[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapter 5

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[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapter 5

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 5 – In the Valley of Tears
“Come on, you cattle!”
The whip whizzed down on Goren's back. His clothing has long been hanging in shreds, and the three-tailed whip with balls on the ends hit directly on bare flesh, opening slightly lingering wounds and tearing new bloody streaks.
Goren fell forward on his knees and the stone slipped off his shoulder. He flinched under another blow and bit his lips bloody to force back the screams that were coming from his chest. He would never expose himself to this humiliation. He was still a human being, although now he was more like a raw chunk of meat. But deep inside he still knew that he was Goren Wind-Whisperer, son of Derata, daughter of the lord of Shaikur fortress. He would never surrender to this pack. He would never give up.
The days passed like one another: dragging stones, turning a mill wheel, older ones serving as training dolls. They called it "reeducation"; they wanted to make a will-less muscle mountain out of him, whose only goal in life was to serve in fight, to kill and to die on the battlefield. The armies of the Circle Mages constantly required replenishment. Goren didn’t know to whom the thirteen mages orcs worked; perhaps they did supply for everyone. They only talked to him if they insulted him and then kicked, punched and spat on him. The troll served as an insurmountable guard, and it was a good idea never to look up too high.
If Goren survived the Blood Moon, as they called it, he was put in an armour and was allowed to serve at the bottom of the orcs' rank. As reinforcement, backing and above all as a protective shield.
Goren had long since given up thinking about the meaning of training. He saw that during the time of the "training" he should only do the dirty work for the dark people to ensure the supply of material. The combat exercises consisted only of getting even more punch. Who survived this was suitable for the battle, it seemed.
Goren felt his strength running out. He knew he could no longer pick up a stone, even if his life depended on it. It was different from carrying water; his own will had driven him there. But this was slave life, and he had reached the limit. He couldn't and didn't want to go on.
Pausing silently and with his eyes closed, he expected the next blow. But at that moment another bow-legged orc came.
“Leave the worm,” he said to his mate in the typically stretched, rolling “R” orcish way of speaking. “Shakrakk has just arrived, and he call help.”
Goren’s tormentor kicked him, causing him fall aside. “You’re lucky, rat,” he snapped. “But we'll see you tomorrow and woe, you won't feel it!”
He disappeared into the rock dwelling with the other orc. The troll stomped towards Goren, grabbed him by one leg and dragged behind.
A moment later, Goren was lying in his rock dungeon with a barred door and a tiny air hole through which a dim light shone. He smelled musty; the walls were damp and covered with gray mold. The cell was three steps long and three steps wide. Goren measured it in the beginning, when he still had the strength and the chain didn’t seem unbearable to him. Now the size of the room didn’t play a special role, because he fell to the floor without strength as soon as the troll threw him inside and locked the door.
The chains, which were never removed, didn’t become lighter, but heavier every day. They were probably soaking up the blood that dripped from his chafed feet and wrists, and that ran down from the many other wounds on his arms and legs. It really seemed as if they were living on it, because the ties seemed swollen and tighter every day.
Rotten straw served Goren as bed. The food was ready as always: a bowl of murky water and a second bowl of rotten stinking broth with some chunks in it, which Goren didn’t think about, plus a scrap of stale bread.
Goren wiped out his sparse meal to the last piece; he had to stay strong. After he had to vomit several times at the beginning, his already less demanding stomach got used to it.
After eating, he crouched on the floor, moved closer to the light, and stared at the tiny hole through which managed to see a piece of the sky. It was there that were turned all his thoughts; until he could see the sky piece, all wasn’t lost for him.
He almost forgot. Goren scrambled up again and crawled with the rattling chain to the wall opposite the door, which was dimly lit. With a sharp stone edge he carved the next stroke into the sandstone. Before there were twenty.
He was here so short and yet so long! During that time he had seen at least one of the other prisoners die every day.
Yes, he wasn’t alone. The entire basin, surrounded by steep walls, was crammed with slaves in chains tied to hands and feet. Replenishments were brought in as regularly as they died, and everyone was equally miserable, even if the distribution of tasks was different. Shakrakk was the orc slave trader who took the survivors away and sold them and brought "fresh meat".
Goren heard roaring laughter from afar. Business had obviously been good inasmuch Shakrakk was so generous; the orcs were already drunk. That would last all night. If the prisoners were lucky, the suffering continued until noon until their tormentors had slept through their intoxication.
It already seemed as if Goren had already spent half of his life here, although it was not even a moon. And besides, it wouldn’t be too long if the abuse continued. Goren felt as if he was going to get hurt more than the other slaves. But he preferred not to think about it anymore.
He carefully felt for his back. Some of the wounds had become infected, but he had no way of cleaning them. All he could do was make sure he was sleeping on his stomach or on his side, and he would always pluck the clothing aside if it stuck to the pus.
Surely he had been able to throw away the rags long ago. But somehow they became part of him and reminded him of a better life. His location couldn’t have been more hopeless.
Now Goren envied Darwin Silverhair and Master Altar, they took a painful death by the troll, but their suffering was over.
Goren felt guilty, since he failed to protect them and prevent a horrible death. And he miss them, especially his master’s complaining. He owed both men a carefree childhood and youth that he had never before realized.
Now there was no connection to the past at all.
And that's good.
No, it wasn't, especially not with the voice in himself. The worse it went, the stronger would the whispering inside him, which had awakened and could no longer be pushed back. And he still thought it, in spite of Derata's hasty explanation shortly before their separation, for a delusion, an expression of his sick mind, which gradually fell mad here.
Leave me alone, old parasite, he thought wearily.
But I’m helping you, my son. Do you think you were still alive without the dragon blood in you and through the power of my soul?
I'm not your son, so don’t call me that.
In a way, if you think about it. My son's blood flows through your veins. Yes, you can look back on a long, glorious lineage, just like your parents.
My parents? My mother was a breakaway because she recognized the darkness in Ruorim's soul. I have nothing to do with the Shaikan.
You can’t deny what you are.
Yes, I can. Be quiet. Let me sleep.
Only when you stop thinking about death.

Goren saw himself in front of his inner eye with a sudden, malicious grin. Oh what is bothering you? Would you like, old man, if i just die and let your soul rot within me? Maybe I'll sell it to Hirin for a good place on the boat across the River of Souls...
The whispering voice was silent.
Gor realized he had hit the target. His ancestor, if it really should be, had not yet gained the upper hand and depended on him. Goren didn’t get rid of him with his threat, but at least he had his peace for a while. The physical pain and also the inner whisper, that was just too much for him. If he wanted to stay and survive, he had to make sure that he got enough sleep and rest, otherwise his body wouldn’t be able to endure the stresses for long.
Then he heard a whisper again. But it came from the cell next door. “Are you still alive?”
He leaned against the wall. Little cracks and holes in the rock made it possible to hear somewhat. “Hey,” he said. He didn't know who he was talking to. It was a young male voice, like his own. They had never given each other their names out of fear of seeing someone die someday. Nevertheless, due to the hopelessness and suffering, they were connected with each other and spoke to each other courageously. “I'm not tired out that fast. Do you know something new?”
“My cell neighbor on the other side has not made it, his voice has been fall silent forever. That's why I was afraid to sit completely in silence...”
Gorens stomach cramped. That was too close: the next cell right away – almost like a good old friend. Through the man in the middle, they had exchanged ideas and comforted each other. “Damn.”
“One can say. But I heard that Shakrakk brought fresh meat, so the cell won't be empty for long.” He scraped and scratched the wall. “You know, I tried to dig a hole because the wall was only made of sandstone. But I'm just too weak.”
“What did we get from it? Goren replied. “I don't want to know who you are so I don't have to mourn for you. I have enough to do with myself….”
He heard a strange sound, like a suppressed sob. “But I would like to know who you are...”
“Stop it! I'm not telling you and I don't want to hear from you anymore!” Goren's voice panicked. “We stick to this agreement, come what may! When you talk like that it sounds like you've given up and await death, but I'm not going to hold your hand, do you understand? If you die, then die alone!”
Again the choked sobs. “I've understood. Please forgive me. I’m glad that you’re still there and talking to me.”
“We’ll be fine,” Goren said, and it sounded like a mantra. “We will definitely be fine, this isn’t the end.”
And then a dream, or a vision of another life, starts.


Oh, it's you. Fever, yes? Now you can't just sneak away like usual. Sit down, boy, because you’ve no other choice. And no, this isn’t a dream, not a vision, not a delusion of a sick mind. Let it be said that your mind is in the best of health! There is nothing sick in it at all. That should comfort you. What you see and hear here is reality. My voice from the past.
So hear my story, told by myself. Forget what is in the Chronicles, all of this is just watered down, falsified, partly out of fear, partly out of stupidity. I’m wrongly regarded as a curse; the Shaikan people should be proud of me, because without me they would not exist. And they weren’t able to fight for peace on Fiara. Big things are coming, my boy, and you are the key to them. For a long time, all my striving has been directed towards this one goal, which is now so close that I can almost reach for it.
Don't defend yourself, child. It’s all good and correct. I’ll tell you who I am, how I became, what I am and who you are. You’ll see some things so vividly in front of you as if you were there yourself, but don’t be frightened by them; they’re just pictures from the past that you carry in your blood as a memory. Every Shaikan does that. But you’re special. And now that you are so feverish and have withdrawn into your inner being, I can finally speak to you openly and in detail, as I have been doing for a long time. I forgive you for defending yourself against me, because you do this out of ignorance, and ignorance creates fear.
Therefore, learn my story, and you will no longer feel fear and will proudly prepare to fulfill your high destiny.

My name’s Janus Malacay and I was born in Muire Marshes more than nine hundred years ago.
At that time it was a barbaric world. The dragons ruled the land, and the humans were just starting out. We had to hide in the grassiest places, and the swamps of Muire were one of them. You can find them in today's Nortander, far north, a few day trips from the Windwall Mountains in the west.
Now nortander is a rough, primeval country with mighty forests, rushing rivers and huge waterfalls. The winters are long and hard, the summers are short and hot. But it’s quite different in the marshes; the climate here is almost mild, you could call it so. Deep inside, there’s yellow haze, stinking of pestilence, which stretches across the moor all year round and spoils the stray, deceiving the travelers to lure them into passing.
Nobody voluntarily settles down here, where you can never see a clear blue sky or feel a fresh breeze. Here the bugs suck everyone out, thousands of them fly on one’s arm, whom skin then turns red and hot and swells like after a snake bite. Yes, there’re also snakes here, in every size and color, and they all have one thing in common: they are insidious and poisonous.
The swamp griffin, your worst enemy, hunts mainly in the twilight. One hears its scary scream, which sounds like the last breath of a dying man, reverberating far and wide. And when he falls silent he has chosen his victim, and it is better for you if you aren’t.
The dragons rarely come here. They loathe the floating carpet of grass islands, which doesn’t keep them safe, and some were only able to free themselves from the sucking bog at the last moment.
So I grew up in Muire, which at that time was not called city. It was a meager settlement, a small collection of dilapidated buildings on stilts, which rotten after half a year, with a smithy in the center. Inhabited by skinny people who are emaciated from swamp fever; adults with blotchy, red inflamed skin and bleary eyes, and children with bloated bellies. I was one of those children, always hungry, always scratching myself until the blood shot out, rubbing the scab from scarcely healed wounds, with a runny nose and constantly watery eyes.
It was miserable indeed. Nobody ever gave much attention to me, because I was one of many children who were conceived but never wanted, and of whom barely a quarter reached the age of men. I slept on the bare, hard wooden floor, got what was left to eat, and lived no better than any mangy street cur.
For my father I was like a bone in the throat, because he thought that I wasn’t conceived by him, but by his brother, with whom my mother is said to have secretly enjoyed. I don't know if that's true, because as far as my memory goes back, my mother was a quiet, gaunt woman, suffering from fever and rarely able to leave the hut. So as long as I was little and couldn't defend myself, my father took out his anger at his irrelevant existence on me. I learned at that time how many different ways blood can taste, depending on which part of the body it currently runs from. I learned the difference in the degree of pain between a broken finger and a kick into the stomach pit. And much more.
But I also learned to survive. I learned to rob and steal, mainly food. And to kill. I killed every animal that could contest my hoped-for prey. I learned to sneak up on myself and strike with lightning speed. Sometimes I made a feast of rats when I managed to sneak away, light a fire, and turn the carcass on a skewer. I devoured everything that was meat. And because I didn’t die of it, but on the contrary grew and became stronger, I soon followed the swamp animals, mainly ducks, whose tender, white taste I still remember today.
When I was ten years old, I raised my hand against my father for the first time. My hatred for him was limitless. Not that I loved the rest of my family more. They were all useless eaters that prevented me from really getting full.
I was smaller and weaker than my father, but he was so surprised when I kicked his shin with all my strength, bit him in the arm and thrust my punch into his stomach, so that he actually let go of me and left without saying a word.
Of course he returned after getting drunk with his companions with mustard beer and gave me the worst beating of my life. I almost didn't wake up anymore, but my mother took care of me, and so I came to myself again, completely shattered, but by no means at the end.
Some of my bones never healed properly, so from then on I was always a bit wrong in my posture. But nobody noticed that later, because I always wore garments and got used to my very own, very flowing walk.
My father waited in peace until I was reasonably recovered. Then he wanted to continue with what he called "education". I was now eleven years old.
I warned him about touching me again.
He just laughed.
When he got too close to me, I did something that nobody expected, especially not here in the stuffy swamps that blunt and empty the mind and puff up and wear the body.
I suddenly felt something in me that had been slumbering until this moment and now awakened by my strong excitement. Like a wild animal, lying motionless for a long time, waiting for the right moment. It permeated me, filled me with... yes, the feeling of power and superiority. I suddenly knew that I was stronger than my father, that he couldn't do anything to me anymore. I knew how to defend myself against him. I did the only right thing: I gave in to my inner urge and let it come true in my soulful desire for revenge.
I yelled something to my father. I heard my voice, but at the same time I felt as if I was standing next to me and watching; it was strange, I remember it clearly. I was no longer myself... and yet I was still. Do you understand what I mean? Probably not, it doesn't matter much. Just listen to me.
What I yelled to my father: something that turned into a living image before his eyes because he also heard my voice in his mind. Why I was able to do so without any training? Well, my birth was under a special sign, when the moon's eye went out and cast shadow on Eo instead of light. A tremendous storm with lightning and thunder followed the event, and a lightning struck near our place, so that everyone's hair stand on end and they felt a tingling sensation everywhere in the body.
At that time, when I was born, the magic had physically entered me. It was supposed to make me the most powerful of all mages, that was my destiny. I first became aware of it when I was eleven years old, at the very moment my father intended to kill me. Of course I couldn’t fully grasp it yet, I had to mature first. But I realized my power over him at that moment, and my will to use it. To let him be aware.
I sent him a thought, and I muttered a description of what I was sending him: the image of a snake curling up his leg towards his head and then lingering on his ear, then finally lingering in his ear crawled in, from there to his brain, and finally lay down around it. And then, at the very end, the snake straightened its powerful muscles and crushed his brain in the ring of its body.
My father screamed. He believed what I pretended to be, he felt it as truth. He collapsed with twitching arms and legs, rolled around on the floor and kept screaming, and black blood ran from his eyes, nose and ears. I stood by and looked at his death fight, which he inflicted on himself in his imagination, and told him in detail what was happening to him and what was about to happen.
When I told him that the last remnant of his brain was crushed and he was going to die, this was exactly what happened. His body went limp from cramping, his scream stopped abruptly, and the eyes extinguished. He was dead and I had done it on my own.

After that, the family didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Everyone was happy that my father was dead, but from then on, how it happened, followed them like an eternal terror. I got my own little hut on stilts, because nobody dared to chase me into the swamps so as not to be cursed in the same way. They brought me enough to eat and drink so that I no longer suffered and could do whatever I wanted. I liked it for several years, during which I was mainly occupied with testing the limits of my magic.
When I was about nineteen, dragons hunter came by. They told us that people had started to defend themselves against the tyrants of the air. And it had already succeeded a few times. Dracons were actually defeatable! That encouraged people, and gradually they ventured out of their poor houses and burrows.
I saw my vocation before me: people should have the right to spread undisturbed around the world. The days of our misery in the marshes and the ice deserts of the mountains were paid. Now better ages should follow.
“You need magical assistance,” I said.
The heavy, powerful dragon warriors stared at me. “From you, measly linnet?” someone replied and laughed threateningly. “You’ll bend over at the first breath of a dragon!”
“Then I’ll take good care of my body and it’ll become big and strong like yours,” I answered. “My spirit could take on you a long time ago.”
They laughed tearfully at me and thought I was insane. But their leader, who had looked into my eyes long and hard, finally interrupted them. “We’ll take him with us.”
Then there was a surprise silence. “But he’ll only get in our way and hinder us,” the speaker objected earlier.
“If he’s too weak, he’ll just remain on the road,” the leader replied. “That’s his decision. But I see willpower in his eyes and I think he knows what he's doing.”
So they took me with me, albeit doubtfully and with laughter.
I didn't say goodbye to anyone.
I never saw the marshes again.

Goren jumped up. He grabbed his feverish head, wheezing. A glowing hammer seemed to strike the inside of his skull in a wild rhythm. His body was drenched in sweat and shook with fever. His back was burning; as soon as anything got too close to a wound, stabbing pain rushed through his body and he cried out.
He heard that his cell neighbor kept calling for him, but he couldn't answer. His tongue was thick and heavy on the palate, he was hellish thirsty, but there was nothing to drink. With a dim look he realized that it was still, or again, day. He had no idea how much time had passed, but he hoped they weren't coming to get him right now. He felt so sick and weak that he couldn't even get up. His mind was confused and full of fear because the fever visions were so realistic, but at the same time very distant, like the long sunken world almost a millennium ago. However he saw everything before him as if he had been there himself. The drowned swamp town on stilts; the waving yellow fog, the myriads of mosquitoes. He saw the dragon warriors' sparkling teeth, partly gold-tinged laughter, their precious, heavy armours, the mighty swords and lances. Their horses also carried armours, they were smaller, but much heavier than Goldenbolt, with fiery eyes and steaming nostrils.
And goren saw them chasing a dragon, and he was there himself; he felt the swing of the horse riding beneath him, smelled the musty stink of the dragon, which was flying low in front of them and whose scaly body was studded with spears from which ropes hung. The ropes were attached to the saddles, enough to prevent the dragon from escaping and to prevent him from simply flying away with horses and riders. They kept hurling spears on the monster, and nets on it too, to clamp its wings.
And then, in the course of a few breathless moments, the dragon fell bleeding from hundreds of wounds, struck on the ground threateningly and in a huge cloud of dust. Soil and stones spurt off in all directions, and the well-trained horses immediately strained against the pull of the ropes. The men jumped out of the saddles, pulled their swords and axes and ran past the twitching wings of the dragon, forward to his horned head, and then they chopped and hacked on his neck until the head and body were separate and his blood poured out in a huge fountain and watered the surroundings like a warm, red rain oversized. The body twitched for a while, the long neck lashed through the air until it finally hit the ground and exuded the last gush of blood.
Three of them held up the giant dragon's skull, the slit eyes of which still had a lively cold shine, cheered and laughed and slapped each other on the shoulders.

Goren stared at his hand with feverish eyes, from which blood dripped as if he had bathed in dragon blood. He crouched down, curled up and wrapped his arms around him. “By the bones of the ancestor, what happens to me,” he whimpered. “Makes it stop...”
But then the next fever shiver fell on his tormented young body, and his mind sank in the murmuring twilight, not really sleeping, but not awake either, shaken by the blazing heat.


The first dragon! My heart pounded, and I waded through the soaked, blood-drenched earth, stained with blood, and laughed with happiness. I had never had such an exciting feeling of power, not even when I executed my father. At that time I was still an innocent child who didn't really know what he was doing and just acted like an animal driven into a corner.
But today, even if I was only an eyewitness, today I knew what it meant to defeat and stuck such a powerful being. My comrades chopped off horns, claws and teeth, cut up the wing, tore out the tongue and cut off the tail – all important trophies that could be exchanged for armour, weapons, land and goods. Everybody made it, removed some huge sheds, from which fire-proof shields were later forged, and tied them to his horse. These shields are also immune to most spells, and to conventional weapons anyway.
The dragon's belly was slashed open, and the stinking guts spilled out. The dragon warriors wanted to make sure that the dragon was really dead and couldn’t be resurrected. Because it had already happened that a new head grew, new wings, and his heart started to beat again. But once gutted and chopped into pieces, there was no turning back from the realm of the soulless dead.
I cannot describe my feeling of happiness from back then. It was like feeling life inside me for the first time and that I was called to higher things.
I already helped the next dragon to die. I managed to impose a spell on him so that he could stumble around like a drunk and be quickly put down. As the first trophy, I received the most precious piece, an eye that first detached from its head, immediately solidified as glass and became milky and cloudy. But still it could see. I found that later during my long studies. Initially I only saw the past of the dragon itself. But as I mastered my art more and more, I was able to look far away and even look into the future. Almost nothing remained hidden from me. But, as I said, this only happened later when I was already a professional alchemist and a great mental mage.
But unconsciously at that time, as a youngster, I already sensed how precious this gift was, because I kept it well and always carried it with me, day and night.

So we cleaned the country northward and southward, over the Windwall Mountains into today's Highmark and to the borders of Finon Mir, today's elven kingdom. People spread rapidly, founded new cities, learned agriculture and animal husbandry, and began to form communities over long distances.
The foundation of the Hybernian Empire around the great God Emperor Chlerus the Magnificent was not far off. He was a great man, the only one I have ever admired, I have to admit. He actually seemed to be inspired by a divine fire, because he managed to unite the most important lords of the cities and the leaders of the dragon warriors under his flag and to encourage them to found a large nation of humans. The first army under the coat of arms of the God Emperor was set up and the borders demarcated.
Elevating himself to be the all-powerful ruler, Chlerus the Magnificent rejected the burgeoning Guardian religion at that time and even persecuted anyone who tried to spread it. “This is the highest realm of man, and justice, and superiority,” he announced. There was no one more powerful than him. He also rejected the public celebration of magic and made sure that it was not taught or written. The God Emperor wasn’t stupid; he wanted to take advantage of the magic alone, and he quickly recognized the opportunities that my assistance offered him. But of course he didn't want to allow any enemies could use that power instrument. So officially there were no other alchemists apart from me. But of course the magic was secretly practiced and researched; after all, there were other talents, not just me. But no one matched my talent, and I was in friendship with the God Emperor Chlerus the Magnificent, who was calm as well.
The other nations understood that a new power had now arisen on Fiara, which could not easily stand in the way.
This was also thanks to me, on the side of Chlerus the Magnificent, as the only lawfully employed court alchemist. Together we were unbeatable. No one dared raise a word or hand against us and we all pacified the land. I was given the opportunity to study magic in detail and set up a library of my own writings, in which I recorded my modest achievements in great detail.
Yes, I was now a big, powerful man, no longer a child of the swamps! But of course I wanted more; that was still not enough for me. I wanted to explore the greatest mysteries of magic, above all the Materia Prima, and of course immortality, to make it my own. Only in this way I could be truly free and independent and be able to pursue my other goals of changing the face of the world. So that once only my will happens – no other way.
So I continued to delve into my studies and, as already mentioned, learned the correct use of the dragon eye, which Chlerus was very helpful in his advances against unfavorable rogues. It was important that he saw the results of my research and was able to take advantage of it, because I absolutely had to keep his favor. Of course, I told him nothing of my real plans and knew how to protect my most important research from him by making enough available to him. Chlerus was able to increase this rapidly over the years and ruled with a strict but wise hand. He wanted to create an eternal realm of humans, but for me the days of the God Emperors were long paid for as I progressed with my research. In the meantime I had found an essence derived from dragons – and elven magic that prolonged my life. The most important thing in my pursuit of the highest power was not to be subject to decay so quickly.
The more the dragons were pushed back, the further the empire grew. Chlerus the Magnificent sent seafarers into the Timeless Sea and into the Sea of Dreams, where they discovered neighboring continents Inenland and Godeland and the Lost Islands and founded small strongholds. The dwarves, who quickly realized that humans represented the new power and offered enormous benefits, concluded a trade agreement. The elves, however, watched us suspiciously and not benevolently. This even meant that they finally blocked access to their realm in the Finon Mir forest. But we could do without them.
The dragons were almost wiped out in the following century.
And I... well, I didn't die, the essence worked. Emperors came and went, but I still lived at the court of the empire, now the most powerful man in the empire. Old, certainly, but death has not yet dared to come close to mine, even though I have already exceeded a person's normal lifespan. I was the greatest mage of my time – no, I think of all times, because what I managed to achieve later has never been achieved to this day, and even the Circle Mage have only a weak reflection of my former power.
I was never interested in worldly things, which was interpreted as modest, because I always served as a good advisor and protector of the empire. It was the magic that meant everything to me. My entire research should ultimately serve the well-being of the people, as I wanted them to do.

Goren cried out when he was suddenly grabbed and pulled up.
“Get up!” the orc roared. “You lazy, do you think you can lie around all day? Get up before I have to drive you to work with a whiplash!”
Goren kept himself on his feet with difficulty; less through muscle strength than through naked fear. He was shivering with chills, his teeth chattered and cold sweat dripped from his streaky hair. “I c-can't,” he stammered in a crackling voice. “I have fever and n-no strength...”
“We’ll see,” the orc snapped and pushed him out of the cell.
Goren let out a plaintive cry of pain as the rough hand hit a wound, he felt the skin tear and blood and pus flow warmly over his back. Creeping, more than walking, he stumbled into the open and blinked in the sun, which gave him no consolation today. The light stabbed painfully in his feverish head, burned like a white-hot spear to the brain and pressed the last drop of liquid that was still in him out of his eyes. Goren saw his companions in pain, who were also dragged into the open. The troll was just killing a slave with its barbed mace because it had collapsed, and the others were falling apart in panic. Sobbing, they reached for stones and tools to do the assigned work. Neither dared to look each other in the eyes. They were lost in this valley, enclosed by steep rocks, with no prospect of freedom. There was only one narrow exit at the end of the gorge. He was not even guarded, because to get there one had to walk more than two hundred spears long without cover, but the orcs were everywhere and the troll's keen senses nothing escaped – and besides, each one of them was already too weak to cover the distance traveling as quickly as the falcon in flight.
The "beginners" also came their first time today; at first they served as a training dolls for the orcs' weapon exercises and for their personal sadistic pleasure. This was the first test of endurance; but it was doubtful whether one could call the lucky one who survived them.
Goren was assigned to service the bellows today to keep the fire going in the smith's forge. Here the primitive but powerful weapons and armours were made. That sounded like light work, but it was one of the worst tasks one could imagine. Constantly, without a break, having to move the huge bellows in a steady, even rhythm, in cruel heat, the lungs full of dust and smoke, overwhelmed even the most powerful youngster.
Goren believed that his skin was pulled off while he was still alive. He had to get rid of the last scraps of his former clothes, otherwise they would have caught fire. His battered back was exposed to the heat without protection. He felt the skin crack open in more and more places as he moved the heavy bellows, up and down, up and down, and how his life flowed out of him and dried on the remaining skin.

It was not yet clear to Goren, but that was exactly what saved his life. The merciless heat penetrated his back and pulled out all the poison, literally burned it out, and cauterize the inflamed sore edges. Although he was left with ugly white scars on his back as a lifelong memory, he would survive this torture without suffering miserably from the gangrene, as would probably have happened the following night.
But now he knew nothing about it, but felt closer to death than to life. He could no longer think, everything in him was dull and dead, like an undead, controlled by a stranger, he moved the bellows, up and down, up and down, and not even the whisper of his ancestor could reach him beyond the pain.
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