Cullan, Volkner, Ironhowl

This is me once again blatantly stealing other people’s characters. Apart from maybe an ornamental figure here and there, there are three characters: First, my own Worgen Butler Cullan, who would prefer not to be known as Cuchullainn. Second, Father Volkner Davenport, created by Joltyness. And last but not least, Ironhowl, also known as Geoffrey Turnbolde, written by Grifter T. Wolf. They are a spectrum unto themselves, with Ironhowl thoroughly enjoying his new fur, Volkner seeing it as a curse, and Cullan somewhere in between.


Cullan stood by one of the tables in Lady Nora Harrington’s town house, and longed for sleep. He’d been lent out by Sir Gerrig to assist Lady Nora’s staff at one of her many social functions. He didn’t mind too much. He’d been trying to educate the castle people on the finer points of dining, but still, the occasional festivities at Caer Bannog, his home in Redridge, were most accurately described as ‘carousing’. At least, Lady Nora’s parties allowed him to flex his butler’s muscles, even if this was a walking buffet, and his duties consisted mostly of coughing politely when one of the guests tried to empty a bowl of caviar onto his plate.

The party was drawing to an end. All that were left were a priest who was sitting alone at a table and had been staring at a half-empty glass of port for the last hour, and a young Worgen warrior who was on the other side of the room, making inappropriate suggestions to one of the footmen. The footman suddenly drew himself up to his full height, and marched out of the room, lips pressed together, determined not to blow up before he left the room. As he walked past, he gave Cullan an apologetic look. You’re on your own, mate. The Worgen turned round, laughing to himself in a ‘Well-you-can’t-win-them-all’ kind of way.

The Worgen sat down at the table opposite the priest, and slapped his shoulder.

“You look down, mate. I know just what you need to cheer you up.”

The priest looked up.

“Would that involve us both going to some private place?”

“Unless you like doing it in public.”

“No, thank you,” said the priest.

Cullan stepped to the tap, drew a pint of Thunderbrew Old Peculier, walked over, put a paper circle on the nice hardwood table and put the glass on it.

“Thanks mate,” said the Worgen.

Cullan watched with interest as the Worgen tilted his large head back and poured the drink down his throat. Cullan could see that he’d been in the company of Dwarves in that he didn’t spill a drop. Spilling good ale was a religious offence in Ironforge. He put the glass back on the table, ignoring the paper. With a sigh, Cullan picked up the glass.

“Another one, Sir?”

“Why not?”

Cullan nodded. “Father? Would you care for another drink?”

The priest waved a hand. “I am fine.”

“Have one yourself, mate. Nobody left but us churches. We’re all brothers.”

Cullan hesitated. He was staff here. Mingling with the guests was frowned upon. The Worgen grinned.

“Don’t worry. Your butt is safe from me. Takes more time than I have to convince one of you straight boys that it’s actually nice to do it with another guy. Get a drink and sit down, will ye?”

“Very well, Sir Geoffrey.”

“Ironhowl, please, Mr…”

“Cullan, Sir.”

“Cullan. And you, Father, what’s your name?”

“Davenport. Volkner Davenport.”

Cullan walked back to the bar, pulled another pint and poured himself a large glass of apple juice. It was a faux pas, but since it would otherwise be thrown away, he didn’t feel bad about it. He’d stolen more valuable things than a glass of fruit juice. Cullan pointedly put the pint glass back on the coaster.

Father Volkner raised an eyebrow. “We are churches?”

“Church organ,” said Cullan. “A rhyming slang for… us.”

The priest sighed. “We are still allowed in churches, despite our curse. For that, at least, thank the Light.”

“Curse? You sad git. Being turned into a Worgen was the best thing that ever happened to me. I used to be a little pencil-necked boy, and look at me now! I’m a bloody Warrior! If I’d meet the Undead bugger who turned me, I’d…” Ironhowl frowned. “Well, I killed him. Again. Never mind.”

Father Volkner looked up with a little smile on his lips. “You were among enemies the first time you turned. That is very fortunate.”

“How’s that?”

Cullan turned his glass round and round on the table. He took a deep breath.

“I was at home. I murdered my employer. His wife. Their children. The maid servants. I ate their flesh.” Cullan looked up at Ironhowl. “I can still remember the taste. I can still remember how good they tasted.”

Father Volkner nodded. “Your story is not uncommon, my friend. ‘O merciful Light, what have I done.’ That may well be our motto.”

“Oh come on Father,” said Ironhowl. “None of us could help that. First change is always a bloodbath. It’s traditional.”

Father Volkner looked up. “To this day, they do not realise that it was me.”

“Well, the Your-goods put you right, didn’t they?”

“They did. When I awoke from the madness, and looked into the water to see the reflection of my own face… There is nothing that I can do that will be enough to repay them. I owe them my life.”

Cullan smiled. “Did you ever meet an Elf named Fairbreeze?”

Father Volkner shook his head. “No. My salvation came at Tal’doren. Talran of the Wild, Vassandra Stormclaw, Lyros Swiftwind. They tamed the Beast Within, so that I might banish it. I have not been able to remove it completely, but…”

Banish it?” Ironhowl scowled. “I’ll grant you, if the Elves hadn’t performed that ritual on me, I’d be an animal now. But I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be.”

Ironhowl stood up from his chair, raised his arms.

“Look at me! I’m strong! I’m fast, I never tire, and I’m tough. No simple Human could beat me in a fight, and I’ll bet you neither could many of the other races. The first time I found a mirror after I turned… I felt… felt like I’d finally become real!” Ironhowl gave Cullan and Volkner a filthy grin. “And not all the boys say no when I ask them, let me tell you. I was born a Human some thirty years ago, but really, I’m no more than a year old.” He sat back down and grabbed his pint. “Banish it. Pah!”

“I find I have come to a kind of understanding with my Beast,” said Cullan. “He is the muscle. I am the brain. With the minions of Deathwing running roughshod over our lands, I must say I am glad to have an option besides offering them a drink.”

“I am a healer, a mender of broken things,” said Volkner. “This, this warp spasm, it serves only to destroy. I can cast my lesser spells of healing in Human form. But when I exert myself, this perversion takes over my body. I do not wish my friends, my family to see me like that, and so I am diminished. Limited to minor hurts.”

“You suffer from pride, Father,” said Ironhowl. “Worse, you suffer from shame. You are ashamed of what you have become when you should be proud of it. We, our brothers and sisters. We have driven back the Forsaken from Gilneas, and though we were eventually defeated, we fought with a strength and bravery that we could never have achieved as Humans.”

“Savagery,” said Father Volkner. He drained his glass. Cullan walked to the bar to fetch the bottle and refilled the glass without asking. Ironhowl looked into Father Volkner’s eyes.

“Father? Have you ever run wild, run free? Have you ever smelled the wind of the woods of Gilneas, or Elwynn for that matter?”

Father Volkner shook his head. “I know how to run like a wolf, but I never do. I am still Human. I do not wish to become an animal.”

Ironhowl snorted, looked at Cullan. “You?”

“That is one of the few compensations for this curse,” said Cullan. “It is quite exhilarating. Though the people I live with do not know of my alternate personality, so I must be careful.”

“Come then, Father. We cannot leave you here to sulk like that. Come with us to Elwynn forest and feel the wind in your fur. The moon is bright, the night is clear, and no breeze comes over the sea. It is a perfect night for running.”

“I will pass,” said Father Volkner.

“Oh no you don’t,” said Ironhowl. “You’re coming with us if I have to drag you.”

“I’d rather share your bed than turn into an animal.”

Ironhowl laughed. “One does not exclude the other. Are you with us, Mr. Cullan? It seems the night is getting better and better.”

“I would not mind stretching my legs a bit before turning in,” said Cullan. “I’ll come with you even if Father Volkner will not.”

“Of course the padre is coming. Get up, you clothie. Let me see what big teeth you have.”

“No.”

Ironhowl stood up, walked round the table.

“Well, Father, I said I’d drag you, and I’m true to my word.”

Moving quick as water, Ironhowl grabbed Father Volkner’s robes, pulled him off his chair and pushed him into the wall. Father Volkner screamed, and changed.

“There,” said Ironhowl. “Was that so hard? You may think you’re still human, but…”

Father Volkner shouted again, the final syllables to a spell. Ironhowl’s eyes opened wide. He let go of Father Volkner’s robes, and took a few uncertain steps backwards. He balled his fist and punched himself in the face. Then, he shook his head, crouched down and faced Father Volkner.

Father Volkner growled. “Try. I have more spells for you, fighter. Healers know all about pain and fear.”

Ironhowl’s eyes narrowed, and he made ready to charge the priest. Just then, an arm grabbed him from behind, and he felt the pressure of a very sharp blade against his throat.

“I say those who want to run, run. Those who don’t. Don’t.”

Ironhowl slowly turned his head, stared into Cuchullainn’s face. Suddenly, he laughed. He pulled away Cuchullainn’s arm. Cuchullainn took a step back, looked at Father Volkner, who had turned back to his Human self, shaking with anger.

“Father, are you good?”

Volkner sneered. “I should have known better than to discuss this with a warrior. They think with their…” He looked Ironhowl up and down. “Fists.”

“You’re no fun,” said Ironhowl.

“Are you waiting for Father to change his mind?” Cuchullainn jerked his head. “You want to run. So run.”


And so they ran. They ran past the exit at Old Town, up the small mountains between the city and the woods, then into the woods of Elwynn Forest. Once outside, they went down on all fours so they could really pick up speed. Ironhowl’s fur flattened in the wind of his speed. On they went, dashing through the trees, Ironhowl leading, Cuchullainn following close behind. They came to a hill overlooking a small lake, and sat down. Ironhowl closed his eyes, breathed in deep. Then, he turned his eyes to Cuchullainn, sitting next to him.

“I still think that priest is missing out.”

With a small noise, Cullan changed back to his Human form. He looked out over the moon-lit lake.

“Father Volkner has yet to accept that the change in him is real, and permanent. He knows that in his head, but he has to know it in his heart.”

“Just a matter of time?”

“Like me, he committed severe crimes when first he turned. I know that I could not have done other than I did, that night. I know that in my head. But I don’t think I’ll ever truly believe it.”

“I didn’t. I’d… run out of the house. Ran straight into a bunch of Undead. Thought I was going to die, and then live again as one of their slaves. And then…” Ironhowl looked at his hands, closing and opening them slowly. “Then, I turned. By the ancient gods, I learnt all about rage that day. Never saw my family again for fifteen years. I joined a pack of wolves.” Ironhowl grinned. “Now they know how to let the Beast run wild, let me tell you.”

“Did you never think of returning home?”

Ironhowl shook his large head, then looked at Cullan, as if he were debating something with himself. He sat up straight, and looked into Cullan’s eyes.

“If you ever talk about this, I’ll rip your guts out and feed them to you.”

He took a deep breath, and his true Form faded away, to reveal a thin, angular young man. He raised his arm.

“I used to be even thinner than this. I train in my True Form, and my Human arms get stronger. Could hardly lift my father’s sword, much less do anything with it. I come from a family of warriors. My father can tell all the tales of all of our family members back to the First War. What sort of a life do you think you have in my family if you’re a useless little weakling…” Geoffrey looked into Cullan’s eyes. “Who doesn’t give a damn about chasing girls?”

Cullan looked out over the water. “These days, people no longer mind. I suppose we need to be reminded now and then how much of an improvement that is.”

“It is better than it used to be back when, but trust me. There’s still plenty of bastards about who think I’m less of a man because of who I am. Can’t change their minds…” He turned back to his True Form. “But by the Light, I can make them shut up.” Ironhowl laughed quietly to himself. “And out in the wild, the whole problem doesn’t come up, of course. Only the Alpha male gets his end away, and I didn’t want to be the Alpha male. Wolves have a good life. Simple. Honest. Brutal, but fair. You’re as good as the prey you can bring down. Gods, I miss my pack sometimes.”

Cullan sighed. “Let’s go back. I may need to help clearing up.”


Cullan walked back into the main hall to find Father Volkner sitting quietly at the same table, looking at an untouched glass of port. Lady Nora’s servants were quietly clearing up the place around him. He looked up when Cullan touched his shoulder.

“Has your wild friend not returned with you?”

“He sends his greetings,” said Cullan. “Do you have a place to stay?”

“I do,” said Father Volkner. “I suppose I’d better leave these men to their work.”

“If you don’t mind, Father, I’ll see you home.”

Cullan caught the eye of one of Lady Nora’s footmen, who waved him on. Cullan nodded and he and Father Volkner walked out the door. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath of midnight air.

“It was wrong of me to judge that young man,” he said. “He must have suffered, if his Curse came as such a blessing to him.”

Cullan said nothing. They crossed one of Stormwind’s many bridges, heading for Cathedral Square.

“Father, have you ever worked at Light’s Dawn Cathedral, back home?”

“I was a lay preacher there. Carpentry was my trade. I imagine I can still build a presentable chest of drawers. That was until the Light led me to mend my fellow Humans instead.” Father Volkner smiled. “I gave hope to a man destroyed by drink. He didn’t dare go home for fear of what he might do to his family. I went home with him, and stayed with them through the night, praying for them.” He shook his head sadly. “I could see their fear of him, and they were right to fear him. When a chair breaks, Mr. Cullan, you can take away the broken part, make one to replace it, and the chair will be as good as ever it was. Humans are much more difficult to repair.”

“I imagine so. Some may not even wish to be repaired.”

“Quite. There are people who are not broken as such, but who do not fit in with their fellow Humans. They cannot be fixed because they are not broken, and they can only be changed to match their surroundings. Which is a painful process, and not always necessary.”

“Do you include yourself in that category, Father?”

“We have been forced out of Gilneas,” said Father Volkner. “I am trying to make a home here. If knowledge of my condition were to become public…”

Cullan pointed at one of the bridges, where a Night-elf woman stood looking down into the water. A tall, blue-skinned Draenei woman stood next to her, hand gently stroking her shoulder, talking to her.

“Stormwind may once have been a city of Humans only, Father, but no more. Creatures from all of Azeroth, and even beyond, now call it home. Sir Geoffrey, or Ironhowl, I should say, walks the streets in True Form, never fearing he might not be accepted. Times have changed.”

Father Volkner laughed. “I think you mean ‘Daring anyone not to accept him,’ Mr. Cullan. I severely doubt whether my friends and such family as I have left, would accept me in my…” He took a shivering breath. “Predatory form. Pieces of the puzzle would fall into place. People would guess. I cannot allow that to happen. I do not wish to leave them.”

Cullan looked ahead as they walked on. It wasn’t going to work. This secret was too large to keep. It would wrench its way out through Father Volkner’s very pores, no matter what. He was living on borrowed time, and he knew it well. Cullan had had a more or less clean break with his past. When he first turned, Cuchullainn had been very thorough. There had been no survivors, and he had run into the woods. He had never even been tempted to return to his old life. Instead, he had fallen into a life of crime, as a hired thug for the Gilnean Liberation Front. Sad to say, he had not been very good at thuggery. People had been hurt because of his ineptitude. Killed, even. He now had a job as a butler in a small castle in Redridge. Since his arrival there, he had only killed a few chickens, and one particularly fierce lobster. The Beast deep within him roared for blood, but he kept it at bay with regular runs around the lake. As long as his duties remained peaceful, all he had to worry about were his alter ego’s appetites. And still, it didn’t take much imagination to work out a scenario where he would be forced to reveal himself as a Worgen.

Cullan glanced at Father Volkner. Some unblessed day, the Priest would turn to his True Form in polite company, and reveal himself for what he was. Maybe someone would be hurt, and need more healing than Father Volkner could give in his Human form. Cullan did not doubt that Father Volkner Davenport would choose to help his fellow man, even at the cost of his secret. Was it better to live among the shadows of your old life, ever fearful of discovery, or to turn the page on that chapter in one’s life? Could he, Cullan, have even made such a decision?

X

They came to Father Volkner’s home, a small house near the Cathedral, kept for the use of wandering clergymen.

“Father?”

“Yes?”

“Why don’t you simply leave?”

Father Volkner stood still for a moment, looking at nothing.

“I have thought of leaving. But I can’t. Or rather, I don’t want to. Let me show you.”

Cullan followed Father Volkner into the house. A grey old woman sat by the fireplace, knitting. She smiled, nodded at the Priest.

“She’s asleep, Father.”

Father Volkner put a finger on his lips, and opened one of the door. On the bed lay a small girl. She’d kicked off her blankets in her sleep. Volkner gently pulled the blanket over her. The girl gave a snort, woke up.

“Daddy?”

Volkner smiled, and picked the girl up in his arms. As she put her arms found his neck, Cullan could see four parallel scratches on her arm. Father Volkner turned round.

“Marisa? Meet Mr. Cullan.”

The little girl mumbled at Cullan. Then, her eyes closed. Father Volkner gently put her down, pulled the blanket over her. They left as quietly as a Rogue and a Father could. Cullan smiled.

“She is beautiful.”

“She is. And she’s all I have left. She doesn’t know.” Volkner Davenport looked at Cullan. “And I pray both day and night that she never will.”


High on one of the walls around Stormwind, Cullan sat, and looked at the moon as it turned the sea into a field of sparkling gems. He was not a particularly religious man, and seldom prayed. Tonight was no different, but he thought of the people he had met. Ironhowl, who had been blessed. Father Volkner Davenport, who had been cursed. And somewhere in the middle, Cuchullainn walked, both blessed and cursed. He stood up, howled at the moon and leapt down from the wall. Then, running fast as only a Worgen can, he set off for Redridge.

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