[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Prologue

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[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Prologue

Post by Ommariuolo »

Prologue – The curse
Silence spread across the ground, and the Silverweaver’s cold light flowed across the steppe. Creatures from the shadows, fearing nocturnal hunters, huddled even deeper in their burrows. The heat of the day has long given way to the damp coolness of the night, and an emerging breeze signaled the approaching days of golden dawn, when the shadows grow longer, and the leaves change color and rustlingly fall to the ground.
Trembling, Derata was tightly wrapped in the cloak. From a distance came a plaintive cry, followed by multiple eerie howls.
“Wolflings”, Derata whispered. She had compassion for all those who might be out there defenseless; whether out of foolishness or need, to these wild creatures it made no difference. Once they had smelled the wind-borne fear of a victim, they could hardly control their lust. With fine noses, they took up the trail, closed in on their pray, encircled them and finally, cought them. Anyone who was not trained in the use of a weapon could not escape.
“Worse”, a deep voice sounded behind Derata. She winced. She did not hear father's quiet steps, even though she had been his best student and has never forgotten the most important commandment: vigilance above all. But still, he was able to teach her a good lesson from time to time.
“It’s Lucien, a young pack,” he explained. “Today, I received the news that they had moved from Lar to the Highmark in order to create mischief and form new packs.”
“Tiara’s fire may drive the Norcaine back into the darkness from which they were born,” Derata muttered, “First, they create these hideous creatures, they teach them to think reasonably well, then lose their power over them, and now they roam the human lands like a scourge. As if Fiara hadn’t suffered enough already...”
“What do you care about the human lands?” Darmos Ironhand, lord of the fortress, asked. He was a handsome man in his prime and a feared swordsman. He walked over to Derata and pointed to the land stretched before them. “Shaikur is impregnable, these walls cannot be conquered. Only those who are granted acces through the main gate can get to us. Our battlements are many men tall, on clear days, the view extends to the borders of the Highmark, in the east - Lar, in the north - the land of Orcs. The Shaikan are the world's best warriors, everyone fears us. They call us godless, the Dragonblood, but also free. We bow to no one.”
Derata was silent. She had heard this speech often enough as a child. Her people were proud and feared, but also despised. Most of the terms were unpleasant. They were often called mercenaries, traitors and outcasts. Their service as warriors was valued, but it never went beyond that. The Shaikan never wore the banner of Light or Darkness, always only their own coat of arms on the battlefield, the white or golden dragon head on a red background, no matter who they were fighting for.
Shaikur was her only true home, carved into a lonely, steep mountain centuries ago, a proud fortress with powerful stone walls and high battlements. Whoever walked through the Iron Fields could not miss it; the mountain with the fortress was the only big elevation in this area.
But nobody who wasn’t a Dragonblood – or a merchant - ever came here, neither as a guest nor as an enemy. All nations have tried to stay away from the Shaikan, every stranger made a long detour to get around the legendary, some claim cursed, castle. Only merchants from trading caravans didn’t pay attention to the rumors, because they had no reservations against someone who paid well. Exchanges take place in front of a main gate at the foot of the mountain; no merchant ever set foot inside the castle.
“Why are you here, daugher, and not in the hall, waiting for our guest?” Darmos’ voice rang once again through her thoughts.
“Ruorim isn’t a guest, father,” she replied, unable to prevent the sharp sound in her voice. “He’s Shaikan, just like you or me, he came for an official visit, because you want me to marry him.”
“He’s the best choice, Derata,” her father said gently. “Next summer you will be twenty. It's time to make a choice. I hope you will bring happiness to your old father, as befits a good daughter.”
Derata could barely suppress the anger rising up inside her like a wild animal. She wanted to fire back at her father, saying that she didn't want to be sold like a piece of cattle. But instead she said: “I still have time, father. And other goals.” She pointed to the distant horizon, over which a huge round moon hung like a cold, blind eye. The numerous howls were still audible but became much quieter. “The Lucien make our lands unsafe, and it doesn’t matter to me whether it affects people or only orcs. We can not produce everything ourselves. We need to trade for weapons and food, clothing and tools. We have to accept mercenary assignments in order to survive and to ensure our independence.” She looked at the sleeping, summer heat scorched land, spreading itself through the moonlight like a calm, silvery sea. “Fiara has fallen apart. War has been raging on for years. The once conspired Circle Mages are fighting each other with all means. No living thing of Fiara can escape it, and it brings the people suffering. The war feeds our people, father, certainly. But tell me, what will be left when it one day ends?”
Darmos listened in silence. His response didn’t hide his discontent: “You shouldn’t think about it, Derata. Nobody will ever be on our side.”
“That's what it's about, father. All wars end once and only a few warriors will be needed for protection. I want to believe in these times because I'm not as greedy for blood and power as Ruorim down there in the hall.” She looked into her father's eyes. “Did you see how he looked at me like a commodity? He doesn't want to enter covenant with me, he wants to own me. And I will never allow that.”
Darmos carefully lowered his iron hand on Derata’s shoulder. As a young man during a fight he lost a limb, but a blacksmith's magical art and the inheritance of the dragon's blood helped him create an agile replacement. Not as good as a real hand, but he could endure a short fight with the axe or hold a mug of black beer. “I think you're wrong, Derata. Of course, Ruorim’s over ten years older than you, but he can offer you more than a young vagrant. He is a great man and not of the ugly kind, as far as I can tell. I’m sure that he’s the best choice. Thanks to this alliance, we’ll be able to gain an advantage in the negotiations with the Circle Mages. And if we act smart, we’ll eventually be able to put an end to the war.”
“Let me think, father,” Derata asked sotfly.
“Well, I’ll leave you alone. But in the morning, I’m awaiting your decision, my child.” Darmos spoke sternly and firmly, for he didn’t like being talked back to, not even from his daughter. And his tone made it clear what decision he was expecting.

Finally, alone, Derata took a deep breath. Meanwhile, the moon rose higher, the shadows become shorter and darker. The air was fresh and clear, the gentle breeze brought the scent of wild herbs, rough steppe grass and honey orchids. There was complete silence, and she envied every peaceful sleeper for his carefree dream.
How to explain to her father that she didn’t want to get married? Derata sought to become a Dragon Warrior, and her primary goal was to bring the five Nortander royal houses around one table. With that, one could muster up a large army of humans and dwarves capable of facing a Circle Mage. Afterwards, and that was Derata's boldest dream, the other nations would perhaps regain the courage to once again enter a secret alliance of the Six in order march together against the remaining Circle Mages. According to Derata, and with that she was by no means alone, all the former members of the Circle had gone mad, everyone was striving for sole power and domination and was only pursuing their own goals. The year of the Convocation was not far off, and with that the time to attain the divine power was almost within reach. It was hard to imagine what would become of Fiara, and all Eo’s continents, once that happens.
On that predetermined day, as it had been told for centuries, Aonir's light would be darkened by a sky wanderer in broad daylight. The chronicles called this heavenly spectacle, which occurs only every three thousand years, the “Convocation”.
And when the Sun goes out this time, so it was foretold by the rune boards written in the old language of the Shapers, a tremendous magical powers will be released, which can be captured and used by the most powerful mages in elaborate rituals.
The rune boards thus promise godlike power to those who invoke all their strength. May the one who found them be cursed, thought Derata, for it has brought nothing but misfortune over Eo.
For powerful people, these prophecies naturally brought enticing prospects. The Circle of the most powerful Mages founded five hundred years ago had prepared for this day for a long time, a rumour which had longe become reality. Initially it was said that the Circle would ensure peace, which was probably the case at the beginning. But after the Archfire had been decrypted, the Circle Mages became immortal and were able to calmly prepare for the day of the Convocation throughout the centuries.
Now the prophesied day was only a few decades away. Centuries of immortality had gnawed on the reason and sanity of the Circle Mages. Their constantly growing craving for power and their striving for supremacy over all others had finally divided them and sparked the Convocation Wars.
According to Derata, none of the Mages deserved godlike power, because every one of them used any means at their disposal, cruel and unyielding, and ruthlessly destroyed the lives of thousands, regardless of their race. For only one goal: to be the most powerful of all and to rule over Eo.
The Circle Mages might think of the day of the Convocation as a sort of "redemption". But nowhere was it written in the rune boards what happened when such incredible power was focused into one person.
Derata feared that on such day, Aonir’s light would extinguish forever and the celestial Guardians would fall from the Heavens...

The moon stood over Derata, illuminating her tall, slender figure. The wind played with her long flowing hair, but she hardly noticed it.
For several hours she stood motionless. She was used to it, for she stood guard at battlements up above often enough. Shaikur was never unguarded, and everyone got their turn, including the daughter of the ruler.
Derata was waiting for the right moment before she returned to the inside of the castle. Her father was awaiting her decision in the morning, so he wouldn’t get it before then. Derata wanted to wait for Darmos to sleep and then go to Ruorim. It was not her way to postpone uncomfortable things for a long time. And she hoped Ruorim would calm down by the next morning.
Once she saw how easily he gets angered. He had hit a maid in the face, quickly and fiercely, because she had spilled a few drops of wine. Unfortunately, Derata’s father hadn’t noticed it. But Derata could imagine how the Shaikan would react when she rejects him. She wanted to save her father from this potentially violent dispute. All he had to do was find out the result. She was not afraid of Ruorim herself; in contrast to the maid, she was able to fight back. She would make that clear quickly, and Ruorim would think twice about taking action against the daughter of the ruler of Shaikur.
Yes, Ruorim seemed to consist of solid virtues, but she could see right through him from the moment he entered the hall.
Derata also remembered a sort of foresight from Marela the Gentle, the dragon priestess. Only a few days ago, she had taken Derata aside and whispered: “Watch for omens, Derata. Soon you'll have to make a very difficult choice. Someone will come who will change your whole life. And perhaps the life of our people. I saw a huge dark shadow fall over us, and you... it was strange, you were light and dark at the same time, and I saw a soul shining that was not yours, but rather very, very old...” Of course, Derata urged her to learn more, but Marela had been unable to express herself more clearly because the future paths were always foggy, shadowy and very vague, since small incidents could shift them.
Could Ruorim be that person? In any case, Derata immediately felt uneasy. She had given Marela a questioning look, but the priestess seemed absent.
The young woman only started to move again when the moon had already wandered behind her back. At this time, the entire fortress lay in deep slumber, with the exception of the guards on top of the slender towers. Because one thing was certain: their lives were forfeit should they ever fell asleep.
I must end this, Derata thought listlessly. She didn’t care much about having to deal with Ruorim. Sure, he was polite and attentive, but he had a cruel expression to him and he had a possessive handshake that was more than uncomfortable for her.
Then she had to laugh at herself. Were these really the thoughts of Derata, the swordswoman who feared neither necromancers nor berserkers, who had successfully conquered her first challenge at the age of seventeen and had thus acquired the rank of guard officer?
But I'd prefer ten battles with the weapon than this one with the word, she admitted to herself. She was not very skillful in handling words and behaving modestly. That's why she thought nothing of going to the chamber of a man who had asked her father for her hand, alone and in the middle of the night - to refuse him.
Well, going there was easy, but what then? How should she express what she wanted to do without making Ruorim an enemy of her father? Ruorim was born and raised in Nortander, belonging to a powerful Shaikan clan that brought forth many talented mages. Derata's father was not entirely wrong to see an advantage in the marriage.
It’s best not to think too long and just act. She clenched her fist on her chest, left the battlement and descended the narrow staircase that spiraled down into the castle like a snail shell. One hundred and sixty steps to the first junction, then another fifty to the Whisper Gallery, where the clan ruling over Shaikur, currently the family of Darmos Ironhand, lived. Derata opened the door and stepped into the main corridor, brightly lit by numerous torches. Ahead was the Throne Room, to the left and right aisles which led to the family and guest chambers. There were many niches in the outer wall with tiny windows cut into them, and two little doors which lead to a large balcony. A narrow iron spiral staircase led to the gallery on a mezzanine where the library was located. The Whisper Gallery was one of the first constructed parts of Shaikur when it was built, around four hundred years ago. Derata, who went there quite often as a child, believed to be able to hear the whispers of their ancesstors coming from the walls and dark corners. It was also said that if you listened carefully, you could hear the whisper of the dragon...

Nervously, Derata stopped in front of Ruorim’s chamber and looked around, but there was not a soul to be seen. Marela, hopefully your upbringing was worth something and I choose wise words.
Derata knocked on the wooden door.
After a few quick heartbeats a muffled voice sounded, “Who's there?”
“It's me, Derata,” she said just loud enough that it didn’t sound through the passage but was understandable from inside the chamber.
Rapid footsteps, then the door opened. Ruorim's expression changed from astonishment to expectant joy, which Derata noticed, but it didn’t exactly fill her with confidence. However, now she had to finish what she had started. “Excuse me for disturbing you at this late hour, but I must speak to you, urgently.” She especially emphasized the last two words to make him understand that this was not about a secret premarital tryst.
He lifted a black eyebrow: “Please, come in.” He stepped aside and invited her to enter.
Derata quickly slipped into the room; her heart was in her throat. “I cannot marry you,” she blurted out as soon as Ruorim closed the door. Chosen very wisely, indeed, she thought, upset at herself. Straightforward and blunt as always, so that you know immediately where things stand.
“This news is somewhat unexpected,” Ruorim said after a short, startled pause. “And not very well considered, seeing how late it is...” He offered her a chair to bridge this awkward moment. “Don’t you want to sit down, Derata?” The chamber was decorated modestly: a table, two chairs and a narrow bed with fur covers. On a board under a small window stood a basin for washing oneself and a jug of water. Ruorim's clothes were carelessly scattered ontop of a chest; he was already wearing his clothes for the night: a shirt and overcoat, however, he did manage to squeeze himself into grey boots.
The bed looked messy, so he must have been asleep already. But Ruorim's wolflike yellow eyes were wide-awake, his long black hair was neat, and his face showed a tense, curious, yet slightly amused expression.
Exactly the opposite of what she expected. Was she mistaken about this man, was he more than just superficial and brutal? Did he really have something like decency and sensitivity in him?
“Thank you, it is better if I say what I have to say standing and then leave immediately”, Derata said, suddenly embarrassed. “If my father knew that I'm here...”
“Such a conversation could have waited until morning”, Ruorim objected quite friendly, though his eyes remained cold. She couldn't blame him for that. “Do allow me to sit regardless in order to better cope with your rejection.” He went to the second chair, sat down, leaned back, and, waiting, twirled his long narrow shiny mustache.
“This matter is too important. It’s robbing me of sleep”, Derata continued.
“And that's why you want to rob me of mine,” Ruorim replied. Grinning lewdly, he added: “I had not dared to dream this, and if I had, I would have been under different circumstances.”
Derata blushed, suddenly she felt very foolish. “I am a warrior, not a strategist”, she apologized. “Forgive me for my blunt candor. But I said nothing all evening and I didn’t want to give you false hope. Everything seemed sealed between you and my father, but everyone forgot that I’m also entitled to a decision.”
“Is it my fault?” Ruorim asked.
Yes!, the voice of her temperament shouted inside Derata, but this time, she was able to control it. “Of course not,” she replied quickly. “I know you too little to judge that. It’s my fault. I'm still too young to tie the knot, and I have my own plans. You must understand, after years of long and difficult training, I finally earned a noteworthy rang for myself. I’m a Dragon Warrioress, and I want to act as one.”
“I understand.” Ruorim pointed at the empty chair again, with a clear gesture this time.
Derata sat down; she didn't want to be entirely rude. She relaxed slightly. Up to now Ruorim has been very calm. Here, far from the Throne Hall and the ears of others, he seemed like a completely different person, deprived of his loud mouth and arrogance. He continued to show manners and accepted Derata's rejection with decency. And she was prepared for the worst!
Ruorim looked at her closely: “Derata, I don't intend to lock you within four walls. Did you expecting that? Marriage should be a source of joy and not a yoke on the neck. As Shaikan, we’re the chosen ones, we stand far above the other humans and have no reason to share their customs and traditions.”
Pretty words, but could she believe them? “Nevertheless, I would no longer be free in my decision, sir. I just feel too young for such a responsibility.” She thought, then added: “You must have been feeling similar, since you didn’t tie the knot when you were my age, but have instead waited until today, once you’ve already reached your thirties.
Ruorim hesitated. Then he laughed: “Well said! You're right, Derata, I didn’t think it through. Same as your father. Of course, you have every right to demand more time to think, we really shouldn’t rush it. But allow me to keep my proposal, because after this conversation I know all the more that you are the only true and right woman for me.” He bowed, “I'll make you a suggestion: unfortunately, I have to travel to Nortander first thing in the morning, because I received a contract from the Hallits.”
Oh, that's why her father was in such a hurry to make a decision. Everything should have been settled before Ruorim’s departure. Without knowing, without time to think... in Derata, a spark of resentment flickered again. “Of course,” she replied. “One doesn’t keep the Hallits waiting.”
The House of Hallit was one of the most important houses of Nortander. They ruled over the north and south Windwall mountains and were devided equally among the humans and dwarves. Their proud coat of arms showed two crossed axes. The Hallits were regarded as upright, noble warriors of Light. And they paid well.
Ruorim being in their service bode well for him. Perhaps this could even drive forward Derata's own plan to bring the royal houses around the same table.
Still, in his presence, she continued to feel uncomfortable, and her distrust didn't decrease. But why? Undoubtedly, the Shaikan looked good with his distinctive facial features, which were perhaps cut out a little too harshly - somewhat softened by the dimple on his chin - the straight nose, the full lips and the large eyes that sparkled under his black brows. Ruorim was tall and muscular, but not bulky; he moved softly, like a cat, and had a very pleasant voice.---
“Go on,” she asked.
“I will be gone for at least two moons,” he continued. “During that time, I ask you to consider my offer. I will send you a message as often as I can and tell you more about me so that you can get to know me better. When I return, we'll discuss this matter again, especially your conditions. I'm sure we'll find common ground, and you’ll understand the benefits this marriage will have for our people – and maybe even all of Fiara. Would that be worth considering?”
Derata nodded without hesitation. She didn’t want to anger Ruorim, although she was sure that her opinion would not change. Anyhow, she bought herself time: who knows how things will stand in two months? A lot could change during that time. “This is quite the fair offering, noble lord. Thank you.”
“Not at all, my dear, this is all part of my seduction skills,” he said with a smile, “after all, I want to win over your heart.”
Yes, like some fortress, she thought dismissively. To amuse your self-esteem. Her smile was as sweet as sugar.
There was silence for a short while. Ruorim nodded thoughtfully. He seemed to have suggestion. “We should honour this occasion,” he said, “With a goblet of wine – please, you mustn’t refuse! I won’t let you go beforehand, my lady.”
Derata conceded: “Very well, but just one sip, then I really must go.”
Ruorim reached for his travel bag and pulled out of it a small dusty bottle. “I actually wanted to save this precious droplet for the engagement, but I think this opportunity is just right for it. A sweet wine that only the dwarves can press, rare and therefore only to be enjoyed in small quantities. It is called Golden Grape and, in a moment, you’ll see why.”
Derata carefully watched as he poured two small glasses of golden glimmering liquid.
“Do you feel relieved now?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said sincerely. “I didn’t expect you to take it so calmly.”
“Oh, by no means am I taking this calmly,” Ruorim said, his eyes suddenly lit up in a cold light, accompanied by an inappropriate courteous smile. “You can be sure that a storm is raging inside me right now, because the more I converse with you, the better I get to know you and the more I want you. But I know a good hunter must exercise patience, so I'm willing to comply and throw my heartache away on the battlefield.”
Flattering words but pronounced dead serious. Nothing added up with this man, and once again, Derata felt a shiver run down her spine.
She wanted to end the conversation as quickly as possible and go to sleep; after all, she has a difficult argument with her father waiting for her in a few hours. She raised her glass and clinked it with Ruorim’s, waited until he took a sip, and then took a sip herself. The wine was excellent. She had never drunk anything like it: warming, powerful, invigorating, yet soothing. She had to admit that she immediately felt much better. She felt Ruorim's lingering gaze resting on her; maybe he hoped Derata's mood would mellow down after enjoying the wine. She'd have to disappoint him. Indeed, she felt a little inebriate, but her mind was still clear. She smiled briefly at Ruorim before getting up, saying goodbye, and then hurrying to her room. The first hurdle was overcome.

The wine helped her doze off quickly. Derata was almost asleep as soon as her head sank into the pillow. She sighed and stretched, her tongue licked the last drops of wine from her lips, and she slipped slowly into the realm of the Creator, where all desires can come true, but can never be held onto, because the dream world and the real world were incompatible, although the border appeared very thin and sometimes almost blurred.
Derata sank into a deep dream that was so close to the border that on one hand she knew that she was dreaming and on the other she felt that everything was real.
She wandered through a deep valley covered by white, cold mist. Derata felt comfortable, the path was strangely familiar, and the fog moved alongside her. It protected her, she felt secure and peaceful as she wandered there. It didn't matter where the path went, just that she was on her way, right there, right now. It's like a dream, thought Derata in her sleep.
Then dream well, whispered something in her, let yourself drift...
It was a long path, the valley seemed to find no end. Derata noticed that she was barefoot. The grass under her bare feet felt cool, damp, and soft to the touch.
The mist closed more tightly around her, seeping under her clothes, coolingly stroking her heated skin. How beautiful you are, the glittering breath whispered. I always want to feel you, like you are now. I am so close to you. Can you feel me?
Yes, Derata replied. She mumbled in her sleep and turned around. She knew that she was doing this while continuing to walk through the valley, almost feeling like she was floating, as if her feet barely touched the ground. The fog seemed to carry them alongside it. She felt its caressing and stroking everywhere, and she relaxed more and more, at the same time, she experienced completely new, never-before-discovered feelings that excited her, that made her eager for more. She felt hot and cold at the same time, waves of sweat rolled down her skin, making her shiver.
I want you, the fog whispered. I want to be a part of you, to be in you, like blood flowing through your veins, so that I can have everything of you. Do you want me?
I want you, Derata answered. She moaned in her sleep, but she didn’t wake up. She sank deeper and deeper into the dream, did not want to let go of it, just kept floating, and she spread out her arms, noticed that she was floating now, let herself sink...
She felt the fog carry her, what's more, it was seeping into her skin, carrying cold and heat with it, oh how it made her blood rush, pulling its way through her body until...
... a bright light broke the dream, like a fireball of a trebuchet. It was almost like a pain, but at the same time it was very delightful, and Derata heard herself as she uttered a short cry, then she blacked out.
And below the Whisper Gallery, deep in the mountain, Marela the Gentle, dragon priestess of the Shaikan, sank, fell unconscious on the floor in her chamber, with an expression of unspeakable horror on her face.

The Autumn brought forth storms and heavy rain. The weather matched Derata’s mood. After Ruorim’s departure, her father hardly spoke to her. He knew his daughter well, and she knew it too. Derata had no doubt that he saw through her attempt to buy time. In order to deprive her of the chance to think, he’s entrusting her with numerous tasks inside the fortress. She could hardly take a step without being observed, and her duties required her to completely commit to them. Marela tried to have a conversation with her face to face several times, but strangely, something was always in the way of it, albeit unbeknownst to Derata. She was too engulfed in her own thoughts.
When the trees were almost bare and the first frost began to set, the day of the decision started drawing near. But Derata was lucky. Darmos Ironhand received a message in which Ruorim announced that he would late because there were still a few things that required his attention.
“Have you read his letter?” Darmos asked after informing his daughter.
“Yes,” Derata said ill-humored. “I bet he asked a scribe to do it, because this languishing love whirring doesn't fit Ruorim.”
“How do you know? You're almost a stranger to him.”
“A strange question, oh father, because in the same breath you ask to put me in his hand!”
It was the first in recent years, more or less serious conversation, and it immediately turned into a dispute. Enraged Darmos jumped: “I forbid you to attack me this way! Even if you are my daughter, you have to show me the necessary respect like everyone else! I’m the ruler of this fortress, it is my job to plan farsightedly and to ensure the well-being of the people. If your mother had ever been as choosy as you...”
Derata’s eyes darkened. “Do not touch my mother” she said in a low voice, in which lurked a threat. She almost forgotten her mother because she died when Derata was only four years old. But well remembered tenderness and happiness that she gave her. Her mother had been a Shaikan, not a warrior but a healer. What touched her became healthy in body and mind. Her sudden, inexplicable death had shaken Shaikur’s walls and let the Whisper Gallery sink into silence for a long time.
Darmos clutched at his chest, his face contorted, as if he suddenly fell ill heart. “Go away,” he said with difficulty. “We discussed everything in this matter. You will do what I tell you for the benefit of our people.”
“Father, I beg you, don’t be so cruel” Derata asked. “It shouldn't end like this between us. I respect and admire you, you know, but I can’t do what you think, because it's wrong. Ruorim pursues its own goals. He’s indifferent to our people. He wants to buy me because I'm of some use to him. I want to and I will find out, and then you will see that I am right.” After a pause, she added: “Also I have a right to respect, father, according to the laws of the Shaikan I am grown up and free in my decision. This is the prerogative of the Dragonblood.”
Darmos Ironhand taken a deep breath. And he turned away. “Go away,” he said.
Derata obeyed. She proudly did not allow her to implore him.
On the way back to her room she suddenly fell unconscious.

“What happened?” Derata jumped and twisted her head in dismay. “Why would I lie in bed?”
“All right, child.” Marela the Gentle helped Derata back down on the pillow. “You lost consciousness. Eavesdropper found you, brought here and called me.”
Eavesdropper was Marela's long grown-up but mentally retarded son, who had the heart of a child. He couldn't speak properly, but could heard a wolf's footstep thirty miles away.
“Derata, finally we were alone, so now I can talk to you,” Marela said in a serious voice. She replaced Derata’s mother and was her old friend, tutor and teacher. “I tried for a few weeks, but I never got close enough to you.”
“You could just have come to me”, Derata replied in surprise.
“That's what it's about, Derata,” Marela said gloomy, “I've had visions that deeply scare me, and they're all related to you. I'm afraid I don't need to give warnings anymore, because it's probably too late. But before I tell you more, I have to ask you something.”
Derata’s stomach clenched convulsively. “I’m ill?” she whispered anxiously. Shaikan rarely fell ill; dragon blood in their veins made them hardy, strong and insensitive to common poisons. They could endure more than normal people.
“Quite the contrary” the healer replied. “You’re pregnant.”
“I… what?” Derata jumped again and grabbed her friend-mother's hand. “What are you talking about? I can’t have a child, because I've never...” She couldn't go on talking from the indignation.
Marela's face darkened. “Think about it,” she said. “There wasn't someone after all, a young boy...?”
“Why don’t you believe me? Nobody could, Marela, you're probably wrong.”
The healer sighed deeply and anxiously: “I can’t mistake. Haven't you noticed yourself that something has changed in you lately?”
“Of course, but I paid no further attention,” Derata admitted. “Warriors don’t inherit women's weakness, Marela. Especially now that I have this argument with my father, I mustn't...” Her voice behaves without saying the sentence. She went pale, and she had a terrible suspicion: “Marela, you don't think so…”
“That's what I'm afraid,” Marela admitted. “In all the details tell me what happened before leaving Ruorim. And then we must commit ritual spells, because I see some connection, and I’m very scared. If I'm right, Ruorim bears dark plans...”
Derata was confused, but quickly pulled herself together and told about the conversation that night in Ruorim’s room. “But that was all,” she concluded. “You just made a mistake, Marela, he didn’t even...” Her eyes widened. “But... but then the dream, I had absolutely forgotten it...”
“Tell me along the way,” Marela said. “Come on, now we have some things to figure out.” She rose and had to lean on a stick, because the strength of her legs faded away. The constant pursuit of the magical path consumed her own physical strength. “Eavesdropper, follow me,” she said to her son, who quietly standing at the door all the time as though on guard.

On the way down, deep into the castle, where the ancient alchemist's chamber lay secluded, Derata reported about the dream, and then about the recent argument with her father a few hours before she fell unconscious. Marela listened attentively, without commenting, then put on the table a large bowl. With quick deft movements, she opened and closed cans, jugs and bottles, from which she took powders, dry grass, animal fur and tiny bones and she folded all into a bowl. “Give me your hand, the one that’s closer to the heart,” she finally asked Derata, who sat silent and turned towards her. Derata stretched her left hand. Marela immediately made a sharp knife cut on the index finger. Derata didn’t even flinch. She calmly looked at the blood flowing from the wound. Marela turned her hand and squeezed the wound. Several deep red drops fell into the bowl.
It hissed softly and began to steam. “The time is right” Marela murmured. From the fire in the hearth, she lit a pine chip and threw it into the bowl.
The mixture in the bowl exploded with a hiss, turned into a gray smoke that rose up, resembling a thick fog, and quickly dissolved.
Derata recoiled, but the healer cried: “Keep calm, breathe it! Give me your hand, I'll drive you. Soon you’ll see it...”
Derata felt the firm grip of the bony hands. Obediently, she inhaled the smoke, which made her dizzy instantly. Eyes watered, everything was covered in a veil.
“Pay attention,” Marela’s quiet voice came to her ears as if through cotton wool, she felt as she pulled her hand. “Don’t drive away! Concentrate!”
Derata blinked and responded the grip. And she stared into the dark cold smoke; nostrils widened suddenly, the breath from her mouth steamed suddenly cold. And then she saw...

... herself, sleeping in a bed. But she wasn’t alone. Someone approached her, bent down and pulled the blanket, undressed her, and touched...
Derata felt nausea rising when she saw what had happened to her without her knowing. “How?” she whispered in disgust.
“The wine” Marela’s voice came from afar. “He put something into it that made you unwilling and brought him under his control.”
“But I saw it myself, he too drank...”
“Then he drank an antidote beforehand, or some of it was already in the glass. Maybe he magically overheard your conversation with Darmos and expected your visit.”
Derata seen enough. She pulled away from Marela, jumped up and abruptly threw the cup on the table. With a crash the bowl broke into a thousand pieces, the contents spread out on the floor. The smoke quickly evaporated and the dragon priestess hurriedly stepped on the rest of the burning chip.
“I kill him,” Derata cried. “Damn his black soul, Hirin shall fetch him and bring him to the shore without return, where he may never find rest! How dare he do violence to me and plant his bastard in me, forcing me to make a bond with him?”
Marela bent over the remains of ashes, over which rose a thin smoke rings. She muttered something unintelligible and his crooked finger charted signs in the air.
“Quiet!” finally she said to the raging Derata, without turning her head. “That's what it's about, Derata, which I've been researching all the time and could only guess at so far. There is more, much more, and now it finally clears up because I could add your blood...”
Derata instantly fell silent and went to the priestess: “What do you see?”
“Your son...”
“It’ll be a boy?”
“Yes. Quiet, everything disappears... Ruorim wanted to stain more than your honor. Look, do you see it?”
Derata saw only blood, nothing but blood, her blood rushing through her veins and cried out for revenge for what have been done to her. She could barely hear her own voice in her ears pounding. “Blood” she hissed, “blood’ll flow.”
“Yes, but different than you think” Marela said, grabbing Derata by the shoulders and shook her. “Stop thinking about yourself, Derata, the story is much worse than you imagine! This is not about you, but about your child!”
“Cut it out of me, then the story is over!” Derata shouted.
Frightened Marela created a sign to protect from evil spirits. “I don’t commit such a crime on a member of our clan. I would draw eternal blood vengeance on me!”
“I don’t want it!” exclaimed Derata hateful. “Nobody can force me to raise the bastard!”
“You have no choice, in your son's veins flows the blood of the dragon,” the priestess said. “It’s of great importance. Derata, please, listen to me. His father wanted his son to use, you are obliged to stop him!” She began to shake again Derata and cried in a ringing voice of terror: “All signs suggest that your son brings Malakay’s soul!”
Derata wasn’t impressed by that. “We all have the soul of our grandfather in us, Marela, you should know that better than me!”
“Only in the figurative sense, don’t you understand? In your son he rests and can wake up one day!” The priestess was in despair. “At first I thought he was in you, but it is much worse!” The room was dark, the candles and torches continued to burn, but almost didn’t give light.
Derata felt the blood roar as the words gradually penetrated into her mind and she understood them.
Priestess continued: “In times of great war, when the magic is stronger, his soul also strengthens. Consider: the time of the Convocation is approaching. Everything strives towards it!”
Derata became pale as the snow illuminated by moonlight. Marela’s words penetrated her mind deeper and deeper. She sank into a chair. “It’s not true” she whispered. “Do you want to say that the old alchemist, the soul deceiver, could be reborn in my son? He, the forefather who made our people the Shaikan, whose sins we carry around with us forever? He who brought the curse over us?”
With a trembling hand, Marela threw a streak from her sweaty forehead. She too was deeply shaken by the truth, which was finally clearly before her. “Everything speaks for it, Derata,” she replied softly. “Ruorim must have known that your pure blood connection creates the necessary prerequisite. Maybe he acted on his own initiative, maybe it was meant for him. But the result remains the same. I'm so sorry.”

That same night, after careful consideration Derata decided to flee. Marela tried in vain to dissuade her. Nor could she get the young woman to go to her father and talk to him about it beforehand.
“He rejected me twice, Marela” Derata repeated. “He kicked me out of the room, like a stray dog. I don’t forgive.”
“But if you leave without saying goodbye, you won't be able to forgive yourself,” the priestess warned her. “You love your father and you know that he also loves you.”
“Marela, you’re wise and a great soothsayer, but now you're just blind. He wasn't going to listen to me at all, and if he did, he certainly wouldn't believe me. In recent years, so much has happened, and he madly infatuated of Ruorim. Maybe this charlatan made him obedient to his will, as well as me that night.”
“But where do you want to go? You can’t save your child from its peculiarity by running away!”
Derata nodded: “Maybe. But i can go to places where the father's inheritance is not lurking in every wall, where I am not surrounded by the breath of the dragon. You're the one who forced me to do this, Marela, forcing me responsible for that encumbering brat.”
“But he’s your child,” Marela said softly. “It grows in you, fed your blood, hear your heartbeat. He’s innocent. He need you.”
“But here I’m still not able to protect it... my son,” Derata replied. “I see no other choice but to leave. You're right, he’s not to blame for the fact that he come to light, I hope that he’ll inherit from me more than his father. So I’ll raise him as far away from here, brought up as a normal person, he does not need to know anything about his terrible legacy.”
Marela sadly shook her graying hair. “Derata, you're making a terrible mistake. You can’t protect your son from the danger denying its existence. If Malacay wants to take possession of his body, the boy needs to know about his legacy, to be able to fight back.”
Derata closed the sword belt, checked that dagger, knife and small axe were seated correctly, then shouldered her bundle: warm clothing, a blanket, a few supplies, medicinal herbs. She taken the quiver and reached for the bow next to it. “I'll be there. And if need, I’ll take the bloody sin and I’ll kill my own child before he becomes Malacay. Whatever happens, I can’t stay here, Marela. Previously, these walls were my homeland, but now they are cursed, and Ruorim is about to return. From now on I'm no longer a Shaikan, but a breakaway.”
Priestess cried: “Wait at least a couple of days, I'm sure I'll think of something! I'll find a way, a summon, just give me time!”
But Derata’s decision remained adamant. She bowed and kissed Marela on the forehead. “Be well, my teacher and friend. I'm so grateful to you, I’ll never forget you. I hope my father doesn't get too angry with you.”
“He’ll look for you.” Marel again tried to appeal to girl’s mind.
“No, I don’t think so. He will tear me completely from his heart, because I bring shame on him by my escape and he’ll banish me from the Chronicles.” Derata forced Marela to look her in the eyes: “I ask you one thing: he must never find out that I was expecting a child. What he does not know he can’t pass on Ruorim.”
“I promise, even if it's wrong,” Marela said with despair in her voice. “Because I hope that you’ll think again on it, Derata! I will spend my further time looking for a way to save your son and preparing everything for a summon. Even if you have to wait for years, it doesn’t matter. I hope you come back when you manage to come to your senses and look at the situation from the outside. Go now, the storm intensified. Eavesdropper’s already in the stable, he saddled your horse.”

Derata's heart was heavy as she descended the stairs. She wanted to leave at least a letter to his father. But she should act calmly and carefully.
Outside the storm roared around Shaikur, fitting this difficult hour. She considered it a good sign, because the storm immediately cover all traces. And the guards on the battlements would have a hard time penetrating the dark rain curtain with their eyes and making out a single rider.
The castle was quiet and the corridor was empty. Who was still awake was in the Throne Hall, by the warming fire. Before morning nobody would notice that Derata was gone. During this storm, nobody would expect someone to be so crazy to leave the protective walls.
Eavesdropper was waiting, holding the reins of Goldenbolt. Derata owned the stallion, whose fur shimmered like liquid gold in the sun, three years ago. He followed her heels and had never carried on his back other riders. He was quick as the wind, agile and resilient. And not afraid of anything. Now he was her only friend. A small consolation in such a difficult hour.
“Thank you, Eavesdropper,” Derata said to the mute man. He let out a gasp, and tears rolled down his round cheeks. He stretched out his calloused hand and awkwardly patted Derata’s cheek.
She had a lump in her throat, so she hurried. She swung herself into the saddle and steered Goldenbolt into a narrow passage. From there a small drawbridge led to a rock path that was steep and difficult. Few people knew that old way, but Derata often traveled here on Goldenbolt when she wanted quickly and quietly go out of the castle. At the main gate at the bottom of the mountain there were guards who could not pass unnoticed.
“When I'm there, lift the bridge immediately and then go straight to your mother.” she ordered to Eavesdropper, who followed her waddling. “Don't get caught, do you hear? I didn't like father whipping you just because you obeyed me.”
Eavesdropper said something unintelligible, forced himself past the horse and opened the door. The horse barely walked through the doorway, Derata had to crouch low into the saddle. Feeling the cold wind, Goldenbolt shuddered and snorted. And he began to dance, but Derata gently whispered something in his ear and spurred him on. Trusting in his mistress, the stallion ventured out into the storm, which hit them in the face with full force, as soon as they leaved the protective walls behind. Derata could hardly see the hand in front of her eyes, but she knew the way well enough. When she heard the hollow sound of hooves on the bridge planks, she turned again.
Behind her, Derata saw an elongated bright spot in the black rainy night, with the fragile outline of a man in it who waved timidly. She waved back and hoped that Eavesdropper in his grief would not forget to lift the bridge as soon as the horse had overcome the deep abyss.
And then she began to look forward.
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