Wulfgard: Touched by Fate

Flash Fiction

The walls of Illikon rose up before him. Several days of riding in the back of a farmer’s cart, and Chris still didn’t sleep a wink. He couldn’t – and he felt no need to, either. Ever since it had happened, he never even felt tired. It disturbed him, but he couldn’t change it.

Chrisanthos was but a farmboy, young and strong but skinny and lanky. He had no last name, born to a family of peasants. He also had no future, at least in his eyes.

Not so long ago, not long after what happened to him and his family on the farm, a strange man had approached him: a man who told him to go to Illikon, that someone waited for him there. When Chris refused, the man had said Chris’s family would be there too. Chris asked no more questions after that, finding means of traveling from Rimegard all the way to Illikon, either by foot or by cart.

Currently he traveled by cart, specifically one owned by a kind old farmer making a trip to Illikon to deliver a harvest. Now Chris sat in silence, his meager brown shoulder-cloak tightly around him, hood pulled up over his stark white hair. Should anyone witness his strange hair, he knew he would be killed. It was a sign of magic, being born with terrible arcane power that no one understood – and that could kill in a moment’s notice, should he lose control. Not that he had much control. Only in the last few years had he interacted with society at all, thanks to his absurd hair telling others he was a freak: a mage. Gifted. Capable of untold destruction and power.

Now he had two things to worry about… two things that could cause so much death, and he couldn’t control either one.

Chris sighed, looking away from the glorious gates of carven Imperial heroes, parted to allow them passage into Illikon’s beautiful cobblestone streets. He took in none of the sights or sounds, closing his eyes and shutting them out. Even at night, the city bustled around the main gates, busy with travelers and people hawking rooms at various inns. Chris opened his eyes only to glance up at the sky, testing the hour. The night was young – and the moon was but a sliver. Its influence was minimal, causing him only a bit of fright rather than unconquerable hunger and rage, turning him into a monster. He thanked the gods for that.

Finally, the mule-drawn cart rattled to a halt. The farmer turned in his seat and said back to Chris, “We’ve arrived, son. Hop on out now.”

“Thank you,” Chris replied, voice coming out subdued. The farmer only nodded, focusing on his work.

Chris let him be, not looking at him or lowering his hood as he walked away. Not only would his white hair at his young age cause a riot, but his eyes alone seemed startling. Nothing that drew undue attention, but some people would pause and look at him too long, claiming his eyes were ‘too bright.’ So Chris kept his blazing blue eyes downcast, glancing up only occasionally from the stone streets underfoot.

With so few passers-by at night, Chris dared just once or twice to approach a stranger and ask about newcomers to the city. He received few answers. Eventually, he found his way to a large, bustling building. Candles burned inside, lighting a great interior first floor in a homely and welcoming way. People sat within, eating, drinking, dancing, and playing music. The smells coming from within made Chris wish he hadn’t been born with this curse of magic… denied the ability to enter an inn and eat a decent meal, all because his hood might not fully conceal him.

“You okay, kid?” an intimidating, gravelly voice behind him asked, despite clearly trying not to be intimidating.

Chris started, wheeling to face the stranger. A man bound in armor and muscle towered incredibly over him, handsome as a storybook hero yet frankly terrifying. But the stranger showed his open palms as a sign of peace. In the starlit streets, light glinted off the man’s silver-and-gold muscle cuirass decorated with the golden crown of the Achaean Empire and two rearing, roaring dragons emblazoned in bright red. Chris blinked, staring.

He was a knight.

From the darkness, a pair of green-and-gold eyes, so bright Chris nearly understood what people said about his own, regarded him in confusion. The knight subtly tilted his head of short, spiked hair, arching a brow. Chris didn’t know why, but the knight frightened him. Made him feel small and scared. Chris had never met a knight, but he felt sure he shouldn’t be this intimidated.

“I’m okay,” Chris blurted in response, perhaps too hastily. “Do I not seem okay?”

The knight chuckled, his handsome, toothy smile all but glowing bright white in the night. A trick of the light had Chris believe for a moment his canine teeth looked too long, too sharp – but no, that was impossible. This man couldn’t be… like him?

An accursed werewolf?

No. That was madness. Chris just had the night and monsters on his mind.

“Not really,” the knight replied. “Anything I can help with?”

Despite Chris’s natural distrust of everyone, the knight remained genuine. Frowning, Chris answered reluctantly, “Actually… yeah, maybe. I’m looking for some people who came here from Rimegard a while back – they’re, uh… close to me. A Nordling woman named Helga and a little girl, her daughter— Sophie.” He paused. “Sophia.”

The red dragon knight scrubbed a hand over his stubbled jaw, grunting in thought. “I don’t know everybody in the city, no matter how much I wish I did. Never heard of them.”

Chris sighed.

“But,” the knight added, drawing something from a pouch on his belt, “some newcomers came not too long ago and moved in just a ways down the street.” He started quickly scrawling something on a piece of parchment in a small, leather-bound book.

Tearing it out, he handed it to Chris. Embarrassment filled his chest to bursting, but Chris took it, even knowing he couldn’t read. Turning the page over, however, he found it was only a simple map with no written words, only lines, symbols and arrows. His embarrassment almost grew worse, yet still he silently thanked the gods for the warrior’s consideration.

The dragon knight finished, “Go around this corner, take left, and there’s a set of houses along that street. Maybe the ladies you’re looking for will be there.”

“Thank you, Sir,” said Chris, reluctantly looking up into the knight’s eyes again and then wishing he hadn’t. Seeing their vibrancy gave him a chill.

The man nodded. “You’re welcome, kid. You sure you don’t want anything?” he offered amicably. “Maybe a bite to eat? I mean, c’mon, your arms are smaller than my wrists. It’s on me.”

Despite all his stress and anxiety, Chris actually laughed, albeit brief. “No, Sir, but thank you – really. I, uh… I need to go.”

With that, they parted ways, Chris disappearing back into the shadows along the street while the great dragon knight entered the tavern. For a moment longer, Chris watched as a pair of friends greeted the warrior. Chris’s sharp ears picked up a few words about how the knight was late, but the man laughed and brushed off his friends’ chiding.

Envy burned deep in Chris’s soul. To have a normal life, to have friends, to be a part of society – to not live in constant fear… Chris couldn’t imagine it. He quickly left the inn and its denizens behind.

Using the map the dragon knight had given him, Chris found his way to the houses in question. He wandered the dark, quiet streets, glancing into windows as he passed. Figures moved within some houses while others stood utterly dark. He expected nothing – and froze when he realized… he could smell them, detecting a scent only someone with his terrible wolf-curse would ever perceive.

And then he saw them.

A little girl passed by a candlelit window, followed by a much larger figure. Chris would know them anywhere, even from a distance, even in the semidarkness and with only a distant little flame inside the house to see them— because they were all he had left. His family. His mother, Helga, and his little sister, Sophie.

Emotion filled him, overwhelmed him. More than he wanted life itself, he wanted to go to them – but he couldn’t. He knew he couldn’t. Not only was he a mage, he was now also a monster…

He was too dangerous. Never again. Never again would he see them, speak to them, hug his mother or his little sister.

Rage, then sorrow. Cold swept into his blood. Tears welled in his eyes, and a scream stuck in his throat. But the cold wasn’t just from within. Ice spread over the cobblestones around him. Webs and crystals of pure frost came from his very being. Mist blew from his hands, his fingertips, his arms— magic.

No – he couldn’t do this. He would hurt someone again, even kill them. He would threaten the new home his mother and sister made for themselves. Flinging himself toward a nearby alley, Chris ran and didn’t look back. Panic kept him running as fast as he could, his feet carrying him somewhere yet nowhere.

Down he went through the open streets like a boy possessed, running faster than even Men who trained to run all their lives. The Wolf gave him fleetness untold in those without his curse. How badly he hated it and feared it, yet still he ran – and in his panic and emotion, he left a trail of frost and cold in his wake.

Finally, he stopped in an alley, sinking against a wall to catch his breath. Chris focused on calming himself, closed his eyes, clutched his head, and curled into a ball at the base of a building. He didn’t know how long he ran or how far, but the city around him had changed. Turned worse. Poorer, a bit unsavory, and probably dangerous. Not that Chris cared, enveloped in his own sorrow.

Footsteps approached: a set of two. Reluctantly, Chris looked up and saw figures at one end of the alley, a man and a woman. They looked indistinct, unremarkable, save for both being clad in hoods and robes as if they belonged to some cult…

Perhaps they did belong to a cult. Chris stirred but did not run.

“It’s alright,” said the woman. She spoke Common Imperial very well and carried an accent like Imperial nobility, yet Chris could tell immediately she wasn’t from the Empire, herself. She lowered her dark hood to reveal deeply tanned skin like gold – and golden eyes that shimmered in the light like molten metal. They were unnatural. Chris stiffened in surprise and fear, but the woman smiled. She was breathtakingly beautiful.

Behind her, the hooded man put a hand on her shoulder. As well as he saw in the night, Chris noticed the man’s skin was relatively dark, a brownish hue unlike an Imperial’s and darker even than the deeply bronzed skin of the dragon knight. Strange, black tattoos marred the back of this man’s hand, twisting in disturbing shapes and patterns, frightening to behold.

The woman, however, was not deterred by her companion’s silent warning. She brushed the tattooed hand off her shoulder and shot a glare back at him. The hooded man neither moved nor spoke.

The woman looked at Chris again – and glanced at the frost still coming off his person. Blood drained from Chris’s face. He was discovered… but something about the woman’s strange eyes told him: she was like him. She was a friend. She was a mage.

“Come with me,” coaxed the woman in a gentle voice, offering a hand and smiling again. “I think you’re the one he’s been waiting for.”

Chris said nothing. But, against a warning he didn’t understand that howled in his mind, he reached out and took the woman’s hand.

Be sure to visit the Characters section to find pages about some of the characters featured in this flash fiction and see art of them!

Characters Section