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1] Tarrant Struggled
2] Serpent Orb
3] The Founding of a Clan
4] Dragon Law
5] The Coming of the Wolf
6] Yukio's Time
7] Strangers Visit
8] Meeting of Clans
9] Blackbone's Trust
10] Lord Hideo's War
11] Whispers of War
12] A Hero Returns
Chapter 5: The Coming of the Wolf

Tarrant the Builder first had word of the Wolf Clan's arrival from one of the watchtowers he had placed on the high, rocky northern coast. He had decreed that there must always be a vigil kept, always an eye watching northward for the Horde. A rider came pounding up the western road, bringing the news: "Ships! Ships wrecked on the northern coast! A whole fleet men, women, a whole clan!" Tarrant knew this young rider had never seen the Horde, and might not recognize them, but even so he knew this could not be the enemy they had run so far to avoid the Horde were not men. He gave orders that the newcomers should be sheltered and given every kind of aid, as long as they offered no harm.

Soon a peculiar looking man in middle age was brought before him, and was presented as Greeneye, chief of the Wolf Clan. Tarrant studied him well. For a start, the man was enormous, a head taller than Tarrant and broader across the shoulders. Everything about this man spoke of a life lived closer to nature than that of the feudal Serpent people. His clothes were hides sewn roughly together, and they left his limbs bare, except where they were covered by leather straps and cloth wrappings. He wore spiked gauntlets and high leather boots, stone jewelry, all raw and roughly cut, as if their makers were determined to alter the original natural shapes as little as possible the original natural shapes. Likewise his hair was long and unbound.

But looking closer, Tarrant noticed more. His eyes showed nothing but calm readiness. The man had been ship-wrecked and brought before a foreign lord, yet he didn't seem nervous or hostile or afraid just watchful, open and ready for whatever came. When he spoke it was with a gruff courtesy, and when asked to tell his story he was eloquent, even poetic this was a people who valued the ability to speak publicly and tell a story. There was a nobility to him that transcended his rough appearance.

Until two years ago, the Wolf Clan had lived on an island far to the west, a place of cool mountains and deep green forested valleys. They had lived there for as far back as their oral histories could recall, having little traffic at all with the mainland. They hunted the still forests and fished in the rivers and bays. They were a wild people but not bloodthirsty or warlike most of their violent impulses were channeled into Wolfball, a brutal, no-holds-barred sport that was the focus of their cultural life. They lived in harmony with nature and practiced a druidic religion, worshiping nature itself.

Two years ago all nature was thrown wildly out of balance. They would have been destroyed as a people had they not received warning from their high druidess, who saw a dark power coming from the north and a bright one rising to oppose it in a conflict that would shatter a continent and drown their island. For months they worked to build a fleet of ships to hold their entire clan's population and food to sustain them.

When the disaster came they barely survived it they put to sea as fast as possible, but entire villages were lost when the winds came that tore trees up at the root, and waves came like rolling hills to wash over the land. Navigation was impossible -- when the great channel was torn through the continent the seas rushed to fill it, and the Wolf Clan was drawn with it, crossing hundreds of miles as they wandered, swirled by eddies, fishing to stay alive.

When they were drawn into the channel the currents grew more violent, and they were sucked inevitably onto the cliffs to the south, dashed on boulders which until eight months ago had lain far underground. The seas and the stony shores were merciless, and when Serpent Clan watchmen made it down the cliff face to the shore, they found less than half the Wolf Clan alive and safely ashore. When Greeneye's story was finished, Tarrant the Builder told his own -- the arrival of the unbeatable Horde from the north, fleeing south desperately with the remains of his tribe and fragments of a dozen others. Then leaving Tarrant the Elder alone to try to summon the Dragon and meet the oncoming Horde, and lastly, the terrible Breaking of the World, that had saved the Serpent Clan but which they now knew had driven the Wolf Clan from their home.

Greeneye listened unmoving, neither condemning, nor entirely forgiving what he had heard. In the end he asked only for a place for his people to live, and Tarrant granted him the high peak in the northwest extreme of the realm, and the Shaleback ridge down to where the foothills begin, halfway to the Wendwater source. There the Wolf Clan went to dwell, living much as they did before, hunting the high forests and ranging occasionally into the swamps and woods below. They kept to themselves, and were seen only occasionally by far-ranging hunters, traders and messengers. Still, those who lived in the valleys below could always see lights burning there, and on the solstices bonfires and singing and howling would drift down from the high places to show that the Wolf Clan was alive and well. More often, villagers would be disturbed by howling closer to home, or would look up while hunting or riding to see a pair of almost-feral eyes peering at them through the trees, and a skin-clad bestial-seeming Wolf Clansman would lope away through the trees. Both clans were uneasily conscious of the past that linked them, the Serpent's unintended devastation of the Wolf.

Years passed and both clans grew, living more or less in harmony. A generation of men and women lived peacefully. Tarrant the Builder took a wife, a chief's daughter from the Heron Clan, who gave him a son, Yukio, and a daughter Mariko. In time, that whole generation passed from the earth. Ozaku died when he was thrown from a horse while skirmishing with robbers who raided out of the swamps; a decade later, Tarrant the Builder, once Tarrant the Younger, died peacefully in his sleep, leaving Yukio to rule.

When that generation died, so did the last of the men who had lived through the great journey southward. The last who had fought so desperately against the Horde, the last who had been born into the Dragon Clan, and had known their ancient homelands so far to the north. Those who followed knew only the Serpent Clan and their lands, and the ways of the Dragon Clan became something one read about, rather than a living tradition. And would remain so, unless someone returned to bring them back.

Chapter 6: Yukio's Time