Between fire and ice
The spell that was uttered
to forever keep death at bay
it will one day loose its power
caught between fire and ice
The inn of The mad rooster was a quite ordinary little inn, it served as a pub for the local people and it was a place to rest and sleep for travelers who came along. The village in which it was placed happened to be just where two important roads met and so there were always customers there. An unfamiliar face was nothing unusual there and the regular customers did not pay any attention to the strangers who came and went again after a short rest or a night’s sleep in one of the four available rooms. The inn had a stable and a good farrier and people said that the food they served there could be compared with the food served at the king’s court. Many of the locals tried to sneak away from their dark small homes and the constant work to relax and forget the hardships of their lives within these old walls.
They would drink some ale and tell some stories or jokes and just enjoy a few hours together with their neighbors. Outside the winter had attached its grip around the land and there was little work to be done now, the innkeeper knew that this time of the year would mean a good income for him. There were few travelers but now the locals had enough time to visit and all the ale barrels were full and ready.
This evening the small bar was full as usual, a few strangers sat in a dark corner and talked about the terrible condition in which the autumn rain had left the roads.
In another corner a lonely man sat with a huge plate of stew and a pint in front of him. His head was covered by a hood and nobody could see his face. That strangers tried to stay unknown was not unusual and nobody cared about him; he did not bother anyone and so nobody bothered him in return. The local men were noisy, they had been drinking a lot this evening, one of them had just gotten married and they were celebrating. The innkeeper was running around with a big smile and a big jug filled with ale and the two bar girls had more than enough to do. The atmosphere was relaxed and very good; the fire danced in the fireplace and the cold winter outside the door was forgotten by everybody.
The stranger in the corner raised his hand and one of the bar girls saw and walked toward him with a new pint. He nodded and for a second she caught a glimpse of his eyes, they mirrored the flame from the fireplace in a peculiar way, as if a similar flame lived somewhere within his glance. She left the pint at the table and looked at him more carefully, he was a tall man, well over two meters and his shoulders were wide. He wore good leather armor and he had strong boots on his long legs.
The bar girl had seen all kinds of people but this man was somewhat of an enigma too her. He looked like a handsome fellow so why did he hide his face and what about his eyes? She felt curious, but she did not ask, she recognized a warrior when she saw one and this man was dangerous, she felt it with the very essence of her soul. He was surrounded by an aura of something fierce and brutal but at the same time she had a very strong feeling that he wasn’t evil, cruel perhaps when needed, but he did not belong to the darkness, not entirely. She returned to the bar and tried to concentrate on her work; the stranger had made her worried and spoiled her ease.
If the man had pulled his hood down she would perhaps felt even more worried, humans does that by instinct when they come face to face with creatures of his kind. At the first glance one could perhaps confuse him for an elf, because he had an elf’s beauty and features, even the pointy ears and feral eyes, but when one looked deeper the differences would occur. He had very dark skin and his hair was black but it looked almost red when light hit it.
His eyes were peculiar too, as the girl had seen they reflected flames in a strange way and they had a deep golden color, almost like amber. His eyes were beautiful and his glance hypnotic, he did not meet the eyes of others unless he had to; he looked down and tried to avoid attention. It was better that way, he did not interfere with the lives of mortals but he tried to observe and learn. He had been caught outside of the world for so long and he tried to update himself, things had changed a lot.
He was leaning back against the wall, relaxed. He felt quite good, the food was excellent and the ale good too, he did not react to alcohol like humans did and so his senses could not be disturbed no matter how much he drank. He listened to the people talking around him, it amused him to hear them discuss their joys and sorrows and everyday lives. They lived for such a short time and yet their lives were so rich. He had not respected humans before but now he felt curious about them, he wanted to understand them. He had meet humans and elves he admired, souls who had showed him the truth about himself, souls who had set him free and given him his life back. His gratitude had no limit; he would do anything to please them, to be like them, the warriors of light.
Some men started getting loud, his attention turned towards the conversation. One of the men looked like a person with more money and power than the others and he was obviously complaining about a journey he had made. He was raising his hands in despair and the others looked at him with an equal amount of pity and amusement. “I tell you all, I had to pay two bulls to enter his land and two to leave and the same thing happened when I returned, I lost eight bulls to that creep!”
The others nodded their heads. “Eight bulls that is a big toll, too big!”
The man sat down and emptied his cup. “The king would have stopped him if he had dared, but that son of a whore pays so much in tax each year that the king’s treasury would be empty soon without him.”
The men looked down, nodded their heads again. One of them, a young fellow with long blond hair and the unmistakable smell of manure around him looked at the first guy, his eyes expressed curiosity. “Is it true what they say about his land and himself?”
The first man was quiet for a whole minute, then he looked up and his face had a strange grey color. “My friends, my journeys have taken me too many strange and dangerous areas but I have never seen such evil as I witnessed in his land. I swear to you all, he has brought his own private little corner of hell up on earth. That is the only explanation I can find for his evil, the good Gods fear that valley, all good has left that place ages ago!”
The elder men looked down, as if they were thinking about something sad, the younger clenched their teeth together, looked as if they were ready for a fight. “Is it really that bad?”
The wealthy man nodded and waved his hand towards the bar, ordered new ale. “It is worse; you will not imagine the brutality of that man, the lack of respect for life. I have seen more death in three days than ever before in my life.”
The stranger started listening with more than just one ear, this caught his attention.
The man got his new ale and drank deeply before he spoke again. “When I passed his castle I saw the bodies of twenty men he had killed, he had ordered them buried in the sand until only their heads were above the ground, then he had been riding across the field until they all were dead. It had happened several days before I passed by, you won’t imagine the stench!”
He drank again and the others were silent.
“What had they done?” The youngest of them all spoke; his voice was shaking with disbelief.
“They had complained on one of the lord’s knights, they said he had raped the sister of one of them and they wanted justice.”
The men all looked angry, and frightened. “That man must be a monster.”
The wealthy man smiled, but it was a cold smile. “He is the devil my friends, I praise the gods who let me pas his land unharmed. Some travelers have disappeared they say, and none of them has been seen again. The people of that area are suffering beyond our belief my friends, and there is nothing anybody can do. He has too many soldiers loyal to him.”
“It is just typical isn’t it? The strong can do whatever they like while the weak suffer, I wish that man would burn eternally, he deserves it. He should not be allowed to call himself a lord; he is one of the dark one’s minions.” The oldest of them spoke; all heard the sorrow in his voice.
The good atmosphere had been broken and the men tried to avoid looking too worried but they all failed. “One thing is for sure, I will never cross the land of Lord Orethes again, not if someone pays me a hundred bulls for it.”
The man stood up and bid the others a good night before he left and the men started speaking about something totally different.
The tall stranger remained sitting in his corner and nobody noticed that the flames in the fireplace were burning hotter and higher than before. It was as if something else than wood and air was feeding them.
After a while he stood up, left some coins at the table and walked upstairs. He would rest and afterwards he would gather as much information as he could. The bar girl sighed in relief when she saw him leave, she had been afraid ever since the moment he arrived and she had a strange feeling when she had to walk past him. It was almost as if she felt the smell of brimstone?
The next morning the stranger left very early and he walked quickly through the village until he found a stable with horses for sale. An old man was taking care of the animals and he was almost blind so he did not react to the stranger’s strange eyes and features. The man smiled and sat down on a barrel. “My good man, I heard strange rumors yesterday, about a terrible lord they called Orethes. I am a traveler and I wish not to enter that man’s land unprepared, do you know where his land is?”
The old man nodded his head and crossed his fingers to protect himself from evil. “Oh yes young man, but do not go to that terrible place, the Gods can no longer count how many he has killed. He lives north of the great river, near the mountains. It is a narrow and long valley, could have been a good place if he had not ruled it!”
The stranger smiled and for a short instance the old man saw something that looked like wild flames dancing within the stranger’s eyes. “Well, I do not think I will travel in that direction but just in case. Is there anything else worth knowing about him?”
The old man smiled, he enjoyed it when the young listened to him and he had not spoken to someone that polite in a long while. “Off course, several people have tried to murder him, without results. You see, his father had an old witch in his service and she cast a spell upon the boy so that nobody could kill him.”
The stranger suddenly looked alert, like a predator that smells its prey, the old man sniffed the air, wasn’t that the smell of brimstone? “Really, that sounds interesting.”
The old man nodded his head. “If you can use such a word when referring to that monster, the spell is quite special. He can only be killed by the bones of the earth, between fire and ice. That does not leave many options.”
The old man giggled and the stranger smiled without showing his teeth. “Does he have any family?”
The old man had to think for a while. “Well, he has a wife, of course an arranged marriage. She is said to be quite beautiful but as stupid as a rock. I can’t say I blame her for that, it is probably safer for her, he would probably kill her if she dared to interfere with his rule.”
The old man scratched his head and one could almost hear a creaking noise from his hard working brain.
“She is very fond of jewelry and nice clothes and other feminine articles; she is living within a golden cage I think.”
The stranger looked down, an idea was shaping itself within his head and he knew it was a good one. “My friend, do you have a mule for sale? And do you know of any merchants within this village?”
A few days later the tall man stopped by a great oak by the road to rest the mule he had bought. Very few horses would tolerate him and a mule looked more humble, more right for his role. The animal was old and slow and loaded with stuff he had bought from a local salesman for a big sum of money. It was silk and satin and other expensive cloths and it was ribbons, shoes and all kinds of jewelry He had hidden his armor behind a ragged old cloak and he knew he looked almost perfect, just like a travelling salesman should. He was already within the land the evil lord called his own and he had passed the borders earlier that morning. Several soldiers guarded the road and he saw that nobody could travel through this area without paying toll. He had paid several silver coins and the soldiers had looked at the packages on the mule with greedy eyes.
He had told them that he was going to deliver some stuff to the lord’s wife and they had bought that, he feared that they would have tried to rob him if he had not told that little lie. If they had tried he would of course have had to kill them, it would not have been a problem for him but then he would have to hide the bodies and that would mean time lost.
He had already seen many horrors and his mind had been quite horrified, how could it be that humans could do such terrible things to their own kind? He had seen slaves, whipped almost to death while pulling heavy wagons. He had seen small villages where the houses were nothing more than sheds, women with no hope in their eyes and children who had seen only fear in their short lives.
The men weren’t much better, all will to fight had been beaten out of them and many were mutilated and injured. Nobody grew old within this lords realm, death was a savior and a relief. He was travelling toward the lord’s castle and he felt more and more certain that his decision was the right one. This monster should not be allowed to spread more terror upon this earth.
He only had to find a way to break the spell, or fulfil it somehow. The sun was going down and he walked on, the mule was slow as ever and he felt a little irritated, he was not a patient soul and he wanted to make his saviors and mentors proud. He had done terrible things in his past but he had been blinded by evil powers, it had not been his true nature. Now that he was free he would pay his debt to the world, do good instead of evil and restore the balance.
He was passing by some ruins when he heard a weak squealing noise from the trees behind the road; he stopped and felt no danger so he did not draw his sword. He let the mule graze and walked towards the sound, he was alert and yet relaxed, not much could harm him. He crossed a small stream and entered a clearing within the dense forest, a huge rock stood in the center and a woman appeared to be chained to it. She was hanging from the steel chains and seemed to be close to death. He felt a sense of horror and disbelief penetrate his soul, this was terrible.
He could see something on the ground, just out of the woman’s reach and when he got closer he saw that it was an infant. A naked baby who was laying directly on the cold ground, it was dead and ravens had already been eating its eyes out, the sight was terrible and he felt his anger awake.
He was almost unable to control it, it threatened to break free and he stood still until he was able to restrain his emotions again. The woman was moaning again, moving her arms very slowly. He took a few steps towards her and she discovered that she was alone no more. She almost screamed and her pale face got even whiter. He was kneeling in front of her and she stared with terrified eyes, she could not believe this.
He stared back, she was a lovely woman, small and elegant and her black hair and slant eyes reminded him of the very soul that set him free. He had never been able to repay that young woman for the favor, not entirely, and he felt something that reminded him of sorrow when he saw this badly beaten girl. A human should not have to suffer like this. “You... you are not one of his men?”
He shook his head, looked at the chains. They were solid but would not be any match for him.
“You must leave, the soldiers will kill you if they see you here, I am cursed and condemned to death. You cannot help me anymore.”
He looked up, caught her eyes and she almost screamed when she saw the flames dancing within those golden feral eyes. She could see within his very soul in that moment, she saw his intentions, his power and what he was. She sobbed and he pulled her closer, embraced her gently. “Oh gods, I have prayed for so long, prayed for our savior to come.”
He smiled and she saw his long sharp teeth, the terrible strength within him but also the kindness of his heart. “Who did this to you woman?”
She sighed. “The lord’s men of course, nobody else is that cruel. They placed my child before me and I had to watch her die, now I only wish to die fast.”
He looked at her with disbelief. “You can still live girl”
She looked down; her hands were trembling with weakness and pain. “No, I am dying, I have internal damages, and I will not see another sunrise but die in chains like an animal.”
He made a growling noise deep in his chest and ripped the chains of her, like they had been made of paper.
She smiled slowly. “You will free us all, I can see that now. Please, don’t let me suffer any longer, and bury me with my child.”
He sighed, his sensed were sharper than that of a human and he could hear that her heart was dying inside of her. “If that is your wish.”
She smiled and touched his hair with a strangely tender move “I know of the spell my friend, not even your flames can harm him, but next week he will travel to a tournament in a village west of the great river. He will have to cross a bridge to get there, built of stones across the frozen river. I guess you can arrange the rest?”
He nodded his head, felt how the spark of life within her grew ever weaker. “What is your name woman?”
She smiled but it was pain in her voice. “Elara, they killed my husband and my whole family, please say you will bring us revenge.”
He touched her cheek with his finger, very gently. “That Elara, I swear to you. You and your kin will be avenged; this land will be free again.”
She closed her eyes. “Then I can die in peace, what is your name wind rider?”
He smiled and it was something bitter-sweet within his eyes, she saw what he was now that she was dying, he could see the beauty of her soul and mourned the fact that it would disappear so soon. “I am known as Ghuad Blackfire.”
She nodded her head and coughed, he saw blood on her lips. “Then Ghuad please let me leave to meet my beloved again.”
He smiled and kissed her gently on her forehead, she had closed her eyes and he broke her neck with a quick move, she died instantly without even noticing any more pain.
Ghuad felt strangely empty and remained standing on his knees embracing her dead body for a short while. Then he got on his feet again, carried her body into the forest and made a grave.
He wasn’t finished until the sun returned, then she and her child had been buried in a proper way and he had planted a small oak on top of the grave. He felt tired but a strong flame of determination was burning within him. He hid his tracks, if the soldiers wondered what had happened there he would not stay to give them the answers. He caught the mule again and started on the last part of the journey, this had become personal and this lord would curse the day he was born, very soon!
He reached the castle and the surrounding village the next day, the mule slowed him down and several times he had to fight himself to contain his wrath and hate. This land had indeed turned into a piece of hell and he knew that only his size and the sword he carried had prevented the soldiers he saw everywhere from attacking him. He would not reveal his true identity before the right moment came. The castle was placed upon a huge cliff and it was a masterpiece, no army would conquer this fortress without great losses and he saw that it was well maintained and taken care of. The few people he saw all looked down, they dared not even look at the stranger and he felt almost lonely for a short second. The castle looked so majestic and strong and he smiled and pulled at the mules reins. He would need as much information as possible if his plan was to be a success.
A few soldiers looked at him as he entered the courtyard; they reckoned he was allowed to be there since nobody would dare to walk straight in like that without permission. He tied the mule and addressed a servant that happened to walk by. The man looked at him with an equal amount of confusion and curiosity ”Go to the lady of the house with this note, you’ll get a silver coin if you do this fast.”
The servant suddenly nodded his head with a wide grin, the prospect of earning a silver coin almost gave him wings and he ran back into the castle like a wind.
A few minutes later he returned and Ghuad gave him the coin. “The lady wants to meet with you right now, she is very curious about your goods.”
Ghuad hid his smile and grasped some of the bags from the mule; he followed the servant through a wide door and into halls and rooms filled with luxury and expensive furniture. Ghuad made a strange face, it was too much of everything, and the owner of this house had wealth but no taste!
They entered a huge hall on top of the building, the sunshine came in from big windows and it was a beautiful room, very feminine and it showed that the owner of these quarters had a lot of taste. Ghuad tried to look impressed and full of awe, as one should expect from a simpler person. A woman stood up from a couch in the corner and approached them; Ghuad had to stare at her. She was quite tall and she had a lovely figure, moved with grace and strength but she had covered her face with a dense veil and he saw that her hands were trembling.
He bowed before her and his sharp eyes could see dark shadows across her face. The lord was beating even his own wife. The woman tried to look strong and aristocratic but failed, he sensed the pain and despair within her, she was just a young soul caught within chains even more terrible than those of the young mother. These chains would choke the very soul of those who got caught by them. “So, you are a merchant, your note say you sell expensive clothes and jewelry?”
Ghuad nodded his head in a respectful manner; he opened one of the bags and pulled out some nice satin. The woman made a small sigh in admiration and pulled it from his hands caressed the smooth surface as if it was the skin of her lover. “This is lovely; I’ll buy everything you have of this cloth.”
Ghuad hid a sigh of relief and opened the rest of the bags too. The merchant he had bought the things from had picked just the right quality. She soon looked like a child in a toy store, she looked happy and Ghuad felt a strange feeling of pity when watching her. Spending money like this had to be the only joy she had left in her life and he sensed no evil from her. She was just a child, spoiled and at the same time ruled by terror.
She finally finished her shopping spree and relaxed, sat down by a small tee table and ordered Ghuad to sit down too. He obeyed and she waved her hand, had some servants bring them some wine. Ghuad had great powers; he rarely used them but now was the right time to use at least some of them. The lady was thrilled to have a visitor who really listened to what she was saying, he did not try to interfere with the one way conversation, he just smiled and answered with few words and soon she felt like she had known him forever. He caught her eyes and she almost drowned within the deep of his golden glance, he used his hypnotic abilities and soon he made her tell him everything about her husband and his planned journey.
She did not even notice what was happening, she thought she had a nice conversation with a person of taste and class and he was leading her mind into the wanted subjects with the same ease as a good rider leads his horse.
They continued talking for several hours, he let her talk about more normal matters now and then and then he made her talk about her husband again. He felt his rage growing inside of him for each story of terror and pain and if he could help her he would. The girl sighed and smiled, he could see that through her veil and she appeared to have lost several of her teeth Ghuad used his magic, removed the memory of their conversation from her mind. “Oh, by the gods, it is late. My husband will return soon, he must not find you here.”
Ghuad bowed to her again, he kissed her hand and hid the pouch with the money she had given him underneath his cloak. “I bid thee a good evening good lady, I will return some day with more of that blue satin you liked so much.”
She nodded her head and a servant showed him the way out. The mule had been fed by a stable hand and it looked quite happy. He grabbed the reins and walked out of the castle as fast as he could. His plan was ready now; all he had to do was waiting.
He hid behind a corner and watched the lord return to the castle, he had at least twenty knights with him and he rode a beautiful grey steed. His clothes were expensive and Ghuad could see that he was a handsome man with a strong and beautiful face. Ghuad wondered how the beauty of humans could hide so much pure evil. He sighed and started walking towards the village where the tournament was planned. The lady had told him that the lord was almost addicted to jousting. He would spend huge money on this dangerous sport and Ghuad had also been told that the good lord hated being beaten. He wanted to win so bad he cheated and used sabotage to ensure his own victory.
Ghuad smiled as he entered the road again, he would find a quiet place where nobody could see him and then he would use his telepathic abilities to send a message to his friends back home. With the right magic they would be there just in time, Ghuad wanted to destroy the lord completely, he wanted the man to be beaten and dishonored before he was killed.
A week later hundreds of people gathered at the chosen village to watch the tournament. Few things like this happened in this country and nobody wanted to miss such an opportunity to watch their heroes in action. The place was crowded and every inn filled to the roof, the ship-owners could not have been more thrilled and the village had been decorated with ribbons in jolly colors.
Ghuad had sold the mule, now he was hiding within the crowd, he knew the lord had arrived and perhaps a few people noticed the dark fire within the eyes of the tall handsome man and wondered for a short while. The square was turned into an arena and the nobility of the land had the best seats. Ghuad smiled and found himself a place underneath the roof of a huge barn, he could see very well from that place and he knew that his friends were there and that they all were ready.
The jousting had been going on for quite a while, the lord was ranked among the very best and now the finals would be started. The lord would fight the best from the days before and any challenger who volunteered to face him. Ghuad knew that the lord’s men already had used several dirty tricks to assure that their master won. Some knights had lost their horses due to some mysterious illness and others had fallen from their saddle because the stirrups suddenly broke. Ghuad’s friends had not stayed in the village and the lord knew nothing of the competition he soon would encounter.
The lord arrived at the arena, riding a huge brown stallion. The animal was well trained and made its master appear as an excellent horseman, something he wasn’t. Ghuad’s eyes got narrow when they saw the lord, and a few people noticed that the torches around the arena suddenly burned with unusual intensity. The lord crushed all resistance, he won every match with ease and Ghuad knew that he wasn’t without skills, he could fight pretty well and some of the knights he should have met choose to withdraw from the match.
After a few fights there were none left within this class and the herald raised his voice and informed the crowd that this was the time when any challengers had to come forth if they wanted to fight for a place in the final matches. Nobody expected to see that happen, the lord was too good and nobody would risk their lives for nothing. The lord looked content with himself and his effort and he was ordering a new horse when everybody heard the sound of hooves approaching.
Every head turned toward the sound and the crowd made a strange sound when they saw the rider that appeared through the arena gates. It sounded like a loud moan in surprise and disbelief. The stranger rode straight toward the lord’s shield and punched his sword against it as a sign of his challenge; the lord suddenly looked small and puny. The stranger rode a giant black battle horse, an animal more impressive and beautiful than anything the crowd had ever seen. Its coat was shining and even if it was a heavy horse it moved like a feather in the wind, the men stared with their mouths open and desire in their eyes, and the ladies could not see beyond the beauty of the animal. The rider wore a black armor with a strange design, it looked almost dragon like with spikes and wonderful details, and it had no markings except from a tiger head in gold on the chest plate. The rider wielded a black lance and there was something almost inhuman about him, something that frightened everybody there, including the lord. He got a new horse, a grey one, and the horse neighed and reared in fear of the black giant on the other side of the arena.
The lord could not refuse to joust, then he would lose his honor. He had to face this unknown horror and he had some courage because he followed the routine. He lined up and waited for the signal but everybody could see that his lance was shivering. Ghuad smiled to himself where he sat. Nightblade and Raigh would show the lord the feeling of absolute defeat, nobody could beat a weapon master, the herald gave the signal and the black rider let his horse rear as it leaped toward the track. The lord tried, he really did. He spurred his terrified steed and aimed well but his lance hit only empty air.
The stranger was very agile in spite of his armor and his lance hit the lord’s chest with a terrible clash. The lance broke but the lord’s saddle broke too and the man was swept of his horse and landed in the mud with a splash. The impact would have killed a normal man but the lord got on his feet, swearing and cursing and the black rider grabbed the lord’s horse by the reins and claimed it as his price. The lord looked truly pissed and Ghuad laughed where he sat, this was only the beginning. There was yet more to come.
The lord could not compete in the jousting competition any more, he was beaten out of the game, the black rider had taken his place and the man looked so angry that his servants barely dared to help him with the broken armor. There were other competitions and the lord changed to a lighter armor. He could still win the other games and he went to the fencing arena. He usually won here as well as the rest and soon he regained some of his self-confidence. He won against several good fencers and soon he was among the three best. Ghuad was still smiling and he knew who the lord would meet in the final. The lord climbed to number two, now he would face just one more knight and he would be number one. He felt self-assure now, until he met the person he was going to fight.
The people who were watching the games were waiting in anticipation, this would be good. The fighter was unknown too, a tall slender person with a silvery armor. It too had a tiger pattern and it looked as if a true master had shaped it. The helmet hid the warriors face completely and the lord stared in disbelief at the challenger’s sword. It was wonderful, a long elegant blade and a hilt with a tiger head at the end.
The lord was truly angry now; he saw red and his first attacks were fast but uncontrolled. The stranger got the points and the lord got more and more desperate. He tried to use some dirty tricks and the crowd roared in anger and discontent. The stranger avoided all of his attacks and soon the lord realized that he would lose once more. He tried one last desperate move but failed completely, the stranger was too fast and when his sword hit the blade of the tall person it broke into several pieces. He roared in disbelief and anger and the stranger just left, like he was nobody.
The people of the village realized that something very special was happening, the lord faced real resistance for the first time and he did not like it at all. In unarmed combat he faced a short and puny looking person who wore a mask and the person beat the crap out of him. In the archery competition he was beaten by a huge dark man with strange black eyes and almost elf like movements. The man shot like he was one with his huge bow and the lord could not believe his own eyes.
He thought he could win the dressage contest because he had excellent horses but a hooded and cloaked man on a huge dun mare won with ease, the animal had stripes along the legs and looked peculiar but turned out to be faster and more agile than any horse the lord owned. The lord lost every competition he tried and his anger soon turned red hot. He got so pissed off he ordered his servants to pack up all his things and he left the tournament in a terrible mood. He had never been this dishonored in his life. He had never known defeat and he felt like the whole village was laughing behind his back.
Ghuad left his hidden little place, the others had done what they could, and they had prepared the lord for the last stage of the annihilation. Now the stage was his and he ran through the streets and into the forest with a strange expression of dark joy on his face. The lord and his company spent some time by the village gates, arguing with the guards about something quite unimportant. The lord just had to have the last words and so it took quite some time before they left the village for good.
The road soon brought them to the bridge, the river fell into a deep canyon right on that place and the bridge had been built upon the cliffs protruding from the waterfalls edge. The water roared towards the deep right underneath the bridge and it was a strong bridge with three spans. Now the river was already frozen and the thunder from the waterfall would not be heard again until spring. The bridge had been made partly from rock and wood, huge trees had been felled to make it solid and beautiful. The lord did not care about the bridge now; all he cared about was to make someone pay for his defeat.
Ghuad had prepared himself; nobody had seen the glimpse of light that always occurred as he changed back to his real body. He stretched and bared his teeth; the lord would meet not only one but two terrible opponents today. He knew that Elywen, the frozen flame, was there and that she had done exactly like him now. Ghuad kicked off from the ground and spread his wings, the trees shook around him and the pure joy of his own strength filled his very soul. In a clearing on the other side of the village the same thing happened, only with a few differences.
Ghuad was not a true dragon, not of the first people who took the shape and made it their own. His kind was made by magic far back in time, meant to aid their creators in their battles. The dragon shape was his true shape and he could not disguise himself as a human or elf for more than a few weeks before it drained his strength. Elywen was the opposite, she looked like a tall and unworldly beautiful elven maid and she could only turn into a dragon for a short period of time, but she was ever more powerful.
The lord rode unto the bridge, he was so furious he rode fast and left his servants and knights far behind. He saw red and did not notice that other people on the bridge suddenly screamed and ran for their very lives. It was not until his horse stopped, shivering with fear, that he looked up to witness the most terrifying sight of all, an attacking dragon.
The lord stared, unable to believe what his eyes told him. Ghuad was a black dragon, the most feared kind of all and he looked terrifying as he rose from the deep of the canyon. He hovered above the bridge and roared and the lord’s horse panicked and threw his rider. The lord landed on his back with a short scream in anger and disbelief.
The horse ran in the opposite direction and disappeared among the other horses and people who were running for cover. Ghuad knew that this would be his biggest challenge in a long time and he knew the bridge was solid; it would take most of his strength to achieve what he wanted. The lord roared with rage, he did not fear the dragon, he knew dragon fire could not harm him and he would probably have attacked Ghuad if he had not heard a different roar from behind him.
He turned around and his jaw dropped in disbelief, the huge female that appeared above the bridge was the colors of mother of pearl and her scales sparkled like diamonds. She was beautiful, more so than any other living creature. Ghuad was brutal strength and fierce determination, Elywen was elegance and power mixed with the strength of a pure soul. She was a priestess and warrior for the Gods of light and she landed on the bridge, her long neck and tail swinging in a threatening move. The lord could not pass the two dragons and he was all alone now, foaming with anger and frustration.
Elywen spoke, her voice made the bridge shiver. “Human, you have sinned against the very laws of life, you have killed and tortured innocent souls, and we are your jury, judge and executioner.”
The lord laughed. “I am a Lord, you can’t touch me. The king is the only one with more power than me!”
The black dragon roared and the lord suddenly lost some of his arrogance. “The Gods are above any king or lord. If you swear to change your ways we will let you live.”
The lord straightened his back and pulled his short sword. “Never, I rule as I wish, it is my privilege.”
Elywen nodded her head toward Ghuad. “Then you have chosen death.”
She got on her wings again and the lord could see how her throat swelled. She was suddenly breathing fire and the bridge started burning quite easily. Ghuad did the same on his side and the lord laughed but there was something uncertain within that laughter. He did not understand what they were doing. “You damned freaks can’t hurt me, I am immortal.”
Ghuad laughed out loud and raised his tail, this would require most of his strength and he forced the steel like blades at the end of it through the bridge, it broke with a huge crash and debris fell into the canyon where it broke through the ice. Elywen did the same on her side, she was even bigger than Ghuad and stronger and to her it was easy.
Now the remains of the bridge were burning in both ends and there was no escape for the lord. The outer and inner span of the bridge was gone; he was caught on the one in the middle. Ghuad hovered above him, showing all of his terrible teeth “Remember the spell? Between fire and ice, where you are right now?”
The lord suddenly realized the danger he was in, he screamed and tried to find a way out of this terrifying situation. The span rested on a cliff and some if it reached above the bridge, he had not seen that until now. Rocks were nothing but the bones of the earth and he screamed curses toward the two dragons.
He had lost his arrogant strength and showed himself as a coward. When someone was stronger than him, he grew weak.
Ghuad nodded his head. “I will do this honored one; his blood should not be on your hands.”
Elywen did not reply, she knew that Ghuad knew of her gratitude, she flew away and Ghuad grabbed the cliff with his front legs, jerked a big piece of it free with a loud bang. The Lord screamed and tried to run but Ghuad was faster and stronger. He tossed the huge boulder at the running lord who tried to reach the edge of the bridge to jump off. “Now cursed one, go to hell!”
The rock hit the lord in the back, crushed him against the solid rocks of the bridges edge. One could hear a scream and a strange flash of light.
Shadows were swirling around the carcass for a few seconds, souls who came to witness the death of their murderer. Ghuad could see them all and knew that they had found peace now. The lord’s soul would go straight to hell and Ghuad hoped that it would face the same affliction it had brought so many others.
Ghuad rose above the bridge and roared in triumph, the villagers had all sought cover and they heard the noise and shivered within their hearts. Nobody of them had even believed in dragons and then two suddenly appeared like this. The black dragon returned to the woods after grabbing a few huge trees and pulling them across the gaps in the bridge. He did not want to ruin people’s access road. The small group was waiting for him there, Elywen had changed back to her true shape again and she looked tired.
Ghuad landed elegantly and grinned. “It is done!”
Everybody smiled and looked happy with that. Elywen walked toward him and touched his jaw gently. “My friend, you did the right thing, we were a little confused by your message but we soon realized the truth within it. This has been a day the Gods will praise.”
Ghuad would have blushed if he could. “You have done an excellent job my friend; I think you can be our eye towards the world from now on, the one who lets us know when things need to be changed.”
Ghuad bowed his neck and Elywen smiled once more. “Now we must return back home, but I trust that you will observe the lords realm for a short time, just to check things out?”
The black dragon smiled shortly. “Off course I will.”
Some weeks later a tall stranger left the village underneath the castle, he had seen how terror had turned to happiness. The lord’s young widow had turned out to be the perfect ruler of the area, she quickly got things back to normal and the people loved her. She had received some help from a strange tall man nobody knew, he had sent all the soldiers away and beaten the crap out of those who refused to leave without their share of the profits. The reign of terror had ended and now the future looked bright.
Ghuad did not look back as he disappeared into the woods; he had grown attached to this place and the young widow in special. She was a sweet person with a gentle heart and if he had been a mortal man nothing would have been able to keep him away from her. As it was he had to leave and he felt something bitter-sweet as the darkness of the woods caressed him. He had found his road now, and he had heard rumors of some bandits that needed to learn a lesson or two. They would soon receive the surprise of a lifetime. He smiled towards the sun, felt how a new joy filled him. From now on the weak had found their true champion in him and no spell would any longer protect the evil from the justice of Ghuad Blackfire.
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