Character Profile: Tomek Usenko

Tomek Usenko grew up on the Great Steppes, eking out a living on the family farm, suffering through broiling summers and snowbound winters, as well as the ever-encroaching pollution drifting up from Lupa. He left school aged twelve to work full-time, but soon developed signs of the dreaded disease that afflicts all Howlers.

Realising what was happening to their son, and knowing he had no chance but to try for a Howlership, the destitute Usenkos paid for a doctor to certify Tomek’s ailment, and scraped together the money to buy him a city-pass and a train fare to Lupa. Tomek’s large family stood on the platform and waved a tearful goodbye, unsure if they would ever see him again, for not every country wolf survives their first encounter with the rapacious city, let alone the dreaded induction that sometimes robs a wolf of their memory, if not their life. Would Tomek remember his family? Would he even live to?

Some months later, the Usenkos received a mysterious cheque in the mail – Tomek had not only remembered them, but sent home most of his meagre trainee’s wages, which only grew as he switched to the Watcher academy and completed his training.

The Watchers are specialist Howlers trained to patrol the Ashfall, manage trade through the Lupan Wall, and police the illegal slums that have built up just outside the city. Though the Ashfall is vast it is also depopulated and extremely poor, thus the Watchers make up only about a tenth of any pack’s Howler contingent. However, this skeleton force is comprised of notoriously hard wolves, being both fit enough to travel hundreds of miles and smart enough to forage in the desolate wastes that surround Lupa. Cubs are often approached by talent-scouts whilst still training in the academies. They look for tough, bold candidates, especially those who pass the gruelling ‘Gilbert Test’.

No wolf is currently forced to be a Watcher, but there are perks. Unlike Howlers they enjoy a relaxed uniform code, can buy cheap goods before they are taxed upon entry into Lupa, and they get to see the wider world beyond the city where the air is fresher and beasts freer. There are of course… downsides. Occasionally, the Watchers find themselves fighting off giant centipedes, among other monstrous pests. They are also charged with the unpleasant duty of culling great ant colonies that stray too close to the city, a most dangerous undertaking.

Ant eggs left over from culls are sometimes shipped back to Lupa and the bugs hatched there trained as sniffer ants to aid the Watchers in the detection of imperium smugglers. This is how Tomek came into possession of Scuttle, whom he raised himself from egg to ant. Scuttle is a small nursery ant, but as strong as a beast ten times her size. She and Tomek go everywhere together. However, since a chance meeting with the famous Rufus Valerio, Tomek finds himself headed for the one place on the Lupine Continent Scuttle cannot accompany him – Gelb.

 

Name: Tomek Gennadyevich Usenko

Race: Steppes wolf

Age: 16-17

Occupation: Watcher

Hobbies: Numerous and varied, but keeps them to himself

Relations: A large and extended family back home

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