[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapters 7 & 8

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[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapters 7 & 8

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 7 – A new alliance
“Hey, master of sleep, don't you want to wake up at last?”
Someone poured a handful of water into Goren's face and he woke up with a scream. His hand shot up and his powerful fingers closed around the other's neck. He uttered a surprised loud and froze.
“It's good, no one wants to kill you,” a calm, powerful voice intervened, and a heavy hand rested on Goren's arm. “Here you’re among friends.”
“Par-pardon,” Goren said embarrassed, released the grip and rubbed his eyes as he sat up. “I didn't want that at all, it's just –”
“You’re a warrior, certainly, we’ve already found that out,” said the one he had almost strangled, and laughed.
Goren stared into the face of an apparently noble young man, with striking facial features, deep blue eyes and dark blonde, shoulder-length hair. “Your voice...” he whispered. “I know you...”
“Totally right!” The young man held out his hand. “If you finally permit: I’m Hag the Falcon, from the House Leonidar of Nortander. I was in the cell next to you. And I dragged your feverish body here from the Valley of Tears together with Buldr Redbeard.”
Goren took his hand and then stared into the face of a sturdy dwarf with fiery red hair. His imposing beard was woven into long plaits at the ends of the mustache and left and right of the cleft chin. “I heard your voice when you picked me up...”
“It's hard to ignore me!” Buldr laughed threateningly and slapped Goren on the shoulder. “Maybe my lovely voice just kept you on this side, because we didn't want to bet a Goblet on you anymore, it was so bad for you. But Weylin Mooneye knows how to heal, which is lucky for us.”
A creature wrapped in a dark hooded cloak came closer to Goren, and his heart immediately beat faster. When the hood pulled back, he looked into the light gray, almost silver-colored, almond-shaped eyes of an elf. Her long, straight hair was the color of vine leaves before they start to fall in autumn, her skin was pale rounded inwards. He had never seen such a beautiful, pure being. But when she touched his hand, he realized that it wasn’t she who had given him the herb potion tonight. He suddenly felt as if a thousand ants were crawling across his body, and suddenly color returned to his face.
“Then I owe you my life?” he whispered.
The elf smiled. “First I owe you my life.” She shifted. Her voice was bright as a bell and delicate.
“Is he awake? Why doesn't anyone tell me that?” Someone pushed Weylin and Hag aside, a long, gaunt youngling with freckles, sparkling green eyes and a reddish-brown, short mop of hair. He sat down next to Goren, his knee joints cracking, and beamed at him with huge white teeth. “I’m Menor the Thin,” he introduced himself, and Goren no wonder about the surname. “Like Hag I come from Nortander, but not from a noble house like him. I'm just a stray and a master in the art of living!”
“We call someone like you a thief or Zerbo’s follower,” Buldr grinned broadly.
“That’s the past,” Menor raised his hands like an oath and made a solemn face.
Goren shook Menor's hand, making sure that all the fingers were on afterwards. “Where’s the other with the hood?” then he asked. That might be unkind, but he was extremely curious about who he met last night.
“Oh, of course!” Weylin Mooneye turned and waved. “Now come on, at least for a moment! It's all right.”
Goren was close to jumping up, he was so impatient. But then the last of the group entered the small circle. He was hidden and unrecognisable.
The elf put a hand cautiously on the shoulder of the hooded. “We call him Silent,” she explained. “He can speak, I've seen that myself – about one – or twice a year he speaks a few words. But you shouldn't expect an answer to your questions.”
“And now!” Menor the Thin called in between and looked expectantly at Goren. “With whom do we have the pleasure?”
Goren realized his rudeness that he still hadn't introduced himself. “I'm sorry!” he replied, smiling timidly. “I was so curious, especially because I’m finally fine – my name is Goren. Goren Wind-Whisperer, and I come from the Highmark.”
“Welcome back to life,” said Hag the Falcon and shook Goren's hand again.
“Well, let's take care of something to eat!” Buldr Redbeard interrupted and rose. “When we have filled our belly with a warm meal, everyone should tell their story. So, let's distribute the tasks – no, you don't, Goren, you’re still recovering. Let us serve you, that's the way it should be.”
All did chores. Goren stopped Menor: “Weren't we much more?”
“Yes,” answered the young man. “But the others have long since scattered in all the winds. We're kind of stuck together because each of us wants to thank you first, and besides – after all of that, we deserved a few quiet days, and that's best done together.”
“And where are we here?” Goren looked around: hilly grasslands stretched in every direction. Only a few old giant trees, a few woods and isolated bushes. They were camping in a valley, in the nearby murmured a small creek that meandered flowing from east to west. The grass was in full bloom, a true carpet of yellow and red, with some white and purple speckles. The day was clear and warm. Summer was not far off.
“We are in the middle of the Highmark’s meadows,” replied Menor the Thin. “Away from all known roads. In safety, as far as one can say at all in these times. Relax, Goren.”

In the late afternoon everyone gathered around the fire. Buldr and Hag had killed a two-tailed steppe jumper, which Weylin expertly gutted, filled with herbs collected by herself, stuck on a skewer and slowly turned over the fire. Silent brought sweet roots and dug-out truffles in the coals at the edge of the fire. Herb tree steamed in a small kettle, and there were three drinking bowls that were passed around alternately.
Meanwhile, Goren had caught up a nap because he was still exhausted. Then he could choose something to wear because his friends had ransacked the chambers before they fled.
“After all, you can't walk around naked,” as Buldr noted.
There were components of orcish armours, shirts, pants, belt, boots. Most of them was too big, but that wasn’t a problem. Goren actually felt better than he looked "somewhat like a human being" again. His healing back was covered with a thick layer of medicinal herbs and bandaged with threads. The shirt not only covered the ugly wound, which soon turned into ugly scars, but also protected sensitive skin.
They had also taken some weapons with them: smaller axes, knives and short swords. All of this happened while Goren was lying in feverish visions and the blacksmith Wolfur Grimbold killed the orcs, which were drugged by weed, in their rock holes.
“You thought of so many things.” Goren was surprised. “I would probably only run away screaming if I could.”
“We owe that to Weylin,” Hag grinned. “She immediately took everything in hand and instructed us what to take with us. It was no longer than a dragon's breath, Goren, and we were on our way.”
“I had believed even less that you would take me with you,” Goren murmured.
“I couldn't leave you behind, friend, after we had been lying next to each other for days,” Hag replied. “Despite our agreement, I knew the way you look. I prayed every day to see you come to light. Especially in the last few days, when you got so seriously ill from the lashing. You gave me hope because you were so strong and persisted for so long. No one else could endure so much. And then you saved us too...”
Goren said nothing. He suddenly felt uncomfortable.
But Hag didn’t notice it, because the roast was ready and he was as eager as the others for the first good meal since martyrdom.
After everyone was full and Tiara the Dancer descended into her deep bed below the horizon, they told each other their life stories.

Hag the Falcon

I just start. For those of you who don't know the House of Leonidar: we rule over the northern part of Greyfell and Liannon, near the Shadow Pass. It’s a rough country with dark forests. The wind whistles down from the mountains. Our coat of arms is a golden sword on a blue background. We wear armours that glistens in the sun to dazzle and impress our opponents. You can already tell that I don't like warfare so much, even though I’m a trained soldier and already have a small patrol. I’m twenty-five years old. Two years ago my unit was sent to Highmark to intervene in any of the Convocation Wars. Don't ask me why. It was probably an agreement between our house and a ruler of the Highmark. I only had to follow orders and received no answers to my questions. Of course I tried to make the best of our situation. I was separated from my unit in a skirmish. During the search of my fellows I was caught by the orcs. It’s a great shame, so I ask you to don’t request any further details. After a day-long transport in carts, in which all prisoners were crammed like cattle, we reached the Valley of Tears. Somehow I managed to survive, but I probably wouldn't have lasted long if Goren hadn't saved us all.

Menor the Thin

That's all? Then hear my story, I want to be as brief as possible. As Buldr correctly guessed, I come from the guild of thieves, whereby I want to emphasize that I never robbed the poors and never kill anyone. I’m also a poet, and occasionally I sing my own songs and accompany myself on the lyre. I have already strolled through all the larger cities of the Highmark and Nortander. About my origin, I only know that my father and mother were together in Nortander for a short time and that after the birth they left me in front of a house of the guild. When I was old enough, of course, I had to repay the debt for my education and nutrition, so I became who I am. Debt-free by the way, I would also like to emphasize! I have been working for my own account for a long time. Well, one day in Connach i got a little too drunk because I had earned well and wanted to celebrate. When I woke up with buzzing head, I was in a cart, just as Hag said earlier. And that was about it. Not very much for a twenty-seven year life, eh? But believe me, friends, it's enough for me. I have not yet thought about how to proceed. The fear sits like a heavy mushroom between my toes and isn’t easy to get rid of. Let's see. Now I'm curious about your other stories.

Buldr Redbeard

Me? Well. But it's not particularly interesting, I'll tell you right away. I'm a bit older than you three young boys together, but that doesn't pay much for a long-lived dwarf.
I come from the Windwall Mountains, more precisely from Windholme. This magnificent stone city lies on the south-eastern edge of the mountains, where it had withstood the icy eastern storms for centuries. No breeze can penetrate through the thick walls of the houses, and the eternal fires of the powerful chimneys keep the interior warm. Windholme is a large, lively city with a lot of trade and where the best food of the whole dwarf people are. Yes, of course the Grimwarg people in Fastholme make the same claim, above all because their clan is older than ours. But that's just not true! Our armours are the best in the world. For the cheapest one you have to pay a golden Eagle. And our weapons never fail.
Well, I notice how restless you are getting, but I assure you that this isn’t bragging, but simply the truth. And you’ll soon find out why.
Because my family isn’t, as you may assume, one of the blacksmiths. No – we’re seafarers! Yes, listen and be amazed. They always say the same about us dwarfs: digging in mines, hitting the anvils, that is our vocation. But we also have other interests, such as trade. We’re very successful in this, for example when I recall the contract with the first hybernian God Emperor, who was extremely lucrative for both sides and who, even after the fall of the empire, received a profitable agreement with the people.
My ancestors were there when Inenland and Godeland were discovered. Today we specialize in the fast transport of goods and driving on the coastline.
And I’m often there as an escort. Quite right: I’m not a soldier in the traditional sense, I’m more a seafarer than a warrior. But I understand weapons and how to use them. However, I’m not a fight supporter. I prefer to fight with good words rather than with a fatal blow.
I have often had success with it. Due to my martial appearance, I am usually taken seriously and people listen to me. If you can make an opponent listen, you have already half won the fight.
However: the last time we sailed along the Misty Coast, we got into a storm and suffered shipwreck. I was wound up somewhere on land, far from the others. I didn’t find any trace of either the ship or the crew, but I also did not have enough options for a detailed search. So I made my way to Windport to send a message to my family in Windholme and ask for help with the search. I no longer had a coin with me; everything was sunken in the waters of the Timeless Sea.
But I never reached Windport and suffered a fate similar to Hag: the orcs picked me up on the way and I was abducted, just like you. In the service of the orcs, my will was to be broken, my fighting strength increased, until I was ready to serve one of the Circle Mages. These orcs belong to the Grarg tribe, the most numerous and powerful on Eo. They often earn their living with slave trade, for which they aren’t particularly respected by the others, which I cannot fully understand. Because orc is orc, right? There are no better or worse, only bad and very bad. They all serve the darkness; I don't see any difference. At the very least, that Grarg belong to the very bad guys and love to torture.
But I digress: I was lucky that Goren acted yesterday because I should be there the next time and I was going to be sold by Shakrakk. Too bad that he was not there. I had happily split his skull because there is hardly anyone who surpasses him in cruelty.
And this was the story of Buldr Redbeard, of which I’m also very proud. My beard, I mean. Frankly, in retrospect, I wonder why these baldheads didn't shave him long enough to decorate their armours. But maybe then I achieved a worse price, who knows. Who comes next?

Weylin Mooneye

Then I want to tell you my story. I'm originally from Finon Mir, the closed country, as you all know. I was born in Dun Shael, near the border to the Highmark. Like most of my family, I have great healing powers, as Goren already noted. And he will find that his scars after healing won't look as repulsive as he thinks.
Every now and then we leave our trees to visit relatives or friends in Fiara who live in Eloni, in the north of Nortander, or elsewhere in small clans.
One day my father wanted to visit his sister, who lives with her clan in a hidden hill on the northern border of the grassy sea, just before the border with the troll lands. I insisted on accompanying him because I didn't like the fact that he was traveling across the country alone. He finally gave in and so our group left. We were ten.

Sorry for not being able to continue speaking for a moment. Even though this was a long time ago, I’m still gripped by pain and grief when I think of it. You’ve to know, I was very fond of my father. And I was looking forward to finally meeting his sister, whom he liked to tell about and whom he loved very much.
I... want to make it short now, it still upsets me too much, and I realize that I can't talk about it in more detail.
When we reached the hill there was a fight. A group of orcs and trolls tried to destroy the lock. My aunt's clan, the Sedh, bravely resisted the invaders.
It was a terrible battle, the outcome of which I never saw. Because my father immediately intervened in the fight, and with him our ten companions. I should hide because I'm a healer, not a warrior. But it was already too late. They had discovered me and were hunting for me.
Then they caught me and...
No. I can't talk about it.
Only so much: since then I have served the orcs for their amusement and healing. I was their personal slave, you can't say otherwise. They never intended to sell me because I cheered up their sad lives, as they assured me. So i was wrapped into the cloak and had to hide my face. I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone. They guarded me like a dragon guard his treasure. And I thinked to everything I would served because I had seen them punished whom don’t obeyed. And I was happy if they left me alone... that's why I was as quiet and unobtrusive as possible. I wanted to survive, do you understand? It’s easy to die. But then what? I don't like to run away. I never gave up hope that one day I would be free again. And that I could search for my family to find out if anyone was alive.
Silent was already there when I arrived. He never revealed himself to me, and unlike mine, the orcs never raised his cloak. We changed a few words every now and then and he showed me how I could survive. I have to say – he was always there for me. He knows how to heal like me and has great powers. And an unbreakable will to live, it seems to me, because often the orcs beat him to the point of unconsciousness if anything had made them angry. But Silent endured everything, and much better than me – and he also helped me! I could never have made it without him. That's why I want to end my story here and hope to finally find out who my friend is by so many moons.



The night had fallen. A thin crescent moon hung pale and weary over the western horizon. The light of the stars sparkled like millions of precious stones and was only occasionally covered by a passing cloud or a flying night hunter.
It was quiet in the grasslands. Those who hunted here at night sneaked silently through the high rods. Small animals had withdrawn into their burrows. The larger ones gathered together in groups and graze across the country as they were, or they remained silent, some resting, the others listening to the night with their heads held high. Now it was only the insects' most important time, because they came out in droves where they had never been suspected during the day. Crawling, hymenoptera, heavily armoured, arachnitis. Some were looking for vegetable food, others were looking for them. Every now and then both lost when a grass snake, which found its way easily in cooler temperatures, glided silently through the grass and snapped for everything that moved and was no bigger than a palm.
Silent poked around with a branch in the embers and added firewood, while the others waited patiently for his story. There wasn’ embarrassing silence, because there was enough to think about after all that most of them had just revealed. They couldn't have been more different, and in any other peaceful place on the continent they hadn't looked at each other. But fate had brought them together, so that they could sit around the fire in quiet connection and feel like a community.
Finally Silent poured the herb tea into three drinking bowls and handed them to Hag, Weylin and Buldr. The three took a sip, looked astonished, and then drank the whole bowl at once. They returned the bowls to Silent, who filled them again with the rest and then handed them to Goren and Menor, and the third he kept to himself. Goren and Menor swallowed with obvious pleasure.
“What did you put in there?” Buldr said with his thunderous voice. “Another herb we didn't know about yet, right? I almost feel as if I had drunk half a barrel of black beer, but I don't feel so heavy or so drunk, but... light and suddenly happy!”
Silent nodded and made a swaying gesture with his hand.
“I could swear that our silent friend was grinning from ear to ear,” Menor the Thin said cheerfully. He handed the bowl back to him. “I think I will sleep peacefully and dreamless this night, thanks to you!”
Goren tried to get a close look at the hands of Silent, but even they were almost completely covered by the wide, dark sleeves and gave no indication of which race the unknown belonged to, whether he was young or old, healthy or ill.
Weylin Mooneye put a hand on Goren's arm and he winced. The touch of the elf was different from that of a human or a dwarf. Goren couldn’t explain exactly why. But it felt different; her hand always looked cool, but soft as velvet. In the light of the stars it became clear why she had been given the nickname Mooneye: her eyes now shone like liquid silver and gave off a soft shimmer that fell over Goren.
“Silent shared his intoxicating herbs with us, which strengthens us and brings the Valley of Tears into the past,” she explained with her bell-like voice. “Now you’re the only one left, Goren, our savior, who brought us here. It’s time for you to reveal your story, Wind-Whisperer, because even if you’re the youngest among us, you’re the most unusual.”
Goren swallowed. “I'm sorry I was silent for so long,” he began. “But you’ll not be pleased with my story, and I fear that it will end our friendship even before it has really started. I have long considered whether I should tell you the whole truth or only a part of it, or a story of a lie. But I think you would see through me, and you were rightly angry. What you will be in any case.”
“How about if you leave it to us, boy?” Buldr roared and leaned back. “Oh, what do I give now on a good drag...” he sighed.
Silent pulled a thin stalk covered with long leaves from his sleeve, held it briefly in the fire and passed the smoking herb on to the dwarf. He took it in astonishment, sniffed it and then sucked in the smoke deeply, the nostrils of his broad nose swelled a lot. “You’re a wonder!” he blurted out.
Silent made a gesture that could be interpreted as "you’re welcome" and then dealt with the fire again.
Meanwhile, Goren had arranged his thoughts. The beginning was always the hardest, he knew that. Then he decided not to wander around for long. “I’m a Shaikan,” he said. “My mother was Derata, daughter of the lord of the Shaikur fortress, a breakaway who fled pregnant with me over eighteen winters ago and found a new home in Lyraine. A month ago Lyraine was attacked and destroyed by an army led by a Shaikan called Ruorim Blackbeard.”
Up to this point, everyone had been silent, with growing amazement. But now there was no restraint.
“Ruorim Blackbeard?” Hag the Falcon interrupted him.
“You speak of Ruorim the Butcher!” Buldr Redbeard burst out. “That's how they call him a decade, all over the country, in all countries of the six races!”
“He’s a murderer!” it escaped from Weylin Mooneye, and her lovely voice shattered like hot glass dipped in ice water.
“Even the thief curses the godless!” Menor the Thin cried. “Is there a family he hasn't torn apart through torture and murder? Is there anyone who can say something good about him, except perhaps the ruler he’s serving and for whom he tirelessly uses his butcher knife?”
Goren felt an ice-cold hand placed on his heart. But now there was no going back. “He’s my father,” he whispered in a broken voice.
There was a sudden deathly silence, even the tireless whispering and rustling of the myriad insects around them had ceased. Everything remained motionless. His fellow stared Goren unbelievably. They pulled away involuntarily, except for Silent, who was already on the other side of the fire, anyway.
“Why did you do that... terrible things?” Menor the Thin breathed stunned. “We assumed you were a mage...”
“Not me!” Goren replied angrily, but immediately raised his hand soothingly when he saw the others back away, startled. “No, please, forgive me, it wasn't for you. I... maybe inherited a gift from Ruorim, which is why I’m called the Wind-Whisperer. But I’m not a mage or alchemist and I’ll never be one. I’m not like him, like Ruorim, on the contrary. I only saw him once in my life, and that was...” he swallowed and tears came into his eyes, which glittered like dewdrops in the firelight as they rolled down his cheeks. He completed the sentence almost inaudibly: “when he murdered my mother.”
In the following silence no one moved. Goren stared into the fire, trying to keep his emotions bridled, the wild, destructive hatred that raged in his stomach and the one that was demanded to be let out, like yesterday with the orcs.
Finally he wiped the wet salt off his cheek with an angry gesture and swallowed the rest of the tears. “I swore to kill him,” he continued. “I was captured by the orcs when I tried to save the governor and the court alchemist. Their death also struck two notches in Ruorim's sword, for which he has to answer.” He stared at his fellows in turn. “He took everything from me, you see? Every person who meant something to me, my peaceful life that I had lived up to then, my future, which I imagined differently. Now the only thing left for me to do is revenge, and I’ll not rest until I’ll find him and I’ll kill him!”
“He’s too strong,” a voice croaked on the other side of the fire. Everyone turned to Silent, who had spoken unexpectedly. His voice was rough and broken, terrifyingly strange.
Goren was grateful that somebody finally said something, all the more that it had been the one that was hidden. Now Goren had the proof that the hooded figure could speak and understood every word. This being was not that strange. This broken voice touched him deeply, because it showed deep suffering and great sadness.
“I know,” the young Shaikan answered. “I know that I’m not up to it, because obviously since my birth nobody has been able to defeat him. My mother... would done it if he hadn't used his magic and murdered her from behind, in a cowardly, dishonorable manner. But I have no choice and the winds will be with me, I know. And I’ll do a very good job if I free the whole Fiara from this butcher.”
Buldr carefully scratched his beard. The general tension was now relieved, because everyone had understand that Goren was guiltless of his father and certainly saw no honor in being his offspring. “A Shaikan, mmmm,” the dwarf growled thoughtfully. “You know well that your people haven’t welcomed very well.”
“Only after orcs and trolls,” Goren noticed in a pathetic attempt to joke. “I was born that way, but I didn't grow up with them, Buldr. I have no idea what distinguishes a Shaikan from a normal person, because I don't know anything about my people. I’m a warrior like Hag and I can speak to the winds. That's me. The rest are flaws that have been blamed on me.”
“The Shaikan are known for not being on anyone's side and changing sides in the middle of a battle,” Hag said slowly and gloomily.
“My mother chose her side,” Goren replied. “She paid for it with her life, and I’ll not disgrace her by sticking to the Shaikan code.”
The others remain silent.
“Well,” Menor said suddenly. “I believe you, Goren. Of course I believe you, after everything you've done for us! If you were in cahoots with your father, he would hardly have handed you over to the orcs. And thieves are not among the most respected noble. I recognize a good person. That's what my job entails, Goren. I see that you are split and that there is a lot of darkness lurking inside of you. But you’ve a good heart! Your eyes are clear and honest and you’re very young. This is enough for me. And for my part I’ll go to sleep now, because it’s already approaching midnight. I’m completely dazed from the herb tea and would like to rest tomorrow and start my life with new strength. Good night, comrades.” He pulled his cloak around him, lay closer to the fire, facing the dark, and soon began to snore softly.
“This skinny idler is right,” Buldr agreed and yawned heartily. “After inhaling this smoked herb I’m no longer accountable, anyway.” He also went closer to the fire and turned his back on the others.
The rest of them did the same, but without looking Goren in the eyes.
After all, he was sitting by the fire alone. Despite company, he was the loneliest person in this place.

Goren still couldn't sleep. The herb tea had been rather invigorating. He had to think about what to do next. For a day, he had owned friends who had once been fellow sufferers. But as soon as this had developed, this bond had already been broken again, and that was solely due to his fault. Even Buldr and Weylin, as pure dwarfs and elves, were able to overcome the abyss between them. But being a Shaikan meant rejection from everyone, distrust, contempt, maybe even fear. He had seen it in their eyes. Being a Shaikan was a curse that could never be overcome.
What will they say about it if they find out the rest?
Goren had bet that his ancestor would answer in word. He had been surprised that he had kept silent here. Or maybe Goren hadn't heard him either. His body and thoughts still belong to him, even if he sensed that Malacay grew stronger in him every day.
Then?, urged the forefather with a sneer. Why didn't you confess this to them when you were there?
They won't find out, Goren replied. This is insignificant because I will continue my story without you. The dragon blood in me helped me to survive and gave me the strength to call the winds for help. I saved them all, and they brought me to safety. We don't owe each other anything.
But what are you up to? Do you really want to oppose against your father in battlefield?
I swore it, Malacay, on my mother's blood. This oath is my only goal in life, there is nothing else.
This is foolishness, child, and a mistake. I won't let that happen.
Yes, you will. You have nothing to do with Ruorim, he’s only my producer, a descendant from a long line for you. I’m the one you want, but as long as I haven’t found my revenge, you’ll not get me.
Would you suggest me a trade?
I suggest you to be silent. Go back to your dungeon in the far corner of my soul where you belong. You’re just a moody shadow of the past, a smudge of dirt on my soul that will be wiped away one day.

Goren heard the noise, but he paid no attention to it. He repressed that dark side inside that he despised. Now there was more important to do: making a decision.
Basically, he had only one choice: he had to leave the others, as quickly as possible. He wasn’t a fellow to be trusted, not a good friend. There were too many dark secrets surrounding him, and the others had nothing to do with his revenge. It was his business. He had to accept it: he was and remained a Shaikan! For him there would be no affection, no sympathy, no life companion. Only revenge, war and death. The only good thing he could do to his fellows was to leave them. This also made them more secure from persecution and allowed them to return to their normal lives.
That's the way it should be, Goren thought. I experienced a short time of happiness of a friendly community, and that must be enough for a whole life. More than most Shaikan people experience when they aren’t among themselves. So I’ll go with this memory and a happy heart. It’ll prevent my heart from going black with hatred and leaning towards the darkness in which Malacay lurks.
With that he finally went to sleep, suddenly reassured and with a goal in mind.

Goren woke up before dawn. He packed up what was left to him, closed the cloak over his chest and took a last look at his slumbering fellows. The fire had burned down to a few glowing coal residues. The crescent moon had long since set, and the light of the stars was starting to fade away.
This was the darkest moment before dawn began, when the meadows were dewy, the spiders repaired their web one last time, the little rodents moved in their burrows and listened to the flickering flight of the last night birds, which glided low over the lowlands.
Time to say goodbye. Goren took heart, shouldered his little bundle and trudged into the silent land, away from the fading glow of fire.

Goren had considered going north, to Norimar, which was on the other side of the Rift of Truth. The Orc lands began beyond, but it was no less dangerous there than anywhere else. Since the outbreak of the Convocation Wars, hardly anyone had hold to any borders. There was no security anywhere. Today the country was more shattered than ever, immersed in the chaos of the unleashed forces. And so it would probably stay until the day of the Convocation finally came when everything should be decided.
But perhaps some things could be improved if the worst warlords were eliminated; perhaps it was possible to alleviate the fear in the hearts of the people and to bring the dukes, barons and princes to a table to think about a last fight for peace.
Goren knew that his mother had dreamed it. Although she had never told him much, she occasionally reported on her dream of creating a new alliance of the six races in order to jointly counter the tyranny of the Circle Mages. It had worked before, why not a second time? It wasn’t long before the Convocation, but still enough time to create it. And then they had to find out what was actually going to happen that day to prepare themselves.
At least Ruorim the Butcher should no longer experience that day. Someone else would surely take his place, but he was left with a big gap that wasn’t so easy to fill out.
Goren didn’t believe that Ruorim was still in the south below. Connach was very close to orc – and troll territory, which for him were more connected than enemies. The young Shaikan couldn’t imagine that he would move on to Underhall. It was in the mighty ice – and hidden dwarfs were well fortified and guarded. For the moment, they weren’t an easy prey. And surely Ruorim served a Circle Mage chasing other plans.
So Norimar remained the best destination where he could receive news and maybe find a job to get a reasonably usable, affordable armour and a good sword. Goren was young and passionate, but not a fool. Under no circumstances he would face his father with his bare hands.
Goren went briskly to gain distance from the others as quickly as possible. However, he soon realized that he was still not at full strength, his legs ached, and he tired faster than he was feeling. Nevertheless, he was confident, because thanks to the healing powers of the fire and the elves, he was well on the way to his former strength. The terrible Valley of Tears would soon be far behind him.
But right now it was still inside him. He wavered between the shining goal of his vengeance in front of his eyes and the pain and grief over his many losses and the sorrow he had suffered.
So he barely noticed that his legs kept walking despite the tiredness, while it was getting significantly lighter. He climbed a large hill; he got really warm and gasped like a lamb after an eventful day in the sheepfold. A flock of two-tailed steppe jumpers crossed him without showing a sign of fear. Their slender, silky brown body floated gracefully through the air with every jump, landed on delicate split hooves and took off again. The underside of the raised double tail flashed white; the wagging twitch confused the predator's eye in the softly swaying steppe grass. The herd was followed by a smaller group of hormuls, clumsy creatures with horns on the nose and forehead and sturdy legs. But they gave off a wonderful scent of violets, hyacinths and lavender, and their huge brown eyes, lined with long eyelashes, looked gently.
Even the hormuls overtook Goren with their steady, pounding stride. One of them looked over at Goren and mooed quietly.
Goren didn’t pay attention to it, but went on towards the crest of the hill, which stood out dark against the soft blue sky, streaked with pink stripes.
And then he was upstairs, looking around the endless expanses of grass and steppe, and smilingly looking at Tiara's huge, orange-red pinwheel, which had just left the line of the horizon and rose to the sky. Millions of ultra-fine, dewy spider webs sparkled like crystals in the blazing glow and returned the light in multiple colors.
The two herds grazed in peace nearby, basking in the first warm rays of the day and playing with each other.
Goren's heart became lighter. He wasn't all alone while there were still such sunrises. The Guardians up there always kept an eye on their people. They never forgot anyone.

Goren was about to turn away when he saw a small dark figure at the bottom of the hill that followed his trail and was preparing to come up to him. His eyes were as sharp as falcon; he didn't have to look twice to know who was chasing him: Silent.
What should he do now? Just turn around and run down the hill quickly, turn on a dime, use the bush cover and increase the distance?
But how far would he get? If Silent had followed him here, he would not be easily shaken off. Sooner or later there would be a confrontation. So better now.
Goren waited for the hooded figure to reach him, who was by no means as debilitated and as troublesome as he had been before.
“I’ll go alone,” he started straightforward. “I don't want you to follow me, I don't want you to go with me. Please, accept my will and don’t burden me. It’s my decision, there’s nothing left to change.
Goren turned away and took a few steps down the hill on the other side. He didn't have to look around to know that Silent was still behind him.
He turned around and raised his hand. “Stop! I tell you, stop! Choose your own direction, your own way! There’s nothing in common for us!”
He went on, and Silent with him. He even caught up and walked to his side.
Goren growled angrily. “Why don't you respect me? I don't want you with me, don't you understand?”
Silent pointed north and then pointed to himself.
“Don't come to me!” Goren snapped. “This isn’t your way at all. Oh, what am I talking about, I have no idea what your way is, because I don't know where you come from. But in any case I will go there, alone! You still have three directions to choose from, so be happy with them!”
Silent shook his head.
“Do you want to tell me why?” Goren was on the verge of an outburst of anger, but he tamed himself. He felt Malacay begin to awake in him.
Silent shook his head.
Then he overtook Goren and walked happily out. The young Shaikan gave up.

All day until evening Goren thought about how he could get rid of Silent. After all, there was not much difference to before, because the hooded figure didn’t speak. The trip was therefore quiet. Then he could risk taking Silent to Norimar. But there their paths would irrevocably separate!
In the evening they started a meager fire because there was very little usable wood. The water from Goren's wineskin had to be enough, and he still had a few mushrooms and sweet roots from yesterday. He had already eaten a small roast on the way.
They crouched in silence, the fire between them. Strange that this silence wasn’t uncomfortable. On the contrary, he enjoyed this calm, he had seldom seen it. Day and night in Lyraine he was active, and in the Valley of Tears he had heard the sighing and screaming of the others, or the grunting of the orcs. Last night the fellows had been snoring more or less loudly, and the insects had made quite a noise with their rattling and scraping.
But here, exactly at this point, there seemed to be no life. No bird that flew about the sky, no insects, no grass eaters. Maybe that would change with the onset of darkness. But now Goren could listen to the silence and ponder his own thoughts.

When he heard a crack, he spun around, the knife immediately at hand.
“Slow, slow, there’s no enemy here!” When he heard a familiar voice, he saw Hag the Falcon step into the circle of light of the fire.
“What are you doing here?” Goren asked, puzzled.
“And he’s not alone,” Buldr Redbeard resounded with a bass laugh. And he was already standing next to Hag, followed by Menor and Weylin.
Goren stared at them like glowing green ghosts that had just emerged from an ancestral crypt. “But... but...” he stammered.
Silent gestured invitingly, and the four closed the gaps around the fire.
“Yes, you know, boy, we got a terrible fright when you were suddenly gone this morning,” the dwarf explained and plucked his beard plaits. “Just disappear without a word of farewell and without asking us for our opinion!”
“I thought it was the best choice,” Goren said softly. “I'm just getting everyone in trouble, and I'm –”
“A Shaikan, yes, we know that,” Hag interrupted. In the fire, his eyes shone like the evening sky. “Goren, you can't blame us for your confusion and what we had to think about. But did you seriously believe that we would leave you in the lurch?”
“I – I…” Goren stuttered in amazement. “But you couldn't trust me.”
“We couldn’t trust you?” Menor the Thin snorted amused. “You’ve your heart on your face, friend. And don't forget what we've all been through together. Where should we go? This world is broken. Nobody knows who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Which life should we go back to? This may be possible for some of us, but it doesn’t apply to me.”
“I'm afraid to join my family in Dun Shael,” Weylin said in her gentle voice. “The customs of my people are very strict. They could blame me for leaving the borders of our empire and sentenced to death.”
“Your father wanted to visit his sister,” Menor objected in surprise.
“But I survived,” Weylin replied. “Yria of the Light, our Circle Mage, doesn't appreciate it when the elves leave Finon Mir. They probably declared me dead long ago.
Buldr returned to the subject and looked at Goren. “I like you, boy, I see great things in you, because you have a mission,” he roared. “You need a good axe at your side and an eloquent, experienced sea traveler all the more. Whether I guard dead goods or you – when it comes to going to the Butcher's skin, I'm there.”
“That is also my reason,” Hag explained. “Ruorim has a lot of my house on his conscience, including some related ones. I have every reason to help someone who has the insane courage to go against Ruorim. And besides... I can't forget what connects us both, Goren: the wall of a cell.”
Goren's eyes grew wet. “I don't know what to say...”
“Fate brought us together,” Buldr said. “It can’t be a coincidence that the six of us flee together. We’re drawn and bound together by the chains of slavery. I think your goal is very honorable, Goren, if pretty crazy. There’s no prospect that we can successfully face Ruorim. But you’re determined to do so, and I don’t see why I should leave all the glory to you. One way is as good as another in this dying world. So I’ll help you as far as I can. If only because I owe you my life, like all of us, by the way. That’s my decision, and we all agreed on this after a short consultation this morning. Apart from our Silent over there, who has long been over all mountains on your heels.”
Menor beamed. “We are now the alliance of six! Humans, dwarves, elves and an unknown! Isn't that a big historical moment?”
Goren didn't know what to say. What he had longed for all his life was now fulfilled: he had friends who were sincere to him. Despite all the flaws.
His heart was full of happiness. But his mind was dark. Because now he dared less than ever to reveal his last secret.

Chapter 8 – Malacay’s warning
“I warn you, my boy.”
Goren blinked. “Where am I?”
He was in a foggy realm. Everything was covered, ground and sky, nothing else seemed to exist. The fog itself seemed to emit a diffuse light because it wasn’t dark. But Goren was absolutely certain that he had gone to sleep in the dark, and the sky was starry. Fog was unusual for this time.
“Your body is resting, Goren, right where you left it. But your mind has gone on a journey, at my request, so we can talk in peace. From ancestor to descendant.” The voice was deep, a little rough, and very lively. Yet Goren recognized it as the whisper in his soul.
He looked around and then looked down at himself. Although his body was supposed to be sleeping by the fire in the grasslands, he recognized his habitual shape. Even the clothes were the same.
“That’s just the memory,” the voice noticed amused. “You imagine your own body as something familiar. You can even walk through these foggy regions. Try it!”
Goren took a few steps. Indeed: he felt no difference. The floor was firm and compliant at the same time.
Through the fog he saw a man approaching. He was tall, taller than Goren himself, and tall, with long, white hair and a beard. He wore dark blue brocade embellished robes. His hands were long and narrow, but didn’t look fragile. His face was dominated by a powerful hooked nose, his lips were thin with the corners of his mouth pulled down slightly. The eyes... resembled the color of dark smoke. His eyes seemed to pierce him and there was an ominous glow in them. Involuntarily, Goren took a step back. He feared this man, even if he had been dead for centuries and only existed as a soul.
“Greetings, my son,” started Malacay.
“Don’t call me so,” Goren hissed. He pointed around. “Do you think that impresses me? How did you manage that?”
The old man smiled thinly. “My soul grows stronger, Goren. So it’s predetermined. This is just a small illusion, hardly worth mentioning.”
Goren tried to feel for his sleeping body. But he couldn't reach him. “Speak!” he asked to the ancestor. “I have to go back. I feel incomplete without my body, as if I'm missing something.”
“It’ll pass,” Malacay said calmly.
“But only when I'm dead,” Goren replied. “And you don't want it.”
“All right, then.” Malacay slowly walked around Goren as if he wanted to examine a piece of cattle. “It’s wrong if you want to fight your father. Because I need him and his magical power to be finally redeemed.”
“You won't stop me,” Goren staggered chilly.
“You know that you’ll thereby guilty of blood?”
“So what? I’m a Shaikan. What do I care for honor and loyalty? My father doesn't care either.”
Malacay stopped in front of Goren and scolded him with the look of his smoky gray eyes. “It’s no coincidence that my soul is strengthening right now, unaware child! I’m the one who can bring peace on Fiara!”
Goren shook his head. “No. You could bring death and ruin.”
“Never! I always wanted the best, and I'll prove it to you! Hear the end of my story.

One year after the liberation of Ur, I informed the God Emperor that I was going to live as a hermit for a while to think about an important magical research. Of course he didn't reject my request. He made one of his hunting lodges available to me, which was located in the northern direction towards the Shadow Pass, very secluded and quiet on the edge of a forest with a lake. Besides, wild game was rarely hunted here; that house served other pleasures.
I traveled there. I left my just-born son in the care of his mother. She was an obedient woman.
Then I worked for three years to finally uncover the secret of the Materia Prima.
Ah, you want to know what the Materia Prima is? Now are you interested?
I’ll tell you, my son: it’s the seed of life.
The creative power.

You don't need to go pale. It’s an enormous mystery, certainly, but I had my reasons for this bold project.
Because I wanted to complete the creation; light and darkness were united and eternal peace would reign.
In any case, there was a tremendous change in me when I felt the Materia Prima in my hands. I immediately started practicing perfect creatures.
I admit that this didn’t happen from the start. My first creations were more than imperfect, ugly and repulsive. Although I approach my task with great seriousness and experience, differently to the gods. I was still clumsy. But I got better every time. And I had success from the start: all my creations were viable and I let them live as a role model for all other shapers in order to improve.
My hustle and bustle didn’t go unnoticed. I had expected that. One day when I was working on a new creature, a light appeared in my chamber. A human figure appeared indistinctly. To this day I don't know which of the Guardians it was. He didn’t introduce himself to me and didn’t want any conversation, but brought a threat.
“Janus Malacay,” the being of Light spoke with a powerful voice. “We will not tolerate your goings-on. As a human being you aren’t entitled to intervene in the creation or to create yourself. This is solely the job of the Guardians, and we will punish you if you continue to do so.”
Then the light went out.
Of course that impressed me not in the least. I just had to change my strategy and work faster.
I received another warning.
I ignored them, but doubled my efforts. The day of reckoning with the Guardians wasn’t far off.
But they came before me. They enroll my soul with the curse of eternal suffering as soon as I had crossed the River of Souls. My soul should experience eternal punishment and never rest.
Then I became aware of my mortality again. My body, long since young, had suffered. I hadn't spared him, I had been so busy with the creation, and now, with the curse of the god, he quickly fell into decay.
I was doomed to die so that my soul could be punished by the Guardians.
I called Ur for help. Through our blood bond he could hear and trace me anywhere at any time. I asked him to get my son from Ankbrand.
While life dried up in me, I waited for the rescue. I knew that my body was lost. But I could still save my soul with the help of Ur. He couldn’t refuse me because he was bound by the pact: a life for a life.
I saw him flying over me in the afternoon of the third day – a huge red and gold shade in front of the sun. He took me and flew with me to the wild land where he lived, in the rocks on which the Shaikan fortress was later built. Over time he had woven powerful protection there, which should now also benefit me and protect me from the anger of the Guardians.
I only experienced this in the shadows. My life ran more and more, and I could not hold my soul for long.
There in the Iron Fields, as they are called today, far from all worldly things, the dragon landed, put me down gently, and gave my son in my arms.
I felt the Ur’s blood circulate within me that had previously prevented my death. But now I sensed that it was coming to an end. My body was finally beyond saving.
“You... must take my soul... and transfer it to my son...” I croaked. “Do it quickly... I mustn't... die ...”
The dragon obeyed, even if it meant that he was still bound to the oath. Surely he had hoped I would die beforehand. But we were still connected by the blood that gave me the last strength. Ur had no choice: he must do it, even if he was filled with helpless hatred because he would never escape me.
Now the foresight of my plans, which triumphed over the gods, was preserved.
Then I gathered my strength in my last breath, and I felt how Ur supported me, strengthening through the blood bond. I held my son, and in an inhuman effort I transferred my soul to him at the very last moment of my death.
So my soul would never exceed the limit of death. From then on the curse was meaningless.
And thus the Shaikan people were born.

“Do you understand now, my boy, how important it’s that you get together with your father instead of standing against him?” Malacay's voice now sounded urgent. “I know what he did to your mother, but that doesn't matter compared to what is at stake here! I can now continue my work and, yes, complete it. The Circle Mages, despite the deciphering of the Archfire, are no match for me, because I still carry the Materia Prima in me. I can end these terrible wars and heal the bleeding land until the day of the Convocation arrives. On this day I can weave permanent protection, and Eo will forever be a peaceful, flourishing world under my watchful eye.
Goren backed away. Then he turned and ran away into the fog. He kept thinking of his body, picturing it as he had left it behind, and concentrated with all his will on returning to it.
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