Lands of Astoria
Wolves of Castra Novus
Shortly before the last days of the Draconic Empire, Legate Sabor of the region that would later become known as Tegria had a problem. The Whisperwoods provided some of the best timber in the region, but it was infested with fey creatures, who strongly objected to the destruction of their home. As a solution, he ordered the construction of a new, warded fortification adjacent to the Whisperwoods, to protect the loggers and resist the fey. This keep was informally known as ‘Castra Novus’, or ‘the new fort’ by the soldiers garrisoned there.
Once the uprising of the metallic dragons got into full swing, however, the soldiers were recalled from what was now a strategically useless position and the loggers were left to the tender mercies of the fey. In the years that followed, the forest spread at an unnaturally rapid rate, surrounding and engulfing Castra Novus as the fey claimed it for themselves. The fort was forgotten, and lay abandoned for centuries.
When Lupin Dax found himself on the run from the Tegrian authorities for horse theft, there came a point where he could either be run down on the open road or he could chance the cursed woods of the Whisperwoods on the border of Tegria and Pescana, where it was said no man had ever returned whole. Legends abounded of mischievous trickster spirits leading men astray, of time moving differently so that a man might be in there for a few days but emerge 50 years older, or be changed into a woodland beast and hunted by the fey for their sport. Lupin’s options were limited, however, so he chanced the perilous forest.
Lupin Dax was many things – a thief, a petty mage, a sometime bandit – but among his many talents was depthless cunning and a great affinity for woodcraft, and despite attempts by the fey to lead him into peril, he was able to make his way further and further into the wood. On the third day of his flight from the authorities, he came upon a great keep, apparently uninhabited for many years. As he entered, he could see that the walls were warded, and that the wards were still active despite the centuries of neglect. The fey had claimed the surrounding area, but the keep itself was beyond their grasp.
Lupin Dax could see the potential such a base of operations offered, if he could only forge a path through the woods free of peril from the fey. The legends surrounding the wood would deter all but the most stalwart foes, and they in turn would almost certainly be led into strife by the wood’s trickster spirits. If Lupin were to form a group of bandits, they would be able to raid the region at their leisure.
Lupin travelled back into the woods, and there he sought an audience with its lord, the archfey Relkath Longbranches . A deal was struck, and a path was forged – only those with the knowing of the Way would be able to find Castra Novus, but they would be able to do so free of the peril of The Whisperwoods.
Lupin Dax recruited a ruthless band of outlaws and they roamed out from Castra Novus, looting and pillaging nearby towns with impunity. Tegrian authorities were baffled at their ability to slip in and out of the Whisperwoods with no ill consequences – when they began to doubt the legends and send in their men, however, the few survivors spoke of maddening visions, of trees that came alive and attacked them, and of paths which went in circles without ever turning. Lupin’s bandits swiftly became known as the Wolves of Castra Novus, and they were a plague on the region for many years.
Sometime after the Wolves’ founding, Captain Guanyu Wong, also known as the Dragon of the South Seas, set his sights on Tegria’s largely defenceless coastal villages, and started systematically sacking them. Several days after such an attack, the Wolves descended on one of those villages, having planned to raid it themselves. They found the burnt husks of buildings, all valuables stripped from them, and only a single survivor. They learned that the Dragon of the South Seas had come calling, and that he planned to attack Woodpine next, situated as it was on the river.
Lupin, now an old man, decided that this could not stand. Southern Tegria was his, so he thought, and no upstart Taikashi pirate lord was going to trespass on Tegrian territory. He sent a message to Woodpine warning them of the imminent attack, though he knew that the word of a bandit leader would not count for much.
The Dragon of the South Seas’ ships came up the river, armed to the teeth and filled with reavers, but rather than the paltry resistance they expected along the way they found cunning ambushes from the forest, night raids, and ships holed at the waterline shortly after the crew would come ashore to plunder. Only the Dragon’s flagship made it to Woodpine, and there, before the townsfolk, the Wolves descended upon it in great force, slaughtering the pirates almost to a man – the body of the Dragon himself was never found.
In gratitude for coming to the defence of Woodpine, whatever the reasons, Lupin and the Wolves were somewhat unexpectedly granted a pardon. Lupin himself was not getting any younger, and with limited prospects if they continued as bandits, the Wolves reformed into a mercenary band, specialising in scouting and guerrilla tactics, and still based in the old fort of Castra Novus in the middle of the Whisperwoods.