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The Mystic Continent, as its inhabitants loved to call it, was once a home of countless races. In the North, high segments of fertile land sprouted with all types of ferns and aspens, tall pines and whistling cyprus. There the good rains favored humans, who gracefully cultivated the red and black earth that gave back corn, wheat, peanuts and peas in tenfolds or more. Four large rivers, together with countless brookes and streams, supplied fresh water in less fortunate years. Hereford bisons and hornless goats were their specialty, otherwise any other livestock was kept in small numbers.
Humans were usually tall, seven feet at the most, and hairy even though snow seldom visited them. Complexion varied due to occupation, those who were much exposed to summer sun and furnaces were tanned, and those who occasionally lingered outdoors for too long dyed their skin to a yellow-orange that looked like fresh sawn timber. A few who shunned the sun stayed inside their cool thatched homesteads to maintain an ashen gray tincture. One thing was so common among them, the males kept their hair short and trimmed, and the females were forbidden to cut as much as an inch.
Dressing was generally loose clothing among the humans. Green and red were their favorite colors, though some hunters wore tight garbs of black and white, and at times brown and silver. Women loved to wear hats that were woven out of reeds and wide tree leaves, which lasted for a week and found other uses as hatching beds. An excellent people called the "booters" used leather to make noble sandals and slippers. These, in the human economy, were considered the most important. The people had a saying: walk first before the rest.
Human houses were most popular within the Mystic continent. The high ranks had multi-storeyed homes. Every house was made out of lime brick and plastered, and those who had some gold to spare painted with expensive glossy paints. Houses were arranged in linear fashion amidst paved streets that summed up a village, which in turn burst into a city, then finally a country. Chiefs, Lords and Kings ruled the quantities respectively. Despite a few natural rebels, the Northern division was blessed beyond measure.
Not far away from the human dominion, in the West, dwelt a peaceful race of the wolf tribes. These were not so different from their neighbors, except they had shaggy hair, wild faces with amber eyes, and in place of silk or linen, they wore animal hides. Unlike their counterparts, they did not rear or farm. All they did was hunt and fish... and make weapons. Their ways of living were rather mysterious, primitive yet advanced, simple yet unexplained. It was said they were named the wolf tribes because each member was capable of harnessing the strength of a wolf during a full moon, but that was only rumor. A fragment of magic was always something to turn around for, but the type of magic that lingered within the wolves seemed to repel all curiosity. No human had seen where the wolf people lived. Some estimated they burrowed inside thick tree trunks, some claimed they had some underground kingdom. However, no one could meddle much into wolf business since it was harshly restricted for humans to consort with wolf people unless it was through trade, and trade for food items only.
Opposite the wolves lived the dark, despicable vampires, an ill-got name they earned once their abnormal fondness of fresh blood was discovered. Exactly on the centre of the continent, which also happened to be the mid point between the East and the West, were high peaks of Snowy Mounts. Both vampires and wolves were attracted to this point since it had many wildlife which had huge fur and meat. The vampires and the wolves never bothered to make boundaries, or treaties, but each went straight into another's playground without thinking twice. Fortunately no wars had erupted.
Vampires lived in high castles made out of brick and pinewood. They used steel and earth for roofing, and some humorous rumor told they could sleep with their legs stuck on ceilings while their bodies suspended like bats on branches. Some people believed they could fly, and it was also said that they loathed sunlight more than anything else. Maybe that was correct. No one knew much about their living methods not because everyone was afraid of them, but they were not even there at all when anyone showed up.
Every other race dared not speak of the South. There everyone was certain that much magic existed, but no one wanted to venture far to see what type of it was there. Even in bright summer, thunderclouds could drift from there and pour some rain, which many believed caused misfortune. The clouds usually claimed a few lives among the humans once lightning flashed.
Dark forests with large mountains and trees which sprang up to seventy feet marked the first signs of awkwardness. Near the forests borders, both wolves and vampires spotted queer animals, six legged beasts, three headed snakes and eagles with two sets of wings. Once rivers flowed into the south, not a single fish would pass through to finally escape into the open Sea. All folks, vampires, wolves, humans, believed the South was where darkness came from and infected the unfortunate vampires.
In years that came, the vampires exposed themselves. They came to raid humans in hundreds, thousands and millions. The humans were no match, whatsoever. There seemed to be a foreign spirit among the vampires that made them immortal, reckless and hostile. The wolves remained neutral in the abrupt fights until it was too late. It was their turn to face the vampires.
CHAPTER ONE: The First Alliance.
We marched across the ancient Shark Tooth harbor in our course to the North, past the icy mountains of Elvenshore, through rough trod tracks where we hoped to find our first raid. Not much of our wolves were left, I mean, those who could transform at the Moon's Bane. Yes, I was one of the survivors of the many tribes that the vampires had wrecked. In the early spring night which showered with thin needles of cold water we moved in the dark forests. Dead leaves covered our trail and scent, but in spite of feeling well prepared for what was to come, my spear trembled in my hands. Somewhere in my memory I recalled being told that it was impossible to inflict a wound that would last more than a blink on a vampire. Why then, were we daring to do the unorthodox?
Everything sounded wrong. In fact, the odds of ever coming back home alive were quite offensive. As a starter, I was the leader of this small army.
A small boy, maybe a man, thin as a wheat stalk, six feet up terminated by a perch of short and course dark hair. The skin was tanned and covered with spots of wounds from previous years dearly earned by mischiefs and running away. I did not want to think of myself too much, but each time I moved my scarecrow figure towards some water reflection, I always managed a smile. I did not strike anyone as a chieftain, but here I was, with two hundred soldiers trailing behind me. The physical did not matter than the mental, that was the reason. My hatred surpassed even that of a wolf itself that I was considered the most dangerous person in the continent, at least to those who knew me.
The vampires started their raids sixty years back. Thirty years later, both humans and our people were left homeless, and most of the numbers had wandered across the plains and mountains as helpless pilgrims in attempts to avoid extinction. The vampires knew too well they had infected both races with fear and they took immediate advantage of it. They hunted the poor souls for blood nourishment. Humans and wolf people died further, clan after clan, and those who had a stronger will to run away survived longer.
I was born in the terrible situation. As I grew up I was told of the imaginary creatures that once roamed the land, but my mother ended up being disappointed when I coldly asked where they were when we needed their aid so badly. I was fine with the running away and hiding, it was part of our lifestyle. Everything just changed when the vampires caught up with our clan. I was twelve at that time. We were camped on the eastern side of the Elvenshore mountains, where we lived in small igloos and slept on animal hides. Our clan had forty shelters in circular pattern. In the unfavorable winter twilight, the vampires approached. Women screamed as the vampires started their onslaught. My father was among the warriors who had tried to protect us. Everything was chaos. All I managed to see was the vampire who had laid my father's sword to the ground, and everything else just blurred. That man became my focus, and though unarmed, I went for him. The next second a fine sword cut across my cheek and made a permanent scar which stretched from my left ear to the edge of my nose. As I got up, I had seen my mother and other women try to fight back in vain. Their screams distorted between shrills of vicious murder.
I had longed for our gift of transformation, but again, where was the moon when we needed it? We needed a great warrior of mighty valor to offer justice by avenging the lives of our dead companions... but no one came. Frightened as I was, I ran away from the scene, but two or three vampires took pursuit. They were very fast. What saved me that day was an avalanche which buried everyone and left me as the sole survivor. I tried my best not to remember that day thereafter.
Fortunately, I was found by a human clan which took care of me. We survived for six more years before a spirit awoke inside my soul. Though there were a few wolf families within our clan, I was not at all comfortable being around some humans. They always regarded me as a brute and called me a werewolf. I did not transform at all, I did not know how. Each moon that passed by saw me under a leafless tree, either practising on my fighting skills or resting against the wide trunk. I did not feel any surge of wolf strength as some myths insisted. The only thing I felt during a full moon was anger, uncontrolled anger. I decided to set out on a quest to raid vampire territory for food, which had now become scarce. That would make me feel useful in the least.
Not all of my purposes were straight. I partially decided to embark because I wanted to avenge, and mostly because I wanted to do the impossible. By this time, most of the scattered clans had united and permanently settled on the western edge of the continent, where tall alps with many thick trees gave slight defense against direct vampire attacks. Rumor had it that the blood suckers were already mobilising to wipe us all for good. That is where my passion ignited.
No one but me had the thought of fighting back. I took the weight to gather up volunteers in all the clans. A year of good effort saw me with the two hundred, most of whom were young adventurous men or elders who were sick of running away until time ended. Fortune must have had it, for I had won amongst the humans two youths who were also werewolves, and Wazin, an elder of about seventy who called himself a mage. Indeed, his tall stature, huge white garments, shaggy hair and bushy eyebrows together with his long white beard made him seem so magical. I tagged him along because he had a tall white stick he called a staff, though to me it was more like a walking support, which he used to sense vampire presence.
Now things had not gone the way I had imagined. I was the leader in all operations. I had thought someone with a better mind would step up to lead us into breaching the vampire forces. Unfortunately, everyone looked up to me for orders. In a sad way my only thoughts were to spill vampire blood. We set off right away after Wazin foresaw the nearest vampire fortress.
Our equipment included crossbows with complete wooden arrows, wooden spears and wooden pikes. Some of us carried wooden swords also, though these I ordered to be strictly metal. All wood was carved out of pine tree. Wazin had made magic dampening chains that he suggested for an event of wizard or witch encounters. We used the route past the former centre point between wolf and vampire territory, the Elvenshore, then sharply went up north. I prayed we would not land into a vampire square to provide fresh beverage to their potbellied commanders. I tried my best to use the most dense ways, which hindered our advancement but also kept us away from hostile view. Forty of my soldiers carried food supplies, which exhausted once we completed our third month of travel. We supplimented with a few hares and deer we caught by chance, but in the end we were fighting a second war before we began the first. I was about to turn back, since some unknown fear started threatening our own bravery, when the mage told us we were just a few miles away from the nearest vampire village.
On the first day of the fourth month, we marched by the night. The northern regions were warm, damp and sunny, but this night was different. Clouds clustered the air above us and showers befell us as we moved. At some point I let Wazin lead the way since we were now close to the enemy. He gladly cleared the forest and poured us into a well trodden track. Trees made tall walls on either side of the road, which looked like a passage that led straight to some tall black gates, not a furlong away.
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