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Shoulder-Height: 5’5” (1.6m)
Weight: 190 lbs (86 kg)
Species: Direwolf/Bloodwolf Hybrid
Vryheid’s fur is a dark brownish red, broken by lighter brown spots along the sides and flank, while his upper shoulders and neck are bereft of these spots. Surprisingly, the spots resume at the base of his skull and ears.
Between the shoulderblades, just above where Vryheid’s wings reach out from his body, a tuft of quill-like fur pools at the base of his neck, spilling halfway down between the wings in a thin line of spines. A similar grouping of quills grows out from the backs of his hind legs, potentially causing serious damage to any wolf brave enough to try to strike his vital areas.
While Vryheid’s body is visibly similar to that of a large, lean wolf, the wings themselves are batlike and leathery. Tribal markings decorate his neck and shoulders, flowing across his fur while changing with every glance given to it. Half-inch wide ribbons coil and roll over themselves, tranquil as a creek or raging like a typhoon.
Vryheid could remember no names, no faces, from Before. Only that he was just another member of a pack that knew few fruitless hunts, and fewer living enemies. What he did remember, though, was the chaos of the day that the Faction got hold of him and his pack. Howls and snarling filled the air, blood soaked the ground, and nearly two dozen wolves were taken prisoner - primarily pups and young wolves whose minds would be more susceptible to the “training” they were to endure. Vryheid himself had already seen nearly sixty winters, but his imposing appearance marked him as an almost necessary capture, one that he would not escape for many years.
For ten years he was imprisoned, trapped in a cell large enough to stretch his wings in, and little else. His former pack-mates - along with dozens of others - tested and tortured, physically and mentally, one by one in an effort to rein in their personalities, to break them and mould them into the perfect guardians for whomever the Faction deemed important. One by one they perished, slain by their captors, and killed or driven mad by the experiments themselves. Eventually, only Vryheid and a handful of others remained. The tests had become more potent, the failures becoming less and less uncontrollable. It wasn’t until Vryheid’s closest cell-mate, a small Vystrian by the name of Nassim, was returned to his cell that he knew his own time was fast approaching.
For years they’d been subjected to the same tortures. Starvation, hypnotism, beatings, all in the name of breaking them down for the sake of their tests. But that day, Nassim was drugged into unconsciousness and dragged out of the cell, only to be replaced by a husk hours later. Strained, jerking steps could be heard from the doorway, accompanied by the occasional order from the head researcher, Keres Jignasa, all the way to the cell a mere ten feet across.
“Go inside and guard the cell against intruders,” she’d ordered, her beautiful voice reaching his ears. He’d cringed away, fur standing on end at the sound of the vile woman’s words. But, bafflingly, Nassim had obeyed. The door had closed with a loud bang, and she’d turned to look directly at Vryheid, warm golden eyes settling on him from the opposing wall. He’d stiffened, wanting nothing more than to flee from the gaze of his most hated warden, but he would not allow himself to hide like a pup from this woman, and instead stood as tall as possible, showing his defiance. She hadn’t flinched, had only smiled as she stepped towards his door, his hackles raising as it etched itself across her face. “You’ll be mine soon, dearest,” was all she’d said before turning and walking away.
After that, the wolf known as Nassim was nothing more than a silent, unmoving husk, only moving to kill the few rats that wandered into the cell. Within a month, Vryheid was visited by Keres and her herbalists, who threw a strange concoction into his cell, a pungent mix of herbs and poultices that made dizzied him into unconsciousness. He’d woken to those golden eyes peering at him with a twisted glee he never wanted to see the likes of again.
For hours, he was tortured with magical phantoms and mental attacks, as those golden eyes held his gaze. Bodies moved and flickered in his peripherals, incense filled his nostrils, and his head swam. He knew nothing beyond the visage of Keres, the pressure of her mind as it poked and prodded at his own for weaknesses. After what must have been a day and a half, sleep deprivation broke his willpower, and his mind was flooded with a single order.
Even then, he’d fought against it, but his mind was too weak, like swimming through gel.
His last conscious thoughts were of the sky, the freedom of flying, and he clung to them desperately as he sunk into the depths of sleep, soft gold enveloping his vision before he fell into a terrible slumber.
Years passed, though Vryheid barely noticed. The first truly successful guardian wolf was assigned to Keres herself. Day and night he stood at her side, defending her from threats when she wasn’t siccing him on her enemies. For twelve years he acted as her guard dog, unable to refuse her orders even as he dreamed of the skies above. It wasn’t until a raid on the compound that had for so long been his home and prison that the wolf was given a chance.
Vystrian loyalists, by some miracle he would never understand, infiltrated the research facility. A loud boom announced their sudden arrival to the entire compound, and the walls shook with the force of the explosion. Shouts and screams ensued, as the force surged inside the walls. ”Come to me!” Keres’ voice echoed through his mind, and Vryheid’s body moved automatically to obey.
Guardian animals, some wolf, some not, stood guard at doorways, their minds warped to the point that they could follow only simple commands without error. What few guardian wolves such as himself existed had already been sold off to important officials who had the pull or money for one, and only those who could be treated as house-plants remained.
Another boom shook the building, and the smell of blood filled the air as he burst into Keres’ room. His Wielder stood, surrounded by guards, amidst a room full of chaos. A wave of pungent odor washed over the wolf, the scent of blood, death, fire, and excrement overpowered his nose.
“Vystrian scum!” Keres spat, kicking a still-burning corpse aside as she looked up to see Vryheid enter the room. “Hond!” She cried out, eyes afire, “Where the hell have you been?” She turned away before he could reply, barking orders at her men as the sound of war continued to build around them. Howls of pain and rage, human and animal alike, thundered through the air as the compound’s mind-broken guardians tore into the ranks of the invaders elsewhere.
Vryheid turned back to Keres, waiting on instructions from his wielder, when a sound unlike any other tore through the air. A low rumble rippled across the sky, building and building in power until a powerful crack shattered the rumble, followed immediately by a roar that made Vryheid’s bones themselves shake.
“Dragon,” Keres hissed, as the room quieted. She turned to Vryheid, eyes blazing with unbridled hatred, and the wolf needed no orders voiced, her desire for its death was so great. Vryheid’s body moved to obey, paws barely touching the ground as he charged for the doors leading to an open courtyard. The smell of blood and shit began to dwindle as he neared the fresh air, and Vryheid couldn’t help but pump his legs harder, wings beginning to unfold and stretch at the rare opportunity of flight.
His breathing increased with every step, adrenaline coursing through Vryheid’s body - to the point where he thought he might faint - and then he was outside the doors and his wings were pumping against the air as a loud whuff whuff whoooosh accompanied him as he clawed his way into that sky he craved so much. The dragon had flown past, raking the ground below with great swathes of flame, a wide stretch of greenery scorched to burning embers. The moment of bliss had been cut short as Vryheid pushed his wings to their limit and shot forward, rising above the dragon as it turned about for another run.
Before it could breathe death upon the ground once more, Vryheid struck, barreling into the dragon from above. The two archers, raining arrows on the ground from the lizard’s back, fell to the ground below as the impact rocked their perch. The wolf’s fangs bit at any soft flesh they could, ripping out chunks as they spiraled down below. The dragon’s roars turned to screeches as they plummeted together, thrashing its body to get free of the frenzied wolf. They clashed again and again, the blows landing heavier and heavier every time, Vryheid’s mind overridden by a bloodlust brought on by his Wielder’s hate-filled desires.
He could recall charging the dragon once more, aiming to finish the fight, though he’d known it would not be his victory. But before his charge could gain momentum, a shock ran through his body. A similar feeling came the first time he’d been ordered to kill by Keres, but that shock, that horrible, reality-warping shock, was nothing in comparison to what he felt in that moment. His mind felt as if it had shattered, his body felt heavy and burdened, and he could both hear and feel the echoes of Keres’s calls in his mind as she died.
How he loathed the woman, how he rejoiced in her death, and how he mourned the loss of his Wielder, his mind was no longer in control of itself or his body. His wings refused to beat at the air, and his anguished, ecstatic howl could not make itself heard. The dragon’s approaching body blurred, and then began to rise above him. Higher and higher the dragon had flown, higher than even he had flown before, until the ground rose up to embrace him.
Some time later, when all was quiet, Vryheid swam up from the depths of unconsciousness enough to lurch to his feet. The trees had broken his fall enough to keep him alive and able to walk, but his wings ached, and his left forepaw could hold no weight. He’d hobbled along through that forest, across little-traveled roads and empty meadows. For what felt like days, he trudged onwards into what he could only hope was oblivion, until his body could take no more. Vryheid crumpled down where he stopped to drink at a river, and only through blurry images did he see the form of a wolf approaching him.
“At last,” he’d mumbled into the grass.
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