The heart of the eternal

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Memories of times past

It was Dharan who discovered the entrance, they had searched through the mountains for what felt like weeks but it was just a couple of days. Dwarven cities used to be very well concealed in the old days and it was mostly because of the threat of being plundered. Kulkar did explain that most cities only could be found by those who lived there and the methods which were used to hide the doors could be very intricate. One particularly popular method was to hide the entrance behind a waterfall, most dwarves do hate getting wet and would hesitate going too near running water. Hiding the entrance at seemingly inacessable places was common, underneath overhangs and within very narrow gorges only a very agile person could squeeze through. Some times getting inside would require the help of several mechanical devises to jack up the door itself or lift the visitors up several hundred feet.

The entrance to this particular city was hidden behind a huge boulder which had to be moved to expose it. Luckily the boulder was placed on ball bearings which still worked and pushing it out of the way wasn’t that hard, even if it did make a sound which did resemble that of tormented souls. The tunnel behing the boulder was covered with dust, several inches of it and Kulkar did spit and grunted. “This city was abandoned a very long time ago, I can smell it.”

Resh’kha could only smell the faint moldiness of naked rock but the dwarves were scurrying inside with glee. To them this was a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the long forgotten past of their people.

The old city on the plains had been airy and there had been plenty of light, Resh’kha had liked the place a lot. This on the other hand she didn’t like at all, she felt that it was horrible and claustrophobic and the walls were dark and wet and the roof very low. Kulkar did grin from one ear to the other. “This wasn’t a place to live, I bet it was a mining community. No need for it to be cozy at all. The real city was probably placed longer south”

He did run through the narrow corridors like a ferret through a scree and the two orcs and the men had a hard time keeping up with him. Dwarves are very bound to tradition, when they build something they will use the same ground plan for everything and thus a dwarf from one city can easily find his way through another one where he never have been before. Kulkar did take them down a few levels via very steep stairs which made Resh’kha feel faint. In places there were vertical shafts which did look like black holes going straight down to hell and she realized that dwarves have no idea of what the sight of heights do to other races. They just wandered along the narrow ledges with deadly drops on each side and didn’t even flinch. Geir was shocked by it and Dharan did explain that dwarves have a special adaptation which enables them to do this without problems, they have no ability to perceive depth. To them a black void is the same as black floor, they cannot perceive heights.

This city was indeed a mining city, there were shafts everywhere, disappearing into the darkness like starving maws. Kulkar was a bit confused though, the city had a very peculiar layout and the rock wasn’t the type which normally contain ore or minerals. He wondered what they had been mining there for they saw no gems and no signs of wealth. Dwarves do enjoy flaunting their riches and this city did look more like a hole than a city. Dharan did go as far as calling it a slum. But they did find the forges and they were if not state of the art pretty impressive and they had to have been well maintained once upon a time. Kulkar was still wondering what this city had been living off and he did run around with remarkable energy. Finally he did find something and did shout out, waving his hands to make the others join him. It was a sort of stone tablet and it was covered with odd looking runes. Dharan did stare with huge eyes and his mouth was an O in the ragged beard. “This is truly ancient, those runes haven’t been used for at least ten thousand years!”

Geir did grunt. “Can you read them?”

Kulkar did nod, he was very excited. “Yes, at least most of them. They are well carved, those who did this knew their job”

Kulkar did squint and ran his fingers over the tablet, it was perhaps three feet times four feet in size and very thin and made from obsidian. “The city is called “Grehk-Urzab” That means dark fire in the old tongue”

Dharan did frown. “I have never heard of it before?”

Kulkar nodded. “Neither have I, and it is weird really. The place is huge, I can feel it. The rock is riddled with tunnels, like an ant hill”

Resh’kha did feel a bit excited. “So why were they here? If there aren’t gold and gems and stuff here?”

Kulkar did scoff and kept reading, tortourously slow in the minds of the others since they were very eager to hear more. “There is a sort of poem here, a few lines, let me see”

He did whisper to himself in old dwarfish and tilted his head this way and that, trying to figure out what it said. “On the day of Ghor-me-razkud he fell from the skies, the great one wreathed in flame. The foe of light and stars and the earth shook and smothe his body and in his ashes the dark gems were sown”

Dharan did suck on a lock of his beard, his eyes were distant. “That day, it is an ancient day of celebration, to celebrate the return of spring. Whatever it was, it happened in winter then”

Kulkar did nod. “But what fell? Dark gems?”

He did look very curious and Geir did shrug. “If they were digging for something precious here, don’t they have a vault of some sorts? A treasury?”

Kulkar did snap his fingers. “Ah, exactly, that is where we may find the answer I bet. I am sure that those dark gems were what they were searching for here but it makes no sense really, if something fell from the skies it ought to be on the surface right? Not deep within the earth”

Dharan did step in one place, looking like an eager horse before a race. “Well then, let’s go shall we?”

Kulkar grunted. “Slow yourself brother, the treasury is probably well hidden”

Dharan pouted. “I doubt it, I think they have done a poor job hiding the city so why hide the treasury? Besides, this place cannot have been all that famous, we have never heard of it remember?”

Geir did throw a tired glance at Resh’kha and Osbord did sigh. He didn’t like this city at all and would have preferred to stay outside with their steeds but the two wolves would look after the horses and if something happened all hands were needed. They did follow the corridors a bit further down and found some areas which had to have been living quarters. There was a sort of kitchen there and dormatories and also a bath. The city could have housed a few thousand dwarves at the most and it made it small compared to the great cities of old. Dharan and Kulkar did run around for a while, checking doors and they were yelling to each other on their own tongue. Resh’kha did find the lack of decorations there disturbing, there was no beauty there at all. Everything was simple and functional and that was it. It wasn’t normal for dwarves at all, the city of the plains had been decorated with frescoes, engravings and even polished rocks walls where gems and crystals could be seen clearly. This was almost like a tomb in comparison, dark and damp and depressive.

Finally Kulkar did shout, a rather loud cry of excitement and they all ran to where he was. A short corridor did end in a very wide door and there were grooves in the floor which did indicate that barrels of something had been transported into the room behind it. Dharan did rub his hands in excitement and Kulkar did caress the door, searching for a way to open it. “If this is opened by using a password we are screwed”

His voice was dry and Dharan did yelp, that idea didn’t sit well with him at all. Everybody did hold their breath, the dwarf was sliding his large worn hands over the stone door the way a lover caresses his partner and every now and then he would tap at the rock with his knuckles, eyes shut and ear close to the stone. Resh’kha did barely dare to breathe to make sure she didn’t disturb him. Dharan clenched his hands so tightly she could see that his knuckles were white.

Kulkar did knock one final time, then his hands suddenly moved with lightening speed, pressing onto certain places on the door, Resh’kha didn’t see anything which indicated that these spots were different from the rest of it but it had an effect immediately. The door did start to roll aside, smoothly and with little sound. Behind the door was a short corridor with the same width as the door and then a huge room. They did follow Kulkar through and he did stop and stared in disbelief. The room was filled with huge shiny pieces of what seemed to be crystal. Each piece was several meters across and shaped like the ace of spades and there were thousands of them. They were stacked in neat rows and the size of some were stunning. They all stared, what in the name of every God there was could this be? No gems have that shape? They were black and seemed to glitter and the dwarves were too stunned to speak. Resh’kha did gulp and Floth’bha did blink and whispered something nobody heard. The room was enormous and the rock itself did seem to have been almost melted once upon a time for the structure was peculiar and Resh’kha let her eyes follow the swirling patterns of different colours and discovered that a couple of the huge black shapes did stick out of the rock itself. Kulkar did scratch his head, Dharan was gaping and it was obvious that neither dwarf had any concept of what this was.

It was Osbord who said it, the quiet man did tilt his head and frowned. “Those are scales”

Geir turned to him. “Huh?!”

Osbord nodded. “Scales, like those on lizards and snakes, can’t you see it?”

Resh’kha had to breathe inn deeply, she felt shocked. “Oh Gods!”

The size of the scales indicated that whatever they had belonged to had been…impossibly large. Kulkar whispered something . “My grandmother’s beard, you are right. What creature would be mighty enough for something like that?”

The dwarf was hoarse and Floth’bha did whimper. “A dragon?”

Kulkar did look at her and he did snort. “No dragon could be that huge, it would die due to its own weight, it wouldn’t be able to breathe and suffocate”

Floth’bha just shrugged. “What do I know? Those are scales, from a God then?”

Dharan did wheeze. “The poem, remember the poem. They were digging for these scales, why?”

Kulkar did take a deep breath. “Right, they must have had some value or else this was in vain and my people aren’t fond of doing things in vain. They will always have a purpose”

Osbord did walk forth, very slowly. He stopped by one of the scales, touched it. The thing was at least five meters tall and very rigid looking. “It is like metal, so terribly hard”

The dwarves did scurry over, eagerly and with obvious curiosity. “Aye, it is, like steel”

Kulkar did bang his fist against the scale and it did ring, like a bell. Dharan did frown and pushed against it, very carefully and it did rock, a wee bit. “Know what? It is light, extremely light”

Geir did pull his sword and did strike at the edge and there wasn’t even a scratch in the dark material, but the sword did almost break. “Gods, this is strange”

Kulkar did chuckle, dancing from one leg to the other. “I know why they harvested it, oh yes, they were ingenious”

He did bank his hand against it again and his grin was almost silly. “This is both strong and hard, and light at the same time. Imagine using it for weapons? Armour? Tools?”

Everybody looked at each other. “Well, if it is that marvellous of a material why haven’t we heard of it before? They haven’t exactly spread the word now have they? A discovery like this one should be one which everybody ought to be aware of it it happened a long time ago. The treasury ought to be empty”

Kulkar did frown, Geir’s voice was calm and the dwarf spun around his own axis a few times. “You are right, two explanations, either this is useless for some reason or they were prevented from exploiting the resource”

Floth’bha did touch the edge of a scale, it was as thick as her arm and the edge a bit thinner than the middle. “Could it be that they couldn’t use it? I mean it is so very hard, could it be that it simply cannot be cut into shape?”

Kulkar did make several odd grimaces, the thought of dwarves not being able to make use of something they found in the mountains was probably a horrible one to him. He did scratch his head and Dharan did wander further into the room. He did pass one row of giant scales and then he did cry out. Kulkar did run over with the others at his heels. Behind the row was an open area with several wooden stands, odd things were leaned up against them and they were shaped from the scales without doubt. It was weapons, some armour in pieces or complete and also some things neither of them could identify. Tools were left there with pieces of scale and Kulkar did touch them reverently. “I wonder who’s hands touched these last, the name is lost to time I fear”

Dharan lifted another tool and Kulkar did yell with excitement. “Ah, there we have it, that is how it is cut. It is hard work and takes time but for sure it can be done. They cannot have had the opportunity to spread this around, but why?”

Resh’kha did see that the tool the dwarf held was a sort of saw, it was glittering and she realized that the saw blade was covered with diamonds, thousands of them. So it did require something that hard to cut this material? Dharan grunted. “They must have had many workers available then, this is back breaking. Just a small piece would probably take weeks to cut free”

Floth’bha did walk along the stands and she did stop. “Look here, it is an armour, made for somebody larger than a dwarf for sure”

Resh’kha and Geir did wander over and indeed it was armour, very crude looking and probably just an attempt at making something usable but it was complete with chestplate, paldrouns and everything. The only thing missing was a helmet. Everything was held together with pieces of what did look like leather and surprisingly it was still soft and flexible. “It is huge”

Geir did touch it gently and did look at the two female orcs. “It looks as if it would fit one of you just fine”

Resh’kha did snort but Floth’bha did snicker. “Oh but it would, it would look very good on you Resh’kha, wouldn’t you agree? You would look formidable”

Resh’kha had to blush and Floth’bha did giggle. Kulkar came over and stared at the armour, he did frown. “She is right, the armour does fit an orc. They probably made it just to see if it could be done and since this is so stiff I bet large was easier than small”

Resh’kha did stare at the armour, it was ugly. There was nothing of the elegance one usually saw within dwarven armour, and absolutely nothing of the beauty one could expect from an elven one. It was crude and rough looking and yet it had a sort of presence, it did look intimidating. Kulkar did tilt his head. “Go on sister orc, try it on. It does no good hanging here”

Resh’kha did swear to herself but she sighed and started putting the different pieces on and Floth’bha did help her. It did fit. It was a bit tight over the chest due to the fact that Resh’kha did have breasts but otherwise it was perfect and Floth’bha did grin. “You look like some warrior of old, right out of the legends. How do you feel?”

Resh’kha did try some moves and found that the armour in fact was so light she barely felt it was there, also, it didn’t hinder her movements at all. She had to grin. “Alright? It is perfect”

Kulkar smiled from one ear to the other, everything said in praise of the skills of his people was like praising him. “Keep it then.”

Osbord did look a bit impatient. “Not to be nagging but shouldn’t we be looking for that dam?”

Kulkar did snap his fingers again. “Oh yes, of course. Follow me. We have to get back to the forges and follow the water shafts to the source”

Resh’kha felt that it was an odd sensation to have but as a matter of fact she liked the armour, she felt almost invincible with it on and she had always wanted to be a real warrior. Now at least she did look that way.

The forges were arranged in the traditional dwarven way and before long they were running up stairs chasing the pipes leading water to the huge wheels. The bellows and the machinery hadn’t been alive for ages but could be started if need be and Resh’kha knew that dwarves indeed made things to last. She had to pick at the armour from time to time and she wondered where the scales came from, what they had been attached to and why they were there, deep inside of the mountains. As they did run up the stairs they all became aware of something new, a sort of scent which made Kulkar slow down a bit and he did turn his head to sniff. “That is odd, it smells of musk, and rot? The mountain is empty so there shouldn’t be any scents here now”

Geir did pant, he wasn’t exactly young anymore and running did not sit well with him. “Could some animal have made its way down here? It is a perfect place for a winter lair?”

He did look as if he was afraid some bear would jump forth from behind the next corner and Dharan did shake his head. “Our cities are impenetrable for beasts, no such thing could ever happen”

Floth’bha did look down, the torches they did carry were old but did provide good light and she saw something none of the others had noticed. There were tracks in the dust, not many but visible and more so, not very old. Kulkar did gasp and Dharan did yelp. “Are there dwarves here still?”

They did look at each other and Geir did bow down, glad they had stopped. “I doubt it, the feet are too small, and naked. “

Resh’kha did spit. “Goblins? Gnomes?”

Geir frowned. “Nay, I cannot say that I can identify these, I mean, they look…strange”

Kulkar did lower his torch and he grunted. “They look dwarfish, and still there aren’t many dwarves who are that small, or run around with bare feet? If there are dwarves here we ought to have met them by now, they would have noticed our presence and come to greet us”

Resh’kha tried. “A child perhaps?`”

Dharan did throw her a rather surprised glance. “Resh’kha, no dwarven female would ever let a child run off barefoot, and there are several of them. I don’t understand this”

They kept walking forth, very slowly and suddenly they came around a steep bend and daylight did pierce the darkness. There it was, the dam. They saw only a little piece of it through an opening in the roof but there was indeed a mechanism there made to open the dam and it did look very elegant. Kulkar did rub his hands together. “Ah, very well made. Let us see what this truly is”

There was a stair leading up through the hole and they did step up. They stood on a narrow peak above the dam structure itself and behind the massive dam was a lake, it was so large they couldn’t see its end and it seemed to be very deep for the mountain sides on each side were very steep. It was a vast amount of water trapped there and the dam itself was made from huge boulders which had been put together like a jigsaw puzzle. Breaking it would be impossible, but opening the flood gate at the front was possible. Resh’kha had to gasp thinking of all that water suddenly unleashed and Kulkar did almost cheer. “The river runs in the right direction. All this water will head for the plains for sure.”

Geir stared at the dark lake and the grey snowy mountains. “Let us hope the mechanism still works”

They went back down and the room was massive, several huge gears and wheels were placed there and they were connected with chains and thick leather cords. Kulkar did look proud and he whistled as he walked around, trying to find the place where the whole thing was controlled. They did find a sort of control desk after a while, in a room next to the great one and it was rather complex with levers and strange symbols and Kulkar did look a bit nervous. “I bet this is how they open the dam but what levers to move?”

He did touch one of the levers and the thing did creak and shudder but didn’t move. “Damnation, is it stuck?”

Resh’kha did wet her lips. “If it hasn’t been used for ages it is perhaps ruined?”

Dharan did scoff. “Nonsense. We dwarves does not make things which simply break, ages or no ages. “

He did try to but the lever didn’t move. Geir was about to give them a hand too when they heard a sort of howling sound and it wasn’t mechanical. This was something natural and it didn’t sound very friendly. The musky smell became stronger and Resh’kha did frown and turned around, staring towards the corridor where they had entered the room. She saw something which made her scream in shock and the dwarves did see to and both went pale. It did look like a horde of animals at first, hairy and beady eyed and so many they did cover the floors. The light seemed to hold them back though and Kulkar did curse and appeared to be completely stunned.

Resh’kha did groan, these had been dwarves, long time ago. Dwarves do live until they are four to five hundred but with the time gone by many many generations had passed by and with no new blood brought inn the result was horrific. These creatures were beasts, horribly disfigured beasts which were howling and hissing, gnashing sharp teeth together as they tried to find a way around the light from the skies. The faces were flat and the eyes small and red, the jaws very wide and strong and the bodies skinny and hairy and nobody wore clothes. They had turned into mindless animals which now had smelled fresh meat and Resh’kha felt nauseous. They were gruesome to look at, filled with sores and lice and their hands had long claws. “Gods, what has happened here?”

Dharan’s voice was thin and Kulkar was grey in the face. “I don’t know and I don’t care, come on, we have to move the levers”

Geir and Osbord did pull their bows and Resh’kha did see that the light did move across the floor as the skies did move with the wind, it would be dark soon. “Kulkar, Dharan, you have to open the dam, fast!”

Kulkar saw what she had seen and his eyes were huge. The creatures which had been dwarves were clearly out for blood and they were many, probably in the hundreds. “Keep them at bay”

Resh’kha did grasp her axe and Floth’bha did weight her sword in her hands. “We will try”

Geir grunted. “We don’t have many arrows”

Floth’bha did bare her teeth. “Then shot the largest ones, and switch to blades. We cannot let them get past us”

Kulkar and Dharan did try the levers and pulled with all their might, they were stuck and Dharan did open the pit which did contain the chains from the controls. The reason why it didn’t work was very obvious, the chains had corroded and formed one solid mass. They all stared at each other, this was exactly what they didn’t need right now!

The dark lake was surrounded by very vertical cliffs and they did look strange in some places, like they had been half melted. The colours were peculiar too, from light ochre to dark brown or even black and Wenja was a bit confused about them. Ahravan and the others hadn’t seen a place like that before and couldn’t explain it and the water was so dark it did look like ink. They did make camp by the shores, on the only spot where it was possible and Wenja felt that the air there was loaded somehow. The place was special, in more ways than one. There were no monsters there now, the huge cat did stand guard at the mouth of the valley and Wenja wondered what she was to do, if she was to do anything at all. They couldn’t stay there for too long for there was nothing to eat for the horses and the place was ominous and very cold. They couldn’t make fire there and she didn’t think that it would be safe to move from the spot at all. But she was right about it being a place where things would start, she had expected dreams again and this time they started off very strange. It was as if she was a bird, soaring way above the mountain valleys but this wasn’t these valleys, or at least it didn’t look as if if was this area. The landscape she saw way beyond her was rather naked and ragged but it was natural mountains and animals and people lived there. She saw short stocky people clad in hides and she saw huge herds of animals on their annual migrations. It was a peaceful sight and one which brought both serenity and calmness to her mind.

Then it changed all of a sudden, there was a glow in the skies and something came crashing down, glowing red and tumbling through the clouds, leaving a wake of red fire and black ash. It did collide with the earth and the earth shook in reply, wast areas were blown to smithereens, glowing red and floating away as even the rock itself had melted. The impact left a plain, flat and strange and the mountains around it looked as if they had been pushed together and tweaked by some giant’s hand. The landscape was utterly changed and life eradicated everywhere. It would take centuries before the plain did become habitable. The cliff was there though, a dark twisted shape which slowly got paler and more cliff like. It was truly a great creature which had fallen, so fast and hard it had left nothing but the very bones there at the site of impact.

Wenja found it hard to believe and she also found it hard to believe that the plain really was the place where such a catastrophe had happened but it was true.

Then she saw the lake again, and their tiny camp from above. The huge cat was standing at the beach and staring at the tent where she knew she slept and it did nod its head. In front of it a sort of ice bridge seemed to form and she realized that she was to cross it. The woman did appear again, surrounded by her wolves. “You must let my steed carry you, and you must retrieve the one thing which may destroy the gate forever. It is kept in a temple on top of the peaks and when you find it and bring it back it must be awakened within the sacred circle. Then it must be brought to the gate. You will know what to do child, do trust yourself, and the path you have been given”

Wenja did swallow. “What is the thing I must find?”

The goddess smiled, the teeth those of a wolf. “You will see, if you make it all the way to the temple. His slaves will try to stop you”

The dream did end abruptly and she sighed and opened her eyes. There was no point in trying to deny it, she had to go and if she was to interpret the dream go alone. It was her test, her task and she did peek out of the tent. The giant cat was waiting by the lake, as in the dream and Wenja felt a surge of panic. So fast? Right now? She didn’t feel ready at all but what point was there in delaying this? She got up and Rhawan did wake up and reached out for her. “What is it Wenja?”

She took a deep breath. “I have to go, the goddess have shown me that I must leave and find something important.”

Rhawan did get up, grasping her almost desperately and Ahravan did approach the tent too, looking worried. “You cannot go alone?! It is dangerous”

She nodded. “Yes, but it is how it must be. I have to try. There is something out there which can close the gate and only I can find it apparently. You must wait here. You were tested when you rescued me, now it is my turn to do something impossible”

Ahravan did look very nervous. “Wenja, are you sure you must do this alone?”

She did nod and smiled. “Yes, there is no way around it. Please, the cat is waiting, he will carry me”

Rhawan did almost sob. “Carry you where?”

Wenja did shrug. “I have no idea, but there is a temple somewhere here. I guess it is my destination”

Ahravan did hug her, his embrace very firm and very warm. “Then go with the goddess my light, we will pray for you until you return to us”

Rhawan did hug her too and the others there did gather, visibly shaken. The cat did yawn and she did walk over to it, she was already well dressed and Rhawan gave her an extra knife and some dried meat. “Come back alive and in one piece, please.”

She kissed them both and felt oddly strong, she should have been more scared but found that she wasn’t, not much anyhow. Just excited in a new and peculiar manner. The giant cat sniffed her and huffed, it did lower itself onto the ground and she climbed onto the back, it was like sitting on a horse but the fur was long and silky and the moves were different. She did hang on and the cat turned towards the lake and roared. The sound did echo from the cliffs around them and she now knew that the odd shapes was becauce the very rock had been melted when that thing fell into the ground, and pressed aside.

Ahravan and Rhawan did stand side by side, both terribly nervous on her behalf but they did trust the goddess. She had allowed them to save Wenja and for that they were eternally grateful. Yet they couldn’t help but feel fearful, she was their light, their great love and to see her go without being able to follow her was horrible. Ayhrandur did walk over and patted Ahravan on the back. “She will be fine my Ath’ir. I can feel it, she is stronger than us all”

Ahravan did nod but his eyes were distant. “I know, but what is she about to face?”

The two dwarves were staring at the mechanism, it was utterly ruined and despair was written on their faces. The chains which controlled the mechanism were useless, not even with many workers and a week ahead of them would they be able to free the chains from the rust which had encased them. The room was too wet and since nobody had been there to remove that moist air this was the result. The two orcs were watching how the light slowly waned from the opening in the roof and the beasts were hissing and pushing forth, eager to attack. The two dwarves didn’t even look at these strange beings, to them it was horrible, knowing that these grotesque beings once had been proud dwarves like themselves. Seeing the faces of their own kin twisted and corrupted thus brought them to tears and they tried to concentrate on the work ahead instead. Kulkar did pull at his beard. “Can we control the mechanisms from somewhere else?”

Dharan did scurry around, trying to understand the complicated system and he did look terrified. The small beasts would soon be unleashed and they had to get this done now! He came back with eyes like dinner plates and his legs did almost shake. “The control cables do lead to a pulley at the end of the pit, we may be able to turn it if we use something as leverage”

Kulkar did run over to where Dharan stood, there was indeed a pulley there, it had to be distributing the movement from the cables to the real mechanism and it was huge. Kulkar did groan, the thing was made from several wheels and chains were threaded over each wheel, giving it tremendous weight. And what wheels to move? That was in itself a mystery. They didn’t have time to figure out the mechanism there and then, they just had to try and hope for the best. Kulkar and Dharan did grasp onto one of the chains with their gloved hands and pulled. Dwarves are very strong, much stronger than a human but the chain didn’t budge even an inch. “Curses, can this too have rusted?”

Dharan did check the axle but it didn’t appear to be damaged, the wheels ought to be able to move just fine. It was just that each wheel in the pulley were heavy and the chains taut. The entire thing did rely on the power from control mechanism to move, it wasn’t made to be used otherwise. Dharan started running around again, his eyes wild. “Is there something here we can use to push the wheels around.”

Geir did run over to a door at the end of the room, it did lead into a narrow dark room where the dust lay thick. “It may be something here, it looks like a storage.”

Resh’kha and Floth’bha did not attack the small monsters, they waited to save their own strength and still there was light. These once dwarves were not fond of sunlight at all, that was very obvious. Resh’kha did hate the fact that she was so tall, it gave no advantages when the opponents were so small. The beasts would burst forth at any moment now and Floth’bha did hiss. “They are nasty, look at those teeth!”

Resh’kha did see it, the beasts had teeth which did resemble those of a bat, thin and needlelike and very many of them. It made her shiver to the bone. She tried to think of something she could do to stop these beasts, could the gem help her? It had been silent since they reached the city and felt just dead, no other word could describe it. And the deity which hid within her very being hadn’t made its presence known either. Resh’kha did groan, what good did it all do if it was worthless? She did think of the amulet too but it was as if the powers she had gotten from the old dwarf had gone dormant when she entered the city, she didn’t feel them at all anymore and it was very strange.

Geir did run forth, he threw something at the two orcs. “Here, go low and knock them over”

It was two lances, the wood was surprisingly strong and there were long narrow blades at the end. Resh’kha did weight the one she caught in her hand. She did see what he was thinking about, they could use the lances the way a gardener uses a slingblade to remove weeds and Floth’bha did sneer. “Yes! This is what I am talking about!”

She did grasp the end of the lance and growled and Resh’kha felt jealous for a moment. Floth’bha had such courage and such a fierce aggression. It was perhaps because she was a half breed and had been fighting her whole life.

Geir had brought more lances and threw them to Kulkar and Dharan. He did shout at Osbord. “You help the ladies, shoot the large ones”

Kulkar did choose one of the wheels and they did attach the lances in the mechanism and started to yank at the chains. There was a distant groaning sound and the chain moved, perhaps half an inch. The entire mechanism was simply too heavy and Kulkar and Dharan did look at each other. “No way they have been able to control this manually. How in the name of the first fathers did they use this monstrosity?”

Geir did step back, the control room wasn’t that large, the main mechanism was in the great room in front of it and it had been very massive indeed. “Could they have been using something to power it?”

Kulkar did yip. “Of course, they were advanced, the very mechanism tells me so. They must have used the waterwheels, or something else”

Resh’kha did growl. The square of light on the ground did slowly vanish and the hoarde was making sounds which did resemble a pack of angry rats. “If you are to do something do it now! We don’t have much time!”

The light vanished, suddenly and completely and only the torches and some faint non directional light from the opening did light the room. The small beasts did shriek as one and came rushing forth, teeth bared and claws extended. The madness in the red eyes all too familiar and Floth’bha did swing the lance with horrible strength. The long blade at the end was sharp as a razor and heads did fly, it did look rather peculiar since the momentum of the small monsters did make the heads fly up when cut. The bodies did take several steps before they fell, gushing dark blood over the floors. Resh’kha saw that the technique was effective and did copy it. Her axe returned to her belt and she did swing the lance with all her speed. “Get the dam open damn it, we cannot keep doing this forever”

The two dwarves did run through a door into the main room and Kulkar did swear. Now that they knew that the mechanism needed extra power to work the source was all too obvius. There was a huge metal sylinder at the end of the room, and from it several gears and chains were connected to the mechanism which did open and close the dam sluices. “My sister’s mustache! They used steam!”

Geir did look confused and Kulkar shook his head. “It is a boiler, they used steam to move the mechanism. There is a piston in there, it is being pushed up and down by steam, and pulls the chains, making the mechanism move”

Geir didn’t understand, few humans had any concept of this but Dharan did cuss so bad Kulkar did cover his ears. “We need the boiler, now!”

Geir did point to a corner beside the metal structure. “Could that be a clue?”

Kulkar did sprint over and opened the hatch, it was a narrow staircase leading down into darkness and the two dwarves didn’t hesitate, they plunged inn. Geir did roll his eyes, he didn’t like this at all but what the hey. If the dwarves did dare to go he ought to be just as brave.

Resh’kha was swinging the lance desperately. The heap of corpses was getting high and yet they kept coming, it was indeed madness. “How many are there of these bastards?”

Floth’bha did grunt with each swing of the lance. “Too many. Can you hear it? The sound of feet? I bet there are thousands living in this mountain”

Resh’kha did swallow a bout of nausea, the stench was horrible and the blood made the floors slick and dark. “What in the name of everything unholy have they been feeding on then?”

Floth’bha did decapitate yet a handful of these almost goblin like dwarves. “Beats me, each other?”

A surge of monsters did burst through the door leading to the control room and the large room with the mechanism and these were larger than the first ones and they did look horrible, with extended jaws and strange greyish skin. The arms were large and strong and very long and Resh’kha gasped. “These are like warrior ants, goddamn it!”

Floth’bha was panting. “Keep going, don’t let them through, we have got to stop them so the others can make the mechanism work.”

These new horrors did just scoop their smaller brethren aside and made some ghastly cackling sounds as they ran forth. They were so large one swing with the lance was barely enough. Osbord had started firing now, not wanting to waste arrows on the smaller ones. He was a good archer and each arrow made a kill but it didn’t make much of a difference. The numbers were just too great.

The dwarves did enter a huge cave, and it did indeed hold a sort of boiler. There was an oven with a huge container on top of it and there were pipes and valves and the air was damp and raw. Geir did sneeze, there was mold growing on the walls and the floor was covered with a knee deep layer of black mud. Kulkar did release a long line of swearwords and fought his way through the mud, the oven was apparently in order and there was water in the container. Also the pipes were whole and alright but there was obvious something which made him very upset. Dharan too did whimper and Geir did blink. The room wasn’t that wide but long and the other side of it from where they entered was covered with thick layers of black goo. It had to have been a sort of storage but Geir had no idea of what they had kept there. Kulkar did grunt. “Gods curse it, and devour the souls of those who made this calamity”

Geir frowned. “What is wrong?”

Dharan did roll his eyes and tore at his beard. “What is wrong? What is wrong?! I will tell you what is wrong human! To heat water you need something which burns and here they used coal. And that coal is what we are wading through right now!”

Geir did look down. “The mud?”

Kulkar nodded. “Aye lad, the mud!”

He did scoop up a handful of the goo and threw it at the walls with a yell. “Water has made its way in here, and over the years it has turned the coal to mud, useless wet mud. We cannot use the mechanism after all. We cannot make the chains move at all. We aren’t strong enough”

Geir did wet his lips- “Then what do we do?”

Kulkar shrugged. “Try to get away? Try to get outside? The little bastards won’t leave the city I am sure”

Dharan sort of whimpered. “But what about our mission then? We need that water to wipe over the plain”

Kulkar sneered. “And how are we to accomplish that ha? The goddamn dam is not going to crumble any time soon, it was made to last for eternity”

They ran back upstairs. The two orcs and Osbord were fighting desperately to keep the beasts at bay and Kulkar yelled at them. “How long can you keep them at bay?”

Osbord shook his head. “Not long, we are soon out of arrows, and they do keep coming”

The heap of bodies was so tall now the attackers had to climb over them but that didn’t seem to stop them at all. “We have to get out of here soon or we are screwed”

Resh’kha did cut down one of the attackers with a groan. “We have only one way to go then, up!”

Kulkar sighed. “We cannot open the dam, there is no coal and the mechanism cannot be used without steam. It is impossible to make it move.”

Resh’kha moaned. “But we need that water?!”

Dharan did look very sorry “I am very sad, I would have loved to watch the mechanism work, it would have been marvellous to see I am sure. “

Resh’kha looked down, her arms were heavy and she was very tired, they had fought desperately and yet they couldn’t quit at all. Floth’bha had a deep cut along her left arm from where one had managed to scratch her and she was trembling with fatigue. “Isnt there anything we can do?”

Geir shook his head. “No, I am sorry. We have to get out of here now, before we are overrun”

Dharan sighed. “Oh blast it, we have failed”

Kulkar did gape. “Blast it? Oh by the forefathers, we can! We can blast it!!”

Resh’kha couldn’t turn to look at him. “What are you saying?”

Kulkar spun around himself. “We can blast the dam sluice, I know how to make blasting powder”

Dharan did grasp onto his beard with both hands, he did look terrified. “You do? Oh by my lower beard, but do we have what is needed?”

Kulkar ran towards the storage room where Geir found the lances. “Maybe, such things are usually stored near the places where work is done. If these dwarved knew the art they would have used it for sure”

Dharan did look disturbed, his eyes huge and his skin pale. “Monsters and now this, oh curse this day”

Dharan did return with several jars, his eyes shining. “All I need is here, what I need now is time”

Rash’kha did swear, her arms and legs moving constantly. “No bloody shit! Be fast, these dirty critters are becoming too strong”

She was at the end of her strength. Kulkar had found a huge iron pot and now he was mixing powders and liquids and mumbling as he worked. Dharan did whimper. “Do you know what you are doing?!”

Kulkar did shake his head. “I have seen it done, never done it myself. So this is done by chance”

Dharan did shudder and Geir realized that this was dangerous indeed. “If it goes wrong, what will happen then?”

Kulkar did stick his tongue out. “We all die, in a terrible blast”

Geir was pale. “How comforting”

Resh’kha did pant, she had to move very fast, the door wasn’t that large but wide enough to let several through at once and the dead didn’t make much of a barrier at all. Floth’bha did rear back with a scream, she had a deep gash across her belly and blood did pour from it. Resh’kha did feel cold, they wouldn’t make it! Kulkar did stir the pot eagerly and his eyes were filled with dark joy. “If we go now we go as heroes of legend.”

Osbord did release his last arrow and switched to sword, he was pale too. Kulkar did lift the pot. “Now we have to place this in the right position”

Geir did groan, he too had drawn his sword. “And where is that?!”

Kulkar grinned, a grin filled with sheer madness. “Where the sluice is opened of course! We have to cut the chain which holds the counterweights up”

Geir did roll his eyes. “Great. And how do we get there?”

Kulkar did point at the opening in the roof. “I suggest we go up there and take it from the top of the dam. There are always inspection hatches up there”

Resh’kha did shout. “Then go, now! I cannot hold them back much longer!”

Everybody did scurry by her, Geir did support Floth’bha who was oddly pale and her face told of both agony and weakness. Kulkar did carry the pot with a sort of gentleness which told Resh’kha that the content was very volatile and she hissed and fought on. The moon was up now but the moonlight didn’t seem to scare the beasts at all.

Wenja had a hard time understanding what she now saw. The lake did freeze over, in a narrow path the cat immediately started to follow. She felt an urge to look back but she didn’t, she felt that it would be unwise for it would shatter her resolve. She did cling to the long dark fur and looked ahead and as soon as they were on the beach again the ice disappeared. The valley did rise, becoming a narrow canyon and the cat didn’t hesitate at all. It did wander ahead in a steady pace and Wenja saw that the mist had fallen, the day felt like night, it was very dark and the light was dim and oddly flat. She had a feeling of being elsewhere now and the cat did nod, as if it knew her thoughts and wanted to tell her she was right. The canyon did rise for a long time, and she saw naught outside of it, just mist and she was confused. She was way above the level of the mountain passes by now? But the terrain rose and rose and she couldn’t understand how it was possible. The cat did nod its head again. “Elsewhere, the goddess own land. Temple here and also there”

Finally they did reach a sort of plateau and Wenja did stare. The mist still lay low, covering the mountain sides and from the flat area several paths could be seen. All steep and all looked as if they had been carved from the rock the day before. There were small statues placed everywhere, depicting animals and natural scenes and Wenja held her breath. “Which one to choose?”

She let the cat walk by each possible path, they did all lead up into the mist and she felt as if she was in a dream yet again, an odd and peculiar one for sure. One of the paths did look very easy and smooth and then the next would look as if not even the cat would be able to climb it. They were different and she knew in her heart that she had to pick the right one, or else this would fail. Then Yalaihs words did emerge from her mind, the path of the leopard. Was there a leopard there? She saw a small statue by one of the paths, a cat and it was sitting peacefully licking its paw. She took a deep breath, “This one, I chose this one!”

The cat did grunt and started climbing the steep stairs, she had to hang onto the fur with all her srenght but the cat did move very smoothly and she discovered that she was strong enough to cling on like a burr. She didn’t look down at all, only up and the mist seemed to split as she was being brought upwards. The stair like path was oddly shaped and at times she had a feeling of flying and then she felt as if the surroundings were not really there, a mere illusion. She felt dizzy and wanted to close her eyes but found that it wasn’t that smart, she had to see where they were going. At times the path was flat and they followed a sort of road, well made and very nice, then the road would become strangely eroded as if it was thousands of years old and if she did look down it sometimes did disintegrate underneath them.

She wondered how this was possible but maybe she wasn’t supposed to know at all. The cat did jump over gaps in bridges and one place it did wade across a river with water which was oddly orange in colour. Then the cat did slow down and they entered a valley which did look surprisingly normal. The rocks were rather ordinary, the grass short and ochre in colour and the terrain was actually rather idyllic. There were some trees growing in small grooves and the temperature wasn’t that bad at all. The mist did lay over it all though, and the sun couldn’t be seen. The cat did walk on, it did appear to know where it was heading and Wenja did feel a tingling sensation within, she felt a nervous tremble in her hands and she knew that there was danger ahead. The valley did dip towards a lake and by the lake was a temple. It was a rather rough looking stone building and it wasn’t very elaborate at all. Just four walls and a roof and there wasn’t even an open place in front of it. Just grass and bushes. It did look abandoned and yet it wasn’t derelict in any manner. It could have been built last month.

The temple wasn’t abandoned though, around it she could see people, short stocky men carrying spears and wearing leather clothing which didn’t appear to be very elaborate. Just pieces of animal hides stitched together somehow. They were scurrying around and did look upset and confused. The cat did stop and sniffed the air and Wenja felt it too, a smell of unwashed men. She did grunt, she had gotten used to how good the elves did smell by now and these did smell like the goat herders who stayed in the barns the whole winter without ever taking a bath.

She made a grimace and leaned forth a bit, the men were obviously aggressive for some reason and she felt that they were dangerous. There was something odd about them and she didn’t really think, she just relaxed and let her thoughts flow and she saw that each man was surrounded by light but it was somehow contaminated. It did look as if something dark and viscous was clinging onto them, and she felt disgusted. The energy around them was just as bad and the cat did tilt his head. “They will kill you if they come near you”

Wenja sighed. She already knew that, it was almost as if she could read their minds, these were people of the mountains, ensnared and seduced by the dark force which did bring inn the huge packs of monsters. These were promised power and freedom, status and wealth and yet they hadn’t really understood what they were involved inn. They had followed their new leader and Wenja saw images in her head, burning huts and slaughtered females and young ones, chiefs with their heads chopped off and villages where nobody were alive anymore.

It was madness and the goddess was furious, these men had been brought here so they wouldn’t do any more harm to their race and Wenja realized that this was a part of her test, to check if she truly was worthy of this. At the moment the mist did hide her and the cat from these people and she knew they would attack if they saw her. Their master wouldn’t allow them to escape his clutches and they were loyal to him now, completely his slaves.

She had to free them of the dangerous influence but how?

Wenja remembered the animals which had gathered around the caravan, the Zahar and the other carnivors and she did tilt her head. Their minds were a bit simple, they weren’t as logical as humans and their knowledge of the world relatively limited. They knew their own lands and people of course, all they needed to survive there in the mountains. But everything outside of that little sphere was unknown to them or something they didn’t care about at all. Wenja was a bit fascinated, they had obviously slaughtered their own kin to please this voice some of them heard, they were obvious very superstitious and it didn’t take much to make them scared of the supernatural. Wenja had to make use of that, she didn’t want to use violence and she knew that she was being tested in many ways, could she free them without hurting them? The energy was swirling around them, like a dark veil trying to smother their thoughts and it was corrupting them a lot, she sensed it. They would normally never harm one of their own.

Wenja did grin, a slow and vicious grin, she had an idea. The dark energy would get something else to chew upon, something less harmfull than these men. She felt the surroundings and felt life everywhere. There were mice and voles and other rodents everywhere, even some larger ones hiding in between the roots of the trees. She gathered her concentration and frowned, in her mind she transferred the dark veil from each of the men and applied it to a rat or vole. It didn’t feel as if she was doing anything too hard but it did apparently work for the men did straighten themselves up and they stared at each other as if they were strangers to each other.

Wenja giggled. The rats and voles and other animals did freeze, then they did disappear into the soil again, confused and scared and not mentally able to follow the orders from the dark power. They would simply hide and the men stood there, stunned and confused. Wenja heard voices calling out and some of them appeared to have complete breakdowns. Then the mist did fall down over them and when it was gone so were they. Wenja felt that they had been brought back to their own valleys and their own time. The cat grunted “Well done”

She heard its voice in her head and smiled. She hadn’t killed them, that was good. She let the cat carry her down towards the temple and she felt the power from it. She felt the mist rise and saw sunlight for the first time in a while and as they stopped in front of the door she knew that this temple was horribly old but she was there in a different time. It had been destroyed when the creature struck the earth but in this time and place it still existed and the thing she had been sent to retrieve had been hidden there, before the darkness ever entered this world. It was the only place it was safe.

She just felt the truth in her bones, and she slid down from the cat and stopped at the entrance. She heard the voice of the goddess in her head. “Be ware daughter of man, what you will see in here will be with you forever.”

Wenja nodded. “Why me?”

The goddess was heard chuckling. “You are rare Wenja, a soul with an infinite capacity for love, and believe me when I say that everybody else would have died back at that goblin city. You are the one born twice and with blood of man and elf alike, not fully any of them and yet capable of understanding both. Go now, the moment you leave the temple and awaken the relic the dark one will know of the relic kept here and we all must move fast”

Wenja did nod and stared at the entrance, it was very dark and she didn’t really see anything in there. She hesitated, every instinct she had told her that she shouldn’t enter this place, something about it felt very dangerous. Wenja thought about Ahravan and Rhawan and the thousands of people who would be in trouble if she failed in this, there wasn’t truly a choice. She took a deep breath and stepped inside and the world did go black around her immediately and she got a feeling of falling. She didn’t even have time to scream, was this right?

Resh’kha did fight with all her strength, the sheer number of bloodthirsty beasts was incredible and she saw that the smaller ones already were eating their fallen brethren, the sight was grotesque and she fought the urge to spew. The others had managed to get up the stairs to open air and she didn’t really know how to get up there safely. The beast would be at her back immediately. Geir was standing at the top of the stairs, he held a torch high. “Resh’kha, now!”

He did toss the torch down and the beasts did run away from the flames. Resh’kha did sprint up the stairs, her legs were shaking with exhaustion and her armour was covered with blood but it had done a marvellous job protecting her so far. There was a huge slab of rock up there, a sort of hatch which probably were made to cover the opening but it was broken in half and not large enough to cover it and also, very heavy. Geir and Osbord did push with all their might and Resh’kha did help. They managed to push the piece of rock over the opening but it did only help a little. There was still room for the small beasts to get up and now there was no sunlight at all. The night was dark and a narrow moon didn’t give much light at all. The two dwarves were running along the top of the rock dam, they were in a hurry now. Geir and Osbord did draw their swords, the opening the monsters had to get through was not that large but the critters were agile and still desperate.

Floth’bha did stand closer to the dam, she was clutching her belly and Resh’kha felt a surge of horror, was her friend seriously injured? The two men and the female orc did fight in shifts, the creatures did fall back downt the stairs when they died and soon a there was a new heap down on the floors. Resh’kha could only hope that the dwarves did manage to do their job, and that it would work. The other part of the huge stone slate was simply too heavy for them to move and Resh’kha was rather sure that the small monsters would be able to push it out of the way, simply because they were so many.

Kulkar and Dharan did find the inspection hatch, and there was a ladder leading from it down into the dam itself. The opening which could be used to drain the dam was massive and very well made, the gate was made from both rock and wood and they saw the massive weights which would be lowered to raise the gate. They were held up by chains and the mechanism which they hadn’t been able to activate would have released those chains and controlled their descent. Kulkar did raise his torch and held the pot with the dangerous mix, he did nod towards the chains. “I have to place the pot just on top of that gear there, it should blast the whole thing to smithereens”

Dharan did gulp, the distance to that place was great and there was a huge dark void underneath them. “How are you gonna get there?”

Kulkar did point. “There is a ladder over there”

Dharan did run over to the wall and did lift the ladder, it was a solid one made from steel and it was long too, getting it over to the gear wasn’t easy at all. It was in fact very heavy and Dharan had to use all his strength to manoeuvre the bloody thing over the gap. The gears which held the chains were massive and he did doubt that the pot was enough to even make a dent in the solid metal. Kulkar did look nervous, but he didn’t hesitate. The aging dwarf was nothing if not brave and since his race don’t have a perception of height it wasn’t the fear of falling which did hold him back. It was more the fear of dropping the pot. They could faintly hear how the others did fight the beasts and Kulkar did slowly make his way along the ladder, one step at a time. They didn’t have that much time at all and Dharan did take a deep breath of relief as his friend did reach the massive mechanism. The weights hung straight underneath the system, massive blocks made from rock and metal and they had to weight many tens of tons each. It was needed, the gate which held the dam watertight was huge and this power was needed.

Kulkar did swallow hard, he did find a spot near the place where the gears were attached to the roof and placed the jar there. Then he did pull some meters of relatively thin rope out of his pockets and lukily it was dry. He did place the end in the pot and then he did stretch the rope out along the ladder as he slowly made his way back to Dharan who stood there on the edge of the inspection platform, rather pale looking. “Will this work?”

Kulkar tried to smile. “Let us pray that it does.”

He did jump down and put Dharan’s torch to the rope, it did burn, as a matter of fact it did burn rather well, and fast too! “Run!”

They did climb out of the bowels of the dam as fast as they could and now Kulkar did realize that they had done a blunder, a monumental one. If the dam did blow, where were they to seek cover? They couldn’t run across the dam now, they had to go in the opposite direction. Seeking cover within the city was out of the question and beyond the opening they had run up from there was just naked rock, almost vertical. The three who were fighting off the beasts did stare at Kulkar and Dharan who came panting, running like crazy. “We have got to get out of here, it will blow up soon”

Resh’kha did gape and the others stared. “Are you kidding me? You have set it off and we have no where to go?!”

Kulkar did look sheepish. “Uh, we didn’t think that far?”

The monsters did still try to get up to get at them and the screeching and roaring was intense. Floth’bha moaned. “Resh’kha, can you shield us?”

Resh’kha did frown. “What?”

Floth’bha was very pale now. “Like on the plains, for a few moments”

Resh’kha tried to focus. “Uh, I guess so?”

Osbord did smile, it was a very thin smile, almost bitter. “Do it, I will lead them off”

Geir did gasp. “No, it is certain death!”

Osbord smiled, a genuine smile this time. “Yes, this whole mission was certain death and we all knew that when we left, isn’t this what we all hoped for? A honourable death, doing a good deed?”

Geir did nod. “Aye, you are right, it is”

Osbord smiled at Resh’kha who was hacking away at the beasts. “They are stupid, they will follow fleeing prey. Don’t let this be in vain”

Resh’kha did touch the gem and the amulet and now it felt alive again, like a warm living thing. She did close her eyes and they all ran away from the opening, hiding behind it. The air did shiver and for a few moments the people gathered there were invisible to the beasts, except Osbord. The man waited until the beasts started to pour out of the hole in the ground like ants from an anthill, then he did run. He ran out onto the dam and the beasts did in fact follow him, the instinct so strong and the man was indeed very brave for he knew that the explosion was imminent and nobody knew just how strong it would be.

The stream of beasts did end, all of them which were still able to move were out on the dam now and Kulkar panted. “Get back down there, now!”

A few beasts were still alive though wounded and Resh’kha did end them with her axe, they did scurry down into the opening and Resh’kha was the last one to get in and she turned her head just in time to see the explosion. It was grand, it was so powerful the entire dam for a few seconds seemed to be lifted off its foundations. The top disintegrated since the roof over the mechanism was blown out and the floodgate was lifted in one violent tug as the weights did drop suddenly and without control. The sound did throw echoes between the mountains, it was like violent thunder times a thousand and rocks did fly everywhere. Resh’kha did watch how blocks the size of houses did fly and there was a moan coming from the lake as the water suddenly found a way out.

The explotion had weakened the dam a lot, it was old and even though it was well made water had been burrowing through the foundations and turned solid ground to mud. This was the last straw, the final nail in the coffin. As water did gush out of the open flood gate in a horizontal beam of black other beams of water started to appear along the edge of the dam, where it was connected to the bedrock. There was rumbling and roaring and it was like watching a waterfall mixed with blocks of stone and mud. Resh’kha couldn’t look away, she was transfixed upon the incredible sight. The monsters and Osbord had vanished the moment the explosion went off, they had been very close to the inspection hatch and thus they had been reduced to vapor within the blink of an eye. Resh’kha was glad Osbord hadn’t had time to suffer, it had been instantaneous.

The dam did simply give up, it was reduced to blocks of stone and disintregrated completely. The whole lake pushed forth and the sound was deafening. Resh’kha did whimper and Geir did pull her with him down into the control room again. The stench of dead monsters was overwhelming and Kulkar stood there shaking like a leaf all over. He was both shocked and in awe and also grasped by a feeling of having done something impossible. “It shouldn’t have been that strong, it shouldn’t! It was impossible!”

Geir did make a grimace. “Was the room dusty?”

Kulkar did nod. “Yes, very. Not at the bottom I think for water did seep inn but there was a lot of dust there yes, why?”

Geir shrugged. “Ever heard of a dust explosion? The pot did set off a second explosion and I once saw a mill blow itself up, there wasn’t anything left of the building at all. Even heavy beams were reduced to toothpicks!”

Dharan nodded slowly. “Ah, that makes sense. But all that water will most certainly have an effect on the plains”

Geir grinned. “It will be an almighty flooding for sure. I don’t think those monsters will like getting their feet wet”

Resh’kha did grasp onto Floth’bha. “How are you, is it bad?”

The half orc did grin but there was pain in her eyes. “A deep gash, a bad one.”

Kulkar did force himself to breathe slowly, to ease down. “Right, I bet there is a storage of medicinal supplies in here somewhere, or at least bandages. We have to get out of here sooner or later, we cannot linger for there aren’t food here and I bet that thing you carry need to get to where the enemy is right?”

Resh’kha did nod. “Yes, yes it does. “

Wenja woke up to a sound she never had heard before, it was a sound so loud she instinctively pressed her hands over her ears, even before she did open her eyes. She felt cold, and she did shiver too. The sound was that of a battle, roars, screams and the thunder of what had to be massive collisions. Slowly she did open her eyes again, she lay on a naked hill, covered with just gravel and sand and around her there was indeed a battle being fought. She got to her feet, discovering that she was naked and that the skies above her were dark and filled with smoke and flames. It was a vision of hell, around her people were fighting monsters and these were nothing like the ones she had seen out on the plains. These were way larger and way more terrifying and they were just so many. The people fighting them were of all races, she saw both humans and elves and dwarves and even some orcs. All wore elaborate armour and fought with a sort of fierce discipline she realized was needed. It was like an elegant and yet deadly dance and it was mesmerizing in its horror.

Some of the largest of the monsters did wield weapons and she could see structures, walls and buildings which did look more or less collapsed, she felt somehow that this once had been a city and a wonderful one too. The remains of architecture told her of great beauty and a sort of serene elegance which now was being ravaged and torn. She did swallow, what was this really? It was a test, she could see that but what was being tested? The thunder of battle didn’t seize, both sides suffered great losses and yet none of them did yield or hesitate. The warriors did lunge forth, never cowering before even the most terrible of their opponents. Wenja turned around, it was the same in all directions, slaughter and mayhem and she didn’t want to see this much death and destruction but knew she had to.

She started to walk, why she didn’t really know. She just walked down from the small hill and realized that nobody could see her. She walked by the monsters and the warriors and she was invisible to them, as if she wasn’t there. Maybe she wasn’t, maybe this was all an illusion. She felt that she ought to head towards the centre of the city and there were some clues in the ruined buildings as to what direction she was to follow. There were streets and she did find a large one and followed it. Her mind simply stunned by what she did see.

After a while she realized that all there hadn’t been warriors, ordinary people had lived there and she had to swallow the taste of bile in her mouth. There were corpses everywhere, people cut down like vermin, brutally killed in manners which were simply mind numbing in their grotesque reality. She saw men and women crushed by rocks, impaled by crude spears. She saw people bitten in half, ripped into shreds. She saw dogs and horses killed by heavy hammer blows, some caught underneath collapsing walls. It was as if there still was a wailing in the air, from spirits too distraught to head for the other side.

She saw a small girl laying in the street, clutching a ragdoll still, her lower body turned into pulp by some unknown force. Wenja had to turn around, retching and gasping for air. She felt sick to the core, torn apart by the fact that there was nothing she could do, nothing she could do to help these people. There were still civilians present, she saw families scrurrying around like rats, trying to seek shelter and there were rocks flying through the air, hitting structures or just the streets with heavy thuds. They had to use some sort of siege machines for sure.

She saw that there was structure to the way the warriors fought, a clear strategy and there were officers among them, leading the men and keeping an overview of the situation. She was very confused, was this something which had happened? Was this a vision of the last time the gate had been opened?

She ran throught the streets and came upon a sort of city square, the defenders had a sort of command station put up there, and she saw many people who carried signs of having great power. The armours and everything did seem very well made, and even the cloth they wore had bright colours and was woven in a manner she hadn’t seen before. If this was the far past then much had been forgotten since then, that was for sure. The fighters were gathering around a huge stone slate, a map had been laid out over it and it was a map of the city. Wenja did see where she was and she did also see symbols placed everywhere which did incicate where the enemy was heading. She had to find something, something important. And it was on the enemy’s side of the city for sure. She just knew that this was her goal, that the relic was there and had to be found.

She didn’t know what it was, or how to get it since she obviously wasn’t even really there but she did walk on. The monsters didn’t see her and she didn’t fear for her own safety but the things she did see made her shiver to the core. The defenders had suffered heavy losses, most bodies were just left where they fell since retrieval was too dangerous and the smell was unbelievable. They had to have been fighting for days or weeks even. The city was a ruin and she wondered where this was, she hadn’t seen much of the world after all. The devastation got worse the farther she went, here there wasn’t really much left of the buildings at all, only piles of rubble and everywhere there were monsters. Huge and small and heading in direction of the battle field. Then she sort of got past the monsters, the ruins became quiet, almost eerily so and she felt a horrible presence there, a pressing gnawing ache in her very soul and she slowed down. There were shadows between the ruins, towering dark figures which seemed to be made from just mist and yet they were real, not mirages.

They were darkness incarnate, cold ruthless souls filled with nothing but hatred and greed and she had never felt that scared before. Could they sense her? Was she brave enough to move forth? Whatever she was after, it was behind them and she thought she saw light far ahead, a faint flickering one but it did call to her. The dark ones, she knew what they were, the leaders of the monsters, their masters. And she felt the gate too, like a void pulling on her very soul but she did resist it and focused upon the now. She had to get the relic, so the world could be saved, once and for all. She started to move and the huge figures seemed to sense that something was there, they turned and shifted and moved like fog above water and she was shivering but kept going. She didn’t try to sneak, she just walked on. She realized that these horrible apparitions did sense fear more than anything else and so she refused to be scared of them. She walked on and avoided whisps of dark mist and thoughts which did slide by her spirit like the filth covering stagnant ponds. She just wasn’t there, she kept thinking about Ahravan and Rhawan, of her future daughter and her friends. They were what was important now.

She got by, they didn’t manage to sense her and she went towards the light, it was like a firefly among the dark shadows of a deep wood and yet she saw it. She entered what had been a park, now there were just trunks and burned wood left of it but it had been lovely once. Everybody could see that. There was a figure standing there, a small and frail looking being which did have a physical body. It was bent and apparently very old and yet it had some power left. It lay around it as a cloak, barely noticeable but Wenja did know that this creature was very wise and did possess great knowledge. It did stare at her and she swallowed hard. It was impossible to say what race this was, it was ugly the way humans would see it, wrinkly and grey with a black snout like nose and watering dark eyes covered with cataracts. The hands were thin and the fingers long and skeletal, it did only have three fingers on each hand and the head was relatively long but flat from the sides. It did look odd but Wenja saw a sort of perfection also in this strange being. It had been formed thus by its own world and how was she to deem it bad? She probably looked just as horrid in its eyes.

The being held something packed into cloth and it did lower its eyes to the ground as she did approach. “Daughter of these lands, are you the one I have been waiting for?”

Wenja did nod. “I am”

The creature nodded, slowly and its mouth did move. It didn’t have teeth, just bare gums and yet it did smile. “Good, bring this to the sacred circle and awaken it. But be ware, the dark one of your time will sense it”

Wenja took a deep breath. “Who are you? Why are you helping me?”

The creature snickered, it was a cackling sound, not from a human throat. “Oh young soul, your world is not the first one these marauders do attack. I am what is left of my race, of my home. I am old and weak and they don’t sense those who are thus, they seek power wherever they find it, in every form.”

Wenja still didn’t understand and the creature did make a gesture as if to embrace everything that they saw. “To them we aren’t here, they sense only a shadow of our beings. This is the past, the only safe place to hide the relic. What was done cannot be undone child of this world, but the future is like a great tree with many branches and each branch is a possible outcome. We are trying to make sure the right branch is chosen.”

Wenja took a deep breath. “Alright, so, what do I do now?”

The creature did hold the object forth, still wrapped in cloth. “Take it, when the time is right throw it into the gate. It will destroy that magic forever and the gate will never be opened again.”

Wenja bit her lower lip. “It won’t be easy now will it?”

The creature did shake its ugly head. “No, it may cost you everything young one, but you have to try. There are others too trying to help now, the goddess of your world is like a general, leading her armies into battle. Do heed her orders and her warnings and trust in yourself. Your light is strong”

Wenja tried to smile and took the bundle from the creature. It did wink at her. “The cliff does hold a secret, unleash it if you can and the dark ones will be destroyed”

Wenja felt the weight of the relic, it wasn’t large and it wasn’t heavy and it was difficult imagining that something this small could possess such power but who was she to doubt this. She held it close and bowed her head. “I thank you”

The creature bowed back. “And I thank you. I have waited here in this moment for a very long time young one, you are brave and not without compassion. A hardened soul cannot awaken the relic”

Wenja frowned. “How am I to…”

There was a jerk, a feeling of falling and she did have time to let out a yell before things went dark again. She opened her eyes with a grunt, feeling rather annoyed and a bit angry. Why did these things always end thus? With more questions than answers? She was in the temple, it was a very small dark room without much decoration and there was just a simple stone pedestal there and on top of it was the bundle of cloth hiding the relic. Wenja got up, she felt rather determined now, as if she had had enough of this prophecy chosen one thing. She walked over and grasped the relic and the cloth did come apart in her hands, as if it had rotted away completely. It was a small glass container, not very special at all. Just made from rough glass, a tiny jar the type some ladies use to store perfume in. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about it at all and for a moment she did fear that they had been tricked and that this was fake. Then she felt the tingling sensation of magic running up and down her arm and she sighed and placed the tiny jar in her dress.

She turned and walked outside, the cat was there waiting for her and she nodded at it. “It is done, I have the relic. Now what?”

The cat did bow down and she did climb back onto its back, now she started feeling tired and a sensation of dread was clawing its way into her mind. The things she had seen…it would happen again if she didn’t manage to close the gate and this time there weren’t large armies ready to protect the land. If they couldn’t stop the flow of monsters they were all doomed and the horrible deaths she had seen made her tremble. No, she had to do this, she had to make sure that it never came to it, no matter what. The cat started to trot and she closed her eyes and held onto the fur, she was tired and felt almost disconnected. It had been so much, and she was after all just one person, and not a terribly wise one.

She opened her eyes and gasped when she saw that they suddenly were moving along the beach heading towards the little camp. She had just closed her eyes for a few seconds and yet, here they were and she sat up and felt confusion grow within. The cat didn’t slow down until they reached the simple tents and Wenja saw that Ahravan and Rhawan already stood here, waiting for them. Wenja felt an intense surge of relief, of joy. She had been afraid she wouldn’t see them again and the moment Ahravan did lift her down she did embrace him fiercely. “Oh Ahravan, I am so glad to see you!”

Rhawan too were in tears of relief and she hugged him too, laughing as she did. “I am back, how long was I gone?”

Ahravan did make a grimace. “Not very long, some hours? But it was long enough if you ask me, what happened?”

Wenja felt the warmth from the tall male and leaned against him. “I will tell, but I need something warm, and rest. I feel very tired”

Ayhrandur and Khirhien and the two men did also gather around her, very curious and relieved that she was back and Khirhien did manage to warm some water and made tea. Wenja did tell them everything, very slowly and the elves did stare at each other. Ahravan did shrug. “It must have been a grand city you saw being destroyed, too bad I know very little of the past of this realm”

Khirhien was thinking hard. “I think I may have heard about that one, when I was young. It was a mere fairytale but one I sort of remember. My grandmother told me about it”

Everybody were staring at him and Khirhien did blush. “It was in the south, along the coast they call the bay of Shenalay. A great city of men and elves and it was famous for its beauty. Mighty kings ruled it for ages and it did harbour many wonders. They called it Khor’thialay, the city of silver”

Rhawan did squint. “Aye, I have heard that name too, long ago. But nobody today know where it was, or if it was even real”

Wenja sighed. “It was real, and what I saw…it has horrible. I cannot even begin to imagine the sufferings those people have gone through. And the monsters, they were way larger and stronger than the ones we have met.”

Rhawan did sigh. “Then we do know that we have to get this gate closed, before things like that pass through.The kingdoms of the ancient days are no more, and the twelve clans are not strong enough to stop the beasts, not anymore. We may have been more powerful back in time but now we are too few.”

Wenja did touch the relic gently, she still kept it in her pocket for it wasn’t that large at all. “Odd really, I would have anticipated this thing to be something grand and amazing, like a powerful weapon or something like that but it is just a tiny glass jar.”

Ayhrandur did tilt his head, his eyes were dark. “Do never think that small means weak, I have seen tiny shrews attack animals ten times their size and winning too. It is a mistake done by those who fail to see the truth about things, to only respect what power is visible with the naked eye.”

Wenja nodded and leaned against Rhawan, she felt that they had to move on but first she needed rest. A long rest. She was perhaps one of the eternal now but there was still enough human in her to make her require rest rather often. Rhawan did nod at the two human hunters. “We leave the moment she is ready for it, stay alert and keep the horses ready for a swift departure if something happens.”

They did nod and Wenja laid down in one of the tents. She closed her eyes and felt that Ahravan did lay down next to her, he did just hold her and it felt good, and safe too. She did fall asleep right away but the sounds of that battle did still evaborate in her head and she still felt the stench of death in her nose. The goddess had said that she never would forget, right, then she accepted that price for she had to save her people from suffering the same fate. Wenja did sleep for almost half a day, when she did wake up she was well rested but felt a bit sleepy and she had to wash her face with cold water to really wake up. When she had eaten a bit she was lifted onto Rhawan’s horse and they were off yet again. The huge cat was still there though and now it was leading them all, and Wenja did realize that it did know where they were going. She could just hope that they would reach whatever goal the goddess had set for them easily and fast.

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