They broke camp before sunrise and walked eastwards, leaving the lake behind them. It was a cool morning and a light mist hung in the valley among the hills surrounding the lake. Grewels had already taken to the sky at sunrise to explore the area. That way he could warn his friends in time in case he saw any of Rodan's ravens on the horizon.
The rumors of Rodan's imminent pact with the shadow wolves, was cause for concern. Today, however, nobody wanted to really think too much about the future and the coming dangers this journey had in store for them. They were happy to have escaped Rodan once again and put their trust in Lhasmo, the wise and mighty elf, to lead them safely through the chain of hills.
All of them were relieved that the four boys had passed their test of the night before. Once again they had managed to avoid any harm and had survived Rodan's malicious attack.
Richie, who came very close to being lost in the depths of Gozhal, was his usual self again and told his friends all about yesterday's adventure while gesticulating wildly. They were finally able to laugh again.
Grewels flew high over their heads and led them to a safe camping site every evening. They spent some days of rest and relaxation around the campfire, listening spellbound as the dragon told his tales. Nevertheless, they were constantly aware of the fact that the next test would come and that Rodan would soon be joining forces with the shadow wolves.
Simon and Richie had no idea what the difference was between a shadow wolf and the common wolf. They racked their brains but couldn't picture those fearful creatures. Simon looked questioning at Grewels, who had also made himself comfortable around the campfire.
"Simon my friend", the dragon spoke to him. "I see by your wrinkled nose that there is something on your heart. Come on, don't be shy. Let's have it! What's bothering you?"
"Well", Simon hummed and hawed. "It seems like Richie and I are the only ones who don't know what shadow wolves are. Why are they so dangerous and how do they differ from the wolves of our world?", Simon inquired. Richie also wanted to know and moved in closer to the fire.
The others were incredulous. They must be kidding, right? How was it possible that Simon and Richie had never heard of a shadow wolf?
"Well, I suppose we have to explain things to you every now and then", the dragon pretended to reproach Simon and Richie. The others began to laugh. Lhasmo raised his hand and the three elf children hushed, which apparently wasn't easy for them because they continued to giggle quietly and nudge each other in the ribs.
"Listen to what the dragon has to say", the Elder exhorted them. "Listen carefully, you can also learn something".
Grewels' vibrant green eyes looked around the group.
"Shadow wolves are dangerous and bloodthirsty creatures", he explained to Simon and Richie. "Originally natives of Boscra's forests, they have spread out since the day Asragur sank into the depths of the Well and have been terrorizing the entire land.
Even as a young dragon I had heard stories throughout the country about the curse of the shadow wolves. Tamir and his people have always endeavoured to expand their power to beyond the borders of Boscra. They had been determined to overthrow Asragur and take over rule of Morana. It was also clear to them that they had no chance against Asragur's power, especially against his magic. They needed a plan because the wolves could forget about looking for allies. The creatures of Morana remained faithful to their ruler. There was only one being in the kingdom who was equal to Asragur's magic and that was Myrah, the Ruler of Light!"
"Myrah what?", exclaimed Simon and Richie together and looked enquiringly at Grewels.
Lhasmo looked at the two friends, amused. How could two human children know anything about the many mysterious beings of Morana, especially about the mighty Myrah?
"Myrah", Lhasmo began, "was, next to Asragur, the wisest being throughout the land. She is an old witch, exceedingly powerful, but also very kind. The secret of her power is in the talisman she wears around her neck, making her the ruler over light and shadow since eternal times", Lhasmo ended his explanation and nodded to Grewels to continue his tale.
"The plan of Tamir and his mangy comrades, to overthrow Asragur and usurp control, could be implemented with the help of that magical talisman. For this to happen, however, Myrah would have to be removed. The wolves would accomplish their goal only by the death of the witch", the dragon whispered, giving Simon and Richie goose bumps.
"Apparently the wolves were unable to harm Myrah, otherwise they wouldn't still be under the curse", Richie asserted and urged the dragon to continue.
"That's right, Richie", Grewels grinned and was pleased to see the suspense in the faces of his listeners.
Grewels reached into his leather bag and pulled out a wriggling burrower. A jet of fire roasted the poor creature before it disappeared down the dragon's throat. Grewels smacked his lips and continued with his tale.
"Even for such cunning wolves it was not easy to locate the Ruler of Light, for nobody had ever seen her face to face. Many legends surround Myrah. It is said that she performs magic rituals, during every lunar eclipse, at the Andal River to restore her strength. Unfortunately, Myrah is weak and vulnerable at that time, like any other being, so they say. So Tamir and his pack tried taking advantage of just that weakness.
They had been looking for the witch for months. There wasn't much time because the next eclipse of the moon was about to begin. One of the wolves discovered the witch on the river bank only two days before the earth's shadow would darken the moon and cover Morana with darkness.
She would not escape them this time and soon thereafter the rule of the dragon king would come to an end. The time had finally come that Tamir had long been yearning for. The fate of Tamir's pack would forever change the following night. The death of the Ruler of Light and the possession of her talisman would allow him to ascend the thrown of the dragon king and banish Asragur into the darkness of oblivion for all eternity.
It was a clear night at full moon when Myrah set out for the clear water of the Andal River, as she had been doing for centuries, to wash herself clean.
She walked deep in the forest as in a trance, following the sound of the river. The wind rustled in the tree tops and she could feel the cool moss under her feet. It was a clear starlit night and the full moon shone over Boscra.
The Ruler of Light wore a white linen robe and her silver hair fell down on her back in thick waves. The magical talisman, the sign of her power, was worn around her neck. She sensed the time of her renewal drawing near. What she didn't know was that Tamir and his pack were closing in and that the fate of Morana would change this night.
She emerged from the forest onto the stony bank of the rapid river and approached a water bathed, black rock, that she then cleaned with fragrant oils. Engrossed in the energy-sapping ritual before her, the witch took no notice of the first wolves emerging out of the thickets behind her.
Slowly and quietly, the beasts crept up on their prey. Tamir scented that Myrah was growing weaker and silently sneaked up on her. His companions stayed back on the river bank and formed an impenetrable line.
Myrah could feel her strength weakening. She climbed the rock in the water with an effort and stretched forth her arms to the darkening moon. She closed her eyes and began to sway in the wind and sing in a language long forgotten. First in a murmur, but then the further the shadow of the Earth progressed over the moon, the louder and more piercing her chanting became.
Meanwhile only half of the silver moon was still visible. Swaying in the wind, Myrah removed the talisman from her neck and held it up towards the fading light of the moon.
The leader sensed that the great moment was not far off. Cautiously, he came closer and closer. Now he could even smell how the ritual was sapping the witch's strength.
The more the moon disappeared behind the shadow, the stronger the renewal was for the Ruler of Light. Her wasted body became firm and her countenance returned to that of a young woman. Myrah's robe turned midnight blue and her silver hair swirled around her body in black wisps.
No sooner had the total eclipse begun than her chanting died down and she collapsed on the black rock, totally exhausted and groaning.
Tamir saw his chance. With one huge jump, he fell on the defenceless witch to sink his teeth into her throat. Before he could do so, however, the witch's talisman began to glow. Suddenly a bright beam shot out from within the talisman and burned a bloody sign into his forehead. The light beam was so powerful that the leader of the wolves was thrown back onto the river bank and landed in the midst of the other wolves, where he lay stunned.
With their hackles ruffled and tails tucked in, the wolves watched the moon peer back out of the Earth's shadow.
Tamir had failed, having underestimated the power of the Ruler of Light. Life gradually returned to Myrahs body. As the first moonbeam touched her body, she stood up to her full height. She rose up over the black rock as if carried by the wind.
The talisman around her neck was shining and the angry Ruler of Light appeared in the night sky above the heads of the wolves. Bent over with their ears flattened, one after another retreated to the protection of the thickets.
There was no escape from Myrah's burgeoning wrath. She lifted her angry voice against the billowing wind. "How dare you disturb my sacred ritual!", she screamed at Tamir, who meanwhile was standing again and baring his teeth at the mighty witch.
"Haven't you had enough, Tamir?", she asked her adversary, who was lurking before her waiting for another opportunity.
But Tamir had already lost this only chance. He wouldn't get a second try at grabbing the talisman. All was lost and the fate of the wolves was sealed.
Myrah's chanting turned to a shrill and the increasingly stormy wind carried the Ruler of Light up into the night sky, up and away from the lowered heads of the wolves. All of Morana would be witness to her words this night and the storm carried her curse to the farthest reaches of the country.
"I am Myrah, the Ruler of Light, the daughter of the sun and the moon. I am the ruler over light and shadow. You, Tamir, and your people are cursed. You are doomed to eternal wanderings between light and shadow. The day will rob you of your bodies and the night your shadows, so shall you roam in torment forever!"
Legend has it that Myrah's curse was fulfilled the very next day with the first rays of the sun. Since then, Tamir and his followers are called shadow wolves because their bodies and shadows have never again been united. The agony and pain have only served to make them more dangerous. They can no longer be harmed because they can no longer be found during the day. Their shadows blend in with their surroundings and at night their bodies awake to become huge, bloodthirsty creatures. You'd best stay well clear of Tamir and his clan. It would require some powerful magic to get such a plague under control", Grewels advised the children, stretching and making himself comfortable.
Obviously contented with himself and his tale, Grewels snuggled up to the fire and rubbed his plump belly. Simon and Richie stared into the flames, lost in their own thoughts. Grewels' story had even made the elf children speechless. Lhasmo and Teldan sat off to the side of the fire and conferred in whispers. Simon turned to Grewels who lolled about in the warmth of the fire, looking as if he was about to fall asleep.
"What would happen if we ever came across a shadow wolf?", he wanted to know. It seemed the others had been thinking the same thing, for they all turned their attention again to Grewels. The dragon smiled to himself.
"That is something you could never imagine in your wildest nightmares, my friends. A shadow wolf would devour you whole. And believe me that would be the better fate. One little scratch from a shadow wolf would doom you to the same fate, to wander restlessly throughout the shadow realm. His curse would also become your fate", the dragon warned his young friends. He stood up and walked over to join Lhasmo and Teldan, who were still deep in conversation.
"Our prospects for taking our last breath in misery are getting better from day to day", Richie joked and poked around nervously with a stick in the embers of what remained of the fire.
"But it doesn't have to happen", Anjoux intervened in an effort to raise their spirits.
"Grewels simply wanted to warn you in case you ever encounter one of Tamir's companions. It's all purely hypothetical. You have already come so far and have braved many dangers. Lady Luck is still on your side. Trust that Asragur's spirit is always with you. If we stick together, nothing will happen to us", she encouraged the boys, looking around. They all nodded and murmured approvingly at what the elf girl said.