One-Eyed Wolves

Ragnar was young, just after the very edge of childhood, 15 or 16 winters, he could never keep track. This day he found himself in the deep woods surrounding his mother’s camp, a place he fled to often. His mother’s Karls were fearsome warriors but they made poor company for Ragnar and when he needed to escape their merciless teasing and downright violent games he went to the woods. At his side was a small hunting knife he’d “borrowed” from one of the Karls who’d had a bit too much to drink, in the past he’d carried a bow when he left, but that had earned him mockery in itself so he stopped that as well. Ragnar moved through the woods doing his best to put their cruel words behind him as he trekked further into the wilderness. Ragnar walked for some time until suddenly he saw a massive hairy figure crouching hidden in the bushes, at first Ragnar thought it was a bear, but as it moved shifting in it’s crouch it became clear that the figure was not an animal, but a man, a large hairy man with a sword strapped across his back. Ragnar’s heart raced, “an enemy scout?” he thought frantically, he needed to return to camp and warn his mother. He began to walk backwards slowly, hoping to escape without the mans notice. Just then his foot caught on a vine and he tripped, crashing into the brush. Ragnar didn’t look to see how the man reacted, he only ran trying to put as much distance between them as possible. Soon Ragnar felt a hand on his shoulder, he spun around with his hunting knife slashing at the hand and shouting, his assailant simply knocked the knife from his hands , stepped forward, placed one hand under either of Ragnar’s arms, and before he could do anything Ragnar was lifted from the ground, “LET GO!” Shouted Ragnar, trying to break free to no avail. As Ragnar struggled he got a look at the man, he was large, with thick dark hair covering every inch of exposed skin, he wore a heavy beard and had a lain leather eye-patch covering his left eye, with the other being a bright blue color, matching Ragnar’s own. The man held Ragnar for a moment, never budging even as he tore and bit the mans arms in a desperate attempt to be free. Slowly the man began to grin before shouting, “I’ve found you! My son!” and pulling Ragnar into an embrace. Ragnar stopped struggling as the man set him back on the ground, “Father? How did you find us?” he asked, his voice shaking and tears welling up in his eyes. His Father smiled and clapped him on the back, “Come my son, I will explain more as we go, there is much to show you.”

Ragnar awoke from the dream in a bed not his own, he looked down at the figure sleeping soundly beside where he’d lain and smiled, then silently, he began to get dressed, he needed to take a walk. A few minutes later Ragnar had left began walking the trails in the wilderness, his thoughts, scrambled and painful, were on the events of the Forum, his folly, his weakness, and his pride. The Friar had told him he needed to learn from this, maybe he did, but what was the lesson? Ragnar walked in silence for some time, his thoughts his only company, until he heard a growling in front of him, Ragnar looked up and saw a wolf. The Wolf was clearly haggard and weak, emaciated from lack of food, it’s fur turning grey along the edges marked it as an elder, and a scar running across the space where it’s right eye had been marked it as a warrior. Ragnar looked around for signs of a pack, and strangely found none, this wolf was alone. Ragnar stared at the beast blocking his bath, it bared it’s fangs at him, growling a challenge, he simply stared back. Frozen in time Ragnar was forced to make a choice, did he move forward as he always did? Did he try to take a different path, to change the way he walked? He stood at a crossroads. Finally Ragnar made his choice and he stepped back keeping his eye on the wolf, he did not wish to fight, he would not accept it’s challenge. All at once the wolf lunged at Ragnar growling, Ragnar spun to avoid it but it’s jaw still clamped down on his arm and the momentum pulled him to the ground. As he fell he spun, placing his free arm on the wolf’s neck and when the landed he landed on top of the beast, pinning it. Ragnar tried to pull his arm free, hoping the shock would have loosened the wolf’s grip, but the creature sank it’s teeth further into his flesh preventing him from leaving, Ragnar roared in pain, his free hand searches for something, anything, until his fingers close around a rock loose in the dirt. The Wolf tears at the flesh on his arm, Ragnar screams and raises the stone, he brings it down. Once, a sickening thud. Twice, a violent crack. Three times, the sound a liquid spilling. Ragnar pulls his arm free from what remains of the wolf’s jaw, covered in blood. The body of the now headless wolf lays in the dirt, spilling it’s lifeblood onto the ground, Ragnar vomits. “Why had the wolf attacked him?” Ragnar thought, but deep down he knew. In a daze Ragnar cleaned his wound, the injuries were deep, but not serious, and then he returned to the bed that was not his own where he slept once again, dreaming of One-Eyed Wolves.

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