[Fanfiction] Heirs of Darkness (2nd book) - Chapters 12 & 13

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[Fanfiction] Heirs of Darkness (2nd book) - Chapters 12 & 13

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 12 – Friend or foe
Hokan Ashir was on the verge of exhaustion. But it was done! No one had bothered him since he started his work. He had had to give everything, more than ever before, but now it was complete: his masterpiece, his highest work, which demonstrated how tremendously his strength had increased in the meantime. No one could withstand anymore.
Deep breaths could be heard in the tower chamber, similar to the sucking and snorting sound of a bellows. Unreal like the un-life from which it was expelled.
The necromancer stepped back; now came the big moment and he didn’t want to miss any of it. So much work, so much effort! He wanted to savour this down to every fiber. He hadn’t even been so excited since the creation of the Soulforger; because that was really unique and had never been there before.
“Can you hear me? And understand?” he asked aloud.
The uniform sucking and snorting noise stopped. Then resounded a hollow and deep: “Yes...”
“Can you see?”
“Then move. Stand up!”
So it happened. What had been hidden in the dark at the other end now began to stir and slowly straighten up. Masses of metal and weight, heavy limbs rubbing against each other in a gruesome crunch and sound. The creature rose, stood on two legs; it was tall as almost two man and had an almost male body shape, a massive iron rust that shone black and silver, studded with sparkling spikes, cuts and daggers on all joints. More spines and swords came out of the arms, an axe rose above the back of the hand. This was a single deadly, razor-sharp weapon, huge and agile, with red glowing eyes in his stare, a face mask composed of many parts, the head of which was crowned by thorns, enlivened only by a single soul stone, which orange-green glow penetrated from within and lighted entire armour.
It opened its throat, which was reinforced with sharp teeth, and let out a thundering roar that trembled the tower, yes, quite Kaith Halur, and made everyone who had a living heart beat in their chest paused and shivered.
Hokan Ashir nodded in satisfaction – no, happiness. There was a cruel laugh on his face, his eyes shone. “My Iron,” he said, struck by the perfection of his creature, which now sank to its knees before its master and lowered the spiked arm, “you’re more than the entire army out there, more perfect than anyone alive, insurmountable, never hesitant, only fulfilled by your order and only obeying my command. The enemies will lose courage if only they see you, and you’ll be terrible in the battle, relentlessly harvesting blood, merciless to the last man. Rise, Iron, stand at the head of my army and make me the most powerful Circle Mage of the continent! With you I’ll sweep away all the others, and Fiara will be mine, and the day of the Convocation will be celebrated by me alone. Because you’re the Invincible!”

Hag the Falcon had listened Menor’s explanations with growing astonishment. He could hardly believe what was being done to him. “Craig Un’Shallach helps us? Are you really serious?”
“If I tell you!”
“But why, you fool, do you break in here and try to free me?”
“I don’t do it at all,” Menor the Thin grinned. “Everything is planned exactly...”

As every early evening, Ardig’s inn was packed and mainly visited by Ruorim’s henchmen. The rest of the guests huddled at two tables near the counter, trying not to attract too much attention.
Anyway, the roaring soldiers paid no attention to anyone; they had long felt safe and Norimar firmly in their hand. No one dared to stand in their way. The maids had to put up with their rough behavior and swallow the tears, while the lads distributed beer, wine and schnapps, which of course was never paid for, except with slaps in the face and other brutalities.
The innkeeper could clearly see that the measure was now full. His cellar was visibly emptying, as same as his cash. Wolfur Grimbold gived him a strong axe, because he couldn’t handle the sword. Only a few drops were missing to let the barrel overflow.

Korben the shoemaker, who was on the way to his brother, his heart slipped when he was suddenly grabbed by the arm and dragged into a side street. Before he could scream, his hand was held on his mouth and heard Craig hiss in his ear. “Silent, boy, it’s me.”
Korben relaxed and patted his clothes as Craig released him. “Why are you scaring me so? I thought we wanted to meet in there!”
“Did you open the north gate?” the Dracon asked.
Craig grabbed him by the front of the collar and easily lifted him up with one hand. “Hurry up, boy, and open it. Set it on fire, I don’t care! But do it now, because I immediately give the signal to attack, and there can be no more delay! Do you understand? Otherwise I’ll find you and cut you into a hundred little strips that I leave in the sun and then throw to the dogs!”
“Y-y-yes, sir,” Korben stammered terrified, for he believed every word. A norcaine Dracon wasn’t a liar or a braggart.
Wolfur Grimbold came up suddenly. “Juldir’s informed. He’s waiting for the signal and will attack.”
“Very good,” Craig replied grimly. “Then he will provide enough distraction at the south gate, and the others can calmly pass the north gate.” He gave Korben a push. “Hurry up now and do your job, you hero!”
Korben hurried out on the street while he heard the blacksmith behind him: “Does he still not have...?”
All the more he took to his heels. Oh dear, he thought. Zerbo, oh cunning, hear the cry for help from a poor craftsman who suddenly felt himself to be a hero, but actually his heart sank into his boots. Make possible, that I can open the gate and still stay alive. Why did I open my mouth? I should have just got away when it got serious! Help me, snow-white fool, and you too, Hirin, ruler of the time, may stop the world for a few moments until I'm done! Are you going to do that, yes?
He heard a distant hiss and looked up at the crepuscular sky, into which a fire arrow was just ascending, visible far beyond the land.
“Ooh...” he whimpered in panic. “Now they’re coming down the hill, because Craig’s sign is obvious, and nothing is done yet... I’m dead, quite definitely... that doesn’t end well...”
Without paying attention to the path, he ran through the city streets towards the north gate, barely avoiding a few clashes with passerbies, and hurried on accompanied by curses. If he was late – not imaginable. But if he was caught, Ruorim’s henchmen would slaughter him. One way or the other, he was dead, his short high excursion as a hero had already ended, his leap into the office of the burgomaster had already begun to fall. Korben was crying with fear and helplessness, and he had no idea how to open the gate unnoticed.
But Zerbo had heard him, or Hirin, or both. Just as Koren were at the gate, completely out of breath and bathed in sweat, a horn signal sounded from the south gate, and a second immediately afterwards.
The guards at the north gate spun around. “Alarm!” one called. “The south gate is under attack! To the arms, immediately to the south gate for reinforcement!”
They ran past Korben, ignoring him. The young shoemaker didn’t have a heartbeat; one had to take advantage of the gods’ favor. He climbed up the struts of the gate and released the bolt that held the heavy crossbeam. He jumped to the far end of the beam, which then swung up, and the high gate creaked open. Korben slid the last piece to the end of the beam, then jumped down and hid in the alcove next to the gate, crouched close to the wall, close to heart failure. His head was hammering, there was a rustling in his ears, and he thought his chest would burst at any moment. Then he noticed how the floor trembled slightly.

A soldier brust into the White Pony. After him a large figure, covered in a hooded cloak, entered the room, carefully closed the door behind him and shut the bolt. The soldier didn’t notice this in his excitement. “Alarm!” he shouted. “The south gate is under attack!”
Immediately all the soldiers were on their feet. They pressed for the exit, but an imperious, harsh voice rang out. “Nobody goes out here!”
The soldiers remained unsettled and stared silently at the tall figure at the door, who had apparently speaked.
The front ones stepped back a few as the figure slipped the hood back and pulled the cloak back over his shoulders.
Amazement spread. “A norcaine, in here with us!” one exclaimed.
“Wrong,” Craig Un’Shallach said with a cold smile and glowing eyes. “You’re in here with me.” He drew his sword slowly.

“Pay attention to the portcullis,” Juldir called, while his people galloped towards the south gate. “Don't let them let it down, first shoot all the guards on the wall!”
Three men with bows were foremost; they released the horses and shot a hail of arrows until their quivers were empty. Then they cleared the way for the others, who were armed with spears and now hurled them at the rushing soldiers. In the third row, the swordsmen storm forward and dash through the gate without being stopped. Juldir and two of his men were the last to pass.
“Should we now lower the portcullis?” someone asked.
“No, we can’t afford slaughter or capture, we’re too few for that! Quickly kill those who fight back and then drive those who want to flee out of the city!”

Only a little later Captain Durass did arrive with his army from the north side and gallop through the streets. “Get up, Norimar’s citizens!” he roared. “Take up arms, your liberators are there! Help us to kill and expel the murderers and thieves so that Norimar is free from the plague of filthy rats!”
The army rushed through the city and spread out on the streets, inciting the people to riot, and at the very back, unarmed on foot, a young shoemaker ran after it with a raised fist and roared: “Freedom for Norimar! Down with the tyrant! To the arms, Norimar’s citizens!”
The Shaikan met halfway with Juldir’s troops and then attacked together Ruorim’s already advancing henchmen.
When the people saw that the proportion between the liberators and the occupiers wasn’t so bad, they actually became brave, picked up everything that could be used as a weapon, came out of the houses and fell on the rear of the dragon riders.
As evening darkness began to sink, chaos broke out in the city. There was fighting everywhere; the dragon riders struggled to defend themselves, but they were taken by surprise.

Craig struck down the first two attackers with a single whizzing sword blow. At the same time, he drew his long knife with his left hand and then started dancing with the soldiers. Even though they were in the upper hand and surrounded him from all sides, the henchmen could not get to him, because he was moving so fast that his sword and knife tip seemed to stab everywhere at the same time and left no cover open. After a few moments three soldiers were dead on the ground; five were injured. Craig jumped over the attackers’ heads onto a table where he whirled around like a raging storm and kicked bone-breaking footsteps backwards while he knocked off the heads with his sword.
His advantage was that they couldn’t all attack him at the same time. However, some who had stayed in the tavern belonged to the elite of the dragon riders. After recovering from their first shock, they began to act against Craig in an orderly and targeted manner. No one had a bow, but suddenly knives whizzed through the air.
For the Dracon, however, this was only an invitation to increase the pace of his dance and show off the suppleness of his large, heavy body. He avoided most knives; he pushed others aside, but by no means aimlessly.
It wasn’t even as long as it took a thirsty man to empty a mug of puck beer, and yet more than half of the soldiers were dead on the ground or staggered wounded through the inn, while Craig’s sword continued its bloody harvest. He hadn’t had a single scratch. The Dracon danced, flew over the tables, moved like a roaring storm between the dragon riders and cut them down. Before they even realized that their life was ending, he had already disappeared from their midst and turned to the next.
Three elite warriors now attacked him at the same time and pushed him back to the counter. Craig could barely shift his head to the side when Ardig already let his axe whizz down and chopped off a black strand of hair.
Craig glared at him with sparkling anger, and the innkeeper blushed to the roots of his hair. “Excuse me,” he murmured. “It all happened so quickly, I thought you were one of those... whew...”
Craig shook his head slightly disapprovingly; at the same time his arm shot forward and he gripped a soldier, who had sneaked up, by the neck. With hard steel fingers he pressed. A dry crack, and the henchman’s body went limp. Craig hurled the dead man against the others who were just about to storm forward, ducked, and now Ardig’s axe was used properly.
One of the residents who had huddled in a corner called out to him. “Do you need help?”
“Better not,” Craig replied as he grabbed a bench, held it in front of him, and then roared loudly at the advancing soldiers. Then he rammed and pushed them almost back to the door with his powerful momentum.
Now they finally had enough; especially since there was a horn signal a second time. “Retreat! Retreat!” one roared. The first dived out through the clattering window and others quickly followed.
Shortly afterwards they were all gone.
Craig reached into a side pocket of his belt, brought out a piece of copper and toss it across the room to the innkeeper, who skillfully caught it in spite of his amazement. “A beer, please,” the Dracon said with only a slightly accelerated breath, pulled a corpse off a table, sat on a chair and put his long legs on the table top. “I’m a little thirsty.” He started cleaning his weapons with skilled movements.

“Where’s my useless, lousy, lazy and stupid lad?” Wolfur Grimbold’s orcish voice thundered through the prison as he stomped down the outside stairs. The two outside guards followed and the third, who had caught Menor, joined them.
“Here, blacksmith, well kept,” he said, grinning diligently as he led the hairy orc to the cell. “You see, there he stands, shaking his whole body out of fear of your punishment.”
But he wasn’t interested in Menor. “Hag!” Wolfur roared. “There you are, boy! Are you all right?”
“Wait...” the sentry began, and the other two grabbed their swords.
“All right, Wolfur, especially since I see you again!” Hag replied and got up.
“You are free right away,” Wolfur promised and turned to the guard.
“You won't get my key!” the man said and took a step back.
“How do you get the thought that I needed it?” the blacksmith asked in amazement and hit his head with one blow of his heavy paw. He grabbed the other two before they could escape and bumped them together so that their necks broke.
“Ready, Menor, Hag?” he asked afterwards. Then step back a little. He grabbed the grid and his huge muscles swelled as he ripped it out with a powerful jerk.
“Real workmanship,” Hag remarked.
Wolfur grinned. “I made it humanproof – but not orcproof.” Menor hurried past him, took the key from the dead guard and unlocked all the dungeons in no time. The prisoners inside crawled out with big, frightened eyes, whispering softly, as if they couldn’t believe they were actually free. “Clear off!” Menor hissed and showed them the way through the exit into the side street.
At that moment the alarm sounded outside and chaos broke out in the city.
“What’s going on here?” Hag asked in surprise.
“The liberation of Norimar, what else?” Menor replied cheerfully. “Craig doesn’t do things by half, that’s for sure.”
“Then let’s get out of here quickly,” Wolfur suggested. “No one will stop us, the soldiers have other things to do now.”
Menor shook his head. “I don’t go without Weylin.”
The orc stared at him. “Why are you so sure that she’s still alive?”
“I just know it. She’s somewhere here in the building. And if I have to search every single room, however I’ll find her!” Menor the Thin had never spoken so resolutely and showed an unyielding attitude.
“But what do you do if you meet Ruorim? You’re not up to him!” Wolfur tried to make him see reason.
“I’ll think of something,” Menor replied stubbornly. “Go now. I get along, after all I was a thief. Such situations are not new to me, even if I have never stolen an elf.”
“Go, Wolfur,” Hag said to the orc. “I stay with Menor.”
“You're both crazy,” the blacksmith noticed. “But well, it’s your decision. Anyway, I don’t want to have anything to do with Ruorim. He’s a black mage and who knows what he could do to me. Take at least the guards’ weapons with you!”
“What use are they if Ruorim curses us?” Menor said, but Hag picked up two swords and pulled the knives out of his belt.
Wolfur Grimbold shook his head. “Brave little people, but totally crazy.” He stretched his powerful hand and patted them gently. “I would like to see you alive again, by Zarach’s claws. If you come to your senses – I’m somewhere out in the city taking care of some henchmen.” He turned and stomped out.

“What’s going on there?” Ruorim got up, left the bed and reached for his clothes. He was just closing the sword belt when Enart Twohanded rushed into his room without announcement.
“The Shaikan, Ruorim! They attack us! There’s fighting in the whole city!”
“I hear it.” Above all, he heard the horn for the second time. “And I’m very angry with this trouble.” He stepped out onto the balcony and got an overview.
His deputy hadn’t exaggerated. The whole city was in turmoil. There was fighting in every street and alley. After all, they had not yet reached the burgomaster’s house, but it was only a matter of time.
“My son?” Ruorim asked shortly.
“No, he’s not there.”
The Butcher turned to the man. “A Shaikan army attacks us and he’s not there? Who leads these people?”
Enart Twohanded pulled both hands. He, who knew no fear, was now afraid to continue. When he saw the dangerous red flickering in Ruorim’s yellow wolf-like eye, he burst out: “Craig Un’Shallach.”
“What?” Ruorim turned back to the city. “It’s simply not possible, how many lives this bastard has,” he murmured. “Now it’s his turn again to take revenge. It’s always like this, year after year, when we meet. This world is just too small for both of us.”
Enart Twohanded eased his stiff posture a little when he realized Ruorim wasn’t going to maltreat him for this bad news. “He wiped up a whole troop in an inn, while his people attacked from two sides.”
“Shaikan, then.” Ruorim rubbed his long mustache. “You want to tell me that Shaikan are fighting against Shaikan down there, and the people are also involved? And all this under Craig Un’Shallach’s command?”
“So... this is how it looks,” the deputy blurted out uncertainly.
“It has become a crazy world.” Ruorim slapped the parapet with his palm and made a decision. “Withdrawal.”
Enart Twohanded blinked. “I’m... I’m sorry?”
“You already understood!” Ruorim glared at him. “Under no circumstances I’ll sacrifice more people than necessary for this poor city! We have recovered well, the wounded have healed and our supplies and equipment have been increased. The longer we stay, the more recruits we lose because they run away! Blow the withdrawal, and then we disappear from Norimar.” He shooed Enart away with a wave of his hand. “Do what I say! We meet in front of the south gate. I’ll join you soon and then I’ll tell you where to go.”
The lean man hurried to disappear.
Ruorim put his hands on the parapet and silently watched the fighting in the streets. When he felt a slight movement behind him, he asked: “Did you hear?”
“He surprised me,” he continued. “I didn’t think Goren was so far-sighted. I thought he would come personally to free his friends and finally take revenge on me. I had never expected this strategic move, and even less, that Shaikur was actually taking side. And against a member of their own people! Darmos Ironhand seems to have softened me. And of course it’s Craig again, who messes with my business…” He shook his head. “Strange how some things come together. Well, there’s no other way; let’s just start a little earlier.”
He turned and ran a finger across Weylin Mooneye’s cheek. He grinned maliciously. “You must be very disappointed that Goren isn’t here himself.”
She said nothing, but didn’t avoid his eyes.
Ruorim suddenly laughed out loud. “These fools! If they had only waited a few days, we’d left anyway! Hokan Ashir is already waiting for us. With a little patience they had regained the city without blood.”
“I think they wanted more,” Weylin objected quietly.
“Doesn’t it always do?” he said. “Well, the second point already goes to my son. He couldn’t make his father prouder. With him at my side, nothing can really stand in my way!”
“You’ll not succeed,” she whispered.
Ruorim laughed again. “Futile hope, little elf! It’s the fate of Goren, and by now he’ll know that too. As soon as he releases his magic, he’s mine. And one day he has to do that; he’ll have no other choice. I can wait that long.” He left the balcony and looked for the rest of his things. “Get ready to travel, we’ll leave immediately. We’ll catch up later in detail what we just missed in pleasure.” He grinned attractively at her.
Weylin Mooneye turned silently.

Menor and Hag rushed through the rooms, but all were empty. “Where is Ruorim?” Hag the Falcon cried. “Did he run away? I can’t believe it!”
Menor searched everywhere, in every room, even in the closets, under the beds – but no Weylin, nowhere a trace of her. “What did he do to her? Hag, what did he do to Weylin?”
“Menor!” Hag stood on the balcony and pointed down. Menor ran to his side and saw two waiting, saddled horses and two shapes walking towards them. One of them was very large and moved like a predator.”
“Ruorim!” Hag screamed and pointed the sword at him. “Butcher, stop, we won’t let you go!” He swung himself over the parapet and climbed down over stone ledges at lightning speed. Menor followed after a moment of hesitation. On the street they walked side by side with swords raised towards Ruorim, who had actually stopped and was looking at them with obvious curiosity.
“Look at that,” he said amused. “Not all friends have let you down, young Leonidar, even if you certainly expected Goren to save you. I find it very touching! Too bad that I have to leave, otherwise I would have liked to have drunk a cup or two with you.”
“We won’t let you go,” Hag growled.
Ruorim laughed out loud. “You can’t stop me, little man. Be thankful that I keep you and your poor friend alive! I do this because I’m sentimental, and for another reason: say Goren that he must not struggle too long, otherwise his soul will suffer serious damage. I know he’s already tortured, because I can feel it. Soon he will no longer be able to bear it. So if he wants to survive, he has to come to me. Only I can help him! This aligns you, ideally both of you, so that you bring enough understanding together so you don’t forget any of this little assignment.”
He went up to his horse without being impressed by the sword tips pointed at him.
Hag’s hand trembled. “I can’t,” he gasped. “He prevents me...”
“One of my easiest tricks,” Ruorim grinned. “You two couldn’t hold a finger against me. I already said it.”
Menor swallowed dryly. Then he went pale as the second figure, who had previously been in the background, stepped into the circle of light of the oil lamp. “Weylin...”
Hag let out a crackling noise and opened his eyes. Finally, he came out haltingly: “Weylin – you – live...”
“I’m fine, Hag,” she said in her usual high-pitched voice.
“Release her!” Menor called. “We – we don’t go without Weylin! Goren will experience nothing if you don't –”
“Stop it, this whine is unbearable!” Ruorim interrupted him. “Deluded fool in love, your friend has long understood it.” He got on his horse.
What understood?” Menor shouted, while Weylin mounted the second horse without another word and without even looking at him.
“She is free,” Ruorim replied, spurred the horse and galloped down the street.
Weylin Mooneye followed. She never looked back.

The blood rain of the desert was already behind the army, which was like a black worm over the hill. The riders were sent out as vanguard to prepare everything.
At the head of the army was the Invincible, who towered over them all with its mighty size. Its weapons and armour sparkled, glittered and glistened in the rays of the sun and threw it back many times.
“You are the master of the army,” Hokan Ashir had said to his creature. “My mouth, my arm. I do what nobody expects; I share my army and will fight on two fronts. It’s time to act. I’ll pull one portion against Raith while you’re doing a very special task. A work worthy of you must be accomplished. That’s exactly what you were made for, my Invincible. Go, and let fear and terror follow your steps. Show everyone who is the master!”

The army passed in silence, faithful to the command and guidance of the Invincible, tireless and relentless, never hesitating or pausing, day and night. Nothing could stop it.
The target came closer.

Chapter 13 – The armour
Buldr, Goren and Starshine stood frozen, while the echo of the voice faded away.
After a while it spoke again. “What’s up? Did you lose your tongue? Did the blow hit you? Don’t you want to see what’s in this damned crypt?”
Buldr was the first to climb over the rock piece, followed by his friends. After their eyes grew accustomed to the dark light, they discovered a dwarf who was chained to the rock wall. He was exceptionally tall and heavy for a dwarf; from a long time ago he easily reached a medium-sized person, now he was twice as wide in the shoulders. Hair and beard were very long and reddish with many white streaks.
Buldr dropped on one knee and bowed his head. “Glamrig,” he said, moved. “What a joy that you are still alive!”
“Would your veneration allow you to free me from these chains here?” the prisoner asked. “After that we can continue to talk.”
Goren was approaching the chains when he felt a sharp pain and grabbed his chest. He couldn’t go on.
The old dwarf looked at him with piercing amber eyes. Then he looked at the dagger on his belt. “Blood and steel, forged in a volcanic forge. Welcome home,” he said. “Take the dagger and press it into the lock of the chains. It breaks the magic spell, because it’s older and stronger. But you have to drive it, do you understand?”
Goren obeyed without hesitation, which secretly surprised him. But the dwarf had something in his voice that he couldn’t resist. Almost in a trance, he pulled the dagger, went to the lock that hung next to the right securing ring, and pushed the tip into it.
“Turn it around,” the dwarf ordered.
There was an audible click, then a gust of wind hissed through the room, and the lock glowed and shattered. The chains rattled to the ground; the armlets – and anklets fell off the dwarf.
“Finally!” Glamrig exclaimed and sat up. He was a truly powerful, awesome creature. He eyed Starshine for a moment, but without much interest, then turned to Buldr. “How long have I been here under the mountains?”
“A little over a hundred years,” Buldr replied. “What happened?”
Glamrig sighed. “Too much trust, my young rescuer. I was put under my own chains, so I could not free myself. If you hadn’t found me, I would probably have been tied up until the Convocation.”
“And who...?”
“A friend, or someone I thought was. In younger days we were very close to each other, and that was the only reason why he was able to lure me into the trap.” A humiliated expression flitted across his face. “It was Isgrimm himself, the Circle Mage, because he didn’t like that I criticized him and warned him not to go too far!”
Buldr’s face was concerned. “What a shame and disgrace, venerable Glamrig, was done to you. A black shadow lies on our people.”
“As a matter of fact,” the old dwarf agreed. “Well, you’ve learned my story – now it would be appropriate to tell me your name and your request.”
“Sorry.” Buldr hurriedly caught up on what had been missed. Glamrig listened attentively and thoughtfully, whereby his amber look was mostly on Goren.
“Is there nobody else who takes the risk?” he asked after Buldr had ended.
“No,” the red-haired dwarf answered. “At least not so quickly. We’re currently the best who Light has to offer against Raith.”
Glamrig shook his head. “I see no future for you, friends. I was going to accompany you, but first I have to come back to my strength. In my current condition, I’m of little use to you. There is also another task waiting for me: I’ll bring this old ravine back to life, at least a small part of it, because I have to forge a weapon with which I can counter Isgrimm. I’ll hold him accountable for what he did to me and for what he wants to do to his people and to Fiara.” He folded his hands. “See, you aren’t the only one who wants to take on the mad Circle Mages. However, I chose a goal that I can almost match.”
“We hope to be too,” Goren said slowly.
“Yes, I already understood that.” Glamrig turned to him. “Well, young Goren, you have freed me from my chains and from my disgrace. I’m therefore indebted to you. That’s why I’ll give you the Silverflame.”
“So it really still exists?” Buldr exclaimed in between.
“Of course. It’s the most precious armour of all, an invaluable, unique magical work. I’ve guarded them carefully over the years. Come, I’ll take you to it.” Glamrig started moving, at first very stiff and slow, but soon smooth and secure. “I know you have no time to waste, so I won’t stop you. I also have a lot to do and want to get to work as quickly as possible.”
He led the fellows to another burial chamber and pointed to a stone slab. “Push it aside,” he asked Buldr and Goren.
They did as he requested and the dust of past centuries swelled towards them.
Goren could hardly believe that what wasn’t possible was successful. His heart was pounding in his throat, and he was looking to the stone sarcophagus in exceptation.

For the first time Raith the Black swayed slightly. He felt his weakness increase, but there was no return. He had to pull himself together and carry on more energetically.
He knew he could do it.
And he knew that he would succeed.
Because there was a change in the rocks. It was like a breath that blew out. A deep, far breath.
The spell began to loosen. The formula did the trick! The Sinistra had done a great job; they had actually defied the Guardians by developing this saying. They had shown that the gods weren’t almighty. Evidence was provided by the fact that the Circle Mages were on the right track to strive for Convocation and achieve the perfect power.
The time of the Guardians had passed. They had failed in their efforts. Because how could it be that gods were divided? That two of them were exiled, treated as renegades?
They were neither peaceful nor righteous. They had more power, but that was all. Otherwise they were no different from the worldly life they had created.
This was Raith’s view.
He wanted to face the gods and show them that worldly life was also able to carry divine power and bring peace.
An alchemist, the most powerful of his time – maybe all time, had tried it once before: Malacay. But his mind hadn’t been able to endure the mighty and had changed. Malacay had acted too openly and too quickly against the gods, had mocked and laughed at them and continued to work without seriously arming against them. He hadn’t taken the gods seriously, and they had discharged their anger at him for this wickedness and cursed him.
That wouldn’t happen to Raith. He followed paths that would surely lead him to his destination.
Another deep breath came through the desert, the ground rose and fell, the rocks glowing brightly. There was a soft chirp and a metallic clink.
Just for a short moment, then everything was quiet again.
Raith still felt strengthened and inspired. He banished the weakness deep inside and no longer allowed his body to sway.
The runes that gave the next word of power lit up.
It wouldn’t be so long, now.

Goren swallowed and tried not to show his disappointment. Buldr also looked astonished, but said nothing.
The armour in the sarcophagus was old, ancient. Dented, worn out and ugly.
Goren couldn’t say exactly what he had imagined about an invaluable armour called Silverflame, which was magical.
But surely he hadn’t hoped for that: a rusty old thing that had had its best days long ago.
“You just have to polish it,” Buldr said confidently and rubbed his finger carefully on the breastplate. But there was no change; no soft shine emerged from the wiped patina.
“Nonsense,” Glamrig said. “It’s perfect. Try it on, Goren.”
He reached into the sarcophagus and pulled out the armour, which crunched and clanked miserably.
Now also Starshine, which waiting to be surprised, got big eyes. She didn’t say a word, but her expression was enough.
“Only the breastplate,” Goren said. “The rest isn’t so important.”
Glamrig nodded. He opened the breastplate, slipped it over Goren’s head and carefully closed it on the sides.
“And?” Buldr asked excitedly.
“It’s too big,” Goren replied depressed. “Way too big.”

Menor was pale and unusually silent when he arrived with Hag at the White Pony.
The city had been completely liberated in the meantime, and the people celebrated exuberantly in the streets. Ruorim and his dragon riders had quickly stopped the fight and had left. The corpses left behind were carried through the city in torchlight procession like trophies. No one would sleep that night. The brief but impressive reign of terror was over and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief.
In the meantime, Ardig had cleaned his inn with a few helping hands, removed most of the marks and set up tables and chairs as long as they hadn’t broken. While people were singing outside, he made inventory.
He greeted Craig, Wolfur, Hag and Menor enthusiastically, who arrived one after the other, and found somewhere a bartender who had not joined the celebrations but had slumbered on a flour sack. Now he had to pay for it, because Ardig ordered him to serve the cream of the crop for his very special guests. The inn was still open for then alone tonight. And of course everything went at its own expense!
“Where’s Korben?” Wolfur asked the innkeeper.
“He’s outside with the people and let them celebrating himself,” Ardig answered and shrugged his shoulders. “Just because he just barely managed to push a bolt. But what does it matter, wasn’t it? The small things are often decisive.”
Craig stared straight ahead. “I regret not having met Ruorim anymore. Surprising that he avoided the fight, it isn’t his style. But it isn’t over if he should accept that. I’ll stay on his trail.”
The blacksmith eyed Hag first, then Menor more extensively. “We have won and the two little humans are very silent. What happened?”
Hag reported briefly about the encounter with Ruorim.
Craig forgot his dark thoughts and listened in amazement. In his restless search for truth and humanity he was learning something new again, that was clear to him. Above all, he didn’t understand why Ruorim had left Hag and Menor alive. He had never done that, he explained.
“This is a really dramatic turn,” the hairy orc remarked. “I’m sorry for you, guys.”
“I just can’t believe it,” Menor blurt out desperately. He seemed about to burst into tears. “Weylin didn’t betray us. She would never do that! We saw her, so bright and clear, shining in her purity. Ruorim... must have cast a spell to make her dependent!”
“Yes, it’ll be that way,” Hag said and comfortedly put an arm around his shoulders. “Come on, Menor, don’t take it so hard. Nothing is lost yet. We’ll find Weylin again and free her from Ruorim’s claws. And then everything becomes as before.”
“We now have to consider how to proceed,” Craig said seriously. “We should sleep the rest of the night because we’ll be leaving early. I’ve already said goodbye to Juldir, and Durass and his army are ready tomorrow at the east gate.”
Hag rubbed his swollen face. Now that he was free and everything was past, the pain returned, and with it deep exhaustion.
“Do you need a rest?” Wolfur asked, who was an attentive observer.
The soldier from the Leonidar clan shook his head. “It’s all right. I’ll be able to ride, and if I tie me down, I can sleep a little in between.”
“And what are you up to, Craig?” Menor asked in a thin voice.
“Ruorim has to wait,” the Dracon answered. “We’ll meet him again soon anyway, because he’ll be on his way to Aonir’s Blade to meet Hokan Ashir. His quick, anxious departure shows me that when we attacked, he already had a message from his master that ordered him to do so. That’s why we’re going to ride towards Goren now, as we agreed.”
“He’ll need us,” Hag agreed. “And after everything you told me and with the signs that we can see from here, he hasn’t been able to stop Raith so far.”
“Well, then to the desert, towards Goren,” Menor said bravely. He had decided to distract himself from his grief and to be there for a friend who needed him – and he knew he was still a friend. Or at least hoped so.
“Yes,” Craig nodded. “When we reach the desert, we decide what to do. Whether we wait or continue riding. It all depends on how far Raith is now and how dangerous the trip would be for us.”
“I’m glad you’re still here, Craig,” Hag remarked. “I only met you a few moments, but I know one thing for sure: we need you.”
“I’m coming too,” Wolfur Grimbold roared. “These barbarians ruthlessly destroyed my smithy in the fighting! Moreover... it’s more fun with you and brings variety.” He scratched his hairy chest noisily. “And finally I owe Goren something; I promised him that.”
Hag pushed Menor into the side. “What do you say, thinner? I think we now have a decent team together. Goren’ll be impressed. And fifty Shaikan – we should be able to react to one or two Circle Mages!”

They took the armour with them anyway, because Glamrig insisted. It was the price for his liberation, as he had promised, and that was mandatory. Goren thanked him and promised to take good care of the precious armour. Making a face as if he’d preferred to throw it away immediately.
They divided the armour among themselves, and everyone put some of it in their travel bag; Goren tied the breastplate to his shield. Starshine and he said goodbye to the old dwarf warrior and then left the burial chambers to give Buldr the opportunity to exchange a few words with the time-honored one alone.
Buldr gratefully used it. When he finally said goodbye and wanted to leave, Glamrig held him back again. “You accepted a dangerous friendship there, Buldr. A tremendous power rests in this young human that he cannot tie. One day it’ll break out and destroy him – at best only him. Pay attention if you continue to accompany him and be careful; because he’s unpredictable.”
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