"Huntmaster! Huntmaster! Tell us a story!" the younglings repeated, such curiosity of the world around them. The elder Nora'Luuu gave a chuckle. Was he so different when he was their age.
"Oh, very well. Gather round... gather." he said, motioning the young ones closer. You could hardly see his battle scars from the glow of the fire, and as the younglings gathered at his feet, he thought of a story. They had no written history, so this was more then just a story: It was a fable. A lesson and history, all in the form of a grand story.
"Tell us of how you killed a white bear with your hands and a rock!"
"No, tell us of how you found water with just your tail!"
Nora'Luuu cleared his throat. "I will tell you the tale... of how some new friends of mine from the warm lands and I.... saved this world."
The younglings' eyes collectively widened, mouths agape. "Y... You saved the WORLD?" one of them questioned.
"No, young one. WE saved the world, which is why the pack is the most important part of your life. One can hunt, but only a pack can hunt for everyone. Now, where to begin. Well, like any story, it must start at the beginning. Long long ago, a Northman came, with dark and powerful magics. He killed nearly everyone in the village, he and his dead bear."
"Wait, how can the bear kill if it was dead?" one of them questioned, and was quickly silenced by his sister. "Go on..."
"... I returned from the hunt with my pack, and when we saw what had happened, the Alpha decided. The stronger of the pack would remain and salvage what they could, while the best trackers they had would split to the winds, to track down the Northman, and exact revenge. I followed him for days, just as the ancestors taught us. Noses down, letting the scents tell the tale. I followed him from den to den, until I eventually found him, far, far to the south, and to the west. A vast settlement of the human folk, though I would learn in time it was far from their most expansive."
The younglings sat and listened, ears perked at every word. "What did you do when you found him, Huntmaster?" and Nora'Luuu gave a smile, "I watched him. Only a fool jumps before he sees. The Northman was in combat with several others, and he was still more then a match for them. I watched him kill one of the defenders with just a touch, and I knew if I joined into the struggle, I wouldn't be here to recount this tale. Though, I saw one of the sleeping dead awaken, while no one else saw. That one, I gave chase too. Another of his minions, perhaps. It was there that I met the band that I would eventually know as friend, and even afterwards, as my pack."
Nora'Luuu took a breath, remembering. "We never met before that day, but they knew the sound of a warhowl when they heard it, and they knew the motions of attacking a marked target. Always strike for the upswing, younglings. That is the mark." he paused, to let the lesson sink in. "It changed appearances, growing horns and a white streak of hair. Two of them charged in before me, and it responded by breathing fire. Though, once we defeated it, it released a black smoke, and returned to normal before collapsing, dead."
"The Dead can do that?" and again, that youngling was silence by his sister, "The Dead can do what the Dead can do." and she gave a nod to the Huntmaster, "Right, Huntmaster?" and Nora'Luuu gave a nod, "They're tricky. Well, introductions were a bit, awkward, to say the least, though we hastened to the scene where the Northman lay dead, where I...." he paused, and waited.
"You took off his head, right Huntmaster?" one of the younglings said, and Nora'Luuu nodded. "Why?" he asked, and they all chanted in time, "To keep your foe dead, lop off its head." and he smiled, "Excellent. Now, where was I? ... Oh yes..."
"I removed his head, but noticed that he was missing his combat gear. He was wearing odd gauntlets, red like blood, a chestpiece, a belt I have never seen on a Northman, and a medallion upon his brow. All of which were missing when I saw him dead. From there, the youngling pack I had found myself with returned to their village, and I followed along. They invited me with them, well, at least one of them did. At the time, I wasn't sure who the alpha was in their pack yet. A little confusing, which is why it's very important for whoever among you is the alpha of your pack to make that very clear."
They nodded, and he continued after a bite from a recent kill. The hunts had been going nicely.
"The female, perhaps a shaman of sorts, brought to our attention a stone tablet, which belonged to the awakened dead during his life, where she was able to make sense of the scribblings which were upon it. It read, and if I can't remember ancestors help me... Then ye shall see the second sign of the coming of Woe: The dead shall walk again, hair white and coutenance dire. Know ye then that Woe cometh, and look to the west..." a pause, "And she also said "Two"... though... what's so funny, younglings?"
The children were giggles and muffled laughs. "Who talks like that, Huntmaster?" asked one. "Do all the south races talk so funny?" and Nora'Luuu gave a smirk, "Not all of them. Just the really old ones. They speak in riddles to teach lessons."
"Though, apparently Two is the second number in their language, since they were curious where the first one was. For that, we headed into the woods nearby, where we spoke with the forest people. One of them was able to sneak up on us, which I attribute to my youth. Were that to happen now, I'd gut him where he stood. Though, he meant us no harm, so in that respect, I'd show restraint." Nora'Luuu spoke, and the younglings merely nodded.
"They spoke of ruins... those are remains of a village... to the north. We prepared for the trip, some bringing water, others bringing cold weather clothing, while I brought a dozen pelts and fox meats. From then, it's up the river. I remember the cold air on my fur again, and it felt good. We found the ruins, and I'll admit to being impressed. We went until we found a cave, and we descended within." the elder erminoid recounted, remembering, "There was a glowing symbol of something on the ceiling, and as we passed by it, some black smoke was pushed off of us, and dissipated."
"Like when you fought the awakened dead?" the talkative youngling's sister asked. He nodded, "Excellent memory. Yes." he paused, then continued, "We fought a massive stone monster, a statue that came to life, though again, once marked, the others knew how to defeat it, and we emerged victorious. Further inward, we even fought these creatures that looked like stalks with huge caps, some of which screamed as we approached. Again, they were defeated with the upswing marking, and even some of the more advanced techniques that some of you will learn, but all I can remark about them, is they tasted horrid." even years later, the erminoid still made a face of disgust.
"Did you find the other stone?" she asked, and he smiled, "Yes, we did. Along with some other items which were hidden in the walls. A stick, and a cloak. Another lesson learned, be mindful. Just because there isn't anything there... doesn't mean there's nothing there." he recited, as though an ages old lesson. "We found the stone, and across the way we found a figure trapped in stone. There were scribbles along the stone, which read that the figure was trapped here so that we could know our enemy. Then she read the stone, and, again... ancestors help me, it said..." he took a breath, "Beware the coming of Woe. Ye shall see the first sign: A plague across the world, Eidoloterra brings death invisible. Seek ye the wheel and the sword for they be thy salvation." a pause, "And after that, she said 'One'."
The children were again giggling. "Woe be thy plague. Seek thee the sword." one of them mocked jokingly. Even Nora'Luuu gave a chuckle. "And from there, we returned to town. The young female didn't even need to resort to trickery to tell her father where she wasn't, which seemed to relieve her."
"Why would she do that?" the youngling sister asked. "Because the other races are odd." Nora'Luuu replied. "Though, you've had your story. Off to rest with you." and they all stood, at various paces, "Thank you, Huntmaster." they chorused, to a point. The one sisterly youngling stayed behind. "But the story isn't over, is it Huntmaster?" and he shook his head. "Did you ever fight the Woe? What about the sword? And what about your new pack?"
"That, youngling... is a tale for another night."