As nightfall arrived, the sky became shrouded with dark clouds. The landscape quickly became covered with snow that fell silently to the ground. A couple of wolves ran through the Hinterlands with small riders that looked like children, keeping their distance as they watched their surroundings. They stopped, as an unusual and yet, delectable sense caught their attention. They stopped and noticed in the distance a human riding on a sled with eight huskies pulling it through the snow across the White Plains. The wolves barked once and ran back in the direction they came from.
The Wolf Riders dwelled inside the Hinterlands and rode on the backs of large white wolves. They killed all in their path and never tolerated newcomers. They originated from those who were banished from either the Empress or the Sorcerer. They rebelled against the Coven and fled to the Hinterlands in hopes that they would keep far away from all of civilization.
A few moments later, three Wolf Riders ran up towards the entrance of the forest with their longbows and their quivers filled with arrows. They pulled out their arrows and got ready to shoot at the driver. However, one of the riders held up their hand to stop them from making their shots, presumably the leader of the pack. She was short and appeared child-like. Her long hair covered parts of her body as she wore a mask on the side of her head that looked to be of a wolf's face with red markings. Her body was thin and frail.
"Wait until they rest," she ordered and they hid themselves well as the sled stopped near the entrance of the Hinterlands.
The Wolf Riders watched as the human made camp. He built a campfire with a small tent near the opening. After about a couple of hours of this, the human sat down near his sled dogs. One of the huskies laid its head in the human's lap and he stroked it with his free hand as he used the other one to feed the fire. Two wolves went rushing through and the huskies barked at them, but quickly stopped.
The next morning when the human woke up, he found his campsite trashed and one of his dogs was gone with some blood trailing across the snow. Some of the others were severely wounded. A couple of the Wolf Riders went scurrying back into the forest before the man saw them. The human went back into his tent and grabbed his quiver and longbow. As he saw some images of the wolves approaching, he pulled out one of his arrows and shot it through the air, watching as a couple of them scurried away. The dogs whined with fear and huddled together. He looked over in one direction and saw a female white wolf standing above the other wolves around her with a young girl as its rider.
The She Wolf and her rider disappeared through the trees along with the rest of the group.
Throughout the day, the human had to keep his longbow out for any case more wolves would show up. He chained up his dogs to the trees so that no more would be taken.
When he went back into his tent to get some food that he packed away, her heard some rustling from his campsite followed by snarling and howling. A howl rang through the air and the human came outside to find that the pack of Wolf Riders came back again and were attacking the huskies. Snarls echoed across the site as the wild dogs threw themselves at one another. The She Wolf attacked one of the dogs and bit it in the throat, the snow dyed crimson as the lifeless corpse fell to the ground.
The human pulled out three arrows from his quiver and shot one of the wolves down. The rider rolled over on the ground, but quickly got back up on its feet, pulling out a dagger, but ran back into the Hinterlands. The Wolf Riders retreated into the forest once more with another dog as their prize.
The thought of the wolves tracking him and his dogs down was very gruesome and he didn't know what he should do. He didn't have enough food to make it through the rest of his trip and he was missing three dogs: one of the dogs that were wounded died earlier that morning.
He got up from his post of watching for the wolves and their riders, went inside his tent quickly, and came back out. The dogs were still there, sleeping as if nothing had happened to their brothers.
The human continued to carry his longbow with him as he went to pack up what was left after the wolves had taken half of his supplies. The dogs began barking and there appeared the She Wolf right behind him with her rider. The human staggered forward and reached sheepishly for his longbow, but the She Wolf barked at him and got on top of him with her two front paws. She growled and bit him in the face. He cried and tried to push the wolf off him. The She Wolf turned around and started barking. The rider jumped off the wolf's back and pulled out a dagger. Even with her childish features, her beauty would attract any male human.
"Take all what you can get! Leave nothing behind!" she shouted out to the other Wolf Riders within her pact. "I will make you pay what you have caused upon our forest!" She spat in the human's face. She placed the blade of her dagger in front of his throat and slashed it open. His eyes rolled to the back of his head as his body trembled, the blood pouring from his wound like a river. Her body was splattered and coated with blood from her prey.
The wolf and the rider walked out of the tent. She got back on the wolf's back and held her dagger up to the air as if she declared victory over the human. "We, leaders Kiba and Roslyn, declare victory!
"We have what we want!" she shouted out to her fellow riders. She turned to the dogs that were left behind. "Release the dogs. We have what we want." She turned to the others. "Bring the meat to our burrow in the chamber! This should be enough to last us all through the winter with our hoard."
The other wolves gave out a howl in return and did as their leader declared. The rest of the riders gathered up their prizes and followed their leader back through the Hinterlands towards their hideout.
They traveled towards the direction of Tronheim, but they continued deeper into the forest, bypassing the giant gates entirely. Eventually they reached a giant waterfall that collapsed over the Mustang Mountains.
Up ahead was an enormous waterfall that came crashing down into the Black Sea that eventually poured out into the North Sea. The water also trailed into the Raging River that weaved in and out of the Hinterlands. On either side of the Black Sea were some deer drinking the waters from the waterfall. The sun seemed to have landed on the place at a right angle, giving it an incandescent radiance.
Maru was the Alpha Male of the Wolf Riders, living at the top of one of the cliff dwellings etched into the Mustang Mountains near the waterfall. Roslyn walked out to the thickening of the trees and slithered through the branches like a snake with Kiba on her back.
She walked down the hill towards the glassy sea. All the deer stepped back, made way for Roslyn and Kiba, and bowed. The Wolf Riders behind them gave the leaders plenty of walking space, keeping their distance. Amongst the wild animals, the Wolf Riders were revered almost like guardians of their forest, giving them peace. However, the Wolf Riders kept the Hinterlands at peace to please their gods of their religion.
The Wolf Riders worshiped their gods that keep the Hinterlands well and plentiful. When their gods show that they're pleased, the Wolf Riders believe that the gods made the trees fruitful amongst the animals and that was where they come in for the hunt. When the gods appeared to be angry, they would send in some natural disaster to bring them misfortune. By keeping the gods happy, the Wolf Riders offered them the blood sacrifice of their traitors. Those who displeased the gods were the ones to be sacrificed.
Many female wolves were glaring at Roslyn and Kiba and bowed. The males were biting each other in the necks, playing with each other.
The sunlight peeked through a colossal hole inside the waterfall, revealing many cliff dwellings where many wolves and their riders came peeking out. The entire inside of the mountain behind the waterfall was like a mountain castle, carved from the very foundation of the mountain range. Little pups ran through Roslyn's path and a couple of mother wolves came to retrieve them.
The cliff dwellings had pathways carved into the side that led to the cave homes. A couple of wolf pups came rushing passed Roslyn and began chewing the remaining bones of the human Kiba killed.
Baskets made by the hands of the human riders filled with food were placed outside the cliff dwellings. The female wolves carried some of the baskets towards another cave off to the left side with a boulder beside the entrance, which was where they stored their food.
Roslyn climbed up the stones that led to the cliff dwelling. She gave a howl and Maru came walking out with his rider. He was a large and majestic wolf, bold, and brave all the same. His fur was coated a beautiful black in comparison to Rosyln's majestic white fur that matched the color of the snow.
That night, all the wolves got together in a pack- about a hundred fifty wolves in all- and walked into the middle of the cave where the moon shone through the hole. The light reflected on Maru who was standing in the middle of the wolves.
Maru threw his head up towards the sky and howled at the moon, a long howl. When he finished, the others followed in return. Together, the Wolf Riders howled in harmony, like a song that they sang for their gods every night before they went into slumber.
The Empress walked through the streets of Tronheim with her staff in the middle of the night after speaking with Vidar Helios earlier that day. Her thoughts were sporadic as she tried to control her anger. However, she still had to let Selena and Thor know what was bound to happen, even if it were forbidden by Vidar and the Coven.
She traveled through the West District of Tronheim. Near the end of the cul-de-sac, she walked up to a small cottage and knocked. There were a few moments before the door opened and was greeted by Neith Anahita, her advisor and the person who sat at her right hand.
"M… my Lady," she breathed. The Empress nodded. Neith moved out of the way and invited her inside. The Empress walked inside and lifted up her hood. The Oracles sat in the middle of the main room with a large cauldron placed over the flames of the fireplace.
The Oracles stopped whatever it was that they were doing and smiled directly at her.
"We knew you were coming," the triplets said at the same time. The Empress nodded again with a small smile.
"Would you like anything?" Neith began walking towards the kitchen when she held up her hand as if saying, "No."
"May I ask for the occasion for your presence?" Neith asked. She walked over to one of the chairs and sat down.
"I need to speak with you," the Empress sternly said. "It's about Selena and Thor." Neith looked up and took a deep breath, but she did not speak. The Empress didn't return her gaze. She kept her hands behind her back as she turned away. "The Coven is concerned about Thor being under Selena's possession," the Empress said quickly and quietly.
"But Thor already hatched for her," Neith began again. "They cannot hope to accomplish such an impossible task. Have they already forgotten all that Selena and Thor had done for them?"
"They do realize this, which made them come to the conclusion that Thor doesn't belong under Selena's care," the Empress said again. "I tried to reason with them, but they wouldn't care for such information."
Neith remained silent for a few moments before he continued: "Once a dragon attaches to its rider, there's no way to pry them apart."
"But the only way that a rider and the dragon can be separated is if the rider willingly destroys the bond that they share, or if one of them falls." Neith nodded in agreement. "But Thor was supposed to be under the care of another person."
"You mean Ashur," Neith said in a low grumble and turned her head away.
The Oracles looked between the two of them. "Ashur Bel left after the Sorcerer was defeated," they spoke in unison.
The Empress glared down at the ground, but shook her head at this comment.
"And what of Selena?" Neith asked again. "What would happen to her? She can't just simply give up Thor!"
"Vidar Helios wants to speak with her along with a few selected from the Coven," the Empress replied. "The only way a dragon and its rider can be torn apart is if the rider makes the decision to sever their bond and I know that Selena will never give up Thor. I don't know what to do, Neith." The Empress cradled her head in her hands. Neith remained silent, surprised to hear these words coming from the Empress.
She looked up from her hands that were sitting in her lap and looked at him. "My apologies," she whispered to Neith. "I pray that you would never see me act in this manner again. It is not befitting of me as the Empress to show weakness."
Neith shook her head. "You're still human," she whispered. "We all have the right to be upset, especially in this situation."
"I just cannot imagine how Selena will react," the Empress said quietly. "If she knew that the Coven already made the decision to have her and Thor separated, then she may act in rebellion, which would label her a traitor to the empire. I couldn't do anything to stop it." She turned to face Neith with tears running down her face. "Where are Selena and Thor?"
Neith blinked a few times. "They went for a midnight flight together," she whispered.
The Empress nodded. "Tomorrow morning, I request to speak with her and Thor. I have to personally escort them to the Coven's headquarters as per requested by Vidar Helios. Do not make any mention of what I have spoken to you about to them. I will tell her personally."