As the moon rose over the horizon, Whitefoot looked out over the clench. Thousands of members of the Pack had died since the last clench, but the price had been worth it. They had taken the first steps towards cleansing the land and destroying their enemies. The place where they were assembling was the location of the Great Cull, the Pack’s greatest defeat. Now, it was the focal point of their victory celebration.
He had much to think on. They had caused the enemy to flee before them and several of their new tactics had been successful, yet he was bothered. Surviving members of the First Claw had reported that the enemy had possessed the Bloodfang, an ancient weapon the rumor of which had been passed down through the generations. If the Bloodfang was here, the Destroyers might be here as well. The Pack had thought they wiped out the Destroyers thousands of moons ago, and the stories said the Bloodfang had disappeared at the same time as the Destroyers. He would have all of his scouts watch and listen for any hint of either, but tonight they would celebrate.
The moon approached its zenith while Whitefoot watched over the clench. His people had feasted sumptuously over the past few days and were contented. “My children,” he began, “We have lost much, but we have gained much more. Eat, sleep, celebrate. Tomorrow we will begin taking steps that will allow us to rid ourselves of these humans forever!”
The howls of the Pack lasted long into the night.
Six days after they departed Eyjolf, the Duke and the first exhausted group of refugees finally reached the city. Saegrimr’s mother Hafbera and his younger sisters and brothers had been sent to Gudmund with the original convoy weeks before. During that first trip to Gudmund, he and Amundr had been unable to spend much time with them because they were hurried into training to prepare for the return to Eyjolf.
Hafbera embraced her husband and her son warmly, then turned to Amundr. “We heard about your father. We are so sorry. From this day you will always be a son to us.” Amundr looked up at her, then at Holmr, who smiled and nodded. They were offering to formally adopt him into their family so that he would have legal standing and protection. It was a kind gesture.
“Thank you both. You will always be closer to me than anyone else still living, but now Saegrimr and I are men. We are in the Duke’s service.” Saegrimr’s parents had noticed their armor and swords, but had said nothing.
Saegrimr was being swarmed by his younger brothers and sisters, all eager to know about his adventures. He told them the story of their journeys, and was hit with a hundred questions.
“Did you really fight ten thousand vergrinn?”
“Were you scared?”
“Can I have a sword too?”
“What was the ocean like?”
“Did you kill any vergrinn?”
“Are the vergrinn really living in our village now?”
“One at a time. One at a time. Yes, I did fight, and yes, it was scary, and yes, I killed vergrinn. I didn’t kill nearly as many as Mundi, though.” He looked over at his best friend and grinned. “Maybe he could tell you about fighting them alone and outnumbered in the dark in the middle of the forest in the dead of night.”
His younger brothers wanted to hear that, but Hafbera interrupted. “I think the kids have heard enough about your adventures for now. Maybe later Amundr can tell them his story.” She shot Saegrimr a stern look. His youngest brother and sister hadn’t seen six winters and would be terrified by such tales. Amundr and Saegrimr spent the next several hours enjoying the company of Saegrimr’s family.
“Your lordship, I have news.” The arrival of the lore master stirred the Duke from his thoughts. “We have found another scroll in the archives. It was mislaid among various poems and other ancient trifles, but it is undoubtedly related to the matter at hand.” The lore master raised a scroll tube. Unmistakable on its surface was the same unknown rune that had been present on the scroll tube that Amundr had found. “The contents are…fascinating.”
He handed the scroll tube to the Duke. He opened it and took out the scroll. He read the scroll, then re-read it. Finally he spoke. “Have you told anyone else of this?” The lore master shook his head. “See that it stays that way.
Late in the night, the Duke sat alone deep in thought. The implications of what he had read were staggering indeed. He would send a messenger to the King for advice at first light. He picked up the scroll and re-read it one more time:
Though vergrinn are quite violent
The war can still be won
The vergrinn shall fall silent
When the Wolf Spears’ task is done
When the last of the Spears has risen
Great victory shall he bring
Salvation shall be given
By the blood of the ancient King
The sword shall find its rightful hand
The throne its rightful heir
Blood shall flow throughout the land
And cries shall fill the air
The Spear shall know betrayal
By a hand that he did trust
His courage cannot fail
Before the final thrust
Not all life is victory
Not all death is loss
To make his final journey
The ocean he shall cross