[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapter 6

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[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapter 6

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 6 – The cry of the slave
Goren survived the night. He consumed his food ration and slept soundly and dreamlessly. The fever was almost gone, and the burnt wounds on his back were jolting, but not worse than before. When he was driven out the next morning, he saw that only two orcs and the tireless troll were doing their job. Shakrakk had already set out with two of his own kind, ten slaves and a cart full of weapons and armours. The rest of the five orcs slept in their rock holes from the intoxication of the previous night after having thoroughly enjoyed themselves with the newcomers.
Goren found himself starting to count the prisoners. The new ones were easily recognizable by the reasonably good condition of their clothes, the largely clean skin and the fresh wounds, without old scars. However, their faces already showed the same fear, hopelessness and exhaustion as everyone else. About half of them were left. The others had probably been thrown into the abyss at the end of the valley; there was a narrow but deep dig where hundreds of bodies would rot. However, they were still lucky. One or the other also ate the troll – raw, and only the best pieces.
Two of the prisoners, clad in dark hooded coats, emerged from the rock dwellings of the orcs. Their chains rattled and clanked as they swept out dirt and trash and filled buckets of water at the well which dragged them with the load. Goren had noticed the two more often; apparently they served as personal orcs slaves. He had never seen their faces before and was not sure whether they were always the same. If this was possible at all, they performed the lowest services. Presumably they had to prepare and distribute the horrible food, which they were probably the least likely to get. But they were certainly not unhappy about this, because they finally knew what the foul-smelling stew was made of...
“To the forge!” The voice of the troll roared in his ears, and Goren just avoided the blow of the mighty paw. The troll bared his teeth and growled reluctantly because his victim had dared to avoid it. Fangs protruded from his lower jaw like the tusks of a wild boar. He had already bitten through some of the thighbones before the eyes of the others.
Goren hurriedly stumbled towards the smithy and desperately wondered how he could survive a second day of this ordeal. It was even better to serve as a training doll, dragging stones, no matter what – but having to move the bellows hour after hour without a break in the blazing heat filled him with a deeper terror.
The smith was a large, heavy orc who only knew his work. Goren had never seen him with the other orcs before. He didn’t get drunk and seemed to leave the smithy only at night, if at all. He never said a word. Unlike the other orcs and the troll, he was not hairless; as far as one could see, his body was covered with a thick black wool downward from the head. Goren suspected that he was either a hybrid or a failed breeding experiment. His mighty chest bulged like a barrel, and huge muscles tensed when he tirelessly struck the anvil with a hammer, a glowing piece of iron in the pliers of the other hand.

At noon Goren finally allowed to make a short break, and one of the slaves brought him a bucket of water. Some orcs, passing by, looked at Goren with small, red-glowing eyes. The young Shaikan never found out why, because at that moment a tumult broke out nearby. One of the guards hit a prisoner lying on the ground. The second orc came to his aid immediately. They never missed something like that.
However, this didn’t attract the others, although orcs were usually woken up by every louder noise and liked to participate in abuse. Apparently they were not only drunk, but also reinforced with strong weed herbs.
It was one of the newcomers who had collapsed, a boy of perhaps fourteen, tender and fair-skinned. A welcome sacrifice. The two orcs grunted at him, spat at him and shouted swear words, the troll standing next to it, leaning on his club. There was a greedy sparkle in his small, rock-gray eyes, and he licked his lips as the boy's pants went to shreds, exposing delicate white flesh on his thigh.
Goren decided that it was enough.
And also the ancestor inside. Yes, intervene, boy! You’ll never get such a good opportunity again!
For the first time, Goren agreed to the introspection of his ancestor.
“Hey!” he called and went on the two orcs. “Do you want to leave him in peace?”
The two stopped and stared at him in amazement.
“What does it say?” one said to the other.
“Does it interfere?” the other shouted angrily.
The troll straightened up slowly and raised the club. “Hit?” he grunted.
Goren bravely stalked towards the torturers. “You already understood correctly!” he continued loudly. “You should leave the boy in peace!”
His voice died away on the rock walls. Grave's silence lies over the valley. All the work was stopped, and the prisoners remained motionless and stared at their fellow sufferer, who had apparently gone mad. Not even a chain link made a faint sound, everything was frozen in motion, stunned.
Trust the wind, the inner voice whispered.
Goren didn't want to wait for the orcs to recover from their surprise. He paused, took a deep breath, and concentrated on the magical stream he felt inside him, slowly circling and lurking. He pulled the forces together, gathered them in his throat, closed his eyes and imagined what should happen now. There was only one burning, hateful wish in his mind, and he called the wind for help.
His lungs were full and his breath forced out. He wanted to give him voice, in a unique way. He thought of a single word when he opened his mouth to a scream that no longer sounded human, that seemed to come from the depths of the earth itself and streaked up to heaven.
The prisoners covered their ears when they heard the scream, and the two orcs, even the troll, staggered two steps back when they met the concentrated power of Goren's magic, which he had put in his word.
And the wind responded instantly, as if he had been waiting for it and lurking at the entrance of the gorge all the time until the gate was opened. It rushed forward with a force that resembled a hurricane, hurled dust and sand, even small rocks, and tore them with it, raced towards the slave drivers like a mighty clenched fist and hit them with full force. The storm and the boulders hit the dark ones with such force that they lost their balance. In vain they resisted and were driven back towards the forge. And the fire, spurred on by the wind, blazed brightly, shot up in a flaming fountain and reached for the orcs with glowing fingers. Within a few heartbeats, their bodies were in bright flames and they cried out, threw themselves to the ground and rolled to suffocate the fire, which melted away the metal of the armour in no time at all, devoured clothes and skin, greedily consumed meat and fat.
The troll let out a dull roar. He lifted the club and leapt at Goren to kill him with a club blow.
But he never got around to it. The blacksmith, who had been standing behind him on the anvil, dropped the hammer and jumped up. He wrapped a huge, heavy chain around the troll's neck, grabbed it with both hands and pulled it shut. The troll dropped the club and tried to defend himself against the throwing pull. He wanted to turn around and crush the blacksmith with his bare hands, but he wasn’t an easy opponent. The blacksmith's muscles swelled powerfully as the chain tightened around the troll's thick neck. Step by step he dragged him over to the forge. The wind came to the aid of the blacksmith and fanned the fire again, which flared up and wrapped up the head of the troll. He roared so loudly that it almost tore Gorens' ears, and sank to his knees with a groan. The roar of pain increased to a shrill screech and took on a pleading, desperate sound. Finally the huge body of the troll gave way, turned around again, buckled and fell headfirst into the forge. The scream died and the huge creature went limp. The flames greedily devoured their gruesome meal and the smell of burning flesh overwhelmed the stomachs of many prisoners who vomited.
Neither of the two orcs moved.
The wind gathered again, circled Goren hissing, and then whistled off over the steep wall.

Goren got up and staggered towards the blacksmith; astonishment was reflected on his face. He didn't even think about the others staring at him as confused as he was now at the blacksmith. “Why...” he started, clueless about. His eyes widened in surprise when the orc stepped forward, and he saw the rattling and clinking of chains and the powerful shackles on his bare, hairy feet.
The blackmith grabbed an axe, and with one blow cut the chain. Then he looked at Goren and said: “Fifteen years, my young friend, I waited. Even longer, if I think about it.” His voice was rough and hoarse. “I was always treated badly as a freak, and I thought my life could no longer get darker – but then they sentenced me to life-long slave labour as a blacksmith for a murder I didn’t commit. So they could enjoy my talent without having to shell out for it... and there were other things that don't matter here, and we're in a hurry, so I'll be brief.” He held out the powerful, shovel-like hand to Goren, who took it timidly. “Me, Wolfur Grimbold, owe you my life. Remember my name if you want to collect this debt someday.”
The blacksmith let go Goren's hand and shouted: “You there, what are you standing around holding open mouths? Come here so I can break the chains of slavery! Then take what you could need, stockpiles, clothes, covers, weapons, and disappear! And I,” he turned to Goren again, “do the rest here with great pleasure when I think of how long I've been waiting for. You don't need to be afraid, nobody will chase you anymore.”
“Thank you,” Goren breathed.
Then he felt the fever return with all the power and the forces finally left him. It was stupid to fail at the moment of escape. But he couldn't go on; the magical outbreak had cost him everything that kept him going. Before he could say anything else, his mind sank in pitch black. His body fell straight into the blacksmith's arms.

At some point Goren regained consciousness. He was lying on the earth and someone was throwing a bucket of water into his face. Goren tried to sit up, but he couldn't. The fever had him under control, clouded his eyes and made his body tremble in hot and cold waves.
“Can you go?” he heard a distant voice through the noise in his ears. Somehow he felt it familiar.
He tried to say something, but his teeth chattered too much.
“Forget it, it's done,” another voice said. He tried to locate the speaker, but he could only recognize indistinct shadows.
“Then we just have to drag him along somehow,” the first voice said.
“But he's just stopping us!” the second voice objected.
“Shut up!” came a third, powerful voice. “We owe our life and our freedom to him! Get out if your cowardly skin is more important to you than any honor. I join you, friend. You take him on the right, I take him on the left, then we can do it. The guy weighs almost nothing, anyway.”
Goren trembled. He turned on his side and vomited as much as his stomach could give, and after that he was still shaken by convulsions. Leave me, he wanted to say. I'm dying anyway. But he could no longer speak, only croaked and choked. Then he noticed how they gently grabbed him and lifted him up.
“Light as a feather,” someone said on his right ear. “Do we have everything?”
“Looks like so. Very well. Let's go. Farewell, Wolfur Grimbold, unexpected ally in this golden hour! Let your axe keep eager bleeding among our tormentors!”
And they went off. Goren tried to wake up, but his thoughts drifted away more and more. Blazing dawn enveloped him and he immersed himself in the distant life of his ancestor more than eight hundred years ago.


Thanks to me, the God Emperors now rule unconditionally and unchallenged over the human lands. I’m all over Fiara, and not just by humans. But I don’t abuse my power. When I have to judge, I do it in a strict but fair manner. People need it. They cannot live without instructions, especially not in peace.
Of course I don't even claim wages for myself. I am certainly the poorest mage of the whole continent when it comes to material good things. But what should I collect in treasures if I can completely own Fiara? The fear of the enemies is enough for me, but also the troubled tremble when I go to the throne hall. I can hear their feet scratching restlessly. And I can smell their sweat of fear.
Despite the hardships of the early years, my body grew tall, so that I usually have a good overview. I’m not of strong constitution, but it doesn't need that either. My strength is spiritual. I dress my body in floor-length brocade and damask garments, and I grow long head – and whiskers to offer a dignified appearance, as befits a court alchemist in Ankbrand, the noble, proud city, where the magnificent palace of the God Emperors is located. This fortress rises in the middle of the country, shimmering white with its pointed, high towers and of great splendor and majesty.
But I rarely take part in celebrations and banquets, because this worldly activity contradicts my nature. My mind hovers in other, higher spheres and I have to work constantly to expand my knowledge. I still have a lot of plans.
The years have not bent my body; I just extended my life. But I know it won't last. The essence that I consume is effective, but not forever. So I have to get ahead, and Archfire’s my next goal, the highest magical power. If I succeed in deciphering Archfire, immortality will inspire me. Then I can finally turn to the biggest and most difficult task: the Materia Prima. With it I will be able to steer Fiara's fate in a well-ordered manner forever. There will be almost perfection.

A good century after I left the Muire Marshes, dragon were almost exterminated. Only a few were still hiding in the human lands, most had fled to Godeland. Now they had to live as hidden as we humans once did. The time of their tyranny was finally over.
Of course, the joy was great when Ur was caught, the fire dragon, one of the oldest and most powerful of all. They dragged him to the gates of the castle to show everyone. Ropes and chains kept him tied to the ground in huge rings. He couldn't even flinch.
Nevertheless, he was still terrifying: immensely large, a truly powerful creature made of red and gold. His shoulder height was fifteen steps. His long neck with the horned skull, his torso and his spiked tail corresponded to a total of thirty steps.
Even for me it was an impressive phenomenon. Of course I put a spell over him that made it impossible for him to spit fire. But he didn't seem able to do so without a spell, because he remained motionless, almost broken in his bonds.
The God Emperor, whose name I forgot, because after Chlerus they were all one like the other: arrogant and corrupt – in any case, the ruler ordered that the fire dragon be executed in a mighty show as the crowning of the demise of the yoke of the dragons.
How he was caught, and still alive, is a heroic story in itself, as children like to hear it, but it is of no further importance to my life. It was important to me that he was at the gates. After I had already found out the peculiarity of the dragon eyes, its use would certainly be of much greater use to me.
Preparations for the show started immediately. A protective wall had to be built around the dragon, because more and more gawkers appeared and the children began to climb around on its tail. Sure, the dragon was helpless in this situation – but still a dangerous creature that shouldn’t be underestimated. We knew far too little about their way of life, their intelligence, their cunning.
So I ordered a ring of wood and stone to be built around it and that two men had to watch and keep the curious away.
Deep in the night, when the castle was slumbering, I went down the stairs and went out through the entrance to the guard next to the closed main gate. It was no problem for me to get past them unnoticed – just a little shadow play, a slight illusion, you can't even call it a real magic. A person's eyes can be easily cheated.
The two of them also watched over the dragon, even though I was walking straight between them. But they noticed nothing more than a cool breeze.
“Yes, the leaf fall will begin soon,” the other replied. “It’s getting dark.”
I smiled to myself at these ignorant fools.
The dragon rested with his eyes closed. There was great heat from his huge body and the unmistakable stench of rotting fruit. I saw no breath movement until I reached his powerful head. Fine, sweet, sulphurous smoke steamed from his nostrils, which were so large that a grown wolf would found a warm place in them.
I stood up so that he could see me and said: “Greetings.”
He opened a bright yellow eye; his slit pupil contracted tightly and aimed at me. “Greetings, Malacay Dragonslayer,” he replied in a muffled, deeply rumbling, hissing voice.
“You know who I’m?” I asked amused.
“The great ones know each other,” he replied. “You know that I am Ur, the most powerful of all dragons still alive, and also the biggest. Your reputation as a mage has penetrated to the furthest borders, as has the knowledge of your mercilessness and cruelty.”
“Thank you,” I said flattered for the first half of his sentence. “Maybe there’s a dragon soul in me.”
“No dragon soul can be as black as yours,” announced Ur with calm certainty.
I ran my fingers through my long mustache. “I know that I did terrible things to your people, so I feel more honored than insulted by your judgment. But comparing how tyranny you exercised and were still exercising, I hadn’t intervened.”
“These times are long gone,” Ur replied. “It would be time, however, to show mercy and nobleness. Dragons are no longer a danger to human beings.”
“Ah,” I made amused. “So you want to beg for keep intact your scale skin?”
Ur blew a cloud of smoke in my face. “I admit that I am hardly amused by the thought of being chopped up in pieces soon to be displayed to the people, Malacay. And being chained to the ground like this is the worst humiliation you can inflict on a dragon.”
“Almost as if the magic would be taken from me,” I agreed.
Ur raised his head slightly, as far as the chains allowed. “You have not come to regret me or to feed my misery,” he said.
I smiled. Dragons are not known by their cleverness for nothing. “I’d like to suggest something to you.”
“A trade,” Ur guessed. “You ask for a price for my liberation.”
“That's fair, don't you think?” I replied. “I can do it. Tonight.”
“What should I give you?” the dragon asked lurking. “The Archfire?”
I laughed. “That isn’t enough,” I said. “First of all I ask for your life debt, dragon. Your oath.”
I made him my servant. And forever, if everything went as I planned. This made me truly invincible and able to defy the Guardians. Yes, I wanted to do this! Fiara should be free and independent, no longer at the mercy of these parasites, who like children enjoy themselves with us as their toys.
The Guardians, that is my opinion, are weak and imperfect; they have no right to lead our fate. This right only belongs to those who were born human beings, who began little to grow in themselves and to rise above all others. Yes, I’m the chosen one! Why else was this power given to me? I’m aware of my destiny and I do what needs to be done.
The red and gold dragon blew out a black cloud of smoke. “It’s a high price,” he said.
“It depends on how much your scale skin is worth to you,” I replied lightly. “Consider well, Ur: I’m the only one who can save you. And this debt is not worth so much, because in the end you’re just a dragon that can be caught.”
Orange hatred glowed in Ur’s eyes. “Do you think I would take revenge as soon as I’m free?”
“You certainly would not hesitate. But I'm chasing more with it, my future friend. So how is it? The night goes on,” I yawned challenging. “I get tired and it gets cool. You see, I'm a frail old man...”
Ur let out a deep groan. Then his head sank down. “I swear,” he whispered. “I swear I owe you until you release me. I owe you my life for your life –”
“And that of my descendants,” I interrupted.
“You already understood. This life's debt applies to all who carry Malacay's blood and inheritance. I only care that you take no later revenge. It has all happened before.”
The dragon gritted his teeth. I kept myself out of reach. I admit, I felt pleasure in seeing this mighty creature so helplessly delivered to my grace. Ur had no choice and he knew that. I wouldn't let him out.
“Well,” Ur hissed. “If you free me and do not persecute me and spare my life, I take the oath of the life debt to you and your descendants, my life for your life until your soul and blood have gone out or until you release me...”
“... voluntarily...” The thing about the release is fixed with oaths, not even you can do anything about it. But turn it a little bit.
“...voluntarily, and I swear to the power of magic that may turns against me and may crush me if I don't stick to it.”
I was satisfied with that. I had thought of everything, I was sure of that. Together we spoke the final magical spell that sealed this oath.
“And now release me,” Ur urged me.
“Not so fast, my friend,” I replied. “There is something else I should know.”
“Cheater!” he hissed and I saw the air gather in his throat for an angry scream. But he tamed himself because the chains were still wrapped around him.
“Not at all,” I assured. “I’ll free you, Ur, I’ll keep my part of the pact. And this night it will happen as I promised you. But i didn't say the hour. I'm not quite finished yet, but soon you’ll be free.”
“You are a gambler!” he said angrily. “And I trusted you.”
I grinned. “I had a fixed fake expression. This even outwits dragons, known as masters of trick and malice.” It was a popular game with colored stones of different value displays, with you could win a lot of silver pieces, even if you had very few stone values. All you had to do was make believe the mediocre players that you had all the trumps in your hand. First you had to drive up the assignment and then you had to get the other players to task. Worried opponents call the game lies-and-deception, and again and again they makes requests to the public hearings to have it banned. Houses and yards have already been gambled in this way, families had to go begging, young women lost their dowry. Some became slave.
He groaned in a fainted rage. “What else do you want?”
I came closer to him, because now I no longer had to fear him. “We were both bound by our commitment. I have to look into you, Ur, because a question, rather a guess, has occupied me for a long time.”
“I will not allow that,” he replied.
I let out a short, dry laugh. “I’m a mental mage, dragon. You’ve no choice. But don't worry, there's only one thing I want to know, I don't care about anything else.”
I immersed myself, collected my mana and stretched out my mind probe. It was like walking towards a gate that was set into a huge rock wall. It opened, albeit reluctantly, but it couldn't stop me. I stepped through...

Goren groaned and struck as if warding off an attack. He barely noticed that he was being held and someone was pouring him a bitter liquid, which he partly spat out because he felt sick. His feverish body rose.
“No!” he shouted in a strange voice. “Away from him, leave him alone! This is the revelation that must not be denied to him! He must see and know!”
Part of Goren heard this and knew it was not himself who spoke. But he couldn't make himself understood, he had no control over his body, and his eyes were only facing inwards. But he was afraid of what was said and shown to him, he no longer wanted. His weak mind tried to fight back, but he failed.
Calm!, something hissed in him. You only drive the fever high, that will kill you! Do not fight against it, just let yourself be driven, you’ll not be harmed. Your body is precious, I’ll not endanger it. See and hear...
Goren went limp and his mind sank again in glowing fever lava.


My mind couldn't grasp what I was seeing. The dragon's consciousness was too foreign. But it wasn’t terrifying, as one might think. Rather... full of light and colors, a constant change of play that made no sense to me. But my experience told me that I saw Ur’s thoughts spread out in front of me. I couldn't read it nearly; he didn't need to worry about telling his little secrets. It was amazing how these creatures managed to get along with us. They were stranger than anything I had ever experienced, and that hadn't been a little on my research trips. But I don't think even the Guardians' thoughts are so strange and puzzling.
But I was looking for something specific and I knew I would recognize it when I found it. Because it was unique.
I slid deeper and deeper into the consciousness of the dragon, which spread like a huge sea and was bathed in the changing play of light and shadow, with waves of every color, and no two were alike. It was a light vortex that showed me the way and I willingly followed it. I wasn’t afraid to lose myself.
And then I saw it.
A structure suddenly raised from the floods, shining and glistening like a polished crystal, and it had the shape of a... seed grain, yes, with a delicate stem at the top, as if it had only just come loose from the fruit. His radiance wrapped me and I suddenly felt happy; a sensation that I had never experienced before.

I came to myself when my body was aching noticeable. I had fallen to the ground, not far from the dragon's half-open mouth, and stared at a shiny yellow fang, half the length of my body. A bad smell of decay came out of his throat and wrapped me with foggy vapor.
“Yes, that's it...” I whispered, deeply shaken. “I knew it. I finally found it!”
“You won't get it.” Ur growled.
“I want and I will,” I replied firmly and stood up. “Eo’s creation is very imperfect. With the secret of Materia Prima I can bring it to perfection...”
The dragon bowed his head and I thought I heard something horrified in his voice. “You are insane, Malacay. I will not allow it.”
“You don't deserve the secret!” I lashed out. “You’re the carrier, the messenger, but it’s destined for me alone! What do you think I've spent all these decades with? The Materia Prima, the absolute perfection, it’s what I have been asking for since the beginning of my research, and you’ll give it to me! The path is in you and you’ll help me to enter it and go to the end, or I swear to you that your people will finally perish. You’ll be the last to remain, and I’ll put you on exhibition for the amusement of people! You’ll suffer the fate of a dancing bear! No one will remember the glorious times of your aeons-long reign, you’ll be past and forgotten as if you had never existed. And you’ll be only a shadow, a distorted image of a mythical creature!”
“You can't do that,” he hissed, trembling with despair. It sounded almost like a dog's whisper.
“I know where they all are, here on Fiara and in Godeland,” I sneered at him mockingly. “I've hunted and killed you for so long, I know your habits, I'll find each one wherever they flee and take their head, and I'll pile them all up in front of you, one by one, until you give in!”
“Then I would rather die,” he whispered.
I came very close to the dragon. The first silver lining was already visible in the sky; it wasn’t long until dawn. We had to hurry now.
“No, Ur, I can see that you’re trembling for your miserable life! You shudder to realize that soon nobody will know that there were dragons. And you've already done the first part of the oath, you can't go back, neither can I. You’ll now do the second part, and we’ll close it with a blood bond that really binds us together forever, because my blood’ll circle in your veins, and yours in mine and in my descendants. Together we’ll uncover the secret of the Materia Prima, and glorious times will come, also for the dragons.”
I drew my ritual dagger, a flamed knife made with blood and steel in a volcanic forge. It was decorated with magical crystals and the scales of an unborn dragon.
“So shameful,” Ur growled. “Shame on me that I let myself be tricked this way. I've grown old and fool. But for the survival and the security of my kind, and because I am already bound by the first oath, I will make the second covenant with you, because one day you too will have to pay your price. And I still want to experience that day.”
“Up to you,” I said satisfied. “Secondly, I swear that I will protect the life of all dragon, that they will no longer be persecuted as long as they stay where they are and that they can live their lives calmly and safely.”
“And I swear in addition to my first oath,” Ur said slowly, “that I give you the key to the Materia Prima, and that we are bound to each other by the blood covenant, life for life, truly united.”
I made a deep cut on my forearm, and then I pricked Ur’s neck between the second and third ring scales, where dragons are particularly sensitive, and pressed my bleeding arm against his wound.
I instantly felt the dragon's blood flowing into me, how it flowed through my body like glowing lava and spread, from the veins into the finest veinlets. I noticed how blood ran from my eyes, ears and nose, how it came out from under the fingertips, how it oozed from skin pores.
“It’s too much,” I groaned and sank to the ground. A fever took hold of me and I lost control of my body. The dragon blood was pure poison. My body twitched, pain passed like a tidal wave, hit me and pulled back until the next surge. I groaned and whimpered and complained, and I felt the burden of age and my humanity.
“Calm down.” Ur captivated me with his huge yellow eyes, and in fact the pain subsided. “What did you expect? Do you think dragon's blood is easy food?”
I got up, coughing.
“You don't have much time left and you should better retreat to your chamber,” the dragon continued. “But first do your part of the pact.”
I staggered to the huge rings that held the chains. I hadn't felt so miserable in my whole life and I couldn't avoid vomiting several times. But the view of the sky spurred me on, because the starlight was visibly extinguishing, while on the east it became brighter on the horizon and the first red glow was already visible. I heard the guards moving restlessly because their replacement was imminent. The servants were already on their feet in the castle to start fires, bath water and prepare the morning meal.
“Hopefully I can do it,” I muttered. Normally it would have been an easy task, because these chains were secured with my own magic. But I was very weak.
“Don't play with me,” Ur hissed. “Do it! No longer fool me, Malacay. Don't forget: your blood now circles in me too!”
I concentrated and muttered the opening spell. The bonds spring up with a soft click.
I heard a deep breath through the huge body. He shivered.
“Go now,” Ur hissed. “I take care of the rest.”
I had no choice, I had to obey. His blood boiled in me and it drove me away. I stumbled to the edge of the ring, and at that moment Ur shook off the chains and straightened up with a huge roar. His head reached as high as the castle's first battlement.
The two guards started screaming, dropping their spears and running headless toward the lock. The liberation of the dragon didn’t go unnoticed on the battlements there either, alarm cries rang out from the early, dew-wet air.
I wrapped myself in my cloak, cast the camouflage spell a second time and scurried over to the castle. The main gate was open and armed men poured out. I stepped past them unnoticed. Chaos reigned on the inside: servants and court lackeys ran in confusion; none of them were even reasonably dressed. Everything screamed – for help, to attack, for the gods' assistance. Yes, religion wasn’t officially allowed, but the God Emperor couldn’t do anything against superstition. Nobody else spoke openly about their belief in gods, but this was an exception.
Just before I reached my chamber, the entrance of which was directly on a wall staircase next to the parapet, I turned around again.
Ur was now standing on his hind legs, his red and gold scales glowing in the rays of the rising sun. Surrounded by a shimmering halo, he opened his throat and let out a roar that even my ears could hardly bear.
He spread his huge wings, each fifteen steps wide, and a roaring storm emerged when he started beating them. Slow at first, then faster and faster. The soldiers who wanted to throw the chains around him and reattach them were blown away like dead leaves. He was unstoppable. I was pressed against the door of my room, I could hardly breathe. And then I saw Ur leap into the air, swing twice with the mighty wings and quickly gain high. A few daring archers shot at him from the battlements, but he was already too far away. He probably wouldn't feel the arrows anyway.
Shortly afterwards he was still recognizable as a huge shadow in front of the ascending fireball. Then he was gone.
I stumbled into my chamber and collapsed on my bed. I was completely exhausted, and the dragon's blood was raging like a fever in me, like swamp fever in its last stage. My guts burned like fire and I kept vomiting. Black blood gushed out of all body openings inside me. It was horrible. I thought I had to die.
I heard how they hammered on my door and asked for help against the dragon. I answered in a weak voice and ordered the release of the dragon, otherwise there would be a terrible curse against all of us, which I was already fighting. With the last of my strength I pronounced a spell that prevented the God Emperor from giving the order to hunt the dragon. Ur was able to leave without being disturbed while I was lying in my chamber and suffering untold agony.

The fight lasted three days.
I staggered on the brink between death and life for three days. I bitterly regretted what I had done, I regretted all my deeds, my life, my birth. I cursed myself for being a mage. I cursed Ur who had done this to me. I hoped that he was somewhere suffering as much as I did, because I didn't have to go through this alone.
On the morning of the fourth day I woke up and was healthy.
I opened the shutters of my window and looked out on a juicy morning in a gentle breeze. Life in Ankbrand has long since returned to its normal course. The servants began to sleepy, yawning, disorderly dressed and uncombed with the day's work, while the people still slept in their beds.
I enjoyed the fresh air that filled my lungs. I looked at my arms, hands and feet: no more blood. But when I looked at myself in a metal mirror, I was startled. Hollow-cheeked, hollow-eyed, pale, the hair only gray streaks, a shadow of myself.
But inside I felt strong. Stronger than ever. I felt the blood of dragons circling in my veins, and it was almost as if I heard Ur’s voice whisper in me. And with strange certainty it was clear to me that the dragon was alive and also healthy. He waited somewhere for our next meeting as soon as I had fulfilled my promise.
I preferred to spit fire, I took a deep breath until I became aware of the ridiculousness of what I was doing and I couldn't help laughing at myself.
Full of energy, I washed, dressed and opened my chamber for the first time. The first feelings I had were a large appetite for a warm meal, and to drink, drink a lot. And then I had to speak to the God Emperor so that he could call off the hunt for Ur. I told him something about a prophecy and that my life depended on his. Something that would impress and frighten him, and Ur would ultimately return to his freedom.
After that I would continue my research. And I would conceive a son to transfer the blood of the dragon to the following generations. I wanted to found my own gender, unique among people, in which not only the blood of mortals circled, but also that of the dragons – and the Shapers who in ancient times mixed their blood with that of the dragons. The dragons have borne this inheritance for aeons, it gave them their force and strength, power and long life. Henceforth all my descendants would be blessed with the power of the precious blood: a perfect human creation.
For the rest I would magically take care of myself.

Goren jumped up, his heart pounding in his bare, sweaty chest. His eyes were wide open, staring up at the starry sky, which seemed familiar to him, but which he had never seen so infinitely large and far.
No trees around him, no rocks, no walls.
He was free.
He winced when a cool hand touched his forehead. A figure in a dark coat, hood pulled over head, crouched next to him. When he opened his mouth, the cloaked creature put a finger on his lips and told him to remain silent. It was enough for Goren to drink a bowl with a liquid that smelled strongly of herbs. Goren noticed how thirsty he was and drank greedily. He didn't even care that it was a bitter infusion. Then the hooded figure rubbed forehead and chest dryly, motioning him to lie down again.
Goren obeyed without knowing why. The being didn’t speak, nor did it seem to have strong powers. Nevertheless he had no strength to contradict nor to oppose.
The unknown spread a blanket over him. The near, vigorously burning fire threw flickering shadows on the dark cloak, but there was no sign of the face except for a brief, half-hidden glint in the eyes. But it was too little to see who the unknown savior was.
Goren saw dark shapes lying around the fire and he heard quiet, sighing, moaning breathing. And a powerful snore, not far from him.
So he wasn’t alone, but surrounded by what appeared to be friends.
His chains were gone, no more rattles, no scraping and scratching of the skin.
Goren looked back at the unknown, who poured more infusion into the bowl and placed it next to his head. He raised an arm and tried to reach the hood, but handled the void. With an imperceptible movement, but lightning fast, the hooded figure was out of his reach. But Goren's fingers still felt the rest of the warm where the creature had just sat.
His eyelids grew heavy, and he was very tired. He gave in, closed his eyes, and his head sank to the side. Soon afterwards he slept deeply and dreamlessly. For the first time, without fever.
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