[Fanfiction] Storm on Shaikur (3rd book) - Chapters 13, 14, 15 & 16

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[Fanfiction] Storm on Shaikur (3rd book) - Chapters 13, 14, 15 & 16

Post by Ommariuolo »

Chapter 13 – Dragon flight
The fight for Shaikur was in full swing. Hag had joined his clan from Nortander, Buldr stood by the dwarves. Craig Un’Shallach fought with the Iron Storm, together with the trolls. The elves’ archers defended the fortress, while most of the Shaikan were out on the battlefield.
Hokan Ashir had to fight on many fronts. His soldiers fell, but he also raised them again. It was a hard fight for him, but the undead were hard to overcome and the Irons kept a cruel butchery. Especially the Invincible. He was an army of his own and brought devastating losses to the united peoples. Wherever he appeared, he spread fear and terror. Many soldiers lost their courage and fled because they didn’t want to take on him at all.
But the Invincible couldn’t be anywhere. While some backed away from him, all the more units flowed together on other sides and fought their way through Hokan Ashir’s army.
For a long time, no one could tell in which direction the tip of the scales would lean, the fight billowed back and forth. Hokan Ashir’s magic was terrible, and both elves and orc shamans had a lot to do to ward off his curses, or at least to weaken them.
The struggles continued almost day and night, drying up in one place, flaming up in another. Only in the darkest hours of the night was there a ceasefire to recover the fallen and regroup.
After a few days, Hokan Ashir’s concentration decreased noticeably. The constant strain gradually put him under pressure. Goren was glad that the grimoire was kept safe with him; unthinkable if the Necromancer had got hold of it.
Marela and Starshine were constantly busy treating wounds. Eavesdropper took care to bring the injured and to find an appropriate bed for them after their treatment, depending on the severity of the case. Shaikur soon resembled a huge hospital, the injured had to be accommodated everywhere because there were no suitable rooms for it. Shaikur had never been attacked, so there had been no provision for such pitfall. Nobody had thought of it when building the fortress.
Despite the glowing, draining heat and the shrinking water supply from the source under the rock, Goren hoped that the drought would continue, otherwise floodgates to illnesses were open.
Although he felt compelled to go into battle, everyone had forbidden him: Darmos Ironhand, Marela, Starshine, Durass and even his own friends. However, he grew more desperate every day. “Marela, why don’t you let me go?” he shouted. “I’m a warrior, trained by my mother, and this is the fight for the future of my people!”
“Your time hasn’t yet come,” she replied puzzlingly. “I can’t say more about it.”
“But that’s not enough for me; you lock me up just like Ruorim!” he accused her violently.
“Don’t die senselessly in battle, leave it to the simple soldiers,” she snapped at him and stuck her index finger in his chest. “It would be wasted to get involved now as long as everything goes well! Hokan Ashir hasn’t made a breakthrough so far, and our losses are still lower than his. As long as you aren’t needed, you stay here!”
“All my friends are fighting,” he insisted unhappily. “What should they think of me?”
“Exactly what I’m telling you,” Starshine’s voice resounded. “They fight for you and don’t want you to die because otherwise everything would be in vain. Is that so hard to understand?”
“Why is it just about me? I simply don’t understand it!”
She raised her hands. “Buldr already told you, didn’t you listen to him? You’re the symbol of this fight. You stand for Shaikur, the invincible, impregnable fortress. If Shaikur falls and you fall, everyone’s courage will drop and no one will delude themselves about safety of Fiara. Then, the Circle Mages shall achieve encouragement. It’s so simple.” She turned away. Going out, she added: “But just wait, you’ll still be able to splash enough blood that you’ve been craving.”
Goren stared after her, then he shouted: “One day I’ll be as she accused me of and then I’ll kill her. I’ll slowly strangle her with my own hands, and I’d like to see how many reproaches she can throw at my head!”

Finally, Goren had enough. He went to the library and positioned himself near the dragon lair. “Ur,” he said aloud. “I have to talk to you. Come all the way up! Hokan Ashir should see you out there to learn that we still hold a trump card against him. At the same time, we’ll talk together.”
Then he climbed the stairs to the top, passing Marela’s alchemy chamber, where Starshine was busy with the preparation of medicinal potion and ointment.
She noticed him through the open door and came out. “What you up to?”
“I’m talking to Ur now.”
“All right, then. I’ll go with you.”
“Why? So I don’t do anything stupid? Or plot something you shouldn't hear about?”
Goren gave up. “Better tell me how it’s Menor, since we’re already on the way together and you don’t avoid me.”
Starshine hesitated with the answer. “Bad,” she said softly. “But he hasn’t given up yet.”
“Can I visit him?”
“Not yet, Goren. We want to keep him as far away from everything as possible, he’s very weak and not conscious, anyway. We do everything for him.”
“Yes, I know.” He rubbed his chin. “What he did...”
“You aren’t to blame,” she interrupted him. “Don’t load it on your shoulders. You aren’t responsible for the whole world.”
He nodded. “I know. I’m sorry. You have to feel terrible when you see him and can’t help him.”
“Yes.” Her voice sounded depressed. “I like him very much. He’s the most honest thief I’ve ever met.”
Goren had to laugh involuntarily, and suddenly he felt consoled.

He had hardly believed it, but the dragon was actually expecting him high up on the large platform, wings raised. One could see him everywhere on the Iron Fields. As imposing it was his appearance, as abashed it sounded his voice.
“I can’t help you,” Ur said before Goren could even open his mouth.
“Why not? Are you still tied to Ruorim? Do I have to kill my father until you’re even fighting for the Shaikan?”
The dragon’s fiery eyes flickered. “Ruorim is in chains. I’m free from him.”
“All right, then,” Goren said sternly. “Then you’re now committed to me, the carrier of the soul of Malacay and heir of Shaikur. Like my father, I’m pure blood, and even if I’m not sitting on the throne, you have to fulfill your oath to me. That’s the way it works, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” the dragon confirmed.
“Then, attack Hokan Ashir’s army, at last!” Goren required.
“No,” Ur said.
Goren had the feeling of having to tear his hair out. “By Tiara’s hot nipples, what hinders you?”
“Ruorim has put the army under his magical protection. It still works.”
“And the Invincible? Does that also apply to it?”
Ur writhed. “I can’t attack him.”
Goren almost lost patience. “And what’s your reason for this?”
“I just can’t, Goren. It’s like I’m repelled.”
The young Shaikan turned away, went to the edge of the platform and looked down at the steadily surging battle. From up here it was hard to tell who was fighting who. There were heaps where everything clustered, and in between horseback riding, soldiers, mercenaries, undead and Irons positions changed. Goren wondered how the leaders could keep an overview. Horn players constantly gave signals that overlapped or overtone each other. How could the warriors tell what was theirs?
“In the end no one will be left,” he said softly. “As long as they’ll continue. Shaikur will soon be unable to take in any wounded. The fires for the fallen burn day and night. The smell of blood and death pollutes the air and is heavy on everything. We can’t go on like this, Ur.” He turned his head and looked at the dragon. “If I lift Ruorim’s spell, will you fly?”
“I will,” Ur promised.
Starshine came closer to him. “What you up to?”
Goren looked grim. “I’ll go down there, lift Ruorim’s spell, and then face the Invincible.”
“But why?” she asked blankly.
He laughed dryly. “What do you mean? Why am I going to lift the spell? Because it’s the only way we have left to stop Hokan Ashir and prevent the losses of our allies from increasing immeasurably.”
“For this... you need magic,” she objected.
“Correct,” he answered. “That’s exactly what you asked me to do from the beginning, isn’t it? Then you should be happy about my decision. I have the magic in me and because I’m not allowed to fight according to your instructions, I’ll use it. This is the time that Ruorim has been waiting for! That’s exactly why I should be with him because he couldn’t force me to do it. Now I’m ready, but he’s in chains. I can do it more relaxed. I do it for myself, for Shaikur, for my grandfather and for my friends. Maybe even for you, Ur. But not for Ruorim – and not for the dark ones. Only once I’ll make a free decision and you won’t stop me.”
“But... the Invincible,” Starshine continued. “That you want to face him alone is insane! Tell him, Ur!”
“She’s right, Goren.”
“Oh, really?” Goren’s face darkened. “Like rabbits, they run away from him, and it moves closer to Shaikur. If it breaks through the gate, it can conquer the fortress on its own. Oh, what do I say: it doesn’t even need to go through the gate, it just goes up the rocks vertically, straight to the ruler chamber and kills grandfather! And then the Shaikan, one by one, and nobody can stop it.”
“Why do you think you could hinder it?” Starshine exclaimed.
Goren tapped his breastplate. “I have this armour, I own Malacay’s dagger that banishes any magic that the Invincible hurls against me, a good sword... and I have the dragon shield that will withstand his terrible weapons! And damn it, I have my magic! Is that still not enough?”
Starshine’s eyes filled with tears. “You have changed since you opened...”
“What did you expect?” he shouted at her. “Do you think I can still be a normal person? It was never me, as a dragon blood and with Malacay’s soul in my chest! I don’t know what you expect from me and what you think I should be – but I’m like this and not different!” He looked at her breathing heavily. Anger, but also shame and despair were in his eyes. He couldn’t speak for a while, but then he pulled himself together. He continued more calmly: “And I don’t run away from responsibility and leave the dirty work to others. I think I can end this fight. At least I want to try it!”
She wiped away the tears in a despondent gesture. “And if you’re wrong?”
He bowed his head. Then he walked slowly to her, put his hand on her wet cheek and said softly: “Then I’ll fall, Starshine, just like the others. I don’t want it, but I have to go down there now and make my contribution. I ask you, let me go.”
For a long moment she looked up at him, in his eyes. He towered over her for more than a head, and the determination he exuded made her seem more fragile than ever. She nodded silently.
Goren turned away and towards the dragon, warningly bobbing his finger. “Get ready, Ur! When I call you, you’ll come.”
Without waiting for a reply, he made his way inside the castle. “Eavesdropper!” he shouted. “Where are you, man? I know you’re here somewhere, my silent shadow! Go to the stables, clean and sattle Goldenbolt and wait for me!” He continued on the stairs. “Joreb! And where are you again? Am I all alone here in the fortress?” The sound of his voice became quieter the further he descended, and was finally lost.

Darmos Ironhand stood on his balcony and watched how Goren rode onto the battlefield on the stallion that Derata had once raised. “I should be down there in his place,” he said bitterly. “How could I allow my grandson to consciously ride to his death?”
“Stop blaming yourself, Darmos.” Fugin came to his side. “It’s not yet said that it means death for Goren - yours would have been very secure.”
“And it wouldn’t be the worst.” Darmos looked tired, this expression hadn’t changed since Shaikur was handed over to Ruorim. “My life was a lie.”
“It’s not true. Your great-grandmother had the right to ascend the throne, she was the heir by blood right. And the rule wasn’t contested. Nobody could count on the fact that after so long a legacy would report that the grandparents’ claims had been taken over! Your father didn’t know, and maybe your grandfather didn’t know if Merunu didn’t tell him. I also think it’s unnatural for brothers and sisters to father children, that cannot be healthy. In any case, Ruorim isn’t it, in my opinion.
“Thanks for your comfort, Fugin,” Darmos said mockingly. “I’ll have to make a decision on how to proceed when the fight is over.”
“It’s a simple thing, Darmos,” said Fugin promptly. “If Goren survive, you give him the throne. And if not, you’ll find another successor. You can no longer remain ruler yourself, it’s clear. The Shaikan no longer trust you, and anyway you no longer have the will and the right to speak and protect the people.”
Darmos’ face twitched. It was like a slap in the face to be told the truth so hard, and even by his best friend.
Fugin was pitiless. “Be glad that I tell you and no one else! The Shaikan don’t tolerate weak ones, it has been your motto since you were a young man.”
“Yes, and it has brought me far,” Darmos replied. He sighed deeply. “You’re right, old friend. Leave me alone now, please. I’ll retire and put on the appropriate documents that will regulate everything. You take care of the provisions of the sicks and sometimes keep an eye on Goren.
“Sometimes.” Fugin grinned and patted the white-haired Shaikan on the shoulder. “You’ll see, once you have decided to do so, you’ll feel as if a great burden has been lifted from you. And then you should start planning where we’ll both go first when you’re finally free – before we’re too old to get on the horse.”
Darmos Ironhand looked at him in surprise, but then he smiled.

Joreb accompanied Goren from the fortress with ten Shaikan. Goldenbolt had hardly been able to believe when Goren climbed onto him, he reared and whinnied, blowed and snorted and couldn’t wait. He rushed off as soon as the gate opened a small crack and hopped across the plain with a heavy hoof. His fur shone like liquid gold in the sun, he let out a powerful neigh.
Goren was no less excited. After his great performance before Ur and Starshine, he had some concerns because he had no idea how to use the magic in himself. Releasing it hadn’t destroyed him, but nothing else had happened. His senses had become much more sensitive. He was able to get the feelings and sometimes the thoughts of others at a greater distance. And he had a natural protection against minor magical influences.
His perception had become more intense, but he had also recognized that the magic had always worked in him. It had always defended himself against something that had influenced him more or less since his birth.
But no one had ever taught him to use the magic actively. It was a different matter than just talking to the winds and listening to their singing. It wasn’t about murmuring spells, brewing mysterious potion or shaping special objects. Goren’s magic was much older, it came from him and he had to find the right way to use it.
While Joreb and the others stopped the first attackers, Goren continued to gallop towards the Irons and undead. Of course, he knew that Hokan Ashir was probably eagerly waiting for this moment to finally catch him. That’s why no one wanted him to leave Shaikur – because everyone was afraid that he would be handed over to the Necromancer. But he had to take this risk. Hokan Ashir had been tied to the fronts for days and used his strength. Goren had some symbols of power with him that offered protection. He had withstood against a grand master like Raith, and it had been even more difficult.
The closer he got to the dark army, the more he felt the influence of the magic that kept these creatures alive and drove them. He felt for them with his mental probes, tried to distinguish between the different flows, to understand how they were held together.
And then he found a strange trail that he was also very familiar with. Ruorim’s magic was so similar that it was like a reunion.
While Goldenbolt ran along the lines, always beyond the reach of spears and arrows, Goren continued to concentrate. He could easily follow his father’s magical trace, it lay almost in front of him like a visible red ribbon. And it encircled the entire army of Hokan Ashir, he found.
Why hadn’t Ruorim lifted this spell if he stood against the Necromancer? Why hadn’t he given Ur the command to attack the army?
These questions were probably never answered, but it clearly showed Goren that his father had not revealed all of his plans until the end. He shuddered involuntarily and wondered if they had made enough precaution keeping him under lock and key. The dark Shaikan, it looked, was more unpredictable and therefore more dangerous than all the Circle Mage put together.
But now Goren was frustrating his plan once and for all. I’m coming for you, he thought grimly. Last but not least, you scared about of magic to make me more docile and easier to control. But that’s all over. I’ll now show you that I’m better than you.
He turned Goldenbolt and rode back the line, a lonely rider between all the fights. Joreb and the others had long since lost him because they had got into a clash and were on their side. Once, Goren even thought he saw Craig, together with the hairy giant Wolfur, killing a group of Irons.
Now, he thought. Now.
He concentrated again, delving deeper into Ruorim’s spell, looking for cohesion and starting to dissolve it. Piece by piece, without speaking a single word, only by virtue of his mind.
And the spell fell. Goren was satisfied to see the red thread dissolve, first on one, and finally on more and more points. Cracks formed, then holes... and finally the spell blew away like fog in the wind.
Goren stopped Goldenbolt and turned it on the hindquarters. Hokan Ashir was nowhere to be seen, and the immense form of the Invincible was straight tied in a fight and turned away from him.
“Surprise,” Goren said softly. Then he screamed with all his might: “Ur! Fly!”
He knew that his words couldn’t be carried far enough by the voice, but his mind could. He sent the command with all his might.
And the dragon obeyed.
All of a sudden, the fighting broke when the primeval being struck with its mighty wings, uttered a thundering scream and rose into the air. It had reached high in a few strokes and hurtled over the Iron Fields, turned and broke, as before, with the force of a storm over Hokan Ashir’s army.
Goren saw Irons flying through the air, undead were chopped up, and the entire dark army turned to the dragon, which stormed devastating under him. He spat fire, grabbed with claws and teeth, mowed down the rows with razor-sharp wing edges.
“Yes,” Goren whispered. “Well, that’s just it.”
Then he heard the angry roar of the Invincible.

Chapter 14 – The Invincible
Ur paused his attack, rose and began to circle over the army. The Irons and undead also paused.
The giant Iron pushed through the masses, carelessly hurled friend and foe aside, and rolled toward Goren, who was standing alone on the battlefield, a hundred paces from everyone. The armour of the Iron glistened in the sun, and the red eyes burned like wildfire.
Goldenbolt let out a deafening whine, reared and began to buck. “Calm, boy, calm!” Goren talked to him and had trouble keeping himself in the saddle. Startled, he saw that the stallion was sweating; his eyes rolled wildly, the nostrils were blown wide. “Of course not,” Goren continued, “in this fight you don’t pull, my brave Goldenbolt. I go there alone.” His eyes slid to the Invincible that constantly came. “Just you and me.”
He managed to keep Goldenbolt quiet until he got off, then tied the reins to the saddle and let go the stallion. With a shrill whine, Goldenbolt stormed off towards Shaikur, but after two hundred steps, turned again. He reared and whinnied as if calling for Goren, and deep despair was heard in the voice of the animal.
Goren didn’t have time to pay attention to him. He drew his sword, took the shield from his back and clamped it on his left arm.
“I must have gone crazy,” he breathed to himself when the Invincible was only a few spear throws away and still seemed to grow bigger and bigger. From top to bottom it consisted of knives, sabers, sickle blades, axes, spikes and thorns. Its claws ended in long, sharp, slightly curved knives. The floor shook under his heavy kicks. Nevertheless, it was in no way moving clumsily or slowly.
Even before he got into the right position, the long arms of the Invincible already fell down on Goren. He jumped forward, ducked, and ran on with his knees bent as fast as he could. He heard the sharp click of the gripping claws just behind him and felt the breeze. He hastily hit to the right, ran, then hit on the left. Somehow, he had to get out of reach of the murderous arms. But he wasn’t allowed to get too close to the Invincible himself because the blades suddenly snapped out of hidden flaps and spikes were shot at him.
Goren held the large shield protectively between himself and the Invincible. He heard the arrows rattling against the strong dragon scales, but the shield held. The right hand clutched the sword tightly, though he didn’t really know what to use it for, because until now he was only running for his life.
The Invincible followed him with massive steps, tried to grab him and moved as quickly and elegantly as... yes, like a Shaikan. Goren couldn’t say otherwise. The Shaikan were the best warriors in the world, and the Invincible... was better than all of them.
Goren rushed across the field, hitting nonstop, constantly trying to turn to the Invincible so at least the next attack could be recognized in time. But he was far too slow, the floor tough and sticky as glue, his legs heavy as lead. Without the shield he had no chance at all. The dragon scales kept, as they endure one stroke after the others. But every time Goren’s body was shaken to the marrow by the blow, and he only knew that his left arm was still there because it was pure pain. He couldn’t hold the shield for a long time. And gradually he also ran out of air.
Then the Invincible paused and eyed Goren, who carefully stopped and turned to face him.
“It’s impossible,” the voice of the Iron rumbled across the field. “You must be dead long ago. Nobody resists me for so long.”
Goren took it as a compliment, but it didn’t fill him with pride, he was too exhausted. It was a mystery to himself why he was still alive. Apart from a few small cuts on his arms and legs, he wasn’t even wounded.
“You braggart!” he shouted. “Being a pure weapon and twice the size of your opponent is easy. How was it if you face me only with the sword? Then it would show whether you mastered the true art!”
The Invincible paused. “I’m still superior to you.”
“Poo! Anyone can claim that, and yet have never tried a fair fight,” Goren returned. “Come on, show me what you’re capable of, Iron skull!” What am I doing? he thought in horror at the same time. Play for time? For what? I just drag out the inevitable.
There was a click, rattle, and crunch when the Invincible actually let all the weapons go into his body, even the terrible claws. In his right hand was now only a sword, albeit the length of a horse and the width of an orc’s leg.
Goren swallowed his fear. He had finally challenged it. He didn’t know how it would end. How he could campete at all and fight this monster, which was inviolable, not bleeding, not dying. It was twice as big as him and mastered the fight like no other!
No other Iron moved like this; their only advantage was the speed in combat, the use of many weapons – otherwise they were clumsy and dull. They could be overwhelmed. But the Invincible? Never. The name was no exaggeration. Hokan Ashir had created the perfect warrior, insurmountable and immortal.
However, at least Goren no longer had to run like a hare, but he would die fighting.
Goren didn’t take a stance and waited. He dropped the shield, gripped the sword with both hands, and attacked. He connected two feints together, dodged and advanced and struck the sword of the Invincible, which was just about to rush against him.
Taking advantage of the momentum of the opponent’s chop, he didn’t strike against the blow, but avoided it as he let himself be carried by the swing. He put all his weight in his sword, while he actually managed to push away the Invincible. A moment later its sword drilled in the ground, and Goren saw that it got on its feet and went into attack. His heart was racing and he felt dizzy with happiness for a brief moment.
The first blow was successful! This time he wanted to see how the Invincible used the sword, what tactics it followed. What could Goren have utilise? Well, who cared? He would show Hokan Ashir that even the Invincible, despite all its perfection, wasn’t like a Shaikan. He wanted to show it to everyone, especially the dragon blood, so they wouldn’t lose heart when Goren finally fell against the formidable one, but only after exhausting fighting.
Ur circled over him. Goren couldn’t command him to attack, he had refused and will continue to do so. It doesn’t matter. The dragon would still wreak havoc in Hokan Ashir’s army when Goren’s fight was over.
Goren expected the approach and it was surprisingly simple. He could even parry it without breaking his arms. He immediately followed a certain sequence of steps and attack, followed by beat over beat. He parried the opponent’s blows just enough that he wasn’t hit and without endangering his bones.
And suddenly it seemed to him that something was being taken over, as if he were standing next to him as an observer. He had completely switched off his conscious thinking and was only concentrating on the fight. The sword in his hands melted with him and he became a weapon himself. He adjusted perfectly to the enemy, saw only his sword and legs, and began to anticipate what the Invincible would do next. Left step, right thrust, feint, retreat, strike... Goren answered with uncanny instinctive security to everything. His movements were light and fluent, his breath was calm, his arms were strong, yet supple.
It was like a dance. Everything he had ever learned and practiced in so many hours flowed from Goren and turned into high art. He let himself drive, didn’t think, parried, feinted, pulled back and attacked.
Until he made a mistake. His only weakness was the mistake that had haunted him from the beginning, from the first lesson, which he had never been able to completely eradicate. A weaker step, too little swing from below – why at all from below, with the cover open! –, and it was precisely this tiny, imperceptible mistake at speed that no Goren’s enemy had ever noticed except one person, the Invincible recognized. It knocked Goren’s sword down, hurled it from his powerless hands. The young Shaikan lost his balance and fell on his back. At that moment he could already feel the sharp blade on the delicate skin of his neck. He felt a warm trickle run down his throat, his Adam’s apple swallowed violently.
“You’ll never learn it,” the Invincible said.
And then Goren grasped.
He huffed hoarsely. “Mother?”

Goren almost fall from shock, pain and terror. He lay under the sword of the Invincible, who was still pausing. With a gentle, almost gentle movement, it could be able to sever Goren’s head. But it didn’t move. As if it understood what Goren had whispered. As if it was trying to remember.
As it could remember.
Hatred of his father, almost turned into forgiveness and pity, broke out again and grew immeasurably. Finally, the dispute between Hokan Ashir and Ruorim became understandable, and he trembled with anger and despair. Therefore Ur couldn’t attack the Invincible – because the soul of a Shaikan was trapped in it!
Stunned, Goren started screaming. Anger and hate had to make room for air, he couldn’t stand it any longer. “Father!” he shouted. “What have you done! You damned bastard, your soul should burn, demons should eat you and spit out! What have you done to Derata!”
It was incredible, unimaginable. Ruorim had taken Derata’s soul and spellbound it after he murdered her. He had brought the soul stone to Hokan Ashir and asked him for a special gift.
Your mother, Ruorim once said, was the best warrior in the world. Better than me, better than anyone else. Nobody could defeat her.
Incarcerated in the soul stone, enslaved to the existence of the Invincible, Ruorim wanted to bind Derata to himself forever, since he couldn’t have her as a living...
While the tears shot out of his eyes, Goren continued to shout, cried from his soul and cursed his father. He almost pushed himself towards the blade, the pain, to end alone.
“You – must – die – now,” the Invincible said slowly, hesitantly. Its eyes flickered, almost went out and reignited. The orange-green glow that came from within grew stronger. Goren could feel the scorching heat that the armour radiated, and that brought him back to his senses.
“No,” he gasped. “No. You can’t. They enslaved, tormented and locked you up, but your soul, the original in you, what you’re, is still there! They couldn’t destroy you completely because then you wouldn’t have been perfect. Remember! Tear down the wall!
The sun moved behind the Invincible so its crown of thorns looked like a wreath of rays. For a moment the light went out, everything was just shadow.
And above him, far away, in the deep blue of the sky, he saw a glow. The glow of a distant star stronger than Tiara’s fire and penetrating all the shadows.
And at that moment he knew what to do.
“Materia Prima...” he whispered. “You’re the power, only you alone. The creative power, higher than the Guardians, Aonir himself, it’s you. You rest in me...”
Now he understood the words of the Fial Darg. It’s already in you. You’re untouchable for us.
No magic in this world, not even that of the Fial Darg, was stronger than Aonir’s light, bound in the Materia Prima. Once stolen by Malacay from Ur, which resulted in the blood oath. Over the centuries Malacay’s soul had been carried over to his descendants, and with it the secret of Materia Prima, the creative power.
A jolt went through Goren, his body rose and the armour Silverflame awoke. It caught Aonir’s distant light, shone with a glittering shine, and through this light, Goren let the Materia Prima flow freely and out of himself.
The armour of the Invincible went out, as it was enveloped by the radiant glow that surrounded it like a glittering fog and seemed brighter than the sun for a moment. It dropped the sword, straightened up and raised its arms. A deep, reverberating sigh came from it, and then the orange-green glow faded from its interior and floated out into the light of Aonir, an ethereal shape, transparent as a spirit, formed.
Blinking, Goren straightened up, his eyes watering from the blazing light. But there was also pain when he recognized the shape, the long hair, the noble face – not tangible, just a distant dream.
“Mother...” he repeated roughly.
The soul visibly smiled. “Thank you, my son,” she breathed, her voice no more than the whisper of the winds. “You freed me and gave me back what was taken away from me: the memory and myself. Now I can finally start my last journey. The Nothingness is already waiting for me.”
“Don’t leave me,” he pleaded. “I have the power to shape a body. You can start over and live a happier life...”
“Goren, do you really want that? Intervene in the creation?” Derata said gently. “I have completed my task and lived my life. Let me go. I have been given the grace of the Nothingness, I’ll be free forever. The curse of the ancestor has been removed from me.”
“Forgive me,” he said in broken voice. “I’m already talking like the others... You should be free, I don’t want to bring you new captivity. Go to the Nothingness, but you’ll be unforgettable among the living. And you live on in... in your descendants...”
“Farewell, my son. Aonir’s light is with you.”

Darmos Ironhand wrote with a heavy pen, filling row after row. The hand hurt, the eyes were tired, but there was still so much to be said. He had closed the window because he no longer wanted to know anything about the fight outside. He didn’t want to see or hear what happened to Goren, that would have gone beyond his strength. There was only one thing left for him to do.
He looked up when suddenly a cool breeze blew through the room – which was impossible. The candle he had lit for the sealing wax flickered.
Then he winced when he felt a touch on his cheek and... a kiss. And he thought he heard a soft whisper close to his ear. “I love you, father. Farewell.”
Darmos Ironhand’s eyes filled with tears, he put his hand on the kissed cheek. “I love you too, daughter,” he whispered. “Thank you...”

Chapter 15 – Soul stone
The glow went out, and the armour of the Invincible sank, deprived of its host, clattered, and disintegrated into hundreds of pieces of blind, tarnished metal. The Iron was no longer.
The armour Silverflame also shrank back to its usual shabbiness. Exhausted and staggering weakly, Goren came to his feet. Without realizing it, he picked up the sword and put it away. He reached for the empty soul stone, which lay inconspicuously in the dust next to the ruined armour.
He was only vaguely aware that the attack was being blown. The united peoples rushed forward. And for the first time since the beginning of the battle, the enemies swayed and backed away.
Goldenbolt came trotting slowly and nudged Goren with soft, gentle sounds that seem strangely sad. The young Shaikan stroked the stallion’s velvet nostrils.
“You knew it, didn’t you?” he said softly. “You recognized her, so you couldn’t approach her. Your eyes saw the enemy, but your heart saw your mistress.” He looked up at the sky where Ur was still circling and waved him. “There’s something else we have to do, my boy,” he murmured. “And then this chapter is finally over.”
He still felt numb, but he didn’t think about what had happened. He had no time for that now. Later, yes, he was going to hide somewhere and let everything go by. And understand what had happened. And allow his pain to break out.
It rustled and a violent gust of wind blew through Goren’s black hair when Ur landed.
“Did you know it?” he asked the dragon.
“No,” Ur answered. “I can’t even understand it.”
“Yes, there’re already two of us,” Goren growled. He showed Ur the empty soul stone. “But you guess what I’m going to do now?”
“Of course. You have the power to do it. You can do everything, Goren, because you now master the Materia Prima. You are now as powerful as Malacay it was then. Maybe even more powerful. You could destroy Hokan Ashir with a wave of your hand.”
Goren looked briefly at the battle, which took place somewhere in his back and didn’t interest him in the least. “He’s already retreating, you see?” he said. “My friends can do it without me. Give them the joy, why have you undertaken such a long journey. They will devastate his army, and he’ll plaintively withdraw to Kaith Halur and lick his wounds for a long time. We achieved what we wanted – we beated both Circle Mages. We could never hope to kill them. But our allies need victory, it will give them hope for the future.”
“A wise decision,” said the dragon.
Goren raised the soul stone in front of his eyes. “It looks as harmless as broken glass,” he noticed. “For this alone, Hokan Ashir should burn forever in the flames. This is the vilest of all crimes. May all souls, which he has caught and tormented, be released one day and take revenge on him!”
“It’s no longer in your hand, as you said. Do it now before there’s no chance. The fight is not over yet.” Ur approached his mighty skull. Fine steam curled out of his nostrils.
Goren nodded. He decided not to hesitate any longer. He kept his eyes fixed on the soul stone and concentrated on his magic. Slowly, carefully, he approached the wall around the second soul deep inside, slid through it as if it were mere fog, and saw Malacay’s dormant soul. He closed the magic fingers around it and took it with him, taking it up from the deep abyss. And then he transferred it to the soul stone, which briefly glowed red. A little later a milky glow hid the soul in it.
“He didn’t wake up. Good.” Goren handed over the soul stone to Ur. “We’re all bound to the blood oath, but we can at least stretch and bypass it. At least for a while. I give you the following purpose, Ur: as long as I live, you keep the stone and guard Malacay’s soul. It’s only after my death that it can become free again and nest in a Shaikan to continue the eternal curse. This is what we are, cursed, it’s part of us and makes us what we’re. Who knows, maybe one day Malacay’ll become wise when he wakes up again. I wish his unfortunate carrier to be strong and never give up his own soul.”
“So, it will happen,” Ur said almost solemnly.

The end of the battle was imminent. Hokan Ashir’s followers were on the run, but the allies chased after them to take them down to the last. He was probably already over all mountains; he no longer had the dragon brood, but maybe a horse and certainly his magic.
Well, he should escape – for this one more time.
While Tiara’s fire slowly leaned towards the west, a glorious day came to an end.

Chapter 16 – Ruorim
“Fly home, Ur, and relax,” Goren said to the dragon. “You deserve it. We’ll talk later.”
“Should I take you with me?” Ur asked. “It would be a honour to me.”
“No, thanks. I can’t do that to Goldenbolt. And I need a little more time.”
The old father beated his wings vigorously until he could lift his heavy body in the air. He flew back to the rock castle, where he landed high up and then disappeared inside.
Goren took the Goldenbolt and slowly led him towards Shaikur. He could already hear the jubilation from the battlements. The gate was open and anyone who found another horse would storm on the battle.
I should be satisfied, Goren thought. Why am I not?
He should receive the answer as soon as he has arrived within range. A mighty black-red figure suddenly appeared on the ruler’s balcony – Ruorim. He had actually freed himself from the chains. And worse. He had got Darmos Ironhand under his control. He held the white-haired Shaikan in front of him, one arm wrapped around his neck, the other raised menacingly with a knife.
Goren stopped. He felt that his heart was pierced. “Father – what are you doing?” he whispered.
“Goren,” the dark Shaikan cried in an angry voice. When Shaikan tried to approach him from behind on both sides, he warded them off with a short curse. He didn’t even have to turn around. “Are you satisfied? You took everything from me! But you’ll not be able to celebrate your victory, because I’ll take something from you!”
Goren cried out, and not only him, when Ruorim rammed the knife deep into Darmos Ironhand’s chest and then pushed him off the parapet. The former lord of Shaikur fell without a sound.
Turmoil broke out in Shaikur, the angry Shaikan interfered with each other in getting up to the ruler chamber. Everyone wanted to be the first to take revenge on Ruorim.
The dark Shaikan had already disappeared from the balcony.
“Grandfather,” Goren cried in horror. “Not even you...” He swung himself into the saddle and punched the heels on the flanks. Now he’s gone too far. I’ll kill him, guilty of blood or not! Blinded by hatred and pain, he stormed towards the fortress. He saw Ruorim appear on a lower battlement, surrounded by Shaikan, who tried to stop him with raised swords. Ruorim, however, shook them off like annoying flies; no weapon could reach him. He didn’t even draw his sword. Now he was only concerned for escaping.
“You’ll not escape me!” Goren hissed. “Not more, never again!”
He saw ruorim jump from the battlement and disappear from his sight. Goldenbolt hurried, the gate was no longer far away. He heard the shouting in the fortress, the clang of weapons and drew his sword.
But Ruorim was already storming on his heavy black horse from Shaikur, unharmed and unbroken. The Shaikan ran after on foot, spears and arrows flew, but nothing could harm the Butcher. He drove the horse and headed for the closest rocks in the east.
Goldenbolt neighed and reared.
“Yes, you recognized him, didn't you?” Goren cried. “Once you had to put up him on your back, your mistress’ murderer, who has now also killed my grandfather! Hurry up, Goldenbolt, now it's all about!”
He didn’t have to drive the stallion, he willingly stormed off after the fleeing man.

But the Shaikan horses were all persistent and fast, Ruorim’s black horse also came from such a breed. Goldenbolt had once been the fastest of all, but he was older than the black horse and had to catch up on its lead.
Goren approached him with ease, the stallion’s ambition didn’t allow him to slow down. But the young Shaikan talked to him reassuringly, patted his neck. “He has almost reached the rocks, old boy. We can no longer catch up with him in time. I don’t want to rush to death you and me, we’re both the only ones of our family that are still left, and I don’t want to lose you too. Understand it! Ruorim will no longer escape us, I know it for sure. And he knows it too. He may look like he doesn’t want to give up, but where should he go? He has no place to retreat or hide. Nobody can defend him anymore. He’s all alone and I’m behind him. As long as it lasts. One day he can’t go on, and then I’ll be there.”
Goldenbolt whimpered and snorted, but he saw that his master was right and fell back in leisurely trot. His fur was copper-colored with sweat, but the fire in his eyes was unbroken.
The black horse just disappeared into a gorge with his rider and was out of sight. Goren allowed Goldenbolt slow gallop to look at the terrain. He suspected that Ruorim would eventually let his horse stand and retreat deep into the rocks. In cover, he would either be waiting for Goren to find him or for his pursuer to give up. It wasn’t long until night, probably he would only try to escape in the darkness.
“No, it doesn’t come to that,” Goren growled. “It ends here and now. In this night. You and me, Ruorim. I survived Raith, Hokan Ashir didn’t get me, and not even the Invincible could kill me. Do you think I’m still scared of you? Scruple? I’m beyond everything. Look at what you made of me. You should actually be satisfied of the result.”
Goldenbolt snorted and slowed. He paused at the entrance to the gorge, without Goren having to pull up, stretched his neck and sucked the air into the blown-out nostrils. Slowly he started to move, his nose to the ground. He kept pausing and sniffing.
Goren let him do; the stallion’s fine nose could smell the black horse. He would smell in time when there was a danger of being ambushed. Slowly they wandered into the gorge. Craggy rocks made of sandstone towered heavily above them, with many protrusions and peaks, and locked the sky out except for a narrow shaft. It got cooler in here, the shade was pleasant. The sandy bottom steamed the hoof beat, but there was a slight echo from the walls. The path wasn’t wide, no more than two riders had space next to each other. At first it was easy to follow the tracks along the winding path, but then the gorge opened with a variety of branches and steep paths into the rocks.
Goren stopped and listened. There was almost complete silence, only occasionally there was a crackle or a soft chirp. There was still a little life here that didn’t have to endure the scorching heat. Occasionally tough grass and modest mountain herbs grew between the rocks. There was certainly moisture somewhere to keep the plants and small desert animals, especially insects, alive.
When Goldenbolt resumed the scent after some hesitation, Goren let him guide. The stallion deviated from the main path and finally climbed a steep trail that was just wide enough for his hooves. The deep blue sky was getting closer, but the sun was already too deep behind the tallest rocks in the west. Sheltered by the long shadows, Goren and Goldenbolt followed the black horse’s tracks.
Finally, the young Shaikan got off and drove the stallion up and down the hill, wondering whether Ruorim was following a certain plan or simply didn’t know where to go. For hours, until nightfall, they wandered through the rocky landscape. It wasn’t easy to keep an eye on cover, and Goren expected an ambush or a trap at any moment.
After all, it was too dark to go on. Given these conditions, every step could be fatal. There was no point in continuing the search. Goldenbolt seemed to have lost the scent in the meantime, because he often behaved uncertainly at junctions on narrow paths and left the decision to Goren. So, it was convenient for him when Goren finally paused to set up camp where they were. The sweat dripped from Goldenbolt’s ears, his fine horse face showed weary wrinkles. Like Goren himself, he suffered a great thirst, but they had no supplies and had to endure it.
Goren crouched on a rock and rubbed his face wearily. The dragon shield was somewhere on the field, as were Malacay’s dagger, which he had lost in the fight against the Invincible.
His mind still refused to call the Invincible any different. Derata’s soul had been trapped in him, but nevertheless she wasn’t the Iron. That would be as if he had to call himself Goren-Malacay... but that was over now. No second soul, no pain. All of that was overcome.
Maybe someone will find my things and take them to Shaikur, he thought out of context and confused. Otherwise it would be a shame. Ur will take care. Would of course have been better if I had taken them with me, who knows what Ruorim can do. Or maybe he even has a trump card in hand. He always seemed to have planned everything – and far ahead. Except... maybe the murder of grandfather. I could see it, he was furious, he wanted to hurt me, take revenge.
Well, he still had the sword. And he mastered his mother’s warfare, against which Ruorim had lost.
Goren was really no longer afraid of his father. He knew they were at least equal – at least as long as he managed to control his hatred. Feelings hadn’t room in a fight. Even more so if the opponent didn’t fight fairly, but with treachery.
Goldenbolt somehow managed to crouch and sniffed at Goren’s leg. The young Shaikan stroked the horse’s head; he was glad not to be alone. At that moment, he couldn’t ask for a better friend at his side.
“Everything will be fine,” he whispered to the stallion. “Tomorrow we finish it, and then you get a decent bath and drink until your stomach is plump and round. Plus hay and apples as much as you want. And there will certainly be a mare on heat. It’s worth starving a little, right? The higher the enjoyment. Just be patient...”
He snuggled up close to the horse, gratefully sniffed in the warm, soaked in smell that reminded him of happy children’s days, of a large stable with horses and hay, of rays of light that came in through cracks and of dancing gnats.

Goren startled when he heard a noise. Goldenbolt already stood and turned his ears. The dawn was just beginning. Goren crept cautiously to the edge of the rock and saw a black horse with a rider coming straight out of the rock and heading for a ravine.
“He is down there!” the young Shaikan whispered. “Up, Goldenbolt, now we can get him!”
He pulled the saddle girth tight again, sat up, and steered the stallion on the other side of the rock along a sloping path. The black horse was already out of sight again, but from here there was only one option, namely into the gorge. Ruorim probably hoped that the other end would open into the plain. From there Lar wasn’t far. Maybe he planned to reach Dragh’Shar and ask for asylum. The norcaine were the only people he had never messed with. Maybe there were enough Craig Un’Shallach’s enemies, who willingly provided shelter and protection to Ruorim.
But he won’t get so far, Goren thought grimly. “Now we have it soon,” he said to the stallion with confidence. “Even before the sun has risen properly.”
Goldenbolt seemed to share the same view, because he got everything out of himself. The mighty muscles tensed, he surefooted, stepped confidently, down the path without worrying about loose boulders or the dizzying depth on one side. He didn’t sway, wasn’t unsure for a moment because he just wanted to catch up with the black horse. There couldn’t be a horse that was faster than him, advantaged or not.
Goren released the reins, relieved him so as not to bring him out of balance, and was fascinated to see how quickly they got closer to the bottom of the valley. There might have been a few easier, if not more, paths, but Goldenbolt could no longer be held. No matter how steep it was, he took the direct route, knew exactly where to go, what to do. Finally, they came to a rocky slope, which the stallion dashed down with jumps and turns, and then it went into the gorge.
Goren was sure that Ruorim could hear him now, but he didn’t care. He must have caught up with him before the exit. Goldenbolt swept through the gorge, the swirling hooves hardly seemed to touch the ground. Goren had to hold on. He didn’t know if his horse had ever run so fast before.
And then, behind a bend, he saw the black horse in front of him, which was also galloping.
But Goren grabbed the reins, leaned back and pulled up Goldenbolt. Firmly and unyielding. The stallion whinnied angrily, bucked and wanted to rise, but Goren didn’t give in. While Goldenbolt was still sidling about, he jumped off, grabbed his head and whispered: “Calm down, boy, it’s all right! Listen to me! Keep running, fetch the black horse and bring it back! Don’t let him escape! I’m looking for Ruorim. In contrast to you, I have seen that he’s no longer sitting on the horse. Thus he’s here somewhere, and that’s why we’re going to separate now, understand?”
The riderless black horse had already slowed down because it was no longer being driven. He was likely to stop soon, unsure of what to do.
Goldenbolt finally calmed down a little, snorted and stamped his hoof. He understood what his master wanted from him. As a stallion, it was his job to keep the herds together and to bring back any horse that broke out.
Goren fastened the reins to the saddle, then Goldenbolt whizzed away.
The young Shaikan hurried to take cover and started climbing up the rocks. He knew where to find his father because he could trace him. There was only one magical stream here, and Ruorim was so concerned about his escape that he no longer paid attention to the need for protection. Or maybe he was no longer able to do it.
For his part, however, Goren had ensured that Ruorim couldn’t trace him. It wasn’t a big effort for him. He quickly learned to deal with primal magic better and better, and he now knew that Ur was right: he could do everything. No mage in the world was up to him. If he wanted, he could change everything.
Following the invisible ribbon, he scurried over the rocks. He could see where ruorim had left his tracks, here the still warm mark of his hand... there he had to squeeze through a narrow place. He couldn’t be far anymore.
He’s tired, Goren thought, and that really spurred him on. He’s not so young anymore, and when he broke out and fled, he used up a lot of his strength.
Nothing could be heard from the valley below. Goldenbolt had probably caught up with the black horse and driven it back. Maybe he had even turned around and voluntarily ran to the stallion so as not to be alone. And now they were standing somewhere and waiting.
But only one of those they’re waiting for, will return. Goren’s chest ached with grim hatred and anger. He could hardly wait now.
He checked the terrain from a ledge and groped for the traces of his father. Then he climbed a high slope, changing direction to the left – and finally he saw him. Not even a javelin throw away, Ruorim climbed below him through the rocks, towards east.
Goren stood up straight, directly in the sun, and drew his sword, but let his arm dangle relaxed. “Stop!” he cried, and his voice broke many times on the walls. “Here your way ends off.”
Ruorim paused. Then he turned slowly and looked up at Goren. “It’s just starting,” he said.
“Enough of lies and deceptions, there’s no hope for you.” Goren kept an eye on his father as he jumped from rock to rock until he reached Ruorim. He lifted the sword slightly and went up to him. “Draw your sword and honour me with the only honest fight of your life.”
But Ruorim didn’t budge.
“Draw it, at last!” Goren yelled at him. “What do you think how long I stand here patiently? Do you think I’ll give up if you refuse?”
“Goren,” Ruorim said slowly. “You’re making a big mistake.”
“Not as big as your last, when you murdered my grandfather before my eyes,” Goren growled. “Don’t think I have any remorse. If you do not fight back, I’ll slay you like a mangy dog and then chop you into pieces. Then all the brave animals who dare to live here can have a feast, and it would be at least one good thing in your life.”
“There’s another,” Ruorim replied. “You.”
Goren shook his head. “I kept trying to understand you. I’ve repressed the hatred, looked for forgiveness, a new beginning. But there’s nothing in you that deserves mercy.”
“Son,” Ruorim said calmly. “Everything I did was inevitable. After your power wakes up, you should actually understand what it’s about. Of what great importance you are – we both are. Nobody is like us, not even the Circle Mage. We have been given something that resembles a divine message: we’ll come to bring peace to Fiara. The whole world! Together. This is what I want, what I have been striving for from the beginning. I can’t do it alone, I need you to do it – and the power of the Materia Prima. Think about how to proceed. What you’re meant for. And what you want.”
Goren paused. They looked at each other in silence, while the sun slowly rose and Ruorim cast a long, distorted shadow on the rocks. His face was in darkness.
Goren made the decision. “You want my power? Here, you have it!” he screamed. He dropped the sword and put his hands on the breastplate of the armour. “Silverflame, one last time I’ll make use of you and then we’re both free, you and me,” he whispered. At the same time, he opened himself, took the Materia Prima and clenched it. The armour glowed, glittering sparkled as the primal power gathered in it, circling like a whirlpool, a maelstrom full of stars. And then Goren released the power, with all his might he hurled it at his father and transferred it to him. Everything that was in him. He felt, as it flowed from him, in an apparently inexhaustible stream.
Ruorim was hit by a fireball and thrown back, but the connection remained and held him. Just like Goren, he was enveloped in a sparkling, lightning-throwing mist, and a powerful stream of magic bound the two, welding them together. Finally unites, as Ruorim had always wanted.
Goren sank to his knees, more light flowed from him, not only from his chest, but also from his eyes, mouth and nose, even from his ears.
Panting, he fell forward when the stream finally dried up and the light left him. He saw it flow along the magical ribbon that dissolved beyond and how everything flowed into Ruorim. He really glowed, seemed to swell and grow, and Goren heard its screams. So full of terror and pain that he had to cover his ears because he couldn’t bear it.
Ruorim screamed and screamed, while Materia Prima seeped into him, combined with his own magic. It was too much for a mortal. A gruesome change occurred to him, his body swelled first, then he collapsed, shrank and melted.
Ruorim’s screams only ended when his body crumbled and the light went out. Then it finally dissolved and only the armour remained.
A glittering mist rose into the sky, gently blowing high up like a rain of sparks.

Goren was barely aware that he was climbing down the rocks. He didn’t even know why he was doing it. Everything in it was black and empty, like Ruorim’s armour, which would lie there forever. A memory that was left behind and not taken along.
The forces left him visibly as he trembled with his hands and groped ahead on uncertain legs. He could hardly see anything. Blood ran from his ears, but he didn’t notice. He stumbled and slipped, barely catching the fall each time. So, he finally arrived at the bottom, stood on firm ground and looked around with half-blind eyes.
There was nothing left in him except for one knowledge. I’m dying, he thought. Then he sank to the ground.
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