[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapter 2

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[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapter 2

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 2 – The song of the wind
On his fifteenth birthday, Goren Fatherless raced in Lyraine’s forest, past the fields surrounding the city, deeper and deeper into sun-stained moss and leaf noise. He avoided the commercial street on which, as was usually the case, lively traffic of horses and oxen carts, loaded with all kinds of goods. Today was market day and there was always a lot going on. Against Derata’s advice, the city gates were wide open on this day and there were no special controls.
“How can I feed the city, if I start to lock the gate?” Darwin Silverhair asked in presence of Goren. “I’m responsible for this people. We have so modest incomes, I have no right to reduce theirs.”
Goren had a huge advantage by open gates: he could go unnoticed in those days; however, he didn’t take Goldenbolt, because it was too noticeable. The horse, next to which Goren grew, lived for nearly nineteen years, but until now, surprisingly, remained fast and invincible. Even though Goren had grown and was too heavy for his age, the horse could easily wear it on its back flying faster than the wind.
“There’s nothing strange,” just yesterday Derata explained to her son. “It has its origin in a special, very ancient breed. He will survive for more than thirty years. And he will still be able to carry you quickly across the meadows.”
“But it's your horse”, Goren confusedly recalled.
The sums offered for Goldenbolt were now incredibly high; one could probably buy an entire castle from it. The men of the Guard had long given up hope of ever receiving the exposed golden Eagle. Races only took place twice a year at solstice, along with a large market and celebrations to honor the Guardians.
“You wanted to get the gold,” Derata said. “Six years ago, you wanted this more than anything. And now it's yours.” She handed the reins to Goren. “Sometimes you only need a little bit of patience to be rewarded, my son.” She stroked the stallion's nose and left.
Worried, Goren looked after her. He felt a huge lump in his throat. His mother had grown older, like him, but even more beautiful because of it, and her strength was unbroken, her gait springy, fast and quiet. She was still very strict and asked Goren more than anyone else. But sometimes, like today, he received a generous reward for his efforts, and then he realized that in her breasts a warm feeling are still living, which, unfortunately, she showed extremely rare. He was very anxious to know what was going on in Derata’s mind, but he didn’t dare to ask questions.
Goren acquired an ally in Darwin Silverhair, who had repeatedly made careful advances, but Derata never let herself be softened. She seemed to live only for the sake of her duties and for training Goren as Captain. Between Goren and Darwin reigned absolute trust, comforting the boy who hadn’t forgotten the difficult in his childhood without a father. For a long time he no longer had to endure mockery; Zachary had been avoiding him since the fight, and the others were now smaller and weaker than him; they also knew about his preferred position with the governor and didn’t want to spoil relations with him.
And now, Goren thought, while he was walking down a field lane, I have the most valuable treasure of all Lyraine: Goldenbolt. He’s my best friend, loyal, proud and bold. Why my mother did so, especially during a conversation? I know that it’s her way of doing it, nevertheless - it was my birthday today and she said nothing about it this morning, but rather obliged me more than usual.
Which he was not going to meet today, and for once he didn't care whether it evoked his mother's anger. He felt great, carried on the waves of approaching early summer, and his heart was light. Goldenbolt belonged to him! He still didn’t believe it. Yesterday he was shocked, but today he was swimming into happiness. The weather was already clear, the scent of freshly cut hay smelled everywhere, the first roses opened their glowing blossoms, and the air was filled with the song of the birds.
Today Goren was the richest kid in whole Fiara, and his heart was singing along to the birds. He ducked into the woods and ran on game trails, up to the Skystriker, as it was called, because it was the tallest tree in the forest and the only one of its kind. Its protruding crown towered far above everyone else. Its bark was fibrous and velvety-soft, and knocking against it sounded hollow. The leaves, light green and white grained, were narrow and fine and hung from long stems. His branches rose up like a priest who stretched his arms skyward in a prayerful ritual. It was said that the Skystriker was the first tree before the forest grew around it.
Goren jumped, stretched out his hands and his strong fingers grabbed the lowest branch. The boy was now tall enough to get up, and his mother's hard training paid off. Easily, like a squirrel, he swung on the branch, got to his feet and grabbed the next branch. He climbed up weasel-fast, higher and higher.
Other people would have become dizzy. Not Goren, he couldn't go high enough. Soon he left the tops of the other trees behind him; the trunk of the Skystriker tapered and branched more and more into finer branches.
From here it got really dangerous. Goren could never be sure that a branch would not suddenly break under his weight. Then there might be no stopping on the way down.
But that's exactly what Goren loved, this heart-pounding uncertainty, the thin line between heaven and earth, a magnificent view all around. Then he was one with the world and satisfied.
On clear days the view stretched eastwards to the “Needle”, a towering, thin line far away from inconspicuous gray rock, but mystical symbol of Fiara, about whose secret only a few knew today.
Out there, behind the forest, there was the hilly grasslands and extensive steppes as far as the eye could see. To the west, the coastline ran along the horizon, hidden behind eternal haze.
Goren cocked his head into the wind and began to sing softly. His voice sounded young and pure, but it was already approaching the deeper maturity of the man.
“Night rises / I look at the distant shores /
sparkling hidden in the fog /
night also surrounds me /
I never see Finon Mir's silver fall.
Good wanderer Aonir /
take me in / bathe me in the shine of your stars /
I want to look at your light / give me your smile.
I can already see the black stallion approaching /
to the river! To the river!
carry me quickly / the end of the journey is near.”

Goren listened to the echo of his voice, the last tones were captured by the tree tops and danced playfully over the leaves until they disappeared gradually.
He didn’t know why he came up with this very sad song, but he liked its melody and soft words. He felt almost like a hero. In the light of the setting sun, he imagined the battlefield, heard the plaintive groans and clashing of swords, sawing one man fell and died, and the other won. Over the field flew wind with a sad whistle, filled with grief and suffering, and it blew Goren's imagination into reality. The image became darker, and the red of the sun turned to blood. Wind ruffled Goren’s black hair, rushed around him, and Goren saw little swirls in the air, blue and red and green, which floated gently as if on the waves of the sea. They shaped as mouth and whispered, a lot about of what had happened, what might happen, or what will happen.
His eyelids fluttered, his eyes blurred. It wasn’t the first time he heard the whisper of the wind, not similar to his inner voice. In some inexplicable way he knew it wasn’t a dream and that he was not talking to himself. The wind blew on it, sang and whistled and whispered with many voices. Goren had heard this as a child, but never understood it.
“Mom, the wind talk to me”, he said one day when they were sitting in front of a fireplace; it was one of the rare quiet evenings, when she told him the story.
“And what did it say?” she asked attentively. She seemed to believe him.
“I don’t know, I couldn’t make out.”
“Then continue to listen, son, and someday you’ll learn the language of the wind. The closer you listen, the more quickly you’ll understand.”
Maybe that's why Goren liked to come up here? To listen to the song of the wind in the hope to understand what it wants to say? Then he will no longer have to talk to himself...
“Talk to me,” he whispered. “I’m listening to you, I see all that you showed me... I'm listening for so long. Talk to me, so I learned to understand...”
He listened. Long and in deep, serious concentration. The way he had observed Master Altar of the more often when he underwent a magical exercise. “The mana is in yourself, my boy,” the old man said when he drunk too much of the good berry wine that Goren should bring him to bed. “The mana is the power of magic. If you own it, of course, I mean. But if so, you have to learn to focus this power to release it. Thus you can use magic that surrounds us, because it’s everywhere, it’s the aura of our world. All masters extract their power from themselves and use the flow of magic, that's it.”
The next day Altar didn’t remember what was chatting under the influence of wine vapors, but Goren didn’t forget anything, because he suspected that it wasn’t empty talk, but an important element of teaching.
And since he was the only one who heard the singing of the wind and the whispering voice inside, he was sure that it was magic.
But he had never thought about it as seriously as he did today on his birthday, when he was in a strange mood and longing for the stars, just like any youngster who was growing up and who wanted to conquer the world no less.
Goren tried to imagine what Magister Altar meant that he could release the mana within himself as power. He focused on his inner self, imagining that the mana was a small glowing ball that slowly moved into his head and then opened his eyes and ears.
He saw as clearly as never before. And heard better than ever.
And then...
… he understood the song of the wind.
They will wake up in the wide country, under the rocks so heavy, the wind whispered.
Goren sat quietly and listened.
The Sleeper has awakened, my poor child, and there is no hope for you.
Unless you find the right way.
You have to go where your roots are.
Have no fear, you are long forgiven.
Soon you have to go, because he will come.
He wants you, he wants your soul, he has been looking for you for so long.
Do not listen to him.

“I don't understand the meaning of your words.” Goren whispered. A cold shiver ran down his back, his mouth became dry. Usually the boy was scared by nothing.
Fine, thin, long spider-like fingers formed from the swirls, touched Goren's face, and he immediately felt the feeling of an icy breath that stroked him.
And then the wind sang again:
“When wander you amongst the darkest night /
never despair / within you find your might /
Aonir's light / in perils comes much strong /
you and your foe connected for too long /
search your soldier, search your fighter /
seek the solitary rider /
a gloomy shadow / in the silver eye /
an enemy / yet certainty might fade /
to Ur you speak / your blood will testify /
the keeper is the harsh Aonir's Blade.”

Goren heart was ready to jump out of his chest. What does it mean? Finally he made out the words of the wind, but they evolved into some gloomy predictions, the meaning of which was incomprehensible to him. It wasn’t what he wanted. Especially in this day. He had imagined that the wind would be told to him by distant countries, who would lure him on adventures, foreign people, fabled castles, legendary heroes and beautiful princesses. But he didn’t like what he heard. His first trip into magic went completely wrong.
“Oh, shut up!” he shouted angrily at the empty air. Day suddenly seemed to him not so bright and happy. Despite the warm radiant Tiara’s smile in the sky, he was shivering. Goren immediately came down from the tree, his mood for excursions was basically spoiled.
He suddenly got remorse because he had simply sneaked away without saying anything to anyone and, moreover, had left the work. He decided to go back to town, to buy something on the market, maybe a little vegetable; that would be at least an excuse why his day-to-day work had not yet been done.
But before he did that, he had something else to do.

Goren arrived breathless on the tower, where Master Altar was taking a short nap in a tattered armchair, his hands folded on his stomach, the inevitable pinch glasses on his nose. A usual ritual, just before lunch. Even though the little old man was thin as a rake, he still had an incredible appetite, and no one had try to compete eating with him for a long time.
Master Altar jumped up when Goren rushed in, bumping into a small table that certainly hadn't been there this morning and was heavily loaded with notes and tomes. It tipped over and crashed to the ground; the sheets spread all over the floor.
“Hey!” the master cried, grabbed his staff and began wildly to rotate them. “What’s the matter?” If Goren had been close enough he would have been hit a few times. However, they no longer bothered him today: Altar had not even been able to crush a sparrow with his frail hands. But it was also part of the ritual; Master Altar's whole life consisted of quirky habits that Goren had long been involved with.
After six years he quickly understood that Altar was in his mood and liked to let his anger run free, but was actually a good-natured, friendly old man, a good time began for Goren.
Of course, he had to work properly to at least keep order on the tower, because Altar was terribly negligent, but Goren learned a lot. When the Master realized that his assistant was inquisitive and not half-stupid as he always called him, he taught him to read, write and do arithmetic, and gradually he was allowed to venture into more difficult works.
“Excuse me, master, but it’s extremely important,” Goren blurted out. “The wind just talked with me! No – honestly, there were several wind voices, so to speak!”
“What nonsense are you talking about, stupid!” Master Altar yelled, and struggled up from the worn-out upholstery. He drove through the eternally tangled hair and looked around in search: “Have you seen my eye glasses?”
“On your nose, master, as always.”
Altar felt his nose, and his rumpled face ran a joyful smile. “Actually, they wasn't! Well, I haven’t time for that. Indeed,” he waved his hand impatiently, “do you please clean up this mess that you have done here! Here, my morning work, you messed everything up!”
Goren thought it best don’t argue and silently set to work. Altar rummaged around in a chest near the stairs. That wooden spiral staircase ran through the middle of the tower from the ground floor to the top. Gallery corridors branched off on every floor.
Finally the Master returned to his assistant with an armful of scrolls. “These still has to be sorted and included in the overall list today, right?”
“Yes, master.”
“Oh yes, my boy, by the way, congratulations on your birthday.”
Goren's face brightened: “Thank you, Master. I turned fifteen today!”
Master Altar raised blue eyes on the child, who already towered over his head: “Really? Almost a grown man, right?” Shaking his head, he threw the papers on the table where Goren just put things in order. The stack swayed and collapsed again.
Goren was about to tear his hair out. Sometimes his master's quirkiness didn't bother him. Today, however, he had other things in mind, and the experience on the Skystriker was still occupying his thoughts.
“The voices said that bad times will come and something about Aonir’s Blade the keeper and that I should speak to Ur. I don't understand anything, maybe others that are older and supposedly wiser than me could do. But nobody listens to me and takes me seriously,” he growled angrily as he started to clean up a second time.
Master Altar wiggled eyeglasses on the nose, which suddenly seemed even more pointed than usual. “So what is the story about the voices of the wind, boy?”
But Goren was offended. “I'm sure it's just a fantasy, you’re absolutely right.”
“Leave the judgement to me, right?” the alchemist replied sternly. “Tell me word by word, I am listening to you now, and you wanted that, after all, right?”
Goren took a breath and began to tell, also reproducing the singing word by word. Master Altar listened in silence, without interrupting him. in between he scratched his nose and straightened his eyeglasses.
When Goren finished the story, he said: “Phenomenal memory, indeed, right? Very nice told, I almost felt as if I was there and felt the wind blow around my nose.” He tapped lightly on Goren's chest and looked up at him intently. “It’s actually no imagination, foolish boy.” He seemed to have forgotten that he had previously described his assistant as a blockhead who was chat about nonsense.
“Then could you explain what the wind tried to tell me.”
“No, it’s too vague for me, right? But I can explain to you something else, son: this day is special for you.” Master Altar skillfully paused; he had a tendency to dramatic effects. Goren refrained from said anything and acted as if he didn't care anymore, as if the air wasn't crackling with tension. It was also a game between them: neither of them wanted to do anymore.
“It looks like,” the old wizard finally continued, “you have magical talent, but still not quite normal. If you learn to use it properly, it can be a huge help to you, because the wind could warn you of impending dangers, for example. It’s like a kind of clairvoyance, right?”
Goren had liked to sit down now, but there was no chair nearby, and Altar kept tapping his forefinger on his chest to underline his words, so he couldn't get one either. “Then did it work?” he breathed, and he felt the blood drain from his face. “I released my mana, as you said...”
“Me? What did I say? When did I say that?” Altar furiously dug his finger into the belly. “I don't just chat something like that, understand, right? Fool boy, you’re blessed with the luck of fools, but what worked once can go wrong another time. That means: you have to train your talent so that you have it under control and can use it properly. Otherwise it could be very dangerous.”
“And you can help me?” Goren said excitedly. Day suddenly became bright and sunny again.
“I just have to do it, son. But do not hurry! Who knows how pronounced this talent really is, and maybe you're just a steam-chatterer instead of a wind-whisperer.” Master Altar stood on his toes and moved his index finger to Goren’s nose. “I can see right through any charlatan, so be careful, boy!”
Goren got nervous so that he almost dropped the stack of papers that have just collected. Master Altar was going to teach him magic! He had always thought he was hopelessly untalented, just a screwball who wasn't right in the head because he heard some voices out there. He hadn't really believed it even the first time he tried to focus on his mana.
“Wind-whisperer... wind-whisperer… Goren Wind-Whisperer,” he muttered to himself, piling up the papers again, this time disorderly. “Sounds a lot better than Goren Fatherless.”
“What are you drivelling again, blockhead?” Master Altar asked absently, searching through other stacks in search of a manuscript. He blinked in surprise, as Goren suddenly hugged him strongly.
“Master, I'm sorry – but I must go, I still have a lot to do!” And then he disappeared.

As he stormed out of the tower, Goren collided with Helim, who was about to bring a basket of fruit to Master Altar. The basket fell down. Apples and honey-sweet yellow peaches tumbled away, and Helim scolded: “Goren Fatherless, you are and will remain a clumsy, you are worse than the master!”
“Not Goren Fatherless, Helim Redhead,” he said seriously, “I'm Goren Wind-Whisperer.”
She opened her mouth, but then a sarcastic grin appeared on her pretty face. She was sixteen, and she turned into a charming girl with fiery red hair and sparkling eyes, rounded shapes and bold gait. “Oh, that's it, Wind-Whisperer,” she said emphatically. “Well, then today I will whisper something to you.” She slightly leaned forward and shout at him: “If you don’t immediately gather all the fruits, not wash them and and put it back in the basket properly, you’ll feel the hot wind of my slaps on your cheeks!”
Goren hurried to do what she wanted, because Helim was fearsome for her temperament and strong hands. When he was done, he said: “And by the way, it's my birthday today. I will go to the Grim Orc and if you like I’ll invite you for a puck beer.”
A puck beer was a small glass of beer for a copper coin; something like that could afford Goren himself.
Helim Redhair put the basket in the side and gave Goren a roguish smile. “Who knows...” she answered and stepped into the tower shaking her hips.

Goren had liked to invite his mother, but Derata never entered a tavern. Even though she was still a young woman, she behaved like someone who has had her whole life behind her. Goren didn't know his mother differently, but he was sorry today. He had never managed to make her laugh in all these years; she was always unapproachable, just devoted to her duty. She had probably imposed this on herself. Why? Goren asked himself once again. What does she keep punishing herself for? Why can't she finally return Darwin Silverhair’s love or at least give her hand to him? She could have been much easier and be happy. Nobody deserves to live this way.
As always, the tavern was full. Goren ordered a puck beer and silently toasted for luck. In the course of the evening a few city guards came and they invited him. Helim Redhair didn't show up. Shortly before midnight Goren had enough. He was tired and the day had been full enough. He had received two unusual gifts: Goldenbolt and the gift of wind-whispering. Enough to sleep well.
He left the stuffy, smoky bar and gasped for fresh air outside. He made a quick decision to spend the night near Goldenbolt, his best and most loyal friend. The daily routine began again tomorrow, but he still wanted to enjoy the night.
Going into the stable, he immediately realized that there was someone there. Involuntarily his hand went to the weapon belt, on which a short, sharp sword had hung since the first spring moon. “Come out of the shadows.” he said to the intruder.
The moonlight fell pale through the open stall and through some rifts in the wood, onto the straw bales and part of the alley.
Something flashed in the dusky cold light and Goren's eyes widened in astonishment when he saw Helim's loose, swinging red hair. She came out from behind a support beam and slowly approached Goren with a strange smile and shining eyes.
“I was about to run out of patience,” she said in a strange purring voice. She wore only a thin dress, almost transparent, held by a narrow bodice, and the moonlight clearly traced her feminine forms.
Goren’s throat was dry. “You're... here... I thought...” he muttered hesitantly.
“You’re really a blockhead.” she murmured, wrapping her bare, pale arms around his neck and nestling against him.
Goren became dizzy, he didn’t understand what was happening to him. His whole body suddenly turned into a bonfire, and emotions never felt before rushed at him. He had never been so close to a woman; it was a long time since Derata had hugged him – and that had been different from this. “I…”, he began in confusione, but he couldn't get any further.
Helim pressed her soft, full lips to his mouth, and then she did much more unheard-of things. He felt the eager search of her warm tongue, which twitched in his mouth like a caught fish, patted his teeth, wrapped his own tongue.
But the scare lasted no longer than a second, then Goren managed it. There are things that one don’t need to learn, they’re already in; at first, it may have been a little awkward, but then he knew exactly what to do, and quickly gained experience.
In any case, he not only made Helim purr in a short time, but also made her emit sharp little noises, and he proved to be a natural talent. And as persistent hungry on top of that, because the moon had long since disappeared behind the next wall until he finally stopped and let herself sink back exhausted into the straw.
“I never thought...” he whispered with a blissful smile.
Helim leaned over him and stroked his chest. “You're a self-made, Goren Wind-Whisperer, and I really like your talents,” she whispered. “We will do that again...”
Goren didn’t ask where this sudden change from total rejection to sensual devotion came from. He was happy to be able to experience this moment and Helim was a beautiful girl, passionate and tender. Before he realised it, he had fallen in love for the first time in his life, and that was the best feeling of all.

“Well, what happened, daydreamer!” Master Altar strongly pushed Goren’s side. “We have an exam and you’re sleeping!”
“No, I'm not sleeping!” Goren assured him and quickly straightened.
Helim kept her word, they now met almost every night and continued extensively what they had started on Goren's birthday. The young man could not think about anything else, only about her, about her dimples that appeared when she smiled, her brilliant red hair that shone like copper in the sun, her graceful movements and supple body. It was like an exhilaration, but without a subsequent headache and disenchantment, then they kept on going.
“Aha,” the alchemist said doubtful and frowned at the bushy brows. “Then let's see. We’re in history. Are you listening?”
“Yes, Master!”
“Well, let's start with the appearance of the first dragon in Godeland.”
“It happened about forty-five thousand years ago, master.” I'll kiss her forty-five thousand times.
“The first appearance of the humans?”
“Five thousand years later.” I’ll plant five thousand white roses for her.
“When humans discovered the dwarves?”
“A million years ago...” I’ll pick a million stars from the sky for her.
“For Zerbo’s Violin, what nonsense are you talking about!” Altar reached for a ruler and let it whiz down on Goren's head; that finally brought the boy to his senses.
“I'm sorry, master, of course I mean almost a thousand years ago,” he corrected himself and, without pausing for breath, he continued: “About sixty years later the Hybernian Empire was proclaimed and the first God Emperor ascended the throne. The continents were explored in the years that followed, and then, about seven hundred and fifty years ago, the first war between the races began. The empire crumbled over thirty years later into Nortander, Highmark and New Empire, where we aren’t entering. The elves locked Finon Mir borders. Six hundred years ago, the War of the Six Races ended with the intervention of the Guardians. Not least because the Fial Darg…”
Goren fell silent, startled, when the chamber suddenly grew dark, even though the sun was shining outside. But its rays no longer penetrated, and glittering darkness spread. Even the air seemed to be heavy and dense, and Goren hort voices whispered in a foreign language that chilled him down the spine.
Master Altar also jumped up. “Shut up, foolish boy!” he described some gestures in the air and muttered a spell. Goren noticed that a kind of fog was forming around both of them, which strangely took them out of the world. “The ones nobody must talk about shouldn't be called so naively!” Altar continued hurriedly. “You must have been sniffing old papers again, right? I can't remember teaching you that!”
“I just read about them in old chronicles. Excuse me, master, but who they are, whom nobody must talk about?” Goren, who had recovered from his first horror and didn't believe in superstition, was all ears and hoped that this time will receive a response. It seemed to be an exciting story.
And exceptionally Master Altar proved to be talkative. “I can already see,” he sighed. “I have to tell you, because otherwise you will not leave me alone, and besides, you may then be more cautious and no longer say their name so naively without magical protection!”
“Yes, sir, I promise.”
“All right then. Listen: the Fial Darg are the Princes of Darkness, the most perfect creatures of Zarach the Renegade. You know that he was once Ulm the Caretaker, right? He created the orcs and the trolls, and the dark elves for Nor the Silverweaver, his brother in arms. Both are renegade Guardians, schemers, and masters of Chaos, and they want dominion over Eo. When Zarach saw that the Dark races would not withstand against the races of Light, he put all his strength into a true work of art. The Fial Darg can take any shape and have the greatest magical powers. They had almost brought Eo into the power of the Renegades. Nevertheless, they lost for the first time in the war against the Hybernians. But they recovered and won victory after victory in the War of the Six Races. Until the good Guardians realized that Eo was actually doomed this time and intervened. They struck the Fial Darg with a spell and imprisoned them deep in the caverns under the rocks at Aonir's Blade. Since then they have rested in magical sleep, bound by the chains of powerful magic. May Aonir's light keep us from ever waking up. – Enough, you shouldn't talk about these things for too long! Go on, boy, the War of the Six Races ended...” Master made a hand gesture, lifting the spell. The room was filled with the sun again, everything seemed back to normality. Goren saw that he was not allowed to ask more questions and continued obediently. “Lar and Grak was found, the magic schools experienced their upswing and soon after they fall when magic was forbidden. Five hundred years ago, the Circle was founded, its dissolution about five years ago triggered the Convocation Wars in which we still find ourselves. It’s left not half a century until the Convocation.”
“Mmmmmm,” Altar hummed. “I’m more or less satisfied. Here, you deserve something sweet.”
Master Altar loved candied fruits; he always had some in his tower, and they lay everywhere, sticking together precious pieces of paper or along the banister; they were least often on plates or in bowls.
“Thank you, master, but I – ” Goren hated that sweet stuff, but he couldn't avoid Altar from thrusting a sticky, yellow fruit into his half-open mouth. Then he served himself and chewed with pleasure.
“Delicious, right?”
Goren chewed, looking as if his mouth turned out to be a piece of rotten meat. “Wonderful,” he burst out desperately. When Altar looked away for a moment, he quickly spat candies on his hand and stuck it under the chair. A piece more or less wasn’t noticeable anyway. “Thank you, Master.”
“No reason, boy, you deserve it.” Altar smiled and patted his assistant’s cheek. “Before you go, please bring this heraldry up to the third floor, immediately to the left in the closet with the cursed spells.” Altar handed a thick stack of papers to Goren.
The boy got up and climbed the stairs. When he put the stack down, he slipped. As he gathered the papers back together, he saw a flash of something that seemed familiar to him. He pulled out the paper and stared at it for a while.
There was a golden dragon's head on a red background. It stood underneath: Shaikan.
Only one word, but Goren trembled inside without being able to explain why; it was almost as if he heard the whisper again that he had thought had stopped for some time. It was a wild, hasty whisper, and he understood only one word: Dragonblood.
“Why are you standing there?” Master Altar cried impatiently from below. “Come down and then go away, there is really nothing to do with you today!”
Goren winced and returned to reality. He kept the paper in hand and hurried down the stairs. Then he held it to Altar in front of his eyeglass. “Master, what is it?”
“Everything is there, right?” the Master said angrily. “That's the coat of arms of Shaikan!”
Altar blinked at him suspiciously. “Strange question. Above all from you, boy,” he noted. “You and your mother, you’re Shaikan. Got it?”
Me?” Goren suddenly felt as if the floor was being pulled from under his feet. He swayed and held on to the table with one hand.
“Did your mother never tell you?”
“Well, then I will certainly not go any further.” Altar raised his hand as Goren tried to protest. “I'm sorry, son, but it's none of my business. Nobody like to talk about your kind, and if your mother didn't tell you your ancestry, she'll have her reasons. I will not mess with her. The best thing is to forget everything again, and above all give me the paper.” He tore the paper from his hand and hastily shoved it under another stack. “Here, you can get a little fruit to calm you down.”
Before he knew it, another sweet piece stuck to his palate. He felt sick, and the blood was rushing in his veins.
“I have to go,” he said and went pale. He didn’t wait for the Master's permission and stormed outside.

Goren found his mother at the entrance of the fortress; she was about to go exploring. But his request didn’t tolerate any delay. “I must speak to you,” he said breathlessly, “right now.”
She frowned, but replied: “All right, then.”
“In your chamber, please. It’s very important.” Goren ran ahead; he’d like to pull Derata with him to make her go faster, but of course he didn't dare treat her like that.
After all, she followed him in silence, and silently watched him as he opened the old chest, threw out all the things and finally held up the coat of arms.
“I found it years ago, but I never dared to ask you about it.” Goren explained. His face was flushed with excitement and anger. “Today I found the coat of arms in the Master's tower, with the name Shaikan underneath. And Altar accidentally slipped out that you and I belonged to them, which is not surprising if you looked after this coat of arms so carefully. I want to know everything!”
Derata kept her cool, serene calm. She took the coat of arms that Goren held out defiantly and looked at it for a while thoughtfully.
“I had almost forgotten the name,” she finally said. “I wanted to raise you as a normal person, Goren – a warrior, of course, because you are what you do best. But you shouldn't have this blemish.”
“Blemish,” he repeated, and his voice trembled.
“The Shaikan are a people, my son, created when the first ancestor entered into a covenant with a dragon. Since then, they’ve neither belonged to light nor darkness, but have become their own masters. They’re people who live completely secluded and hardly mate with others who aren’t like them. The Shaikan are mercenaries, they’re also called deprecated warriors. Everyone appreciate their swords, and the arms who wield them, but not the spirits who directs both. I left our people because I didn't want to live like this. And I wanted to bring you a better fate.”
“But everyone knew it anyway.” Goren whispered. Now the aversion was finally explained, the eternal scorn and mockery in his childhood. “You can see it.”
“Not everywhere.” Derata replied. “I was going to send you to Nortander when you were old enough to build a life for yourself there, away from that fate.”
“When did you want to tell me?”
“When the time had come.” Derata got up, carefully folded the shirt and stowed it back in the chest. “Go now, Goren.”
“But I still have questions,” he insisted.
“You asked enough questions for this day and I am not willing to talk to you about it anymore. I already know what I'm doing. And the less you know, the less stress you have.” Derata turned to her son. He was now as tall as she was. Soon he would tower over her. “Go,” she repeated. “Work’s waiting for you.”
He obeyed. He had no other choice.

When autumn came and the leaves fell, also Goren’s happiness fell. He had a summer full of love and passion with Helim, but now that the nights were getting cooler, one evening she opened up to him: “Goren, I’ll not come to you today.”
“But why not?” he asked confused. “Did I do something... or said?”
“Of course not,” she replied. “But it gets too cold outside and it isn’t appropriate that we meet in my chamber or in yours.”
Out of fear of losing Helim, Goren had never asked her why she was so aloof to him during the day and why she was so close to him in the evening. Nobody knew about their relationship, that she made as condition. Goren had thought she would change her mind if she loved him enough. But he was wrong.
“That's it,” he whispered and his shoulders dropped.
“Don't act like this, Goren, you knew that there never would be anymore between us,” Helim replied almost angrily. “Did you assume in the end that I would chosen you? I have been promised to Zachary for a long time and I will marry him soon, next year or the year after.”
“You... you... at the same time with me... and with him...” he stuttered. He felt his heart leap from his chest, fall to the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces.
Helim came close to him without realizing that she was grinding the broken pieces under her shoes. She gently touched his cheek. “You're a beautiful, wonderful guy and with you I had great time,” she said softly. “But you are a have-not. And you will stay that way. Zachary will become governor because Darwin Silverhair has no children of its own, and even if the old man goes crazy for you and almost considers you a son, you’ll never climb so high.” She stood on tiptoe, gave him a kiss on the cheek and left him with a smile.
Goren stared at the broken shards at his feet and listened the rustling wind outside, which told of cold days full of rain and fog.
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