[Fanfiction] Storm on Shaikur (3rd book) - Chapters 3 & 4

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] Storm on Shaikur (3rd book) - Chapters 3 & 4

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 3 – Siege
On the level of the Whisper Gallery, accessible via its own steep spiral staircase, was the library, in which the records have been collected since the foundation of the people. The lineage of each Shaikan was documented. There were also the collected writings of Malacay, including artistic works and daily notes, magic books, weapon designs, strategic treatises and so on. There were also some foreign works that Shaikan brought back from their travels. Thus, a considerable collection had gathered – but unfortunately completely disordered. There was no archivist who had sorted and catalogued everything, so Darmos Ironhand had no overview of what was in the library.
I have to change that, he thought – an abundance of late insight, as there had probably been an opportunity to do so, especially in earlier times. But since the outbreak of the Convocation War, everything has focused only on fighting.
Darmos struggled because he could only use one hand. The artificial iron hand was made pretty rough. But he didn’t want to ask anyone for support because a gloomy foreboding told him he wasn’t going to find anything good.
The lord of Shaikur spent the rest of the day and all night in the library. He disregarded the whispering of the ancestors who made fun of him.
The ultimate accomplishment that a Shaikan strove after death was nothing – the redemption of the soul. Due to the curse imposed by the Guardians, after the death no Shaikan soul was taken up by Hirin, the Soul Bearer, and passed over the River of Souls. They could only strive for nothing. But only a few succeeded. Most of the souls were trapped in the Shaikur’s walls and filled with their whisper, especially the leaders. Those souls who had assumed a lower rank in life mostly remained silent and hid silently in the dark, slumbering and dreaming of redemption.
It had become particularly loud since Ruorim’s approach to Shaikur. Almost every night Darmos Ironhand was haunted by the ancestors, but he couldn’t understand their senseless chatters.
Now that he was very close to the oldest Shaikur’s walls on the Whisper Gallery, especially in the library, it was downright burdensome. Like a swarm of bumblebees buzzed and hummed around him, giggled maliciously and mocked him.
“Why now?” he asked angrily once when he could hardly bear it any longer. “And why could you only babble but not give anything specific?”
“All in good time,” it hissed in his left ear. And in the right: “The Shaikan always keep their secrets safe. But if one is revealed, others quickly follow and loosen our tongue...”
“You have no tongues,” Darmos grumbled, put away a used stack to the others on the floor and brought the next one onto the table. “It’s the air currents that you use, but because the wind can never be caught and is here and there, most of your chatters are lost.”
“And soon you will be one of us,” it giggled from the leather-bound almanac that he had just opened. A cloud of dust whirled up and tickled Darmos’ nose.
“I’ll live for a long time,” he replied. “I have just left the first year of sixty. You want to worry me because you envy me for my body made of flesh and blood and for the ability to breathe, to taste, to feel. Shaikan are getting very old, some of you shouldn’t have forgotten it.” He pulled out a cloth and muffled his nose, which finally drowned out the heavy voices. After that there was actually a little silence, and he could finally concentrate again.
The night was moving forward, and he had made no progress. Darmos didn’t know what to look for. And above all: even if he knew it, how should he find it in this mess? Two days werenìt enough to go through everything, even if he only briefly inspected each book and scroll.
“You could at least help me!” he finally shouted angrily. “Give me a hint what to look for!”
“How about the lineage of the Nortander Clan?” a clear human voice came out unexpectedly, and Darmos’ right hand jerked to the weapon belt.
“Fugin!” he said as the gray-haired man stepped into the light. “Are you abandoned by all good spirits to sneak up here like so? I almost killed you!”
“Not so fast, old friend,” the scout grinned. “Don’t forget, I know all your tricks and especially the weaknesses.”
“I don’t have a weakness,” Darmos growled. “So, help me since you’re there anyway. You can find out whatever I find.”
The two of them went in search of the ancestral tree of the Shaikan of Nortander. Cooling night air entered through the narrow windows. Just for an hour, before the new day started.
Finally, they strike it lucky. It was a thick, leather-bound book, which sides were made of the finest smooth calfskin and the ink on it wasn’t faded. Together they delved into the history of the Nortander clan.
And Darmos Ironhand turned pale.

The deadline passed and the siege began. Ruorim didn’t carry out his threat of attack – at least not yet. He took his time. In order to they didn’t feel too safe in the fortress, he had feint attacks and weapon exercises carried out almost every day. He trapped them exhibiting his fighting power, mocked them, got them upset.
Some Shaikan actually began to grumble when one day a large caravan arrived, which set up an elaborate camp: many tents with the dragon banner, as well as comfortable furnishings. Supplies was clearly visible and not just the normal food for soldiers, but also wine, fresh fruit, pickled sweets and much more. In Shaikur, where rations were already strictly ruled, the guards’ mouths watered on the battlements and walkways. Such exquisite delights hadn’t existed since spring, and now they were brought to the sight of them, along with the freshly grilled meat that rose in their noses. For two days the besiegers celebrated a party with a lot of noise and laughter.
“He’ll wear us down,” Fugin said gloomy to Darmos Ironhand. “And then, when the reinforcement arrives, they’ll strike.” He turned to the friend. “I have no doubt that Ruorim is waiting for strengthening. Either way he’ll get Shaikur in his hand. How long do you want to watch?”
“As long as it lasts,” Darmos replied grimly. “I won’t let Ruorim rise as lord of Shaikur. Never!”

A few nights later a sentry near the gate noticed an unusual movement. He pointed it out to the guard, who then went down with four men and sneaked out through a secret side door in the rocks. They were completely silent and stalked closer to the gate. The guard leader finally discovered a slim figure, the cloak of which could hardly be illuminated by the light of the moon that had just risen. He motioned for the others to remain silent; he was still approaching himself.
He heard a woman sob and stopped.
“Oh, please...” she whispered. “If only someone would hear me... please let me in... I’m begging for asylum...” With delicate, shimmering fingers she scratched the gate.
The guard leader stepped hastily behind her and pressed the tip of his sword against her back. “No movement until I allow it,” he ordered.
The woman froze and got a hiccup from sheer terror. “P-p-please...” she stuttered. “I’m begging you, don’t harm me, I’m a friend! Allow me to turn around, then I’ll show you my face.”
“All right. Very slowly – and act in such a way that I can see you.”
The other four Shaikan moved closer and took up positions behind him.
The woman turned slowly, hands up, and pulled back the hood. Her skin shimmered like white marble in the moonlight, her eyes shone like stars. “I’m Weylin Mooneye,” she whispered. “I was a guest of the lord of Shaikur, Darmos Ironhand. He knows me! Please, let me speak to him, I’ll explain everything. But quickly, before he notices...”
The guard leader hesitated. Then he nodded. “Well, we’ll take you with us. But one wrong move and you’re dead.”
Weylin was taken in the middle, and soon she was under strict surveillance in the throne room.

Darmos Ironhand could hardly believe it when he was informed, and hurriedly made his way to the throne room. There he saw a delicate elf with long hair, which had the color of falling vine leaves, and light gray almond eyes. “Weylin Mooneye, it’s actually you!” he called stunned. “How do you get here? What happened?”
The elf burst into tears again and hid her face in her hands. “It’s so terrible, noble lord, that I can hardly bear it,” she forced out.
Darmos gave the guard leader a signal. “Well done, Joreb. Let her take a seat at the table and bring her something to eat and drink, this elf is a friend of my grandson Goren and was a guest on Shaikur.”
“Then she said the truth,” Joreb remarked. “But if you allow me, sir, I’ll leave the guards here because one never knows.”
“Weylin can’t harm anyone, she’s a healer,” Darmos complains. “And through us she has only experienced good things, she’ll repay us.”
“No, your captain’s right,” Weylin threw in. “You have to be suspicious, in these times nobody can be trusted anymore.”
Joreb raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. He signaled the sentries and they took up positions near the board and at the entrance. Shortly afterwards servants brought food and drink, and the elf helped herself as if she hadn’t eaten for a long time.
Darmos sat down next to her and examined her. Her face was covered by green and blue stains, her wrists showed streaks, and she moved carefully. “What happened?” he asked.
“I was a prisoner of Ruorim,” Weylin revealed, and the flush rose to her face. She briefly struggled with another tear. “Already in Norimar. He tortured me and then forced me into his bed. Now I have no honor... I’ll never find the man of my dreams for whom I had kept my innocence...”
Darmos swallowed. He remembered another young woman who had experienced something similar, only because he had allowed it. If at all possible, his hatred toward Ruorim deepened even more.
“He forced me stay by his side,” the elf continued. “When Hag and Menor wanted to free me, I went with Ruorim, because only in this way I could be sure that he let them live. He had told me beforehand... if I stayed, he would spare them... what should I’ve done?” Her self-control collapsed. “I’ll never forget Menor’s expression! I could see his heart break when Ruorim told him I was free... and I wasn’t allowed to say anything, I couldn’t even blink with my eyes... he’ll never forgive me...”
“But of course he’ll do,” Darmos contradicted her. “You had no choice.”
“But I can’t.” Weylin’s voice, once clear as a bell, was just a hoarse whisper. “I’m ashamed of my cowardice not to have plunged myself into the sword immediately, as it would have been my duty! I can never go back to Dun Shael, I have to live in shame from now on.”
“But no longer with that monster,” Darmos said calmly. “And there are other nice places as long as you have friends. Now pull yourself together, you’re safe here. How did you manage to escape?”
“After that binge?” Weylin let out a dry noise. “They were all drunk and can no longer stand upright, and Ruorim above all. I only had to wait until he fell asleep, then I dared to flee. The night was dark, as long as the moon hadn’t risen, nobody saw me. But my luck was that your guards noticed me, otherwise Ruorim had caught me again in the morning, and then... unthinkable...”
“Don’t worry about it anymore, that’s over.” Darmos lowered himself to pat her hand briefly. “I’m pleased to hear that Hag and Menor are doing well. Maybe we’ll hear from the others soon.” He rose. “Come on, I’ll take you to a guest room and send Marela to take care of your wounds and give you something invigorating. Then sleep off and tomorrow everything will look very different.”
“Thank you, sir.” Weylin stood up hesitantly and in humble posture. There was nothing left of her elvish proud, and yet she still shone in the unique splendor of her people.

Marela the Gentle found Weylin asleep in bed. Nevertheless, the healer put her things down to examine the elf. As she approached Weylin, she suddenly startled and stared at Marela with a wild look – until she finally remembered where she was. Then she started crying again.
“I still can’t believe it’s all over...” she blurted out. “Marela, will I ever get over it?”
“Of course,” the healer said gently. “And faster than you think. Soon everything will just seem like a bad dream. Now relax, so I can see what to do.”
But Weylin stretched her hands defensively. “No! Don’t touch, please! Let go! I can’t stand this, not even from you. Leave me alone, please, I don’t need anything. I’m a healer myself, my mana will allow my body to recover quickly.”
Marela hesitated. “Darmos ordered it to me. What should I tell him?”
“Tell him that I slept very deeply and you didn’t want to wake me up. Please, Marela, you’re a woman, you have to understand that! It’s all too recent, I always see only Ruorim before me, how he...”
It was as if Weylin had conjured up a physical image, because suddenly Marela turned pale. “Poor child...” she whispered. “Yes, I’ll go and let you sleep. It’s enough for today, and tomorrow in daylight everything looks different. Rest well.” She moved her hand as if stroking Weylin’s cheek without touching it. Then she took her things and hobbled out on the stick as quickly as possible.

Weylin still lay for a while and listened. Shaikur was asleep, only the guards outside on the battlements did their duty. It was a strange comforting sensation to feel these narrow walls again, although she couldn’t stand it long, she knew. An elf from Dun Shael had nothing in common with stone buildings, she was a natural being who only tolerated life around her.
But for the moment Shaikur was the most beautiful place in the world. It was just not perfect, but that was about to change.
Weylin pulled back the blanket and sat up. With calm movements she got dressed and opened the door. It was unlocked and there was no guard in front of it. Goren’s friends enjoyed unlimited trust.
Only a few torches burned along the corridor and cast twitching shadows on the walls. The moon had moved on long ago, and the country was very quiet outside. Ruorim’s camp was shrouded in darkness, no more crying, the fires had burned out. All was drunk to sleep. What should happen to them here? Not even guards were standing around.
Weylin wondered why Darmos didn’t use the moment and strike a blow. But maybe he was also afraid to attack a man of his own people. The elf knew that Ruorim was very similar. “Our people are few,” he had mumbled before falling drunk, “every single loss is hardly bearable. I’ll make the old fool give up in a different way.”
But only Weylin was here, while Ruorim slept drunk in his tent. Everything was going to be different.
Slowly she crept along the corridor, ready at any time to slip into the shadows. But nothing moved.
Where the Darmos Ironhand room was, she knew from her last sojourn. One floor up, in the Whisper Gallery, where all lord of Shaikur had their living area. The oldest part of the castle, where the lost Shaikan souls wandered and the breathing of the dragon could be heard.
Nothing prevented Weylin from climbing the stairs. There were no torches at the top, but candles in multi-armed chandeliers that were artistically crafted. The air was much better here, not sooty anymore, and Weylin breathed a sigh of relief. Now she wasn’t far to Darmos’ chamber.
There were no guards here either. So far, Joreb didn’t seem to have grown suspicious. The elf was satisfied.
She opened the door a half, slipped through and locked it again, blocking out the beam of light that was about to sneak in.
When her eyes got used to the twilight, Weylin approached the bed. She heard a deep breath and saw the ceiling that was arched over a body. The elf reached under her cloak and twitched a dagger, the tip of which was soaked in poison. Weylin raised her arm without hesitation when she was only a step away - and struck. Again and again. Only after a while she noticed that the bulge under the ceiling gave way too easily, that there was no moaning, not even a short sigh. This knife didn’t cut meat, didn’t shred veins and muscles, didn’t pierce any heart.
Weylin hesitated.
The door was already opened and guards rushed into the room with torches, before all Joreb, who turned his arm on Weylin’s back and took the knife from her.
Darmos’ strong shape appeared in the door frame. “I didn’t want to believe it,” he said bitterly. “I warned Marela when she came up to me and told me what her clairvoyant eyes would see. She said there was a lust for murder in your eyes, and she was sure you were hiding a weapon under your shirt. How could you!”
Weylin stood still for a moment. Then she started screaming. Foam oozed from her mouth. She spat, stepped and kicked, tried to squirm free and scratch out Joreb’s eyes. She fought like a wild creature, as if she had turned into a beast, and the guards had to hold on in three of them.
They dragged the rabid into a chamber used for interrogation, in which there were only two chairs and a small table. On one of the chairs Weylin was chained with feet and arms so that she could hardly move. Suddenly she fell silent. Her head dangled on the chest, her hair was hanging down straggly.
Darmos Ironhand leaned against the table and observed her as Marela advised him.
And actually, suddenly a jerk went through Weylin, and she raised her head. At first with a cloudy look, then increasingly afraid, she looked around the chamber. “What... what happened?” she asked confused. “Why am I in chains?” Her face was pale, unhealthy pale, and fear spread across her face.
“You tried to murder me,” Darmos replied coldly. “And we’re going to talk about some things, now.”
Stunned painted on her lovely features. “I... murder you? What are you talking about, noble lord? I would never do that!”
“So, you claim that you didn’t sneak into my chamber with a poisoned knife? Should I show you the sheet that’s ripped?”
“No sir, you must mistake! It wasn’t me, please, believe me! I’m innocent!”
“Five people, including myself, watched you. If I hadn’t sent Marela to you who had a sudden inspiration, I would be dead and Ruorim’s plan work out.”
Weylin started screaming, pleading and sobbing again. She couldn’t remember anything – her assertions overturned her positive.
The lord of Shaikur remained adamant. “First of all, I want to know from you what Ruorim has offered you so you can perform this dirtiest and most humiliating service!”
“For my honor...” the elf started.
“You have no honor anymore, you admitted it yourself!” Darmos, who could hardly control his anger anymore, went to the door. “I’ll leave you alone for a few moments so you can think. And then we’ll talk about everything – in one way or another.”
“No torture,” Weylin whimpered in panic. “Why don’t you believe me I can’t remember? I’m innocent...”
Darmos left the chamber and went into the room next door, where everything could be followed through secret peepholes. With arms folded he erected himself up in front of Marela. “So?”
The dragon priestess hesitated. “I think she’s telling the truth,” she finally said. “It’s Ruorim’s strategy of treachery to cast a spell on someone like Weylin.”
“Since he cannot attack openly, he tries in this way.” Darmos gritted his teeth. “He should be cursed, may his soul burn forever!”
Marela continued. “I just don’t know what made this spell active. If we find out, we can use it for ourselves, reverse the effect and send Weylin back to him. She’s supposed to tell Ruorim privately that you’re dead and then it’s the right moment for a strike.”
“All right, then,” Darmos agreed. “That’s how we’ll do it.”
“It won’t be easy to break the wall, Darmos.”
“I have torn down every wall, Marela, and Weylin’ll wish to be still trapped in the Valley of Tears when I’m done with her.”
“Darmos, don’t go too far!” Marela warned. “Torture is unnecessary for a Shaikan, with it you act at the same level as Ruorim.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t touch her – physically,” Darmos waved. “I have no fun tormenting any creature with sophisticated torture tools.”
“Otherwise you have to be careful, because the spell may drive you crazy.”
“Well, should I pack her in sheep’s wool, bed her on rose petals and nourish her with honey nectar?”
Darmos left the room with a snort of rage. Whether the elf was innocent or not, he was beside himself and the girl had to be punished.

The siege continued. Days came and went, and Weylin was still imprisoned in Shaikur. So far, it hasn’t been possible to break Ruorim’s spell, and she continues to plead her innocence. Darmos and Marela had to realize that their reversal plan wouldn’t work. So, the lord of Shaikur stood openly to demonstrate to Ruorim that his cowardly attempt had failed.
Ruorim made no hint about the elf when he rode in front of the gate from time to time, and he continued to ask Darmos to hand over Shaikur as if nothing had happened.
“He’s probably pursuing another demonic plan,” Marela said.
“He’ll not be able to carry it out because Weylin lies in chains and the chamber resists all magic,” Darmos replied. “Ur himself weaved the relevant sayings into the stones during construction before they were piled up and connected.”
Darmos Ironhand always rejected Ruorim, without ridicule or scorn, but cool and emotionless. “Don’t you start to get bored? I’ve got distraction in here, but you out there?”
The Butcher laughed thereupon. “I have time, old friend. If you don’t come to your senses – your subordinates certainly will do, and the day isn’t far off.”
The imprisoned Shaikan actually became increasingly restless. Waiting without action wasn’t their strong point, they were fighters who didn’t shy away from a challenge. More and more voices were heard, which demanded a raid or at least try to attack. In terms of numbers, there was roughly an equilibrium, so the chances weren’t bad. Many couldn’t understand why Darmos Ironhand hesitated so long to sweep the besiegers off the Iron Fields.
“I’ll soon be unable to calm them down,” Fugin said to Darmos one day. “You’ll have to make a decision – either you let it attack, or you tell the truth.”
“Shaikan doesn’t move against Shaikan,” Darmos growled. “I also want to bind Ruorim here through the siege. Then at least Goren is safe from him.”
Fugin nodded in concern. The black streak in the desert sky spread even further. From the highest peak one could already see lightning flashing from the clouds. “A big task for the boy.”
“He’s not alone,” Darmos tried to calm them both. He brushed his long white hair. “And if the armour Silverflame suits him, it’s Goren’s duty. His mother trained him to do this.” He paused when he saw Fugin’s hesitation. “What is it?”
The gray-haired one couldn’t make a sound. Silently he pointed north. The lord of Shaikur followed his finger and saw a huge dust cloud approaching from far away, which in many places it flashed and sparkled in the sunlight.
“Weapons,” Darmos burst out. “And armours. You were right, Fugin! Ruorim has been waiting for this all the time. He didn’t come to conquer Shaikur for himself – but for his master, Hokan Ashir!”
Despite his premonition, Fugin was stunned. Such things have never happened since the fortress was founded. “What should we do now, Darmos?”
But Darmos was no longer with him.

Weylin’s head hung down as usual when Darmos stormed into the chamber. The elf hardly moved and was completely indifferent. “What’s Ruorim up to?” Darmos reproached Weylin. “Answer me, at last!”
“I dont know,” she whispered. “I’ve told you a thousand times, I was his prisoner, like yours now. As you tell me nothing, I have heard nothing from Ruorim. He used me how he misused everyone for his purposes.”
He reached into her hair and jerked her head back. “I’ll kill you,” he hissed.
“If only,” she said wearily. “For me there’s no longer any reason to live. But I’m still too coward to do it myself.”
His hand twitched over her face, but he didn’t strike. He left the chamber without a word.
Fugin was waiting outside. “They become restless,” he reported. “Now all Shaikur knows that Hokan Ashir’s army is approaching. All officers are gathered in the throne hall and await your plan.”
“My plan? I tell you my plan. But they won’t like him.” Darmos brushed his hair back and straightened his posture. “You won’t like it either, Fugin.”
“I don’t like this all the time, to be honest. In the end you only delayed the breakdown, but you cannot prevent it.”
Darmos paused for a moment. His eyes passed over the familiar walls in which he had grown up. In which he had seen his daughter grow up. And where he had spent so many years in mourning because he hadn’t had a good word to say goodbye, but sent her away like a servant. Shaikur and the people had always come first. But for what?

There was a lively debate in the throne room. Wide-ranging rays of the afternoon sun streamed through the windows and broke into the wall decorations of crystal and metal. The warm, red light didn’t match the mood in the room.
The officers, men and women, fell silent when Darmos entered and made his way to the ruling seat. But Ironhand had no intention of sitting down. He nodded to Marela, who was also present, with her silent son Eavesdropper.
Without further ado he raised the voice. “Ur has just confirmed to me that Hokan Ashir’s army is on the move. Ruorim has been waiting for this all the time and played with us so that we don’t learn about it prematurely. It looks like the army consists only of undead and Irons, it’s about two thousand strong. It’s also led by an Iron, a gigantic creature that has never been seen before.”
“Two thousand men,” it slipped out someone. “That will be difficult.”
Darmos Ironhand shook his head. “We’ll not fight.”
This opening was followed by deepest silence. A feather sinking to the ground had sounded like a bang in this silence. Confused and blank faces turned towards the lord of Shaikur. Nobody asked the question, which nevertheless swung audibly through the room: Why?
“It would be a senseless sacrifice,” Darmos continued. “We can’t win, we can’t even hold them up because we’ll not get reinforcements. No one has ever campaigned for the Shaikan, and it’ll not be the case now. Even if, in the Highmark or anywhere else, someone find out about the events here. It would be the end of our people, and I’ll not allow it.”
Now Fugin couldn’t hold back. “Surrender? Are you serious?”
“I thinked it over,” Darmos admitted. “There will be another time to free Shaikur.”
“No!” Joreb blurt out. “We will never give up Shaikur, we’d rather die! This plan is a betrayal!”
“The elf must have cast a spell on him, there’s no other way!” the guardswoman Karime cried. “You’ve lost your mind, Darmos Ironhand!”
“Measure your cheeky tongue!” Fugin screamed.
Then there was a tumult. Everyone was shouting and two fronts quickly formed – some stood behind Darmos, no matter what crazy decision he might make, the others scolded him as traitor and made it clear that they would fight no matter what.
Finally, they even pulled naked, and it took Fugin a long time to make himself heard and bring people to their good sense. Darmos saw Marela the Gentle’s son pushed her towards the exit and stood protectively in front of her.
“You should hide for a while,” he advised her softly.
“You can hide your noble head,” she gave back mockingly. “We withdraw from the line of fire and wait to see what happens. But you can count on us, Darmos, always. We’ll be there when you no longer hope for help.” She put a hand briefly on his arm. “Good luck, my friend. Difficult times await you.” Shortly afterwards she and Eavesdropper disappeared through a side passage.

Darmos’ plan to give in Shaikur without a fight spread through the fortress in no time. That was the decisive spark to set the smouldering turmoil on fire. No one heard the addition that Darmos only wanted to give in under the condition that all Shaikur’s residents were guaranteed a free withdrawal. Fighting broke out when some soldiers refused to follow orders and prepared for a raid, while others tried to stop them. It looked as if Shaikur was falling without outside intervention. What had been a devoted community for so long broke within a few hours like precious glass that was exposed to too much tension.
Darmos had to brought Weylin to safety before she was killed by angry Shaikan, who blamed the elves for Darmos’ “mental derangement”.
“Why are you protecting me?” she asked. “After everything I did?”
“I can’t judge you, girl,” he replied. “That’s Goren’s matter.”
“Are you thinking about it? Goren will no longer be allowed to enter Shaikur!”
“Oh yes, Weylin Mooneye, because he’s Ruorim’s son. If Ruorim lets you live until then, the decision is up to Goren. I don’t get my hands dirty on you.”
Weylin was brought to a prison above the horse stables. It was a narrow, dark chamber, into which a weak beam of light fell only through a small window slot. Darmos had her chains removed. “Even the door is massive,” he said. “You can’t go out, and only I and these two faithful men know that you’re here. Think about your fate and how you can escape a death in shame. In accordance with your people, you should choose one side – that of Light. If you ever care about Goren, then be at his service.”
The lord of Shaikur had hardly returned to his throne room when the next news arrived: Hokan Ashir’s army had arrived and the leader asked to speak to Darmos.

The hornblowers spread the message with a warning signal, and the fighting ended immediately. Everything flowed to the battlements to see who had come. When Darmos Ironhand entered the main defence, he was immediately given space.
The lord of Shaikur didn’t recognize the Iron Fields – the withered ground was covered by a huge black mass that slightly waved – back and forth. Spears, lances, swords, axes flashed in the sunlight. Undead and Irons as far as the eye could see.
Ruorim stood in front of the portal, and next to him the tallest Iron that Darmos had ever seen loomed almost two men height. Its armour shone like liquid silver, with sparkling tips and cuts, spikes and thorns. Everywhere in its armour were openings from which weapons jumped out during certain movements. Every joint, every limb was armed with weapons. Eyes glowed red through the face mask made up of many parts, the head of which was adorned with thorns. An orange-green glow lit up the armour from the inside.
An artificial creature, the embodiment of cruelty, created only for the purpose of death – and yet of admirable perfection.
“Darmos Ironhand,” the resounding, metallic, cold voice came, which could be heard deep inside the castle. “I’m the Invincible, servant of the Necromancer Hokan Ashir, the future ruler and protector of Fiara. I’m entitled to the Shaikur fortress, which serve as a bastion against the evil that emanates from the other Circle Mages. Hokan Ashir wants your support in his holy struggle, but if you don’t guarantee that, it will mean the end of the Shaikan. Consider well your answer before you give it.”
Fugin stepped next to Darmos. “Now it’s up to you,” he said slowly. “What are you going to do now?”
And all the Shaikan people looked at the lord of the fortress.
Darmos knew he had to give an answer, but he was afraid of it. Because he had none. Reason advised him to stick to the original plan and to request the free withdrawal. But his heart knew that this agreement would never kept – and that in the end he wouldn’t be able anyway to give in Shaikur, his home, which meant everything to him, without a fight. On the other hand, it was foreseeable that the whole people would die during the defence, and ultimately Shaikur would fall into the hands of the enemy.
But at least it would be an honorable death, and Malacay’s curse would no longer be passed on. The two or three clans that lived outside of Shaikur would mix with the other people over time and dissolve.
And Goren... where Malacay’s soul rested... he would find another place to go and take off the Shaikan’s coat of arms forever.
Without the Shaikan, Hokan Ashir wouldn’t have long joy in Shaikur, because the fortress stood and fell with the people. Raith’s army would level out the ground at the first rush.
And Darmos was certain that he would still have time to destroy the library and everything precious before the Necromancer could take it. A fire should destroy everything and leave nothing but black sooty stones in which not even the souls of the ancestors lived.
Maybe that was exactly the redemption the cursed people had been waiting for: sacrificing themselves for Fiara – and in honor of being allowed to cross the River of Souls.
“Say it, at last!” Ruorim cried. “You know you have no choice!”
Darmos opened his mouth. But he never came to announcing his decision, so no one ever found out what choice he had made.
Because at that moment Ur left the fortress.

The huge red and gold dragon came from the hollowed interior of the mountain and soon towered above Shaikur. When he began to swing his mighty wings, a storm wind swept across the army. People also had to hold on to the battlements.
“What has he...?” Fugin began, confused. “He won't...?”
He didn’t get any further. Ur let out a threatening scream, his wings beat faster, and then he thrust himself out.
“Over four hundred years,” Darmos murmured devoutly. “I knew he wouldn’t be able to stand it for long. Even though he was afraid of being too old...”
“But it’s not,” Fugin exclaimed in between. “As if he had never done anything else!”
The dragon rose into the air with the force of a hurricane, quickly rose and screamed a second time while circling Shaikur. Then he spread out the wings and dived, roaring like a fierce storm over the army of Hokan Ashir... and spat fire.

Chapter 4 – Iron Storm
After the end of the War of the Six Races, the Sharok orcs in the northeast of Grak founded Sharok-Nar and built up their own empire. In the south, however, the surviving units had completely disintegrated and marched through the country as marauding bands. Only the Iron Lord managed to bring the wild clans together and to put them under his command – some volunteered, others had to be convinced with the axe.
In a long march along the black coast, he finally led them west to the Gate of the Swords, once a stronghold of the dark elves. The orcs set up their camp between the ruins of the former bulwarks, cleared the woods and created fortified buildings that were almost as stable as stone houses. The Iron Lord was the first to succeed in uniting all of them under the belief in Zarach. He also took in stray members of the dark people who had no home and no longer belonged to them. The great orc leader was smart enough to let the clans have their identities and names. They were given the greatest possible independence, but the Iron Storm banner was omnipresent. And when the Iron Lord called for weapons, they followed him without exception.
Iron Storm, a volcanic land destroyed by the war, was finally recognized as an independent empire by the other peoples, and the Highmark accepted the borderline. A peace treaty was signed, which, apart from minor interruptions, is still valid today.
The Iron Lord, however, knew how to protect himself: at the Needle mountain and at the Gate of the Swords, he had two new mighty forts built, which were guarded primarily by barbarians and trolls. In the event of war, they could be quickly occupied and whitstand any siege for a long time.
The Iron Lord was a clever ruler who today dealt with the people of the Light in a somewhat polite manner from afar. He had witnessed the War of the Six Races that left no one untouched.
“Don’t tell me, you accompanied the Iron Lord back when he was walking through the green sea,” Wolfur Grimbold scoffed when Craig stopped indulging in memories. As silent as the Dracon was mostly, sometimes a strange melancholy broke out in him, and then he became talkative.
“But it’s exactly what I want to express,” the Dracon answered. “I drove him to try to find an unification, how the Sharok in the north managed to do. The dark people – orcs, trolls and norcaine alike – were over at the time. We had lost the war and had no future ahead if we couldn’t organize and start our own empires before humans, dwarves and elves appropriated everything. The norcaine, who didn’t want to leave Fiara, found Lar, and I supported the Iron Lord after I wasn’t needed in my own country.”
“So, they kicked you out, at the time. Anyway – does the Iron Lord owe you a favor, because of that?”
“Not only because of that, blacksmith Wolfur, who will no longer be a blacksmith if he doesn’t keep his cheeky mouth better in check. Even in war we sometimes fought side by side.”
“You’re a strange man, Craig, and I don’t know if I’ll ever understand you. But one thing is certain: your companionship is a hundred times more pleasant to me than that of a high elf, who always think they’re something better and make this clear to everyone.”
“Pride isn’t a virtue of a warrior,” Craig said and fell back into silence.
Wolfur Grimbold had welcomed the fact that he was finally able to reach fertile land again, where the weather was moderately warm and there was plenty of venison to be found. For this he even took it on himself to ride almost day and night, with only short breaks. As soon as they reached small markets, they changed horses. Craig always knew where to post messages to seek help for Shaikur. Equipped with new supplies, they went on again immediately, and they made very quick progress.
In Connach they stopped for the last time and stayed in a hostel. Craig requested an audience with the city treasurer, to which Wolfur wasn’t admitted. It was fine to the blacksmith, anyway, he preferred to devote himself to an extensive meal in order to properly fill the belly, which he thought was pitifully sunken. The innkeeper asked every now and then how Wolfur intended to pay for everything. The blacksmith initially only responded with a benevolent grunt and finally, when the persistence got on his nerves, promised to shoe some horses for free.
There was no news from Aonir’s Blade down here. Connach was a border area to the south, one could see the Iron Storm from this spot, and the border line led between the orcs and the trolls past the dwarven kingdom of Underhall to Finon Mir, to the high elves. Accordingly, all the people met in the flourishing city, and of course all smugglers from all parts of Fiaras. Connach was like a small island in a stormy sea. What happened in the north was seldom important. When Wolfur Grimbold started talking, however, he found attentive listeners, and soon unshod horses were forgotten, and the blacksmith earned his next meal through entertaining stories. While doing this, he rocked two giggling maids, who were completely fascinated by his thick hair, on his powerful knees.
“The last thing I experienced when...” he later said dreamy and tipsy to Craig when the Dracon dragged him up the stairs, and stopped. “Wait: I’ve never experienced it before!”
“Go to sleep, Wolfur,” Craig said unmoved and shoved him into the small chamber. “We leave tomorrow morning.”
“How am I supposed to sleep there? Hardly any of my boots fit into this small wooden box!” Wolfur whined.
“There’re skins on the floor, so you have enough space.” Craig closed the door and locked it.
“What are you doing there?” Wolfur’s voice sounded muffled through the wood.
“I prevent too much nightly variety, because I need you rested tomorrow.” Craig put the key in a small pocket of the doublet and went to the other end of the hall. Knowing how roaring Wolfur Grimbold’s sleep was, he had wisely got the most distant room.

The next morning Craig released the mighty hangover blacksmith, and soon they set out.
Iron Storm was an inhospitable mountainous country, with mostly karstic plains of volcanic origin as well as ashland. Easy to defend, difficult to attack. But there were also fertile valleys that do it possible to make a living. Well-developed roads led through the mountains, which indicated that there was a lot of trade. The Gate of the Swords loomed in the distance, with the dark outline of the huge bulwark.
“The Iron Lord doesn’t seem to be poor,” Craig remarked not unimpressed on the way. “Iron Storm has done well since I was last here.”
“It’s the only reason why the Iron Lord was able to last so long,” Wolfur replied.
In the afternoon they stopped on a high hill and looked out over an extensive valley through which a river meandered. Large, cumbersome wooden structures ran along both sides of the bank, surrounded by a mighty stone ring wall. A building on the right bank of the river, roughly in the middle of the city, towered above all others. The flag of Iron Storm fluttered on the rooftop.
“The plain of Uram Gor,” Craig said. “The free city of the orcs, today’s core of Iron Storm.”
“I remember,” Wolfur said softly.
The Dracon gave the blacksmith a quick look. “So you’ve been here before?”
“I... ah... that was a long time ago.” Wolfur stuttered. “Very long, if you want to know.” He drove his horse. “We’d better get there before dark!”

The guards at the gate were trolls, led by a rather short, wiry orc who questioned every traveler. When it was their turn, Craig introduced himself and his companion and declared that he wanted an audience with the Iron Lord. “He’ll receive me because we are old companions. The matter about I have to speak to him is extremely urgent, so I would be very grateful if you could send a messenger to him immediately.”
The orc stared at Craig, then at Wolfur. “And thus, should I just believe you?”
“Well, with appropriately armed escort you hardly take any risks,” the Dracon replied. “And wait for the answer of the Iron Lord as soon as you have delivered my message and described my appearance.” It was clear to see that he thought it was under his dignity to bother with that insignificant fool for longer than necessary.
“Wait here.” The orc disappeared inside, and the two had no choice but to wait in front of the gate. The two trolls didn’t move, but they didn’t take their eyes off them.
Finally, the orc returned. “All right. You could pass.” He bared the neglected, brown-stained teeth. “Have a nice stay.”
“Thanks!” Wolfur said, visibly relieved, and rode into the city, followed by Craig.
They had barely passed the gate when they were surrounded by a squad of orcs, who pointed their lances and spears at them menacingly.
“Listen, we got free passage!” Wolfur cried indignant.
“Keep your mouth shut, king’s murderer.” The orc guard’s voice came from behind him. “You’re under arrest and your pale, pointed-eared buddy along with you.”
“Why,” Craig said slowly and resigned, not for the first time, “am I not surprised now?”

At least, the orcs hadn’t separated them, and the two prisoners were already in the palace of the Iron Lord. However, at the very bottom, in the lowest floor, still below the wine cellar. A shaft had been forced into the soaked floor, which was topped by thick wooden planks. There was only one entrance, which went down rather steeply, then a narrow passage, and the prison lay to the left and right. Because all of them were occupied except for one, Craig and Wolfur had been put together in a musty-smelling, dark room that was locked with a grid. Because of the proximity to the river it was extremely humid and musty here, and apart from the blazing torches in the corridor there was no light.
Wolfur tried to make himself as small and invisible as possible, but even through the dusky darkness he felt Craig’s angry, burning glare at himself.
“I was arrested for you, not vice versa,” the Dracon let finally hear. “After all, it doesn’t happen often. What is this about?”
“I thought after fifteen years it was long forgotten,” Wolfur murmured.
“Obviously not. So, why am I in this unworthy position? I don’t like to repeat myself. I’m waiting for your story, you great narrator. Why did you lose your tongue now?”
“Are you very angry?”
“Let’s say I have lost my balance and I’m very angry that you have concealed something from me that is now unnecessarily stopping us, although our goal is different.”
Wolfur sighed. “I... I come from Grarg,” he finally pushed out the truth. “I’m a freak that even the orcs loathe.”
“Really? Because of your hair? You can’t be serious! When did orcs make sense of aesthetic? Apart from the fact that you’re all clumsy and ugly at the same time.”
“We see it differently. The Grarg are the largest tribe of the orcs, whose roots reach back to Xu. They aren’t particularly respected by the others because they work with the sword arm rather than with the mind and therefore never occupy a high position. But because of the slave trade they’re rich, and thereby believe they are equal, if not better than everyone else. In any case, my mother was very pestered for having give birth a freak and we were almost cast out. At least, not sold. In my first years of life, we all didn’t have it easy. My father left us early because he could no longer stand the mockery. One day my mother was gone when I was around six years old. An uncle took me in, whose wolf Fang had just died, and he needed someone whom he could treat just as badly and beat up every day. Even then I swore to myself that I wouldn’t live like my family until the end of my day. But you probably know how difficult it’s for us to get respect. For a long time, an orc is nothing, it’s irrelevant unless it has proven itself. We have to work hard for our rank and reputation, nothing is given to you. It takes many decades to become a veteran, and only a few have been granted it. Many dies as young, because they don’t meet the requirements or are eaten away by them. Well, or be eaten by the others.”
“So, you ran away as soon as possible.”
“Yes. I walked the long way to Iron Storm, stayed away from all settlements and lived like an animal. In Iron Storm I hoped for a new start, after all, the command of the Iron Lord to give asylum to the lost wanderers of the dark people still applies. So why not for an outcast like me? I came to Uram Gor and asked for work with the aim of one day being accepted into the army of the Iron Lord. It’s said that the Iron Storm soldiers get good equipment and sufficient supplies and appreciation after a good fight. Of course, it was clear to me that it would take me a long time until I got some respect, due to my deformity and, in addition, coming from a lower ancestry. But what did I have to lose?”
“The dignity – and I could also think of other things.”
“You have easy talking, Craig, with your high lineage and your reputation, which is still brought to you even after your exile! Someone like me, who comes from the bottom, must be lucky to be able to ascend.” Wolfur paced slowly. “At the beginning I was just good for dragging stones, cutting wood, pulling carts, that is, for the lowest jobs that trolls are otherwise used for. But the older I got, the bigger and stronger I got, and by the time I was eighteen I had left everyone far behind. Now they could no longer overlook me and no longer make fun of me with impunity. I had already made it clear to them. Then they saw that I could be better involved in other services and finally started training in the art of warfare. The work was still hard and I had climbed half a step at most, but it was a start. When the blacksmith had a free position, I asked to work with him as an apprentice. That’s how I learned my craft. My teacher was harsh and cruel, but he knew something about his art and I learned more than he wanted to teach me. I secretly made a little dagger, an ornate, pretty little thing, as a toy for the youngest son of the Iron Lord. I was waiting for an opportunity.”
“At last, get to the point!” Craig interrupted him impatiently.
“One day, after completing an order, my master brought new, magnificent weapons and something very special: an armour that would have been worthy of the Black Legion!” Wolfur’s voice sounded proud. “And because my master, of course, didn’t want to drag everything laboriously, but wanted to strut with his head held high before the Iron Lord, he took me with him as a pack animal. That was fine to me, because I finally got closer to my goal of climbing up one level.”
“And I get closer to death the longer you take,” Craig remarked. “I can almost hear the neighing of the Black Horse.”
But Wolfur was unstoppable: “So he was sitting on his heavy black throne, and next to him on a small seat the boy, a few springs old. On the other side, a little to the rear, stood Azzigul, a man of your people who had once requested for asylum and had now risen to the rank of a familiar. He was also a prophet, and the Iron Lord often listened to his advice and heeded the visions. My master presented weapons and armour, and our ruler was very satisfied. When I stood there, clearly relieved of my burden, the little one laughed in delight and clapped his hands. ‘But it’s funny!’ he shouted. ‘May I keep it, father?’ That was when the Iron Lord noticed me for the first time, and he looked at me with a certain astonishment, but not with disgust. At that moment I committed myself to him body and soul, Craig. He’s a truly great man, the greatest of the orcs. ‘Come closer,’ he ordered me, and that was exactly the opportunity I had been waiting for. ‘I have something for your son,’ I said and showed the Iron Lord the toy dagger. ‘It’s so sharp that it can slit a cat’s belly with a single stroke,’ I declared proudly. My master was furious, but there was nothing he could do. The child was thrilled and cheered, and the Iron Lord was very impressed and took me to his services, to entertain his son and to forge other such gems.”
“Then you were a happy orc,” Craig supposed, who had since given up requesting a shortening of the story to the essentials.
“Yes, but only very briefly,” Wolfur replied. “I loved my master and the little one anyway, as if he were my own. But one night the guards dragged me out of bed, beat me up, and arrested me. Hardly on consciousness, I was told that my beloved little ward had been murdered and that I was the cowardly assassin. I tried to plead my innocence and asked for a fair trial, but I wasn’t allowed to speak. That same night I was sold into slavery and sent to the Valley of Tears where I was to serve as a blacksmith until the end of my life. Thanks to Goren I was released after fifteen years, which commit myself to him.”
Craig was silent for a long time. “Just for not telling me that beforehand should I cut your throat,” he finally said. “But slowly, so that you suffer properly. What were you thinking?”
“It was an opportunity to wipe the slate clean,” Wolfur said. “I also thought that I had long been forgotten.”
“Of course, unnoticeable as you are, and it was just the son of the ruler,” the Dracon mocked. “Did you seriously think that the judgment would be overturned? In the meantime, the matter about the Valley of Tears has surely leak out here. You’re considered as a fugitive, and of all places you come back here – everyone has to assume that you want to take revenge!” He shook his head. “What have I got myself into!”
“I want to take my revenge too!” Wolfur Grimbold defended himself. “On the real culprit! It’s beacuse, while I was being abducted, I remembered watching a strange encounter. Between my master and norcaine Azzigul, and I think gold was also exchanged. I didn’t pay attention to that at the time, but for me there’s only one conclusion in retrospect: my master wanted to take revenge on me because I outdid him, and for some political reason Azzigul wanted to get the little one out of the way. So, the two got together and sold me as a murderer!”
“But why didn’t they kill you?”
“My master wanted to make sure I suffer as long as possible. That’s the way orcs are, they never forgive if someone from the lowest level gets better than you. Besides, the old man could still collect gold for me, I hadn’t earned him anything dead. Over the years he probably got a share of what my weapons and armours brought in. Since I was abducted so quickly, he could assume that the truth would never come to light. Who could believe me?”
Craig stepped close to him. “Who should believe you now, you fool?”
“You, I thought,” the blacksmith said faithfully.
“Why not?” Craig growled. “Your limitless naivety rules out any sophistication. But how do you imagine the rest? Do you think you’ll find attention?”
You’re with me,” Wolfur replied. “The Iron Lord knows that you can have nothing to do with the death of his son, and he’ll want to know why you come here in my company, of all places. We can clarify everything, let justice run its course, and out of gratitude the Iron Lord will support us because it’s committed to us!”
“Was that your plan?”
“Yes. I thought it was good, but I wasn’t sure what you would think of it, so I didn’t say anything at first.”
Craig Un’Shallach seemed close to losing control. “I’m more than seven hundred years old, but I’ve never had to deal with a bunch of crazies like you and Goren and the others!”
Post Reply

Return to “SpellForce - Shaikan Cycle”