Chapter 5
The Conqueror Rises

Mount Drajt, Titan; Anno Titanos 283

"And then I saw a man who had the very earth at his command. He mercilessly slaughtered half of the bandit horde and demanded that the other half submit to him. I fear what would have happened to us if he had seen us."
- Merchant report to the Bredsvert guild office

It had been several months since Randwulf took the ancestral gear of the Conqueror. He had spent the entire time honing his abilities. At first, the rush of images from the Gems nearly overwhelmed him and he could hardly think straight. He improved with time and practice, though, and was now much better at controlling the flow of memories.
As he struggled to master the Gems, the techniques locked away in the gear were coming to him slowly. Too slowly. He soon realized that the Gems would only reveal the full range of their potential in combat.
He found a bandit group that preferred Mount Drajt, one of the nearest places to his training site. They would become his first subjects. As he approached the camp, he had to laugh at their pathetically lax security. No guards barred the way and the entire group was out in the open. He would teach them better, those who survived.
The bandits did not even seem to take notice of him until he was in the middle of the camp. Only a handful of them had weapons ready. There was no organization whatsoever. He could not even tell who the leader was. He would have kept wondering if one of them had not spoken up.
"What th' deuce are you doin' here!? You wannna die, boy?"
There was little to differentiate the man from the others. He was no leader. He would have to die. Randwulf would make an example of him. In a single movement, he took a wide step forward, drew his sword and lopped off the leader's head. Before the body could hit the ground, he turned and made the ground collapse in a circle around him.
He shouted out to the bandits in a loud voice, "I am Randwulf the Conqueror! You all belong to me now! But I have no use for maggots and worms! Prove yourselves men if you want to live! Now fight me!"
Those who tried to flee were first to die, impaled on earthen spikes. Then the clumsiest fighters were quickly cut down. The bandits did not know how to coordinate their attacks, how to fight as one unit, and so they did not stand a chance against him. Randwulf's blade sifted out the chaff like a thresher and when he was finished, less than twoscore remained, not even half the original number.
Those he left alive were all sorely beaten and bruised when he was done with them. He had proven his dominance over them, but they did not need to know that he was not simply biding his time before he finished off them as well. Taking a few moments to pace before his new followers, he allowed fear to set in. Keep them guessing. Let them feel properly subdued.
He was still pacing as he spoke to them.
"You who I have spared, the life of a bandit is yours no longer. I am a warlord and you are my warriors, my Marauders. You were once scum, not even worthy of being called dogs. I will forge you into wolves and wolf-feeders, but never forget that I am the Great Wolf. You will obey me or you will die.
"I am a harsh man, but I will allow you to recover from your wounds tonight. This is the first and the last mercy I will ever show you. Make the most of it."
Randwulf sat down on a log that served as a bench near the main campfire. He sat and watched his new recruits. They were afraid, unsure of how to act around him. It was not much, but it was a starting point. The gears were set in motion and he would not let anything stop him.