Dreng, the clan leader, sat on his chair and waited for the feast to begin. He thought back on how far his village had come. They had started as a small handful of Martyrs on the run after the Oana had destroyed their homeland. He was still a young cub in those days, but he wished he could’ve done more.
Dreng smiled, remembering how strong he had been for his age, but the emotion quickly turned to rage when he recalled how little good it had done him. He would never forget watching his noble race get slaughtered like Bisonbogs. The bloodshed was truly unimaginable. In fact, he soberly remembered wondering why there had seemed to be more blood than physically possible, more than everyone who was present had in their bodies combined. Put simply; it was an extra bloody day.
It was only when Dreng reached adulthood, and when his small band of survivors founded the village, that he got an answer. Frode, his companion during the Exodus and later his mentor and elder, revealed the Martyr secret.
The clan horn sounded, temporarily interrupting the Cheiftan’s thoughts. He had a special appreciation for that horn. He recalled the titan of a creature from which he had stolen it. The Abominar was nearly three times the size of an adult Martyr. When Dreng had finally discovered its location, he went to kill it despite his father’s concerns. He couldn’t just stand idle as the Abominar ate his clansmen. He smiled as he recalled the difficulty he had had ripping the horn from the creature’s head. Everyone who blew the horn got a sense of that difficulty; only the strongest Martyrs could gather enough wind to sound it.
Dreng shook his head to refocus, but quickly fell back into his ruminations as old Martyrs often did. He had done well to rebuild his homeland, but there was still much more that needed to be accomplished. He had realized months ago that he would not be the one to lead his village into a full rebound, but he was only now accepting it for the first time.
“Chief, the feast awaits,” Frode prompted his Chieftain and adopted cub. Frode had spent many years by Dreng’s side. He was a decade older than the Chieftain but had no desire to lead the remaining members of his noble race – even if he did, he didn’t have the ability. Frode’s strength came from his wisdom, and wisdom didn’t get you far during frequent ambushes and night raids. For those, you needed an innate affinity for violence that would allow you to summon all your strength to defend yourself at a moment’s call, even when coming out of a dead sleep. You needed strength and a high constitution. You needed everything Dreng had in spades. He was the clear leader and had assumed the role without much dissent from his elders or peers. The remaining Martyrs had been familiar with Dreng’s strength as a cub. Those who didn’t automatically assume he deserved to be the clan’s leader for that fact alone were reminded of his worth every day during their Exodus.
Dreng wasn’t only unnaturally strong for a Martyr, but he could also think two steps ahead in any fight. On the first few days of the Exodus, the misfit band of survivors watched Dreng as he made dramatic moves that allowed them to escape and survive another day. Weeks later, his elders followed his commands in the heat of battle. Had they been too stubborn or prideful, or had Dreng’s leadership faltered in any way, the survivors would not have made it to where they were today. But they did. Frode’s race was wise, intelligent, and fearsome. His leader was talented, loved, and a real fright on the battlefield. It was a shame his race had been nearly killed off.
“Yes, my friend. Let us join our people,” Dreng announced. Side by side, the two aging Martyrs left the hut and descended a small slope that led to the fire pit and their people. Dreng had fought, bled, and crawled in the mud with his people, so he did not require any fanfare or celebration upon his arrival. He was undoubtedly everyone’s leader, but more importantly, he was one of them. Dreng looked at his people, crossed his arm across his broad chest in a Martyrian salute, and the feast began.
Soon, Freydis stood and approached the fire as was customary when a clansman had an announcement to make. Dreng nodded at her, a gesture which told most people it was their turn to speak but which told Freydis much more. Dreng’s nod said to her that he cared for her. The simple movement held a lifetime of love and appreciation. It contained an appreciation for how she stood by him and for their shared determination to rebuild their race, and it showed appreciation that she had survived the Exodus.
“Today, an Oana Scout attacked our cub,” Freydis began abruptly. The Martyrs snarled in disgust at the mention of the race that had destroyed their homeland. The Chieftain watched as his mate nodded at her clansman and raised a giant hand to quiet them. “Torunn fought bravely, but I fear that if he had not been saved, he would have fallen.”
Dreng’s eyebrow rose at her announcement. Oana attacks were common – sometimes even fully-grown members of his clan were lost to them – but what surprised him was that Freydis thought their son could have been lost. He believed his son was stronger than most fully grown Martyrs, and undoubtedly smarter. He didn’t believe just one Oana Scout could be a danger to their son.
“It is important that we prepare for an imminent attack, but I have another, more important, announcement,” Freydis said before pausing. Dreng watched in appreciation of his mate’s ability to address the clan. He found himself leaning closer when she began to speak again. “I have brought back with me Torunn’s savior – a Man-cub.”