Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
Of the early days of the world, after our ancestors crossed the Bering Straight and millennia before any of the tribes we know of today existed, very little is actually remembered. Sure, there are tales of the beginning of Man, and of the Earth, but those are only fables… legends told to explain what was then unexplainable. This, however, is not a fable, but a story. A story probably distorted by time, but at its core true nonetheless.
It is in these murky depths of history that the story begins, more than ten thousand years ago. It was in a large depression west of the Appalachians, in what is now known as middle Tennessee, that the tribe of the Utlavgitle resided. At one time the leader of a great alliance of tribes, their expansive influence had long since been shattered, and they were now nothing but mere ghosts of their former selves. For generations, they had been oppressed by the surrounding larger tribes, forced by threat of annihilation to make frequent payments to them, and were in desperate need of a warrior who could lead them back into their former glory.
Rabid Wolf was known far and wide as an exceptional warrior of one of those outlying tribes. He himself was something of a living legend at the time, seen almost as a living demon. It was said of him that his eyes blazed with black flames, that he drank blood for water, and that as a child he had carved his own heart out with a knife, leaving a grizzly hole in its place. Needless to say, Rabid Wolf was a fearsome warrior with little regard for any ethics or morality. As such, he one day found himself in an argument with the chief’s son, which ended with the death of the son, and, consequently, Rabid Wolf being banished from the tribe. He tried to go to the other tribes, but none would have him save the Utlavgitle. Upon being accepted into his new home, an idea occurred to him, one that would not only benefit him, but also the people of the tribe. The Utlavgitle, though heavily oppressed, were plentiful in numbers, and Rabid Wolf thought that with the right kind of leadership, it would be possible for them to reclaim their old power from years before, and if he were to be the one to do it, then he could also enact his revenge upon his former tribe.
His plan was not without risk, however, and Rabid Wolf knew this and perhaps understood it better than anyone. The lands of the Utlavgitle were surrounded by less-than-friendly tribes who were united in their oppression of the Utlavgitle, and could easily squash them like maggots if they so pleased. So, he made a proposal to the chief, who knew well of Rabid Wolf’s skill in battle: let him conduct a series of mock wars within the tribe, with the chief leading one side and Rabid Wolf leading the other. If Rabid Wolf should win ten out of thirteen of these mock wars, and each time convince the captured warriors to willingly fight for him, then Rabid Wolf should be allowed to lead the Utlavgitle into war to claim the territories of the surrounding tribes in real war. The chief agreed, and not only did Rabid Wolf win all of the mock wars, but each time only the chief was left standing against Rabid Wolf’s men, as all of the others had been successfully convinced to join his ranks. Having passed with flying colors, Rabid Wolf immediately became the second in command, and, after many months of preparation, led the warriors of the Utlavgitle out to reclaim the honor that had been stolen from them decades before.
Once they set out, they began to gain their former territory very quickly. Despite the lack in numbers of the Utlavgitle warriors in comparison to their enemies, under Rabid Wolf’s leadership, they soon became unstoppable in numbers and skill. Within five years, it is said, the Utlavgitle Empire stretched all the way from the Appalachian Mountains of the east to the Rocky Mountains of the west, with nothing in between free from their rule. Village after village burned, tribe after tribe was taken, and person after person was killed. Rabid Wolf himself is said to have slain over three thousand men, women, and children, and to have raped even more women and girls. Yet, despite this, people flocked to his army like gnats to a light, for it seemed that few were immune from the power of his persuasion. That is not to say, though, that there weren’t those who deeply despised the Utlavgitle and their precious Rabid Wolf. No, it would have been impossible for them to not have many bitter enemies, and many bitter enemies they had, chief amongst them the Aklak from the north.
The Aklak were a large tribe along the coast of what is now known as the Hudson Bay, and they had been recently advanced upon by Rabid Wolf’s army. Initially only angered by their advancements, they were soon further enraged when they began to hear tales of Rabid Wolf’s vileness. Rabid Wolf, too, was becoming more and more agitated as time went on, for though they were a small-statured people, the Aklak were some of the fiercest fighters of the time, and as such, the Utlavgitle, no matter how hard they tried, could not manage to defeat them. To their advantage, though, they remained elusive, constantly on the move so that the Aklak could never find out where their main camp was. Nevertheless, in spite of their best efforts, a band of Aklak scouts did one day spot Rabid Wolf’s camp along the Hudson River. Knowing that they had little time to act before his camp moved again, the scouts hurried back to the chief, who promptly sent three of his stealthiest warriors to sneak into the camp and assassinate Rabid Wolf in his sleep. And so, veiled by the darkness of night, the assassins snuck into Rabid Wolf’s tent and strangled him with a rope. To prove to their chief that they had indeed killed the villain, they took a large strip of his scalp, and left the camp. The chief was pleased, and without the military genius of Rabid Wolf, the empire of the Utlavgitle soon began to fall, and things, for the most part, returned to how they were before the rise of the Utlavgitle.
Rabid Wolf’s body was brought duly back to his birthplace in present-day Tennessee, where he was to be ceremoniously buried. To make sure that it didn’t completely decay on the way back, his body was preserved, though it was poorly done, at that. When the body was finally brought back home, the village’s medicine man saw where the piece of Rabid Wolf’s scalp had been taken. Being a devout supporter of him and knowing that only the Aklak could be the ones responsible, he performed a very complicated and very dangerous spell so that as long as any part of Rabid Wolf’s body remained in existence, his spirit would live within that piece. According to the legend, soon after this was done, the Aklak were hit by a mysterious plague that caused a fatal inflammation of the throat. In his pride and on his deathbed, the chief of the Aklak ordered the scalp to be expertly preserved and sealed in a great willow tree that stood in the center of their village, for he could not bear the thought of his greatest trophy ever being lost. Never did any of the Aklak know of the curse that was placed upon it.
There the scalp of Rabid Wolf remained for many centuries, until almost none of the tribes of Rabid Wolf’s day existed, and his Empire was no more than a myth. That is, until one sweltering summer afternoon, a small boy of the Aivig tribe came across the tree that contained the scalp of Rabid Wolf. The once magnificent tree that had stood in the middle of the Aklak village all those centuries ago was now dead and decrepit. The sealant, now chipped away in a spot, was what had caught the boy’s eye. Upon closer inspection, he saw that the sealant in fact covered a hollow in the trunk, and so the boy picked at the small hole until he could put his arm in and feel for whatever was inside the trunk. After a moment, he felt what seemed to be human hair. Driven by his growing curiosity, he picked away at the hole until he could finally bring out the scalp. Immediately upon pulling it out of the tree, the boy felt an awesome power flowing through his body from the scalp. Exhilarated by this incredible find, the little boy, whose name was Soaring Tree, raced home to show his grandmother. However, his grandmother, who had grown up hearing the tale of Rabid Wolf’s scalp, knew instantly what it was, and immediately took it to the tribe’s shaman, who attempted to destroy it, but failed. Both the shaman and Soaring Tree’s grandmother were found soon afterwards mysteriously dead.
Soaring Tree, who was close to both his grandmother and the shaman, felt a strange lack of remorse for this sudden loss, which was very uncharacteristic of him, as he was usually a sensitive and caring person. Later, when everybody was asleep, he snuck into the shaman’s tent and retrieved the perfectly intact scalp. Over the next several weeks, his conscience grew heavier as guilt built up within him about his lack of grief. Seeing an opportunity, the spirit of Rabid Wolf used this vulnerability to gain a stronger foothold on Soaring Tree, so that the dead warrior’s spirit could slowly devour that of the child’s, with the goal that eventually Soaring Tree would be nothing more than a shell for Rabid Wolf, who would then live through the child’s flesh in addition to his scalp and distantly buried bones.
Over the years, Soaring Tree grew into a warrior, the greatest of his people, and all of the surrounding tribes grew to fear the Aivig because of him. And though he was young in age, his leadership was exceptional, for as he approached manhood, very little of his original spirit remained, so that in character and expertise he was nearly identical to Rabid Wolf, though he did not consciously know it. Then there once came a morning when Soaring Tree came into conflict with the chief of his tribe. After several heated words, they engaged in a traditional unarmed battle to the death for the position of the chief, as was Aivig custom, with the chief trying to keep it, and Soaring Tree fighting to take it. With the spirit of Rabid Wolf to guide him in addition to his own natural fighting ability, Soaring Tree ultimately killed his opponent and became the successive chief of the formidable Aivig tribe. After this point, the story of Soaring Tree becomes much the same as Rabid Wolf’s from centuries before. He killed and raped by the thousands, and in addition to that he also regained every last inch of the ancient Utlavgitle Empire, with new lands to add.
It is no secret that names hold power, and this was no less true back then as it is today. And in Soaring Tree’s time, his name was probably the most powerful one in North America. For some, the name of Soaring Tree was something to fear. For others, it was something to hate. But, because of Rabid Wolf’s skill in speech and persuasion, for most it was a symbol of hope… a great beacon of light to stand behind until the very end. And though it seemed that Soaring Tree’s greatness would never end, his greatness, as all things eventually do, one day did come to an end. Soaring Tree was old, and though he hid it well, he was dying, and he knew it. He was on the Colorado Plateau, headed south, when he died painfully and alone in the night. His body was brought back to his home in the north, where he was buried as a warrior, along with the scalp of Rabid Wolf, though none knew of its significance. The people mourned, and Soaring Tree’s successor, though not nearly as good as Rabid Wolf or Soaring Tree, was better than the successor of Rabid Wolf insomuch that the Aivig Empire did not crumble immediately afterwards. However, while it did not lose any territory, no new lands were gained, either. The Aivig Empire simply remained in a state of expansive stagnancy.
About a hundred years after Soaring Tree’s death, the empire’s leader, Falling Stone, desperately wished to expand the already expansive empire further south. However, despite his best efforts, Falling Stone could not do this…. At least, not on his own.
All knew of Soaring Tree’s greatness, yet few knew why he had been such a phenomenal warrior and leader. Nonetheless, as it is with many things, the truth, though diluted and distorted, lived on in the shapes of rumors and legends that few took seriously. Falling Stone had grown up hearing these tales, but he’d never taken very much stock in them. But as time wore on, Falling Stone couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps there wasn’t some truth to these stories after all. Knowing that he’d be ridiculed if he went chasing after it, Falling Stone initially refused to go searching for the fabled scalp. But failure persisted, and out of desperation Falling Stone finally gave in and headed north to find Soaring Tree’s grave. There he found not only the rancid bones of Soaring Tree, but also the legendary scalp of Rabid Wolf, and just like Soaring Tree had more than a century before, Falling Stone felt a tremendous power surge through his body the moment he laid hands upon the old scalp. Delighted with this new invigorating power and visions of conquest, Falling Stone hurried back down south and shared his secret with none save the awakened beast that hung from his hip.
As with Soaring Tree, Rabid Wolf’s spirit tried to slowly devour that of Falling Stone, but found that success would be difficult. Soaring Tree’s spirit had been young and vulnerable when it had come into contact with the cursed scalp and encountered Rabid Wolf’s demented hungry spirit, making it easy prey. However, Falling Stone was old, grizzled, and war-hardened, and so was his spirit, and because of this, the two were constantly battling for supremacy over Falling Stone. It is said that a house divided cannot stand, and such was the case for Falling Stone, though Falling Stone did not know it. As the unconscious battle within him waged, his leadership in real battle declined. The old emperor was finding the push southward increasingly more difficult, and eventually found that the Aivig push was now being pushed backwards. Around the time that they had been pushed back to where they’d started in the first place, news reached the emperor of rebellions erupting all over the empire, and though he tried as hard as he could, Falling Stone could not keep his great empire from trickling out of his old grizzled clutches, for that battle inside still raged on. Then, at the solemn end, the Aivig Empire collapsed completely, and so too did Falling Stone.
As far as the different versions of the story go, some say that the scalp was buried along with Falling Stone, while others say that somebody who knew it for what it truly was took it and kept it hidden somewhere safe. Some even say that the scalp was handed down through the ages as an adopted family heirloom, but no matter the ending, each version of the story is very consistent in one thing: that the scalp of Rabid Wolf still exists to this very day. And now I know the truth, for my grandfather has just very recently passed away, and before he died he handed me an Indian scalp as a rite of passage as I leave behind my childhood and travel forth into manhood. My grandfather said that I must keep it locked away, somewhere safe and hidden. But I am no fool. This scalp is too valuable a resource to just leave locked away. No, I will be the first to finally control it, and I will go down as one of the greatest men in history. How will I control it, you might ask? Easy: I have history to teach me. Soaring Tree was too weak to coexist with the scalp, and Falling Stone was too ignorant to know that the scalp would try to consume him. But I am not weak, nor am I ignorant.
I will coexist successfully with Rabid Wolf, and together, we will conquer the world.
CREDIT : Frank Phillips
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