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      Kaine      

    Kaine began his life on a cold mountainside in a land far to the west, where winters are cold and hard, but the people are even harder. Legend has it that as soon as he left the warmth of the womb he seized his father's dagger, lying near him on the ground, and stabbed the midwife in the arm after she slapped his bottom. Kaine grew to be a huge child, and in his early years he stood well over 7 feet and was already established as a great warrior around the chieftain's campfires late at night. One day, in his 13th winter, a pack of huge northern wolves attacked his camp. Sword at the ready, Kaine jumped to his feet and began slaying beast after beast, naked save for his scabbard hanging across his back, and a bloody iron sword gripped in his fist. After what seemed hours of battle, the attacking wolves all slain, Kaine sank to his knees on the blood-stained snowy ground, and lost consciousness from sheer exhaustion. Upon awakening, Kaine began to search out the members of his tribe, and discovered to his dismay that all were gone......either slain or disappeared, leaving him alone to fend for himself. His mother, father, and baby sister he found: his father dead with sword still in hand, his mother lying with throat ripped out atop his baby sister, who's fragile body had been chewed to a raw, bloody mass. With a cry of grief at the sight, Kaine vowed vengeance upon the wolves. An accomplished warrior and hunter, he decided to seek out the Lord of the Wolves and exact vengeance for the loss of his family.

     After traveling many days through the snow covered mountains and valleys,  the wolf tracks finally led him to their origin: a huge cave at the northernmost part of his family's lands. The scent of death hung heavy in the air, a strong, coppery tang, which burned the lungs and reminded Kaine of the recent carnage he had experienced. Enraged again, all rational thought purged from his mind, he set out towards the cave's entrance.

     Two huge gray wolves sat sentinel at the cavern's entrance, and eyed Kaine warily as he approached, hackles rising, and low growls emanating from deep within their throats. As his intent quickly became clear, the wolves each let out a long, sharp wail, both to alarm the pack and to frighten their would-be attacker, and then they leaped to attack. The first wolf took the strongest blow, as razor sharp teeth struck iron hardness, and the top of its skull landed neatly to the left of Kaine. An eye's blink later the second wolf struck, aiming low, at Kaine's hamstrings, trying to cripple him so the rest of the pack could slay him, but Kaine spun with the rapidity of a striking viper, and plunged his sword deep through the wolf's back and straight through its dark heart, pinning it to the ground below.

     As Kaine withdrew his blade from the still-twitching body, wiping the blade clean on its fur, the rest of the pack suddenly rushed from the cave's mouth. Hundreds of wolves formed a circle around him, and as he prepared for what he knew to be his final assault, the Lord of the Wolves stepped in the circle's midst.

            Kaine...

    Kaine felt rather than heard the words spoken by the Wolf Lord. A low buzzing noise followed, and he realized that there was nothing spoken at all, but that he heard it in his mind instead.. Intrigued, he paused, and spoke to the Wolf Lord, "You dare speak to me? Then speak, for you die this day by my hand."

           Kaine....

    The voice whispered softly in his mind.

           Kaine...I feel your loss. Your family, your friends....all gone...The attack on your people was not of my doing. My half-brother wished control of the pack, and as a show of power, attacked your people. They were all slain as well. Those who managed to return were slain by my people. However, since my blood slew yours, my life is yours to take, should you still wish. Do not hold my people responsible, however, they had no hand in this.

    With this the Wolf Lord walked to Kaine, and kneeling, stretched his head and neck before the sword's edge.

    Kaine was dumbfounded. Not their doing? Rage still burned bright within him, scarlet flames of hatred and anguish, and for the first time in his young life he trembled. His parents had raised him well, however, and his sense of Justice was strong. He was a strong man both physically and morally, and he knew what he must do.

     ‘Rise, Wolf, and live another day. Your people are not at fault, nor yourself. I will not take life that does not warrant my anger', he said, and he turned to walk away. The Wolf Lord rose to his feet and barked to his people quickly, then the voice in Kaine's mind returned...

           Stay with us.

    Kaine turned back to face the wolves. All nodded in assent to their leader.

           Stay with us. Your family is gone, you can learn from us, stay with us. Rid yourself of the rage that burns within you. You are young and strong, and the blood of battle smells strong on you. You shall battle many more times ere you are through. Grow strong, stay with us. I will raise you as my own.

    Lost, confused, and deep in grief, Kaine looked around again at the circle of wolves, all of which were nodding in agreement with the Wolf Lord, when he decided he had nothing to lose, and nodding himself, he followed the Wolf Lord into the lair.

    The cold of 4 winters came and went. Kaine had filled out to a huge man, at 17 years he stood more than 7 ½ feet from head to toe, and was massively muscled. The time he spent with the wolves taught him much. He learned their battle strategies, and he also trained in the healing arts with the wolf shaman who lived among them, gaining a fair amount of skill in that realm as well. One day, shortly after returning from the hunt with his pack-brothers, Kaine realized he was missing something in his life. He felt the urge to roam, and it welled up inside him until he could contain it no longer. He had to find more people of his kind, to explore the world.  That evening he went to Sarli'kai, the Wolf Lord, and said, ‘Father, I need to speak with you.'

    Sarli'kai, now gray and aged,  nodded and said, ‘Speak my son, in whom I have great pride. I fear the words to come, but speak them and lose this weight I see you carry'.

    Kaine hesitated a moment before carrying on, then said ‘Father, when I first came here it was with hatred and pain in my heart. I knew not where to turn, and you accepted me. Gradually the hatred and pain faded, and was replaced by love for you and my wolf-brothers, who raised me these past years, and trained me to be strong, and brave like the wolf. For this I shall always be in your debt. I love this place, and the pack, yet, Father, I feel a.....need....inside me. I need to seek out those like me, and wander and explore. I need to see what this realm has to offer me.'

    Sarli'kai nodded slowly. ‘I knew this day would come, and yet I hoped it would not,' he said, (Kaine long before having mastered the wolf tongue). ‘Kaine, I am proud to call you son, and I know you shall make me prouder still as you go in search of that which your life lacks. Know this, you shall always be dear to our people, and you hold a place in my heart. Should you need us, you need but call, and we shall be there. Go in peace, my son, and let no man cross you lest he fear our wrath', the wolf said. ‘Before you go, take with you this to give you strength. It was given into our protection many years ago by a strange man who disappeared in a flash of light and a peal of thunder.'

    Sarli'kai motioned to a fur scabbard lying next to him on the floor, which Kaine picked up.

    Unsheathing the sword, Kaine was temporarily dazzled. The blade was of no metal he had ever seen. Instead it seemed forged of a single bolt of lightning, with a sturdy leather hilt holding it in check. Swinging it several times to test its weight and balance, he stood in awe. Never before had he seen such a weapon, and likely never again would he. A gift from the Gods he thought it. Resheathing the fierce blade, he nodded to the wolf.

    Kaine grabbed Sarli'kai in a rough embrace, thanking him, and waved to his wolf brothers. With that, he grabbed his bundle of clothes, strapped the blade across his back, and set out on his journey, heading east, toward the lands of men.

    After many days' journey and after many battles, Kaine finally wandered into a town filled with people. Everywhere he looked people were about. Shops, fountains, men, women, and children....everywhere. He was nearly overwhelmed at first sight of it. Adjusting his sword across his back, and tying the fur covering about his waist a bit tighter, the sun-bronzed barbarian set forth to find his fortune in this strange new land.....


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