Stories fly rampant around the tables in the city taverns. Stories of the unknown; the mystical and the frightening. Retold here are but a few of these tales, sworn to be true by those who told originally told them. But that, dear reader, is for you to determine, is it not?
This story as it was told to me involves a woman of noble birth, born and raised in the lap of luxury in a city much like this one, although many many years ago. She was human and beautiful with waist-length red hair that gleamed in the sun and flashing golden eyes to match. Everything about her spoke of grace and power, and she was sought after by many.
One suitor in particular was naught but a lowly hunter; a Ranger in the service of Sykala, and a proud man, though of humble birth. He had caught her attention with his storm-grey eyes and shaggy black hair. He was raw strength to her subtle grace, and despite the unhappiness of her parents, she began to spend her time with him exclusively.
Oh, a love tale for the ages, it is true. But do not get your hopes up, for it was not to be, dear reader.
Wolves haunted the hills beyond the city walls, raiding the farms and carrying off the sheep and chickens. Finally, at a loss for what else to do, the woman's father called in the hunter and offered him a compromise.
"Bring me the paws of twenty of the wolves which haunt these lands," he said. "And I will give you my daughter's hand in return."
What could her lover do but agree? And agree he did, setting off the very next morning before sunrise towards the wolf-infested hills. The problem quickly became obvious, as he followed the trail of first one wolf and then another. They hunted the sheep because there were just too many of them. Feeling far less guilt now about his task, the hunter began his task. Nineteen wolves were his before the sun began to set and nineteen paws tucked safely in the pack on his back.
Dusk was falling quickly, and as the twin suns set, he caught sight of yet another wolf standing proudly atop a nearby hill. The creature's coat gleamed red in the fading light, and our hero was reluctant to spend another day away from the arms of his beloved, so he turned and began to stalk the wolf, determined to take the last paw and be done with his gruesome task.
When he finally caught the animal, night was almost full upon the land, and the fight was fierce, each a match for the other in strength and cunning. Eventually the hunter got his paw, but the wolf landed a fierce bite to the hunter's shoulder in the process, leaving him badly wounded.
Returning proudly to his soon to be father-in-law in spite of his wound, the hunter dumped out his pack, displaying the nineteen wolf paws that he had collected. However when he offered forth the bag which contained his final trophy, the elderly man gasped in horror. Blanching, the hunter reached into the bag and drew forth not a wolf's paw at all, but a slender, delicate, severed female hand.
The hunter was lead away in chains and publicly executed as a murderer that very night for, despite his pleas nobody would believe his story of the magnificent red wolf.
As dawn broke, and the twin suns rose over the horizon the next morning, an elderly villager who had set out in search of a missing sheep stumbled across the body of the beloved noble woman lying dead up on the hill with nothing but a bloody stump where her right hand had once been, and several scraps of a leather shirt caught between her teeth.
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