Dreng sat on the chair as clan leader and waited for the feast to begin. He thought back on how far along his village had come. They had started as a small handful of Martyrs on the run after the Oana destroyed their homeland. He was still a young cub in those days, but he wished he could've done more.
Dreng smiled, remembering how strong he had been for his age, but the emotion quickly turned to rage when he recalled how much good it had done him. Watching his noble race get slaughtered like Bisonbogs was something he would never forget. The bloodshed that happened on that day was truly unimaginable. In fact, he soberly remembered wondering why there seemed to be more blood than physically possible. It was more than everyone present had in their bodies combined. Put simply; it was an extra bloody day.
It was only when Dreng reached adulthood, and his small band of survivors founded the village, did he get an answer to the question. Frode, his companion during the Exodus and later his mentor and elder, revealed the Martyr secret that explained the blood on that fateful day.
The clan horn sounded, temporarily interrupting the clan chief’s thoughts. He had a special appreciation for that horn. Dreng recalled the titan of a creature from which he stole it. The Abominar was nearly three times the size of an adult Martyr. When Dreng had finally discovered its location, he went to kill it - despite his father's concerns. Dreng couldn't just stand idle as the Abominar ate his clansmen. He recalled the difficulty he had ripping the horn from the creature's head and smiled. Everyone that managed to blow the horn got a sense of that difficulty as only the strongest of Martyrs could gather enough wind to sound it.
Dreng shook his head to refocus, but quickly fell back into his ruminations as old Martyrs often did. He had done well to rebuild his homeland… but there was still much more that needed to be accomplished. He realized months ago that he would not be the one to lead his village into a full rebound, but he was only now accepting it for the first time.
“Chief, the feast waits,” Frode prompted his chieftain and adopted cub. Frode had spent many years by Dreng’s side. He was a decade older than the chieftain but had no desire to lead the remaining members of his noble race. Even if he did though, the ability was not there. Frode’s strength came from his wisdom, and wisdom didn’t get you far during frequent ambushes and night raids. For those you needed an innate affinity for violence that would allow you to summon all your strength to defend yourself at a moment’s call, even when going from a dead sleep. You needed strength and a high constitution. You needed everything Dreng had in spades. He was the clear leader and had assumed the role without much dissent from his elders or peers. The remaining Martyrs had been familiar with Dreng’s strength as a cub. Those that didn’t automatically assume he deserved leadership for that fact alone were reminded of his worth every day on their Exodus. Dreng wasn’t only unnaturally strong for a Martyr, but he could think two steps ahead in every fight. On the first few days of the Exodus, the misfit band of survivors watched Dreng as he made dramatic moves that allowed them all to escape and survive another day. Weeks later, he was making commands in the heat of battle that his elders followed. Had they been too stubborn or prideful, or had Dreng’s leadership faltered in any way, the survivors would not have made it to where they were today. But they did. Frode’s race was wise, intelligent, and fearsome. His leader was talented, loved, and a real fright on the battlefield. It was a shame his race had been nearly killed off.
“Yes, my friend. Let us join our people,” Dreng announced. Side by side, the two aging Martyrs left the hut and descended a small slope that led to the fire pit and their people. Dreng had fought, bled, and crawled in the mud with his people, so he did not require any fanfare or celebration upon his arrival. He was undoubtedly everyone’s leader, but more importantly, he was one of them. Dreng looked at his people, crossed his arm across his broad chest in a Martyrian salute, and the feast began.
Soon after, Freydis stood and approached the fire - as was customary when a clansman had an announcement. Dreng nodded at her, a gesture that told most people it was their turn to speak, but told Freydis much more. Dreng's nod said to her that he cared for her. The simple movement held a lifetime of love and appreciation. It contained an appreciation for how she stood by him and for their shared determination to rebuild their race, and it showed appreciated that she made it through the Exodus alive.
“Today, an Oana Scout attacked our cub,” Freydis began abruptly. The Martyrs that were present snarled in disgust at the mention of the race that destroyed their homeland.
The Chieftain watched as his mate nodded at her clansman and raised a giant hand to quiet them, “Torunn fought bravely, but I fear that if he saved, he would have fallen.”
Dreng's eyebrow rose at her announcement. Oana attacks were not all that uncommon. They would often attack - sometimes even fully-grown members of his clan were lost to them - but what surprised him was that Freydis thought their son could have been one of them. He believed his son was stronger than most fully grown Martyrs, and undoubtedly smarter. He didn't believe just one Oana scout could be a danger to their son.
“It is important that we prepare for an imminent attack, but I have another, more important, announcement.” Freydis said before pausing. Dreng watched in appreciation of his mate’s ability to address the clan. He found himself leaning closer when she began to speak again, "I have brought back with me Torunn’s savior - a Man-cub.”
“Whhhhattt!” Dreng exclaimed as he stood from his chair, forcefully enough to send it skittering across the dirt behind him.
“I will take him under my care, and I hereby announce him my cub… our cub,” Freydis calmly stated, meeting Dreng's gaze.
“I will have none of it!” Dreng announced as he stalked toward Freydis, who braced herself against the imminent attack. She knew she would have to defend her decision with blood, but did not count on him getting so angry. She must have caught him on a bad day. It would make the fight more difficult. He was the strongest of their race, but what Frey lacked in strength, she made up for in speed. Dreng swung at her.
Predictable, she thought. Leave it to the War Leader to make the first strike.
Freydis rolled to the side and popped back to her feet, successfully dodging the blow aimed at her face. She prepared a counterstrike, but couldn't find her mate. Fear pulsed through her body as she realized his attack was not as predictable as she had initially thought. Instead, Dreng knew she would think so, and had managed to anticipate the direction that she would dodge and somehow maneuver behind that location.
As she contemplated the genius of her mate's combat ability, her fears were confirmed, and she lifted off her feet. In a terrifying show of strength, Dreng launched her high into the air.
Everyone watching held their breath.