Wulfblaec is not a fantasy
novel enriched with dragons, elves, magic, or evil demons. With
only a touch of the occult, it is a deeply researched adventure
story taking place during the Dark Ages of Europe and gradually
encompasses a wide variety of themes, many of which are relevant
to our modern world.
(555 A.D. late winter in what is presently northwestern Germany)
Rain drenched the northern forest throughout the night. At dawn a cold, damp, steady breeze flowed through the pine trees and naked hardwoods, slowly coaxing all life in the forest to awaken from the long winter sleep. The usually cautious squirrels ventured out of their nests to forage in great numbers, and they enthusiastically chattered greetings and warnings to each other. But as the young hunter approached they scurried away and grew silent and watchful.
The hunterís name was Wulfblaec, which meant black wolf in the old German language of his time. In that grey morning light he walked quietly and steadily, leading four heavily-laden packhorses along a northwest bound trail. Just as it had been earlier that winter, his destination was the ham-burgh, the Saxon trading settlement on the southern bank of the River Albis, but now he was bringing in the remainder of his hunting seasonís fur harvest.
It had been a particularly cold winter of sharp winds and frequent snowfalls, and because of the dangerous temperatures the pelts of the animals had been thicker than in recent years and so would bring a higher price in trade. But regardless of their higher value, and so the higher potential to draw the attention of thieves, Wulfblaec was extremely vigilant in the woods because that had become his nature.
He was a tall, well-muscled young man, and his shoulder-length, black hair was tied back to expose his ears so he could hear every sound in the forest. His light grey, almond-shaped eyes constantly scanned the ground and trees beside the winding forest trail because he knew from experience that obscure signs and faint sounds were often all the warning a traveler would receive before an ambush and a bloody death. He was a lone hunter, which made him particularly vulnerable to being attacked, but years earlier his father had taught him the skills of wariness, how to read the nearly imperceptible danger signs of a coming ambush and how to evade it. He had also taught Wulfblaec how to fight efficiently and mercilessly if evasion was not possible.
Most ambushers were no more than greedy men hungry for easy gain. Vicious and lazy, they preyed on the men who hunted and trapped in the icy, dark forests and wind-scoured open heath. Wulfblaec also knew that some of the forest thieves were simply men suffering from long bouts of bad luck, and that they only attacked travelers and hunters when necessary for their own and their familiesí survival. The reasons for the attacks did not concern Wulfblaec. All ambushers stole not only a hunterís harvests and possessions, but to avoid being accused of their crimes they stole his life as well. Should those murderous thieves be discovered, captured, and brought to justice by their own clan, they were stripped of all they owned to pay their victimís family. If it was their first offense they were outlawed from their clans, with no legal claim to their own lives or to fair treatment from any man. To most men living with the shame of being outlawed from their clan was worse than being executed. If it was their second offense or if they were a stranger, they were executed; hung with a rope by the neck from a tree, or drowned in a bog. Regardless of that penalty there were always men willing to risk being outlawed or executed. For some thieves it meant survival itself, but for most, especially those already outlawed, a few moments of murder in a remote wood were the means to several months of leisurely living and bier drinking.
That fact had Wulfblaec concerned that damp, drizzly morning. Hungry men prowled the forests during winter, but especially now, as this was the last of winter, the time when all hunters brought in the last of their fur harvests to trade. He reasoned that even if the ambushers recognized him and recalled his dangerous reputation, his more valuable than usual cargo of thick furs might be too tempting to let pass.
Wulfblaec did indeed have a dangerous reputation. During his first season of hunting alone, at fourteen years of age, he not only survived seven ambushes, but he slew all or most of his attackers. He had already been accepted as a warrior of his clan, but over the next few years his reputation as a cunning, merciless fighter rapidly grew. Numerous corpses had been discovered in the forests, most well-devoured by beasts, but embedded in each of them were the distinctive raven feathered arrows everyone knew only Wulfblaec made and used. It was clear he deliberately left his arrows in their bodies as a warning to other thieves of the fate that awaited them if he was ever their intended prey.