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Posted: August 14th, 2017, 3:58 pm
Good day everyone!
I am currently in the process of translating my novel "Shadowfire" from german to english! Since it's been asked a couple of times, here's a sneak peak of the first three chapters for all who are interested! Once finished, I will announce it here on herpy and in our discord chat.
Until then, german speakers can already get the entire thing here!
Important: Everything in this sneak peak is subject to change. This is not the final version and will see many more correctures of grammar, spelling and the like.
Because I'm really bad at translating.
Re: Shadowfire Sneakpeak
Posted: August 14th, 2017, 3:59 pm
“In blinding light they waited, for the time of shadows to come.”
- Chronicles of the Collapse, Volume II
An icy blue face was floating before me. It was scaled, belonged to a dragon. He talked to me, but I couldn’t understand a single word. It was only a wild, guttural growl that made no sense to me. I was scared, lowered my ears and huddled my tail tightly to my belly. The dragon shook his head and rolled his eyes. Now I could see his whole body, the scales as frosty blue as on his head. When he exhaled, a small cloud of ice crystals formed in front of his nostrils. His body began to morph, changed colour. His scales took on a red hue, while he became a lot smaller. He looked at me, the scales on his forehead rising lightly and he grimaced snidely. Suddenly his eyes widened, his gaze fixated on me, the slit pupils contracted. Slowly he approached me, but I backed away, filled with fear. As I turned and ran, I could only hear his roar.
It was the same dream, the same dream every night. He was trapped, unable to move. Darkness surrounded him, then blinding light, then darkness again. He saw figures, in the light, in the darkness. Saw his mother, her scales strangely wan. Her head was blurred, as if she wasn’t really there. He saw his father, dark and mighty. Saw him tearing his maw open and spreading his wings, but he couldn’t hear a sound. He saw his siblings playing in front of him, but they vanished, one after the other. He cried out, desperate, wanted to follow them, but still he was bound, still unable to move. A deep loneliness overcame him. The loneliness became pain, the pain turned into hate. For the figures in the light and the darkness, the figures that could move while he was damned to be motionless.
She flew, high up in the sky on the back of a dragon. The beating of his wings made the air quiver and she could feel every single muscle in his body move in tone to his beats. Her white hair waved like a flag behind her, while she spread her arms to stem herself against the wind, like the dragon. The feeling was intoxicating. The air boomed as they fell through clouds, past massive mountains, through deep ravines and over vast forests. The landscape below her spread out like a map. She could see everything. She was in bliss, and knew the dragon was too. Filled with this happiness, she laughed. Without a warning, the world tilted, another dragon had come. He was black with crimson glowing eyes. He attacked. They evaded him best as they could, were faster and nimbler then him, but he was stronger. He caught up and ripped the wings of her dragon apart. Helpless they tumbled into the depth. Desperate and raging her dragon threw flames against the sky. The world died in fire.
Re: Shadowfire Sneakpeak
Posted: August 14th, 2017, 3:59 pm
Chapter 1: The City of Mages
“Every state that wants to last has to, sooner or later, use one method.
- Author unknown, text of a relic
Drenched in sweat and gasping for breath, Ilyana sat bolt upright in her bed. What kind of dream was that? She tried to remember the details, but the only thing she remembered was a mash of emotions, exuberant happiness, petrifying fear and a burning hatred. With a sigh, she brushed a strand of her hip-length, dark blonde hair out of her face. Whatever it was, now it’s gone. So, up for another new, fascinating day. Even a normal human could have sensed the sarcasm in her thoughts.
Still tired she peeled herself out of the sweat drenched sheets of her bed and looked at her reflection in the mirror through the twilight of light that passed through the closed curtains. Back stared a young woman, mid twenty, tall and lanky, with dark rings under her normally bright hazel-brown eyes. Her skin was thin and pale like vellum, as if it could rip any moment. I really looked healthier once…
Almost every night she had those dreams. Came morrow Ilyana couldn’t remember anything but tumbling pictures and emotions. Instead of refreshed, she felt even more exhausted, as if she hadn’t slept at all. While during the day, there was her work. If you could at least call it work.
Yawning, she let her morning gown slide from her shoulders and threw it carelessly on a chair in front of the window. Her entire flat was composed out of two rooms, a bed-kitchen-living-room and the closet, separated from the rest at the rear end. The city of Itdra had at least, thanks to the magic woven in its construction, flowing water and a functioning sewerage. Not something you could say from other cities, or so they said. Ilyana sat down on the second chair, at the other side of the table, and stared lethargic on a plate with a half-eaten salad, the leftovers from the eve. Without much of an appetite, she gorged it down anyway. It tasted horrid, just like she remembered it. She would give anything for a piece of meat. But good meat was expensive, and she didn’t have the money.
After she was finished with her breakfast, Ilyana searched through the room and plucked the next best clothes from the floor. What she couldn’t find on the floor, she took from her closet. I know I’m not exactly the most orderly person, but maybe it’s time to clean. Well, at least there was one part of her room that was in perfect order. The giant towers of books at the base of her bed. Dozens of folios were neatly ordered on separate piles, spread out after topics and sorted alphabetically. Normally she didn’t care about her surroundings or herself. Ilyana felt at home everywhere, as long as she had an interesting book to read. This attitude was mirrored clearly in her home.
With a shrug Ilyana dressed up. Like almost every day she took a simple underskirt and over it, her long dark-blue robe, which classified her as a fourth-class mage. Someone who, from the rank, had just left the academy, even though she was much farther, in her opinion. Next were her high leather boots. She was exceptionally fond of them. They had been a gift from her father, the only thing left of him. As Ilyana opened the door, she took a deep breath of the morning air and stepped into the streets. Another boring day in Itdra.
Itdra. The city was built on a headland, stretching into the sea. Cliffs surrounded the city from three sides, falling steep into the ocean. To the north the city was bordered by a vast green deciduous woodland, so there wasn’t a lot of space to expand. Itdra was nevertheless so big, that it took an entire day to get from one end to the other, if one took the direct path. The climate in Itdra was pleasant, even in winter it was seldom cold enough for the water to freeze. In summer, or even now in the early autumn it was very warm, though not uncomfortable. The air was sticky and spread a feeling of dim well-being.
In truth Itdra was more than just a city. It was the biggest – and only – enclave of mages in the entirety of the known world. A place where the elsewhere hated and feared mages could find shelter and had the opportunity for a normal life. A home. At least, this had been the intention of the city in the beginning, but centuries after its establishment the city had changed, and its citizen with it. It was still the city of mages, as it was called elsewhere, but it was so consistently. Everyone who wanted to live and work in Itdra had to be able to use magic, without exception. This went so far that children who had lived their sixth winter had to pass a simple test. For one day, they were locked in a room with nothing but a table and a single candle. They were only allowed to leave after having lit the candle with only their mind, or until the time was up. Everyone who couldn’t pass … well, they were expelled from the city and forbidden from entering ever again, no matter if they had family or not. They were no mages, so they didn’t belong to the city of mages.
Because of this, in time a second city rose around Itdra, even though it was nothing but a shanty town in the eyes of the ones inside the walls. In this “outer city”, all the normal people lived, not worse than in any other city. There were smiths, inns, even temples and bathhouses. The actual Itdra however was the inner city, encased by pure white walls of jointless stone. The inner city was all Ilyana had ever seen. As strange as it might sound, but she had never left beyond the walls. Why should she, inside was all one could ever wish for. The streets were wide and flooded with light, every building was in a pleasant white or beige. Some were built from normal stone, with gable and beams from wood, but most of the buildings were out of the same magical stone like the wall. Those more recent houses were round without edges. Some parts of the city seemed almost organic, like an accumulation of bubbles, stuck together without distinction, which part of which building belonged to which house. In between stood scattered towers who pierced the cityscape like needles emerging from a sea of foam.
The inner city was home to the mages, or at least the people who could use magic. Most living in Itdra could use magic, but couldn’t do much more then warming their tea with it. Of course, some people were outstanding. A smith, able to form the most incredible things from simple materials. Given an old rusty dagger and told to sharpen it, one would get a blade returned, almost indestructible and able to sharpen itself. From half a pound of iron he could make an entire armour, weighting almost nothing and more durable then a common cuirass. Whatever it was, he made the most of his work. Then there was a tavern, notorious for his innkeeper who could turn water into mead. Though Ilyana always wondered when visiting “The Conjuring Cup” why anyone would want to turn perfectly clear water into hooch that could knock out the strongest men. But those were the exceptions, most of the people using magic were at most in the lower middle range with their abilities.
In the middle of Itdra there was a third “city”. The Citadel, a massive structure of towers, domes and ledges, with free floating bridges between them. It was so giant, that it encompassed the entire core of the city and could be seen from a day’s march distance. Its construction was truly confusing, as it had grown like a living being. In the beginning the Citadel was nothing but a great park in the heart of the city, a park in which also the market took place. At some point, someone had the glorious idea to build a canopy over the park. So, he built a great dome over the entire area, higher than even the towers at that time. Some decades later it was thought, so much unused space on top of the dome, this should be changed. The first towers, ledges and fittings were built. Since then there hasn’t been a single day in the history of Itdra were the Citadel wasn’t extended. Over the centuries a true labyrinth developed. The master-builders tried to outplay each other with the height of their towers and the complexity of their structures, which resulted in an unmanageable diversity of architectural styles. Now, the Citadel was big enough to house all of Itdra without any problems, but instead every tower was reserved for a couple of mages. What so few people would want with so much space was a mystery for Ilyana.
This insane dome structure was the true heart of Itdra. Here lived the real mages, those devoted to the higher arts, able to do so much more than petty magic tricks. This was also the place where Ilyana worked, or at least where she did what she was payed for. Officially she was the “personal assistant of great master Daneth Archatay”. Unofficially it meant that she ran errands for an old doter who was too weak to climb the immeasurable number of stairs in the Citadel. She carried his books, brought him his food. And she detested it.
While others could actually study magic, she had to do work that was fit for a basic non-skilled worker. However, Ilyana wasn’t even untalented, on the contrary, she was highly gifted in the magic arts. Though, Ilyana had sometimes a small problem: she tended to shoot over her goal. This had begun already in the first test. While her contemporaries spent hours in the room and desperately tried to lit the candle, it took Ilyana ten minutes. Additionally, she burned down the table too. This continued during her time at school, until one lesson of medical magic. In this lesson, the students had been given a dead frog with cut leg muscles. The task had been to reattach the muscles, which Ilyana managed to do. Now however the technically dead frog hopped around uncontrolled and erratically through the classroom for a couple of minutes, to the amusement of her colleagues and to the horror of her teacher. The teacher promptly condemned it as an act of necromancy, though unintentional, and Ilyana was separated and given a private teacher.
In the beginning, she was exhilarated, but it became clear very fast that her new teacher just gave her mundane tasks, rather hampering her progress then furthering it. And finally, she found herself with Daneth. For four years she had been his assistant now and every day had been the same. Though, Ilyana had to admit, her work had it perks. With the excuse to fetch books for her master, she could get her hands on almost everything, even those books deemed heretical or forbidden who collected dust deep in the archives. In the little free time she had, or when the great mage fell asleep salivating while reading yet again, she pursued her own studies, learned new things on her own, to work her way up to a mage of the Citadel at one point. At least this had been her plan, but this day should change everything.
It began like every other day. The sky was clear and bright blue like always at this time of the year. Ilyana went her usual way to the Citadel, past old studwork houses and new houses made from magic stone, fitting neatly together. Past small bakeries, a tailor and the house of the young man who’d always put a small bowl of milk for roaming cats in front of his door. He is cute, though a bit … peculiar, Ilyana thought to herself while passing. It was still early morning, the first shops just opened, brought out the displayed goods, while the first people like Ilyana strolled through the streets. The magic fire in the street lamps flickered and disappeared, the sign that the new day had finally begun. Ilyana was now only one of many who roamed the streets and it didn’t took long until the air was filled the sounds of buzzing activity. There were two kinds of people in Itdra: The mages, who walked around in their long robes and half-high boots without exception, and the guards, clad in their different armours. Most of the clothes were rather uniform. The biggest difference was in colour and quality, a direct indicator for rank, occupation and wealth. The more pompous, the higher the rank, logically. With the armours of the guard it was more specific, since the different ornaments would indicate the task of the guard. The few who didn’t had a purely magical occupation, which meant the craftsmen and the trader, were clad in normal linen with doublet and trousers. However, those clothes were seen with disdain in Itdra, since they only showed what an incompetent mage this person had to be. Ilyana couldn’t understand those prejudices, the craftsmen were as important, if not more so, than the rest of the people who traded in magic.
The entrance of the Citadel was a giant wooden Gate, double the height of Ilyana. It was guarded by two men in with golden inlays and ornamented cuirasses and long halberds. They too were mages, and both their armour and their weapons were purely ceremonial, but without them the entrance wouldn’t be as impressive. The guards just nodded at Ilyana and let her through without a hassle. Every day she took this path, almost for her entire life. First to the academy, which was situated inside the Citadel, then to her work. The guards knew her well, just like she knew the guards. Through the gate she entered the entrance hall, though the name was deceiving. The hall was more a park, with trees and meadows, flower beds and small paths between them, there was even a stream and a small artificial lake. Birds chirped and hopped from branch to branch. On the sides and in the middle, six massive spiral stairways lead to the levels above, arranged in a perfect pentagram, the sixth stairway in the middle, though the stairs at the other end of the hall were so far away she could barely see them. Only the upper ends were visible, which disappeared into the ridiculous high dome, mirroring the sky above the Citadel. It could even rain, thanks to the intricate magic that was woven into the structure itself, like everywhere in Itdra. Ilyana couldn’t help herself to be excited anew every time she set foot into the hall. Even the air smelled fresh like woods and meadows, giving her always the feeling of really being out in the nature, admiring the landscape.
Like always she took the stairs to her right, the ones closest to her and ascended into the next floor. Though even the second floor was already higher than most of the other buildings in the city. She reached a wide corridor, floored with a red carpet which absorbed every sound. An almost eerie silence followed her, as she followed the slightly curved hallway to the rooms of her master. Here too the walls were from the same jointless white stone that was seen everywhere in Itdra. Light reached through the high arched windows and casted periodical shadows on the floor.
It took about fifteen minutes before the reached Daneth. The Citadel was vast, a single building as big as some villages only in its diameter. Daneth himself was an old man. While Ilyana didn’t knew his exact age, he had to be at least at the end of his seventies. He wore a robe adorned with the marks of a first-class mage, but that was the only impressive thing about him. He was scrawny, very weak and sat, day after day, in his chair, to which Ilyana had to bring him everything he demanded. His grey, scraggy hair fell over his shoulders and framed his wrinkled and saggy face. And Ilyana was his personal assistant, which meant as much as his nurse, something that quite simply nauseated her. Her day was mostly the same: At first she brought him his breakfast from the kitchen. It was the same every morning, two sweet rolls with jam, a different each day. Today it was cherry. The smell of the food made Ilyana hungry herself, but she didn’t dare to touch any of it. Daneth would skin her alive if she should eat his holy breakfast herself. Afterwards Ilyana usually brought him a new book. This time it was “Theroy of magic Crystals and their use in arcane Artefacts and Simulacrums.” The title meant nothing to her, but it had to be something infinitely important, the way Daneth behaved. He was even more impatient then usual, until she brought him the book. As he finally held it in his hands, he almost cut a caper. Figuratively.
Then the day changed. For the first time in four years he thanked Ilyana, which was a miracle in itself. As he sent her home afterwards, said he didn’t need her for the day, Ilyana couldn’t believe her ears. Naturally, she didn’t go home, but straightaway into the library, to look for some books herself. She wasn’t interested in all those treatises about the correct way of drawing magic circles, medical essays or anything similar, but more for the myths and legends. The lost knowledge. Most people just took it for that, simple tales. But Ilyana knew, there was something hidden in those books, something most wouldn’t even dream of. Of course it was just mumbo-jumbo, myths, children’s stories at best, but from time to time she found a piece of true knowledge, a part of the lost truth. And she hunted for that.
The library was two floors above in its own tower and filled it completely. The air was thick with the smell of paper and ink, while small orange crystals spread a dim light. A few reading tables with chairs were scattered, but only rarely did someone read here. Most of the mages just had the books they wanted fetched from simple assistants. Assistants like Ilyana, for example. But the amount of books! Up to the roof the racks went, close packed. Some shelves could only be accessed with the ladders attached to them, which could be moved on rails. Though the library encompassed multiple floors, there were no stairs. One could only move from floor to floor with a system of baskets, pullies and ladders, another reason why the high mages seldom went here in person and only sent carriers. Ilyanas goal was in the uppermost floor, where only a small gangway was left between the shelves and the balustrade. A single small crystal in the gable spent light. Up here were the history books, the fairy tales and scriptures from time immemorial, shortly after the Collapse. It wasn’t exactly the most reliable source of information, but Ilyana loved it. She loved to sit on the floor, thumbing through the books, to read the old tales and wonder how it was back then. But she also searched for clues, didn’t just read for pleasure. Not once in her life was she told anything about history, be it the one of the land, of the people, or of the city. The worst thing however was that no one seemed to care, everyone just took what was said in silence, without further curiosity.
One millennia back, a thousand years ago, there had been an incident which was called “The Collapse”. The people of that time had reached an incredible standard of life, everyone was wealthy, healthy and happy. Buildings reaching up into the sky, even higher than the Citadel. Something Ilyana could barely imagine. Carriages without horses, even without magic, they had even claimed the sky. But then something happened, and everything disappeared. The only thing left were the stories, the myths and legends. Of course that in itself was just an old wife’s tale, no one in its right mind believed it. It was a legend, nothing more, everyone knew it, it was driven into everyone. It was just a legend, and that was exactly why Ilyana believed it and wanted to find the truth behind it, the source of the legend.
Sadly, to no avail most of the time. Most books wouldn’t tell anything about the Collapse or the time afterwards, most of the records began only seven hundred years ago. Everything before that time was shrouded in darkness, only mentioned in songs or ancient myths, and those were notoriously unreliable concerning their historical correctness.
However today she made a truly incredible find. While thumbing through an old book full of unintelligible instructions that made not the least bit of sense to Ilyana, a page fell out of it. At first she panicked, feared of having damaged the book, but then she realised the page only had laid loosely inside the book. It was old, maybe older then all of the recordings in the library. The paper had turned yellow through the years and the writing was faded. Ilyana feared the page might turn to dust the moment she touched it. With utmost care, she picked up her discovery and held it into the light. I’ve never seen a writing like this. What kind of symbols are those? The entire page was filled, but in no language known to Ilyana. Even the symbols were strange to her, it seemed like someone had arbitrarily drawn small squiggles on the paper and aligned them in rows. Between them there seemed to be sketches, even though it was a mystery what they wanted to depict. Maybe it’s a piece of art? But it looks too … important for that. Carefully she turned the page to the other side. On the back of it was a single drawing, an intricate net of circles and lines, arranged to a truly mind-bending fabric that covered the entire page. I know this pattern from somewhere. It almost looks like the circle of a spell, just drawn strangely. However, I know no spell that would be even close to this complexity. Every written spell had the circle as base, the symbol for the circular flow of energy. Depending on the complexity, the spell had different symbols arranged in a certain geometry. Some of the most difficult spells used multiple overlapping circles and symbols, but those were rare.
What Ilyana had in front of her surpassed everything she had ever seen by far. Should this truly be a spell, and she was rather certain of that now, it was one that outclassed every single spell known in Itdra. Every circle seemed to be its own spell, while inside one spell there were more circles, who described spells of their own. And everything was arranged in an even bigger structure, described something even more complex. In the midst of everything were symbols scattered, seemingly random. Sometimes they fit into the structure, sometimes they disturbed it, sometimes the made patterns of their own. Even this drawing seemed to be only part of something much bigger, because at the edge of the paper the pattern just ended abruptly. Almost lovingly Ilyana traced with a finger over the lines and tried to understand their meaning. While some of it seemed vaguely familiar, most of the patterns were completely unknown. Unrest creeped up in her. Something bothered her, something about this drawing was disturbing, though she couldn’t describe what it was.
“Ilyana Lerenton?” Ilyanas heart almost stopped as she heard her name, so absorbed had she been in the mysterious drawing. Pressing the page to her chest she tried to look not as guilty as she felt. She hadn’t done anything forbidden, but the tone of the voice said something different.
“Who wants to know that?” When she turned around, a man and a woman stood in front of her. They were of the same age, had the same dark-grey, bare robes. One might even think they were the same person, if they hadn’t been of different gender, so closely they resembled each other. No, that wasn’t quite right. They resembled each other too closely, were a perfect copy, from the same cold grey eyes, over the stiff posture, to the way the tilted their head. And both looked at Ilyana with the same expressionless face. “We’re here for you, please follow us.” The gaze of the twins went simultaneously to the piece of paper, that Ilyana was still clutching. “Furthermore we ask you to give us the page. It does not belong to you.” There was barely space for one person on the gangway, but they managed to stand next to each other. How Ilyana didn’t know. Maybe it was some kind of magic, or they were even thinner than Daneth.
Ilyana raised an eyebrow. “And why, if I may ask?” She didn’t like the situation, not one bit. “Who are you anyway?” A bad feeling crept up on her and she stood up.
The twins looked at her and made a step forward. “Our identity is inconsequential. Please, hand over the page and follow us or we will have to resort to force.” They took a second step towards her. Ilyana cursed silently and complied. There’s no sense in resisting anyway. Also, who knows, maybe they just take me to the medicus for the usual tea and biscuits …
The usual tea and biscuits, how Ilyana so lovingly described it, was something that happened every couple of weeks. A friendly guardsman came to pick her up and lead her to a small, sterile white room with a featureless table and some chairs. After a short time, a medicus came, a healer mage, who talked with her, checked her superficially and then let her go again. She couldn’t even remember when it started. Already as a small girl she seemed to have walked down the stairs, in the beginning with her father, later alone. As a child, she was scared, didn’t knew why she had to go to that room as the only one of her friends. No one wanted to explain it to her, her father had only sung her favourite song to calm her down. Though she never understood the text, indeed there never seemed to be a sense in it, it relaxed her. Every time he sang it, the song seemed to change a little bit. No matter how often Ilyana tried to sing it, she couldn’t remember all the text, the entire ever-changing melody, which is why she came to have her own version of the song. Sometime after her fourteenth winter she stopped singing, as it only reminded her of her father and the wound of his disappearance, his death was too fresh.
The reason for this procedure however was still lost on Ilyana. Why she was always brought to a medicus, even though she was in perfect health. Either it was just a vexatiousness, or there was another reason for it, unbeknownst to her. Whatever the matter, it led to Ilyana growing closer over the years with the guard that accompanied her, a young guardsman named Cait Ankin. On the way they talked about various things, and most of the times they had very lively discussions. A couple of weeks ago they had even started to see each other in their free time. Ilyana liked Cait, she really did. But if they wanted me to go the medicus, why isn’t he getting me like normally?
This time however she wasn’t led to the room she knew, but in a bare stone cell. It was empty save for a pile of straw and a flickering lamp on the ceiling, spreading a murky orange light. There were no windows, and with that no possibility to measure how much time had passed. Ilyana was pretty sure it was longer than an hour, before the door opened again and the twins stood before her, this time accompanied by half a dozen guardsmen. Since Ilyana had spent the time in the same position, here legs were accordingly tense as she stood up. Groaning she rubbed them and looked wondering at her escort.
“Where to this time?” Silence was her only answer. With a sigh Ilyana stepped through the door, whereas she was immediately surrounded. Every single man just stared straight, they even seemed to fear her. What did I do now, let a rabbit in the kitchen grow two heads? Puzzled she shook her head and followed them.
Whatever it was, Ilyana wasn’t worried. She hadn’t done anything wrong, broke no law … well, except the one or other rather dubious acquisition of rare books. But she didn’t count those, there was literally no one in Itdra who didn’t own one or two books which were bought under suspicious circumstances. You just couldn’t get them any other way. The question however remained, where were they taking her?
The answer had a long time coming. Seemingly forever they went on through the empty hallways and arcades of the Citadel, as if they wanted to evade other people. Higher and higher they went, until there was only one place left they could go. The councils’ chambers … but what do they want from me, only the council itself might enter, except when they are holding court over a hardened crimi … oh ohh … this is not good. But why? I haven’t done anything, what do they want from me?
When they finally stood before the great double winged door to the chamber of the council, panic bubbled up in Ilyana. Nervously she wringed her hands and rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet. Without a visible mechanism, the doors opened, painfully slow, cleared the view into a room overflowing with splendour. The floor was polished obsidian, ornate with inlays of gold bands, forming an intricate pattern of overlapping magic circles. Ilyana hoped that the circles were only decoration, because if it was a spell she didn’t know it. The room was a perfect hexagon with high windows, which in between periodically crystals hang, gleaming in a cold blue light. Except the one side with the doors, a gallery went from side to side. On each side stood a mage. The council was comprised of five master mages, everyone clad in gorgeous robes of a different colour. It was a symbol of their mastery of one of the five aspects of magic: A royal-blue robe for illusion, a carmine-red robe for destruction, a night-black robe for conjuring, a gold-yellow robe for transformation and a jade-green robe for healing. This rank was theirs for life, nothing except death could take the rank of a “Mage of the Council” from someone. Should a spot be vacant, the next master of the aspect would fill it. If there was none, they chose the most talented from all. However, he was only allowed to take part in the council after he actually reached mastery of the aspect. It was by far the highest honour and distinction, which also came with the highest responsibility. The council was Itdra’s beating heart. It decided everything, the laws, the trade, the wars. Though there hadn’t been a war in centuries, save for squabbles at the border. Itdra was far off from the other cities, isolated by its unique position. Furthermore, who in their right mind would want to declare war to a city full of mages? Once a week the council met here inside its chambers in the highest tower of the Citadel. Outside of the meetings they only met in emergencies, or to hold court over the worst criminals. Criminals, whose actions could have eradicated entire towns or landscapes, or had, which was also the source for Ilyanas discomposure. The sentences were never light.
Ilyana was brought into the middle of the room and stood there, in the centre between the members of the council. She knew the room was supposed to intimidate whoever was standing in it, but this knowledge didn’t help her either way. Alone in this giant hall, with five mages looking at her cold and uncaring, Ilyana felt small and insignificant. And she felt angst.
“Ilyana Lerenton, you are here because you have been found guilty of high treason, the practice of forbidden magic and the possession of forbidden magic objects.” The words seemed to come from every direction, boomed threating around her and ringed in her ears, while Ilyana stood still and blinked, unable to understand what she had heard.
“Guilty of … high treason? Why? Without a court? This is against every single law!” She didn’t want to, no, she was unable to understand. What is happening? Why … It felt like she had been run over by a carriage. She anticipated a lot, but not this.
The council remained unmoved. “There was a court, to which you were summoned but didn’t appear.” It was a lie. Ilyana knew it, the council knew it, but there was no possibility for her to prove it. The council was never wrong.
“No one summoned me to anything!”, she flared up, but not one of the high mages showed even the least bit of reaction. Everything they did was to remain unmoving on their gallery, their arms crossed and their cold gaze piercing Ilyana.
Another voice continued, again coming seemingly out of the ether: “You were summoned. It is of no importance to the council if you have received the letter or not. The guard will escort you to your cell, where you will stay until your execution.”
This pushed Ilyana over the edge. It happened just too fast. She didn’t even have the possibility to defend herself, much less to even grasp the situation. “Execution?! You … you are kidding me, right?! You can’t do that; I haven’t done anything! Let me go!” Her furious and desperate calls were lost in the long hallways, as Ilyana was dragged backwards by the twins out of the chamber.
Re: Shadowfire Sneakpeak
Posted: August 14th, 2017, 3:59 pm
Chapter 2: A Wolf’s every day
“Further and further they push, every day deeper into the grove. And the animals flee. Only we are left, defending our territory. Because where should we go?”
- Lore of Eldtur, Oldest of Wolves
Coltish barking woke me from wild, anxious dreams. Here we go again … Before I could even move, something jumped on my back and picked at my ear.
“Aunt Rika, get up, play with us!” With a playful growl, I rose and threw the cub from my back.
“What do you little mischiefs want from me; don’t you have anything better to do?” Around me stood the small mob of cubs from my pack, in all their different brown and grey hues. Six small wolves in number and as full of vim as an entire pack.
The small ones began to pout. “But everyone else is hunting and we’re not allowed to tag along. And you can’t play with Haron, he’s way too serious. So we want to play with you, you’re always fun!”
I sighed playfully: “Well then, if you insist …” I loved them with all my heart. Nothing made me more glad than to play with them. They too liked it. The cubs were the entire pride of the pack, and Haron, substitute for our pack leader, watched over them jealously. Which was fine, that was task as the second in the pack. However, he took it sometimes a bit too serious, like he did today.
I was rolling around with Rant, the oldest cub, over the forest floor, engaged in a mock battle. We bit and scratched without truly hurting each other, growled and laughed in equal measure. Tory, a usually shy cub, jumped upon my head and squealed: “I got you Rika, surrender!”, while the rest just followed his lead and jumped on my back, or nibbled at my legs.
With a laugh, I rolled on my back and exposed my throat as sign of defeat. “All right you big wolves, I surrender, you win.” Together as a small pile of fur we laid there, laughing, until a snarl, this time a real one, made me wince. Immediately I was on my feet and stood protecting in front of the cubs, the mud-brown fur bristled up, fangs bared. That was, until I realised who snarled. It was Haron himself, seemingly not pleased at all. Rage flashed in his eyes as he fixated me, slowly approaching. I huddled my tail close to my belly, lowered my head and backed down.
“What do you think you are doing Rika?”, he asked me, dangerously calm, while continuing to walk towards me. Angrily I snarled back.
“I played with the cubs. Is it that reprehensible?” Haron jumped at me and bit at my muzzle, making me yowl.
“Yes, it is! I’ve told you plenty a times to stay away from them! You’re unfit to even hunt and I don’t want you to pass it on to the young! We’ve got enough maws to feed.”
In my defence Tory meekly whimpered: “But Rika didn’t …”.
Haron cut him of dryly. “Be quiet. You have no idea. Just stay away from this … madwolf, it’s for your best. And now come, the pack will return soon from the hunt.”
Downcast and gloomy the cubs followed him, left me behind, angry and desperate. Why … Why won’t they treat me normal, what have I done? I can hunt and I can care for the cubs! It was like this every day. Though I felt like a part of the pack, I stood below even the whipping boy. I was ostracized, ignored and mocked, was the very last when feeding and now I apparently wasn’t even allowed to play with the cubs. In rage I struck at the ground with my claws, but I calmed down, resigned. I think they might be right when they say I’m a deadbeat and no-good. I don’t even manage to run away. After all … they are my pack. Although I wanted nothing more but to be accepted.
My stomach growled, while a cacophony of growls and yowls told me, that the pack indeed had returned. Driven by my hunger I too trotted slowly back to the rest of the pack. Darer welcomed me at the edge of the clearing where we camped. He looked battered, his fur ruffled and he hobbled lightly. “Hello Rika, you’re late. Haron claimed you wouldn’t come at all. Not, that he seemed all too mournful about it.”
His sight lifted my mood a little, despite his condition. I began to gently rub my head on his, a gesture of my affection and concern. “What did you even do? You’re looking even worse than usual.”
A faint smile flickered across his flews. “Those furless two-legged again, they ambushed and attacked as during the hunt. But at least we made it back.” His voice became quieter and saddened, until he shook his head and let out a short growl. “Come, maybe we can snatch something of the prey, before the big fight starts again.” He turned around and I followed him with wagging tail. Darer was for me what could be considered a friend. At least he was one of the few to treat me normal, not like an outcast. He and our Alpha, Vordan.
Scattered in the clearing stood and laid around a dozen grown wolves with a variety of fur colours, from grey- to brown-shades, to night-black and almost white, everything was there. My pack. Lost in thought I looked at them. Everyone was short of breath and there was none without injury. Some still bled and even more licked various scratches and small cuts. At least no one had been hit by one of their sticks with iron tops, that the two-legged shot with their stick-throwers. Being hit by one was akin to a death sentence. We could only remove them with great difficulty, if at all. And if you were hit in your leg, you could never run again, even if you managed to remove the stick. No matter where you were hit, the blood loss, the rubbing iron in your body, not many wolves survived it.
Not one of the wolves of the pack noticed me. The few that did, looked at me briefly, grimaced in annoyance and looked away again. Aggrieved my gaze wandered over them, until I stopped short. “Where is Turad?” Darer looked mournful at the ground and shook his head. “Killed by the two-legged. They venture ever deeper into the forest. There was almost no prey, and before we could hunt more, they came. Vordan immediately called to retreat, but instead of listening he just jumped right into the pack of two-legged. I have no idea how many he got before he was killed. We all ran as far as we could, until we heard his last, wailing howl. Without him we probably couldn’t have escaped, there were too many. But if this continues, in a couple of moons, there will be no one left. Given that we don’t starve before that.” It was true, with every moon we lost more pack members to the two-legged, and the game grew scarcer too. Even the forest was shrinking, every day the iron claws of the two-legged hacked at the trees, felled one after the other. In the beginning, we didn’t particularly cared, the forest was vast. We thought, they would stop when they had what they wanted. But they didn’t, they just hacked and hacked. At some point, we started to defend the forest. We tried talking to them, asking them to stop. It had ended in a blood bath on both sides. We surrounded them and wanted to negotiate with them. But as soon as we tried to explain, they attacked us. Slaughter followed. Since then we couldn’t venture to the edge of the forest, as soon as a wolf was spotted, they hunted him. By now the two-legged had even their own packs, roaming the forest, killing wolf and venison indiscriminately. Soon it would be time again to move on, deeper into the forest and closer to the mountain.
The sole thought made a cold shiver run down my spine and made my fur bristle up. The mountain was the only height of note inside the forest, a rocky needle rising above the green sea. He didn’t have any other name, and he didn’t need one. Even as a cub we were told: Don’t go to the mountain. There is a beast, a dangerous shadow, striking from the sky, a merciless hunter. Don’t go to the mountain. Whatever you do, wherever you go, stay clear of it, or the winged hunter will take you. Don’t go to the mountain. The fear was imbedded so deep into each of us, in our very own nature. Whatever was there, it was dreadful enough to burn itself into our memory for generations. And still we continued to retreat to him. We didn’t have a choice.
Today the hunt had been especially unsuccessful, again. For every of the thirty wolves, counting the cubs, there were only two scrawny deer with barely enough meat for three wolves. To avoid the usual scuffles and fights, Vordan gave everyone a portion. The times were difficult, but Vordan cared for the entire pack. Without reproach he tried to be just and help everyone. Nevertheless, I was surprised to hear my name, that I was given something. Vordan still thought of me as part of the pack, no matter what the other wolves thought, so he treated me like one. Our Alpha was no ordinary wolf after all. But despite his orders, there were still scraps, it couldn’t be avoided. Apart from some few, almost all wolves insisted on the hierarchy. Everyone should only get what he deserved. We all had the highest respect for Vordan, but lately, anarchy spread inside our pack. Everyone was desperate. I tried of course to get hold of my piece, but was always driven off by snarls and angry bites. Finally I did manage to get hold of a piece. Tearing it apart I immediately ran away with it, to eat it in peace. The taste of fresh blood filled my maw and I wagged happily with my tail, but shortly before I swallowed up, I stopped. A bit to the side, all six cubs stood around a mouthful of meat, unsure who should take the first bite so there would be something left for the others. I turned to my piece and went, under Haron’s scowling gaze, to the little ones. “Here. It’s not much, but you’ll have a bit more.” I instantly turned around, I knew they would refuse, wouldn’t want it. But at least the cubs should survive. My stomach cramped painfully, complaining about my choice. Seven suns without food … I wonder how long a wolf can stand that. Another hungry night awaited me.
However, before I could lay down to sleep, Haron approached me again. At his frown I lowered my ears instinctively. “See Rika, this is your problem. You’re too friendly. What do you care about the cubs, hm? No one has asked you, so just keep to yourself. You’re behaving more like a timid fawn, a true wolf would never give up his prey, especially not at times like this.”
Most of the time I was calm, reticent, gave way. Sometimes though, even I lost my patience. Angrily I growled back: “So you’re telling me to be selfish and egoistical? Should put my own wellbeing above that of the pack, should be a damn egoist like you, should I?! We’re a pack, all of us, and we have to stick together!” By now I was just roaring at him. Dead silence surrounded us, everyone was looking at us. Haron just smiled.
“Rika, Rika, Rika … you’re never learning, are you? If everyone would just care for themselves, we wouldn’t have problems like you. Moocher, parasites who can do nothing themselves and only rely on others. They disgust me. You disgust me. I just say what everyone has been thinking anyway. Shove off, Rika, and never come back. If I, or any other wolf would be in your position, we’d be long gone. But you stay … maybe you ran with your head against a tree once too often.” He circled me slowly, tail raised and the fur in his neck bristled up. I had laid my ears low, but my teeth were bared and I snarled.
“That’s not true! We’re wolves, we’re a pack! We need to stick together; a single wolf could never survive!”
He just laughed. “You couldn’t survive alone, a wolf could. You’re no wolf, you’re a disgrace! When was the last time you hunted something yourself, you did anything yourself?!”
I became more and more desperate, didn’t knew what to do. “You never let me come with you! If I never get the chance, how am I supposed to prove anything?”
“Then prove it now!” With those words, Haron lunged at me. It was no mock battle, or a fight for your place in the pack. His eyes gleamed with the desire to kill. Before he could reach me however, something rammed his side and threw him off. Vordan intervened and roared at us both. Immediately I took my tail between my legs and ducked, while Haron just growled annoyed and then snorted.
“What do you both think you’re doing?! Stop bickering like raucous cubs! It’s hard enough as is. Haron, Rika is right, we have to stick together. You’re my successor, you above all should know that.” Haron grinded his teeth. “And Rika … I’m sorry, but Haron is also right. You’re … I can’t put it in words. You’re a wolf, but … different.” Vordan shook his head and continued with a firm voice. “It doesn’t matter. As of now you will help, with everything. I will tell everyone that you are a member of the pack and they should treat you like one, no matter how … strange you behave.” After Vordan had ended, he turned around and left. Haron shot me a glance like he wanted to say: “Be glad you’re still alive”, and left after him. Tired, scared and still filled with fear I took a few steps and curled up, some spaces away from the rest of the pack. It didn’t take long for me to fall into an uneasy sleep.
The morning was calm. Still tired and weary I laid down, tried to get at least a bit more rest. At least, no one jumped on me, no one tried to wake me, not a single sound was heard … no sound? Wait, it’s too quiet! Abruptly I opened my eyes, jumped up and saw … nothing. I was completely alone on an unknown clearing, not a single trace of my pack. Anxiously I sniffed at the air, but couldn’t catch any scent. No wolf had been here in the last days. The only scent was my own. Panic began to rise up in me, I ran to and fro, tried to find a familiar place, something I could orient myself on, but nothing. It seemed like the entire pack just disappeared, swallowed by the ground. Or rather, as if I fell asleep with my pack, but wake up at a completely different place. That’s not possible … where is everyone? In my desperation I dug with my paws into the ground, without knowing what I actually expected to find. Behind every tree, under every stone I looked, but the result was the same. No trace, no bundle of fur in the brushwood, not even a scent. They were plain and simply gone. Is it possible? Did we venture too close to the mountain and now the shadow carried everyone off except for me? No, that’s nonsense, we still were far away, that’s just not possible.
“So … what do I do now?” Marrowless I slumped down and just laid there. My head was buzzing with thoughts, but none made sense. Something took the ground from under my feet and I fell into a deep hole. Of course, they hadn’t treated me especially well, but they were my pack! What should I do without them, all alone? Haron was right, I was a terrible hunter. Additionally, in all the five winters I was alive, I’ve never been alone before. I had grown up in this pack and stayed with them, even though most of the other cubs left after their first, at the latest second winter to found their own pack. Only I stayed, couldn’t break away. Maybe this was also the reason why everyone tried to scare me away. Not because of malevolence, but just for my own good. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. I needed them. I struggled to stand up, threw my head back and howled into the day. A sad howl from deep within my soul that could be heard throughout the forest. But no wolf answered, it was just the lone sound of my own voice. Again and again I called, sang my sadness and solitude into the early morning air, but I got no answer.
Again, it was my stomach, that convinced me to carry on. The hunger gave me a hard time. I needed something to eat, if I didn’t want to just fall over at some time. Restless I roamed through the forest, without plan or aim, followed first one, then the other scent. I jumped over small becks, followed them upstream with the hope to find something, but to no avail. The sun stood high in the sky and began to fall. The day came slowly to an end. Of course, I didn’t have any problem hunting in the night, I actually preferred the night. However, the hunger distracted me, kept me from using my senses in a way they could help me in the dark. So I had to make do with the day.
Further and further I ran, looking only ahead, cared about nothing around me. My paws drubbed at the soft forest ground. With every step, small darts of pain shot up my legs, but they weren’t unpleasant. They showed me that I was still alive, that I could still run. So, I ran, weaved through the trees, jumped over fallen trunks and only stopped once to still my thirst at a small stream. The water tasted brackish and earthy, but it was enough. Lately I didn’t have high demands. My tired body screamed for rest and food, but I forced myself on, I had to find my pack. Or at least the food I was so longing for. At some point the inevitable happened. My left front leg gave in, I tripped, tumbled over and rolled over the forest ground. Completely exhausted and drained I laid at the ground and gasped for air, when my gaze fell on a giant grey shadow that grew from the ground, which was suddenly above me, to the sky below. I took a while for me to realise that I, lying on my back, head bent back, saw everything upside down. Arduously I rolled on my belly, but kept lying down, looking up to the structure before me. It couldn’t have been any different … out of the fire and …
My quest for food had brought me to the base of the mountain. He did seem to be closer before, still only a silhouette in the distance, but now it was looming menacing above me. Or stood, or rather laid, in front of it, and so far, no monster had eaten, taken, burned or mangled me. Which was something. Maybe, if I climb it, I can find a way back. From up there you might see the whole forest. The idea itself seemed not bad, but there was still a small problem. I was still terribly afraid of the mountain. I can’t climb it, no way! Even if I could, without running into a monstrous beast, I just can’t. The wind changed and suddenly I could smell something. Meat, food. The scent clearly came from the mountain. It was a terrible, pungent stench of burned and charred meat … but meat nonetheless. By now I didn’t care what it was, as long as I could eat it. There was no question anymore. Every fear, every doubt was swept away by my hunger. There was food on the mountain, so I would climb it.
In the beginning, I didn’t notice much of a difference. The ground just slowly became steeper, just to rise up sharply after some point. There was no trail, so I just cleaved my own way through the thick underwood, broke through thicket, leaving bundles of fur at the branches clawing after me. However, the higher I got, the lighter the forest became, until he ended abruptly. In front of me was a field of rubble and bare rock, stretching to the mountaintop. The air up here was different, clearer and colder. Of course, my fur protected me from the cold, I didn’t noticed it much except for the clear and fresh smell. The earthy aroma of the forest and the clear air of the mountain mixed, became something unique, magical. I’d never felt anything like it. As crazy as it might have sound, but I felt … at home. Not on this mountain particularly, but in the height, the cold and the eternal ice on top of the highest mountains, only existing in the tales of my pack. My entire body vibrated with energy, in spite of my hunger.
With great leaps I covered the distance to the very edge of the trees, but didn’t set a paw beyond. Conflicting feelings troubled me still. On the one hand, the old warnings came to my mind, the old fear. On the other hand I wanted to explore this incredible feeling, to climb further atop the mountain. Maybe, just maybe there was a hint, where my pack might be. One could never know. That, and of course my gnawing hunger finally urged me to continue. Though, I still couldn’t but think of the old legends of fiery beasts, coming down from the sky on giant wings to burn everything they came across, or to tearing it apart with massive claws. The smell of burned meat and wood that lingered at the forests edge didn’t exactly help to calm my fears either. Still, there was food, and my stomach was making me mad. Just what should I do?
It took me a while to decide. In the end, the hunger won. I prowled onwards, body pressed tightly to the ground, every muscle tensed up, ready to flee at a moment’s notice. On the hard ground my claws clicked with every step, a maddening noise. Especially, because it made any attempt to sneak impossible. It was the only noise around, there was an almost eerie silence that made shivers run down my spine. My tail lashed nervously from one side to the other, while I continued to climb. When I realized how daft I behaved, especially because there was no one around far and wide and there was no reason to be so tensed up, I forced myself to walk normally. The sound of my claws, paired with the feeling of them scratching over the rock, still gnawed at my mind. Higher up I climbed, and with every step I took I became more nervous and excited. My tail twitched while I warily sniffed the air. But I couldn’t sense another being.
No one lunged at me or plunged down on me. It seemed like I was the only living being on the entire mountain. Since I started climbing, the only sound I had heard was my breath any my claws, no sight except eternal grey-brown rock above a sea of green treetops, no smell but the scent of the forest and the meat, growing ever stronger. By now my mouth was watering and my stomach growled. There was no doubt left in me. If there was just the slightest chance to find some food, I would find it. I just had to follow my nose, so I held it into the wind and sniffed, following the delicious scent. The burned part I ignored consequently. The smell led me after a short time to a cave entrance, half hidden in the side of the mountain. The ground in front of it was black and cracked, even felt slightly warm. Here the scent of fire and smoke was especially strong. It came from deeper inside the cave. Another aroma was underneath it, heavy, dark and tart, completely unknown to me, but I ignored it just like the stench of the fire. My mind was focused on only one thing, the meat.
Slowly I entered the pitch black darkness of the cave, where the tart smell grew more intensive. My eyes took some time to accustom to the missing light. Finally I could at least see at least rough shapes and didn’t run the risk of running into something every few steps. Even though I was following my nose more than my eyes. And my nose didn’t disappoint me, after a short while, without collision with something bigger then a small boulder, I reached the place of my desire. A small cave in a for me seemingly endless labyrinth of rooms and tunnels, reeking of burned fire and charcoal, as well as the pervasive heavy smell, subtle between the others, but always there. The cave I was in seemed to be some sort of stockpile, because there was meat, mountains of meat. Enough to feed the entire pack for half a moon, at least. Unsure I looked around, until I found a piece I liked. I had no idea what kind of meat it was, but it wasn’t as burned as the rest, even though it still tasted awfully like fire. Though, I didn’t care either way, it was food and my stomach longed to be filled. Voraciously I teared at the meat and gobbled it down, ate until I felt like I would burst. I forgot everything around me, only the next bite existed. No matter how burned it was, it was a feast for the gods, never in my life had I tasted anything comparable. Since a very long time, I was actually full. A nice feeling.
More for fun than hunger I still nibbled on a strip of meat, when I bit down on something hard and grimaced. What is that? And even more important, why is something stone hard in my food? I pushed it around in my maw with my tongue, wavering if I should spit it out or not, when suddenly hot and cold shivers ran down my whole body. Fiery breath blew into the nape of my neck and ruffled my fur. A flannelly, most likely not amused growl made my bones tremble. At least now I knew, that the stories had been true.
Re: Shadowfire Sneakpeak
Posted: August 14th, 2017, 4:00 pm
Chapter 3: Unwelcome Guests
“We were the sovereigns of sky and the masters of fire. Both titles are now claimed by the humans. Does that mean we’re now merely big lizards with wings?”
- Engraving in the wall of the Krishtom mine
He was free, flew above the clouds, unbound by gravity, duty or responsibility. Without effort, he was gliding on his majestic wings through the sky and watched the world below him. It laid spread out, so tiny and yet so incredibly vast. Directly below him his mountain rose above the forest like a giant bolder in a sea of grass. From up here one could even see the city of the humans, with their innumerable towers, piercing the sky like a provocation to him, Raiden. As if they wanted to mock him: “Come and look. The sky belongs to us; the time of the dragons has passed.” A hot tug spread in his stomach and fire seethed in his throat at the thought, that the humans would take away even the sky from him. But Raiden calmed down quickly again. Humans … pitiful creatures. They are not worthy of my wrath. Also without them, I would have starved long ago. His carmine-red scales blazed in the sunlight, while he continued to calmly glide and think, to relax. Only while flying, Raiden could relax best and gather his thoughts. He relished every second. The wind, sweeping over his scales. His strained wing membrane, stretching with the pressure of the wind. The piercingly clear air, the view, everything. There was nothing greater.
It really was ironical. Raiden abhorred humans from the bottom of his heart, but without them, he would have much bigger problems finding prey. Every couple of weeks a small group of humans came with food, they talked and even played. Well, that was not entirely true. Every couple of weeks, a small group of humans came, which Raiden ate, after they wanted to ingratiate themselves with him, then intimidate him, and at some point, just murder him in his sleep. And before it came to that, Raiden killed them, shelled them from their metal husks and cured them. There’s nothing better than a piece of well cured meat. Normally he didn’t like human meat, it had a nasty stench, but at least it was very tender, and the taste of smoke gilded most of sourish, unwashed stench. Of course, Raiden would have preferred a nice deer, but the forest was as good as empty. Two years ago, it was brimming with life, filled with the sound of birds, with wolves, stags and countless other animals, roaming under the green leafy roof. But then the humans came, with their axes and started to fell the trees, they came with spears, bows and swords and drove every other being of they came across. The forest was still big, yes, but towards the city of the humans it was melting away like ice in the sun. Most animals had left the forest, only the trees were left and the last bullheads who didn’t want to leave. Like Raiden.
What the humans who always came to him wanted was beyond him. Apparently, there was something in his cave where he lived that they wanted desperately. What, they wouldn’t tell him. They only demanded free entry into his cave, or rather the entire cave itself. They offered Raiden to live in the city with the humans, to enjoy himself there instead of stagnating in the wilderness. Only in how many pieces he would be in the city, that they omitted. Raiden knew the humans all too well, and trusted them further than he could breathe fire, none of them. He would never, under any circumstances give them his cave. It was his sanctuary and no human would enter it for as long as he still had breath left. I wonder when they’ll return with their hollow promises.
In fact, it didn’t take long, until the next group of humans arrived. While he circled above them, in his eyes no more than a large bird in the sky, he observed them. There were eight, heavy packed in their uncomfortable iron scales, hanged with iron claws. Raiden just snorted and shook his head. Stupid little humans, they should just leave me alone. Then I wouldn’t have to kill them and could hunt like any other dragon. Why won’t they understand? He continued to watch them climbing his mountain, nervously looking left and right, but not once into the sky. Their goal was clear to Raiden, they directly approached his gave. While he saw them like this, he had an idea and grinned. When the humans had almost reached the entrance to his cave, Raiden folded his wings halfway and went into a nose dive. The humans still didn’t realise anything. Only as he roared and billowed fire at them, they looked up into the sky, their eyes widening in shock. The flames didn’t even reach the humans, they had another purpose. To instil fear into them, to impress them and, in the best case, to scare them away. Raiden was faster than the fire, so it enveloped him while he raced at the ground. Only shortly before the impact he spread his wings and stopped abruptly, but not enough. With an earth-shattering bang he thudded on the ground. Every bone in his body felt like it must have been shattered by the impact and he grimaced painfully. I should really stop doing this kind of entrances. That’s not healthy. The smoke and fire were blown away by the shockwave of the impact. The humans laid in shambles on the ground because of the heat wave he produced, and now tried to gather themselves.
Raiden wasn’t especially big for a dragon. Standing upright, he stood maybe twice the height of a normal human. His deep red scales glistened in the sunlight, his belly and forehead adorned with darker, bigger plates. Protruding from his head were two long and curved ivory horns. The back of his jaw was seam on both sides with ridges of small soft thorns. Starting at the base of his head, a row of spikes trailed down his spine, first small, then growing bigger, and finally smaller again down his tail. His body didn’t seem muscled, rather sinuous and slender, not build for power, but speed. Indeed, Raiden had always been the weakest of his clutch, but also the nimblest. His four long, almost delicate limbs ended in paws with three long, sharp claws and a small one on the back of his paws. His tail was almost as long as the rest of his body, the tail tip adorned with a long, two parted arcuate fin. Compared to his rather small body, his wings were humongous. Completely spread out, Raiden would have been able to wrap himself up in them, twice. But the most striking thing were his eyes. The eyes of a dragon were something remarkable. Dragons lived in caves, so their eyes were adapted to those surroundings. Their slit pupils could see perfectly in near complete darkness and were very sensitive to light. Outside of caves however, that proved a problem, no matter how far the pupils contracted, the light was still blindingly bright. But nature was inventive. Above a dragon’s eye was a membrane, darkening itself in sunlight with the colour of the dragon’s iris. With completely brown, by amber veins pervaded eyes without a visible pupil, Raiden looked down on the scared humans.
Still numbed by his hard landing, Raiden tried to stand as prideful and regal as he could manage, before elegantly laying down, making an effort not to show how much his paws hurt. The humans in the meantime got on their feet again and looked at him as if they had never seen a dragon before. Which probably was true, there weren’t many dragons around anymore, not in this area. All of the man wore similar metal scales they called “armour”. Compared to the splendour of a dragon’s scaled hide, they were uniformly grey and boring. Neither did they offer real protection, maybe they could scare a doe with it, but no dragon. Instead of own claws, they tinkered some from metal, which they swung clumsily. Two had no claws, but long sticks with metal tops.
Except one, they all seemed to be very young to Raiden, and not especially hardened veterans. At least not in a fight with a dragon, which again wasn’t very surprising. With that many humans calling themselves “dragon slayer”, it’s a miracle our race still exists at all. Even though, if they continue like this, it won’t be for long.
And like always, there was one hothead in the group, immediately drawing is iron claw they called “sword”, running towards Raiden and screaming meaningless words. His idea to impress the humans with his landing seemed to have failed. He prepared himself to burn the fool to a pile of ash and metal slag, but a gruff voice from one of the man made the assailant stop and return. The hair of the one who had called was greying and he looked older than the rest of them, more dignified. Maybe their leader, who could know what humans were thinking. When the assailant returned, he instantly grabbed him and shoved him behind a giant boulder. The rest of the human followed suit and hid behind the same rock. The scales on Raidens forehead rose slightly in wonder and he wanted to turn away, puzzled about the illogical behaviour of them, and humans in general, until something made him stop. They started talking, and Raiden stood still to listen to them. He couldn’t understand all of the inelegant and choppy words of their language, but enough to be able to follow their heated discussion.
“Dereb, do you want to kill yourself?! We’re not here to kill the dragon and you know that!” Dereb made an angry noise, but lowered his metal claw.
“Why? The dragon definitely did attack us, it almost killed us all! And we were explicitly told, should we be attacked we are to defend ourselves! Also, think of it like this: No one would really miss a dragon, but dragon scales are worth a fortune. There’s no point in asking the lizard anyway, how is it supposed to understand us?” Raiden was torn between a laugh and an angry growl. You think you’re so tough with your shining armour, are so much superior then me. This arrogance is detestable. If I wanted to, I could roast you in an instant or tear you to shreds. And you think me a stupid beast? You’re the ones stupid to insult one of Gajas most grand creatures!
Now Raiden returned to the entrance to his cave nevertheless, curled up, his head laid between his claws. Bored, he began to clean them, still having his ears peaked at their conversation.
After a short pause, their leader spoke again. “You have no idea, do you? If the dragon indeed had wanted to attack us, he would have killed us. I just think he likes dramatic entrances. He’s still almost a youngling, they tend to do that. And I don’t care what those dear mages told us. The dragon stays alive!”
Dereb wouldn’t budge. “Now look, Tindal, do you really believe that this … beast would leave us alive for even one second if we’d give him the chance? And most of all: How the hell do you want to know that it’s just a youngling? Have you seen how big it is, how it roared at us? Do you think that was just a show?” That was too much for Raiden. He began to laugh full-throated, sounding like chopped, soft growls. What would he give to see their faces right now.
“He isn’t roaring at us. He laughs, probably about us I’d wager. Imagine it like this, how would you feel if some mice with splinters in their paws would try to break into your house? That’s how it seems to him. We’re nothing but mice to the dragon, and he is amused by us.” Raiden almost wanted to speak out, but suddenly Dereb flared up.
“Laughing? Are you actually kidding me? This is a giant, stupid, fire breathing lizard, and you’re trying to tell me it’s laughing?! It’s neither intelligent nor able to feel anything but hunger. Next you’re trying to convince me it’s going to speak to us. I don’t care what you tell me, we’ll go out and kill that beast!” The man who had tried to attack Raiden emerged from behind the boulder and advanced towards Raiden.
By now Raiden got a hold of himself and did exactly what he had thought impossible. In all the time the humans came to him again and again, he learned their language, though speaking still came hard to him. His throat wasn’t made for those kind of noises, but he tried. With a smoky voice, more an articulately growling than speaking, Raiden spoke out to Dereb. “Oh, but why shouldn’t I be able to talk?” Dereb stopped dead in his track, staring at Raiden with gaping mouth and his eyes wide open. The other man also looked befuddled, only Tindal seemed little surprised. He seemed to have expected something like this.
“The … the lizard … talked? This … how is this even possible?” The man still stared at Raiden, while the dragon laughed again.
“Not the stupid beast you thought me to be? Now, what are you going to do? Slaughter me like you do with every other dragon, with everything you meet?” The former hothead was now properly dumbfounded.
“But no one told us, we didn’t …” The fact that dragon seemed to be intelligent was apparently too much for him, so Tindal carried on.
“Great dragon, I apologize for the behaviour of my companions, please do not think bad of them. It’s the first time for everyone here, meeting a dragon. We don’t want you any harm, we just want to explore your cave and mountain. We suspect things there, that are very valuable to us, small blue crystals, hidden deep in the stone. If you would just let us in, so we can search for them.”
Raiden just grinned, baring his teeth. “You know, many have come before you, telling me the same. None have returned to where they came from.” After those words, tumult broke out between the humans. Everyone shouted and roared at eachother.
“This wasn’t in the contract! Those bloody deceiving mages!”
“What do you mean, no one has returned?! I thought we were the first they sent!”
“Tindal, is this true? By the nine gates of hell, I swear if I make it out of this I kill every single one of those mages in their enclave. Sending us to our death without so much of a word!” Tindal tried his best to get the situation under control, but to no avail.
“Calm down! If you bloody worms would keep your shit together, no one will die!” His voice had changed, took on a hard tone in complete contrast to his flattering to Raiden. But the men, once in rage, wouldn’t calm down and now turned on their leader.
“Wait a minute, why did you know about it?” The sound of metal scraping over metal rang, as they drew their claws. “We’re just simple mercenaries, but you were given us from those mages as guide. You knew, what we got into, why didn’t you said anything, hm?!” Tindal hope his hands in defence.
“I didn’t want to make you worry unnecessarily. If we just stay calm, we can do this without shedding as much as a drop of blood.” His words had little effect, the men seemed intent on exactly that, shedding blood.
“If I remember correctly, there definitely was something about a bonus for the head of the dragon, am I right?” Positive shouts rang down the mountain.
“Yes! Kill the beast! One monster less to threaten the lands. For glory and gold!” This was too much for Tindal, he stood up and blocked their path. “Enough! I’m still your leader on this mission and I tell you, put away your swords! No one will …” He was interrupted when Dereb shoved him away.
“Step aside old man. There is a dragon to kill. And if we’re done with it, it’s your turn. The less who return, the more for the rest of us.” With those words he raised his sword and charged towards Raiden, followed closely by the other men. Raiden in the meantime just shook his head in disdain. Humans. Always so bloodthirsty, filled with the urge to kill. And they call us monster. I’ll never understand them. He started to spread his wings, wanted to take off, but he wasn’t fast enough. It just took a moment for him to be completely surrounded. Immediately they began slashing at his wings, and Raiden folded them again, hissing angrily at the humans.
Again in his own tongue, the language of the dragons, he growled at them. “I will roast you all, scaleless insects!” The humans weren’t impressed. Slowly they circled him, slashing at him again and again, cutting at his legs and flanks. Raiden however could barely make an advance, every time he tried, the would pierce at any opening. But at some point, he lost his patience. With a mighty blow from his paw he hit two men at once and threw them against the wall. What followed was a dull cry, followed by a hideous cracking sound, as their bones broke. Without stopping he whirled around, using his tail like a club to throw another man away. Suddenly he found himself directly in front of Dereb, his sword hovering a claws distance from Raiden’s throat, ready to strike. Reflexive the dragon jumped back and let his right paw come crashing down on Dereb’s still raised sword. Bones shattered and the man’s armour was crushed to a pulp, including contents. But Raiden paid his price, his sword had pierced clean through Raidens paw, the hilt on the bottom, while the tip stuck out from the top of his paw. Beside himself with rage and pain, Raiden forgot everything around him. He didn’t care anymore if they would wound him, he just wanted to squish all of them to a bloody pulp. And so, he did. Two more fell to his claws. The man he had thrown away with his tail before was standing again and came at him shouting. Raiden only took a deep breath and threw his fire towards him. The man screamed, as when the flames reached him, but when he hit the ground it was only a weak gurgle, coming from his throat. The last assailant threw away his sword and ran away screaming, confronted with Raidens bloodied claws and flaming rage, but he was grabbed too. With one leap Raiden was behind him, snapped his maw shut around him and ripped him in half with his teeth. Steel crunched between his teeth and the sharp edges cut his flews, but he didn’t care.
Only one was left, Tindal, former leader of the group. The man kneeled on the ground, the sword to his front and his hands folded around the hilt, his head held down. He actually seemed to pray, or whatever it was that humans did. Raiden nevertheless hobbled towards him and lifted his chin with a claw of the paw the sword had pierced. For an endless moment, Raiden looked him in the eyes. Hot blood dripped from his maw onto the face of the man. “If you want to kill me, dragon, do it. I don’t fear death, on the contrary. I have lived my life as I thought was right, in the name of Gaja I have respected all life, even those I took. If now should be my time do die, I regret nothing.”
Raiden drew his claw from his chin and left a bloody scratch, but nothing more. “If this is the truth, human, then go back to your kin and make them leave me alone. Tell them that the dragon Raiden will leave none alive that seek to kill him … but spares those, who are peaceful. Now go before I change my mind.” In Tindals eyes wordless gratitude glowed, and he started to murmur while still kneeling in front of his sword, but Raiden had lost all interest. He had hobbled back to his cave already. The first thing he did there was, while cursing loudly, to remove the sword from his paw.
“Those wingless two-legged, someday I’ll rip out the throat from each one of them.! Hrrrrr damn it this hurts …” Carefully he licked his wounded paw while grumbling. “I’m so looking forward to those elegant landings I’m going to do with three paws. Hrrrrmpf.” Next, he attended to all the other cuts, distributed over his body, licked them thoroughly clean and stretched each muscle, just to make sure nothing serious was hurt. Then came the routine. For a so called wild beast, Raiden was fanatic in the matter of order. He took every single corpse and carried them to the entrance of his cave. Those, who were damaged too much, he just burned down until nothing but ash remained. The rest he meticulously stripped of their armour and threw everything on a pile. The now naked corpses were carried in his cave, into a special chamber.
Raiden was no scavenger, but he didn’t like to waste meat. The hunt was a inconstant source of food, you never knew how much you would find. So, he stored all the meat he didn’t eat immediately in this cave. In its centre a small fire was smouldering continuously. The smoke escaped through small cracks in the ceiling, so his entire cave wouldn’t be filled with smoke. Very early, Raiden had discovered that smoke stopped the meat from rotting. Also, it gave the meat an interesting taste. He laid down his new prey to the rest of his stockpile, a mess of venison, smaller animals and other fools who had tried to climb his mountain.
Now he left the cave again and brought all the metal into the same chamber, but to the other side. Here, dented, torn and otherwise damaged armour parts and weapons were piled up. Roughly sorted between weapons and armour, or what he thought that it was. With his work done, Raiden stretched and laid down in front of his lair, but restlessness had filled him. Tindal, the man he spared, wouldn’t leave his thoughts. It had been one word, one word that made Raiden spare the human. Gaja.
It was a name he had heard countless times in the tales of his mother, when she was still alive. She had told him and his siblings from the world, the great connections, how everything was one, everything that lived and even the lifeless things, how everything was just part of a whole. And this whole was Gaja, the living world. Everything in this world was invisibly connected, unknowable to the normal mind. But if one part was brought out of balance, the whole system suffered. This was the reason why she had always told him: “Don’t hate the humans, Raiden, or any other being. You never know their motivation. Defend yourself, be proud, be strong, but don’t fall victim to hate, no matter what. Everything has its place on this world, no matter what it did or should do. There is reason to everything.” Raiden scratched with his unhurt paw over the rock. You knew, didn’t you? Or at least you guessed what would happen. But I’m sorry … I can’t feel anything different but hate for them, with all my being. Not after what they did to you, father and my siblings. I don’t care about reason, I simply cannot forgive them.
To clear his head from the cheerless thoughts, Raiden stoop up clumsily, holding his right paw into the air. It didn’t bled anymore, his wounds healed fast, but the pain was still strong. Carefully he spread his wings, beat them a couple of times and then growled in content. With all the strength he could muster in his three legs, he jumped into the air and rose to the sky, let himself be carried by the updrafts. Gliding, high up in the sky, Raiden could finally calm down, forget the worrying thoughts and the exertion. In the sky, he was free. Why can’t I just fly on forever, never land? I could … wait. What’s that now? A brown shadow had come to his attention, sneaking up the mountain side. What or who it was, Raiden couldn’t tell, only that it was no human. Is a moment of quiet too much to ask? Hrrraaa … With a sigh he descended in slow circles. By now he had identified the shadow as wolf, going determined in direction of his cave. What does a hunter of the forest want here? Is the forest not big enough for them? The wolf disappeared into his cave and Raiden prepared to land. Like a falling star he descended from the sky, only to spread his wings shortly before the ground to came to a complete stop. His hind legs touched the ground first, after that he touched down with his front legs to fully stop. However he had forgotten that he couldn’t use one of them. What followed resembled only little of the elegant landing he had in mind: Raidens right front leg buckled, he lost his balance and crashed ruggedly with his side into the rock. Cursing, he picked himself up, swearing at the humans, his wounded paw, and most of at all at his own stupidity. Again hobbling, he entered his cave. There was no question where he would find the wolf, there was only one place of interest for him. His food supplies. Like he had thought, the wolf laid there and self-indulged ate a strip of meat after the other. Raiden placed himself close behind the wolf and blew hot air into his neck. Still angry after what had happened that day, Raiden growled: “What do you think you are doing, forest hunter?”
The wolf flinched and turned slowly around, a piece of meat still hanging slightly out of his maw. Raiden cocked his head while the wolf whimpered lowly, looking scared left and right. Hobbling another step, he asked again: “Can you not talk? What does a wolf want with my meat? Hunt something yourself!” Instead of answering, the wolf suddenly jumped up and ran between Raidens legs, darting to the outside. If Raiden would have been unhurt, he would have given pursuit, but now his pursuit ended the moment he tried to turn around, slamming his wounded paw against the wall and crying out in pain. The wolf was now long gone, down the mountain. At first Raiden wanted to flare up again, but then he just snorted. What a crazy day …
Re: Shadowfire Sneakpeak
Posted: August 16th, 2017, 1:16 pm
I can't promise that I'll have much time to do so, but I could help you edit if you wanted me too. I don't know much German but... Just started reading, and it's good! Will get stuck in I reckon.
Re: Shadowfire Sneakpeak
Posted: September 16th, 2017, 12:47 pm
I am finished with the rough translation of the entire thing, and am looking desperately for help in correcting any spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as any weird phrasing.
If someone wants to help me, pm me in discord!
Thanks again to all who are interested and helped me so far!