[Fanfiction] Heirs of Darkness (2nd book) - Chapters 14 & 15

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 14 & 15

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 14 – At the crossroads
The way back was largely silent, except for the clattering armour that rocked against Goren’s shield and constantly reminded him that it hadn’t gone as expected.
Buldr went ahead; he was holding a map in which Glamrig had drawn the shortest route so they didn’t have to wander through the labyrinth again. They would make the way back at least half the time, if not faster. But it was the only consolation.
Everyone was thinking about their own thoughts and pondering for themselves how to proceed.
Goren was discouraged by the armour, but he wasn’t ready to give up. Maybe it would be enough if he somehow got to the grimoire. He was going to face Raith anyway. After all, he still had the dragon shield and Malacay’s dagger, which had served well down here and were therefore not entirely useless against magic.
And there’s more, you know it.
Goren involuntarily rubbed his chest. He didn’t want to direct his thoughts in that way, but he could no longer prevent it.
You may not want the magic, Ur had once said to him, but she wants you.
This was the unfortunate inheritance of the Shaikan: the ancestor, whose soul was banned in him, and his father, whose magical powers had also been transferred to him. But Goren was afraid of what he united. He had chosen the side of the Light, but what was inside was dark and threatening. If he ever dared to use this power, it could turn to the wrong side. What he meant well, might end badly. And he too could become completely different – possibly a second Ruorim or worse: a Malacay reborn in this way, whose soul has awakened again...
You carry the Materia Prima within you, Ur revealed to him. And what Malacay did so terrible with it, because he couldn’t handle it, can be done good if you use it wisely.
But was it possible at all, against a Circle Mage who had dedicated himself to the black arts? Goren hadn’t even had a really magical education. Raith had hundreds of years of knowledge and experience ahead of him.
And yet he was irresistibly drawn closer and closer to Aonir’s Blade. Goren knew there was no going back for him. Maybe it was the dragon blood that made him do it.
Why don’t you fly yourself? Goren had scowled when Ur had made it clear to him again and again that this was his destiny.
I am there, the dragon had answered. Because I am in you.
Another one, thought Goren with bitter sarcasm. Is that all I’m made of? From pieces of other personalities? Am I just a hotchpotch of different magical flows and powers that want to use me for their purposes? Is that why my mother fled and tried to give me a normal life? But she couldn’t have believed it completely either, because why else did she train me to be a warrior from the start and drill me so that I wasn’t unprepared?
Goren felt the weight of the shield and the armour on his back become heavy. A burden that weighed him down with everything that was in him.
Who am I? he asked himself.
He dared a brief glance over to Starshine, which went silently and intently beside him. She was a half-blooded woman who didn’t really belong to any world. She too was looking for herself because she hadn’t yet decided whether to join the norcaine or the humans. Yet it wasn’t as torn as Goren. She had to learn very early to stand on her own and to fight for her survival. That had strengthened her will and self-confidence. It had given her the strength not to let herself be broken. Starshine might not have known where she belonged – but she knew who she was.
However, Goren didn’t know. He couldn’t guess whether his thoughts came only from himself or whether they had already been influenced by the inheritance. He didn’t know whether he was free to make decisions or just obeyed others. Maybe he was just a container, the few thoughts of which were there to move, nourish and steal this body. But what was his true self? Was there at all?
Sometimes he wondered what drawn him to Starshine, how much he really felt for her. Maybe it was nothing more than the attraction of her magic that complemented his?
Goren had fallen in love once before, and his heart had been shattered by the beloved one, but that had been something completely different: a passionate puppy love, which arose from the first feelings of growing up and desire.
For Starshine he didn’t feel the way he did then. He saw her with very different eyes, and he had not been able to describe what was going on in him. Nevertheless, he always wanted to be close to her; it was almost as if she were already part of him, despite all the shy and embarassment that he often felt when she looked at him in a certain way. He didn’t feel grown how much her. And she always seemed to blame him for what he was without words and didn’t tolerate any kind of approach. But the fact that she couldn’t bear the nearness of a man was also due to the horrors of her past.
So that’s how it looks, Goren thought depressed. Instead of preparing to deal with the Circle Mage, I’m thinking about my relationship with a dark elf who isn’t at all interested in me. As always, I distract myself from the actual problem so I don’t have to face it.
He almost stumbled on Buldr, who had stopped and looked at him with kind eyes.
“Don’t you ever doubt, Buldr?” he asked spontaneously.
The red-haired dwarf smiled. “Everyone has their doubts, boy. Even Glamrig who was chained up for a hundred years because he trusted a friend. Even your father, because he can’t get you. Even Raith.” He pressed Goren’s arm. “Whatever I can do, I’ll do to support you, Goren. If necessary, I’ll drag you to Aonir’s Blade, but of course I can’t do everything for you. There are things that are denied to me, but not to you.”
“I’m not sure of that,” Goren retorted.
“Were you afraid of Raith?”
“No. However, I’m scared...”
Buldr raised his brows encouragingly.
Goren continued: “... to disappoint you all.”
“Ah! If it’s nothing else.” Buldr smiled good-naturedly. “I think that is the least of all hurdles, Goren. Maybe your mother put a little too much pressure on you as a child, and you always tried to please her and win her respect. But you don’t need it, my friend. We appreciate and respect you just the way you are! And if we put expectations in you, it’s only because we consider ourselves inadequate and want to shift the responsibility onto you. Just trust yourself and don’t worry about us. Do what your feeling tells you, not what we wanted from you. You fought, not us! And therefore you don’t need to pay attention to us.” He winked at Goren and continued on his way.
“And what about the Silverflame?” Goren cried. “So much effort for this old tin thing?”
Buldr laughed loudly. “At least you learned something, Goren, and it wasn’t for nothing!

In the next hall they were no longer alone. They suddenly feel it all three, because they stop at the same time and reach for their weapons. It was already too late to retreat.
There were four; they had been going through the hall. Two stocky orcs and two human soldiers. They had noticed the newcomers at the same moment, put on their weapons and attacked without warning, without preamble, without a sound.
Goren stood in front of Starshine and fended off the sword of the first man and pushed him away with a kick, because at the same time one of the orcs attacked with a heavy axe, which he swung with ease. Goren knew he couldn’t parry the blow without breaking at least one arm; that’s why he wanted to redirect the blow. He lifted the sword with both hands powerfully, followed the swing of the blow and struck the axe to the side. At the same time, Starshine jumped past him and rammed her knife into the ork’s knee, exactly where the connection seam of the armour showed a tiny gap.
The ork let out a loud roar and buckled, but he could still use the axe so that Goren could just jump to the side in the last second to escape the second blow. With a jerk he threw off the shield and the armour, dropped to the ground when the soldier used his lack of cover to attack again, rolled over and barely parried the sword blow. They both remained motionless for a moment, then Goren kicked the soldier’s shin, knocked his sword aside and jumped up.
Meanwhile, Buldr circled his axe and increasingly harassed his attackers the more he drove them back.
Finally, all three of the fellows got together, waited for their opponents to attack and resolutely set down to fight back. “Buldr, watch out for Starshine!” Goren cried after he had assessed the situation and then turned to the unhurt orc. He drove him back with whirling hits, relying on speed and skill instead of strength, because in that he would be inferior to the much heavier being. The memory of the Valley of Tears suddenly came to his mind, the cruel mistreatment, the arbitrariness of the orcs and their joy at the torment. Representative of all the blows and lashes he had to suffer there, Goren hit the orc now – with a brutality that he hadn’t thought possible. When his opponent finally gave himself an opening, he pushed the sword deep into him and then pulled it out with a jerk. While the orc sank to the ground dying, Goren turned to the second, who could only clumsily defend himself due to his knee injury, then pushed him away and finally drove the tip of his sword into his throat.
Panting, bloodstained, with a wild expression in his eyes, he turned to his friends, but they had already done the rest.
Buldr had just left a soldier alive; he knelt on his chest, held the knife to his throat and asked: “Who are you? Why did you follow us?”
“You’ll find out nothing from me,” the wounded gurgled.
Goren knelt down next to him, grabbed his hand, took the little finger and broke it with a powerful jerk. The man cried out and covered Goren with a flood of curses, but didn’t reveal anything.
When the third finger was broken, however, his resistance collapsed and he whined. “Stop! I’ll talk!”
“Let’s go!” Buldr growled. “Don’t try our patience.”
“We serve Raith the Black,” the soldier poured out. “He sent some of us out to see if there were any forces against him. In Windholme we should pay attention to whether someone requests special weapons or armour, orders them to be handled or searches for artifacts, and destroy everything if so. Then this drunken dwarf ran across our path...”
“Aldridge!” Buldr exclaimed. “What did you do to him?”
“He only needed a few sips to drink and a little persuasion, and he was already speaking,” the man said. “We needed almost no help. We watched you and followed you, and we learned the rest from this miserable moaner...”
Buldr grabbed his collar and shook him. “What about Aldridge? What did you do to him, you damn blooddrinkers?”
The man spat blood and laughed gurgling. “It won’t benefit you what I told you... we have you...”
“Finish him quickly,” Goren said in a cold voice and got up.
Buldr cut the soldier’s throat with a quick, clean cut and also rose.
Starshine stood at the end of the hall and listened. She motioned for the two men to be silent.
Soon afterwards they could hear it: the soft rattling and sound of metal and quick steps that were approaching.
“Damn,” Buldr hissed. “The reinforcement is already underway.”
Goren nodded. “We can’t go back to Windholme. Is there any other way out of here?” He took shield and armour; Starshine helped him to put everything back on his back. He wiped the blood off his clothes and also his sword before sheathing it again.
“Of course there’re several ways to go outdoors. But to find the right one... we cannot allow ourselves to fall into a dead end...” Buldr hastily unfolded the maps and studied them murmuring under his breath. He looked around the hall, searching.
Starshine urged to hurry. “Otherwise the advantage will be too small!”
Buldr indicated a dark passage. “In there,” he called as started running.

The three fellows no longer had torches and had to feel their way through the darkness, which made it difficult and, above all, slowed them down. On the other hand, they couldn’t betray themselves by light. Behind them they hear that the reinforcement has now reached the hall and found the dead vanguard. Orders were shouted, and then the pursuers probably swarmed out, because shortly afterwards it was completely quiet again. The hunt had started.
Buldr suddenly gripped Goren’s hand, who understood what the dwarf had in mind, and in turn groped Starshine. The dwarf accelerated now, and they hurried blindly through the tunnel as quickly as possible. Goren cursed under his breath because the armour repeatedly hit the shield, but there was no other way to do that. He hoped that their advantage was enough so this noise was no longer noticeable. And after a while he had found a rhythm in which the armour hardly fluctuated and there was almost no noise.
Buldr must have memorized the way, hoped Goren, because if there were other branches here, they would be lost. They turned several times; sometimes it went up, then down again. Goren could not determine whether the route was natural or a junction.
Breathing became more difficult the deeper they went; the air became stuffy, but also uncomfortably damp. Goren slipped several times and the others had to hold him. He also had to run crouched all the time, fearing that he would hit his head somewhere and be knocked out by a collision at the fast pace.
Finally, Buldr stopped and Goren could hear his heavy breath. They listened for a long time. Goren heard nothing, and probably not Starshine either, as she gently pushed him on. He pressed Buldr’s hand and gave him the sign to continue on. The dwarf started to move; he was still fast, but not as quickly as before.
Goren could only hope that they would ever come to light again. He swallowed his growing panic and as well the many fears that were pounding on him. But he didn’t know how long he could go on in this narrow and darkness, not knowing where he was, whether he was circling in the mountain or walking on the edge of it. It was like a nightmare one never woke up from.
Buldr stopped again, for whatever reasons. They didn’t talk to each other all the time, didn’t even dare to whisper.
Everything around them was dead silent.
Goren turned around – and froze.
Where he supposed Starshine was, he saw a faint glimmer. When his eyes got used to it, he realized that it was actually Starshine, as if her body were framed by extremely fine light dust. Even the fine tips of her long ears were traced. He had never seen her so ethereal. The longer he looked at her, the clearer her contours, her narrow nose, her petite chin, her big almond eyes, which gleamed in the soft shimmer of her aura. He was sure that she was looking at him.
He shyly raised his hand to her face, touched her cheek, felt her velvety skin. She stopped and stared at him. He swallowed. Then he leaned and touched her mouth, felt her soft, warm lips for a brief, precious moment, tasted the sweetness of the moment, lost in her shine, breathing her unmistakable fragrance.
Then Buldr was already pressed his hand again and pulling it with him. Goren groped hastily for Starshine’s hand and turned back to the lightless darkness. But they had lost all their fears.

Goren startled when Buldr’s voice came out unexpectedly: “I see a light up there, friends – we made it!
“How did you get it done?” Goren asked; he could hardly believe it.
“Dwarven secret, Goren,” Redbeard answered cheerfully. “Glamrig told me. It was really lucky that we met him! And I think we also shook off our pursuers. Their instincts aren’t so good either. By the time they catch up with us, we’re already on Aonir’s Blade, you’ll see!”
“But there’s a problem,” Goren objected. “We didn’t take many supplies with us.”
“Then we have to be moderate,” Buldr said. “Starshine is the smaller, isn’t she?”
“I see darkness,” she murmured. “I wish we didn’t have to go any further.”
Shortly thereafter Goren understood what she meant.

They stepped out of the mountain, a few men’s height above the ground. The desert spread beneath them, but it looked nothing like what they had expected.
The sky above them was deep black; mighty thunder clouds towered up, glowing red at the lower edges. There was a pale twilight without any shadow. In the center above the desert, where Aonir’s Blade should lie, a huge swirl of clouds had formed that slowly circled around itself, with a black core that occasionally fired yellow flashes.
The air was heavy and oppressive; if one inhaled too deeply, it stung the lungs and burned the nose sharply. Ashes and blood rained down and mixed into sticky gray-red, tough streaks. The hills of the gray shadow valley below were covered with millions of dead creatures: spiders, beetles, Scythe Runners in between. Something moved here and there, eating the carcasses until these creatures also died.
“By my beard,” Buldr whispered. “I’ve never seen anything so horrible.”
“And that’s not all.” Starshine noticed. “This awaits us if Raith awakens the Fial Darg and conquered Fiara with their help. Just waiting, if we go on! It will get worse.”
Goren turned to her. “You don’t have to do that,” he said softly. And louder to Buldr: “Neither do you, old friend. I’ve arrived and I’ve the armour with me. I’ll go on alone.”
In order to not admit a contradiction and to not spend long with the farewell, he wanted to set off immediately, but Starshine held his arm back. Goren didn’t look at her because he expected another reprimand or reproach.
“You can’t get through the army alone,” she said. “You still have a long way to go.”
“Furthermore,” Buldr added, “I don’t like it when the decision is taken away from me.”
Goren rubbed his face. “I’m glad you’re with me, but I don’t know if it’s right.”
“Leave that to us,” Starshine retorted. She stepped to the edge of the rock. “Down there’s a protected ledge. We should settle there and rest before we make our way through the desert, because then there’ll be no pauses.”
“I agree,” Buldr voted. “A few hours of sleep will do us good. Will there be another night here?”
Starshine shook her head. “It will get a little darker, but the red glow of the clouds will increase.”
They descended over the rocks to the ledge, where they found some space in a niche. They had a meager meal and then made themselves comfortable as best as they could.
With regular, deep breaths, Starshine soon indicated that she had fallen asleep.
Buldr smoked another pipe with a not much valuable tobacco, which he had divided into precise portions. He sat on the edge of the plateau and looked out at the nightmarish desert.
After a while Goren joined him.
“I know it’s difficult,” the dwarf started softly. “But you have to sleep, Goren, otherwise you can’t keep it up. If you want, I can carry the armour and the shield, because we have a difficult road ahead of us. And I can carry more than you.”
“That’s fine,” Goren declined gently. For a while they watched the country in silence, then Goren began hesitantly: “Buldr... did you actually see Starshine when we were walking through the darkness earlier?”
Buldr gave him a startled look. “No, of course not. It was pitch black. Why do you ask?”
I saw her, Goren thought. I could see her for what she really is, why she has this name. He closed his eyes because his heart hurt. He still felt the gentle pressure of her lips on his mouth. It had been even less than an innocent kiss, and yet he had completely enchanted him. “Nothing more, Buldr,” he answered. “I... just thought I saw something. Maybe I was just hoping.”
“Yes, this darkness can be difficult,” Buldr growled. “But even if we were lost, Goren, we hadn’t been walking around forever. A dwarf’s sense of direction in the mountains is unbearable. I might have gone the wrong way a few times, but at some point I had found my way out.”
“You could have said that before, don’t you think?”
Buldr grinned.
Goren looked at his handprint. “I still wonder if we really met the damon spawn. Maybe it was just a dream, drawn by these eyeless creatures, that made us sleepwalkers. It was all so unreal...” He looked at Buldr. “Do you think we have to worry about Glamrig?”
“Because of our pursuers? No. Glamrig is our greatest fighter, he takes on hundreds. In his way he’s like Craig. Maybe they have even fought against each other.” Buldr sucked on his pipe and let out small circles of smoke. “But I’m worried about Aldridge. Unthinkable, if they murdered him. Orim would do his nut.”
“I’m sorry, Buldr.”
“Well, there’s no other way. We have to solve our task. There’ll be many victims in this war that we’ll weep for.”
Goren nodded. “I think I’m trying to sleep now. Do we need a guard?”
“Who is awake, is careful. We sleep until we feel strong and relaxed. Then it starts.” Buldr pressed his arm. “Sleep well and without dark thoughts.”
Goren returned to his space and relaxed as he had learned from his mother. Shortly afterwards he slept soundly.

The way through the desert was a nightmare. The toxic air worried them the most. Soon all three coughed; their eyes were watering and a metallic taste was on their tongues. Progress was made more difficult by the innumerable carcasses that lay everywhere in the sand or were already buried under it. To make his way through it, to climb down and to stumble down on the other side – all of this was the greatest physical challenge that Goren had ever had to face. He had believed that his mother’s drill had chosen him for everything; but he had mistaken.
Even Starshine, with her light stride, barely touching the ground, had difficulty, and her face took on a weary expression.
They stopped when they heard a shrill scream, and then a Scythe Runner came out of a hollow with clicking scissor arms. Its shrill, whistling noises hurt the ears, but Goren saw very well that the creature was already at the end of its strength and was no longer a great danger. He drew his sword, gestured for them to stop, and faced the Scythe Runner. The giant insect slowed down; apparently it was irritated because the alleged prey didn’t take flight. Then it went into attack position and approached lurking. Goren remained in a calm position, but movement came very quickly when the Scythe Runner attacked with another scream and ominously stretched out scissor arms. Goren picked up momentum, and just before the scissors could reach him and snap shut, he cut them off with a single blow. The powerful scissors were still clicking as they flew through the air and finally fell to the ground. Before the insect could grasp what had just happened to him, Goren cut off his head and hurriedly jumped back, beyond the range of the spurting green blood that ate hissed holes into the scattered carcasses of the beetles.
Without losing many words about it, the fellows continued on their way. Occasionally, an insect or spider tried to attack them, but they ended it quickly.

At last they left the gray shadow valley behind and the three fellows reached the slope. The towering, glowing rock formation was visible on the horizon; it was one of the most important Fiara’s sanctuary and at the same time served as a prison for the Fial Darg, the dark princes.
In front of it a black, narrow ribbon ran like a wall through the desert.
“Raith’s army,” Buldr noticed. “This is a more difficult obstacle than all the creatures.”
“We’ll think about it when we’re there.” Goren stopped and leaned his arms on his thighs, panting. He coughed, his lungs making a tortured rattling sound. He felt completely exhausted, suffered from shortness of breath and had no strength in his legs.
The others were no better. Yet they stumbled on – what else was left for them?
The blood rain started again and turned everything into marshy mud that sucked on the boots. The fellows barely made any progress; often they have to prop each other up and pull them out of the softened ground.
Moreover, there was also a wind that pushed dense ash clouds ahead. As far as it was still possible, the sky darkened further, and the circling maelstrom in the middle expanded with a sucking noise. There was rumbles and thunders, and the flashes from the black core multiplied and hissed far and wide across the country.
The wind soon developed into a roaring storm and brought with it winged shadows that chirped and whistled at the wanderers, bit their neck and arms and all other uncovered body parts to greedily suck blood.
Goren unbuckled the dragon shield and held it in front of him; Buldr and Starshine came close to him as he began to strike with his sword.
When the storm became a hurricane, the gusts dragged the winged shadows with them; thus, this danger was averted, but it was now almost impossible to move forward. Every step was a pain. Goren continued to hold the shield in front of him, and the fellows ducked behind it as best as possible so that they could at least breathe. The bites of the winged shadows stung and burned, but at least Starshine’s healing prevented their paralyzing poison from spreading through the body. Now she was almost at the end of her strength.
But the worst was yet to come.

Again and again they stumbled and fell on their knees. The storms whipped against them with all their might, and they had to brace themselves – but they didn’t stop. They had come too far for that.
The dark ribbon of the army came closer. Undead wherever they looked, bizarre images of former life, frozen in the moment of death, and awakened to new unholy life. They were monstrous creatures that had nothing human-like, dwarf-like or elf-like about them, because they were often composed of different parts of the body. Raith had probably placed the living part of his army on the edge of the desert, because here, in the center of chaos, the living were useless. The undead, however, wasn’t affected by the unnatural storm; they would also endure here to the end of the day if they were inspired by their master’s will for so long. They didn’t need food or sleep and couldn’t lose patience. Never would you disturb your lord in his concentration; they just followed their orders to observe everything that came to them from outside the protective ring.
“This will be our advantage now.” Although Starshine screamed the words full-throated, her voice in this storm was barely heard as a hoarse whisper.
Goren wished they could have a rest. He had no sense of time at all; maybe they’ve only been in the desert for a few hours, or maybe they’ve been there for a year. He only knew that they hadn’t come too late; the ritual wasn’t yet complete, but it couldn’t be long, given the effects that were now showing.
On the way here the fellows dared to crouch in the sand, directly on the insect carcasses. They had snuggled up to each other and could sleep a little; their exhaustion allowed it. During these short breaks they dripped a little water on their tongues and nibbled on the last crumbs of bread.
But it was just a short nod, a restless doze that hardly brought any recovery. It could only prevent them from falling asleep while walking.
Starshine turned to her fellows. “I’ll now tell you how we can get through this army,” she explained.

The sixth ritual was almost complete. The mountain shone brilliantly in the black and red whirlwind of the desert. The floor began to tremble and shake as the sixth level formula neared its end.
The chains of the Fial Darg sounded and sang, and they glowed red and pulsating. Hellish light came from the caverns.
Raith the Black heard a scratch in the mountain. And he felt powerful limbs began to move. Breathing had become deeper and more uniform. The Fial Darg had to wake up every moment. Then it was only a matter of releasing the spell of the chains.
The great moment was approaching.
But the Circle Mage felt no triumph because he was too weak for it. He was almost exhausted; as expected, the ritual had cost him everything. All the more, he wasn’t allowed to relax in his concentration, because now it was really about everything. Raith hadn’t gotten far enough to fail just before the finish. He had to endure.
And he had already been rewarded because he knew that the breaking spell worked. Nothing and nobody could stop him.
Soon the Princes of Darkness were free, the Zarach’s most perfect and deadly creation.
Soon Fiara was theirs.

It was an eerie path that they followed. The whole world seemed to be shifted, as it were, bathed in a gray twilight. Storms, blood rain and winged shadows had no place in this world.
The fellows advanced much faster, almost swinging feet.
And they walked unseen, unnoticed by the Circle Mage’s army. Nobody could hear or smell them.
“Goren, maybe you remember what I mentioned,” Starshine had said before taking the others into this shadow world. “I said that nobody can see me if I don’t want to. Now – this is my special gift. It’s very rare. That was perhaps one of the reasons why I was put on the slave collar that banished my strength. In this respect, I’m superior to most norcaine, because they can no longer sense me. I’m not there when I move in this shadow zone, which is part of this world, but is on a different magical level.”
“We are invisible?” Buldr asked, perplexed.
“No, Buldr, I’m trying to make it clear to you: we are simply no longer there. Not at the level we live on.”
“But the undead...” Goren intervened.
Starshine waved. “They won't notice us either, not even a Lich King could do it. I can’t explain to you how it works, Goren. So much of magic is inexplicable, and sometimes someone is given an amazing gift that only exists once. Just trust me, that I can.”
“And we are included in your aura?”
“Yes. However, it will take my last strength and we have to hurry, because I can’t keep this draining spell for long.”
With that, everything was said. Starshine had ordered them to take their hand and they had headed straight for the army. Goren had wondered how she could call this spell, but then his field of vision shifted, the storm died, and it became very quiet, very gray; the floor under his feet was flexible but solid.
They hurried through the army at a rapid pace; and it was almost as if they were walking through because, although the path was often too narrow for all three of them side by side, and they had only been able to move slowly, Starshine simply headed for the direct way. They encountered no undead, they never had to dodge, and yet nobody noticed them.
Are we now like a ghost that steps through you, so you’re freezing for a brief moment and feel the breath of death? Goren wondered.
No, Starshine replied in his head. You can see it in your shifted view: you are exactly in the same place, but on a different level.
Can you hear my thoughts?
Yes, here. Everything is different here, but of course I can’t take advantage of many possibilities on this level and, as I said, only linger for a short time. Get ready, we’ll go back soon.

The fellow had left the narrow ribbon of the army behind them and hurried on towards Aonir’s Blade, which still shone like a beacon even in this dark shadow world.
Then their vision shifted again, storm and chaos returned, and the steps of the fellows became heavy and slow again.

Chapter 15 – Aonir’s Blade
Starshine stumbled and sank to the ground. Worried, Goren knelt down at her and leaned her upper body against himself. Even in this bizarre moment, he enjoyed being able to put his arm around her and be able to easily cuddle her. He felt her heartbeat and the weight of her head on his chest. He caressed her arm gently. “Thanks,” he whispered. “We could never have done it without you...”
“We gained some time,” Buldr said. “Now we have only one thing left to do, Goren, and we should prepare for that. Let’s give Starshine an opportunity to recover.”
As they supposed, no undead noticed them here in the inner circle. They were only ordered to watch out for attacks from outside. What was going on within the circle was of no interest to them. They had probably even been given the express order not to turn to the master so as not to bother him.
Starshine was too exhausted to speak. She had closed her eyes and Goren had the impression that she had fallen asleep. “Do you think she needs something? Food, water...”
The dwarf shrugged helplessly. He leaned on his axe and secured the area. The storms weren’t raging in here, but they were still noticeable.
And as a new element in this concert of terror, the earth trembled and shook.
“It’s nearly time,” Goren whispered. “I can hear them already – you too?”
Buldr nodded, lips pressed together.
Starshine regained consciousness after a short while and sat up. “I’m fine,” she explained. “Luckily my powers always return quickly.” She looked around. “Monumental...” she murmured. Then she covered her ears. “They’re unbearable... they’re already moving... and I can hear them...”
“Yes. I should be on my way now. Raith has probably just started the seventh ritual.” Goren rose. “Come on, Buldr, help me with the armour.”
“Do you really want to...?”
“Of course. I didn’t drag it all the way on my back to leave it somewhere in the mud.”
Goren could hear from Buldr’s tone that his dwarf friend was no longer convinced of the use of the Silverflame. Perhaps he now thought his revered hero Glamrig was confused; after all, he was a few centuries old, and to spend a whole century immovably in chains in the dark was hardly understandable to him. Maybe the precious armour still existed somewhere, but Glamrig had long forgotten the place and therefore simply changed for some shabby armour that had once belonged to a simple warrior.
Buldr don’t express his concerns, should he have any, but help Goren to put on the old, dented armour. The breastplate was indeed too big, just like the greaves.
“You’ll only be able to move very awkwardly,” Buldr noticed.
“Maybe it’s exactly the point of the thing,” Starshine threw in. “Raith bursts out laughing, stops the ritual, and that’s it. Maybe he even suffocates on it.”
Goren stared at her in amazement.
Buldr said carefully. “You always amaze me, girl – you almost scare me. I think you were joking, or am I mistaken?
“No.” Starshine said innocently. “You aren’t mistaken. It works, the joke?”
Goren laughed out loud and it was like a liberation. All tension and all fears fell away from him. Now he could concentrate on what lay ahead. As quiet and calm as one should go into a fight. Slowly he started to move.
Buldr and Starshine watched him confidently. “All the best, Goren. Go your way and save Fiara.”
Then Starshine turned to Buldr and said: “Hold the position here. I sneak up to the caverns and watch what’s going on in there.”
“Don’t approach them!” he warned.
She smiled. “Have you already forgotten that nobody sees me when I don’t want to? This also applies to the Fial Darg.”

Goren felt a little ridiculous when he walked up the mountain in the old, clattering armour. In the midst of the raging chaos, he discovered a tall, narrow, black figure who performed strange gestures and sang with a high-pitched voice. The entrance to the caverns wasn’t far away. An ominous glow emanated from it, and Goren could hear the chain rattle more clearly. He was now directly under the circling maelstrom. And just like in the eye of a cyclone, the wind was silent here. The silence was almost more painful than all the roar and rage. But gradually his ears got used to it, and then Goren could hear a deep, uniform breathing, accompanied by a strange chirp.
He saw Raith the Black, and the Circle Mage also noticed him. Goren could already feel the deathly charisma of the mighty norcaine.
Raith turned to him, his shape was shadowy and blurred and the narrow face with the long, pointed ears was barely recognizable.
Goren had actually expected the mage would raise his hand to smash him.
But nothing of the sort happened. Raith continued gesturing and singing; he wasn’t allowed to interrupt the ritual, not to hesitate, not to pause.
He couldn’t defend himself!
Wild hope hammered in Goren’s chest. If he somehow managed to survive or ward off the deadly charisma or whatever – then all he had to do was pull his sword out, and he would be able to slay the Circle Mage, one of the most powerful Eo’s beings, with a comparatively primitive weapon.
Goren put the dragon shield on his left arm and adjusted the Malacay’s ritual knife. He put his right hand on the sword hilt as he continued to advance in the old, cumbersome, far too big armour.
Raith turned back to the grimoire and continued summoning. The fatal thing was: he couldn’t get faster, not even now – highest risk at the moment. He had to perform the summon formula at the same constant speed.
What was going to happen in Raith now? What had he thought when he discovered that a comparatively weak person had managed to break the barrier and stand in his way?
He probably couldn’t think of anything at all and could only concentrate on the approaching end of the summoning. Goren now noticed how weak the mage was actually. His hands clasped the book, his voice was very thin, and his body wavered after a long period of uninterrupted conjuration without sleep or food. His exhaustion had to be beyond measure for a long time.
But Goren also felt his strength dry up the closer he got to the mage. Black rose petals and autumn leaves whirled towards him, the infallible signs that he was entering the death zone.
He would never get out of here alive, suddenly understood. So, this would be his sacrifice. All he could do was hope that he would do his job on time.
It’s all right, Goren thought. It will be over with you soon, megalomaniac, and it’s worth it to me.

Goren held the shield in front of him. He felt as if the dragon scales couldn’t stop the deadly charisma of the Circle Mage, but could weaken it somehow. Maybe he should keep ready the sword, instead...
He went forward, step by step. The ground shook and swayed beneath him, and the might raged around him, but he didn’t hesitate. Goren felt no fear – neither before the mage nor before death. Now everything came as it should.
Raith continued to sing, unable to take care of the danger that threatened him.
Goren soon realized that despite his shield, he wouldn’t get close enough to the Black to use his dagger. He drew the sword and raised it.
At that moment the lightning struck.
The yellow lightnings, which the black core of the cloud swirl was constantly shooting, sizzled haphazardly over the whole country, but this was drawn to the sword. It struck the tip and made the sheath crackle and glow.
Goren, who had actually expected the lightning to go through his blade and kill him, paused in astonishment and looked at his sword, which was crackling and glowing brighter as if it were charging with energy. Then a beam of light broke from the blade, shot towards the clouds and drilled into them.
It thundered and Goren saw the cloud being sucked in by the beam of light and melting – just fading. The light beam ate away a hole in the circling maelstrom, which spread ever wider, and suddenly Goren could see a piece of the sky. His heart was pounding violently and he felt his strength return when he realized that this was actually not the end, that there was still a sky beyond – and a kind sun.
Tiara’s fire broke through the thinning clouds and sent a powerful beam through the ever-expanding hole, aimed directly at Goren and enveloped him.
And at that moment the miracle happened.

Goren gasped, startled, when the armour suddenly shrank, pressed against his body, yes, snuggled up to him like a second skin, became as well flexible and supple, and no longer prevented him from moving.
And at the same time it shone, almost as bright as the sun itself, and threw back Tiara’s fire in a blazing glow.
As if a star had fallen, Goren stood on Aonir’s Blade, shining radiant and bright. At that moment he knew, as if the Silverflame armour had informed him about its secret: a part of Aonir’s distant shine had once been captured and forged into it. Silverflame was only a faint reflection of the star power of the Wanderer and still more powerful than anything that Eo owned.
The released starlight of Aonir instantly caused all the undead to fall to the ground, deprived them of their unfortunate powers and extinguished the necromancer magic that had worked in them.
Raith the Black was hit by the light as if by a violent blow and enveloped in it. His singing stopped on the spot and he fell unconscious to the ground.
For a moment, while the last sound of the interrupted formula was still floating in the air, everything remained breathless.
Then the light of the Silverflame slowly went out, and at the same time the environment changed. The maelstrom froze and began to collapse as if it were absorbing itself, and with it all black thunder clouds.
A magical wind blew away the millions of carcasses, swept them into the throat of the inexhaustible vortex and whirled up sand that slowly sank down again and lay over the desert like a glittering cloth.
Raith’s army was now only a dark bunch condemned to motionlessness, perhaps also about to dissolve.
The Circle Mage lay unapproachably hidden under a protective dark aura, in deathly sleep. It would probably only wake up after many weeks, and it would take a long time to start the spell again – if he ever made it again.
The light from Goren’s armour had gone out, but it had kept its shape. He approached the liber sinistrorum. As he closed the book, it seemed to be shrinking; nevertheless, it was very heavy when he took it.
“Never again...” he whispered.
He blinked and staggered; he thought he had never been so tired. But he didn’t want to take that into consideration now. Amazed and with growing joy he watched how everything came to rest and the sky turned blue again, how Tiara’ss fire returned and started to heat up the desert sand. Apart from the undead and Raith under the magical dark aura, there was no trace of what had happened here.
It was over.

“Goren!” Buldr trudged closer and waved. “By Niethalf’s hammer, you did it! What a hero you’re!” He hugged the young Shaikan laughing and patted him on the shoulder. “And look, Silverflame now fits like a glove! However, it looks pretty shabby again, but maybe it’ll be polished this time.”
“Yes, Glamrig didn’t seem so much promising,” Goren laughed. “I think I have to apologize to the time-honored one! His mind is still clear and sharp.”
Buldr nodded. “And you trusted him, Goren. In the end, you never gave up hope that the armour could actually be useful. Even though you didn’t know – and yet you dared to approach Raith. Until the very last moment you trusted that something would change in your favor. But tell me one thing, Goren, that interests me: if everything had failed – did you use your magic then?”
“I don’t know,” Goren replied sincerely. “I don’t know what I had done, everything happened so quickly. And I thought... I thought I had to die.”
“You aren’t, I assure you.” Buldr patted him on the shoulder again. “And there’re still a lot of adventures waiting for you, do we want to bet?” Satisfied, he rubbed his hands. “Well, the moment may not be appropriate, and we’ve a way back that will soon deprive us of our remaining strength, and we’re likely to be struck by heat stroke and thirsty before we have covered half of the way –”
“Buldr!” Goren interrupted him. “Get to the point, at last!”
“I’m looking forward to a beer!” the dwarf beamed. “A large, foaming jug of spicy black beer that coolly and tinglingly runs down my throat and gets my withered body going again!”
Goren shook his head, but he grinned.
At that moment Starshine’s voice sounded, and her dismayed tone immediately ruined the cheerful mood of the two.
“Friends, you should rather come here.”
She waved to them and went ahead to the entrance of the caverns.

Goren felt his heart pound when he entered Aonir’s Blade. He could feel the strong magical aura that struck him, and involuntarily he pressed the grimoire closer to himself. He wasn’t desired here, he could clearly see that. But Starshine preceded him, and he had no choice but to follow her.
Although the rock arched above them, it wasn’t dark. The strange rock let light through and immersed the cavern in an unreal, gold-colored glow. The ground was sandy, the rock walls dry and porous. The aisles were high and wide and framed by arches, which often branched out.
It was very quiet here, similar to the dwarves’ crypt. The world outside was excluded. The rock glittered slightly in the light. The magical aura pressed down Goren, especially the liber sinistrorum, which now weighed as heavily as a rock. But he didn’t dare put it down.
Buldr was unusually silent, the aura seemed to press on him too. Starshine led them deeper into the rock, and gradually it grew darker around them.
Goren finally saw a black hole in the floor in front of him. This was the entrance to the prison of the Fial Darg, of which he was certain.
Shortly before that, Starshine turned to the right and led the fellows into a dark cavern.
She pointed silently to the opposite wall.
Goren felt his heartbeat stop for a moment. He wanted to swallow, but his throat was too dry.
Huge rings were embedded in the wall, on which no less massive chains hung. Their ends were blown up.
They were empty.

Goren turned and stumbled and ran back out of the mountain; he couldn’t take it anymore. Outside, he sank on his knees, gasping for breath, the book slipped from his hands and fell in front of him on the sand. Panting and with his eyes closed, Goren remained in this position, waiting for this state to pass. He felt as if all the forces had been sucked out of him, worse than under the mountain. His face was ashen and his hands were trembling.
After a while he sensed that Buldr and Starshine were with him, but he couldn’t speak yet. Leaning forward, he began to choke, but his empty stomach couldn’t throw anything up.
“They should be damned,” Buldr growled softly. “How could it happen? The ritual wasn’t finished!”
“There are only two who have escaped,” Starshine explained. “Since they were in the first cavern, they might be able to wake up faster because the spell wasn’t quite as strong. It’s just a guess. I’m not sure, Buldr. In any case, they’re free.”
She knelt down next to Goren and put her hand on his red-hot forehead. He felt grateful for her cool, healing touch. “Feeling better?”
“Maybe,” he exclaimed and opened his eyes. “I – I don’t know what –”
“You know it,” she interrupted him calmly. “You can feel it.” Then she added quietly: “I’m sorry, Goren. You shouldn’t have to go through this but nobody can take this burden off you.”
“That isn’t necessary either.” Goren picked up the grimoire and stowed it in his bag. He got up carefully. He swayed a little, but became increasingly vigorous.
“What do we do now?” Buldr asked seriously, looking concerned. He had to bury his hope for a beer for the time being.
“The Fial Darg are shapeshifters,” Starshine said and let her eyes roam the desert. “Nobody knows their true form. They can be anything they want. From now on nobody is safe anymore.”
Goren knew what she meant: from now on, there would only be distrust, because nobody could tell who was friend or foe. “It couldn’t be worse,” he murmured. “Whether two of them or all – none of the Fial Darg is bound by morals. Nobody can stop them. Nobody knows what they’ll do, what they are going to do. And we cannot find them.”
“Then, everything was in vain?” Buldr growled.
Starshine shook her head. “We threw Raith out, along with his army. And the Fial Darg have been defeated before. It could work again! We know what to look for. And we’ll surely find a way to recognize them. They’re free but not yet in full possession of their powers. Don’t forget how long they were banned. They’ll need time until they’re back at the peak of their power. Thus, we have to track them down and turn them off beforehand.”
Goren nodded. “Yes, that’s the only way. We’ll now be the first...” He didn’t finish the sentence, because a gentle wind came up.

Goren had immediately felt the murmurs and whispers. Here, on Aonir’s Blade, where the magical flows were strong, he needed no special concentration. The wind was looking for him to tell him something.
Gor pondered and looked at the rock. “Wait a moment,” he then asked his fellows. He left the shield and his pouch with them and climbed up the rock to the first hill. It wasn’t difficult because the rock had many ledges and notches, and it wasn’t too steep.
Goren stood on the overhang and looked over the desert, which had petrified under the usual shimmering heat.
The Wind-Whisperer exhaled with a sigh. Then he opened his mind.

Starshine and Buldr looked at him anxiously and expectantly, when Goren was coming down to them again. His expression was dark, his face pale.
“What else could it mean as bad news when the winds come to see you?” Buldr noted nervously. “Can it get worse?”
Goren nodded. His breath was difficult. He reported slowly:
“Ruorim and an Iron, who’s named Invincible, have moved into the Iron Fields with a large army of Hokan Ashir. There was a big, bloody battle, at the end of which they remained victorious.
Shaikur has fallen.”
Post Reply

Return to “SpellForce - Shaikan Cycle”