The heart of the eternal

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The lake of dark waters

Ahravan and Rhawan did ride hard, letting their steeds decide the path, the black wolf was running ahead of them, always at a distance and it shouldn’t have been possible for no wolf is that fast and yet it was. The terrain was no different than before and they saw only rocks and barren sand, if there was some sort of help to find it was surely well hidden. Wenja was barely breathing, her spirit slipping away and Ahravan was panting with emotional distress. Her body was heavy in his arms and he didn’t even pay attention to where Kor’ath did run. The valley did turn and suddenly the wolf did head into a sort of narrow gorge where a river once had dug into the bedrock itself. It was very dark and the bottom sandy and Rhawan did see that the wolf didn’t leave any tracks, he did shiver. He had never seen his Si’ish like this, so tense and so close to absolute despair. They did ride into the gorge, it was heading uphill and their mighty steeds did struggle but managed to get up there still the same. They reached a plateau and on it was a cliff. It did look rather normal but there was an opening in it, seemingly a normal cave but Ahravan felt magic streaming from it and they felt a sort of shiver running down their spines. For a second the world did shift in front of their eyes and even if things didn’t seem to have changed something apparently had still. The wolf stopped in front of the cave and wagged its tail before it suddenly disappeared and Ahravan did slide down from the unicorn and held Wenja close, Rhawan did stare at the opening with huge eyes. “It is dangerous”

Ahravan nodded. “Aye, I feel it to, but we have to!”

The entrance was so low they had to bow down and they carried Wenja between them. The cave wasn’t large, and it was natural but in the middle was a pond and a faint light seemed to come from it. The air in there was warm and oddly fresh and reminded them of a sudden spring thaw. Rhawan did wet his lips. “What is this?”

Ahravan stared at the pond, his eyes were dark and his face pale, he realized what this was and why he had to be brave and forget about the past, and the rules. “It is the sacred well, where souls go after death, where the unborn are waiting”

Rhawan gasped. “No?”

Ahravan took a few hesitant steps forth, he did not believe it. It was said to be a mere legend, an old tale from time before time, when the gods did create the peoples who did inhabit these lands. “It is…the core of creation, I do not know why the goddess…”

Ahravan shuddered, they could save Wenja, but the price they would have to pay? Oh Gods, could he truly do this? Rhawan did whimper, the power in the cave was a benign one, one of love and support and yet it was so powerful it was almost painful. “What are we to do?”

Ahravan swallowed hard, he did lay her down onto the floor. “Rhawan, remember the things we have been told. The one born twice may close the gate? I know the meaning now”

Rhawan stared at him and Wenja and the golden eyes were wild. “Ahravan, it is…impossible, it is the deed of gods, not us, we cannot…”

Ahravan did interrupt him. “We have to! She is dying”

Rhawan lowered his gaze. “We may become outcasts, everybody may shun us.”

Ahravan nodded. “Yes, but the goddess did lead us here so it will be her will then. And Wenja will be alive!”

Rhawan did look up again, his chin trembling as if he was about to burst into tears. “What do I need to do?”

Ahravan started to tear off the clothes Wenja wore, he was frantic. “The ceremony in itself is simple enough, but it will require all our strength. I have to pull her back Rhawan”

The dark skinned eternal did place a hand on Ahravan’s arm, his voice soft. “I will be your anchor then”

Ahravan swallowed hard. “You know what you are risking then?”

Rhawan nodded, there was deep love in the golden eyes. “Yes, if she does die and pull you with her I too will die. But I love her Ahravan, just as you do. I wouldn’t want it any other way”

Ahravan nodded and started undressing. This was magic nobody was allowed to attempt, magic which was banned, magic nobody even believed was real. Also Rhawan did get rid of his clothes and they carried Wenja over to the pond. The water was deep blue and glittering and it was warm too, they couldn’t see the bottom at all. Ahravan did hesitate for a second, then he took his knife and made a cut in her hand, then in his own. Rhawan did take the knife and repeated the procedure on her other hand and Ahravan did nod. They pressed their wounds to hers and allowed their very blood to mingle. Ahravan was whispering. “Great goddess be with us, help us. Save her”

Both elves felt light headed, dizzy and Ahravan did pick Wenja up, staring at Rhawan. “I love you brother, I will need your strength now”

Rhawan just smiled and nodded and Ahravan did slide into the water with Wenja in his arms. There was no bottom, just emptiness around them and a feeling of slight panic did grasp him. He did attach an iron grip around Wenja, and with his other hand he did grasp Rhawan who held onto the edge of the pool. If he did let go they were all lost now, the contact with the real world through Rhawan’s touch the only thing hindering their souls from searching for their release from their bodies and the eternity of the afterlife. Ahravan did gasp, the water did close over his head, this wasn’t water you could swim in, nor float. It was not of any substance at all, a spiritual thing like ether and they were in fact in a different dimension alltogether. He did hold onto Rhawan and Wenja and the world he knew did disappear in front of his eyes.

Wenja had been walking along a road, it was a place she didn’t know and the forest and the lands around it lovely. It was sunny and warm and she felt safe, protected. The smells of summer were there and she wore a lovely light dress. She felt happy, relaxed. There was something nagging at her though, something she had forgotten? She didn’t know, but she wanted to walk on, she had a destination and knew it. When she reached it everything would be fine, there would be no pain or sorrow anymore. But why would she want to avoid that? She didn’t feel any such thing? She felt confused again and stopped, tried to turn around but it was impossible. There was something dark behind her, something bad? She felt a sort of fear and did speed up, the road was easy to wander and the light ahead did draw her closer. She suddenly saw somebody standing by the road, it was a woman wearing almost the same dress as herself, and she had the same dark auburn hair like good wine. Wenja slowed her pace, blinking. The woman saw her and smiled, a very sad smile and yet one filled with love. “Wenja, my flower!”

Wenja felt confused, swallowed hard. “Mother?”

Her voice was hoarse and the woman nodded. “Yes, you cannot remember me but it is I”

Wenja gasped. “But…”

Rutha did sigh. “Wenja, I am here to tell you something, something not even your father was aware of. Something nobody knew beside myself. And you must listen for everything depends upon the choices you now will make, the wrong one will spell the end for all”

Wenja whispered. “Mother, you are scaring me”

Rutha nodded and her eyes were very deep. “When I met the man who fathered you I started serving the goddess, it was a secret and a thing only a few women did, they would call us witches and chase us off had they known. I did know that you were special Wenja mine, a soul unlike most. I saw the potential within you but unfortunately my life ended and I couldn’t teach you the right ways. I am so sorry I wasn’t there to watch you grow but now you have become a strong woman and I am so very very proud of you, my blossoming rose”

Wenja didn’t know what to say, her head was spinning, why was she there? What was happening? “Mother, am I dead?”

Her voice a raspy gasp and Rutha shook her head. “No, not yet, but you are dying.”

Wenja suddenly remembered, Ahravan, and Rhawan. “NO!! I don’t want to, I…I have to live, my husbands…”

Rutha did nod. “I know, and that is why I am here. You have to turn back, it will cost you so much but there is no other way. The goddess is with you child, you can still make it back to the land of the living”

Wenja tried to turn around again, it was impossible, as if there wasn’t anything behind her at all. “How? And what is the cost?”

Rutha did look down. “Your mortality, you will no longer be human Wenja mine, you will be so much more. The goddess will be within you, lead you. You will become her servant forever”

Wenja trembled. “You make it sound bad….”

Rutha shook her head. “It isn’t, but it will require strength, and the change will be horrible. But there will be joy, and peace and you will be happy, if you do her bidding and manage to close the gate”

Wenja felt her mouth going dry. “I…”

Rutha did make a vague gesture and an image seemed to form in front of them, on the grass. Wenja saw herself, running around laughing, chasing a giggling child with black skin and wine red hair, Ahravan was standing not far from her with his hand on the shoulder of a girl, her skin wasn’t as dark but her hair was red too and her eyes wolf like and intense. Wenja felt her chest constricting, her heart was hammering. “My children?”

Rutha nodded. “Waiting to be born Wenja mine, If you do what is asked of you it will be your reward and yet a part of the price you must pay”

Wenja couldn’t tear her eyes off the scene until it faded away, a possible future, a possible life. “What do you mean?”

Rutha tilted her head. “One of your children will belong to the goddess, be her hand within the world, her sword and her justice.”

Wenja was panting, the pull to walk ahead was getting terribly strong but if she did there would be no adorable little dark skinned angel and no beautiful wolf eyed girl. She did whimper. “What can I do mother, how can I turn back?”

Rutha did reach out and touched her, a sort of shock went through her and suddenly she felt a voice calling her name, desperately. “Walk backwards, do not try to turn around, trust them. Trust your beloved ones, do not let anything you see scare you and do not stop whatever you do. Keep walking backwards.”

Rutha did kiss her hand. “Go now Wenja, I will probably never meet you again if this ends well, but I am so proud of you.”

Wenja heaved for air, then she took one step backwards, it felt like trying to walk through thick mud with lead boots, like trying to push her way through a wooden wall with only her own strength and body as tools. She let out a cry of defiance and pushed on, one step at a time.

She heard the voice again and she knew it was Ahravan calling out for her, she wouldn’t let him down, never. She would not allow him to feel the grief of loosing her. She bit her teeth together and pushed back, not stopping. Immediately the bright light became dimmed, the surroundings transformed from a lush forest to an eerie dark one with dead trees and horrible pale eyes staring at her from the darkness. Dreadful creatures lurked within those woods, souls condemned to never find peace and she was trembling with fear but kept walking, one backwards step at a time.

Hands tried to grasp onto her, some did look almost normal while others were covered with remains of flesh and skin, some were just bones and she heard their voices, their horrible anger and sorrow and the need to grasp her, keep her there. She was defying the very laws of nature now, breaking every rule there was. If she did fail this would be her final resting place and she wept with fear but kept going. Pain shot through her body with each step, every move more painful than the others. She shrieked in defiance, nothing would hold her back from her beloved, nothing would prevent her from reaching the future she had been shown.

Ahravan was struggling, in life he was powerful and few things could hope to fight him and live but here he wasn’t welcome. He was a living soul, entering the realm of the dead and mist surrounded him, made it impossible to see. The air was thick like oil and each step agony but he couldn’t stop, not yet. Not until he had reached her for she was ahead of him, in the mist. He felt her light and her life and he felt how Rhawan did pour as much of his own strength into his soul as possible. Ahravan did scream in pain, it felt like being ripped apart, as if thousands of blades did pierce his flesh at ones, as if acid were poured into an open wound. He didn’t stop, he kept walking and suddenly he did see her. She was wandering towards him, backwards. Her body struggling with each move and around her he did see horrible apparitions. Wenja did scream, her strength was coming to an end and she wasn’t yet back with her husbands, she had to keep going but it was so hard and the ghosts, they were clawing at her and now she did feel their cold touch and they did tear into her, the pain like ice each time. She was crumbling, her knees about to give in. She raised her head, a scream in despair and defiance. “Ahravan, help me!”

The scream gave him that last burst of strength, that last spark of desperate energy. He reached out grasped her shoulder, locking his grasp onto her. “Rhawan, now!”

Rhawan was clinging to the edge of the pool, and Ahravan’s hand. Both were under water and Rhawan had never been this afraid in his whole long life. It was blasphemy what they attempted to do, the ultimate sin and yet there wasn’t any other choice than to go through with it. He did cling onto Ahravan’s hand with all his might and felt the pull, the unnatural cold which was seeping through their souls. He was panting, feeling the pain of his Si’ish and his fear and also that of Wenja, it was horrible and Rhawan was crying like a child but he did hold in, steadfast and brave as always. If this didn’t work he would be just as dead as them and their souls separated for ever, and yet it was a price he was ready to pay.

He felt it suddenly, a jolt of energy, a shout within his own soul. “Rhawan, now!”

He heaved for air, started to physically pull. Normally it wouldn’t have been hard at all, people do float in water but this wasn’t water, and Ahravan and Wenja had become horribly heavy. Rhawan did gasp and pulled, his muscles screaming with the effort, his joints creaking. He did pull against death itself and it wasn’t a fight he was about to lose. He was seeing red, his heart hammering like a war drum, his grip so hard it would have shattered the bones of someone human. He did pull, he pulled against darkness, against despair and heartache, he did pull for love and light and a future and slowly, ever so slowly Ahravan did rise to the surface. Rhawan growled, put a last effort into it and Ahravan’s head got clear of the water. He gasped desperately and pulled himself closer to the edge of the pond. There he got a grasp if it and Rhawan did reach into the water and together they did grasp onto Wenja and pulled her back with them. She was horribly heavy, death didn’t want to let go of its prey, she was marked by his realm and belonged there and yet these two immortal did dare to defy him?

Rhawan and Ahravan used all their strength, all that they had and suddenly the grasp of the other side broke, Wenja became light and shot up to the surface, her body of normal weight. The two males let out a collective groan and lifted her and themselves up onto the ledge, panting and shaking all over.

Wenja had felt the pull of Ahravan and Rhawan, had tried to help them and yet it didn’t seem as if it would work, they were not strong enough. She was being dragged back but all of a sudden there was a figure in front of her, a glowing silhouette which did chase the dark spirits away and suddenly it did shrink and disappeared, sunk into her own body and she felt as if she had received an electrical shock. She screamed and the grasp on her did end, the land of death couldn’t hold a soul just being brought to life. And thus it couldn’t hold Wenja back either, she was pulled back and everything went black as she felt hands tugging at her, bringing her back to the world.

The chamber was quiet, both males lay there half conscious and Wenja laid between them, pale and white and Rhawan did cough and moan. Smoke hang over the pond and Ahravan did try to raise his head but he was too weak. Rhawan managed to get up onto an elbow, his other arm was dislocated and he was shaking like a leaf. “Wenja?”

His voice a mere whimper and he did pull himself closer to her. She did breathe, slowly. Rhawan did help Ahravan get up and they pulled her away from the pond, both so tired and weak they barely could move. Wenja moaned, then she screamed. A wail of agony. The blackness of the leg disappeared, her body was rigid like an iron rod and she was shaking, her eyes rolled back and Rhawan gasped. “What is happening?”

Ahravan sighed. “Our blood, it is mixed now. She…is no longer human”

Wenja made gargling sounds, her previously nice skin became like porcelain, every imperfection was erased and the mark at the back of her neck did start to glow again, this time it would be permanent.

Her ears which had been round became pointed and when it did stop she laid there, gasping for air and her body seemed to glow for a moment before the light from within was dimmed down and she opened her eyes with a shriek. “Ahravan? Rhawan?”

Her voice hoarse and her eyes wild. Ahravan did embrace her, desperately, clinging to her as if she was a life raft. Rhawan did the same, she was almost smothered for a moment. “We are here, you are alive, oh praise the goddess you are alive”

Ahravan burst into tears and Rhawan was already crying and Wenja just sat there, letting the two males hold her until their combined fatigue became too strong and they all collapsed onto the hard rock and fell asleep. It was Ahravan who woke up first, due to the fact that he was cold and shivering in spite of being an elf. The room was truly chilly and they had used all their strength so it was no wonder that they were heavily influenced by their effort. He did drag their clothes over and covered himself and the two others with their cloaks. It wasn’t much but it did help. Rhawan was shivering too, moaning in his sleep and Ahravan could see that his left shoulder was swollen and probably badly injured. They had to get away from there but not yet, they had to rest for a while. He did lay down again, Wenja between him and his Si’ish and he couldn’t believe that he actually had managed to do what he had. If he started thinking about it too much he would go nuts so he closed his eyes and tried to relax. She had become one of them, it shouldn’t have been possible but still, there she was, changed from a mortal human being into one of them. It was a miracle and one of which he would be eternally grateful. The scent of her was still the same, and the feeling of her breathing close to him brought new tears to his eyes.

They lay there for a couple of hours and then Ahravan did wake Rhawan, his Si’ish did look confused for a few seconds, then he sat up and gasped, the pain in his shoulder very apparent. Wenja was still asleep, she needed it, Ahravan just knew that from sheer instinct and he wished that they had been wise enough to bring some food. Rhawan swallowed hard and his eyes were shiny, he did bow down and kissed Wenja’s cheek revelently. Ahravan started getting dressed and nodded. “You are hurt, how bad is it?”

Rhawan tried to smile. “Dislocated I think”

Ahravan finished with his clothes and helped Rhawan get up, the shoulder was indeed dislocated and he did fear that muscles and tendons could have been torn too. He did not hesitate but pulled the arm back into the right position, that made Rhawan howl with pain but it was over with in a few seconds and afterwards he did help his Si’ish get his clothes back on and made a sort of sling from some cloth. Rhawan was swearing but Ahravan did kiss him with gratitude. “You saved us all, I cannot thank you enough. You were strong for us both you know, if it hadn’t been for you we would all have been dead now.”

Rhawan managed to smile but he was still in pain and Ahravan did start to redress Wenja. Her sleep was very deep, almost coma like but he didn’t find that worrying at all. He just felt that it was to expect, that it was normal if one could use such a word about their situation. He did manage to get her clothes back on and then he did lift her up. “We better return to the others, they are probably very worried by now”

Rhawan nodded and they exited the cave, both Kor’ath and Flint were still there and Ahravan had to make use of a large boulder to be able to mount the unicorn. Rhawan did the same with Flint and now there weren’t any wolf showing the way but they did remember the path they had taken and they made good speed.

Ahravan held Wenja close, still feeling an odd sensation of disbelief. He just hoped that her new appeareance wouldn’t cause them problems later on. The others had been waiting, Khirhien and Ayhrandur did get to their feet as they heard the hooves and the silvery haired eternal did release a howl of relief by seeing them. Ahravan did slow Kor’ath down and he grinned at the two other eternal and the two humans. He remained sitting there until Rhawan had gotten down from Flint and then Khirhien did reach up and Ahravan did allow Wenja to slide into his grasp. Khirhien did gasp, he stared at her face with disbelief and Ahravan did jump down and nodded sternly. “The goddess did lead us, she is saved”

Ayhrandur did blink, his face a mask of confusion and disbelief. “Ath’ir, her spirit…she has become one of us?!”

Ahravan did nod. “As the goddess wanted it, now, make a fire and get some water warmed up. Rhawan needs some help with his arm I think. And we need food”

Khirhien was hoarse. “My lord, what have you done?”

The voice was a mere whisper and Ahravan sighed and looked down. “The unthinkable but believe me, there was no other way. She would have died and then we would have been doomed to failure. She is the one born twice Khirhien, the one who can close the gate”

The silver haired eternal did look shocked and a bit nervous but he did nod. “You did what you had to do Ath’ir. Let us pray that everybody else sees it the same way, this is…necromancy”

Ahravan sighed and sat down, he held her and stroked her long silky hair. Yes, it had been forbidden magic, dark magic. To bring back a dying soul was a terrible crime but the alternative had been just as horrible. He did kiss her brow and hoped that the goddess would keep her hand over them even now. After a little Khirhien came with some bowls of stew, it wasn’t much but it was warm and Ahravan felt his guts howl with hunger, he hadn’t really realized how hungry he was. Khirhien did look over Rhawan’s shoulder, it was still very swollen and he did click his tongue and smeared some ointment onto it, he did also make Rhawan drink some sort of potion meant to ease the pain. It did make Rhawan spit and curse but he did drink all of it and Ahravan did close his eyes in gratitude, his Si’ish had saved them all. It was something which had to be rewarded, one way or the other.

Wenja did wake up when the sun was rising yet again, she made a mewling sound and jerked and then she opened her eyes, staring at Ahravan with confusion. Ahravan did grasp her hand, hoping desperately that she hadn’t suffered any ill effects of her ordeal. She did wet her lips and Ahravan found a cup of water and held it up. “Here beloved, drink. You need it”

Wenja did empty the cup, desperately. “What happened?”

Her voice was thin and frail and Ahravan tried to smile. “You don’t remember?”

Wenja sobbed. “I just remember that I got injured, that Yalaih is dead. I tried to reach you and then everything went black”

Ahravan did draw a deep breath. “You were truly injured my light, you had a poisoned wound, and you…you were close to death. The goddess did lead me and Rhawan to a cure, you are…safe now”

Wenja did blink, her body felt odd, so heavy and in a strange way alien. Her head hurt and her eyes felt as if she had been staring at the sun for too long, the light was just too bright. “Where am I?”

Ahravan did run his hand through her hair, it was trembling. “Back at the campsite, with the others. You have been unconscious for a while. Are you sure you don’t remember anything?”

Wenja did nod, why did she feel so strange? “You…healed me?”

Ahravan did throw a quick glance at Rhawan, begging for support. “Ah, yes, we…We did follow the guidance of the goddess. Wenja…you….you have changed, as a result of this”

She saw that both Ahravan and Rhawan were nervous and a bit hesitant and she frowned. “What do you mean by that, changed?”

Ahravan did grasp her hand and kissed it lovingly, then he did lead it to her ear and she did feel how the shape had changed and she let out a yip. Her fingers became frantic, exploring both of her ears. “Ahravan?!”

He did smile, a very thin one. “You are one of us now Wenja, one of the eternal”

At first she didn’t understand, her ears couldn’t have heard it right? Or? She tried to calm herself, tried to understand what he just had said. “Ahravan? I…I am no longer human?!”

He did nod and Rhawan did nod too, his face a mask of apologetic grief. Wenja swallowed, once, twice, she felt her very being being thrown into turmoil, into questions. Oh gods, was she one of the elves now? How was that even possible?


Her voice a mere whisper and Ahravan did look down, there was a nervous twitch around his right eye. “We did…share our blood with you. It is forbidden magic but…you were dying Wenja, and…if you had died I couldn’t have borne it…”

Rhawan did stare at her too, eyes huge and pleading. “Neither would I, we would have died from grief, both of us”

She stared at them, her mind racing like a herd of wild horses over the plains. “I…I am immortal??”

Ahravan did nod, his face was in fact a bit sheepish looking and it would have been hilarious if it hadn’t been this serious. She felt her heart speeding up, a billion questions racing through her mind and she stared at them both, helplessly. “What…I am still me?”

Ahravan did grasp her hands again. “Yes, yes you are…you are just…improved”

Wenja had no idea of what to think or feel, she wasn’t human anymore? Should she be elated or should she feel horrified? She gasped and leaned forwards, hid her face against Ahravan’s neck. “I…I don’t know what to think…or feel. But the goddess did lead you?”

Ahravan did embrace her, held her close and rocked her in his arms. “Yes, we…we pulled you back from death Wenja, we almost died too but Rhawan here was strong enough to save us all”

Wenja did see the bandage over his shoulder and she gasped. “You were hurt? And how…”

Ahravan did caress her chin with a finger. “He will be alright my light, do not worry about that. Rest now, and have some stew”

She trembled in his grasp, her thoughts still buzzing like a hive of bees and she hid her face yet again. “What are we to do now? The goblins, did they return?”

Rhawan shook his head. “The goblins are gone, I doubt that they will be a threat again. We will wait for the morning and then we will ride on. We have to get to that cliff”

Wenja closed her eyes, they had pulled her back from death? She was grateful, but she felt conflicted. She was an elf now? Oh gods, she would outlive everybody she had known before, her parents, her siblings, everything. And yet…It was too much to think about, she swallowed hard and tried to relax, tried to gather her thoughts and be calm about it but it was hard.

There was some food and she laid down to rest again, still feeling peculiar and she stared at her hands. There were scars there now which hadn’t been there before. A thin white line in each palm, barely visible. She guessed that they would fade in time. She did really have no idea of what to say or do now so she decided to just go with the flow.

Ayhrandur did ride out to check the path ahead and he did return telling of a valley ahead which seemed to lead to the right area and Ahravan did hope that it did. But what would they find on the other side of the mountains? What was this thing or being or whatever which had allowed the monsters to roam freely? The gate had to be completely open and Ahravan did know what that did mean. They had to stop this before it was too late, the deities of darkness were not something any of them could hope to stop. Nobody now had that power.

Rhawan did follow the faint marks Wenja had left behind and he did find the entrance to the goblin city. He did also find the body of Yalaih and buried her underneath a small cairn made from stones. That was all that he could do, the goblins were nowhere to be seen now, he had a feeling that they were eradicated somehow.

That night they slept close together and Wenja was very silent, it wasn’t like her and Ahravan was worried that she somehow did blame them. She had been a mortal human, now she was something new and nobody knew how this would affect her. What Ahravan had done was seemingly impossible and it would haunt them forever. But none of them could regret it, not when she was there with them, breathing and alive.

The next morning they did leave the camp behind, all were well rested now and Ayrhandur did lead them. Wenja did sit up with Rhawan now and she stared at the landscape around her, stunned by details she hadn’t noticed before, the scents which were so much stronger and the odd sensation of having been half asleep for a very long time. Rhawan did kiss her cheek lovingly. “You are awakening to your new senses my light, we have stronger and more acute senses than a human and now you will learn how to use them”

She nodded, the light was so incredibly sharp still and she had noticed that even darkness wasn’t completely dark. One part of her felt giddy, the other part horrified. But she had an odd feeling coming from the back of her mind, a sort of silent presence and she couldn’t identify it. It was as if she did know where to go and what to expect and she did give Ayhrandur some advice, all were a bit astonished by this.

They did ride through a valley which wasn’t that hard to travel through at all, the terrain was even and the ground not too steep nor slippery. They could see a more flat area ahead now, between the mountains and Wenja knew that this was their goal. That night they did stop by a small lake and she was sure she saw a huge figure watching them from one of the carrocks. Earlier it would have terrified them but now it felt reassuring somehow, it was there to watch over them and she hid a small smile. She had indeed changed, she felt it more and more. She felt stronger, more self assure, as if there was somebody there beside her, giving her advice and showing her the way, proving that she was more than before.

There were old tracks from monsters everywhere, the snow was riddled with them and yet there were few new ones and Ahravan did wonder what that did mean. Rhawan was sure that the gate couldn’t let more than a certain number go through at a time, he was sure that one of the elders of his birth tribe had told him that. It was magic which held the gate open and it couldn’t be drained too often.

They had been travelling for a few days when the terrain changed again, now they reached the tree line and the path become more steep and yet it wasn’t as treacherous as before. This was a real path and Wenja did enjoy seeing trees again. They were few and very scrawny but they were trees and one evening they did find something even better, a hot spring. They did notice that the water in a small brook they did encounter did look warm and when Khirhien did check it out it was very warm indeed. Before long they did find a rather large pond and decided to rest there for the night, it was a very protected spot where they could use fire without it being seen from afar and Gochil did prepare a real meal this time. Wenja did eat until she felt as if she could burst and then Rhawan and Ahravan did follow her to the pond. It wasn’t very large but it was relatively deep and the bottom made from small round rocks, she did tear her clothes off and the idea of finally being clean again was like a vision of heaven. She did wade inn, the water wasn’t too warm and she did sigh with relief and joy. Her hair was stiff with sweat and filth and her skin had been crawling for days or so it did seem. She was glad Ahravan had brought a small flask with the soap the elves used for hair wash, it did remove all of it and left the hair silky and clean.

Ahravan and Rhawan did enter the pool too, both were scrubbing themselves vigorously and Wenja did wet her lips, suddenly she did want them again, almost desperately. She had gotten accustomed to her new physical self now, at least to some degree and she felt that her desire too felt different. It was more direct, more demanding and raw and she understood now why the elves were such sensual creatures. Touch felt way more real to them, stronger and more profound. She did lean against Ahravan and reached around him, letting her hands slide down to his crotch and he gasped and didn’t do anything to stop her. He was already hard and she let her hands explore and tease and he turned his head and stared down at her. His eyes were darkening with desire and Rhawan sat on a rock and tried to comb through his tangled hair and his gaze too did darken. Ahravan did turn around, large calloused hands were caressing her and it felt wonderful. Wenja hadn’t lost her voluptuousness and she was glad, it made her feel way more feminine than the female elves and she hoped that she would stay that way. Both Ahravan and Rhawan did love her curves. “Needy my love?”

The voice was husky and dark and she nodded, she was more than ready already and Ahravan did sit down on one of the rocks underneath the water and Wenja did realize what he wanted, she did turn around and sat down, facing away from him. As she did straddle his lap he did push inside her and she had to scream, it felt better than ever before, so good she saw stars and sparks and if this was how it was going to be for the future she was darn glad they had done what they had. Ahravan did groan and held her hips, did thrust eagerly and she mewled and knew she wouldn’t last long. Rhawan did get up and walked over to her, he was fully erect and stopped in front of her, there was a silent challenge in his eyes and she felt very brave and daring there and then. She did lean a bit forth and grasped his hips as she started to lick and suck him and he threw his head back and let out a thin wail of sheer pleasure. It was intoxicating, it was wild and wonderful and she couldn’t believe that she did this but it was real. She felt herself getting close and Ahravan probably sensed it too for he did speed up a bit and she had to let go of Rhawan’s cock and howl as she climaxed, shuddering almost violently. Ahravan did grunt a few times, then he too came and she felt it, she felt it soo well and squirmed in delight. Rhawan did gasp and grasped onto himself, stroked his hand up and down a few times and then he too reached his climax, spurting pearlescent fluid over her breasts. It seemed as if the very sight was making him go half mad with sheer lust for he kept coming for a long time.

Wenja did giggle and her legs felt weak as usual, she got up and felt wonderfully relaxed and at peace. Rhawan did lean forth and kissed her with obvious gratitude and Ahravan did smack her over her rear lightly and with a teasing glimpse within his eyes. “Was it good?”

Wenja pouted. “Yes, you must have felt that?”

Ahravan nodded. “Aye, you were like a vice, a wonderful warm and tight one and by the goddess, you can truly make a male lose his mind”

He got up and grinned. “And I feel like I need some more, Rhawan, are you ready for a bit more?”

Rhawan did lick his lips. “Always my Si’ish, I am yours”

Ahravan did grin and Wenja sat back, she knew what he was doing. He was simply rewarding her for her initiative with a bit of a show, he did know that she enjoyed watching him taking Rhawan. Rhawan did lean forwards, resting his elbows on the edge of the pool and Ahravan did find some hair oil and started to prepare his bond brother, he was always gentle doing this and never in a hurry for he didn’t want to cause Rhawan any unessecary pain. When Rhawan was ready he did push inside slowly and Rhawan did gasp and grunt and Wenja could see the mixed pain and pleasure on his face. As Ahravan started to move Rhawan’s gasps and moans became sheer pleasure and he was straining against his lover, as if he wanted Ahravan even deeper within his body.

Wenja got an idea, she did get up and slid over, she grinned and pushed herself inn underneath Rhawan, opened her legs and embraced him, now he just had to lean a bit forth to penetrate her and he did, with a wail of desperation. Wenja did shriek, it was the most arousing thing ever, being taken by Rhawan as Rhawan was being fucked by Ahravan and Rhawan was trembling with each thrust, throwing his head up, arching and keening. Ahravan did pant and moved with enough energy to rock them all in a vigorous rhythm and Rhawan tensed up, his eyes did slide shut and he let out a hoarse roar. Wenja felt the pulsing sensation of his release and came too, suddenly and hard and Ahravan groaned and joined them. It was as if she truly felt both her own orgasm and that of her partners and it almost knocked her out. It didn’t die down for several minuts, each small movements firing off new fireworks within and she was feeling like lead as Ahravan did drag her onto a pelt they had placed by the pond. She just laid there panting and Ahravan did spoon her, a hand on her hip. Rhawan did lay down in front of her, exhausted and satisfied and they just laid there, allowing the after glow of their love making to fade away.

Wenja was sure she was about to go to sleep when Ahravan did jerk, his eyes did fly open and he gasped. Wenja opened her eyes again and grunted, what was it now? She had been so wonderfully relaxed even if she did feel a wee bit tender down there. Ahravan was staring at her, his eyes huge and filled with shock. He did slide his hand down over her belly where it stopped, resting for a few seconds and he made an odd mewling sound. “Wenja?!”

His voice told of disbelief and she frowned, feeling more than a little scared. “Is something wrong?”

She felt hysteria beginning to build up, what was this? Ahravan gaped and Rhawan too did lift his upper body, clearly confused. “You….you are with child”

Wenja froze. “WHAT?!”

Ahravan just stared, his eyes like tea cups and his expression one of utter disbelief. “I can feel it, another spirit, inside of you. It is female”

Wenja gaped. “No, that…it isn’t….are you sure??!”

Rhawan too did gasp and laid a hand on her and his eyes too got wide with shock. “Oh sweet goddess, I can feel it too!”

Wenja blinked, her mind spinning and Ahravan swallowed visibly. “You aren’t used to being an elf yet, if you had been you too would have felt it already. Oh by every deity…”

Rhawan made some incredibly peculiar grimaces. “She must have conceived before she was wounded, back in the high mountains, before… Oh what have we done?!”

Ahravan seemed to be in shock, his expression one of utter disbelief. “Uh…”

Wenja turned to him. “What do you mean? Is something wrong? “

Her voice was thin, she couldn’t be pregnant already? Or could she? But … Ahravan was opening and closing his mouth like a fish on dry land, Rhawan was doing the same imitation. “It shouldn’t be possible…we didn’t try to…and you were almost on the other side?”

Wenja laid a hand on her belly too, she didn’t feel any different than before, there had been no symptoms of her being with child. “Could it be dangerous to the baby?”

Ahravan tried to get a grasp on himself. “Oh ah, I have no idea, that is what I am afraid of, the goddess be with us.”

Wenja swallowed, her voice pleading. “Sefa said that you can decide wether or not you can impregnate someone?!”

Ahravan nodded. “Yes, and neither of us have tried to do that, even thought about it.”

Wenja felt a bit angry, why she didn’t know. “So your inborn birth control has failed then? Perfect!”

She didn’t want to sound so crass but her voice was rather venomous and Ahravan did cringe. “Oh Gods Wenja, we are so so sorry”

She tried to think and knew that they were right, it had to have been that one time in the mountains for if she had conceived while they were on the plains she would have noticed by now. It was just a few days old and yet they felt it? It was odd but a strange sensation did spread through her, she had always wanted children and somehow she knew that it would be alright, that nothing bad would happen to this baby, even if she had almost died just after it came into being. She sighed. “What is done is done, how long will I have to carry?!”

Ahravan gaped again and Rhawan swallowed, she saw his adams apple moving up and down a few times. “A year, our women do carry their young for a year, and you are an elf now”

She tried to smile. “I won’t be bothered by my size for a while then I recon, so what do I need to know? Is there things I should or shouldn’t do?”

Ahravan did blink. “You have accepted it?”

Wenja had to laugh, a thin gasping laughter. “What else can I do? It is there, and I don’t think elven women are prone to still births and failed pregnancies?”

Rhawan nodded. “You are right, they aren’t. Losing a baby is extremely rare among our people, the times it does happen it has to be through some sort of serious physical trauma”

Ahravan did look down. “You shouldn’t be here now, you should be in safety among the others in the city, a pregnant woman is valuable beyond description to us”

Wenja could understand that, elves didn’t breed very often and she had seen few elven children among the clans. “I have no choice, and I bet that the idea of removing it is out of the question right?”

The gasp which came from both males was answer enough, the very idea was probably taboo to their race. “Even if it was possible it would be a horrible ordeal to you, it would most likely leave you scarred for eternity. The spirit of the baby is linked to yours, it isn’t as it is with humans, it isn’t a solitary entity yet.”

Wenja did sigh, she suddenly felt tired again, as if she was made from stone. “Alright, then I just have to get used to the idea. Do you have any idea who the father is?”

Ahravan sort of gawked and made a grimace but he did place his huge worn hand over her belly yet again and closed his eyes. He was silent for a moment and when he did speak his voice did crack. “It is mine, I can feel its spirit reaching out for me, seeking my strength. Oh goddess, my daughter…”

Wenja got a weird sensation of déjà vu, as if she already had known somehow, but she hadn’t. Ahravan did gasp for air, then he did burst into tears and Rhawan did stroke his hair and seemed to be very emotional too. Ahravan embraced her suddenly and violently, shaking all over. “I have longed for a child of my own blood but why now? You are walking towards danger my light”

Wenja felt strong, suddenly she was the one with the peace of mind, the mature one. Women had born children in worse times than this, through war and strife and she did smile. “I will be alright, I am sure the goddess is with me”

She kissed his brow and reached out, took Rhawan’s hand too. “I will bear you children too Rhawan, do not think that you will be forgotten”

Rhawan swallowed hard and his eyes were glassy. “Wenja, I would be so honoured”

She relaxed against them, it was both exciting and terrifying and if they had been safe back at the city she would have been extatic. But what could she expect. “So, my question?”

Ahravan did wipe his eyes and kissed her, revelently. “There aren’t any specific things to avoid yet, only when the time draws near. But you may experience cravings faster than a human mother, and you will become very tired. Elven children crave much more from their parents than human ones.”

Wenja had to giggle and the two males did look at her, questioningly. “What is so funny?”

Rhawan’s voice was soft and she bit her lower lip. “Cravings, I remember one of the wives from the village where I grew up, she sent her husband out to get her birch sprouts and crushed limestone, in the middle of the winter”

Ahravan had to smile. “Whatever you want Wenja, we will do all we can to get it for you.”

She did smile and leaned her head against his shoulder. “There is one thing I do remember from before I and Yalaih did fall into that trap. Yalaih said that there was a woman there, trapped with me. A daughter of the people of the mist, and she would draw the goblins away from us. But I haven’t heard of such a people before?”

Ahravan caressed her belly, in a very protective manner, he had already accepted the idea of becoming a father and Rhawan knew that over the next days his instincts would awaken. Elven males become extremely protective of their mates while they are expecting and there would be changes in his personality. Rhawan did remember one of his friends who had shared the same symptoms as his wife as she carried their son, including morning sickness and aching breasts. They had teased the poor guy mercilessly.

Ahravan nuzzled her cheek. “They are a race of people who live in the high mountains some places, I have never met any of them, they aren’t many and they are scattered but we know of them. They are a bit like the dwarves but live in simple huts and hunt with primitive weapons and they have a very secretive culture. Not much is known about them”

Wenja felt sleepy and closed her eyes. “What do they look like?”

Rhawan shrugged and pulled a pelt over them, it was chilly there whence they were out of the water. “Shorter than most people, stocky and hairy and not very pretty the way we see it but they are renowened for being very honourable and good hunters, and they know the land like none others.”

Wenja yawned. “Alright, I want to take a nap now, is it alright?”

Ahravan did kiss her. “Sleep my precious, we will watch over you”

Wenja just sighed and fell asleep and Ahravan did stare at Rhawan with huge eyes, his expression still one of disbelief. “I cannot believe it?!”

Rhawan sent him a swift smile. “Neither can I, but it is as it is. We have to take care of her from now on”

Ahravan did grin, a rather wry and swift grin. “Yeah, and do our duty willingly right?”

Rhawan giggled. He did know of the belief among their people, that expecting parents ought to have sex as much as possible up to the birth to make sure that the baby would become a strong one, they said that the strength of the father would pass into the baby that way. “With both of us doing our best that baby will be a fighter for sure”

Rhawan did reach out over Wenja and grasped Ahravan’s hand in a firm grip. “I am so happy for you brother, so very happy. This is wonderful news once we get used to it”

Ahravan nodded, his eyes soft. “Yes, yes it is, but it will take some time to get used to the idea. “

Rhawan nodded. “I am here, always. I will help you both. “

Ahravan just kissed his knuckles and closed his eyes. It was with both joy and fear he did consider this. The next months would be strange to him indeed.

Resh’kha didn’t know what to expect, what she now would have to face. The monsters were all dead and she felt that the energy of the circle did grow, staying there had become almost unbearable. She stared at the ground, hearing her own heartbeat in her ears and she kept praying. The silence was terrible after the noise of the monsters being destroyed, she didn’t want to imagine the end they found. Resh’kha heard footprints, she did hold her breath, looking down. The footprints were rather heavy and they did stop ahead of her, she held her breath and hoped that it wasn’t something ready to kill her. “Daughter of the mountains, you have done well”

The voice was hoarse and raspy and oddly flat and yet it was a feminine one. She did heave for air and felt her heart hammering in her chest. “I….”

She didn’t manage to say anything more and the voice did chuckle. “You may look at me orc, I mean you no harm. Quite the opposite”

Resh’kha did raise her gaze, what she did see made her tremble to the bone. She had no idea of what this creature was, but it was horrifying and yet majestic, with a sort of odd beauty which was very alien. It was female but it didn’t look soft or meek at all, this was a terribly dangerous enemy. The creature was at least three meters tall, with wide shoulders and strong arms and legs. The hands had claws and it was covered with grey skin which did look almost metallic. The head was wide and it had horns and long pointy ears and the eyes…they were black, pitch black over a narrow and snout like nose and a mouth with razor sharp teeth, way too wide and rather cruel looking. The creature did wear a sort of black leather dress and some elegant and oddly shaped jewellery and Resh’kha did sense that it was powerful, and that it was used to being obeyed. The thing had long black hair, formed into elaborate braids and Resh’kha did see that the creature had some spines along its back and it had a tail too. She had no idea of what race this female did belong to at all.

The creature did tilt its head. “You wonder about me don’t you? It is nothing wrong with that orc, you are after all an intelligent being.”

Resh’kha did nod, feeling slightly faint. The creature was very powerful, the air did crackle around it. “Yes”

The creature grinned, it was a sickening smile, the teeth were just ghastly, like those of a dragon. “I am Gholrae, I used to be a deity, now I am a shadow of what I used to be!”

Resh’kha did wet her lips. “I…don’t understand?”

Gholrae clicked her tongue, it was very long and forked like a snakes. The thing was so inhuman in many ways it made Resh’kha feel slightly sick, the monsters had sort of been based upon familiar shapes and traits but this? It was completely alien. “I do not expect you to understand, not without an explanation. “

The creature did raise a clawed hand and Resh’kha did see a sort of image in the air in front of her, a shimmering mirage of something from another age and world. A giant army was gathered on a dark plain under an oddly red sun, it was monsters, millions of them and large dark figures did wander among them, keeping them in line, making sure the groups were under control. “See them? The dark ones, wicked and evil powers, controlled by naught but greed and useless bloodthirst. One of them has come through and wish to do what his forebearers didn’t manage to do. Open this world to his brethren”

Resh’kha did pant, the sight was horrible. “Is this…real?”

Her voice a mere whisper, a thin plea and Gholrae did nod. “It is real, they are waiting daughter of the mountains. Soon the dark one will allow these vast armies to enter this realm and it will burn and everything will die.”

Resh’kha did shiver. “The gate must be closed”

Gholrae did chuckle. “Oh yes, you are right, it must be closed. It is the only chance you have. If it is closed properly it cannot be reopened and you will be safe forever”

Resh’kha swallowed. “Why are you telling me this?”

Gholrae did grin, sharp teeth did glitter in the light. “Because I want him to fail, I want to avoid the death of this world. My own realm did once fall victim to them, never again.”

Resh’kha blinked. “You were a deity?”

Gholrae nodded. “Of the people of that world yes, their goddess, their protector. You can destroy a land little orc, but you cannot destroy its gods, not as long as there still are those who believe and they didn’t kill everybody back there. Some are alive, their slaves. So I am here, having followed them through the gate to see if I can cause trouble”

Resh’kha dared to breathe a bit more freely. “You are an enemy of theirs?”

Gholrae did nod. “Yes, very much so. And I have power, I have absorbed power for ages, feeding upon the darkness they did bring”

Resh’kha did swallow again, the forest was terribly dark and she had a feeling that the realm this creature came from had to have been a very terrifying one. “You killed the monsters”

Gholrae nodded, the black eyes did shine. “Yes, the energy of these servants of the darkness has given me what I need to give the dark ones one last boot up their arse”

Resh’kha did gasp, the deity did indeed use a very colourful vocabulary. Gholrae did lean forth. “You are a servant of the goddess, the power which resemble me when I was being worshiped back in my own realm. We are two sides of the same card, a mirror image of each other. We want the same thing little orc, to protect this world”

Resh’kha did look down. “What do you want of me?”

Gholrae did grin and the long tongue did flicker. “The one born twice can close the gate but the dark one is beyond the power of that person to defeat. And there are other servants of darkness there, if she is to succeed she will need help, more help than she has now”

Resh’kha did frown. “I don’t understand, do you mean Wenja and the others? They were heading for that cliff, and it is very far away.”

Gholrae did tilt her head, the expression was predatory. “Yes, very far and yet very near, for a deity such things are not important. You can help them, by helping me”

Resh’kha did get up, very slowly. “Can I trust you?”

Gholrae did chuckle. “Yes, I have nothing to lose little orc, but all to gain. So do you. The power I have gained, it is all for nothing if it cannot be used for something good”

Resh’kha did feel that the stones did hum with power and she stared at Gholrae. “What must I do?”

Gholrae did smile, the smile was in fact not as inhuman now that Resh’kha had gotten used to the creature. “Such a brave soul, so pure and so determined. The gem you are carrying, it may harbour that power, and whence you reach your destination it may be used against the dark one. His armies must not be unleashed, they must be destroyed before they break free.”

Resh’kha felt her heart hammering, this was unreal and yet it did happen. “So?”

Gholrae did make a snake lake gesture with her arm. “I can do that, I can disrupt the control the dark one has of his servants, but I cannot get near the place in person, not as I am now. I am no longer a deity little orc, I am but a mere speck of dust compared with him. With the power I have assembled in the circle I can regain my former power but if I do he will notice me and that will be a very bad thing. I have to wait until I am very close indeed, too close for him to be able to fight me off”

Resh’kha did squint. “What you are saying is?”

Gholrae grinned. “The power will be harboured by your gem and I will hitch a ride within your soul, I am only corporeal now because you wouldn’t be able to see me otherwise. I can become invisible when I want to, a mere spirit. Bring me to the cliff, unleash the power and I will destroy the dark one and the one born twice will close the gate.”

Resh’kha frowned. “You cannot close the gate? It would ensure that nobody will have to face that danger?”

Gholrae did sigh, her head tilting forwards in sorrow. “Alas no, if I get near the gate it will suck me inn, bring me back to their world. I will be helpless then. No, I have to stay away from the gate but I can fight the dark one. Please, it is the only way”

Resh’kha crossed her arms over her chest. “How am I to get to the cliff? And I have friends I want to bring, I won’t leave without them”

Gholrae did nod, her black eyes were bottomless, like dark holes and Resh’kha wondered what sort of world it was which could give birth to such creatures and gods. She didn’t trust Gholrae, but she didn’t have much of a choice but to obey and do what was asked of her. She had no desire to end up as the monsters had, and she already recognized the emotions which did pour from the former deity, it was hatred, black and thick as tar and those who hate doesn’t bother with crushing others in their pursuit of vengeance. “I will make sure that you all go to the hidden vales up north. You will all be needed for sure, valiant warriors are rare and precious”

Resh’kha did stare at the circle of stones. “I have a hard time believing that the heart stone can contain that much power”

Gholrae did grin and her odd face was wry. “But it can, a heart stone can keep an inmeasurable amount of energy, believe me. It will be no problem at all.”

Resh’kha did still doubt it but Gholrae did point at the circle. “Just enter the circle and place the gem on the ground in the middle.”

Resh’kha did look a bit worried. “And it isn’t dangerous?”

The deity did grin again. “No, just don’t touch it until it is over and all the energy is absorbed.”

Resh’kha did take a deep breath and walked forth, the energy was like warm wind against her skin and the moment she did enter the circle it felt as if she was about to be struck by lightening. The gem was so hot now it felt painful touching it and she just dropped it onto the ground. The earth there was seemingly burned and hard but the gem didn’t make a sound as it hit it and it did start to glow even stronger than before. There was a sound as if from terribly hard wind and Resh’kha had to whimper. Sparks flew by her, the forest around the circle seemed to crumble, to be reduced to mist and it all seemed to be sucked into the gem. It happened so fast and yet horribly slowly and Resh’kha did close her eyes, it was simply too much. She kept her eyes shut and when it did stop she slowly opened them again. The circle was gone, so was the forest. The entire valley was bare and barren like most of the other mountain valleys of the area and even the bog was gone. The deity which called itself Gholrae did stand there, transparent. She did bow her head. “You are very brave orc, that is good. You will need your courage. I will join with your flesh and then transport you and your friends to the hidden vale. There I will guide you until the time is right and I may destroy the dark one”

Resh’kha did take a deep breath. “Alright”

She picked up the gem and placed it in its bag again and now it did look normal but she felt a sort of presence within it, very vague but it was there. She did remember the spirit she had trapped in it within the tunnels and decided to not tell anybody about it, something told her that this could be wise. Gholrae did tilt her head and raised her arms, a sort of glowing orb of light formed around them and suddenly the world was simply gone from in front of her eyes. Resh’kha did gasp and had trouble staying upright. She heaved for air and there was a poff and Floth’bha was suddenly there too, with the two wolves. And then the two dwarves and the men too appeared with their steeds and Resh’kha saw that they were asleep but Floth’bha wasn’t and she did look terrified but she didn’t try to move at all. She stood there, with huge eyes and pale skin. Suddenly there was a sort of jerk and the golden orb did disappear. They stood on a grassy hill and around it was a rather flat area and mountains to the south. Gholrae did wink at Resh’kha. “I cannot get any closer like this, but ride south and go fast, time is of the essence. If the one born twice is to do her task the dark one must be distracted. Be that distraction.”

Gholrae did disappear and Resh’kha felt a chill running down her spine and she was dizzy for a few seconds. She felt odd, disgusted almost. So this deity was hitching a ride with her? Well, Resh’kha wouldn’t change her ways in any ways, stove away or no stove away. The others did wake up and looked utterly confused and Floth’bha was shivering. Resh’kha did sit down, it was gonna be a long explanation and not one she was too happy about but what was there to do? The monsters had been eradicated and the people of the plains saved for now, but they had to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again. “Now folks, listen very carefully for there is no way in heck I am gonna tell you this more than once!”

After a while she was done and everybody just stared at her, Floth’bha was swallowing convulsively. “So we have to drag the attention of whatever it is away from the elves?”

Resh’kha sighed and nodded, she had to sit down. “Yes, basically”

Floth’bha did shake her head. “The deity you have chosen to cooperate with? I do not trust her, not even for a second”

Resh’kha had to grin, a sort of sarcastic sneer. “Of course not, neither do I. But my enemy’s enemy may be my friend right? Or at least useful for a while”

Geir nodded slowly, his face was thoughtful. “Yes, she did get us here and if she has her own agenda it is the same as ours, at least to a certain degree. I know the art of war, heck, I have fought way too much and Resh’kha is right. We ought to use this for all it is worth”

Kulkar and Dharan did stare at each other and Kulkar did look very proud. “Each race ought to do what they can to help prevent a complete disaster, we are proud to represent the dwarves”

Resh’kha felt touched, he was right, all the peoples of the plains were present and maybe this was as it should be. She saw that the ponies and horses were well rested and there was in fact grass growing there, not fresh but it didn’t look too bad. She did sit down and felt how her head still was spinning slightly, the process of being transported thus had been odd indeed. “Let the animals eat and rest for a while, we cannot leave just yet. We have to get some food and prepare ourselves”

Floth’bha did grasp her bow and ran off to find some game and Kulkar and Dharan did arrange a sort of hearth underneath some rocks. The smoke would be spread and not as visible thus and they needed something hot now. Before long Osbord had some tea ready and Floth’bha did return triumphantly with some large birds. The meal was a good one, Resh’kha hadn’t realized that she was hungry but she was, ravenous. After they had eaten they did erect a couple of simple tents and rested in shifts and Resh’kha did try to sleep but it was hard. She kept seeing images in her mind, strange and confusing ones which she couldn’t identify as her own memories. It had to be Gholrae’s memories she saw, a world underneath a blue sun, people with horns and grey skin and strange animals and plants and then fires and death and a feeling of being utterly helpless. If this was how Gholrae did feel Resh’kha could understand her to a degree. Seeing everything you love being ruined thus had to be horrible, and being unable to prevent it even worse. When she finally fell asleep she didn’t get much rest at all and woke up still feeling tired.

The morning came with sour wind and the clouds did kiss the ridges, it was dark and cold and Floth’bha did click her tongue and claimed that it was perfect weather. Nobody would want to venture outside in such conditions, not even the enemy. Kulkar did grunt and claimed that the monsters were hairy and probably stayed warm no matter what and they could still be out there. The ones they had lured away from the city couldn’t have been the only ones after all, if you are to invade somewhere you need more than just a few packs of foot soldiers. They did leave the camp and Resh’kha felt restless and worried, they didn’t have any idea of what they could expect and she just knew that the enemy was “a dark one” and what exactly did that mean? A dark wizard? Most likely, but what type of wizard? She did doubt that it was something even remotely human if it had come from another world, could they hope to understand at all?

Geir was the one she could rely on now, he had been a mercenary and his experience was invaluable. The aging man was a person she had started to respect for his calm ways and his ability to think even in tight situations, it wasn’t something she would have believed to be possible just half a year ago. She had regarded humans as weak and flawed and barely more than vermin but her attitudes had changed and she had to admit to herself that it did feel good. She had broadened her horizon and her wisdom did increase.

Geir was thinking about the things she had learned and his face was serious, he was riding next to her and she had noticed that the horses didn’t react to the two giant wolves. They were beasts of the goddess and thus not dangerous to the steeds at all. Resh’kha was not surprised by Geir’s opinion on their mission, she had come to some of the same conclusions. They were few, and they were ill equipped and that was the good things he could say. It was a suicide mission if the enemy became aware of them, they couldn’t hope to fight off hordes of monsters but if they did manage to remain hidden and used all their stealth theyd did have a chance. The question was how they were to distract the enemy if they had to stay hidden, it was a tricky question for an open attack was bound to end in their deaths.

The mountain area was narrow and there was a broad valley behind the mountains and Resh’kha did feel that it was their destination, where the enemy did stay and where the gate was located. Geir felt that their only chance was to cause some sort of problem, to do something which would disrupt the plans of this dark one, whatever they were. And preferably without being exposed. It wouldn’t be easy at all, and Resh’kha felt the gem on her chest and her mouth was dry.

The area they did cross was desolate and naked and they didn’t see any life there at all, which did tell Floth’bha and Resh’kha that something indeed was wrong there. Even this far up north there ought to be wild animals other than birds and also, the lack of snow was confusing. These areas should have been covered with many feet of snow and yet it wasn’t that much at all. Resh’kha did feel something in the air, a sort of disturbance and the winds didn’t feel normal. She did guess that it was the power she had inherited from the old dwarf which told her this, a shaman knows nature like the back of his or her hand and here it was disturbed in a very odd manner. Floth’bha did come up with a reasonable explanation, if the monsters and beasts were taken from a different world it could be that the climate of this one did bother them somehow? Too much snow could perhaps be a problem to them? Kulkar did grin and revealed that he had several gold teeth. “The long fur we have seen on some, I can only imagine what a pain in the neck that is when it is covered with snow.”

Dharan did nod. “Aye, it is coarse, not like the fur of the animals of the mountains. Their fur is slick, the snow slide off”

Resh’kha did nod and she did agree, it did tell them something. This dark one was powerful enough to change the weather, that was in itself scary and what could they really do? She did take a look at her little group, two men, two dwarves and two orcs, it wasn’t much to brag about but they were all experienced and good fighters and would the enemy anticipate any sort of problems? Not from the north, she was rather sure of that.

They used a few days crossing the mountains and it was a hard part of the journey but nobody did complain and when they reached the other side they realized that it was bad, it was more than bad, Resh’kha felt shocked to the core and she had no idea of what they could do, if anything at all. The area behind the mountains was flat but in the middle of the plain was a huge cliff, it did look like a spire but the shape was strange and other peculiar cliffs were scattered around its base. The distance was so great they couldn’t see any details but Resh’kha did get a feeling of something horribly ancient, older than time itself. And she also got a sensation of vertigo, of something trying to suck her inn, tilting everything upside down and tearing the very fabric of space and time apart. The plain was covered with living creatures, it did look like an ant hill seen from above and everybody just stared. This was the main force, and it was probably growing by the day. The dark one had to be bringing inn new beasts each day and Resh’kha felt a surge of sheer terror. If these numbers were unleashed upon the world nobody would be able to resist them. No city, no fortress, no hidden vale could hope to withstand such power, they would be overrun by the sheer numbers for the leader of this probably didn’t bother with losses at all.

Resh’kha did stare at the plain, it was both green and lush in some areas and dry and dead in other places and the strange cliffs did confuse her but she couldn’t be sitting there admiring the nature now. To the north of the huge cliff there was an area which had a peculiar green tone and it did remind her of the bogs she had seen in the high mountains back home, the ones which usually didn’t look all that wet but could be very hazardous.

How were they to make a difference at all? They were six people damn it, two were elderly, so where the dwarves and the two orcs weren’t exactly top notch either. Floth’bha was a half breed and thus not as strong as a full orc and Resh’kha, well, she wasn’t all that self confident to be honest. What could they possibly do? They did follow the line of ridges which seemed to follow the shape of the area and stayed out of sight and Resh’kha could feel it, the darkness which was controlling this the way a conductor does control an orchestra. They tried to get an overwiev of the situation and Resh’kha had no idea of what to do by now, the dark one had a sort of lair somewhere in there, probably near the tall cliff and they couldn’t reach it, it was impossible.

It was Kulkar who came up with an idea and it was so audacious it had to work. He had noticed that the plain ahead of them was dry, but not completely and when they did climb up on some of the taller hills they could see river beds. They did seem to be dry but the green surroundings did indicate that some water still did seep through the soil. Kulkar had a suspicion and at first Resh’kha did not want to listen but then she had to. One day they did come across the remains of an old bridge across a narrow gorge and it was beyond any doubt made by dwarves. It was so old the very rock itself was crumbling but there was no doubt about the craftsmanship and the designs. Kulkar did grin and patted one of the rocks with his gloved hand. “See lass? My people have lived here, ages ago. And I am bloody sure there was a city in here somewhere, and where there is a dwarven city this far north there is a reservoir”

Resh’kha did know that this was the truth, at this height water did freeze during the winter and only a deep lake would be a safe source of water. Dwarves do hate water in one way and need it desperately too. The forges need vast amounts of water and so does the kitchens and household. The dwarves had long ago learned how to harness the power of running water and it did drive many of the complicated machines within the mountains, including huge transport systems made from cables and pulleys.

Resh’kha did tilt her head and Dharan did lift an eyebrow. “If there is a reservoir there is a dam, if there is a dam it can be ruptured and a ruptured dam?”

Resh’kha did wet her lips. “Will lead to a horrible flood?”

Kulkar did grin and shook his head. “Right, damn right. The monster won’t be able to cause much problem when they are drowning right? And their master will have something else to think about than to increase their numbers for a few days”

Resh’kha did swallow. “What if the dam is in the wrong area? What if the water will drain to the south and not the north?”

Kulkar did shrug. “That we will find out later won’t we? We have to get going and find it damn it, time is of the essence isn’t it?”

Resh’kha did sigh and she did nod slowly. “Yes, you are right”

Kulkar did pat his axe with a loving gesture. “We are dwarves, we know the earth and her bones like our own, trust me. If there is a dam we will break it down, we have some tricks up our sleeves”

Dharan did giggle. “Oh shush with you, don’t listen to him lass. All dwarven dams are made to be collapsible in case of an emergency. All one need to do is find the mechanism which breaks it”

Resh’kha did smirk. “But it isn’t that simple now is it?”

Dharan did look down. “Ah, not always no, and if the mechanism is old….Well, it may be a tough job but doable, absolutely doable”

Floth’bha did look eager. “So? We are going right?”

Resh’kha nodded. “Doesn’t look as if there is a choice now is there? We have to try”

Kulkar did pump his fist in the air and Dharan did laugh. “Great, we will not use much time finding the city for sure and whence we find that we will find the dam too”

Resh’kha could only hope that the dwarves weren’t too self confident. Something told her that they had to get things started soon.

The huge cliff was the centre of the entire area, for ages it had been a sacred spot and the reason was rather obvious to anybody familiar with the far ancient story of the area. The magic there was strong, terribly so and it could even be seen at times, like a shimmering in the air on a hot day. It had been thus for a very long time and it was the reason why the gate had been opened in this part of the realm. Such strong magic does twist the walls between realms and create weaknesses. Back in the day the gate had been shut off and it had been a job well done too but the magic has a sort of memory in itself, things do not follow the natural order of cause and effect and sometimes the result comes before the deed. The few monsters which had managed to get through every now and then had been trapped in limbo for centuries and millennia, they had been weakened even if it to them had been just a swift moment. Now on the other hand the gate was soon wide open once more, opening it fully from this side was a horribly power consuming task and yet it could be done. The wall between dimensions was already flawed and weak and it couldn’t have been done somewhere else. That was a bad thing since the area was so far away from anything but it was also a positive thing since the troops could be brought through unseen. Nothing could threaten them now and when there were enough of the mindless critters they would be sent south to spread a second wave of destruction across the lands.

The dark leader of these beasts was content, things were going well. The fact that something had managed to lure away so many monsters were of little concern now, the spirit which had escaped so long ago couldn’t be that dangerous, it hadn’t been very powerful and when he did manage to get more of his own kin through it would be sought up and destroyed easily enough. Let it enjoy this puny triumph, it wouldn’t last for sure. The dark one had created a palace for himself, it was easy enough for one like him, it did rise from the ground not far from the cliff and it was made from crystal in a gorgeous blue colour. The shapes otherworldly and breathtaking and he was proud of it. He didn’t need a physical abode, not really but he had discovered that in many worlds a palace did signal power and status and thus he had created one. The dark one wasn’t dependent on a body, he was energy and will and a soul which did lack all feelings except ambition and greed. To him the monsters were nothing but tools and so were all other living beings. His race had evolved into this state way back at the very beginning of their universe and they were powerful like few others. In their own eyes they had no flaws and were superior to all other.

He did finish the rituals required this day, more troops had been brought through, and the energy coming from the cliff did provide him with strength to keep the gate open and even expand it. He would have loved to have that gem he had felt further south, it had tingled with a tantalizing energy and sending his creatures to retrieve it had been a blunder but not one his brethren needed to know about. They didn’t do mistakes, just calculated moves with uncertain outcomes. But the cliff itself was all he needed and he could feel it even now, with the walls of the crystal in the way, blocking his view of it. He wouldn’t admit it for all the power in the world but it did frighten him. There was something there, something so ancient and strong it did make even him feel tiny and unimportant and it wasn’t a feeling he did enjoy at all. But he had no idea of what it was, and since he had no idea of the history of this realm there was no way he could know. There were no creatures living in the area and the ones longer south had no idea. He had come across some of the small and hairy men of the mountains and none of them had provided him with any sort of answers, even under torture.

He had no need for prisoners or slaves, all the living beasts his slaves did encounter were food for them and it was such a wonderful and efficient way of clearing the way for his own people. In the end the monsters would devour each other when there wasn’t anything else left and they could take over a world which was free from such insignificant vermin. His people did feed upon the life energy of a world, of its heartbeat and light and they left behind dead worlds which were barren and scorched. This particular one was very promising and he just wished that he could have tapped straight into the power from the cliff, then he could have opened the gate completely and brought his kin through here and now. But the power was too strong for him to approach it and he hadn’t yet managed to determine just what it was. It was frustrating and the attempts he had done at connecting to it had only lead him to back away in serious pain. It was as if it was fighting him, some he did manage to absorb and use from a distance but get too close and wham, he was almost flattened by bursts of energy which was almost strong enough to destroy him.

The plains around the cliff were filled with monsters and they were hungry and eager and he wished to move them all to the plains but he wasn’t strong enough. It was a shame and nothing he did contemplate but he wasn’t the strongest of his kin. He was in fact a runt. His powers limited compared with the great ones and he had been sent forth to clear the way, like a servant. When the gate was reopened he had been forced to fight his way through and establish a bridge head here and he was bitter but also a bit proud. He was doing well and this ought to ensure his asencion to higher status. He did grin to himself, the human wizards which had tried to contact his kin through their worship had been useful fools, their bodies had been drained of energy and the gate had been awakened yet again. It was a last trick of his brethren, a very cunning trick which had been used when they realized that they were about to be forced to return to their own world. The magic left within the gate itself would ensure that it would open again after many millennia and that it would take a minimum of effort to do so. His forebearers had been very wise indeed.

The dark one was perhaps not among the most powerful of his race but compared with the magicians of this world he was of immense strength and knowledge and nobody there was any match to him in any manner. At least that was what he was convinced of and he did slide over to a table and with a flagon of liquid. He didn’t need a body and he didn’t need sustenance like other living beings but he did need to drink this every so often. He wasn’t of this world and his people had early enough discovered that entering strange realms could bring some dangers even to a creature which was almost indestructible. The liquid came from his own world and it was very precious, it did ensure that he did stay strong and of his own realm, that his very energy didn’t start to mingle with that of this world for if it did he was screwed. He would never be allowed to return and that was in his mind the worse thing which could happen. He had known of those who had forgotten to undergo this ritual and in one case he had been there when the hapless soul did return to their plane of existence only to be ripped to shreds by the differences in environment. He didn’t want such a fate at all.

There was a soft sound coming from the back of the room and he did take a solid form and shuddered. Being flesh was disgusting, he hated it. But this was not anything he could ignore and he did long for the day when they discovered how this could be avoided altogether. It was not very dignified to have to undergo this every second day.

The sound got stronger and a creature did emerge from a doorway, it was very strange with two pairs of long arms and a sort of snake like underbody. The head was wide and flat with two pairs of eyes and the body was covered with a silky short fur. It was a species which had served his kin for ages, they were able to survive in almost all environments and they were needed. He would never admit to it but without these mindless animals they would all be in trouble. He couldn’t physically touch anything of this realm, not when he was a physical being and thus this odd being was one each of his breathren did keep. His was bright green and grey in colour and the eyes were red and shiny.This species was servile enough to function as a slave and it could survive anywhere, also, it didn’t get sick or injured by the different environments and could touch objects out of the realm they were from without any harm. He could not.

He did click his tongue impatiently and felt how the feeling of being surrounded by flesh did make him shiver in disgust. How patethic it was to be bound to this form, even if it only was for a few seconds each time. It was nothing really to the immortal but still he hated it. The creature did slide forth over the smooth floor, it did grasp the flagon and a sort of cup made from the same crystal as the palace and it did open the flagon gently and poured some fluid into the cup. He was hissing as it worked. “Faster you worthless beast”

He wanted this over with and the animal did slide next to him and lifted the cup. He did tilt his head backward and the creature did pour the liquid into him and he winced. It did burn each time and he hated the feeling but as soon as it was inside he felt stronger and the sensation of being drained by his work did weaken. He did growl at the creature which did return the cup and the flagon to their place and he did kick it in the sensitive tail area. “Next time move faster or become a carpet!”

The thing didn’t make a sound, it was mute and it didn’t even look at him. He had nothing but despise for these beings, so weak and so meek. There was no fight in them at all, they would allow you to do whatever you wanted to them. Too bad they were needed, or else he would have enjoyed watching them all be fried like giant sausages. He did remove the physical body again and the creature did slide back to its lair. He didn’t see the red eyes and their ominous glow, the expression of intens rage and hatred in them and the way the creature for a few short seconds seemed to almost coil up like a snake ready to strike. He was already busy preparing for the next day.

It had taken exactly two minutes before both Khirhien and Ayhrandur realized that Wenja was expecting and both were staring at her with their jaws almost hitting their chests, their expressions told of utter disbelief and Khirhien did glare at Ahravan. “Are you crazy? Now is not a good time!”

Ahravan did blush, Wenja did see it, his cheeks were burning red. “We didn’t plan for this, believe me”

Khirhien did frown. “Really? You could have fooled me!”

Ahravan sighed. “It is the truth Khirhien, somehow…we don’t know how it happened”

Ayhrandur did snicker. “Oh I bet you do, we have heard you all, we aren’t deaf you know”

Rhawan did seem to shrink and Ahravan did look very sheepish indeed. “Stop teasing, it is serious. We have to take extra good care of her from now on. There is no way around it.“

Ayhrandur did grunt and sent Ahravan a glare. “You know what people will say when we return to the city?”

Ahravan did nod, his eyes on the ground and Wenja did realize that many would think that he and Rhawan had been reckless and selfish for having gotten her in blessed circumstances when it was such a dire situation. “It wasn’t their fault, truly! It just happened!”

Khirhien did smile at her. “I hear you my Eth’ir and I believe them but many will not.”

Wenja did push her jaw forth. “Then let us deal with it in due time, right now we have to plan the road ahead.”

Ayhrandur did wave a clean tunic at them. “I will go have a bath first, if you others are wise so do you, the stink is rather intense”

He did grin and Khirhien sighed and shrugged. “Alright, you two lads too, we need to get rid of some filth”

The two young humans did giggle and followed the two elves to the pond and Ahravan did sit down with a heavy sigh and his eyes were distant. Wenja did kneel down next to him. “Will there be trouble when we get back?”

She didn’t put words to her worst fear, that they wouldn’t return at all. He did look a bit nervous. “Maybe, oh Wenja I cannot regret this but at the same time, it will cause some problems”

She did reach out and caressed his long silky hair. “We can deal with it right? I will make sure that everybody is told the truth. This must have been the will of the gods, there is little we can do then”

Ahravan did embrace her. “Bless your heart Wenja, it is too big and too pure to be real”

She just giggled and enjoyed the closeness. After a while the others did return from their bath and they settled inn for a night in peace and quiet.

The next morning Ayhrandur was up early to make some food and Wenja did feel a bit odd as she got out of the sleeping furs. She could have sworn that she heard somebody calling her name from afar but there was nothing there when she tried to listen. She had some tea and Ahravan did help her getting dressed and then they were off as soon as they had gathered their belongings. They could see the plain ahead now, it was still far away but visible and Wenja did find it strange. It didn’t seem natural at all, a flat wide plain like valley in the middle of the mountains like that?

Ayhrandur did tell her that there was an old legend of something which fell from the skies there in ancient times and formed the valley and she had a hard time understanding how that was possible. The forest got thicker as they made their way down towards the lowland ahead and Wenja did enjoy the smells and sights, she felt less worried for some reason when the trees did shield them, no matter how few and low they were. But they started to realize that the greatest danger yet was ahead of them and the elves could feel it in the very earth itself. It was a stench on the wind, a silent wailing they did listen to at night. The land was silent and vacant and they didn’t see any larger animals and even the birds were quiet. The monsters had come this way and that could explain a little of it but not everything. Ahravan was very quiet, he was thinking all the time and Rhawan did try to cheer him up but it was a lost case. They just knew that it was hopeless to change his way of thinking now. He was worried about so much and Wenja just wished that they had known something more about the mission they were on.

They reached the lower hills and ridges within a few days and Ahravan did notice the lack of snow and the odd winds, they weren’t natural and also, they could feel a sort of vibration within the earth, as if thousands of heavy feet were constantly moving around. And Wenja could feel something new, a sort of cold sensation and it was ominous. The mist which lay over the land made it close to impossible to spot any details at a distance but in the evening there was a moment when the mist did drift aside and the elves could see that the plain was almost covered with herds of monsters. It made Wenja pale and Ahravan did wonder how the heck they were supposed to do anything at all with all those beasts there. Getting to that cliff would be impossible. The first rule was to avoid detection so they didn’t try to get too close to the plain, instead they did follow the mountains on the west side, heading north towards the cliff very slowly. Wenja felt oddly conflicted, she felt that there was something out there, incredibly wicked and dark and yet there was something else there too, way more subtle but in no way less malicious and determined.

When they did stop to rest she was never alone, and she did enjoy the attention fully but she did also feel a bit constricted by it. She wasn’t some fragile vase or a piece of thin pottery, she wouldn’t break and yet both Ahravan and Rhawan did treat her as if she was gonna crack if she did bump a toe. At night there was plenty love making and she loved it and craved it more and more but it didn’t overshadow her feeling of having overlooked something. The plains were teeming with these horrible creatures and if such a huge horde was released upon their people it would be the end, she should think about that and yet she found that she couldn’t. Her mind was being steered in another direction, and she felt that the gods were behind this, one way or the other.

They were travelling in the daytime now, and tried to stay hidden at night. The area was huge and Ahravan would often curse the fact that so little was known about it. It had been sacred for as long as anybody could remember and it seemed as if everybody had shunned the area forever. But getting closer to the cliff wasn’t easy at all, the terrain was terrible, steep and filled with sudden drops and gorges and the monsters seemed to spread out from the plain, simply because there were so many of them. Ahravan and Rhawan did often ride ahead and more often than not they would return with dark blood dripping from their weapons. Finding a good path wasn’t possible anymore, they just had to chance it and hope that they wouldn’t be seen. Wenja felt that her job was yet to come, and it made her feel strangely at ease, as if the fact that she had a mission made her more mature and reflected. Ahravan had revealed that the goddess had shown them the way to the sacred pool where they had saved Wenja and she knew that the goddess was with her still, leading her towards her ultimate truth.

At night she did feel that the cliff was calling for her, but there was yet something she needed, something which she had to find before she could close the gate. She accepted this and as the days went by it became clear that they all felt the presence and followed it.

They had to fight each day, the monsters were everywhere and luckily they were little more than mindless beasts for nobody seemed to be notified of their demise. Nobody came to check why monsters kept dying and the sheer number had to be the reason. That, and the fact that they were hostile even against their own. They would often find dead creatures which had been killed by their own, and often they were more or less eaten too.

The cliff wasn’t in the exact centre of the plain, they could see now that it was elliptical and that the cliff was closer to the west side than the east and that it was so strange in shape Wenja had a hard time believing it. The distance was too great for them to see details yet and Ahravan just shrugged and was sure they would find the answers soon. But Wenja felt that the goddess was trying to tell them something, the presence was still there and Wenja started to realize that she was more sensitive than the others there, at least when it came to the spirit world and the realm of the deities. She had never had much faith, her father had always said that the gods were crutches made by the minds of weak humans to have somebody to blame when their own incompetence did lead them astray. But the goddess wasn’t like that, Wenja knew now that she was real and the elves did have a strong faith in her and the other Gods of their pantheon. But the goddess was the most powerful one and Wenja was finding a new strength in her belief.

She had slept for some hours in the warm furs next to Rhawan when a strange dream did wake her up, she had to sit up, rubbing her forehead and feeling a bit confused. She had seen a very tall and beautiful woman surrounded by black wolves and she had been pointing at the mountains of the other side of the plain. Wenja had seen figures moving and suddenly she did see that it was Resh’kha and the others, minus the old dwarf shaman and one of the men. She felt sad knowing they had to be dead but it was obvious that they had a plan and that the goddess somehow was involved. Also, Resh’kha had a strange glow around her, an alien feeling almost. The goddess was grinning, the smile wasn’t pretty. “The dark sister is waiting for her time to strike, they will lead the eye of the dark one away for a while, wait for my sign by the dark waters”

Wenja did shake Rhawan and he did yawn and stretched, looking at her with narrow eyes. “What is it my light?”

Wenja explained about the dream and Rhawan sighed. “The goddess is with you Wenja, you are her servant now I think, a person blessed and also burdened. If Resh’kha and the others truly are in the mountains on the other side of the cliff they are there for a reason. There is no way they could have gotten there on their own”

Wenja nodded. “I get that, the goddess must have moved them!”

Rhawan shrugged. “Yes, possibly. But if they are to divert the attention of the creature responsible for this mess we better obey the goddess. She can see what we cannot”

Wenja did lay down again, next to him, seeking his warmth. “Yes, so we have to find dark water somehow”

Rhawan took a deep breath. “Somehow I doubt that will be a problem”

Wenja had started to feel that her body was changing now, it was very subtle yet and normally she wouldn’t have noticed it at all but she was more aware now. Her sensitivity greater than before and she was amazed by how well she started to know her own body. The elves were perhaps more interested in the spirit than the body but their connection to their physical self was way closer than that of a human being. Wenja could feel that her breasts had started to change, it wasn’t visible yet and it didn’t even hurt but she knew it. And her appetite did change too. She had always preferred light meals but now she suddenly found that she did crave heavier food, and she was given the best meat each time they did manage to make a kill.

The monsters which did fill the plain were worse than the previous flocks, these were larger and more grotesque and way harder to kill. Luckily they were more stupid, brains had probably been exchanged for brawls and being huge and fierce isn’t always a good thing. They did look horrible and were strong and fast but not very well protected and the size made them vulnerable. Ahravan had discovered that their muscles were so heavy and strong their sinews and joints were vulnerable and he did use the war hammer with horrible efficiency. Kor’ath did fight well, the horn would start to glow and the magic within the animal did make the monsters drop dead from the smallest touch.

Flint did also fight with violent energy and kept Wenja safe and she was often shocked by how brutal the stallion was. It was so large the monsters did hesitate for a few seconds and that was when the horse did strike. She had never believed that a horse could be that brutal, he did often remind her of a predator more than a peaceful animal and Ahravan did explain tha the wild stallions could fight to the death to win a herd of mares. They didn’t encounter any more goblins but they did see footprints of something which was almost human and Rhawan was sure it was people from the mountains, the race which did live high within the naked valleys. They usually had no business being down there in the lowlands and Wenja felt that these were creatures lured inn by the evil which did control the monsters. Khirhien and Ayhrandur did often guard her when Ahravan and Rhawan did ride ahead to check the path and she did feel safe with them. The two human hunters were very cheerful and they never failed to stay optimistic and they stayed that way even when they no longer could use open fire.

Wenja was truly shocked when they came closer to the cliff, now they could see some details and it did look very fragile, not like solid rock at all. It had odd holes in it and peculiar shapes and as she did bend over to fix her boot she did look at it from the side and realized what it was. It was a skull. It was a skull of some sort of beast and it was so huge it pierced the clouds and the strange cliffs around it were nothing but bones, turned into stone. The size of the creature was mind blowing and Wenja couldn’t really believe it. But who would spend hundreds of years shaping a cliff into the shape of a skull? For what? She was thinking about it for a while and couldn’t find any answers at all. Ahravan did remind them of the old legends of something falling from the skies and perhaps this skeleton were the remains of whatever it had been? The idea was tantalizing and Wenja did decide to go with that explanation. It did make sense somehow. But the cliff was enormous and she felt the pull, the urge to get there, and do her task.

She was worried about the gate, she had no idea of what it was and how to close it, she wasn’t a magician at all and even with the guidance of the goddess she did doubt that she would do much good but she had to try. Rhawan was sure that the truth would be revealed soon enough and she tried to find comfort in that thought. The constant fighting was taking a toll on them all, every day they had to slaughter their way through packs of beasts and Wenja saw that it was getting more and more difficult to find a good path which wasn’t completely overrun. Then one evening when they were crossing a narrow stream a herd of beasts came rushing towards them and Wenja was sure that this was it, that they wouldn’t be able to fight them off for these were huge long legged beasts which did look a bit like a crocodile but with shorter heads with sharper teeth. Ahravan and Rhawan did take combat positions and were ready to start fighting and then a giant dark shadow dropped from a ledge above the river and landed almost on top of one of the crocodile monsters. A hit from a massive paw and the beast lay there in its last spasms and the massive cat did lift its head and roared. The other monsters did turn around on a dime and ran off, clearly terrified.

Ahravan was stunned, it was almost like a S’haga but way larger and it was black with odd red markings on its ears and along its back. The eyes were red too, and it was moving with an eerie grace, making little to no sound at all. Wenja did gape and the cat did tilt its head and she knew that this was the one who had been guarding them through the mountains. It did move closer and Kor’ath did snort but didn’t try to attack nor run away and Wenja did feel that this was a being sent by the goddess. “You are her steed aren’t you? From the temple?”

The cat did nod and sat down to wash its paws, they were the size of large shields and Wenja stared at Ahravan. “I think we are getting closer to something, or else he wouldn’t have revealed himself to us”

Ahravan nodded and he did stare at the surroundings. “Aye, I feel that way too”

The monster was dead so they did ride on, carefully now and as they did ride through a turn in the narrow valley they did see what the goddess had meant in Wenja’s dream, dark water. In front of them lay a lake, it was round and calm and the water did look like polished obsidian, it was completely black and Wenja felt a shiver running down her spine. It would start here, she felt it, and only the gods knew how it would end
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