[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapters 9 & 10

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[Fanfiction] Wind-Whisperer (1st book) - Chapters 9 & 10

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 9 – The betrayal
Goren woke abruptly, without a transition, and lay still for a moment. His heart was pounding and he felt the cold of evaporating sweat on his chest and face. After a while he dared to open his eyes.
It was still deep night. The Silverweaver's eye was closed today, and so the distant stars could unfold their full splendor. The air was lukewarm and mild. A few remnants of the almost burned down fire still crackled softly. Around the fire Goren’s fellow lay in deep slumber.
It wasn’t the first time that he envied them for their carelessness. It had been foolish to assume that he would be free after fleeing the Valley of Tears. None of that! He remained the prisoner of Malacay's soul and the evil spirit of his father. He probably never could adapt to a new life.
What horrified Goren most was Malacay's belief that he was doing well. He was able to keep his story as positive as he wanted – the old fool was clearly crazy, and probably not only since the discovery of Materia Prima. He actually thought he was a god or maybe even more! Goren couldn’t take that drivel about perfection and peace over the fact that the greatest alchemist of all times was just as insane and greedy for power as all Circle Mages. He hoped to get so much power from the unleashed forces on the day of the Convocation that he could finish his work of creation without having to fear the revenge of the Guardians.
Malacay wasn’t absolutely the lesser evil, but the worst of them all. Obviously no one got involved with mighty magical and divine things in so long time. The Circle Mage had gone mad from the decoding of the Archfire, and Malacay's senses had always been clouded by swamp fever. Due to the robbery of Materia Prima, his mind had finally fallen into madness and he now considered himself the great savior.
Goren couldn’t allow Malacay's soul to become strong enough that he could seize power during the Convocation. And since his father should have a large part in it, his goal was clearer than ever before, to stop him too: now not only out of revenge, but to actually save Fiara and maybe even the whole world.
Malacay had already tried to make it clear that Goren had no choice. But he didn't want to believe in that; his mother had also opposed it. There was always a choice, so she had taught him.
Goren could no longer lie there. He was too overwhelmed by what he had experienced and he had to let off steam somehow, clearing his mind before he went crazy.
He got up quietly and left the fire circle. Then he ran. Finally he ran, screaming in despair, as if he could escape the evil inheritance. He ran, as he had always run as a child, when feelings threatened to overwhelm him, when he could not help it.
Goren didn’t pay attention to the surroundings, he didn’t think at all that anyone else could be out there. When he unexpectedly collided with a figure that had suddenly appeared in front of him – no, rather stumbled over him, lost his balance and overturned, he lay on his back in shock for a few loud pounding heartbeats.
Then he realized that he was the best target for such an enemy – however, an enemy had not dither for long, but struck long ago.
Goren scrambled to his feet and saw Silent before, unchanged – at least it seemed that way, because this was his usual hunched-up posture – crouched in the grass.
“I can’t escape from you,” Goren burst out. He was angry that someone had watched him run headless through free land where a lot of enemies could hide.
Silent didn’t answer; that was nothing new. He didn't even move.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” Goren continued rudely to distract from his embarrassment. “Do you never sleep? Are you sniffing around? Are you secretly watching us all from here?
Silence. Not even the twitch of a hand; the cloak obscured the crouched figure completely.
Goren felt like a fool. “Damn, answer!” he shouted, but immediately muffled his voice and hissed: “What do you have to hide that you sneak around the area alone at night and never show us your face?” In a sudden surge of anger, he reached out and tried to pull the hood down.
A moment later he found himself in the grass, and Silent's knee pressed against his throat. It had happened so quickly that Goren hadn't even time to utter a sound. All he could remember was a pale hand that darted out from under the cloak, grabbed his arm, took advantage of Goren's swing to throw him over his shoulder and toss him roughly on the back. While sitting! And no blink of an eye later there was movement in the figure. She had also turned herself around and now crouched over the young Shaikan.
What happened to Goren! Him, the excellently trained warrior who had been taught by the best warrioress in the world, even Ruorim the Butcher admitted it. And Goren had been talented and diligent. The best guards of Lyraines hadn't been able to compete with him, even though he had just reached the age of man.
This hard-to-beat Goren, whom he had previously thought about himself, was now lying helplessly in the grass, staring at the shadows under the hood. Silent wasn’t only almost a head smaller, but also much lighter, he knew that now. A dwarf was out of the question, who was hiding behind it. It had to be someone like Menor the Thin, but just as a smaller scale.
Goren was so surprised and embarrassed that he just lay there and shut up.
Silent spoke in return. “Everyone has their own secrets, Goren Wind-Whisperer,” he croaked in a hoarse voice. “You’ve the least right wanting to reveal someone else's.”
Luckily for Goren it was still dark. He knew that he now had a bright red head, which hadn't happened since he was a child. The knee pressed him on his Adam’s apple, and he gasped for air, hoping that Silent would let him go.
“Well,” Silent said, sounding satisfied. “You learned. Be silent about what happened and I will be silent too. But be aware that the time will come when you have to reveal your soul – both parts.”
He knew it. Everything. Or was it just a cryptic expression to make himself interesting? To pretend he knew everything even though he could only guess?
Goren had enough. “This time will come for you too,” he squeezed out.
“Certainly. But not today and not now. Go now and leave me alone.”
Silent rose, turned and melted into the night with flowing movements, as if he had become invisible.

Deeply shaken, Goren returned to his seat. All of this was clearly too much for a single night. Grief for his mother overwhelmed him and he felt the tears come to him. But he repressed them along with Derata's image in his mind's eye.
Ruorim, he thought. It's all your fault. You want to use me to awaken Malacay's soul. You’re as obsessed with power as our ancestor, and will probably promise you rich loot once Malacay has become ruler of Fiara, perhaps of all Eo. Surely you also hope for immortality, as the Circle Mages already have. Yes, you want to shift in their place, and maybe more.
But I’ll come. By the blood of my mother, I swear again: I’ll stop you, you and our ancestor, which lurks in my soul like a curse. I’ll not give up so easily, I have lived too short for that.
We will face each other before the fall.

If one of the fellows had noticed anything from the previous night, he didn’t show it. After a sparse breakfast with curly tea, a few sweet grass sticks and beetle grubs, the six set out. They had a long, exhausting trip to Norimar ahead of them and didn't want to waste any time.
Goren thought sadly about Goldenbolt, his stallion, which was as fast as the wind. For him the journey would have been barely difficult, more like a long ride on which he could prove his endurance.
In the next few days, more than ever longed for a fast horse, because the weather had turned to constant rain. It cooled a lot and they were all soaked to the skin. Menor the Thin in particular shivered miserably and sneezed more and more.
Goren was certain that each of his fellows had long regretted offering his friendship and help. He longed for a roof over his head, for dry clothes, a warm meal and a cheerfully flickering fireplace.
Moving forward became more and more difficult because the ground was visibly softening. Their boots were muddy and soaked; in some cases they started to fall to pieces and had to be held together with strings.
Silent in particular was now struggling with his long cloak, soaked with water and hanging down heavily, with the edges full of mud. He had carved out a walking stick with which he trudged uphill, downhill through rivulets, muddy holes and over grass clumps.
Even Menor the Thin had lost his good mood and no longer remembered jokes or poems by himself. “The rag prince don’t think well,” he growled.
“By Niethalf’s anvil!” Buldr cried. “I’ve only met such weather at sea!”
“Elen the Lonely accompanies us and she cries a thousand tears,” Mooneye humming. “Something terrible must have happened.”
“Tiara may reconcile them with a dance,” Hag the Falcon murmured.
Goren was as quiet as Silent. He sensed Malacay's keen desire to get to the surface and get Goren's body under his control. The soul of the ancestor became stronger every day and Goren feared that at some point he would no longer be able to withstand. He had to be constantly on guard now, even in his dreams. This was starting to drain his physical strength, and he had to pull himself together so that the others didn’t notice how it was weakening him.
But the rain never stopped. For their night camp, they were desperately looking for a tree, or at least a bush, to be reasonably protected. Fire was out of the question. Hag and Buldr kept looking for animals, but there wasn’t even a bird to be seen. However: how should they prepare the meat? And none of them made sense of raw consumption; they weren't so starved yet. So they settled for sweet roots, occasional mushrooms, the first berries of the year, and every now and then they even found a truffle bulb. After all, they had enough to drink.
One morning there was also wind. Goren hurried to climb a hill and stretched his nose into the wind. He had to use all his might to be able to speak to the winds. The rushing of the water drowned out the fine voices that rushed in from all sides, tugging at his clothing, running through his soaking wet hair and slapping his face.
The others watched him curiously; maybe they were expecting a special ritual, a celebration, but Goren just stood there with his eyes closed. Every now and then his lips moved, but his words didn't reach their ears.
Finally he returned to his friends. “Someone needs our help,” he said seriously. “If we hurry, we'll be there in two hours.”
The others asked no questions. They were happy to finally have a task ahead of them which was an interruption of their monotonous, desperate march in the permanently horrible weather.
Buldr patted the handle of his axe and actually increased his speed. Goren secretly admired the dwarf, who stuck amazingly well with his short legs, almost better than himself. He was also significantly older. But dwarves were extremely tough and persistent, as Buldr impressively showed him.
Hag also seemed pleased. After all, he was a soldier.
“What else do you know?” Menor the Thin wanted to know while they were adapting to Buldr's pace.
“A commercial caravan that’s under attack,” Goren replied. “I couldn't see exactly from whom. There’re not very many, maybe ten or fifteen, no humans. Apparently very wild, dark creatures, but upright on two legs.”
“How big is the caravan?”
“I think six carts, cattle and horses. I cannot say how many traders. Apparently they’ve no protection.”
“Then they aren’t smugglers,” Buldr noticed. “They always have well-trained warriors with them.”
“Normal caravan too,” Hag replied. “It may be a single family that make a living from selling their goods. Or nomads.”

Goren stopped in the late morning and gestured for his fellows to slowly feel their way around the hill. It no longer mattered that they had to sneak up on all fours, since they had been soaked for days anyway.
In the pouring rain they carefully took a look over the top of the hill and saw what Goren had reported.
The fight was in full swing. Indistinctly shouted and clanged weapons. Some of the figures fought with each other, others tugged on cattle and horses. Two carts had already been knocked over; the goods were everywhere.
“Cries of women,” Mooneye whispered, which had the sharpest ears of them. “They want to drag them away for consumption or... worse.”
“I see some dark spots that are probably dead,” Buldr said. “We came just in time, not all of them had already been killed.”
Hag's eyes narrowed. “But what kind of creatures are they?”
Goren knew the answer. His mother had told him about it. “Lucien,” he answered. “Semi-intelligent creatures with human blood bred from wolflings. They roam and murder across the country.”
Menor shivered and went pale. “But who breeds something like that?”
“Norcaine,” Weylin hissed with an ice-cold sound in the delicate voice. “They are creatures of darkness, created by the dark followers of Nor, the Silver Spider, they should be cursed!”
It hurt Goren to hear so much hatred and disgust in the voice of the lovely elf. Weylin embodied the purity of the elves so much. He had never imagined that she was capable of such bad feelings. “We’re not staying,” he said harshly. “Let's help the poors down there!”
Everyone agreed and Silent also nodded. In his hand lay a sharp silver dagger.
“We don't need to sneak up on them, they probably smelled us with their fine noses,” Goren added. “How best to scare dogs? By running towards them with a roar because this make you appear bigger and stronger.”
“Then go ahead,” Buldr said impatiently. “On three.”
“Three!” Hag screamed, jumped up and ran roaring down the slope. The others followed him on foot, each with his own cry of war by calling his god, or above all Niethalf, the lord of courage and struggle.

Eight of the Lucien were still left, and they were furious about the interference, just when the victory seemed certain to them. Gnashing their teeth and growling, they pounced on the new attackers. They were great creatures that stood upright on strong wolf-like hind legs. Their arms were very long and ended in strong clawed hands. The lower body resembled that of a wolf and was covered with thick fur, as well as the legs; the upper body resembled a muscular orc. The huge wolf's head, dominated by red-hot eyes, was adorned by a huge mane. They didn’t use weapons because they represent a deadly danger themselves.
Goren felt the air out of his lungs when he collided with a Lucien who had at least twice as much muscle as he did.
“Booooot lickerrrrrr,” the wolf man growled, tore open his drooling throat and snapped at Goren's neck with sharp teeth. Goren had clung to the Lucien so as not to be torn by the force of the impact. He dodged the bite and heard the jaws collide sharply next to his ear. At the same time he bumped his head against the side of the Lucien with all his strength, released his grip and struck the creature's sensitive nose with a clenched fist.
The Lucien uttered a loud cry of pain, which turned into an angry howl. “I’ll kill youuuuuu!” He grabbed his arm, but as before with his teeth he reached into the empty space.
“Strong and fast, but stupid,” Goren staggered, swung the short sword and slashed the creature's groin. He struck a deep notch, from which an instant gush of blood shot out, which was swept away by the rain. But this didn’t slow the Lucien, it only made him angrier. His blow hit Goren in the face, whose head was thrown around. The force had almost broken his neck, but remembering his mother's teachings, he gave in to the blow instead of resisting it and fell into the mud. His neck ached, but the head was still properly seated on his shoulders. His cheek burned and Goren felt his left eye swell. For a moment he only saw stars, but he had no time to take a breath. At lightning speed he rolled through the mud, dodging the next beats and kicks of the wolfling, waiting for the opportunity to either jump up or hit the sword from below.
The lucien jumped at him crouched like a wolf chasing a mouse, and Goren managed to dodge at the last moment. But now he could finally jump up, and he rammed his elbow into the kidney of the Lucien, which collapsed. Then Goren ended the fight with a sweeping clean blow. The wolf's head fell into the mud, the rest of the body twitched until it lay still.
Goren didn't take the time to take a deep breath, but instead plunged into the next fight. He wanted to help Weylin Mooneye because she was more skilled as a healer than a warrior. But she could fight back in her way. Goren heard how she raised her hand and sang elven words in a simple melody. The Lucien, who was just about to attack her, stopped in the middle of the run when Mooneye hurled a silver light at him, which hit his breast and disappeared into it. A blink of an eye later Goren could see as the being's body glowed from within, and he saw the heart through the hairless skin, which was beating faster and more violently, growing larger. Then... he couldn't look anymore; the imagination alone was enough for him.
He ran past the elf toward another Lucien, who was holding a merchant and baring his teeth to bite his throat. Goren had realized from a brief overview that the other fellows could all take care of themselves.
Goren rammed the Lucien in full swing, pushed him away from the merchant, swept him away with his swing and hit him on the side of a cart, pressing his neck against the wood with his arm. The Lucien tried to kick him, but Goren impaled him on the sword. He had put such a swing in the blow that it pierced the body of the creature and got stuck in the side.
Panting and dripping with blood, Goren paused for a moment; he was dizzy and blinked several times until he could see clearly again.
When he turned around he saw that the fight was over. Three Lucien took flight and howled. The others were dead in the mud.
Menor, who just now understood that the battle was over, cheered and Buldr joined in with a roaring voice. Likewise Hag, who supported Weylin. Silent stood a little apart with his arms crossed.
Goren was too exhausted to be happy.

The merchants were extremely grateful and praised the six companions as sent by the gods. Especially here, away from all trade routes, they had never dared to hope for help.
And that was for a reason, as Goren learned, when they all huddled tightly together with treated wounds and a bowl of hot beef tea in hand under the protective roof of a cart. For the first time in days they had a dry place and something warm in their stomach, because merchants traditionally always carried a brazier with them, in which the embers were never allowed to go out. There was hot tea and bread, along with a piece of salted bread and a few dried fruits.
For Goren it was a heavenly meal, for which the struggle alone had paid off. The merchants had not missed out on providing the fellows with dry clothing; even for Silent who moved away from the others, a larger hooded cloak had been found. They were simple, partly used pieces, but they were in better condition than the dripping things of the orcs.
“It's just an exchange,” remarked Humrig the Expert, the leader of the caravan. “We keep your old things for it.”
“Why are you away from all roads without escort?” Hag asked after the thanks had finally ended and normal conversation was follow.
“The roads in this area are very unsafe,” replied Humrig. “It’s impossible to get an escort these days because there’re many caravans on the road. What else should we do? We live from trade. We starve to death if we cannot sell our goods, and we have to travel a long way to get there. So we hoped that this shortcut would help us to move faster and maybe go undetected by the henchmen wandering around.”
Goren listened up. “Then is there an army somewhere here?” His heart suddenly beat faster.
“Not just one,” the caravan leader replied. “Two Circle Mages have met here! Hokan Ashir, the last Zerbite of Xu – may his soul burn to ashes and be scattered in all winds! – left the tower city of Kaith Halur to meet Raith the Black, who left Lar to conquer the empire of his rival!”
Goren saw Weylin Mooneye shivering. The light in her eyes seemed to go out, and her pale elven skin was as pale as if she were dead.
“He’s the deadliest of all,” she whispered. “Woe to you because you pronounce his name so carelessly, old fool! Wherever he walks everything dies, and even if Hokan Ashir the Necromancer is the undisputed master of necromancy, not even he can survive a duel man against man with the black warlock! Woe, woe to all of us, since they meet on each other here. This country is lost!” She hid her face in her hands.
The others were silent.
Goren swallowed. “Where... where are we right now?”
“Ah! No one can say it exactly in this rain,” answered Humrig the Expert. “The weather is already affected by the Convocation Wars here, I’d say. Anyway: we’re here between the Rift of Truth in the west and the Iron Fields in the northeast. Of course, the two Circle Mages carry out their business on a neutral ground for them, that’s, in the Highmark, the realm of the humans. How else could it be? So their rich men are spared.” The whitish, stubble-haired old man with the lid-like hat on his head and the strange, colorfully striped clothing seemed to spit out just before, but thought better of it just in time.
“However,” he continued with a look at Weylin, who had regained her composure and drank the rest from her bowl. “I don’t see the favor so much on the Black side, if you don’t want to hear the name. Because Hokan Ashir has the greatest warrior of Fiara at his side as a military leader, who is also knowledgeable in black magic, although not with the skills of the Circle Mages. But he balance out this lack with tremendous strike power and cruelty.”
Everyone knew immediately who the talk was about.
“Ruorim the Butcher,” Goren pushed out of a dry throat.
Humrig looked at him with wide eyes. “What have you got to do with it?” he asked and proved worthy of his nickname. Not only did he find his way in this rain-washed wilderness, he was also very good at observing and drawing conclusions.
“An oath of vengeance,” the young Shaikan growled from the heart. “Show me the direction where the armies are camped.”
“You don't want...” the caravan leader breathed.
“Yes, it’ll be exactly that,” Buldr replied, instead of Goren. “And we’ll accompany him. So if you were so kind, sir caravan leader...”
“By Shanna the Good, you’re missing a few screws, all together,” Humrig burst out horrified. Somebody think I’m crazy to have this caravan, but what you're up to is sheer madness!”
“The Circle Mages are insane, and they have to be given their craft even before the day of the Convocation,” Hag said firmly. “Above all Ruorim the Butcher, who is obsessed with lust for power, and killed Goren's mother cowardly like so many others. We are debtors by Goren, just like you with us, friend Humrig.”
“Oh, I’ll certainly not prevent you from stumbling straight into his throat, if you insist,” the old man replied. “However, it’s regrettable, because I just flirted with the idea of hiring you as accompanying protection. But what can I do as a simple merchant? This is your chosen way. So I’ll show you the direction and I’ll do even more. In order to ensure the favor of the gods, I’ll give you three horses, which will quickly carry you to your destination. Because you saved my belongings and our women, above all my daughter, who at least this time escaped abuse and death.”
“We like to take that!” Buldr rumbled. “Because the prospect of sinking into the mud again doesn't amuse me.”
“And you’ll sleep here for today,” added Humrig. “It’s a bit cramped in this cart, but at least for one night you should relax and lie dry. For you’ll need all the strength for what you’re going to do, and all gods of this world may protect you. I wish you success, even if I don't really believe in it. But you should never give up hope.”

The next morning the rain had actually abated. Goren took it as a good sign: they were on the right journey. Humrig had told them the way; there were no more than three days travel to horses. Soon Goren would be as close to his father as ever. Luck was on their side.
The horses that Humrig provided were rather skinny creatures, but at least still quite young. Anyway, they had received from the old merchant more than they expected. Because with all gratitude a merchant could normally never exceed his frugality.
“Let's do it,” Menor said as he swung himself into the saddle and pulled Weylin up to him. Buldr and Hag shared the second horse. Goren sat down on the third, with a painful thought of Goldenbolt, and then held out his hand to Silent, who still waited. None of the others had asked him to come on his horse; they had split up quickly. For Goren it was clearly evident who had put the greatest trust in whom.
After a moment of hesitation, Silent took hold the Goren's hand and swung himself behind him on the horse's back. However, he didn’t wrap his arms around Goren's waist, but held on to the saddle's upstand. As always, he was careful. Goren suspected that this attitude would quickly change during a brisk gallop due to rough terrain.
They said goodbye to Humrig and the rest of the caravan and rode off, accompanied by good wishes.
The terrain was hilly, the trails muddy, but the horses found their way well now. The landscape offered little variety: grass, woods and bushes; only once did Goren notice, barely visible in the fog-gray rain, on a hill an ivy-covered, weathered building with pillars and a dome roof with a statue on a pedestal. It wasn’t exactly recognizable; maybe it represented an armoured person in a majestic pose.
"What is that?" Goren asked and pointed to the building.
"A memorial shrine," Hag the Falcon replied with a dark face. "There are many of them in Fiara. Every race has built them in certain places that were of great importance. A hero who fell here, a great magical battle, a meeting place... and so on, but all that has sunk in history, Goren, and no longer meaningful to us.”

Around noon on the third day the rain finally stopped. The fellows breathed involuntarily, and little jokes spread. In this way, everyone wanted to distract themselves from the fact that they were getting closer and closer to their goal and the nervousness grew accordingly. Of course they were afraid, because they wanted to fight not only with Ruorim, but with two armies who were subordinate to the Circle Mages.
“Do you regret it?” Goren asked as silence began.
“Every moment,” Menor replied. “My mind asks to reverse on the spot and choose the opposite direction, as far and as quickly as possible from what lies ahead. But I have taken you into my heart, Goren, foolish as it may sound. I promised to help you, and I'm not going to break that out of cowardice now because I'm attached to my life. I could never forgive myself for that.”
“But I would understand,” Goren said. “I was planning to go alone anyway.”
“Save your breath for more important things,” Buldr remarked, who was just passing Goren with Hag.
With the heels, Silent pounded the soft parts of Goren’s horse, which then made a startled jump and accelerated to a gallop race.
Goren was happy for a brief moment.

In the late afternoon they sneaked up through a forest to the armies, which were lying on two opposite hills. The valley below served as a battlefield, everybody could see that. There the ground was churned and black, broken swords and lances were scattered around, even one or two corpses that nobody had fetched.
“Ach,” Menor uttered, saying what everyone thought.
The land, as far as the eye could see, was covered by a living, black carpet that was in constant motion. Soldiers of humans, dwarves, elves and norcaine, orcs, trolls, undead. The number of both armies might reach ten thousand or more. Hundreds of fires burned across the country, around which the Circle Mages' follower gathered. Troops were constantly in motion, streaming from all directions or spreading out. Horsemen came and left the army, sometimes with banners. It was difficult to keep an overview here, which might be an advantage for the fellows, because they might be able to mingle with the soldiers undetected.
The commanders' tents were set up near the fires; on both sides they were black and sometimes was the larger buildings. The hosts looked terrifyingly similar; the whole thing looked more like a reunion.
“Who’s who?” Menor asked cluelessly.
“It's easy,” Weylin said, pointing to the left hill. “Down there you can see a lot of undead.”
“Oh!” the thief noticed and shivered.
On the flanks of the army, those resurrected from death crowded. Some looked almost human, dwarf, or elf. But most of them were horrible distorted images of life, maimed and changed. Heads that had been chipped off had grown crooked on the neck or were sitting on the shoulder. Third and fourth arms were spread over all parts of the body, and there were multiple legs. The skin of the undead was pale gray, swollen with sores and wounds, and its stench smelled miles away.
“And there you can see Iron Ones,” the elf continued.
Division was before – and the rearguard encircled those ominous creatures, which were formed from black iron and brought to disfigured life by glowing soulstones. Just like the undead, they knew no mercy and only existed for fight. They were among the most terrible and insurmountable servants of their master, who created them only for war. They were the creatures of Hokan Ashir the necromancer.
“That man... Hokan Ashir comes from Xu,” Weylin explained. “He discovered Zarach's Bone Temple, where the dark people were once created, and found the Mask of Belial, Zarach servant. This made him the most powerful of all necromancers, and it’s his army that you see lying down there.”
“And it’s clear to me what the army of Raith is,” Buldr announced with a strange tremor in the voice. “I see weapons and armours glow down there, and I hear formally the crackling of the black energy that drives his army. And see, there he walks himself...” With a trembling index finger he pointed to a big black tent.
Goren saw a tall figure in a human armour, but only shadowy and indistinctly. The movements were indefinite; Goren watched vaguely as he set one foot forward and the time-shifted movement. And he saw black rose petals and autumn leaves waving around this shadowy figure like harbingers of death. In fact, where the norcaine had set his foot, the grass was black and burned despite the wet rain, and smoke rose from the marks. Goren felt a grasp on his heart as a cold breath blew on him and into his ear.
But only for a moment, then the tent edges collapsed behind the shadow mage, and the breath of death disappeared.
“By Bjarne’s Hammer, that's a big task,” Buldr whispered.
“Almost every task is big for me,” Menor said in a very thin voice. “You know, I'm a failure myself as a thief. I had more luck than I understood fighting the Lucien. And that’s why I’m not going to leave now.”
“Niethalf will be with us, Buldr and Menor,” Hag the Falcon said encouragingly.
Weylin's pale hand clawed at Goren's shoulder. “Ruorim should be on Raith's side so we could prepare the doom for the Cursed One, but maybe we might help him...”
“Hokan Ashir's luck in the war will not only depend on Ruorim,” Goren replied.
“What do we do now?” Silent croaked, and everyone stared at him in amazement.
“I believe, Goren said slowly, “that we can go unnoticed to the camp where Ruorim is staying. No one will assume that an inferior is so crazy to go among this deadly mob. They’ll probably ignore us because we have nothing to suggest that we belong to Raith. Then we go to Ruorim's tent and wait until everything has come to rest. If we keep our thoughts in check, he won't notice us either. And then I’ll strike very quickly, without warning, without everything. I’ll go in and cut off his head and that's it.”
“It could even work,” Buldr said ruminatively. “Ruorim will reckon all possible finesse, but not such a direct attack. But we have to decide it on site, we can't see it from up here.”
Weylin held on to Goren's arm. “Look – he’s there!”
They all recognized him immediately. He rode a large, gold-colored stallion and wore a black and red armour with the Shaikan coat of arms; the face was covered by a dragon helmet.
“Goldenbolt...” Goren burst out with a tangle in his throat. “There... there’s my horse down there, never one other than my mother, who gave it to me, tolerated on his back, or me... I didn't think I would ever see him again...” Involuntarily his eyes filled with tears. “Whatever happens, I won't go away without Goldenbolt, I won't leave him behind again!”
“It's all right, boy,” Buldr said reassuringly. “Pull yourself together, you need a cool head now!”
The soldiers stepped aside as Ruorim headed for one of the black tents between them, dismounted, and disappeared inside. The stallion was tied up with a saddle and bridle near a pole next to other horses. He pranced and neighed, that could be heard up here, even over the murmur, the roar and the rest of the noise of the army movements.
Goren saw that Goldenbolt's will was still unbroken, even if he tolerated a new master. But his temper was still the same as before.
Seeing Goldenbolt down there again, alive and apparently healthy, was the most beautiful sight of his life for Goren. His heart filled with courage, because now he would not only take revenge but also free his most loyal friend; his mother's gift, her last living memory.
Great!, suddenly Goren heard Malacay's voice. He looks good, boy; he held up well! Go to him, my son, reveal yourself to your father, who has been looking for you for so long and eagerly awaits you! Now nothing can stop us. The three of us have so much power that we can lead the Circle Mages against each other. We were able to drive them to frenzy so that they annihilate each other and their armies! And then there were two less wizards with whom we had to deal, and peace came a little closer. That should make you happy, Goren!
Goren closed his eyes and suppressed his flowing feelings. He no longer wanted to listen the whisper inside him, which had already sounded as clear as if Malacay was already next to him. A miracle that his fellows could not hear him yet. Near Ruorim his power seemed to be strengthening.
But that could also mean that his father was close to Goren.
Goren gathered all his strength, concentrated on the mana inside, as he had learned from Master Altar, and put a spell over himself like a jar over a terrible smelling old cheese. He heard a brief humming of protest within himself, but it quickly fell silent. It worked!
“Old bastard,” he hissed, hateful. The anger was like a red glowing chunk of coal in his stomach.
“Not for long,” Hag said suddenly with confidence. “When do we want to start? Not that Ruorim suddenly rides away again.”
“Wait,” Goren said. “Of course, I keep forgetting it. I climb a tree and talk to the winds.”
Without waiting for an answer, he took the closest branch and quickly climbed up to the top. The rain was over, but the wind still whistled powerfully through the crowns. It shouldn't cost too much strength.
But Goren could try as much as he wanted: the winds were silent. He remained there for almost an hour in the swaying branches, and the winds blew through his clothes, causing him to freeze despite the summer warmth of the late sun. But that was all.
With a dark face, Goren climbed down again and had to admit to his friends that he hadn’t had success. He couldn't tell if their outlook were bad or only low. He felt numb and empty.
“That, my boy, is the best requirement for what you’re going to do,” the red-bearded dwarf noticed.

They waited until dark and watched all the movements. Ruorim hadn’t appeared. The hustle and bustle increased even more when some carts with slaves rumbled up a paved street, along with sutlers and other merchants.
“There’re always those who make the best of every situation,” Goren murmured for himself.
“Exactly, and that's us!” Hag cried. “Come on!”
They left the horses behind and scurried in the shadow of the beginning darkness, in the shade of the bushes towards the road to join the little caravan that was admitted without further ado. When there were guards, they stayed away from the road and hardly kept an eye on those who entered the camp. Under the tremendous magical protection of a Circle Mage, no special safety precautions were required, which wasn’t unusual for Goren.
They had agreed that once they had advanced far enough to not attract attention, they would disperse. The fellows were supposed to gathering around the Ruorim’s tent and, if necessary, provide distraction, while Goren wanted to carry out his attack.
As Goren had supposed, no one has taken any notice of them yet. There were enough strange figures that were everywhere or were on the way somewhere. In this huge army hardly anyone knew the other, and since they all lived and died only for their master and not for a personal reason fought for an ideal, they hardly thought about whether anyone wanted to thwart the plan of Hokan Ashir.
His friends spread so quickly and unobtrusively that Goren didn't even notice. Suddenly he was alone. Then he saw the black tent just a few steps away. He suddenly felt feverish; it began to flicker before his eyes and the blood roared in his ears. His legs did their job without being aware of it. All he could see was the goal and struggled to keep his emotions in check and hide his thoughts. He couldn't give himself away prematurely, otherwise everything was lost, forever.
As he had learned, he repeated inwards a prayer like a mantra. I’m nothing There’s nothing around me You don't see me Don't hear me Don't smell me I’m invisible Unchangeable Shadowy Really everything is working Is in motion like me too A drop in the river A grain in the field A stalk in the sea of grass I’m nothing I don’t know...
Then he saw Goldenbolt.
And Goldenbolt saw him.
The stallion reared and whinnied, cracked its rope and made all the other horses fright. A turmoil came when two soldiers wanted to hold the wild horse.
“Goldenbolt,” Goren whispered, and everything spilt over him.
The spell was broken.
“Treason! Alarm! Treason!” Goren screamed with a voice that seemed strange to him and with words that he didn't want to say.
He didn't understand what was happening to him. Suddenly he no longer seemed to be in control of his senses, his body, and he couldn't remember where he was, why he was there, who woke him from the dream, or was he still dreaming?
“They’ve surrounded the magnificent leader's tent, look at them, hired murderers, assassins, cowardly assassins, without any honor! Catch them, grab them, there they are!”
As if from afar, through fog and noise, Goren saw and heard as the turmoil increased to chaos. Half of the army suddenly appeared on its feet, everyone grasped the weapons and shouted in confusion, and he saw a circle that narrowed quickly, and he saw all pointing at him and a few others, and how spears and lances and swords and crossbows aimed at them, and he saw dark, wild blood lust, and he heard a commanding voice.
There was instant silence, and everyone froze in the middle of the movement. One could hear a feather falling on the floor.
Goren noticed that he was only four steps away from the big black tent. The entrance was open, and there was a huge man, taller and wider in the shoulders than himself. He wore a black and red armour and a sword in a simple scabbard on the left side. His long, black hair with white streaks blew gently in the wind. The left side of his face was strikingly beautiful, but the right side was disfigured by a deep scar.
Goren felt a wolf-like eye and a red yellow eye turn on him, pierce him, banish him.
He breathed out heavy as he glanced on him.
Ruorim looked around. “What's going on here?” he asked in a deep, harsh voice.
Four soldiers dragged four prisoners. A dwarf, two humans and an elf. They all looked stunned, angry, amazed at Goren, who met their eyes indifferently.
“These people wanted to get inside your tent and murder you, sir,” said one of the soldiers, looking down. “This one there,” he pointed to Goren, “betrayed himself and them.”
Ruorim's eyes returned to Goren. “Did he betray them?”
“Yes, sir.”
“They want to murder me, make a plan for it, follow it this far, and then one of them betray the others?”
“Maybe he got better reward, sir.”
“Not from me.”
Goren could hardly stay on his feet with nausea. He wanted to shout something to his friends, to justify himself, but something else came out of his mouth and his eyes were fixed on Ruorim. “Greetings, my boy!” He said cheerfully with the crackling voice of an old man. “You’re looking good!”

Chapter 10 – No way out
“Chain up them,” Ruorim ordered and pointed to the four prisoners. “Bring them to the tent over there and tie them up. They are no longer allowed to move. Gag the elf. But don't touch them any further; I’ll deal with them in more detail later in an interrogation.”
He turned to Goren. At a wink a soldier jumped up and tied his arms on his back. “In my tent,” Ruorim said. “And then I don't want to be disturbed.”
Goren was dragged into the tent, thrown on the floor and tied to a support pole. After all, he sat soft and dry; the tent was covered with red and black carpets. Chests, a scaffold with various weapons, a comfortably furnished bed, a table with writing and spread out notes and some chairs gave a homely impression. The tent walls were also lined with carpets. Light was spread by torches and large candles.
Goren felt the inner pressure leave him. His vision cleared and he could move his fingers willingly – but not more in these shackles. With relentless force, he realized what had happened, what he had done. He had to pull himself together to avoid screaming loudly. The desperation, like a sharp knife, cut his heart into strips and threw the bleeding pieces on the floor to crush them in the dust.
Blinking, Goren saw Ruorim come in and carefully close the tent strips. He went to a chair, opened his cloak, threw it over and took off his gloves. Then he went to Goren, crouched in front of him, put a hand under his chin and raised his face to him. He examined the young Shaikan, turned his head back and forth in the torchlight.
“You have her eyes,” he finally said. “Not the color, but the shape, the expression, the... depth. Your mouth awakens bittersweet memories. I’m glad that you also have a lot of me, which is unmistakable. Do you know who I am?”
Goren felt his eyes wet. “My mother's murderer,” he gasped trembling.
“Ah,” Ruorim said. He got up, went to his table and poured himself some wine from a carafe into a glass. “So you were actually there? We found a collapsed secret passage after cleaning and suspected that Darwin and the old fool alchemist escaped through it. If I had only guessed that you were there...” He leaned against the table and drank in deliberate gulps, taking care not to lose sight of Goren. “So you came to me to take revenge?”
“What do you think?” Goren replied, hateful.
“I regret your mother's death,” Ruorim replied. “Believe me or not, but it meant a lot to me from the very first moment I saw her. What I did could not be changed, because she opposed me. She could have been dangerous to me.”
“You've murdered her cowardly and sneakily and your soul will burn for it when I'm finished with you!” Goren uttered in furious anger.
Ruorim smiled. “My soul is safe in the hands of the renegades on whose behalf I act. You have no idea what this is really about, my son, but that is also meaningless to you. I’m glad that you haven’t yet lost your will to fight, despite the hopeless situation in which you find yourself. The blood of your parents circles in you, unites to perfection. You’re the chosen one that we’ve been expecting for a long time.”
“I’m Goren Wind-Whisperer,” young Shaikan said, proudly raising his head. “No one else. I can’t help my birth and the inheritance of Shaikan in me. But I alone decide over my life, and I’ll serve neither you nor any fossilised ancestor, whose aged and crazy soul rages within me.”
Ruorim's dark smile broadened. “You have no choice, Goren Wind-Whisperer. I would prefer if you voluntarily stood by my side, because it would make it easier for you to fight and you would be my son. We aren’t only closely connected by the blood of the dragon, but also by the relatives. This bond shouldn’t be maintained through hatred. Don't you want to listen to me first, get to know me before you make a decision?”
Goren shaked his head and let out a dry, contemptuous laugh. “I know you, Ruorim the Butcher. The shame that you fathered me will accompany me throughout my life as a flaw and will never let me lead a normal life. I can't wash your black blood out of me and I have to endure the sight in the mirror that reminds me of you. But better living in loneliness and honor than following your actions and possibly glorifying them.”
“I hear your mother speaking from you.”
“She has never regret. And she never transferred her hatred for you to me. She let me grow up innocently and freely, and I’ll keep that in my heart, even though I’ll always have the image of her murder in mind. It’ll haunt me like a terrible nightmare until the end of my life. And thereby always be a warning to me to be careful so I never become like you.”
“Up to you,” Ruorim put the glass down and sat up. Then he raised a hand and Goren felt his mind, like ice-cold fingers reaching for his mind, and they banished. He tried to escape, at least a part of his will, and cried out inwardly for the winds, but no one could help him here. He felt Malacay's soul move in him and penetrate the surface.
“Noooo…” Goren uttered with his last conscious breath. His mind ran against stone walls built around him and pressed closer and closer together. He hammered against them with his fists, shouted and complained, but no one could hear him anymore.
The twitching of his limbs ended abruptly. His eyes went blank.
Then a strange, ominous glow entered them and they took on a smoky gray color.
“I greet you again, descendant,” Malacay's cold voice came from Goren's throat. “Now everything will finally change for the better, as it was planned.”
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