
Markco had been too young to remember, but both of his parents had died before he had been able to use his eyes. His mother had sacrificed her life in bringing him into the world and his father had supposedly died in battle not even two days later. He was not a dependent pup waiting for his mother to bring him food, or for his father to tell him stories of the battles he had fought. From a very young age he had needed to fend and survive on his own, and after seventeen years he had become very efficient at it.
Markco opened his blue eyes and slowly got to his feet. He could hear the other Wolves yelling, barking and talking in anticipation of the new day. They ran about from their caves, huts and barns to preform whatever task that they had been assigned to do. As Markco made his way into the open world, he was consumed by conflicting emotions of gratefulness, yet annoyance that he had not made the pilgrimage to the King, where he would be assigned his task for the village.
Markco stretched his paws out along the ground, and cranked his neck to the right. It had taken him quite by surprise just how well he had slept that night. Although his snow cave had been slightly warmer than it had been on previous nights. A beautiful, slim Wolf with a coat as dark as the hazelnuts which grew in the forest to the north, brushed past Markco and swept her bushy tale, dappled with golden streaks across his face. By accident of course, or at least that was what she had wanted him to believe. She came from the province of Solomon’s View, the village where their King lived, and had travelled far to see the very old friend beside her.
“So, did you prepare breakfast?” She said, flicking her head back to Markco, a smile on her face; the most gorgeous of smiles, that one would only lay eyes upon perhaps twice in a life time; one which bestowed instant attraction to those who beheld it. It was this amongst so many other things which deluded Markco with adoration in her presence. An adoration which grew once the two of them had confessed their love to each other some years ago.
“Hannah, you know I’m no hunter,”
“Yet I have witnessed you stalking prey amongst the plains and the forests many a time.” Another smile came to Hannah’s face, which soon evolved into joyous laughter. It was true, although Markco had no abilities blessed upon him this had not stopped him hunting down food for himself. But Markco had not been given much choice. Although the orphan had been privilege enough to have the King take care of him, he only did so when Markco was a puppy. Then as soon as King Solomon was able to, Markco was forced out into the world, with no clue or any ability to cope with it. Yet he had, through the instincts of nature.
“Well, I’m not strictly a professional hunter,” A cheeky smile crept into the corner of his mouth. Hannah could only shake her head in disbelief at not only Markco’s cheekier side, but also his natural abilities which none other seemed to possess. It was in fact the surprise of what Markco could do, as well as his independence that had charmed her so, and ultimately compelled her to love him.
“Don’t worry yourself. I will get something from one of the local hunters.” Hannah’s words flowed like sweet honey while all the time she kept a playfully gaze in her eye. Hannah then trotted forward, her feet crunching in the snow which lay around the edge of the cave. It had been one night since the last snow fall and it lay around soft and deep. Hannah made her way through the snow, a spray of white, fluffy precipitation trailing behind her; a spray which Markco followed. The village of The Warriors Domain appeared to be built upon a smaller scale. Here the houses were neater and the hunters would rather pick a spot amongst the scattered settlements and sell their meat in the snow. It was this peaceful province that Hannah made her way through and it was not all too long before she came across a hunter, sitting in the snow wagging his tale back and forth. He had many verities of deer cuts on offer. Blood seeped from them, staining the snow a bright crimson, and the protruding bones had only recently been snapped from the mother deer. Appetising imagery indeed, especially to two Wolves in need of breakfast. But deer was not the only thing on offer, there was also slightly more exotic game too. Bulbous spiders lay in the snow next to the cuts of deer, one or two of them twice Hannah’s size.
“Where did you come across these?” She asked the huntsman, her expression slightly surprised, if not alarmed.
“Why Fang Forest. No, the area seems to be swarming with the buggers. We were hunting deer when they attacked us. Only just managed to fend them off in fact. Thought we might as well have brought them back here really. Although I suppose we won’t have much takers.”
“They attacked you?”
“Yeah, me and my brother now have the scars to prove it.” The hunter revealed a bloody streak where a sharp leg had dug in to his side.
“Are they working with the Snakes?” She asked, although she doubted a hunter, especially from Warriors Domain would really know of such things. Her farther would be a better option.
“Na they’re just wild beasts, spiders. Don’t have no side cause nobodies on theirs. Anyway what dya want love.” Hannah abruptly shook her head at being referred to as love. However these creatures weren’t to know that she was from Solomon’s View.
“Which one do you want?” She looked back to Markco with a soft and curious expression, not wanting his appetite to catch her out, as it had done on numerous occasions.
“Oh, that one; the large one,” he gestured quickly with his paw. Hannah looked back at the hunter, her gorgeous smile across her face.
“We will take the larger one,” her voice was so sweet that for a moment Markco thought that the hunter was going to melt, “Please.” Hannah put a lot of emphasis on her final word. Markco’s eyes rolled and his lips stretched into a cheeky smile. This conversation between the two of them was something that went un-noticed by the hunter who continued to carry on his proceedings as he normally would.
“Name and profession,” he asked with little expectation.
“Hannah, hunter from Solomon’s View,” Hannah spoke the words as though they were as delicate as a rose petal.
“Oh, apologies my lady… Terribly sorry.” The hunter’s face became flabbergasted and in his sudden rush to be polite he almost ended up throwing the meat at Hannah. She giggled then waited patiently for Markco, ever the gentlemen, to pick up the piece and carry it back to the cave; an action he performed voluntary.
“My, my; you know I really must meet the Wolf who taught you your manners.” Hannah had obviously waited to say such a thing when Markco could not speak. As oppose to the usual dickering, Markco rolled his eyes and tried to resist the temptation of dropping the meat and engaging in playful argument.
“She must have been adorable and ever so charismatic to get through to you.” She giggled while pressing her head into the fur on his side. Only a few thoughts came to Markco, the most noteworthy of them being ‘she most certainly is’. This of course was amongst others, however very little seemed to flow through the young Wolf’s mind in Hannah’s presents, as she seemed to consume most of his concentration.
The two of them ate in comfort, ripping and tugging the soft meat away from the bone. Out of all the meats deer was one of Markco’s favourites. He loved its soft texture and the way that the runny fluid ran down his throat.
“Which route are you taking back to Solomon’s View?” Markco waited for her to finish her mouthful before asking.
“I was going to head north to Fang Forest. Hunt some deer, or whatever I might find. Do my good deed for the Kingdom.”
“Do you need someone to accompany you?” Markco’s words were spoken mainly out of politeness, although he could not hide his desperate urge to spend more time with the radiant beauty.
“You can come along if you want. Perhaps you can look out for spiders.” Hannah chuckled at the prospect, although if they did come across any spiders it would be no laughing matter.
“Perhaps,” Markco laughed lightly “Although I don’t know how much help I can be against a spider. I doubt teeth and claws are very effective against hard skin and fang.” Although Markco’s words came from deadly close encounters, his mood was still joyful; a mood which Hannah could not help but play with.
“Oh so my knight in shining armour is just going to run away if there is any trouble; very valiant of you.” Her cold stare was equally met by her joyful tone and cheeky smile.
“Yes, a knight with no sword,” Markco huffed warmly before ripping into more of the deer’s soft flesh. “Or armour for that matter,” he mumble while he chewed.
“Well that’s no excuse. I’m a damsel in distress, what I’m I meant to do?” Her paw fell over her heart and she flung her head away from Markco with close eyes.
“Kill it with your hunter’s knife?” Hannah’s head snapped back round, eyes and mouth wide with surprise that Markco had refused to play along with her little game.
“Oh shut up you wimpy little pup.” Her smile turned golden and the fur above her eyes flickered like fire. Markco shook his head and his stomach knotted in embarrassment.
“I didn’t say that I was scared. I just meant to say I have no way to defend myself.” Markco raised his paw in protest, speaking his words clearly.
“Oh of course not,” Markco gave her a hard stare. He often adored Hannah for her wit: it had a certain sharpness that he had yet to find in anyone else’s tongue. Although on the occasion that Hannah decided to turn her wit against him, he would fall into a trap of embarrassment. Still the look in her eye charmed him so and without a desire greater than that look he found it very hard to escape her. Markco licked his nose and found it to be rough and dry. He sighed, already bracing for the taunt to come.
“I need to get a drink,” he said quickly, getting to his feet and shuffling towards the exit of the cave.
“Please do, rid me of your cowardly tail,” Hannah spoke with a playful harshness, watching with longing eyes as the blue eyed Wolf ascended from vision. Her heart buzzing with adoration, Hannah gazed back to what Markco had left. Licking the crimson stains on the corners of her mouth, she ripped into the flesh once more.
As was the case with most things Hannah’s, or for that matter everyone’s task was decided by the will of the mystical energy in the land. Upon a certain age of entering adult hood, a Wolf, Bear or Eagle would make the long pilgrimage to the house of their King, where he or she would be blessed with a task for life. The task assigned would not be unwanted or deemed useless in the world; it would be exactly what was needed by the community and its creatures; for it was the duty of the King to know exactly what the areas of his kingdom needed. These tasks ranged from anything and were often simple such as a builder, who were blessed with the ability to hold tools that would help them construct incredible spaces of living which could be obtained through good deed and honourable work. However they could not hold weapons or tools outside of their profession. The energy of Snowlands would not allow it, and if any creature tried to hold a tool out of their profession they would find their paw fumbling around a handle which could not be grasped. Otherwise their paw would elongate and grip around the tool of requirement.
For every task that a creature could be blessed with they all had certain gifts and abilities which allowed them to carry out the profession. Hunters would be able to run faster, lighter under foot and carry a dagger, enabling them to catch prey with ease and give it to those who had earned it. Blacksmiths were blessed with strength and could carry hammers and smouldering metal to craft the most remarkable weapons to give to the soldiers freely. Healers had the ability to tap into the mystical energy of Snowlands and use it to heal wounds and broken bones. However it was only the swordsmen and archers who could carry weapons in combat. Both were blessed with skills in fighting. Such a task held great honour and responsibility, and not all who were blessed with it were so pleased.
But there was one ability which could not be blessed upon any creature by any King of the land; an ability which was blessed from birth, and showed its self in the fewest of creatures. These creatures were referred to as Guardians and were gifted with skills in all walks of life, could handle any tool they desired and bend the energy of Snowlands to their will. However as the Power of Segore, King of the Snakes grew, these Guardians were hunted down and murdered; ambushed, or captured and executed by the Snakes and Bears. For Segore, supposedly feared these creatures, and would not let them come between him and his conquering of these lands. It was safe to say that these were dark times indeed, and now with no Guardians to protect the Kingdoms of the Wolves and the Eagles, the darkness seemed an ever encroaching cloud which was now so welcoming to join. Although it appeared that the Eagles and Wolves had a strong moral compass, and were quite capable of making the choice between what was right and what was easy. The least could be said for the Bears, as their leader seemed easily corrupted by power.
Markco made his way northward to a small river which flowed down from the mountains to the West into Lake of the Blessed: a vast expanse of rich blue water which could be seen upon the horizon, shimmering like a sapphire in the bright sun. He could see the bridge resting over its banks not all too far away, and beneath the icy blue, pebbles shone like scattered glitter in the sunlight. Markco felt incredibly grateful that the river had not frozen during the night, as it often did. Slowly he lapped up the icy water, letting its cool refreshing taste wash over his palette, and cool his throat. The sensation was so pleasant that it made the Wolf leave reality behind. He began to ponder over his future and what would become of him, as he often did in times of isolation. He did not know much about his parents, however the king had once told him that they were both fine warriors. Naturally this had lead Markco to assume that the King would bless him as a solider too and continue his parents legacy. But now in his older years he thought that it would be far more likely that he would be blessed as a hunter, as he had already shown natural skill in it.
He did occasionally ponder what his life would be like if he was blessed as a scribe or a builder and how terribly boring his life would be from that moment on. It was a worrying thought as he knew full well that what a Wolf was blessed as was the Kings choice and no amount of begging or pleading could change his mind otherwise. Once he had blessed you that was it, you had that task for life.
’How easy it would be I were a Guardian and could do whatever I wanted.’ Markco rested upon this thought, lost in mere fantasy when suddenly.
“Markco!” A familiar voice called out behind him. Shadow strutted up and placed himself next to Markco. “I looked for you at your place, but you weren’t...” Shadow stopped in a moment of hesitation leaving Markco to finish his sentence.
“There?” Shadow nodded in response, the coal black pattern which flowed down the centre of his white coat bobbing back and forth. “Is the King aware?” Markco looked at his friend blankly.
“Aware of what?”
“That his daughter shares your cave at night?”
“Well I should think so. If he has not been told then he must be able to assume it. We have known each other since, well... forever I suppose. What else could he expect?” There were in fact many things which King Solomon had expected, or at least hoped for regarding Markco’s and Hannah’s relationship. One being that Markco would grow to treat Hannah as an older and wiser sister. However Markco was not daft, and quickly grasped that there was no relation between him and the radiant beauty. Inevitably flirtations soon arose. “I’m sure the King is fine with it. Better his daughter falls in love with someone he can trust, rather than some bumbling fool.” Shadow was about to speak, almost certainly in protest before his unspoken words were interrupted by Hannah’s appearance.
“Good morning Shadow,” She spoke with a joyful smile. Shadow was so surprised by her appearance that for a moment he could not speak. He hesitated and fumbled over his words but eventually he replied with a similar tone.
“Hey…” Hannah smiled at him before turning her attention to Markco.
“I am afraid I left my knife at the palace. Would you mind if we stopped off in Howling Plains to pick up a few volunteers?”
“No not at all. In fact I prefer to hunt with no tools. It seems much more natural that way.”
“Mmm, because showing off has nothing to do with it.”