Monday, July 14, 2014

Rainy Day

The rain spattered across the sidewalk in a continual, gradual cleansing of the earth as it fell from the darkened heavens, forcing everyone to seek shelter for the time being as this was the time that he came out.
And nobody wanted to mess with him, especially on a rainy day.

It all started perhaps three generations ago, when the land was fruitful and the local Baron was a kind man, his wife petite and friendly to all of the villagers that she would come across. They allowed the serfs of their home more freedom, and in return the serfs trained in the ancient ways of the sword and shield to join the “Wolf Pack”, the baron’s personal militia. He only called them out when times were dire, and every man owned a tried-and-true sword and shield, along with a leather jerkin and iron-bound cap.
Tales are told of how the Wolf Pack would gather once a generation, and march into the Black Forest to fight the creatures that dwelled there. Many men wouldn’t come back while many more would come back haunted, their eyes watery and their hair stricken white. It was during one of these confrontations that the Baron was struck by the venomous claws of one of the beasts, creating a pulsing wound that none could find a cure for.
For three long years he suffered, and in those years the Baroness did her best to aid her beloved. They conceived a child, which was born on the darkest day of the year, killing the baroness in the process.
It was a boy, and from the Baron’s own lips he cursed the infant, claiming it to be a result of the horrid wound that was slowly eating him alive. But the wet nurses took a shine to the child and played and protected him. Upon his fifth birthday, when he could walk and talk, his father finally succumbed to his injuries, the last vestiges of life fading from his eyes. He was buried alongside his wife, during an elegant funeral that was ruined by the rain that began to fall, as if the heavens themselves wept at his passing.
The young master, however, was pleased over his father’s death. The man blamed the boy for all of his ills and woes, so they had never bonded. Instead, the son had taken to becoming a warrior like his father, to leading the Wolf Pack once more. He took the name of Lupine, the Earl of the Black Forest. He allowed himself to be crowned and knighted at the tender age of five, despite his advisors warnings that he would not be ready to lead.
He dismissed his advisors, and called forth the Wolf Pack for the first time in nearly a decade.
At the tender ag of five, Lupine commanded that gathered militia men to attack the province to the south, a peaceful valley of river folk. He ordered them to conquer the land and patrol it as if it were the realm of the Black Forest, and to extract tithes from the locals. He ordered this, and more; each man who resisted and lived was to be drawn and quartered that fateful day.
And that is how we came to have the Bloody Red Sunday, a day that every year, it rains torrential floods in the valley, stirring up the red mud to create flooded paths of blood-red water. When this first occurred, Lupine declared the day to be a holiday, where nobody would have to work save for his precious Pack.
“Let them see what resistance costs them,” he’d said at age eight, whilst eating a rare steak with the mayor of the Village in the Black Forest and the mayors of the three villages in the valley. “Now that we have unified under one banner, we are better as a whole. You will see this to be true all too soon.”
That summer the river folk were told that their teenage sons were to join the Wolf Pack. They resisted, and argued that they would never serve a tyrant. One man stood out, going to Earl Lupine’s castle with six men of his own, and approaching the child-that-would-rule on his throne. He threw down a copy of the proclamation, spitting at Lupine’s feet.
“We will never serve in your damnable Wolf Pack,” the man had said, brandishing a cane at the young tyrant. “Our boys will work the same waterways we have worked, the same waterways our fathers have worked, and their fathers before them.”
Many argue over what happened that day. Some say he had the seven men hung for treason and increased the taxes on the valley people. Some say he had them sliced up and fed to the wolves they’d begun to tame. Either way, that day became known as the Seven Sacrifices, and is celebrated every mid-October with a feast, always with a stuffed boar and seven stuffed pigs, to symbolize what happened to men who stood against this foul tyrant, and to remind others of what the penalty would be should his wishes go unheeded.
And so the river people of the valley allowed their sons to join the Wolf Pack, where they learned the art of the sword and the shield, as well as how to tame feral wolves. By this time the Wolf Pack was breeding wolf pups to serve as companions for the Wolf Pack, a tradition still seen to this day.

So many traditions, so many days, to be attributed to one cursed ruler and his foul progeny. It’s almost more than any man can stand it. Now we live in a state controlled by a much larger government, where the Earl title is largely just for show. The local nobility, children of Lupine the Cruel, stay to themselves save for when they go on the ceremonial hunts into the Black Forest. That is when the Wolf Pack joins them, wolves baying long into the night, the rain beating down on them as if there were no tomorrow.

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