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"Throughout our lives, we are each of us many men. At times, the gods conspire to destroy one of these selves without killing the body. When that happens, a new self arises to command the flesh."
Agnarr, Chaos Sorcerer

Wulfrik, by C.L. Werner (of Brunner the Bounty Hunter and Grey Seer fame) is an installment in the Warhammer Heroes range of novels by Black Library, which, as you can probably tell from the name, are a series of novels which center around the various Special Characters from the Tabletop Game itself (yes, Warhammer existed long before 40K was a glint in the collective eyes of the execs at GW).

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Set in the savage, Chaos-tainted Northlands of the Warhammer world, Wulfrik tells the saga of the eponymous hero — the legendary Chaos Champion, Wulfrik the Wanderer of the Sarls. Cursed to an eternity of violent battle at the capricious whims of the Dark Gods of the Norscans for a proud, albeit drunken, boast, the dark warrior now sails the seas of the world in search for the most vicious adversaries to pit his sword-arm against that he might prove his strength before his infernal masters. As his legend grows, raiders from Norsca and even further afield come to pledge their swords to his warband, hungering for the chance to fight alongside one so favoured by the Gods, and in the hopes that they might catch some of his greatness.

Yet in his deepest heart, Wulfrik despises his curse, and despises even more those who think it a blessing and the Dark Gods who have brought him to such an end. His greatest wish to break free of their chains and return to his own personal quest for kingship over the Sarls and for the hand of his greatest love, Hjordis, daughter of Viglundr, king of the Sarls and Chosen of Tzeentch. Yet the king's ambitions drives him to bargain the princess away to secure an oath of peace and alliance with the barbaric Aeslings, the traditional enemies of the Sarl tribe. When a shaman of the Kurgan tribes, Zarnath, comes from the East seeking an audience with the Chaos Champion, promising to devise for him a ritual that will free him of his curse in exchange for various artefacts of dark origin in the possession of even darker races, the Wanderer, against the advice of his bondsmen, agrees to slay the Kurgan's enemies. The lure of freedom driving him on to test his considerable might against the greatest challenges he has ever faced. But the World-Walker finds that the greatest perils lie not in the curses of Gods, nor behind the hilts of bloody swords, but in the hearts of those far closer to him.

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This novel provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Arngeirr's kraken-tooth sword is so sharp it can even temporarily disrupt ghosts.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When trapped in the Warp and Tzeentch literally intervenes to guide him to safety, Wulfrik's reply is that if Tzeentch isn't there to help he'd best stay of out his way. Tzeentch's presence appears to laugh.
  • Anti-Hero: Wulfrik, is a hero in Antiquity's sense of the word as he's a man who accomplishes great things. On the subject of morality, he is, for the most part, an exemplar of what the Norscan race stands for — strength, dominance, conquest, war, honour, courage and destruction.
  • Animal Motifs: Wulfrik has a bit of a wolf motif, in case you couldn't guess from his name being Old Norse for 'power of the wolf.' Though he primarily got his name from his birth-mutation (Chaos mutations tend to be common amongst the Norscans as a result of the winds that blow down from the Chaos Wastes in the north) being that his teeth are unnaturally strong and sharp (he's able to bite through iron), much like those of a wolf. A lot of comparison is drawn between his habits (primarily his movements in battle) and those of wolves, as well.
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  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Wulfrik, most significantly, being an Exalted Chaos Champion. But Sigvatr, Viglundr, Skafhogg and Helreggin also fit.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking:
    • King Viglundr, a Chosen of Tzeentch, God of Magnificent Bastards, has a reputation as being a great warrior, having the earned the right of succession and the favour of his father by breaking the necks of his brothers in ritual combat (upon reaching full manhood, he sent his father to the burrow the same way). Subverted however in that despite being a great warrior, Viglundr's preference for scheming and negotiation earns him the scorn of "true warriors" such as Wulfrik, who sees Viglundr as a shadow of his predecessors.
    • Averted by Prince Sveinbjorn, who despite being Aesling royalty (the Aesling are considered the most savage and strongest of all the Norse tribes) is a sniveling coward and weakling more at home with hopping bed to bed than swinging an axe in the thick of battle. He couldn't even find the nerve to kill his father to take the crown, instead making a deal with Viglundr to do so.
  • Axe-Crazy:
  • An Axe to Grind: Many, many Norscans favour massive battle-axes in combat. But the cake goes to Njarvord. Along with the limbs of the guy who handed it to him.
  • Badass Army: The Norscans.
  • Badass Beard/Beard of Barbarism: EVERYONE. The only Norscan who doesn't have a beard is Broendulf, who is mocked and harangued as "Broendulf the Fair" by his shield-brothers, who never miss an opportunity to mock him for his girly cheeks. Strangely enough, he actually turns out to be as capable as any other veteran of Wulfrik's crew.
    Njarvord: You should grow out your beard! It gives the wenches something to hold on to!
  • Badass Crew: Wulfrik's warband, though they lose a lot of men in the attack on the Chaos Dwarf's fortress. He has to replace them with untried youths, which leads to other problems.
  • Barbarian Hero: Wulfrik.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The Norscans in general. But the tribes primarily involved with the plot are the southerly Sarls, from whom Wulfrik hails, and the comparatively more nasty, northern dwelling Aeslings.
  • Batman Gambit: Wulfrik manages to plot Sveinbjorn's downfall with contemptuous ease knowing exactly what he'll do (secretly transfer more loot and slaves to the Seafang's hold so he can accuse Wulfrik of cheating his comrades, then while the ships are being towed through the Warp by the Seafang, cut the ropes to the ships that don't contain his loyalists): Wulfrik's crew instead neutralizes Sveinbjorn and his guards (Wulfrik promised them all the Seafang's loot where Sveinbjorn only promised a quarter), replaces his flags and sails with Sveinbjorn's while one of his men puts on his armor, send a provocation to Altdorf to ensure several Imperial armies will be there shortly, and then has the Seafang set sail alone, stranding the other Norscans with a major battle on the way). Despite his mile-wide streak of cowardice, Sveibjorn begs for Wulfrik to kill him but at least spare his name.
  • The Berserker:
    • Wulfrik used to be this before he was cursed by the Gods, and often misses the rush that comes from losing oneself to Khorne's fury, but as a cursed Champion of Chaos, he knows he cannot throw away his life as recklessly as before lest the Gods become angry with him. That said, in times of duress, Wulfrik slaughters and lashes out in a manner which author often compares with a wolf.
    • Njarvord plays it straight.
    • Freaner, the debased, deranged fallen Chaos Lord, can only fight in this manner.
  • Bilingual Backfire: Wulfrik understanding the language of other people is very useful when listening in on them without their knowing it.
  • Black Knight: As Chaos Champions in general are essentially giant Vikings in intimidating armour; Wulfrik, Helreggin, Freaner and presumably Torgald likely would have fit this description.
  • Blessed With Suck: Wulfrik starts out thinking this is the case: because of the curse the gods have put on him, he cannot claim Hjordis as his bride or become king of the Sarl as he'd forever be risking his life fighting all over the planet. By the end, he realizes he's actually been Cursed With Awesome: without it, everything bad in the novel would have still happened, and he wouldn't have won the Seafang or the considerable fame and glory that is now his even if he had to murder Hjordis over it.
  • Call That a Formation?: While the Norscans do have Leeroy Jenkins-type berserkers, they often fight in formation, notably the "swine array" (boar's snout, akin to the phalanx wedge). While the Imperial militia use formations, it comes from drilling rather than battle experience and doesn't hold up very long.
  • Clothing Damage: Downplayed, since almost everyone wears armor damage done to clothes (such as capes) doesn't mean nudity.
  • Cool Boat: The Seafang, a dragon-prowed and possibly flying longship that can teleport itself (and bring other ships with it). Later rebuilt from a giant living tree with room for nearly two hundred raiders.
  • Cool Sword: Wulfrik has several massive blades of black steel sheathed about his person. Just in case he loses one. His main weapon is a massive sword upon the hilt of which he has tethered the skull of a rival Chaos Lord.
  • Cuckold:
    • Wulfrik does not react well to seeing Hjordis mid-tryst with Sveinbjorn (after he'd been reported dead for months).
    • Baron Udo Kruger is a Crazy Jealous Guy despite being married to a woman so ugly no sane man would sleep with her. Wulfrik exploits this to get him to fight in single combat instead of coordinating the town's defense from the safety of the walls.
    Kruger: I am baron Udo Kruger! This town is under my protection and I have no words to waste with heretic scum!
    Wulfrik: Protect your town then! I only came here to see your wife and my children!
    [...]
    Wulfrik: Let me in, Kruger! It's not right to keep the baroness waiting!
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Wulfrik boils the Baba Yar into her own cauldron after cutting her arms off.
    • Wulfrik sets the Chaos dwarf Khorrak on fire inside the local equivalent of a brazen bull.
    • Broendulf is executed by Wulfrik while in the stocks without even a sword in his hand. Wulfrik isn't exactly happy about that one because it deprives him of the satisfaction of killing him in a duel.
    • Zarnath has the skin flayed from his back, his ribs snapped to the side, and then his lungs spread out, choking him to death. And then a daemon eats his soul.
    • Sveinbjorn gets a particularly horrible one: after informing him that he will be forever remembered as the greatest traitor in Norsca history, Wulfrik forces a metal pipe in his mouth, puts a viper in the pipe, and then heats the pipe so the viper can only go down. It's said to be the single lowest form of death the Norsca can give.
    • Subverted with Viglundr: Having orchestrated a massive and unwinnable war between the Sarl and several other tribes who believe him responsible for a particularly despicable act of treachery, Wulfrik leaves Viglundr in his palace to await his inevitable defeat at the hands of pissed-off Northmen, seeing his and his forefathers' life's work in utter ruins.
  • Death Seeker: A Norscan ideal, since the real world is but an illusion created by the Chaos Gods in order to test them. But on a more personal level, some dialogue implies that Wulfrik may have been this at some earlier point, in the hopes that death might have liberated him from his curse.
    Agnarr: A man may forge his doom.
    Wulfrik: I have tried...
  • Defiled Forever: Wulfrik considers Hjordis as such when he catches her in bed with Sveinbjorn (rumors of his death having been willingly spread by Sveinbjorn and Viglundr). Because of his sharpened senses, he can smell Sveinbjorn on her.
  • Dirty Coward: Sveinbjorn and Zarnath, also known as Ludwig Stossel.
  • Dual Wielding: Wulfrik often uses two swords at once, unlike his game model where he uses a sword and shield.
  • The Dung Ages: The Empire, despite being essentially the Holy Roman Empire in the throes of Industrial Revolution, still has some traces of this, being essentially a medieval society. The first thing the Norscans scent while in Imperial lands in the mixed reek of crops and manure.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • Subverted: When freeing the Chaos dwarfs' goblin and orc slaves, Broendulf is confronted with a freed black orc. Rather than fight together, he wisely backs down, allowing the orc to free the other slaves to create a distraction.
    • Wulfrik lets Broendulf live after he admits his treachery because they're the only two left of the entire raid, but both understand they will fight it out later. Except Broendulf is captured and tortured so that he can't even do anything but beg to be given a sword before being killed.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Wulfrik and Hjordis are genuinely in love with each other. Making it all the sadder when he has to murder her to break all ties with his old life.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Sveinbjorn is unapologetic about his self-servingly evil ways, but begs to be killed instead of turning his name into a byword for traitor. He gets both instead.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Downplayed with Sveinbjorn: While he does offer his life if Wulfrik doesn't go through with his plan of making him look like the greatest traitor in Norsca history, he still can't do so with any dignity.
  • Fiery Redhead: Wulfrik.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Wulfrik murdering Hjordis (hopefully before removing her hair, heart, uterus and face as sacrifices to the gods) is thankfully not shown.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Ludwig considers creating and activating an ushabti to defend him to be this, and knows if he survives he'll be hunted down by witch hunters and wizards.
  • Grim Up North: Norsca is this, and the Norse love every single moment of it.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Occurs just about every time Wulfrik opens his mouth, but the crowning example is against the warrior-priest of Sigmar.
    Wulfrik: My father had a hammer like that. Maybe he took it from yours after he grew tired of hearing him beg for mercy. [...] We used that hammer to club swine. It wasn't fit for killing men!
    Warrior-Priest: Heathen filth! Still your blasphemies!
  • Hate Sink: There is very little about Sveinbjorn that makes him likeable (cowardly, whiny, treacherous, and a lecher), to the audience or the rest of the cast.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Norscan's use "the dragon's share" in place of "the lion's share".
  • Horny Vikings: The Norscans are essentially a race of psychotically violent Vikings who are possessed by demons.
  • I Gave My Word: Wulfrik doesn't actually go back on deals he's made... unless the other party betrays him.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The reason Wulfrik was given the Gift of Tongues was to challenge anything to battle, including animals. He does so with great gusto over the course of the book. Sometimes it even finds the best possible insult to use to push the target's Berserk Button without him knowing anything about them.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Wulfrik is either this or a Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk depending on your interpretation. He is very much the sort of hero that historical medieval Norsemen would have celebrated.
  • Last of Its Kind: The Trolltree, said to be the last of the treemen who ruled the northern forests before Tzeentch gave men the secret of fire.
  • Logical Weakness: Wulfrik's Gift of Tongues works on sentient creatures and beasts, but not on animated statues.
  • Low Fantasy: Admittedly so, despite the fact that this book centers around Chaos, it reads more like a work of historical fiction than actual Fantasy. Norsca society seems to function more like pre-Christian Scandinavia (trading, raiding and whaling being acceptable occupations) than the usual "KILL MAIM BURN" attitude of Warhammer's Northern factions, and there is mention of Norscans becoming traders when they grow too old for raiding.
    • Wulfrik's powers are his incredible strength and skill at warfare, not magical arms and armour or spells (his Gift of Tongues is used to taunt enemies into fighting, but doesn't actually do any damage). There is combat magic used in the story, but it's very rare and very unwieldy. The magic only really gets out of hand by the third act, but even then most of the combat is decided by sword-arms.
  • Mundane Utility: The Seafang will not teleport without Wulfrik at the helm. But, it's still a longship, meaning it can be rowed without him.
  • Never Gets Drunk: At the victory feast of the Battle of Thousand Skulls, it took four barrels of mead to get Wulfrik under the table, something even the ogre mercenaries present found impressive.
  • Noble Savage: Played with. C.L. Werner realizes that barbarism is a loveless condition and that Chaos is a pretty nasty villain, but as he's done before with his Chaos Powers books, Chaos's followers are presented as humans. The Norse are brutal, cruel, occasionally downright sadistic savages who idolize violence and death, but at the same time, there's a lot in their culture worth admiring — with their masculine virility, piety, respect for mental and physical strength, unbreakable bonds of loyalty and family, and sense of duty and self-sacrifice, the Chaos worshiping Norse tribes sometimes seem far more noble than the deceitful, decadent civilized nations to their south.
  • Not an Act: Wulfrik's stated reason for needing a lot of gold from Viglundr is to assemble an army to get his revenge on the sorcerer who backstabbed him by besieging the city he's hiding in. Not only is it entirely genuine (any Norscan would act the same), Viglundr gives him the ships and men he needs in exchange for most of the plunder from the city but wasn't counting on Wulfrik figuring out his and Sveinbjorn's plan, turning it against him, and then willingly sending their entire tribe to destruction.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: During the sacking of Wisborg, a Norscan grabs a baby from its mother's arms and swings it by the ankle into a wall.
  • Only I Can Make It Go: Anyone wanting to sail aboard the Seafang must shed their blood on the prow, and only Wulfrik's blood can make it go. If the prow were to respond to anyone else, Wulfrik would kill them on the spot.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Reik river patrol that first run into Wulfrik and Broendulf are used to dealing with river pirates, and are sufficiently far away from the coasts of the Empire to only know of the Norscan raids through stories.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Almost every race in Warhammer is this to some extent, but the Norse are the most intense about it.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Wulfrik gets guidance from the Dark Gods about where he should go next in this form. A vision of his own death is what really kicks the plot off, though.
  • Rated M for Manly: A Warhammer novel about the Norscans written by C.L. Werner? Yeah, you better fucking believe it.
  • Really Gets Around: According to Wulfrik, Sveinbjorn is so prolific at creating bastards the half of his tribe that doesn't call him uncle calls him father.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Viglundr, for his own benefit, though he states at one point that he also wishes the best for his people. Wulfrik as well, for a given value of reasonable (he won't let vengeance blind him to bigger objectives).
  • Sea Serpents: When trapped on the coast of Ulthuan by vengeful elves, Wulfrik and Broendulf find that their ship has been smashed to kindling by a massive merwyrm. Wulfrik attacks the merwyrm, and, while he doesn't manage to kill it, he inflicts wounds severe enough that the wyrm goes away, allowing them to reclaim the prow of the Seafang and escape.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: Wulfrik's Chaos Armour is literally swathed in the skulls and bones of his kills. So much so that he has the entire skeletal torso of a man tied to a sharpened pole attached to his back. It basically functions as a short-hand for 'do not fuck with.'
  • Slave to PR: Sort of. In a society where a man's honor is more important than his life, Sveinbjorn begs Wulfrik to kill him rather than besmirch his name as the vilest traitor since the Ogrefeeder (a Chaos Lord who made an agreement with ogre mercenaries to feed them one man per ogre per day, and used his own men until they ran out). Wulfrik proceeds with the plan to blacken his name, then kills him in the single most humiliating way the Norsca know.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: The Thegn of Dronangkul, Khorakk, whom Wulfrik burns in alive one of his own contraptions. And also Zarnath. Kinda.
  • Teeny Weenie: Sveinbjorn claims he'll impale Wulfrik's manhood on a thorn bush... a small thorn bush.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Subverted. While the Norscans have no idea how to use Imperial cannon, they do understand that barrels of gunpowder explode quite well, and use them to breach Wisborg's defenses.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • Zarnath leads Wulfrik on a wild goose chase in the hopes of getting him killed, to avert a prophecy where he dies at Wulfrik's hands. It only ends up making Wulfrik stronger.
    • Broendulf is willing to murder Wulfrik to become Hjordis' consort (as he was told Sveinbjorn was infertile). Wulfrik gleefully shows him what a fool he's been.
    • Zarnath turns out to have been one to Tzeentch himself, who used a demon disguised as a bird to influence him into going down the path resulting in Wulfrik's ultimate victory.
    • The biggest of them is Wulfrik himself. By the end of the story he's figured out that the fate he'd tried to avoid ended up winning him great fame and glory, and the fate he'd wanted to pursue he would never have obtained.
  • Villainous Valor: Once Stossel realizes Wulfrik has found him hiding in Wisborg, he stays to fight instead of pulling a Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
  • Villain Protagonist: Wulfrik.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Subverted. When Norsca toss around insults to each other, they're perfectly willing to fight to the death over it, and it takes the threat of Wulfrik killing the first man to shed blood to get them to back off.
  • Walking the Earth: Wulfrik gets called Worldwalker for good reason, as the gods send him to faraway places to kill things and people in their name. It helps that he obtained a teleporting longship to bypass enemy defenses and cut down on travel time.
  • Warrior King: King Torgald, who led the Aeslings in their Great Offscreen War against the Sarls, was this, having been willing to lead his men in the front line, unlike Viglundr. Averted by his son, who is... not one to fit such a description.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: A merwyrm smashes the Seafang to bits. Fortunately, the demon-possessed prow is intact, and is the only part actually needed to enter the Warp.
  • You Killed My Father: Subverted, Torgald's death courtesy of Wulfrik was planned by Viglundr at Sveinbjorn's request. Unfortunately, Wulfrik remaining alive afterwards and still demanding his reward (Hjordis, who Viglundr wants to marry off to Sveinbjorn) causes problems for both.
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Baron Kruger is obsessed with his wife's supposed infidelity. In fact she's so fat and ugly no sane man would willingly chase her, but it doesn't prevent Wulfrik from enraging the baron with a "your wife and my kids" taunt.
    • Wulfrik considers Hjordis sleeping with Sveinbjorn in his absence to be this, despite him being thought dead. It doesn't help that due to his acute sense of smell, Wulfrik can still smell him on her.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: At the end of the story, Wulfrik has given up on his former ambition of marrying Hjordis and ruling over his tribe, having finally accepted the fate the gods decreed for him, reflecting that even without the curse, he'd never have gotten either anyway. Shame he had to murder Hjordis to get over her and cause the inevitable destruction of said tribe though.
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