[Fanfiction] Heirs of Darkness (2nd book) - Chapters 4, 5 & 6

Discuss about all topics which belong to the book series "Shaikan Cycle" by Uschi Zietsch

Moderator: Forum_Manager

Post Reply
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue 8. Nov 2022, 17:06

[Fanfiction] Heirs of Darkness (2nd book) - Chapters 4, 5 & 6

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 4 – The first sign
“Sir!” A guard came into the hall when everyone was gathering for the morning meal. “A scout returns in a hurry and he brings someone with him!”
Darmos Ironhand looked at Goren: “Receive him and bring him and the guest here immediately! We wait here for so long – all of them!” he added with a stern look at Menor and Buldr, who had already risen halfway. With a grumpy face they sat down again.
Craig and Starshine, who were sitting opposite, continued to devote themselves to their meal.
Gor ran to the battlements and saw a dust cloud approaching through the shimmering heat curtain. After a long look he could make out two horses; the rider in front carried a pole with the Shaikan flag on his back; the one behind was barely holding his saddle, rocking back and forth and seemed close to falling several times.
That was enough for Goren. He ran down the many steps to the base of the rock and pointed the guards to open the gate. In front of the gate he waited for the scout, who soon arrived with his companion. The horses stopped panting, their flanks trembled, and white sweat marks stuck between their legs, on the front of the chest and around the saddle.
“Get a groom to take care of the poor animals,” Goren pointed a guard and nodded to the scout. “Please, both of you follow me, the lord of Shaikur is already waiting. You’ll get to drink and eat while reporting, and then you can relax.”
“I need that too, by the Ur’s scales,” the Shaikan grumbled. He took off his helmet and stroked the sweaty, graying hair from his red face. “So you are Derata’s son, grandson of Darmos Ironhand,” he noted.
“You know who I am? We’ve never met,” Goren said in astonishment. “Yes, I’m Goren Wind-Whisperer.”
The man smiled wearily. “I’m a scout, I should know such things. But now let's go, we can talk later.”
His companion had to be supported by a guard; his left arm was limp, his shoulder was dark with dried blood. “I'll help you,” Goren said. “Can you make it to the top?”
“Yes,” the young man replied bravely. He was in his mid-twenties and had an open, honest face, but it was frightened. Definitely he wasn’t an adventurer or warrior. His clothes and calluses on his hands suggested a craftsman who lived in the city. Goren was curious about what he had to report.

Soon afterwards the two newcomers sat at the table near to Darmos Ironhand and drank water with greedy swallows.
“Fugin, I'm glad to see you again,” Darmos started. “You were away for a long time.”
“I almost didn't come back, Darmos, but withered into the desert like a lost jujube,” the scout replied, shoveling bread, cold meat and roasted nuts onto his plate. “And I bring bad news, but you probably didn't expect anything else. My young companion here is Korben, the shoemaker, and afterwards he’ll deliver his own message, which is why he endured the stress of traveling here.” Fugin drank a second cup of water in one gulp and tore off a few strips of meat that he chewed vigorously before continuing. Meanwhile the companionship waited nervously, but in silence. “As we thought, Hokan Ashir returned to Kaith Halur pretty badly struck to lick his wounds there. But Raith the Black darted straight to Aonir's Blade. I followed him to the edge of the desert. As far as I could figure out, he is confident of being able to free the dark princes. I didn't want to stay too long because there are hardly any document left by the two Circle Mages that could give me information, and even less knowing ones that have survived. The traces that the two Circle Mages have left are marked by death and annihilation. I'll tell you more in detail afterwards, Darmos, it would now go too far. On the way here I met this young boy, already half dead on the good horse, who tirelessly continued to plod through the heat. I couldn't stop him from coming with me because he kept muttering something about an order he absolutely had to do – to carry a message here, to Shaikur.”
Darmos Ironhand raised its gray brows. “This is very unusual for a shoemaker,” he noted.
Korben the shoemaker sat there, shy and sunken, his face yellowed and contorted by pain. “Normally I had never made such a trip, and even less dared to knock on the Shaikur’s gates. But I made a promise that I have to keep. I bring news from Hag the Falcon,” he whispered.
“Hag?” Menor, Buldr and Goren shouted at the same time.
“What about him? Where is he?” Goren continued.
“Did something happen to our friend?” Buldr roared.
“He saved my life,” the shoemaker began to tell and breathlessly bubbled the rest out, as if he was afraid to forget the words that he had memorized and probably recited continuously on the long way here: “He then put me on a horse, though I have never ridden in my life, and helped me to get out of town and he asked me to ride to Shaikur and report that Norimar had fallen into the hands of Ruorim the Butcher and that he, Hag, and Weylin Mooneye were trapped if Weylin had not been able to escape, which he hoped very much, and that –”
“Enough,” Goren interrupted him hoarsely. He had gone pale. “We understood, Korben the shoemaker. Thanks for this... brave and faithful fulfillment of the promise. Did he tell you something else, in a nutshell?
“Only one thing, that Hag the Falcon asks for help from Shaikur, because Norimar is of great importance to the human lands.” The young man only barely managed to get the last words out, with a whimpering undertone because of his increasing pain. Now that he was safe and started to relax, he became aware of his exhaustion and injuries.
Starshine rose. “He urgently needs treatment. I'll take care of him, with your permission, sir,” she suggested.
“Yes, of course,” Darmos agreed. “One of the guest rooms on this level is available. Consult Marela, if necessary.”
The shoemaker stared at the half-blooded one, but didn't dare say anything when she put his healthy arm around her shoulders and supported him. Goren watched her, how she dragged the young man half out of the hall; it wasn’t the first time he admired her unusually strong, although it was so delicate.
“Norimar fallen! And even in Ruorim's Hands! By Niethalf’s hammer, you couldn't bring a worse news, sir scout!” Buldr resounded, lighting his pipe.
“What do we do now?” Menor asked.
“Not an easy situation,” Darmos Ironhand said grudgingly. “Norimar is a border town and was previously considered neutral. If Shaikur sends a force, the Grarg could see it as a provocation. Maybe the orcs are even planning an attack to claim Norimar for themselves.”
Goren was indifferent to these considerations. “I’ll leave today,” he burst out.
“But you don’t even know if Hag is still alive,” Menor pointed out. “And maybe Weylin managed to escape...”
“No matter,” Goren hissed. “My father is still there. And should they both live and be under his control... unthinkable...”
“The boy’s right,” Buldr agreed. “I don't leave our friends in the lurch, and the sooner we leave, the better.”
“Your nobility do honour to you,” Darmos interrupted gruffly, “but before we do anything, we’ll weigh exactly how we’ll proceed. Just storming on it only leads to ruin.”
“No one talked of that either,” Buldr grumbled in his beard.
At that moment a deep breath came through the castle, and then a deep, non-human voice echoed through the room, which seemed to come from everywhere. “Gather you all with me on the pinnacle, friends and dragon blood, I have to tell you something.”
“Something else?” Darmos said and rose. “The day is getting better.”
For the first time, Craig, who had looked around with astonishment, spoke up. “Who was that?”
“Ur, the grandfather,” Goren replied. “He still lives here and protects the castle and the people. It’s as if we lived in him as he lives in us.”
The norcaine looked impressed for the first time. “If you allow, Darmos Ironhand, I’ll accompany you.”
The lord of Shaikur nodded and they made their way up to the highest pinnacle.

Ur was already waiting high up on the summit of the lonely rock massif into which Shaikur had been jabbed and which towered over it with its pinnacles and walkways. It was hard to tell where the rock ended and the castle began, because natural rock and hewn stone formed a harmonious, inseparable unit.
The manually-leveled plateau at the highest point of the massif was accessible to the Shaikan only via its very steep, narrow stone staircase.
Ur had his own access through the interior of the massif, directly from his home.
For the first time, Goren saw the grandfather, whose blood was circulating in his veins, in full life-size, and he was speechless. The torso with the front legs fit on the plateau, the rest of his huge body hung over the edge on the steep wall, and the long tail curled around the rocks. His mighty leather wings were wide open and swayed gently in the gentle breeze that blew up here. His curved neck loomed over the plateau, and he had to lower his large, horn-reinforced head far enough to be able to have a talk. His scales shone in the sunlight; from far he had to be seen like a red and gold beacon.
Even Starshine, who was the last to arrive, had an awesome expression on her face as she stepped next to Goren.
“To be so close to heaven...” the old dragon sighed deeply. “For so long...”
“Yes, indeed, my old friend,” Darmos Ironhand agreed with a moving voice. “I was a boy the last time you left your house.”
“The temptation to rise into the air is great,” Ur grumbled. “However, this isn’t the time for awkward flight exercises by an old dragon who lives beyond his time and may end up with a humiliating crash. I greet you, Darmos, and the young Goren, my blood carriers. I greet Menor, the bard thief, and Buldr, the sea dwarf. I greet Starshine, shining light of the dark people, and above all I greet you, Craig Un'Shallach, greatest of the Dracon. It’s my honor to welcome you to Shaikur.”
Craig bowed slightly. “And I greet Ur, the one older than his legend, the largest and wisest of all dragons, and the last one in these lands. I hadn't expected to meet you personally after all the centuries.”
“Truly, unusual times require unusual actions,” the dragon replied, moving his head to the north. “Look in that direction. What do you see there?
Everyone was staring intently into the distance. Then Starshine said slowly: “I see... a dark sky. Black, with a red glow, as if something was burning... and it seems to be growing...”
“I can see that too,” Craig confirmed. “An unhealthy darkness; this isn’t normal weather.”
Goren tried hard, and he could make out a darker streak on the horizon, but nothing more. He stood on the edge of the plateau, stretched his nose into the wind and closed his eyes. If he could understand the wind song, then only up here; there were no more air movements below. He had to put a lot of effort until he finally heard a faint murmur and whisper on his ears.
Did you forget what we told you?
The time has come. It has begun.

Goren turned to the others. “Now I finally understand,” he said softly. “You want to speak to me, Ur, right? I’m not allowed to go to Norimar to help my friends. The oath of vengeance on my father is unimportant. My path is different.”
“That's the way it is,” the dragon confirmed and turned his glowing yellow eye to Darmos. “Raith started the summoning. This is the first sign. More will follow as he advances.”
“May the gods help us,” Menor murmured, who had turned very pale, his nose sharp and thin. “If he succeeds in awakening the Fial Darg...”
Suddenly the day lost its light, the sun lost its strength, and the darkness seemed to spread here. Goren shrugged his shoulders.
Craig Un'Shallach made a thoughtful face. “Ur, can you magically see with what he's doing the summoning?”
“I can only see it indistinctly,” Ur answered. “Raith has surrounded himself with a protection, because nothing can interrupt his summoning. I think it’s... a book.”
The Dracon nodded darkly. “I thought so.” He looked at Darmos. “Raith has the liber sinistrorum with him. It’s a comprehensive Grimoire that the Sinistra has been managing since the very beginning, and in which they have collected almost all of the sayings, curses and formulas of black magic. Now it’s still regularly revised. That book is immeasurably valuable. I’m sure that Raith found the formula in it to lift the Guardians’ spell.
His words influenced the others for a while. “Then there’s no hope?” Menor asked softly.
“Time is on our side,” Ur moved. “Raith will take weeks to pronounce the formula. Hokan Ashir will also bet on this.”
“Nevertheless, it’s a race against time,” Starshine objected. “Especially – how do we would stop or even interrupt Raith? His deadly charisma kills everyone who comes too close to him.”
“I should do it,” Goren murmured. “The winds told me when I heard them for the first time, on my fifteenth birthday.” He looked at his friends unhappily, then recited:
“Seek the solitary rider /
a gloomy shadow / in the silver eye /
an enemy / yet certainty might fade /
to Ur you speak / your blood will testify /
the keeper is the harsh Aonir's Blade.”

Everyone looked at Craig. He raised his hand. “Slow down,” he said emphatically. “I don't like to be suddenly part of the destiny. It’is absurd to assume that I’m the solitary rider.”
“But the description fits you perfectly,” Menor said.
“There is no coincidence,” the dragon noticed. “Everything comes together as it should when it’s time to make a change.”
Craig made another defensive gesture. “I’ll never go against Raith. Get that out of your head! I don't stand against my people, and even less against the ruler of Lar.” He pointed to Starshine. “And as she said: nobody can approach him. None of us, not even you, Ur, have enough magic to stand up to Raith. How are you going to do that, with your little handful of warriors? Provided that Darmos Ironhand is ready to provide you support, young Goren.” He was preparing to go. “For me this story is over. I’ll be happy to stand at your disposal for a consult. But tomorrow I’ll leave Shaikur.” With this he entered the first step and started to descend.
Buldr Redbeard, who hadn't spoken a word the entire time and had seemed increasingly thoughtful, turned to Darmos Ironhand. “This fortress has existed for a very long time, sir Darmos. Surely you have an extensive archive of Eo’s history? Also about the other races, not just humans?”
“Certainly,” Darmos confirmed. “You must have seen a part as you crossed the lower corridor of the Whisper Gallery, sir dwarf. Serve yourself calmly, but then tell us what you were looking for – and hopefully found.”
“Yes, of course, and I’ll hurry.” Quite contrary to his kind, Buldr suddenly rushed off. “Goren, don't make hasty stupid things! We have to plan exactly what we're going to do. Wait until I report again, agree? Maybe I know one way how we can stop Raith.
“I’ll drive you, Buldr, because the Whisper Gallery itself and the library can only be entered with the right key.” Darmos went ahead, followed by Buldr. Menor disappeared, and after a short time also Starshine.
Goren was left alone with the dragon. “What should I do, Ur?” he asked despondently. “You tell me I have to stop Raith but my friends are in Norimar, and... Ruorim. Everything pushes me there...”
“I'm sorry, Goren,” Ur said gently. “But you are not destined for that. I know you can stop Raith.”
“How can you be so sure? Didn't you hear Craig's words? Malacay might have been able to do that, but I'm not an alchemist nor a mage!
“Yes, that's you, my young friend,” the dragon contradicted him gently. “Malacay’s power rests in you. One day you’ll have to release it or it will destroy you. You can't lock it up forever and hide. Tell me, what did you see there on the horizon?”
“Just a dark streak, no further worrying.”
“And what did you feel?”
Goren turned away. That was the ground to ask the winds. “I felt terrible, cruel cold,” he whispered. “I was freezing despite the heat. And I smelled decay and sulfur. And I heard... a cruel, toneless voice utter terrible words... I didn't understand it, but I felt death and damnation, and I heard the rattling of chains and the rumbling of locked up beings...”
Ur pushed his head close to Goren. Fine clouds of smoke steamed from his nostrils, and his spines flashed razor-sharp. As damped as possible, he said: “You see your way ahead of you, Goren. Are you afraid to enter it?”
Goren closed his eyes and nodded silently.
“I'm afraid to fail,” he whispered. “And to lose my friends, whose souls would curse me from the realm of the dead because I let them down. And I hear my father laughing scornfully and how he mocks me. And...” He opened his eyes and looked straight into the split pupil. “If I let the magic out of me, what’ll happen? Do I give Malacay's soul free rein? Can I control it? Could I drive my people in ruins... maybe all people?
“It's good,” Ur hummed. “You doubt. Never forget this: as long as you will be aware of yourself, and your mind will remain clear, so your will remains strong. But I want to tell you something else, Goren.” His voice was almost solemn. “I believe in you. I believe that you are chosen to stop Raith and Hokan Ashir as well. These two are our most dangerous opponents and they will destroy Eo before the Convocation if we don't stop them. I believe that you can, and I also believe that you have the right champions at your side. Trust yourself and trust them. You’ll find a way.” He raised his head and suddenly a gray mist fell over his eyes. “I see a shadow falling on Shaikur, Goren. I look forward to the future with great concern. Oath of blood or not, there will come a time when I can no longer protect the Shaikan people. An enemy... who is too powerful...”

Chapter 5 – The Butcher in Norimar
They were dragged out of the prison, gathered and placed in rows on the square. Hag managed to get next to Weylin and felt for her hand.
Chaos still prevailed in Norimar. The dragon riders plundered the houses, let themselves be filled up and staggered roaring through the streets. Whatever they thought was worth, they threw it in huge piles. Others loaded carts with food and brought them to the burgomaster's house. Most people hid in their homes, but some couldn’t restrain their despair because they were deprived of their livelihood. Wailing and cursing, they chased the robbers, trying to take the stolen things from them again. Or they clung to it from the start and were dragged along. Some had to pay dearly for it – with life.
“Order will come back soon,” came a deep, cold voice over the heads of the waiting prisoners from above on the stairs. It sounded far across the square. “In less than a day everything will be the same as before. I’m a strict but fair ruler. If you are decent, sincere people, you’ll live just as well as before.”
Weylin clung to Hag. “It’s him,” she whispered.
Unmistakable in his black-red armour with the long cape, the powerful long sword on the side, in its large and muscular mass. Hokan Ashir might have suffered a defeat, but Ruorim the Butcher had won and conquered his city. He was now slowly walking down the stairs, followed by a man with two crossed sword blades on his back. He was tall, sinewy and slender as a runner, and his movements were as nervous as that of a hunting cat. His blond hair was long and thin, as was his goatee. His eyes glittered like a wolf's, wild and dangerous.
“The Butcher's dog,” Hag muttered and was tempted to spit out.
Ruorim wasn’t wearing a helmet, and the sun shone on his bizarre two-part face, the beautiful and the repulsive side alike. Nobody knew how he got that scar, since he was considered an almost insurmountable fighter. A bard had once sung in a song that his opponent had succeeded in making his black soul visible, but he hadn’t been able to cut it out completely.
Ruorim slowly walked off the rows and began to sort out the prisoners. He handed the younger and all powerful men over to his henchman, Enart the Twohanded, as he called him: in the future they would ride in his army and bring the dragon riders back to real great size.
“How does he want to win their loyalty?” Hag asked.
“Through persuasion, seduction and not least black magic, when everything else fails,” Weylin replied.
The Butcher released most of the women, especially if they had children; however, he kept the young and pretty ones and sent them inside his house. He asked the rest of the men about their jobs. Anyone who was a craftsman was allowed to go, as were most traders. But travelers and apparent uselessness who had been in Norimar for other matters were sent back to the prison. Ruorim wanted to think later about what should happen to them.
“Is there also a historian here?” he finally asked around. “I’m looking for the man who manages the city's archive and is familiar with its history. A scholar, if necessary also a simple writer, who was just working for it.”
Silence replied.
Ruorim let out a sigh. Then he arbitrarily grabbed a boy, a half-kid of maybe twelve, thirteen, and cut his throat. A cry went by the crowd, and the first row backed away in horror. A woman pushed through and sobbed over the dead boy whom Ruorim carelessly dropped.
Hag bit his lower lip bloody; he could hardly hold back. But rushing forward would have been absolutely foolish. He wouldn’t sacrifice his life for anything. “He’ll pay for that,” he blurted out, barely controlling himself. “He’ll regret.”
“I keep going until nobody is left,” Ruorim announced. “I don't care whether there are one or a hundred corpses here. My arm doesn't get tired so quickly. I ask once more: where’s the historian?”
Movement started among the crowd and a lean little man with glasses stepped forward. “I’m Lanrig, the writer,” he said in a trembling voice. His eyes wandered, desperately trying not to meet the dead boy and his wailing mother.
Ruorim smiled. “Well, then be welcome to my house, Lanrig the writer, because I have a lot of work for you. Go inside and have instructions given there.
It could be seen the man's knees shaking as he climbed the stairs. Hag heard that his sobs grew louder the further he moved away from the others. “He shouldn't blame himself for it,” he murmured.
“His soul died with the boy,” Weylin said softly. “As soon as he can, he’ll take his own life.”
Ruorim continued with the division; there weren’t much left now. Hag had hoped that he would leave the rest to his deputy, but they weren't so lucky.
Hag pretending to be uninvolved and stared into the void when Ruorim finally stood in front and looked down on them. Hag wasn't small, but this man was half a head taller.
“Who would have thought that!” The butcher laughed loudly. “I actually accommodate dear guests without knowing it!”
Enart came to his side in a hurry and looked at Weylin and Hag. “Who’re they? I don't know them.”
“They’re friends of my son, Enart, they entered my camp shortly before the last battle, in the inglorious intention of murdering me,” Ruorim replied cheerfully. He forced Hag to look into his eyes. “Did you think I wouldn’t recognize you because at that time I only gave you a glance? But I never forget a face. Where are the others?”
“They aren’t here,” Hag answered sincerely, which was a comfort to him.
“Well, you claim that. Then we'll talk about it later. Enart, bring this back to the dungeon, I’ll deal with him later. But the elf...” he turned to weylin and raised a hand to her face, which she furiously pushed aside.
“Don’t touch me!” she hissed. The next moment she lay on the floor, half numb from the blow Ruorim had given her in the face, and kept her aching cheek, which immediately swelled and turned blue-red.
The man next to Hag grabbed his arms just in time and held him tight. “Don't be crazy, man!” he hissed.
Hag could no longer breathe from impotent anger. His muscles ached with tension.
“Kneel down before your master,” Ruorim said calmly. “Rebellion is followed by punishment, little elf, you’ll learn it quickly. You’re a healer, weren't you?” He leaned down, reached into her hair and jerked her head up. Weylin groaned. “Yes. Strong mana. Life magic, I can clearly feel it. You’ll be very useful to me.”
No... she whispered.
Ruorim smiled. “Voluntarily or not, you will heal.” He released her and ordered: “Bring her into the house and give her food. Then let her sleep for a few hours. She’ll need all her strength.”
Hag wanted to say something, but swallowed the words. He didn't want it to sound like a farewell. A gloomy thought told him that he would never see Weylin again.

Gradually calm returned to Norimar, as Ruorim had promised. Little by little people began to venture back out of their houses and started their usual activities. They had no choice; they had to make a living. Markets were set up, artisans show their goods on the street; the south gate was opened and merchant carts were released from the city after careful examination. At the end of the street the first caravan was already rocking. Soon everything would be the same as usual, except that, instead of the Highmark Guard, soldiers everywhere patrolled with the banner of the dragon riders.
Ruorim left the city to Enart Twohanded. He devoted himself to other things; he no longer had to leave the burgomaster's house for those.
The servants ducked through the corridor, crouched and afraid, and immediately obeyed every command. Lanrig the writer also came humbly bent into Ruorim's room, where he was led by a guard into a side room that the burgomaster had specially prepared for interrogation.
“A practical matter, don't you think?” Ruorim observed with a smile as he came in and the door closed behind him. “So I don't have to travel far and can take a break in between. Your burgomaster must have been pretty smart. Are you missing him?”
“N-no, sir.” Lanrig folded his hands to suppress the tremor, but in vain. He looked around with the look of a hunted deer.
The room was small and, unlike the other rooms, very simple – no decoration on the walls, just a table and a chair, and opposite also a chair with chains and a frame to tie up the criminal while standing. There was no window; torches spread a sooty light. The stone wall and floor were cold and damp.
“But do you know this room for sure? You probably had to write down the statements of the criminals,” Ruorim continued affably, while Lanrig sat on the chair. Slowly he fastened his hand – and shackles his ankles.
“Yes, sir,” the poor man whispered. “But I never had any pleasure doing it.”
Ruorim grinned. “After all, you had the advantage of sitting on the other side of the table and without restraints, so that was the lesser evil, wasn't it? The better choice.”
“I-indeed. B-but I don't know how I...”
“Shush, calm down first. You’re still in shock because of the little boy, it seems to me. But don’t worry, the little one has been saved from a far more atrocious fate. Enart Twohanded has a preference for pretty little boys like he was. You can’t imagine what he does to them.
Lanrig’s full body shivered; it was clear that he didn’t want to hear these things, that he didn’t want to have this apparently harmless conversation.
Ruorim sat down on the chair behind the table and put his long legs on it. “Well, Lanrig the writer,” he began. “Can you imagine what I want to know from you?”
The lean, pale man shook his head so emphatically that one could hear his vertebrae cracking. “No, sir, not in the slightest.”
“Then I want to explain it to you,” Ruorim said patiently. “Nearly six hundred years ago, after the War of the Six Races ended, the paladins of the Order of the Iron Falcons became rulers of Norimar. They were given the task of guarding the Crypt of the Revenant, a cave system dominated by the undead, which runs from here northward, towards the Windwall Mountains. Whether it goes so far isn’t known and isn’t important to me. However, the following is important: the Iron Falcons were also used to guard Aonir's Blade, because they carried the legendary Niethalf’s Armours. It’s said that the Guardian himself have forged these armours for the paladins on the Godwall in the fight against the Fial Darg. Can you follow me so far?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Please, correct me if my knowledge contains gaps.”
“I don't know anything else, sir.”
Ruorim grinned and continued: “But with the centuries the Order of the Falcons disappeared, they had no offspring and forgot their duty. A thriving city grew up, which took the name Norimar, and whose inhabitants no longer remembered the dark secret under its foundations – with the exception of historians who had deliberately preserved and continued the Chronicle. Do you know what I'm getting at?”
Lanrig swallowed audibly. “You want the armour...”
Ruorim raised his arms happily and nodded. “Quite right, my clever scholar with the appearance of a skinny bird.”
The writer rocked nervously up and down on the chair. “But there's nothing left, sir! The Crypt of the Revenant is buried, the undead have withdrawn from world affairs, and the armour have been lost since the Falcon paladins left! You won't even find a piece of iron here that could be used!”
There was silence for a while until Lanrig’s words had faded away and only his fearful panting was heard.
Ruorim took his legs off the table and leaned forward. Apparently sad, he shook his head. “Lanrig, Lanrig, now I’m disappointed. I thought we both agreed that you would support me, and now – such a refusal? Why are you making it so difficult for me?”
Lanrig started to cry. “I-I swear to you, sir, by everything that’s sacred, by Aonir’s light, if you ask, I tell the truth! There are no more armour here, no metal, just nothing! If you want, I’ll show you the entrance to the Crypt, as far as you can still walk, and you can take a look around yourself, maybe there’re a few hiding places that I don’t know, but you won’t find anything up there!”
“If I could only believe you,” Ruorim said in hypocritical dejection. He got up and opened a narrow side door opposite the entrance. There was already a torturer, a squat orc, his face hidden by a leather hood, the tools in hand. “Gurath, I'm afraid your services will be needed.” Ruorim turned again to Lanrig. “He’s a real artist, you’ll be amazed.” He crossed the room and opened the main door. “Gurath, when you’re done, let the elf know so that she can patch up the poor guy again. Then report back to me on what you’ve learned.”
“Then what should happen to him?”
“When the elf has taken care of him, take him to the other servants, we may need a writer.”
“What if the elf refuses?” the ork growled, and a greedy glint could be seen through the slits in his leather mask. “She’s quite unruly.”
“But she has great powers that I want to use,” Ruorim considered. “Bring her to do it, and then lock her up here when you go away. I’ll take care personally and bring her on the right path.”

Sobbing, Weylin Mooneye lay on the floor of the bare, cold chamber. Lanrig's blood slowly dried on the stone around the chair. “This is the right punishment for my sins,” she whispered. “For the thoughts that consume me from inside, for my hatred and my fear. I deserve all of this, but now... I ask for redemption... I can no longer...”
As if she had been heard, the door suddenly opened and bright light fell in. It was still day out there, with a warm sun and life on the streets.
Weylin backed up to the wall, whimpering, when she recognized Ruorim’s mighty figure that was approaching her.
But his voice sounded surprisingly soft when he said: “You don't need to be afraid, little elf. You have suffered enough.” He held out his hand. “Come here into the light, next room is bright and friendly, and warm. I’ll look at your wounds and you should eat and drink enough and relax.
Weylin huddled and shook her head. “I know who you are,” she whispered. “The cruelest of them all.”
He paused. “Whence you had realize it exactly, little elf? We met briefly. You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me.”
“I saw your actions...” she breathed.
“Oh, but this is the war, my child. You should know that I didn’t set up this chamber here, but the burgomaster of Norimar, and my good Gurath even used his tools. And I hardly believe that the burgomaster was keen to appoint a healer for the criminals after the interrogation was successfully ended.” Ruorim slowly came closer and crouched in front of Weylin.
“No... no....” she sobbed as he brushed her hair off her face.
“Oh, that must hurt,” Ruorim stated. “I didn’t want. Gurath should make you obey, but he shouldn't beat you half to death. He won't do it again, I promise you.
“You’re a demon...” Weylin burst out. “At last kill me or torture me, but stop making fun of me...”
Ruorim was silent for a moment. He pulled a cloth from a pocket and dabbed at the blood on Weylin's face. “I’ve a question to you,” he finally said. “Do you think if I were wicked through and through... cruel, cold and numb, only enjoying the suffering and death of others... would I’ve been able to father a son like Goren?”
She looked up at him with puffy eyes. “Why do you ask that?”
“Weylin – that's your name, isn't it? – Weylin, do you think a war can be clean and honorable?” Ruorim said seriously. “Do you think your people have always acted honestly and kindly when they went to the War of the Six Races? Are you sure that there’re no interrogation methods among your elves that cause suffering to the interviewed? Have you never made sacrifices; and in the end... isn't everyone who takes up arms guilty? Certainly, it makes a difference whether someone dies in a fight against a man or in captivity. But show me the ruler who never uses violence or cruelty to assert his own claim.”
“You... you twist everything... I feel dizzy...” she breathes weakly. “It doesn't ease or justify your actions...”
He laughed softly. “No, you're right, little elf. I certainly don't try to put myself in a better light, because I am cold and cruel, but otherwise I wouldn't be a military leader, and by no means so successful, and my soldiers wouldn’t be so loyal to me. But what I want to make clear to you is that's not all, that I'm more than just the Butcher, that there’s another side in me that nobody knows. Because nobody wants to see it.”
“Why me?” Weylin whispered.
“Because you know Goren, my son, and because I want to know more about him. Believe me or not, but I loved his mother and he was born in love: how else could he become who he is? And you, Weylin Mooneye: are you exactly the one you pretend to be? How can you burn such dark glowing hatred when you’re so bright and pure?” He threw the cloth aside. “We'll talk about it later. I’ll take you now, because you’re already very cold and your light goes out. Don't fight back, little elf, and start learning when to fight and when to just trust when good things are going to happen to you.” He lifted her up on his arms as if she were light as a feather and carried her out of the chamber.

Hokan Ashir wandered through the tower chamber and rubbed his eyes and face. He was exhausted to death like never before in his life. This soul... it offered considerable resistance; more than he ever expected. It was impossible, because it actually had to be banned, buried, no longer aware of itself...
The task the necromancer had set himself might have been too great at the time. Raith might have weakened him more than he had initially thought. Then is it like in those days with the Soulforger? Had he struggled with such adversity? He couldn’t remember because he had created this Iron in a state of full trance and devotion. At that time he had believed that he could no longer surpass himself – to create an Iron, which in turn could create other Irons...
Well, this Iron should not get this task; it was by no means intended as a craftsman. Nevertheless... Hokan Ashir made high demands. It should be the crowning achievement of his work, perfect and invincible, with only one soul inside, but a very special one. No one knew that Hokan Ashir had it, and no one should know, not even the Soulforger.
Furthermore, he thought wearily. I have to keep going, I'm stuck in a difficult phase and can't just stop now or surrender to self-pity. I have to seep through this soul, whatever the cost. Maybe... I'm just going the wrong way or not using the right formula. I should study a little first...
He resumed his restless walk and concentrated. Soon he felt how deep calm came over him and new forces flowed through him. Permeated with the certainty that he had now discovered the right path, he went back to work.

The sun had long since stopped glowing down on Aonir's Blade, because the sky over it was black and excluded the flaming light. The entire area, right up to the edge of the encamping army, was bathed in darkness, while behind it was a bright day. The edges of the black circle wavered reddish, and in the center was an ominously pulsing glow.
There was complete silence. No air moved, no breath could be heard. Only the voice of Raith the Black, although muffled babbling, was clearly audible. The words he read from the Grimoire were inconceivable to mortal ears. Only a very powerful mage could pronounce and understand that formula.
The pages rolled over on their own, and the runes to be spoken lit up as soon as it was their turn. The book was thick and heavy and seemed to increase its sheets the longer Raith spoke.
His tall form was as diffuse as ever, and the gestures he made had indistinct contours, as if each time an imprint was left, and frozen.
Raith never stopped and never hesitated. His gestures were powerful and sure.
However, that was no wonder because it was still at the first level of the formula.
But his voice, which was initially deep bass, was already increasing. Soon it would be time, then the first hurdle would be taken.

Chapter 6 – Buldr’s solution
At dinner, Buldr dragged a large book into the throne hall and sat down on his chair with a groan. “You’ve an amazing library, lord of Shaikur, so many rulers and even more mages were envious, for sure!”
Darmos Ironhand smiled proudly. “As you said, friend Buldr, we had enough time to collect. At that time Ur brought the books and scrolls of Malacay here, which was quite a lot, and his son and his heirs continued the collection. We still do it today so that our scouts look for chronologies, grimoires, legends and poems that aren’t yet in our custody. There are some copies, especially recent ones, but most are original.”
The dwarf filled his plate and mug and let it taste before wiping his hands on the tablecloth and then patting the book aside. “Friends, everything is here as I thought it would be. Of course I could have just told you, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t follow a tale from the storytellers of my childhood. If it’s true what is reported here – and I firmly believe in it – then I found a solution for our fight against Raith.
Of course that made everyone, including Craig, prick up their ears. While Buldr had combed through the Shaikur’s library, the others had been sitting or walking around more or less restlessly, pondering what should be done.
“Don’t keep torturing us!” Goren urged him.
Buldr rubbed his beard, grinning; it obviously gave him secret pleasure to drive the tension to the extreme. He began by telling them that the paladins of the Order of the Iron Falcons had ruled Norimar, tasking to guard the Crypt of the Revenant. “I came up with it because I asked myself why Ruorim settled there as the new ruler. I mean, robbing, plundering and topping up are a reason – but he doesn’t necessarily have to spread out and stay longer than how much is absolutely necessary.”
“Norimar is in a favorable location,” Darmos pointed out.
Buldr made an affirmative gesture in his direction. “Correct. But Ruorim is a man who act, a soldier who’s still in Hokan Ashir’s service. Certainly he’s striving for domination, but currently it’s of little use to him to sit somewhere like a spider on the web. Especially since Hokan Ashir will call him to his side as soon as he has recovered.”
“Then Ruorim wants to use that time at least to thoroughly relax,” Menor said.
“Also a good hint,” Buldr agreed. “But Ruorim isn’t someone who just lies on his rotten skin without doing anything else at the same time. Don’t forget, he has already passed the fifty, his body is gradually inclined to decay. When I pondered what could be special in Norimar, I remembered the cave system under the city, which played an important role in the War of the Six Races. And now the Iron Falcons come into play, and I linked them with the Fial Darg.”
Goren scratched his head and rubbed his long black hair. “I think the Iron Falcons were preferred in the fight against the Fial Darg.” He tried to remind the old teachings which Master Altar had given him during happier days in Lyraine.
“I agree! And why could they?” Buldr beamed. “Because they had very special armours! Niethalf himself had forged and given to them, which is why they were also used to guard Aonir's Blade after the spell!”
Menor, who had been lolling about at the table, sat up in amazement. “Is that true?”
“Yes, Menor, but that was a long time ago, those days are long gone.” Buldr opened the book at a certain point and tapped it with his index finger. “The Order is dissolved. And unfortunately the armours has been lost; this historical knowledge of the dwarves is confirmed here.”
“Then what’s the good for us?” Goren asked disappointed. “Come to the core, at last!”
“Take it easy, hothead,” Buldr said. “Does the name Glamrig the dwarf tell you something?”
All said no, except for Craig Un'Shallach. “A great artist and hero.”
“Thank you, sir norcaine, that's right.” Buldr proudly stuck his chest out. “Glamrig is a stoneshaper of the Windholme dwarves, where I also come from – and didn’t I tell you once that we create the best armours in the world?. – however, he’s not only a talented blacksmith, but also a great warrior who made a name for himself with his axe long before the War of the Six Races. He’s one of the greatest and most popular heroes of our people.”
“Is he alive?” Goren asked curiously in between.
“Yes, although nobody has seen him for a long time, not in a hundred years. But that doesn't mean anything with dwarfs. Let me continue,” the red-bearded dwarf asked, “because now it's getting meaningful. In my childhood I heard a rumour, much older than I was, that Glamrig would have been taught by Niethalf himself, which is why his workmanship is so great. The Guardian seemed so impressed with Glamrig’s talent that he initiated him into his art – but maybe there was a second reason.”
“The battle against the Fial Darg,” Starshine threw in and concluded: “Glamrig forged these special armours!”
“And this is confirmed here in the book!” Buldr revealed.
Darmos Ironhand raised the bushy brows. “Impressive.”
“Indeed, noble lord, because it looks like there could still be only one of the old armours – somewhere in Windholme.” Buldr flipped a few pages, then held the book up and turned it so that everyone could see the page. “It says here that Glamrig saw this very special armour as the crowning achievement of his work and was therefore kept in a safe place after having made a decisive contribution to the fall of the Fial Darg. It bears the name Silverflame and can withstand Raith's deadly charisma.”
Menor slapped the table clapping his hand. “This means we must go to Windholme and get the armour!”
“One moment,” Goren damped his enthusiasm. “Buldr, there’s surely a snag, right?”
“Right,” the dwarf admitted. “The armour unfortunately doesn’t suit everyone; only a chosen one.”
“Ah,” Darmos said. “And there’re also the conditions does a chosen one have to meet?”
“No,” Buldr confessed a little meekly. “But,” then he continued much brighter, “I spoke to Ur before I came to you –”
“Did you speak to Ur?” Darmos and Goren interrupted him in choir.
“Simply so?” Goren added.
“Ah – yes,” buldr said puzzled. “Why?” he brushed off. “Ur thinks you’re the right one for that, Goren.”
“Of course he does,” Goren growled. “He has already raised me to the highest of all Shaikan.” He looked around gloomily. “He can’t know it, can he?”
There was a brief silence. Then Starshine said carefully: “But let's put it this way – you’re no ordinary Shaikan and your mother trained you to be one of the best warriors. You’re the Wind-Whisperer, and an old magical power lurks in you.”
“Yes, I understand.” Goren got up and wandered around the table. Then he stopped in front of a pillar. “You all expect me to find the armor, maybe sniff out my magical senses and then finish off Raith. But it isn’t so simple!” He turned around. “I’m not as convinced as you that I’m the right one! And besides, I don't want to just let Hag and Weylin down; I can't, don't you understand it? Moreover this task is something that I can understand, that’s tangible for me – but to destroy a Circle Mage who is over five hundred years old and immortal, who’s a thousand times as much powerful and experienced as me; that is just too high for me! The very thought is absurd that I could do it!”
Menor made a face of concern and stared at his plate. Buldr said nothing.
Goren clutched his chest and turned away, his face contorted in pain as if suddenly there was a stone instead of his heart. A black storm roared in his mind, threatening to overwhelm him. He felt dizzy and sick and could hardly keep himself upright. Hoping that the others wouldn’t notice that he was fighting with himself, Goren took a careful look out of the corner of his eye at them.
He noticed Craig Un'Shallach's pensive face and felt his eyes burned towards him.
Then the Dracon rose, walked up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “Come, Goren,” he said calmly. “We must talk.”
Before Goren could say anything, Craig pushed him out of the hall while he called out to the others: “Please be patient, we’ll be back again!” Then they went outside.

“My room is right here on this corridor, let's go there.” Craig didn’t wait for Goren’s answer again, but went ahead to his small dining room, where, as usual, there was a chair and a small table next to the narrow bed. “Sit down, Goren,” he asked to the young Shaikan while he sat down on the edge of the bed.
Goren sat down hesitantly and looked uncertainly at Craig.
“From now on we leave all formalities aside,” the Dracon started. “We now speak to each other like equals.”
“I agree,” Goren said slowly. He held his hand rigidly when his chest started to twitch again. Finally the pain subsided and he could breathe again. He was basically grateful to Craig for this brief moment of rest.
Craig looked piercingly through Goren. “Are you feeling better again?”
The young Shaikan nodded silently and embarrassed.
“You can defend yourself anyway you want, boy, but you aren’t like the others. I think you should at least try,” Craig continued.
Goren rubbed his forehead. “Then is it a try?”
“In this case, yes,” the Dracon answered. “Consider what Buldr said – the armour doesn’t suit everyone. If it’s your case, it’s clear that you aren’t the chosen one. Then you can safely go back to Norimar and challenge your father.”
“But won't it be too late then?” Goren replied softly.
Craig shook his head. “No. Because Menor and I will go to Norimar and start an uprising from the inside. Both of us are best suited for this. Buldr and Starshine, on the other hand, must accompany you.”
Goren started. “Your – you? But… why?”
“Even for my conditions there’re too many strange coincidences,” Craig confessed. “It looks like we’re all connected to Ruorim.”
“You too?”
“Indeed. I owe him something.”
Goren dawned on something. “Was it about... the...”
“Indeed,” Craig said grimly. “Before I met you, I met him. Not for the first time, by the way, but that's another story. I know what it must be like for you to be his son. You watched how he murdered your mother and wanted to use you as a jar for the awakening of your primordial ancestor. You want revenge, and me too. But everyone has to be in the proper place. You have to go to Windholme and I can't go to Aonir’s Blade. If I promise you that I’ll let Ruorim live for you, would you agree with my proposal?”
Goren swallowed audibly. “I... I couldn't imagine anything better... I mean...”
“So we agree with each other.” The Dracon rose. “Come, Goren, let's talk to the others, and tomorrow we’ll leave.”

Goren wasn’t surprised that the others initially stared in silent astonishment as Craig reported what they had just agreed on.
Finally Darmos Ironhand took the word. “I think we have found a solution. It remains to be seen whether we’ll succeed. But fighting on two fronts at the same time is always a surprising strategy. Freeing Norimar can only be an advantage for Shaikur to build a lasting relationship. I’ll give you, Craig, an army under your command, which will intervene to support you at the time of the uprising. Only then the success of your operation will be guaranteed.”
Craig nodded. “I gratefully accept this offer. And we’ll take that little shoemaker with us, what's his name?”
“Korben,” Menor jumped in helpful.
“Right, Korben. He’ll bring Menor and me safely to the city – provided that Menor agrees.” Craig looked at the freckled young man.
“What a question!” Menor exclaimed outraged. “Of course I'm in!”
“If only because of Weylin,” Buldr slipped out, and grunted "sorry" in his beard when Menor glared at him angrily.
“Then it's decided,” Darmos Ironhand spoke aloud. “Now let's discuss the further details, and then we’ll collect the equipment and set up the army, because you should start tomorrow morning before the heat would paralyze everything again.”
Post Reply

Return to “SpellForce - Shaikan Cycle”