The coming of the Wolves was heralded by a Second Long Winter. Although the exact cause of this catastrophe is unclear, its effects were calamitous. Days cooled, the sun grew noticeably dimmer in the sky and winter extended its reign long into spring and autumn. By the end of the year 12, throughout Circilia crops had failed, tens of thousands had starved and great tempests halted ocean trade. Fate had not finished with Circilia however and the survivors were confronted by a new terror. All over the continent beasts were on the move. At first they were only seen at a distance; shadows prowling around the edges of villages and farms, or eyes glinting in the forest. But soon the attacks started. The first victims were lonely shepherds and travellers by the winter of 11-10, entire villages had been overrun. While many reports from the countryside told of attacks by common wolves, griffons, manticores, trolls and bears, stranger and darker rumours began to circulate of winged and fanged horrors and fell creatures that were neither completely alive nor dead.
A tide of tooth and claw
More populous areas were spared some of the beast’s ravages. In the Realm, Caladia and Gelani while many farms and villages on the edges of mountains, moors or forests were overrun, larger towns were largely spared. The more centralised governments of these nations were also generally better able to hunt down or at least drive off the wild beasts. On the continent, the Templars of the Caladian Church proved particularly redoubtable. In Bar and the east however, the beast’s depredations depopulated huge swathes of the countryside. In some cases even well defended villages and towns were overrun. To make matters worse, many of the surviving peasants fled to transitory safety of the already starving cities. Although they appealed to the emperor for help, even a man of Manfred the Redhanded’s indomitable will could only be in one place at a time and by the winter of 10-9 many Bar lords were essentially prisoners in their cities and castles. Further into east, the situation was even more dreadful.
This glorious sun
The return of summer in the year 9 seemed to diminish the beast’s hunger and many of them returned to the wildernesses. In the Realm, Gelani and Caladia the recovery was relatively swift. Knights, men at arms, church soldiers and woodsmen hunted down the remaining creatures and the outlying settlements were slowly reclaimed. It appeared victory was at hand. In Bar however, the recovery was agonisingly slow and was even further complicated by the arrival of the great wild dragon, Fafnir. Indeed, the Bar Empire the Wolves invaded in Year 1 was still a shadow of the force it had been before Long Winter.
The Realm and Caladia’s apparent victory over the beasts proved to be short lived. In the year O, as the Realm groaned under King Yorrick’s bloody rule and Caladia rose to face the Wolves, the beasts suddenly returned. This time their ferocity was unbridled. Even large cities like Mandor reported beasts roaming the streets at night and breaking into houses. The population was paralysed by fear and countless soldiers who should have been facing the Wolves were needed to protect even the largest towns.
Countless died at the hands of these beasts and the Circilian nation’s efforts to face the Wolves were severely compromised. Ultimately, despite the work of Isaladar, the last of these savage creatures were not cleared from the forests and dark places of the continent for the better part of a century. Much of the efforts of the Age of Errantry were focused on the reclamation of these ruined lands.
The nature of the beast
Today the nature of the beasts is a source of considerable debate. Many zoologists and historians argue that the beasts of the Deluge were just that; common beasts. They claim that the creatures were driven to starvation by the Long Winter and this forced them into contact with humans. While this is a noble and scientific theory, I remain unconvinced. Countless woodcarvings and accounts from the period show or describe strange and horrific creatures of leather wing, rotting flesh and curved fang. Also, as a boy my mother and father took me to see the museum kept by the Duke de Albern and I would swear some of the skulls and pelts his ancestors brought back from the continent belong to creatures not of this world. You might think me a superstitious fool, but I believe the comet, the Long Winter, the beasts and the great dragon are all related to the Wolves invasion somehow. I respect men of science and logic, but there was some ill and otherworldly wind blowing during those dark days.