First, they heard a battle cry more shivering than a snowstorm. Then they saw grey figures in the blizzard rumbling like an avalanche...
Wolfbode the Slayer represents the unity of all the Mystmountain clans, with numerous shamans among his troops. Wolfbode’s Honor Guards are very formidable; Wolfbode himself wields his unique weapon, the Wolfbode Axe, which is devastating at close range. When Wolfbode the Slayer spawns, if the player is close to the city of Poinsbruk, the patron god of hunters and Ravenstern (Ull Vetr) will manifest himself as a powerful bow, the "Ullr Vetr Manifest" that will be gifted to the player. However this bow will disappear once Wolfbode has been defeated (Only known way to retain bow is to sell it to a shop then buy it back after defeating Wolfbode- Shops restock within ~4 days).
Wolfbode the Slayer can be captured. His army generally numbers 700-900 men, and consists of the following:
- 60-100 Wolfbode Honor Guards
- 60-100 Bearclaw Berserkers
- 100-250 Mystmountain Shaman
- 100-300 Mystmountain Warriors
- 200-350 Mystmountain Raiders
"I...I did not know the human body could bend that way," Diev Wodenssen mumbled as he staggered out onto the snow.
"You'd be surprised how much people will bend for an extra bit of gold," Edric Stagheart slurred. Pausing midstumble, the man in (visbly disheveled) highlander uniform took a swig out of the flask at his side with one hand while supporting Diev with the other. Behind them, the equally disheveled face of a D'Shar woman stuck itself out of the doorway they had come from.
"Come again, boys," she called cheerily before closing the door
"I would if she didn't charge extra," Edric chuckled dryly.
"I don't think I'll be coming anytime in the next few days after all that," Diev groaned as he snuck a sip out of Edric's flagon. "Not that I have the money to. You can't pay for the high-class painted ladies with a Ranger's pay."
"I'm telling you, Diev, mercenary work is the way to go. Good pay, good loot, and constant employment...you'll get none of that as a guardsman in Rane, you know."
Diev shrugged. "Don't need the money anyway. I can't swing an axe or greatsword like you, Edric, and I can get the same with a bit more mead and a few of the Mystmountain girls down the alley." For the poor and deprived men of Rane, just the right amount of mead or ale was a prerequisite for a visit to the painted ladies--not enough that you wouldn't get enough bang for your buck, but just enough so that all that makeup the cheaper harlots used looked real.
"You can shoot a hell of a lot better than me, though--armies need good Archers. I can hook you up with a few Adventurer companies I met down south in Cez--"
"--I'm fine where I am," Diev replied with a drunken chuckle as he threw himself back, falling with a soft thump into the freshly fallen snow.
"I'm serious, Diev," the Mercenary Highlander said as he sat down next to the Ravenstern Ranger.
"I know, and so am I."
"Why, though? What makes Rane so dear to you? A big shithole ruled over by wet shits who think they can smell a little better if you stick a bit of gold and a few roses on top of them while the rest of the populace suffer. Five poor wet shits work so that one richer wet shit can stick a few gold baubles on himself and call himself a lord. And don't get me started on Duke Alexis, he's the biggest, wettest most gold-encrusted shit of them all. You hate this town, Diev, and you've hated it all your goddamn life. So why stay? Or are you going to tell me it's not a shithole?"
For a moment, Diev said nothing as he stared at the moon above him contemplatively.
"It's a shithole for sure," he finally said, "but it's my shithole. I know all the smells of feces and decaying animals and rats, all the painted ladies, the buzzing of the flies, and even if I hate it, this shithole was made for me. I know the mansion where my wet shit of a father lives, where we used to hide as children, and all the alleyways in this city. I dress, talk and eat like the rest of the wet shits of this city.
And, you know, I'm a wet shit myself."
"You're not a wet shit--"
Diev sighed. "Does knowing that you live in a shithole make you any less of a shit? You can't get out of how you were born, Edric. You were born a mystmountain and a raider, and even now, you're still raiding, the only difference is that you do it in the name of some king who pays you to do it. A Mystmountain will always be a mystmountain, a Lord will always be a Lord, and a Wet Shit will always be a Wet Shit. I was raised a shit, and I grew up in a shithole, it's not hard to tell that I'm a shit just like the rest of Rane. This is my home, Edric, and I belong here, no matter how much I hate it."
The two men said nothing as they sat in the snow.
"It's almost dawn, you know."
"Yeah. Are you off?"
"Yep. Riding South to meet up with the 3rd Legion. Jatu warbands have been raiding the borders, and the Imperator is busy with the D'shar, so it's up to us mercenaries and the other irregulars to help the Legion deal with the Jatu problem."
"Ahh, HAZZAH JATU. Humorless fellows, I don't think they've been with many women in their lives. Lots of horses though."
"Explains the complexion. But what about you, Diev?"
"Same old, have to deal with the adventurer band or rogue knights that appear, or a few mystmountains...one of the few things I enjoy about the job."
Edric ran his finger through his beard contemplatively. "Mystmountains, huh..."
"What, feeling bad for your cousins?" Though the Highlanders of Senderfall served under the Ravenstern crown, their rough-hewn visage had far more in common with the Raiders who braved the vicious Cloudmyst mountains than that of Pendorian stock, softened by years of agrarian living. Some, such as Edric, had only settled from their warring lifestyle a generation ago. For the people of Rane, who had ejected all with Mystmountain blood since Ravenstern's Independence, it was a matter of shame.
"I would be careful around the mystmountains," Edric said slowly. "I've heard from fellow clansmen and new arrivals that the Full Moon of the Mooncycle is about to begin, and that some of the larger clans have begun moving south."
"Oh, and will these clans be a hundred men instead of thirty?"
"You have not seen the full strength of those that live north of the mountains," Edric cautioned.
"Those that live north of the mountains have not seen the full strength of my bow," Diev replied with a grin. "Be more worried about yourself. The Jatu seem a rather loveless race, and who knows, maybe even a mystmountain man would make for a prettier wife than a horse."
"I don't think that will be a problem," Edric repliced with an airy laugh. "They say the Jatu prefer ravenstern men."
"I don't think it'll be a problem either. After all, I'd take a Jatu man, a ravenstern man or a Horse over you."
Looking back on that conversation, Diev Wodenssen thought to himself, he had not asked about the preferences of the Mystmountain bandits.
It was an unbidden thought, one that made the Ravenstern Ranger all the more uneasy. It was, after all, a strange time to be thinking about it as he examined the hoofprints in the snow. Sunken deep in the snow with the weight of horse, and armor, it was surely the tracks of a knight. The Mystmountains raiders could not afford decent armor; a warhorse was far more than would be expected of them.
"They're continuing North. Towards the Cloudmyst mountains," he said grimly.
"Then follow them."
Diev turned around. Clad in blue-and-white plate and mounted on a bright blue horse, Duke Alexis of Rane would have cut a gallant figure if not for his expression of perpetual annoyance and the stupid mini-ponytail he seem to have made of his brown beard. Diev reflected that he would in fact look somewhat handsome if he was more inclined to not act like an insufferable prig--not as handsome as he was, of course, but maybe something close. Then again, it was possible that the snow would one day melt in Rane, and he wouldn't bet what little money the Duke of Rane paid him on either.
"Milord, we are heading into dangerous territory, and our men are not equipped for the mountains." The latter assertion was an understatement. Armed with a good bow, a sword, mail and kilt, Diev was one of the few men properly dressed or trained for this expedition. While a man endowed with such riches as Duke Alexis would be able to hire and train a proper company of rangers and Kierguard, the Duke preferred to use hastily-trained recruits. "Cheaper to equip and easier to replace", was what he had said. It certainly looked that way--many of them wore little more than coarse wrappings for their feet and battered mail for defense. Their expressions also seemed like men who would much rather be anywhere else except halfway up the mountain chasing a band of knights for little reward. But Duke Alexis fancied the armor of one of the men and wished to obtain the loot, and who were these footmen and armsmen to disagree with him?
"Do I pay you to advise me, Wodenssen?"
You don't pay me at all, Diev thought to himself. "We will continue on?"
"You seem a little daft today, perhaps you would like to be relieved of your duties?"
Diev took that as a yes. Brushing a few grains of snow off his kilt, he stood up. At the corner of his eye, he saw something in the nearby snow--
A mountain cat? Judging by its freshness, it had been here around the same time as the knights. It seemed like a rather large member of its species. And yet, something about this mountain cat's tracks seemed strangely deliberate.
Hunted for their pelts, the Mountain Cats had almost been largely hunted to extinction, even in Duke Alexis' private lands. The ones that survived were reclusive beasts that ran at the sight of a man. This mountain cat's tracks ran parallel with the company of Rogue Knights.
Diev shrugged. Perhaps the cat was after a body. If the cat was around, he'd take it. This wasn't Alexis' lands after all, and the cat would go a long way to making up for all that money the Duke wasn't paying him.
"It seems like the Rogue knights have sped up," Diev remarked as he followed the tracks. The hoofprints seemed to have deepened as they had went deeper into the mountains. Surrounded by the the Cloudmyst mountains, the many hidden clearings, plateaus and landings frequently hosted mystmountain hideouts, and Duke Alexis' company had passed several remnants of what looked like campsites.
Duke Alexis scowled. "They know we are here, then?"
"Perhaps, milord," Diev replied, keeping his own scowl to himself. Coming with a group of conscripts and hastily-trained troops instead of a company of knights slowed down the company. He hoped the Duke would tire of the chase before the company ran out of food. Not that Alexis himself was ever short on food. Two of the footmen were purposely there to carry his wine.
"We should have ran faster then. Incompetent shits," Alexis murmured to himself.
"Easy for you to say," Diev muttered under his breath as he carefully climbed the snow bank. It seemed as if the knights had gone into full gallop--and long before Duke Alexis' company should have been detectable. And, judging by the pawprints nearby, it seemed as if the mountain cat was still around. Diev smiled to himself. What a clever thing. It'd be a shame to shoot it--
Looking down at the tracks, it seemed as if the mountain cat had also increased its speed--by a significant amount as well.
As Diev climbed the nearby slope in front of the infantry, he felt a twinge of unease--almost a shiver.
Something about this mountain cat...
He remembered the time he had first poached in the Duke's lands. It was a normal thing for any hunter with a bow, as Alexis had claimed most of the forests around as his own hunting ground, and his wardens were not well-inclined to stop poachers. He had found and skinned a mountain cat and brought it back to the camp, back when Edric was still training with the Kierguard.
And, at the time, the Highlander had been horrified.
"'You can't just shoot a Mountain Cat like that!"
It was some kind of silly religious problem...what was it?
"The God of the Mystmountain Clans, Vejovis, protects Mountain Cats."
"She didn't protect this mountain cat."
"It's not that, Diev--for us Mystmountains, Vejovis appears to two kinds of people as the Mountain Cat--Shamans, and those that she has marked for death. And if you kill one of her messengers, she will know. Vejovis always knows."
Diev suddenly felt cold--a tough task for someone born in Ravenstern.
The mountain cat appeared to have sped up at the same time as the Rogue Knights as if they fled. As if it was following them.
What if the Knights had not been fleeing from Diev's party...?
Steadying himself on the slope, Diev instinctively reached for his longbow. Nearing the edge, he knocked an arrow to a string as he pulled himself up--
Even Duke Alexis, a man who had fought in many battles, could only stare.
It was, Diev realized, an imitation of the Arrow Forest.
Mystmountain Bands inevitably run to ground and killed by the rangers generally left little of value, with scrawny horses and slipshod armor. As such, Ravenstern soldiers left the Mystmountains where they lay in the snow, transfixed in a forest of arrows, where their bodies lay frozen until the summer "thaw."
Impaled upon their own lances, like an insect pinned to a thorn by a shrike, the Northern Rogue Knights had been killed in a perverse parody of the Ravenstern Arrow Forest.
Slowly, Alexis seemed to be regaining his faculties for speech. "Who...what..."
- "When I'm done with you, I will desecrate your body. And then I will drink from your skull." - Wolfbode, attempting to intimidate the player.
- Wolfbode has been rumored to be so tough, that when a venomous cobra bit him, he did not even flinch. He even bit the cobra back, which killed the snake.
- Wolfbode the Slayer claims that his god, Vejovis, visited him in a vision, and told him he would be his instrument to reclaim all Ravenstern for the Mystmountain clans.
- Wolfbode the Slayer not only leads an army of his barbarian clansmen, but also recruits bandits and outlaws to fight for him. He promises them land in Ravenstern as a reward.
- Merchants in the Ravenstern market whisper that Wolfbode the Slayer has sworn to eliminate every man, woman and child in Ravenstern, because that land belongs to his people, and only the clans may dwell there.
- Wolfbode the Slayer boast that his hand was guided by his god, Vejovis, who had promised him that all Ravenstern would soon belong to those bloody barbarian clans.