11 January 2011

Chapter 1: The Legend

Chapter 1. The legend


The sun was happily smiling upon the people of Dreonia, a village with no more than 500 habitants situated close to the forests of the Black Mountains, in the southern part of the Bolden Lands.

Today, the yearly tournament day brought the young and bravest together to challenge each other in sword fighting, jousting, archery and barehanded fights.

Today, Dreonia knew no routine, the familiar voices overcome by those of hundred of visitors; the usual market place filled with merchants and travellers from all around the land; the humbled village of Dreonia became, unlike any another day, everyone’s destination.

The Dreonians were almost as excited as their visitors. They only had once a year the opportunity to attend such festivities that brought them some more excitement than their daily occupations. After this day, the tournament moved on to the next village or city together with all of its glory and charm.

Everyone gathered in the rounded red-brick-stone build arena situated in the centre of the village. The arena divided itself in three major activities, all taking place in the hot burning sand. The first one was the jousting area where the steamed horses faced the lances of their masters. It was the most exciting competition of them all and many gathered to see the yet to be broken bones and harnesses.
The second was the fighting area, less popular but not any less crowded. People gathered around the wooden heck to watch the competitors challenging each other either with the sword or with their fists. The winner would be the one still standing. The third and last area was also the less popular and crowded, the archery area, where the one with the highest dexterity would be declared the winner. This did not mean that its popularity was not yet to come.

It was around noon. After a compliance of pain, sweat, blood, anger and joy, the winners of the Dreonian tournament were declared while the losers were quickly forgotten. The competitions came to an end.

Everyone leaved the massive arena and started spreading out in the market place and local inns.

The market place found itself along the main road between the arena and the southern gates of the village.

As you walked out of the arena with the sun fully shinning on your head you could have spotted on your left side as well as on your right side things that made your eyes wonder. Merchants awaiting you behind their wooden tables, their best goods presented before you: gems, clothing, magic potions, weapons, armour, magic scrolls, anything a person could think of. Behind them you could spot the warm houses and the beautiful lilac and jasmine trees all decorated with all kinds of roses and yellow flowers. Your eyes however focus again on the marketplace. Some merchants look and smile at you pointing their hands to their merchandise, others even step in your way with a book or a rabbit in their hands desperately trying to sell it to you. Others even reveal a fire show to catch your attention and lock you to their tent where they had all kinds of potions and magic scrolls.

The blacksmiths were going to have the most profits today. They awaited impatiently the young fighters to bring their broken armours and slated weapons. After such tournaments it would have been impossible not to scratch a plate mail or break a sword.
Beside the merchants and blacksmiths there were also the local sellers of fruit, vegetables, bread and meat. Here you could satisfy your hunger with freshly baked bread or salty dried turkey meat before you would stop by the inn for a cold grape’s juice or a good ale.

Crowded and busy, surrounded by thousands of voices and laughter, filled with the sound of gold in trade and wooden cups filled with ale knocking against each other, Dreonia brought one’s heart in harmony and peace on such a late summer afternoon.



But even the most crowded places can be brought to silence in a matter of a second.



Lips stopped moving, gold stopped dropping and drinks stopped flowing as it walked among them.


This person had entered the southern gates and was walking on the main road leading to the arena square. You could not tell if it was a woman or a man, human or a beast. It wore a long black cloak covering its face. Its eyes spotted the commoners starring, a woman holding a chicken by its feet starred back, her mouth half open and her rounded face filled with intrigue, a man holding a loaf of bread dropped it on the street examining the stranger from the boots to the cloak as if trying to guess where it came from. With every step, eyes starred back and watched carefully every move it took.

It was no Dreonian for sure. The stranger passed people by carrying a half opened leather bag. If you looked closely into the bag you could have spotted the tip of a long sword, a wooden corner of a crossbows and the sharpened edge of a mace.

Everyone turned their heads around as the visitor passes them by. The black vest with three silver buttons on each side, the dark brown trousers and the heavy brown boots with reptile scales, all slightly hidden in the long black cloak, gave many the impression the visitor was a creature of the night.

The looks reminded some men, those of the old generation, of the Thieves Lodge in the Great City of Bolden. They wore similar clothing. In the Great City they had caused a great deal of trouble offering the Protectors of Bolden years filled with blood and disasters. The thieves were in charge and no one could had ever proven them otherwise. They did what their hearts desired: killed, stole and judged whomever they wanted. Not a while ago however they began to disappear one by one, in mysterious ways. Some say the Protectors of Bolden had finally grew strong with the coming of the new king, others say they were eliminated by their strongest enemies, the ones that were much more powerful and cruel than they ever were, the ones that belonged to the undead.

The visitor stopped before a merchant’s marketable and put the cloak down. It was the face of a young woman. She wore short brown hair up to her shoulders and had dark green eyes, just like the River of Dawn. With a slightly tanned skin and a soft oval face she looked almost beautiful. The dirt on her hair and face though, make her look suspicious, the coldness in her eyes, frightening.

The merchant looked at her. He noticed some strange redish colour in her chestnut hair. His eyes widened as he suspected what it could have been.

She threw her bag on the merchant’s table and took out the sword and the mace. She than took a small leather pouch off her belt and empties its content on the table. Seven gems fell out of it, each specially shining in the eyes of the merchant.
Their beauty blinded him as he had the feeling the gems were rare. Such beautiful gems were only to be found in dungeons and wild forests well guarded by monsters and dark creatures.
The strong smell of blood suddenly penetrates his nose. He felt his heart stop as his eyes faced  the sword and mace. They were smudged with dried blood.

The merchant examined the weapons closely but without touching them. He had seen many weapons in his life; enough to realize these had not been used by any human race. They looked different in size and shape. The pommels of the mace and sword were so thick, no human hand could have ever grabbed hold of them.

’Ten gold for the mace and sword; twenty for the gems. It is not negotiable.’

The man was startled by her sudden voice. It was sweet but firm.

‘I’ll take the gems all right. But I won’t have any unholy weapons in my stock.’

‘As you wish. That’ll be twenty’ She stated as she took the weapons back. The merchant searched his belt pouch and pulled his hand out filled with golden coins. He than carefully counted them one by one to not accidentally give too much than gave them to the girl looking at her with disgust. He almost felt sorry for buying the gems…almost…they were just so extremely beautiful.

She headed the next merchant.

‘Not here.’ He quickly answered. He did not like strangers equipped with knives at their waists and all kinds of weapons. They always brought trouble.

She moved on to the next merchant that was already shacking his head followed by several others whom she walked by.

‘I’d like to have a look at ya’weapons.’ A low deep voice called the girl out.

She looked in the direction the voice came from. A blacksmith stood with his market table on the opposite side of the others. His bare chest allowed his wide belly to breathe openly over his grey dirty trousers. As he held a hammer in his muscular arms, drops of sweat fall down his bold forehead from the heat of the iron.

The girl approached the smith than says aloud so the others could hear her.

’Good, I also have a necklace. I’ll give it to you for free if you take these weapons.’ She showed him the same weapons adding the crossbow.

Putting his hammer aside, the smith took each weapon in his hands and examined them briefly. He seemed unbothered by the blood marks.

‘Twelve gold for these two; sixteen with the crossbow and free necklace.’ He gave her a vague smile.

She took a pink pearl necklace out of her bag than slowly swung it before his eyes. He looked at it with shimmering eyes, he cought a glimpse of the woman polishing a few steps behind him.

‘Done’.

As they closed the deal, the smith offered the gold. The girl did not take it.

‘Keep it’.

She stretched her arm behind her back and drew an axe - a beautiful weapon with decorations never seen before by the smith. This too had a great deal of dried blood on it but the steal was still shining in the sun raze. The handle was shaped like a bat’s head; its eyes two blue gemstones. The man gasped at its beauty.

‘Can you sharpen it a little? My last adventure was… a little bit rough.’ She added with a grin.

As the smith picked up the axe he was even more astonished. It looked so massive yet felt so light. He wanted to swing it around a few times but thought it might be better to do so after the girl was gone.

‘It’ll take a clock.’ He took a cloth and called out for the woman in the back.
‘Iona!’

‘Good.’

The woman irritated, leaved her current occupation and came to see to her man.

‘What is it this time?’

‘Clean this weapon for me, will ya? And I’ve got something nice for you.’
He swung the necklace in his hand. Her face brightened with a smile.

The man turned to the girl but she was already gone.

Once the visitor left, the market place people were reminded of their own affairs. The bargains continued, the coin started dropping again from one hand in the other and the ale was once again sliding in one’s dried throat.


v


Because of the dry warm weather the innkeeper of the Lizard Inn decided to locate his bar in the open air and thus attract more people. He had always been inventive about his own work. Even his inn looked special. He had stools covered with grey lizard skin, large wooden tables with lizards beautifully carved in each corner; even the wooden cups had small lizard’s head carved in them.

Three men sat at his bar. Soon another joined. The innkeeper gave her some ale looking suspiciously at her.

She sat there calmly examining the surroundings. A refreshing breeze touched her hair and she soon smelled the green leaves of the forests surrounding Dreonia. She looked at the beautiful buildings across the roads, all ornamented with flowers and plants decorating the brick walls. The people moved around the buildings as if they were ants each knowing his or her own task and knowing where to head. A short bold man was chasing a commoner with a red woman’s shawl in his hand, a woman walked along with her child who was enjoying a sugar doll, a young lady was savouring the roses she had just bought sinking her nose into them, and so on.

The girl almost got a smile on her face. Her smile faded quickly as she started starring in her cup. The ale in her cup seemed agitated, restless like an angry river. We have something in common, she thought. It slowly seemed to be changing colour, turning from yellow to pink, pink to red, red to lava, from ale to thick blood.


v


The cold winter breeze bit in her muscles. The mist and moist of the swamp were well felt. It was deadly quiet for a moment.

Suddenly it all came to life.

Men and monsters, swords and axes, cries of pain and anger were all present. She saw the faces of the people she knew well, the people that made her become something she was proud of. She saw their faces once again as they were a step closer to death. A leader of an extraordinary party had led her men to their very end, people would say.

They fight, they try to defend themselves but they fail. The monsters surrounding them are much stronger and too many. They are ambushed from all places and step by step attacked, stabbed, cut and bitten from every part of their bodies. Blood was flowing, gushing all directions and finally falling down in the muddy ground. Pain, cutting burning pain was well felt but that was nothing compared to the faces of her companions trying to defend her. The expression on their faces, their cries, their eyes...

Why was she watching instead of helping them? Why couldn’t she defend them instead?

The night before had been a warning. Everyone had a bad feeling about this particular mission. If she had just listened to them. Brisc even asked her to put an end to it but she just did not want to listen.

She failed them. It should have been her death, not theirs.

Tears ran over her cheeks. The blood in her cup turned back to ale. She pulled the cloak over her head.


                                                                       v


The arena, where less than a clock ago people pushed each other to be able to enter, was now deserted and silent. Two young men stood at the arena entrance.

‘If you want to win, you’ll have to do better than that!’

‘I did my best!’ I have to practise more, I guess.’ answered Rida to his fellow friend.

Rida was one of the young Dreonian competitors. He was about seventeen with dark blond hair slightly curled and white skin like ivory. If you would have compared him with the other regular fighters of his age, not only would you have noticed he was thinner and smaller but he also seemed weaker and somehow fearful.

He looked at his cheap damaged armour. He wore a plate mail up to his waist. The iron was eroded and the edges of the plate mail were cracked. Under the plate mail he wore a plain yellow shirt with long sleeves. He had neither gauntlets nor protection for his arms and legs. He could not afford a full plated mail or a good quality of iron. This one cracked by the third sword hit across his chest, the edges of the cracked iron scratching his skin. Now he had to spend all his money to repair it. He hated the situation but he hated his life even more. He was sick of cheap clothes, the feeling of constantly being hungry and the always remaining stanch on his clothes. Why could he not have a better life, eat as much as he wanted and spend gold without looking how much is left? But more importantly why could he not be more like his friend, Drin, be fearless, famous and have a life filled with adventures? He has been poor and insignificant all of his life and his future did not look any better.

‘How can you practise if you don’t even know how? You need to learn the methods.’ answered Drin.

Drin on the other hand was three years older than his companion, dark hair and twice as muscular. He wore a cotton white shirt, its sleeves and collar ornamented with hand made leaves decorations, and a pair of black cotton trousers covered in his leather brown boots.
He has chosen the life of a homebuilder during the day and a bard singing tales and entertaining people in inns at night. It was not something he wanted all of his life but at least he made some gold and stayed with his legs on the ground, unlike his friend. Moreover he has found ways to enjoy his life and make a profit aside his simple jobs, not that his friend had to know anything about that.
Drin felt Rida was chasing dreams. Why could he not just pick up a harp and join him singing and telling tales in the local inns; than he might have learned a thing or two about the real life.

‘There is no one there to teach me.’ spit Rida.

He received no answer.

Drin? Do you hear me? I said there is no one there to teach me.’ But Drin was distracted by something else. He saw the Dreonian army heading the Lizard inn. They approached a stranger sitting at the bar with a black cloak over his head.


v


Taking a gulp from her ale, she was suddenly disturbed by the sound of several heavy iron boots stumping on the cobblestones. She turned around and saw a couple of Protectors of the Law heading her way. They all wore full plaited mail with iron helmets down. On their chests they all had a red balance engraved, the official emblem of the Protectors. This army of the law was the one responsible for peace and order in all the Bolden lands. If the situation would be out of control than the Protectors of Bolden would came to the rescue. The Protectors of Bolden on the other hand wore a white wolf as their emblem and were only to be found in the big cities. If you encountered them somewhere than you definitely knew there was something wrong.

The guard formed a semicircle around the girl. She studied their faces. In a strange way they all looked familiar to her.

‘We ask you to leave Dreonia at once.’ Spoke a man, obviously their leader. He was three times her size and twice as tall. He almost looked like an iron statue if he would have not made a move. He had a dark coloured skin, his cheeks covered in smallpox traces. His full lips were of a warm earthy colour and his hazel eyes spat fire as he starred at the girl. As though his brutal face was not enough, his voice filled with irritation, seemed a lion’s burl.

‘I just got here.’

‘Adventurers aren’t welcome in Dreonia.’ He answerd quickly.

‘You mean certain adventurers aren’t?’

She got no answer back.

The girl stood up and left a coin on the bar. She then looked at every soldier around her – each one of them young and strong.

‘Just five years ago we have helped this village come back on its feet. The men you are today were the boys we saved than.’

At that moment some of the men no longer dared to look in her eyes.

‘Yesterday we were heroes, today no more precious than a pile of garbage’ She added and at those last words walked away from the bar breaking the army’s semicircle.

She did not get far when one of the soldiers yelled behind her back.
‘A hero wouldn’t run away and let her party die.’

‘Tiro!’ Spit the dark-skinned man at his guard.

He looked at Niteria as she stood there frozen. She looked like an ordinary girl of about 25. The cloak she was wearing covered most of her figure but you could still spot the smoothly curved body of a young woman. If you would have given her a bath and put a dress on her she might have even looked more beautiful than other regular girls. A moment in Sir Gregon’s head flashed a beautiful girl acting her age but than his view changed in the criminal he knew change did not apply on. The few moments of sympathy quickly changed in hatred and irritation. He did not want this kind of confrontations here, at least not at the moment. The few moments of sympathy make him show some reasonability even though he knew she did not deserve it.

‘Till dusk.You can stay ‘till dusk. Than, I never want to see you again!’

Niteria continues her walk without looking back.


v


‘What was that?’ Asked Rida, after they had both witnessed the Protectors of the Law chase away some stranger.

‘Ah, some trouble maker.’

‘You think? It seemed more than that.’ Rida stared his friend waiting for a comment. He got no answer, only a grin (that’s what Drin often did when he did not care much for a comment Rida made).

With a sigh Rida passed Drin by walking towards one of the guards.

‘Who was that, Borl?’

‘You have heard of her. It was Niteria’ said the Protector of the Law.
‘No one had thought she was still alive. Than again there was no reason she could have died. It’s not like she fought or anything.’

At the last words the man gave the boy a push with his elbow and started laughing uncontrollably.

He stopped laughing when he noticed Rida was not laughing along.

‘You don’t know.’ said Borl disappointed.

Rida was about to open his mouth when Borl continued.

‘It’s a long story. Sir Gregon knows all about it.’ He pointed at the leader who was now walking with his men back to the headquarters. His disturbed looked similar to that of an angry bull.

’But… I wouldn’t advise you to talk to him right now...or ever. He ain’t much of a storyteller.’
As he spoke the last words, Borl greets the boy with a smile than joined the rest.


v


‘What in the name of the Gods are you doing?’ She shouted finding the blacksmith swinging her axe around.

‘Ah…I was just testing it…for ya. It’s good as new.’ ‘

She grabbed it than walked him by. The hell I’m going to stay in this damned village till dusk, she thought as she headed the northern gates passing the arena once again on her left side. Her short hair was bouncing up and down together with her cloak, as her steps became punches in the ground.

She stopped her body shaken by the action. A bright light took her out of her thoughts. She looked in the direction the light was coming from. It was something…something bright lying in the sand inside the empty arena.

v


‘Did I hear correctly, the famous Niteria?’ stated Drin knowing Rida would die of curiosity.
‘You should really listen to my tales more often Rida’ continued Drin feeling even more self-confident than he already was. ‘Than you would have known who she was.’

After a few moments of bewilderment on Rida’s side, Drin continued.
‘Maybe I should tell ya.’

‘Maybe you should.’ suggested Rida rolling his eyes up.

‘I guess you’ll have to buy me a drink than.’ Answered Drin feeling his throat begging for an ale and glad that Rida was dyeing to hear his story.

‘Deal, I just have to bring this….Damn! Just my lucky day!’ spat Rida irritated as he put his hand on the pommel of his sword.

‘What’s wrong?’ Drin looked at the sword as well.

‘I took the wrong sword, whoever’s sword this is…’


v


She had put down her leather bag and cloak aside in order to feel more freely to explore the mystery before her. The heat and light of the sun blinded her not being able to identify the object. She stepped in the empty arena as she kept on staring at the shinning spot. It lay in the hot sand surrounded by a wooden fence.

She approached as her eyes realized she was starring at the shinny metal of a sword. Some fighter must have dropped it, she thought when she stood before it. Than again what fighter drops and forgets his own sword?
Her eyes were now fixed on the sword pommel. It was decorated with stars, a simple and easy theme found mostly on cheap regular swords. She wondered what it would have felt like to lift it up. Maybe it was time to try again. She had not used a sword since…

She bended down on her knees, her eyes still fixed on the pommel. She was afraid, afraid of what might happen. Small drops of sweat formed on her forehead. The last sword she has had was not any regular sword; it was bewitched. She had retrieved it from the demon Kredok. When she took it she did not know the sword was cursed, with a will and a power of its own. From the moment she put her hand on that cursed sword, it spoke to her. No one else heard it. In the beginning it was a disaster, she could not concentrate on her fights. Later she got used to it, she even started to enjoy its presence. But she did not want to remember it during the last moments of the ambush, not on those moment, not with that tone. Since that day she had not touched another sword; she could not bare the thoughts. Maybe today was the day to get over it. Maybe it was time to try once again.

Her right hand slowly stretches out to the pommel. She closed her eyes and grabbed it, her fingers slowly rapping around it. She than slowly stood up with her eyes still closed. She felt the weight of the sword as she lifted it up.

‘What are you doing?’           ‘Fight!’          ‘Cut his throat.’          ‘Come on.’     

She opened her eyes and woke up in the battlefield. She was surrounded by bloodsuckers hungry for her death, ghouls bouncing spiked war clubs in their paws ready to attack and smelled the sickening scent of freshly spilled blood. She heard the desperate cries of the sword she was holding.

‘Protect them!’

But she couldn’t pass through them. How could she? She couldn’t even see her companions, everything was so blurry.

‘They will die. What are you doing?’

A horrible cry, almost inhuman seemed to be breaking her ear trumps.

As if it was burning her hand, she dropped down the sword. She was breathing hard, tears flowing over her face, pain biting in her left leg. She remembered that pain. Will I ever have a day without the pain?

She felt lost, scared, she had let them down, she had let down her sword, now lost somewhere in those red muddy fields. She had to get over this, she had to. She had to take the sword in her hand. This was the only way to prepare for vengeance. Fight your fears!

Irritated she bended on her trembling knees, the pain in her left leg getting worse as the wound seemed to be reopening. She looked with anger at the sword. I have to do this. I have to try once more.

‘You can pick it up if you want.’ A young man’s voice breaks the tension.

She looked at him. She heard noises but did not comprehend a word he said. He stood few meters away from her wearing a yellow plain shirt and a pair of brown trousers.
His face seemed unclear. She couldn’t see it. She didn’t care. She had other things to worry about. The pain in her leg made her mad.


Noticing the girl did not move nor react, Rida approached her, picked up the sword - that was actually his - off the floor and put it in her right hand. She grabbed hold to the sword and held it firmly, her face absent. He took few steps back, drew the sword he had and initiated the attack position.

‘It’s not that difficult. I can teach you the basic moves.’ He smiled politely.

She stood up, her hand shacking; her whole body shivering. She stared at the blade of the sword. The battlefield was once again present before her eyes: fear and panic, heroes fighting for their lives, beasts butchering men. Where are they? Why can’t I reach them? Who’s stopping me? Her hand tightens around the handle of the sword feeling every knob of the pommel in the flesh of her palm.

She looked at the boy in front of her. He was holding a sword, his face now clear. She saw the pale, white face of a bloodsucker smiling in front of her, blood dripping off his sharpened fangs.

Without hesitation, she attacked.

Rida defended himself, surprised of her action. She attacked violently again and again, her blade powerfully hitting his. He defended himself every time, taking a step back with every hit she caused.

Stunned by her attack, he took courage and tried to attack as well. She was quicker; with a pirouette, she hit his sword out of his hand, throwing it in the air and far away from him.

She approached him ready to strike him again, her face blind with death.

‘Stop!’ he cried out, realizing she was going to hit him even though he was unarmed.

As if awoken from a nightmare, she stopped indeed. She lowered her sword and stood before him still holding it. She trembled with anger, barely breathing.

Rida felt his whole body shiver. Her eyes were pitch black. He looked at the hand holding the sword. Blood was flowing from her palm down the blade.

She slowly let the sword slip down her palm but she remained unmoved, her face worse than a rabid dog.

After a few moments she started blinking realizing in front of her was a terrified boy.

Few moments later her view turned towards the exit of the arena. Without hesitation she walked towards it, leaving drops of blood behind her.

She grabbed her bag and cloak on her way to the exit. Some aching made its presence in her right palm. She stopped and looked at it. Deep wounds in the shape of stars with blood continuously flowing out of them made their mark in her hand.
Sighinging the girl leaned against the arena wall close by the exit and sat. With her other hand she searched in her leather bag and took out a cloth that was rapping a loaf of bread. She shook the crumbs off the cloth and raped it around her bleeding hand. She then leaned her head against the cool wall.
Her head felt heavy, her hands were trembling uncontrollably. She was fuming with anger. She would have decapitated any monster she had met on that moment. But most of all she was angry with herself because she was not able to help them. Why did I fail?

‘Is your hand all right?’
The young man was suddenly standing before her. Rida was shocked of what just happened but was also amazed. He had never seen anyone fight like that.

The girl did not face him. ‘My apologies for attacking you like that.’

‘It was my fault thinking you could not hold a sword.’ His cheeks turned red as he gave her a smile. ‘After the fights I took someone else’s sword. I came to look for mine. I was so upset after losing the fight I…’ his words began to fade as he noticed the girl was preoccupied with something else.

She was looking at the cloth rapped around her hand. It was slowly getting soaked in blood. She had to avenge her companions even if she had to sacrifice her own life. She had to find out who set the trap for her and her friends. There were so many involved, anyone could have done it. In the last years she had made many enemies. The person who did it was however no fool for sure. He had planned this delicately and cold blooded.

Rida cleared his throat. She looked in his direction.
‘So, where did you learn to fight like that?’

While waiting for an answer, he heard another voice.

‘Are you still here? I thought Sir Gregon gave u till dusk.’

A Protector wearing chain mail armour and an iron helmet stood few steps away from them.

Rida felt his heart stop. The girl he had just fought was the stranger they asked to leave that afternoon at the inn. He felt guilty and afraid. Should he had been talking to her?

Was it dusk already, she thought looking at the darkened sky. The girl stood up and taking her leather bag started walking towards the gates.

‘Why not walk faster? You know, like you normally walk when you see a battle…’ the man burst in laughs.

‘I wouldn’t talk like that to her if I were you. She might answer with the blade of her sword!’ Responded Rida bravely.

‘And if I were you I wouldn’t interfere in another people’s affairs!’ She answers coldly as she continued her walk.

The Protector started laughing even harder.


v


As the innkeeper poured sweet wine for the forth time in their cups, Drin was glad to be in the companionship of his best friend.

‘So’ said Drin as the smell of red wine opened his appetite for storytelling.
‘Men say that thousands of years ago, when torture by the gods and dragons was an every day matter, a sorcerer named Bes’An existed. He was strong, powerful, feared, even by some demons and dragons. His powers were beyond the impossible and his creations were beyond any dreams and wishes human race had ever faced.

But a power of such magnitude does not come without sacrifice. Men say Bes’An had suddenly turned mad. Some say because he had taken his powers to extremes. Others say because of his broken heart by a woman that, even with the use of magical spells, would not answer to his desires.

With his lost mind and the hunger for death Bes’An was taken by fear. Fear that one day he would be forgotten by the world. Fear that one day his powers and knowledge would be lost. He had no offspring, no relatives and that meant that all of his work, his wisdom and magic would perish once he would be gone.

What do you think Bes’An decided? He decided to find himself a son.

But ha ha!’ said Drin sank in the magic of the tale and taking Rida with him.

‘Bes’An could not just choose any random son. No, no, no! It couldn’t have been just any man, creature or simple beast on earth. No, Bes’An decided to create his own child.

With the help of books of the dark arts, blood sacrifices from his own veins and from other creatures and his own brilliant mind Bes’An started working on the creation of the descendent that will eventually make him proud. He cried to the holy sky, earth, the deepest caves, the oceans and rivers to bring him the son he had longed for. He sat in his dusty room, filled with books and scrolls, broken chests and tables, with a fireplace at his side. He sat on a wooden chair, rotten and broke. Before his eyes, with a gesture of a finger, a creature appeared, of a beauty never seen before, features that would take your breath away. Creature whose name you could not even spell, even existed in the human language or whose name was not even invented yet!

Bes’An would study the creature, see the beauty, feel the power.

He slowly closed his eyes. A silence was present and the mind fully concentrated did its work.

Bes’An would then suddenly open his eyes.

It wasn’t what he was looking for. It wasn’t the descendent he wanted to leave on earth to continue his legacy.

With a gesture of a hand Bes’An would destroy his creation striking it where it lay with a lightning bolt.

The next night the same thing happened, the creature was beautiful and breathtaking but not powerful enough. And so many years followed with no food, no sleep, only blood spilling and mind wasting. Every night Bes’An created a rarity than destroyed it.

After several years Bes’An started to reach his last powers. All of the power he had, had been wasted away in creating wonders and than destroying them.

Tired and longing for death, Bes’An started loosing his powers and started making mistakes. The wonderful creatures never seen before were now monsters, malformed, disgusting, some with hands instead of heads and heads instead of feet, horrifying, ugly creatures.
Bes’An destroyed them one by one, tears flowing over his cheeks, pain biting in his heart. It was so horrible that he even started destroying them without even looking at them.

One night though, what he had created….did not want to be destroyed.´

Drin took a sip from his sweet wine looking at Rida with intrigue.

´Bes’An grabbed his staff as he approached to see what was happening.

His heart froze when he saw what lay before him.

A child, no more than four years old, was sitting before him with his legs crossed. He starred at the sorcerer; his pitch black eyes and ebony hair looking extreme to his snowy face. He wore a black shirt and black trousers.

Bes’An came close to the child studying him with astonishment. The child studied him few moments more then said with a voice that seemed to be tearing down the walls.

‘Bi isre conmuntar actra.’

At these words Bis’An seemed to have been stroke by lightning.

Horrified by the words he shouted, yelled, grabbing his long grey hair with both hands. He realized what he had done, how stupid he had been, what curse he had brought upon us. But it was all too late.

Surrounded by madness Bes’An got out of his cottage, ran to the village temple and fell on his knees before the sacred fountain praying to the gods for forgiveness.

The villagers found him the next day with his head in it. They said the expressions on his face made even the hardest man weep.’

‘Was he killed?’ asked Rida captured by the story.

‘To this day no one knows what really happened. Some say yes, others no…’

‘So what did the child say to him?’

‘Nobody knows what it really means. The villagers found those words written on the corpse of the sorcerer. Those skilled in digging the past went through incredible torment trying to discover what had happened; few moments in the skin of the sorcerer were unbearable for a normal human. Obviously they did manage to do it otherwise we wouldn’t be telling the story today.’

‘And… who was the child?’

‘Ha ha, I really got your attention didn’t I? You’ll find out soon enough. The story is not yet over.

After Bis’An’s death the boy was found by some farmers. They found the cottage and went in to see what they could find. They found him sitting in the same spot, in the same way the sorcerer had left him. The boy looked at them and said:

‘Bi isre conmuntar actra.’

They didn’t know what he said but decided to take him home. The poor farmers didn’t know what curse they had brought upon their family. They thought it was a lost little boy. But when he turned the age of ten the whole family died. They burned alive as their house somehow burst into flames. But the boy didn’t. He disappeared.

Where do you think he was? In the sorcerer’s cottage, in the same place, he sat and waited.’

Drin started smiling at a maid behind Rida admiring her big brown eyes... among other things.


‘Drin?’

‘Sorry, where was I? Ah, the child remained in the ruins of what was once the cottage of the sorcerer. But things did not stay like that. A blacksmith found the boy four years later. The boy was now a young man with long black hair and clothes that somehow grew together with him.

‘Bi isre conmuntar actra.’ He said once again.

The smith looked at the boy and saw he was in good shape so he took him home. He could have used a strong hand in his shop.
It didn’t take long and the house of the blacksmith was found in flames together with his whole family.

The boy had disappeared and no one has seen him since, not even in the ruins of the cottage…

Both families, of the farmer and blacksmith had six day old infants. It was no coincidence.

After exactly 16 years the strangest thing happened in the small village. In the cemetery where the sorcerer Bes’An and the two families were buried two flames appeared above the graves of the two infants. The flames faded into ashes and from the ashes two young men arose: from the farmer’s side, one pale as the snow with white hair and grey eyes; from the blacksmith’s side, one with dark brown hair and dark red eyes.’

‘Who was that child after all?’

‘When Bes’An madness had reached its limits as he was trying to create the perfect son, he accidentally reached other worlds; worlds that he shouldn’t have interfered in; worlds that could have destroyed our world in a glimpse of an eye. The sorcerer accidentally summoned a demon from a world I do not dare think of. No one knows why it came or what it said. It took the form of a child as that was a familiar form to our kind. We only know that he brought in this world the two boys: a necromancer and an assassin.’

‘The brothers Etisne and Kridok: the ones that brought ghouls, bloodsuckers and all the unholy and undead creatures in the world. I know that legend. Etisne made the mistake to impregnate a village woman who had given birth to three children, a girl and two boys: the girl was killed at birth as no woman should ever possess such powers, one of the boys killed his uncle Kridok to have more power and the other chose the path of his father as a necromancer. I know the story Drin. I can’t believe you kept me up so long just to tell me this stupid legend.’

Rida was about to rise and leave. Drin pushed him back on his seat and continued.

‘The legend has been told wrong and still is!

Etisne had indeed three children: a girl and two boys. The two boys have a different story though, which I am not going to tell you now. The girl, you might need to hear about. Men say she was killed at birth for her curse was being born a woman. People don’t know this though: her mother actually took her away to another village for her to have a better life and stole another child pretending that that child was hers. That child was killed indeed. But the real daughter of Etisne still lived…and lived many years…until two years ago’.

‘What are you talking about Drin?’

‘The daughter of Etisne, the necromancer, the one born from the blood of a human and a demon was called NitRaTeria, or more common, Niteria.’

Rida’s mouth fell wide open. ‘The girl that was here today?’

‘Nonsense. That wasn’t her.’

Drin pulled his stool closer to Rida and whispered.
‘People say Niteria came here years ago together with her companions, the hero’s of the Bolden lands. They saved this village from the beasts that had taken hold of it. She was one of the leaders of the Thieves Lodge in the Great City. Men say she’d met dragons, spirits, monsters, cursed creatures summoned from hell and had survived them all. They say she was unbeatable, had no fears, no religion; her eyes showed fire, hell and death to the enemies.’

Rida’s heart started beating fast, not because of being scared but out of excitement.

‘But’ Drin added as he stopped whispering ‘I know she had not survived her last attack. I say the real Niteria died that day and the one we saw today was just a simple person people mistake for the legend. People love gossip and illusions.’

‘You mentioned a particular day…’

‘Two years ago she and her party got ambushed by an evil and dangerous army. No one knows what kind of powers they possessed but they were sure strong enough to put this hero down.’

The innkeeper who had been east dropping the whole conversation decided to interfere.

‘She ran like a cowa’ I tell ya. Her men got butchered one by one and she left them there. She ain’t bette’ than a pile of manure. Only talking about her makes me sick!’

At the last words the man cleared his throat and spit next to his feet. Under the disgusted eyes of his customers, he continues washing cups with a soaked cloth.

‘Let’s just change the subject, shall we? Talking about her might make some of these men very angry.’

Rida wanted to tell him that the girl they saw today was at the arena and that he believed she was the real Niteria. Her face, her looks and the terrifying strange way she starred at him as if she was starring at death. But he couldn’t. What would Drin think of him, what would he say? But what did he have to lose after all?

‘You know, I have been thinking about this tournament and I’ve realized that I can’t, I just can’t win.’

‘You’re so pessimistic Rida.’

Drin looked at the disappointed face of his friend. He agreed with him but he did not want him to know that. He was the only one that still encouraged Rida whenever he felt like quitting even though he himself was convinced of the fact that Rida should have spend his spare time differently.

Drin, look at me!’ Rida raised his arms up and looked at his own body. ‘I am not well build, I have no strength whatsoever and about my fighting skills, well you saw how it went today.’

‘I’m sorry Rida but it will go better next time, believe me.’

‘And it will.’ Rida’s face changed from melancholic to confident and joyful.

‘That’s the spirit, let nothing bring you down.’ But Rida did not stop smiling.
‘Why did you say it like that…?’

After few more moments of grinning and saying nothing Rida decided to speak.

‘I have found my teacher.’

‘Really… who?’ Drin felt something was not quite right nor true. If Rida would have found a teacher Drin surely would have heard of him.

The smiling and grinning was still present on Rida’s face.

‘You just mentioned her name….’

‘What name?’

‘…….’

 ‘Nit…Niteria?’ He asked doubtfully.

Rida nodded proudly.

‘I just told you she was killed in the ambush…You…you aren’t going to start believing the villagers are you?’

‘She can fight really well.’

‘How…how do you know that? Rida this is crazy, I don’t know whether it’s the wine that has reached your good sense but you should really start thinking clear. Who knows who that woman was. I know it is a difficult time for you but it is not time to start losing your mind.’

‘I wonder where we could find her?’ continued Rida.

‘You know what? Tomorrow morning, the first thing I’ll do is go down town and search for a suitable master to help you with your skills. Maybe the old innkeeper still knows a name or two.’

‘Tomorrow?’ shouted Rida as if awoken from a beautiful dream. ‘I ‘m going to look for her today!’

With his last words Rida stood up, empties his cup of wine and rushed outside.

The refreshing breeze of the summer was touching his face. He felt pain in every muscle of his arms and legs not to mention the pain of the bruises he had won during the sword fights on his back and chest.

Someone grabbed his right arm making it hurt even more.

‘Where are you going?’ asked Drin irritated.

‘I am going to find my new teacher.’ Answered Rida pulling his arm away. ‘You either come with me or stay here.’

‘I have to entertain at the Lizard inn.’

‘Than I ‘ll go by myself.’

Drin stood there, watching his friend walk away. He had to sing at the inn. He promised the innkeeper, not to mention the girls. They all came to see him. And besides, after his performance he had other jobs; jobs that if he not completed, he would have some serious explaining to do the next day. Seeing his friend disappear in the darkness was, however, much more worse. Rida was never brave nor that smart. If he would have gotten himself into trouble he would have hardly been able to get out of it.


v


She was holding the rabbit she had caught above the fire. It was luck that brought that rabbit in her way, she thought. Mostly she would have had to do with little lizards, rats or worse, the flesh of a goblin or an ogre she’d butchered. And those were never tasty nor actually eatable.

She starred at the fire and thought of the moment she’d be able to regain her name and power to be able to avenge her friends. It was a long way to go and she knew better than anyone else that a reputation you have to earn week by week but can loose it all in one day. No matter if you deserved it or not.

After dinner Niteria circled the area she was going to spend the night in and set few traps. They were no deadly traps but they were strong enough to wake her up if anyone would approach and try to attack her. She than went back to her fireplace and lay on a piece of goat skin; the knives were tight in her left hand just like every night. Many enemies had attacked in the past using the night as their allies. When they were five they used to make turns who to sleep and who to stay awake. She remembered those nights as if they were centuries ago. That last night was surely no more than 2 years ago. She still remembered that night before the ambush. She was awake all night and Jiohna decided to keep her company.

‘Hopefully it will be our last confrontation with the bloodsuckers. I’ve never had a fond impression of the dark art worshipers!’ said Jiohna as she was holding the book of spells in her hands.

‘We’ll talk to them, they might even reach a compromise. It is not our quarrel after all. No blood needs to be shed tomorrow night Jo.’

Jiohna starred at the sky, Niteria remembered that moment very well. Her face looked so peaceful, not often spotted in the fighting druid. Her oval face shined in the moonlight and the blue cat shaped eyes looked like two stars themselves.

The next words got caught in Niteria’s mind and heart until this day.

‘These stars have seen less than we have, hopefully that will change one day.’

‘What do you mean Jo?’ at that time she did not understand.

‘Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you would have chosen another path?’

‘I don’t know what other path I would have been able to choose. Choosing was never an option. Do you?’

‘I don’t wonder about my past but my future…A cottage near my kind would not look that bad, being close to the elements, close to my home. Who knows maybe even see some children with my features.’

‘I can imagine that!’ Niteria started laughing.

They both looked at each other smiling. ‘That day will come Jo, it will.’

But Jo did not smile. She stopped starring at the stars and continued memorizing her spells.

The memories drove Niteria into sleep.

It was past midnight and Niteria’s eyes opened at the noise of whispers in the bushes. She stayed in her place but tightened her hand around her knife. She pretended she was still asleep.

She heard more whispers and realized it was two of them, and they were humans.

The sounds stopped. Her eyes concentrated on the bushes where the sounds came from. If they were to attack, the traps would temporarily unable them too and she’d be able to throw the knife in one’s throat and take the other one with her axe.

Nothing moved any more…until….

‘I told you she is sleeping’.

At these whispers Niteria jumped up on her feet and held the knife in the position to be thrown.

‘Show yourself!’

From the noise they were making she realized this was no smart sneak attack but some fool with sleepless urges.

‘We apologize for…’ A shy voice was heard still hidden in the bushes.

‘Show yourself!’ she repeated with a more threatening tone.

The bushes and plants started dancing revealing two young men slowly stepping forward. She looked at them but could not see them clearly.

‘Who might you be?’

‘Ahhh…’  As Rida had forgotten how to speak, Drin decided to take the lead.

‘I am Drin and this is my friend Rida...’

‘I did not ask you for your name, I asked who might you be!’ she added as she looked at the two boys trying to figure out what they looked like. The one that talked seemed more confident. She still kept her knife ready in case something might happen. Never underestimate the stupid, she always said.

Drin did not know what answer to give. Instead he started starring at his friend.

‘Why are you here?’

‘We came here’ answered Drin trying to sound confident, ‘because my friend, Rida, thinks he  
 actually needs your help.’ Rida looked at his friend slightly disturbed but he did not dare correct him.

‘Help? What kind of help? If you need help I advice you to go to the village temple’.
What a pair of idiots. What would they need my help for? Her answer came sooner than expected.

‘My friend’ continued Drin approaching one step forward ‘he’s been losing every swordfight competition now.’

Niteria’s eyes were focussed on the area before the boy’s feet. Drin was getting close to trap number one.

‘Look at him’ continued Drin as he pointed at Rida that was feeling quite insulted.

‘He has no training what so ever’ continued Drin taking another step further.

Two more steps and he would reach it, thought Niteria.

‘He is thinner than my aunt’s goat and even that goat is more dangerous. There is no one in town to teach him and the ones that know how, compete themselves. He just wants to compete for once and win.’

With the last words Drin took another step. He had no idea what he was saying but had the feeling Niteria found him sympathetic.

Niteria almost opened her mouth to worn Drin. Than again, she did not like him very much. Irritating, arrogant little creature.

‘Unless he receives help, he will never be able to win. The help is much needed from someone of your experience.’ Drin believed nothing of what he was saying but he had to try it for Rida. At least now Rida would realize how stupid his plan was.

‘My… experience?’ repeated Niteria raising one eyebrow.

‘Yes. He believes you are a certain someone that has achieved great things in her past. If he is indeed right than…what would take a great leader to help a poor soul to touch just a star of the sky she did?’

At the last words Drin stepped once again forward. He heard a crack, just as if he stepped on a thin stick and broke it. A flame, seemed out of nowhere was heading him. Before he could duck the flame hit him right in the middle. He fell down, his clothes in flames. He tried to put out the fire by hitting on it with his hands but it was too hot and it only seemed to be getting worse.

Rida recovering from the shock, came to his friends’ rescue and tried to kill the flame by using his feet. Drin dropped on the floor and Rida continued kicking Drin.

Niteria watched unenthusiastic.

Rida stopped when he realized the fire was gone and that his friend was now only in pain by his desperate hitting.

Drin lay on the floor starring at his friend.

‘Well, that was fun while it lasted. Goodnight my brave men.’

Niteria sat on her skin blanket and covered herself with a bear fur. She lay on her back and started looking at the sky.

‘Why did you not worn us?’ Said Rida panting, shocked of her reaction.

After a soft sigh, the girl answered.
‘Than your friend would have not learned how soon he should have stopped.’

‘Let it go Rida.’
Added Drin still on the floor and checking for any burn marks. He felt pain on his chest but was not sure if it came from the fire or from his friends’ eager hits.

‘We’ll leave you be than.’ He continued feeling humiliated. He knew Rida’s plan would fail but he did not think his skin would have to suffer with it.

‘I realize we are not worthy of your time.’ Said Rida as he helped Drin on his feet.

She raised up crossing her legs than looked at Drin. ‘Worthy?’ She repeated the word as if it was a punch in her face.
‘I do not know you, I cannot judge you, I will not help you. But it does not mean you are not worthy. Do not let anyone or anything ever make you believe you are not worthy of them. The one person who can judge it, is the one you see in the mirror.’

At these words she lay down on her back again turning her eyes to the sky. There were thousands of stars shinning that night. But she did not admire them.

The boys did not move. They were looking at this stranger that was now enjoying the sky and ignoring them as if they were an illusion. Though her face looked ordinary, none of them would have risked their lives taking any further steps towards her.

‘If you want to win the competitions you must believe in yourself and do whatever it takes to become better than your competitors. You have much to achieve, and for goodness sake much to learn.’

‘This is why he needs a good teacher, such as yourself.’ added Drin, surprised of himself that he almost believed what he had said.

She was silent for a moment than continued.
‘You will learn neither skills, nor manners from me. If you stay near me only death will be in your path.’

‘Than death shall be my victory!’ shouted Rida excited.

Niteria burst into laugh.

Even the darkness could not hide Rida’s red glowing cheeks.

‘Do you see what I mean?’ added Drin ‘You have brought madness in him. At this moment he would follow you to the moon if that’s what it takes.’

‘I am not going to the moon.’ she answered puzzled.

‘It is a figure of speech…’

‘Ah…How about we make an agreement?’ she added.

‘Yes?’ they said grinning.

‘The two of you…leave me alone and I will tell you where the next trap is. You keep disturbing my night and I will keep my mouth shut.’

Give it another try, thought Rida, would that me much of a point?

I don’t need another skin burn tonight. I hope Rida will let it go.

Rida and Drin stared at each other than turned to the girl.

‘Where is the next trap?’ they both asked.