Greymane Village was a total mess when Thorn strolled down the main street. Yet, despite the chaos, there was a semblance of what the town would become beginning to emerge. Most of the old buildings had been demolished and were now being reconstructed from massive piles of material that the elder had purchased. Additionally, the town’s ramshackle wall had been pulled down, and an old stone wall was being rebuilt farther out.
Before, the town had only consisted of a few buildings, but now, in addition to the jail, tavern, and blacksmith’s shop, there was a large stable, three empty buildings that could be used for stores, a barracks, and a shrine covered in moon and wolf motifs. All of this was arranged around a new main street, complete with cobblestones.
Seeing the villagers running around like crazy, Thorn grinned and joined in the fun. At first, it took a while to keep the villagers from stopping their work to salute him when he came by, but once they saw Thorn lifting massive stones to rebuild the wall by himself, they jumped back in with renewed vigor. For Thorn, it wasn’t particularly hard work, but it was very satisfying. The warm sun beating down on him as he split, moved and fitted the stone reminded Thorn of the pleasant days he had spent in the quarry, and he couldn’t help but smile at the memory.
With Thorn, they made astounding progress and had a good half of the wall complete by the time night fell. Akira had run off into the forest to hunt for the bandits, and through his connection with her, Thorn could tell she was somewhere northwest of the village. Joining the village for a meal, he was happy to hear that a message had been sent out to attract settlers, and the village Elder had actually already left to recruit people from some of the local cities.
Waking the next morning completely rested, Thorn had just walked out of the inn when he spotted a small wagon being pulled by a slow moving mule creaking into the village. Sitting in the driver's seat was an old man dressed in slightly ragged robes with a prominent wolf and moon symbol on his chest. Stepping out into the road, Thorn raised a hand in greeting.
“Hello,” Thorn smiled as he walked in front of the mule, “welcome to Greymane. Not too often we get visitors. Might I know who you are?”
“Thanks,” replied the robed man, seemingly unperturbed by Thorn’s size and confrontational manner. “I am Father Jansome, a priest of Hati, the Lord of the Night. I was dispatched to attend the newly built shrine in this... town?” Looking around at the building that had already resumed, Jansome’s statement morphed into a question.
“We’re expanding.” Grinning as he took in the changes taking place, Thorn offered Jansome a handshake. “Welcome to town, priest. I am Thorn, the new Lord Greymane. I know a bit about Hati myself, but maybe you can help me turn that little bit into a bit more.” Thorn’s last statement earned him a quizzical look from the priest.
“I see.” Jansome looked at Thorn with an appraising eye. “It is my pleasure to meet you, my Lord. I must admit I expected a Wolfkin, not a human, as Lord of the valley. Though, given that this is a human town, I guess it makes sense,” Jansome quipped.
“Don’t think of it as a human town. We are accepting of all races here. Plus,” Thorn pointed to the side of the road where a few Wolfkin disciples were helping to dig a foundation for a new building, “We’ll be seeing an influx of Wolfkin before you know it. You are welcome to settle into the new shrine. If you need a place to stay, talk to Charles; he’s the captain of the town guard.”
“Thank you, but I’ll be fine just staying in the shrine.”
Just then, Thorn saw another carriage coming into the town, so, pointing Jansome toward the newly built shrine, he got ready to greet the next arrival. And so the morning went with carriage after carriage bringing new villagers and supplies. Altogether the town gained a priest, two merchants, a blacksmith and a large number of settlers with their families, bringing the total population up to 323.
About noon the wall surrounding the town was done, thanks to Thorn’s ability to shift stones, and the new blacksmith started directing workers in building the gate while everyone else went to work on new houses for the incoming settlers. Between Thorn’s muscle and the knowledge of the settlers, it wasn’t long before the house frames were up and basic roofs were put on, ensuring that the settlers would at least stay dry for the first couple nights until they could get their walls built.
Just as everyone was sitting down for their evening meal at the tavern, Akira bounded in, dashing up onto the table where Thorn was sitting and excitedly grabbing some bread off of his plate.
“Master! Guess what! Guess, guess!” she chirped excitedly.
“You found them?”
“Oh yes, yes! I found all of them, even though they were well hidden in the north. They hide in caves like moles! I call them mole people!” declared Akira with glittering eyes. Sitting up proudly, she started stuffing the bread in her mouth.
“Good job!” Hearing about the caves, Thorn’s mind quickly revised his plan. It was one thing to approach an antagonistic group in an open area, quite another to try and deal with them in a fortified position. “Tomorrow you’ll have to show me where they are, okay?”
“Mph.” Clearing her throat Akira, looked at Thorn curiously. “Why? The cave is dark and smelly. Only mole people live there. I don’t want to go in.”
“I need to meet with the... mole people.”
“Oh, that’s easy. They are on their way here.”
“What?” surprised, Thorn stood up quickly. “How far away are they?”
“Oh, I dunno. This bread is good!” Having finished the last piece from Thorn’s plate, Akira casually swiped another piece from the plate of the priest, completely ignoring his protests. “A few of them were hiding in the bushes, and they saw you were rebuilding the town, so they ran to get their friends. I’ve never seen moles run so fast.”
Quickly explaining the situation to the others, who couldn’t hear the mental communication between Thorn and Akira, Thorn gulped down his soup and then headed for the front gate. Keeping watch there, it wasn’t long before he spotted a ragtag group of men coming out of the forest. Heavily armed and dangerous looking, they looked warily at Thorn, who stood in front of the new gate, leaning on his improvised mace.
Each was armed with a bow, multiple blades and a short spear, while broken armor and ragged clothing completed their bandit look. Even from this distance, Thorn could see the mistrust radiating off of their bodies. Soon there were almost sixty of them arranged in a rough half circle facing him. From their midst, a large man stepped out, walking up until he was about twenty feet from Thorn. Dressed in a mostly complete set of chainmail and armed with a sword and shield, it was obvious from his bearing that he had once been an officer of some sort.
“Welcome to Greymane. What can we do for you?” asked Thorn as the man got closer.
“Depends. Who are you?” replied the man warily, staring at the giant in front of him. The others, equally nervous, scanned the wall for an ambush.
“Isn’t it custom to introduce yourself first?”
“Not when you are outnumbered 60 to 1,” scoffed the bandit leader.
Thorn was surprised that, despite facing so many armed men, he felt no fear at all. Instead, a faint excitement was starting to build in him as he stared at them. A faint hunger, as if they were a banquet waiting for him to feast. The bandit leader noticed this as he met Thorn’s gaze and inadvertently took a small step back.
“I am Horvir Brightblade, leader of the Freemen,” stated the bandit leader gravely, watching Thorn carefully for any sign of aggression.
“Well met, Horvir. I am Thorn, Lord Greymane, the Moon Wolf. I am the current ruler of these lands.”
Hearing this, the group of men gave sharp gasps, and their hands tightened on their weapons. Having been driven into their current state by the last Lord Greymane, they had little love for the bearer of the title. Angry murmurs grew as the hard-eyed men began to ready their weapons. Waving his hand to keep them from doing anything rash, Horvir took a long look at the new lord.
“The Freemen have claimed the forest and mountains in the north of the valley. So long as you leave us alone, we will not contest your claim as Lord Greymane. Otherwise you will find us a hard bone to chew.”
“No.” Still smiling slightly, Thorn took a small step forward. “I am the ruler of the forest and surrounding mountains and will not allow any challenges to my authority. You are free to become my subjects or leave, but I will tell you now that there are no other paths for you.”
At this, the murmurs grew into shouts as the motley collection of men grew angry with his ultimatum. The sound of ringing steel grew as swords were pulled from sheathes and arrows nocked on bows. Concerned that the situation was about to turn into a bloodbath, Horvir wracked his brain for a way to stop the confrontation. Just as it looked like the bandits were about to charge, a figure hurried out of the gate, holding up something and yelling for everyone to wait. Reaching Thorn completely out of breath, Jansome, the priest of Hati, gulped in air and shouted for everyone to stand down.
“Brothers, there is no need for violence,” he said, waving his staff aloft. Mounted to the top was a small banner showing a wolf chasing a crescent moon. “Hati has once again blessed a shrine here in the village, and upon this holy ground I humbly request that both sides come to talk this out. Surely as brothers of the wolf we can reach an agreement for the good of the pack.”
Hearing his words, the bandits looked at each other in astonishment. Hati was back? Didn’t this mean that the taint of the werewolves was gone? The Moon Wolf would surely not grace a village corrupted by tainted blood, would he? Slowly lowering their weapons, they looked to Horvir for his judgement.
Walking forward to get a better look at the priest, Horvir’s eyes widened. “Jansome?! You lived through the hunt?”
“It’s good to see you too, brother.” Smiling, the priest embraced the stunned bandit leader. “It was a close thing, but Hati didn’t let me fall. Come, come. Things have changed in the valley, and I believe it is worth talking to our new lord.” Pulling Horvir along by the arm, Jansome brought him into the village.
Soon Thorn, Jansome, Horvir and a few of the other bandits were seated in the inn around a table. Horvir and three other men had been allowed into the village, and the others had been left outside the gate where Akira was keeping an eye on them. Taking a deep breath, Jansome began to explain to Thorn what was going on.
“My Lord, Horvir is my half brother.” Jansome’s face blossomed into a smile, his gaze fixed on the still incredulous bandit leader. “Horvir used to be one of the captains for the previous lord. However, after he was corrupted, the lord instituted a hunt to drive out and kill all the followers of Hati in the valley. Refusing to go along with it, Horvir was added to the hunt and ended up fleeing with a few of the other guards. I was the priest of the village at the time and barely escaped with my life. Since then, I lived in hiding outside the valley, hoping to one day return.
“A week ago, Hati visited me in a dream, telling me to come back to the valley to resume my work at the shrine here in Greymane Village. It is with great excitement that I have come to serve again. Horvir, I know you have fought for the people’s freedom for the last ten years, but I believe it is time to let that fight go. Our new lord has cleansed the curse from Greymane Castle and is doing much to restore the village to the way it was before the curse took hold. Please listen to what the lord has to say,” entreated Jansome, before turning back to address Thorn.
“Lord Greymane, please understand that my brother has been fighting and hiding for a long time now and is naturally distrustful. I know he has a good heart and is worried about the people under him, so I beg you would be gracious.”
“I understand.” Thorn took a good look at those in the room. Not long ago, they had no idea he even existed, and now he had simply swept in and seized the power they had been fighting over for the last ten years. It was no wonder that they were not on board with him being their ruler. “Horvir, can I assume you speak for all the Freemen and their families?”
Horvir looked at the three men who had come with him and, seeing their nods, he said, “I represent the Freemen and have been given the rights to negotiate for them.”
“Excellent. Then let me lay out my case for you, and you can decide what you want to do. A few days ago, I came to this valley with the express purpose of slaying the werewolf who was the last Lord Greymane. Having done so, I assumed the position of Lord Greymane by force and merit.” Here Thorn held up the Wolf Lord’s ring for them to see. “As the Greymane, I rule the Fang Forest, the Twins and Greymane village.
“All of the valley and the surrounding mountains are my domain. I intend to rule them justly, but I will rule them. I am working to improve Greymane Village into a town, and I intend to rebuild the Temple of the Moon, as well. I intend to open the valley to all those who would live peacefully here, and I will protect all that choose to do so. I will not, however, tolerate anyone who attempts to undermine my rule, no matter their claim.”
“Hold on!” interrupted one of the men who had come with Horvir, standing and slamming his helmet on the table. “First, I want to know how you took care of the last lord, and how we know this isn’t some sort of trick!”
Looking calmly at the rough man, Thorn reached out and grabbed the metal helmet that the man had slammed into the table and, without a smidgen of effort, crushed it into a ball. Stumbling back over his chair, the man’s face blanched white, and everyone in the room broke out into a cold sweat, seeing the iron ball in Thorn’s hands.
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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. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.