The Last: Chapter Four

  • As it turned out, Bjorlam and I had much more in common than one would expect. His was a very sad tale—of loss, grief, and vengeance. The Vigilants had taken everything from him— destroyed his home, burned his fields, even murdering his wife and two young children.

    “They weren’t even werewolves,” he had told me, voice trembling with seething anger. “The bastards killed them just for knowing about me—and I hadn’t even told the children.” He pounded his fist against a tree as we passed, cracking the trunk. Birds and all manner of small rodents bolted from the branches in fear. “If only I had been there—I could have saved them.”

    He was too proud a man to cry—but I could tell he desperately wanted to, needed to. Instead, he buried his sorrow deep beneath his anger. I was half-sympathetic to what he was feeling—I didn’t feel sorrow for the loss of my family—only anger. But for some reason, I had another, different anger deep within me—an anger I can only describe as a caring one. I felt angry for what the Vigilants had done to Bjorlam. It was strange; why did I care about this old, gruff werewolf? I had never cared about anyone before, except the Khulari. Perhaps, being alone as I was, I was subconsciously seeking another family, to replace what I had lost. My similarity to Bjorlam could not be denied, but could I really be thinking of this Nord as family?

    I suddenly felt extremely mortal, and a fresh, vengeful surge of anger rose up within me.

    “You will have your revenge, soon enough.” I spoke in a low voice—not really sure if I was talking to Bjorlam or myself. I pushed aside a branch as we continued along the forest path.

    I told him my tale as well, as we walked, of the attack and my injury. He was surprised to hear it at first—the Vigilants usually didn’t operate so far west.

    “One of the reasons they were able to catch us off-guard.”

    He snorted. “Cowards.”

    Once again, I found myself agreeing with him.

    “What was your entire clan doing out in the desert in daylight, anyway?” An astute question—perhaps this Nord was cleverer than I had assumed.

    “We were returning, from a meeting with a neighboring clan—the Selenu, our allies since ancient times. It is a tradition that we meet every hundredth year—a renewing of the blood pact that seals our friendship.”

    “You can spare me the details.” He interjected, swatting at a bee that had been pestering him for the last hundred steps.

    “Oh…but it is such a fun story.” I smiled cruelly.

    He didn’t find that amusing. “I suppose that explains why your whole clan was present.”

    “It is customary that we all take part in the ritual.”

    I paused for a moment, rage building, to calm myself. Just thinking of the attack made me furious. “They ambushed us the following day, at high noon. We didn’t stand a chance.”

    Bjorlam didn’t respond for several moments. We just walked between the trees in silence, as he contemplated. I supposed he was mulling it over—also having the realization that the two of us weren’t all that different after all. He chewed on the inside of his cheek as he thought, and occasionally played with the braided strands of his long, gray beard. Eventually, he cleared his throat and spoke.

    “I suppose vampires aren’t all bad.”


    Bjorlam was a giant of a man. As we traveled across High Rock, he took two steps for every three of mine. His massive feet, encased in steel, crunched the small branches and twigs that dotted the road into little more than sawdust. I was tall, just over two meters, and my shoulders were the widest in my family, but the great Nord stood a head taller, and was half again as broad. His gray hair, braided and adorned with beads in places, hung halfway down his back from beneath his horned helmet. He was imposing; dangerous looking. I felt strangely ordinary in his presence, like a rock sitting next to a solid gold statue, and was again overwhelmed with a feeling of mortality. I suddenly had an increased desire for blood.

    “You really ought to get yourself a better set of gear, if we are going to be fighting Vigilants.” It was as if the old Nord knew what I was thinking. “That cloth isn’t going to be stopping any blades.”

    I didn’t like armor—the idea of wearing it made me feel week, as if I wasn’t powerful enough on my own. I had never had to wear it before. No one, save the Vigilant who dishonorably stabbed me in the back, had managed to injure me since my ascendancy into the Khulari. My wound suddenly flared with pain—but I couldn’t tell if it was real, or merely shame. But maybe Bjorlam had a point—armor might be useful. Vigilants were trained to combat my kind—it wasn’t going to be an easy task.

    He patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry; I know just the place to get you geared up. We should be there in a few days.”

    I found this strange—there weren’t any settlements nearby. The closest city was Sharnhelm, and it was nearly a week’s journey away, on the other side of the mountains. When I inquired, Bjorlam was very vague, refusing to tell me any more about his mysterious settlement.

    “Trust me—it’s there.”


    We camped at the bank of a river that night—and while Bjorlam was asleep, after he had eaten a dinner of roast mutton and cheese—he kept a rather large pack of food with him—I slipped off into the woods to hunt.

    I found a deer silently drinking from the river just to the south. It was easy to find—I could smell it from as far away as the camp. The blood was filling, but not satisfying, almost disappointing—but there were nothing more than animals for miles around. I couldn’t smell any men, save Bjorlam. I even considered a bitter-tasting elf at that point, but there were none of them either. Briefly, I considered trying to sneak a bite from my Nord companion, but remembered that wolves taste even worse than deer.

    I returned to the camp when I had finished, leaving the deer for whatever scavenger happened to come along.


    We arrived at the foothills of the Wrothgarian Mountains on the fourth day after leaving Camlorn. It was dusk—the pain my aching muscles were just starting to subside. Bjorlam didn’t seem to have a desire to set up camp for the night, as he usually did; instead he pressed on—closer and closer to the mountains looming above.

    “We aren’t far, now.” He said, smiling. “You can meet some old friends of mine.”

    I was still confused, even doubtful that we would find anything, but as we crested the next large hill, I quickly understood.

    It was an impressive sight—a cluster of large wooden buildings nestled between two large, stone ridges—the toes of the great mountain beyond. It was protected at the fore by a terrific wall of logs, sharpened on the top into deadly spikes. The entire settlement was dotted by tall pine trees that tickled the sky with their branches, and brightly colored wildflowers were scattered everywhere. Armored guards, taller than any man, except maybe Bjorlam, stood watch near the massive, wooden gate.

    “An Orc stronghold.” The words almost fell out of my mouth—I was truly impressed with the scene. I had been in that very spot just over  fifty years prior, and there weren’t any strongholds—especially not one so large. It was amazing at how fast the Orcs could build.

    “Gorbzghazur,” Bjorlam replied, his voice strong and proud. “The greatest stronghold on this side of Orsinium.”

    He started down the other side of the hill, chuckling to himself.

    “I told you it was here.”