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“The village is just over those ridges, my Lord.”

Taking a moment to look around the mountain range they had been winding through for the last three hours, Thorn couldn’t help but take a deep breath. The clear air filling his lungs invigorated him. The captain had led the way into the mountains behind the keep, and after three hours of hiking, they finally approached the village of the Wolfkin.

“Before we get there, why don’t you tell me what I’ll need to do to get them to come back with me?” Thorn asked Captain Del’har bluntly, rather than beating around the bush. Unfortunately, the Wolfkin Captain shook his head.

“Sorry, my lord. I’m not quite sure. I have not met with them for a long time, so I don’t know who is currently in charge. In the past, possessing the title of Greymane would have been enough. There is a possibility that is still the case, but I would not expect it to be that easy.”

“Hmm. That is okay.” Thorn smiled confidently, comforting the captain. “I’m sure I’ll be able to handle whatever they throw at me.”

Thorn and the captain continued their hike, climbing the mountainside at a swift rate. The girls had decided to stay back at the keep after hearing that the Wolfkin village was up in the mountains. Velin used the excuse of organizing the library while Mina just flat out refused to go. Not expecting to be gone for more than a day, Thorn had asked them to come up with a plan for the valley’s development. While he had a rough idea of what he wanted to do with the valley, he was not confident in his ability to handle the specifics of how to get there.

Velin, on the other hand, was both meticulous and a critical thinker. Even more importantly, she was experienced in coming up with plans, allowing Thorn the freedom to concern himself with the bigger picture while she handled the details. Mina, however, seemed just to spend her time running around.

Constantly curious, Mina got bored quickly, causing her to bounce from one thing to the next. She was a good fit for Thorn’s battle pet, Akira, and Thorn tasked the two of them with creating a detailed map of the whole valley, a task Mina accepted with relish. At first, Thorn was slightly worried as he watched them run off into the woods, but the detailed reports that soon started to arrive reassured him. Despite her scattered personality, Mina was an elite player, after all.

The mountains that surrounded Fang Valley were thickly forested with imposing, snow-covered peaks. The mountain range seemed to stretch into forever, carrying on until the peaks faded into the horizon. A large mountain stood between Thorn and the Wolfkin village, towering over the keep at the far end of the valley. After examining the [RMS], Thorn was surprised to find that the whole mountain range was part of the Greymane domain and fell under Thorn’s control. Nestled between two high peaks was a hidden village of thatched huts that sat at the edge of a large stone ruin. From a ridge overlooking the village Thorn could see clearly into its center, where a stone altar stood in the middle of a large dirt common area.

The huts looked to be in ragged shape, lending an air of poverty to the village. Wolfkin walked to and fro in the village, going about their business. All of them were dressed in the same grey pants and shirts with different color sashes, reminding Thorn of oriental monks. As he and the captain approached the village, two guards saw them and gave a piercing call before rushing forward to bar their way.

Despite the shabbiness of the buildings, there was nothing shabby about the two spears the guards held in their hands. The afternoon sunlight glinted off the sharp steel spearheads, and the black metal bodies of the spears trembled slightly with suppressed tension as the guards blocked the way into the village.

“Who are you?” barked one of the Wolfkin. “How did you find this village?”

“Impudent!” shouted Captain Del’har, his lips drawing back to show his sharp teeth.

“Calm down,” Thorn commanded in a deep voice, resting a large hand on the captain’s shoulder. “Let me talk to them.” Taking a small step in front of the captain, Thorn looked down at the two guards. “We are here to see the village chief, or whoever is in charge. You can tell them that Lord Greymane has come.”

“Lord Greymane?” Startled, the two guards looked at each other, slightly lowering their spears. For a moment they hesitated, conversing in low voices. Arriving at an agreement, one ran back to the village, where curious Wolfkin were gathering, while the other guard completely lowered his spear, saying, “I’m sorry, but you’ll need to wait here.”

Feeling the captain bristling at the disrespect the guards were showing him, Thorn smiled and kept his hand on the tall Wolfkin’s shoulder. Wolfkin were fiercely loyal and treated their hierarchy very strictly, so the sight of the guards questioning his lord made Captain Del’har seethe. Thorn could understand the guard’s response, however, so after signaling the captain to bear with it, he took out a large rock he had found in the forest while hunting for potion supplies and sat down. As they waited, a crowd started to gather behind the remaining guard.

Within a few minutes, the other guard could be seen walking back toward Thorn and the captain, an elderly Wolfkin walking slowly by his side. As they left the village, the gathered crowd separated, showing great respect for the elderly Wolfkin. His fur was a deep silver, and he bent over as he walked slowly to where Thorn sat. Before he arrived, Thorn stood to his feet, storing his large stone seat in his inventory.

For a brief moment, the old Wolfkin and Thorn looked at each other, each taking the other’s measure. Despite his eyes being blurred with age, Thorn could feel a faint pressure emanating from the elder Wolfkin, causing the hair on the back of his neck to rise. Stifling the urge to summon his Wolf Form, Thorn gave the elderly Wolfkin a warrior’s salute.

“Greetings, I am Thorn, Lord Greymane, the Moon Wolf.” Normally reluctant to reveal the full extent of his title, the instinctive threat he felt made Thorn feel competitive.

“Welcome, Thorn.” The elderly Wolfkin ignored the stir in the crowd behind him caused by Thorn stating his title. “I am Elder Havva. To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”

“This is Captain Del’har, leader of my guard.” Ignoring the question, Thorn introduced the captain, who was standing a step behind him. He looked at the crowd behind Elder Havva with interest. The crowd was mixed in age, though Thorn had a bit of trouble telling the differences between Wolfkin due to their features. After a moment of looking around, he looked at the elder, who was still waiting patiently in front of him. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

“We don’t welcome travelers here.” The old Wolfkin shook his head.

Unable to contain himself, Captain Del’har snarled, his hand going to the sword at this side. In response, the crowd bristled as well, growls mixing with the ringing of steel as they pulled out knives, short swords, and hatchets.

“Stand down.” Thorn’s deep voice was calm, seeming unbothered by the tension. “I come with good intentions, there is no need for this conflict.”

“The elder has already said that you are not welcome here.” A large Wolfkin stalked forward from the crowd. Muscles bulged under his brown fur, and his piercing green eyes stared menacingly at Thorn. “You should leave while you still can.”

Ignoring him, Thorn kept his eyes on Elder Havva.

Infuriated at being ignored, the large Wolfkin drew his sword, crouching slightly as if he was about to charge. Sensing his increased tension, Thorn finally looked over, locking stares. The big Wolfkin looked dangerous, but for some reason, Thorn felt that Elder Havva was a larger threat.

Just as the Wolfkin who stepped out was about to charge forward, Thorn held up his hand, the Ring of the Wolf Lord glinting in the sunlight. The large Wolfkin froze, his instincts stopping him from attacking. Slightly panicked, he looked at Elder Havva. The silver-furred Wolfkin closed his eyes with a sigh, his shoulders drooping slightly.

“You better come in to talk.” Not waiting for a response, Elder Havva turned and shuffled back into the village. Thorn and Captain Del’har trailed behind him under the wary gaze of the guards. Leading the way to a hut near the stone altar, the elder waved for Thorn to follow inside before entering himself. Squeezing in proved difficult, but Thorn managed to get into the hut without bringing the doorframe down. Inside, the elder sat down on a small stool and beckoned for Thorn to join him.

Summoning his stone chair, Thorn sat down, ignoring the displeased glares of the other Wolfkin that squeezed into the hut behind Captain Del’har.

“May I examine your ring?” Elder Havva asked Thorn, his voice tired.

“Of course.” Thorn handed it over, watching as the elder looked it over carefully, turning it this way and that. It took almost half an hour before Elder Havva was content. Slipping it back on his finger, Thorn smiled. “Are you satisfied that I am Lord Greymane?”

“Ha, you are not Lord Greymane,” spat the large Wolfkin who had seated himself near Elder Havva. “How can an outsider be Lord Greymane?”

Before anyone could respond, Captain Del’har’s sword was out of its sheath, its razor sharp edge resting against the large Wolfkin’s neck. Stunned, the large Wolfkin could not even swallow for fear of cutting his neck against the blade.

“Speak disrespectfully again and I’ll have your head,” Captain Del’har barked, his eyes narrowed in a murderous glare. He had been restraining himself all this time but was finally unable to hold himself back.

Just as surprised as everyone else, Thorn stared at the captain. He had barely seen the captain move before the sword was out and pointed at the large Wolfkin. In fact, the move had been so quick that Thorn was not sure if he would have been able to avoid it. Glad that the captain was on his side, Thorn watched the rest of the crowd carefully, ready to draw his weapon as soon as someone made a move.

“Sir traveler, Gelish spoke rashly, but he is correct.” Seeming entirely oblivious to the drawn weapon, Elder Havva spoke to Thorn. “According to the ancient law, only a member of the Temple of the Moon can be appointed the position of Lord Greymane.

*ding*

The True Lord Greymane

The inheritors of the Temple of the Moon refuse to recognize any but the appointed representative as Lord Greymane. To convince them that you are the rightful holder of the Greymane title, you must pass their tests.


Rewards: Varied


Scanning the notification quickly, Thorn nodded. He had expected there to be some sort of challenge and, while he did not know exactly what ‘Varied’ rewards were, he guessed that it would have to do with his performance.

“The ancient laws must be upheld,” Thorn’s deep voice rumbled around the hut. “Captain, stand down.”

Pleasant surprise showed in Elder Havva’s eyes as he heard Thorn’s words. Normally, travelers were much more forceful about getting their way, so Thorn’s comment caught him off guard.

“Elder, I respect the ancient rules, but understand that I am here to claim the allegiance of the Wolfkin, as is my right.”

Elder Havva held up a clawed hand, silencing the murmurs that broke out at Thorn’s declaration.

“I will not deny that the title of Lord Greymane will grant you the allegiance of the Wolfkin race, but that assumes you can gain the title.”

“You mistake me. According to the Code of the Wolf, the Ring of the Wolf Lord grants the title of Greymane. As the possessor of the ring, taken through a challenge of combat from the last Lord Greymane, there is no question as to my legitimacy. As the Temple Elder, you have the right to challenge for my position, by direct combat or by proxy combat. You do not have the right to deny me my authority. The Greymane’s rule is unshakable.

“The ancient laws you speak of say nothing about Lord Greymane being a member of the Temple. Rather, it only gives the right of trial by combat to the Temple Elder. It matters not to me whether the Temple of the Moon nominates a challenger, but it must be understood that they are a challenger. I hold the title.” As Thorn’s deep voice echoed around the hut, a subtle pressure spread with it forcing, down the raised hackles of the Wolfkin in the room.

The pressure was not heavy, but firm, an unquestionable authority that radiated from Thorn, suppressing everyone else in the room. Even Captain Del’har was forced back slightly, his grip tightening on his sword, as if it might slip from his fingers. Only Elder Havva was able to remain unmoved in the face of Thorn’s aura.

Looking around at the others in the hut, Elder Havva gave a strained smile. He had to admit that there was something to what this large traveler said, but more importantly, the way he said it carried obvious weight.

“How do you know the Code of the Wolf?” Gelish asked, his voice much milder than before.

“I read it.” Thorn retrieved the book he had picked up in Davyos’ Fall and held it up for all to see. “The ancient laws are quite interesting.”

“You went to the cursed city?” Excitement radiating from his eyes, Elder Havva stood up abruptly. “What did you find there? Are our people still there?”

“I did go there, but I’m sorry, the city is empty and looks to have been empty for years. The temple to Hati there had been overtaken by werewolves.”

“Karrandras.” The excitement faded away from the Elder’s face as quickly as it had come and he sat back down on his seat.

“Correct. The Betrayer had corrupted the temple and turned those inside into his worshipers.” Pausing for a second, Thorn looked around at the angry faces of the surrounding Wolfkin. The thought of the Temple being corrupted obviously upset them, and suddenly he was surrounded by a lot of sharp teeth. Feeling slightly nervous, Thorn kept his face impassive and quickly added, “The temple has been cleansed and restored to proper worship of Hati.”

At Thorn’s words, murmurs arose from the others in the room, only stopping when Elder Havva held up his trembling hand.

“We stray from the main purpose. If you wish to hold the title of Greymane, you must pass the challenge of the Temple of the Moon. If you wish for the allegiance of the Wolfkin, you must convince us that you are worthy of the title.”

Thorn rose to his feet, towering above the seated Wolfkin. His head brushing the ceiling, Thorn’s face broke into a wide grin.

“I would like nothing better.”

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If you've enjoyed what you read and are interested in reading more, please consider supporting me on Patreon where you can read Book #1 and Book #2 and advanced chapters from Book #3. Come explore the world of Nova Terra and help me determine where the story goes.

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WildCard

Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.

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