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By Gareth J. Letheby



By Gareth J. Letheby


This story was the first piece I ever wrote. At first it was intended to be merely an experiment, but I soon found that it had become a full scale project. However, after a severe accident in which I lost almost the entire story, I gave the story up as a lost cause. Now, after the completion of my far larger work, "The Journey's Just Begun'', I am attempting to pick up where I left off, almost three years later. This version is largely incomplete, as I am currently endeavoring to rewrite and restructure the story, as far as it has gone.

Chapter 1

Phorn looked up. His long hair clung lank and dripping to his face. The thick mist surrounding him moved in a slight, cool wind. To anyone passing he would have appeared calm, almost asleep. However, he was quivering with anticipation, straining his ears for any hint of the noise that had disturbed him. Perhaps the slither of a cloak dragging on the damp fallen leaves, maybe the movements of some strange beast unknown to him. Whatever it had been, the moment he had heard it, he was struck by an unreasonable wave of anxiety, he could almost feel whatever it was, moving just beyond his range of vision. He had mastered himself and was reaching out with all his senses, searching, while his companions, Von and Dairn, kept watch.

Without any warning whatsoever, a searing pain shot across Phorn's temple, knocking him backwards. His energies, totally focused on searching the area, had been reflected back into his cranium, searing through his mind. He hurriedly shut his mind off, preventing any outward thought, and the pain subsided. He opened his eyes, still feeling dizzy and slightly disorientated. Von and Dairn were kneeling beside him, looks of concern on their faces.

`What was it, what did you see?' Von asked, her voice trembling.

`I don't know. Its mind is powerful, far beyond any of us. And old, very old…' Phorn trailed off in to silent thought.

Phorn sat still for a few moments, and then sprang up, and charged off in to the pale blanket of cloud, motioning for his friends to follow. They ran, following Phorn's directions, going ever eastwards and upwards, in to the mountains which bordered the River Syleng. Von and Dairn finally caught up with Phorn, who was standing silently facing towards the lip of the cliff on which they stood. A wave of cold dread flowed over the group. Their already freezing bodies became drenched in cold sweat, as the feeling of impending danger intensified, until it was almost tangible.

A darker shade appeared in the gloom before them, it appeared to grow, then shrank again, and came through its shadowy veil, in to view. Slightly taller than a man it stood, swathed in a deep blue cloak which rippled slightly in the light breeze. A black scarf was swathed about its neck and face, so they had no idea what was hidden beneath its hood.

Trying to ignore the unreasonable fear that was threatening to overpower him, Phorn spoke.

`Speak stranger,' Phorn spoke in the strongest voice he could muster. No answer. `Identify yourself!' The figure cast its scarf to the ground, threw back its hood, and faced them.

Long golden blonde hair rippled in the breeze, and a pair of yellow eyes stared at them, glowing with malice. The rest of the figure was veiled by a shadowy darkness, which stirred fitfully.

`I am. Would you have me identify myself more? But such things are wasted on the likes of you.' The creature spoke in a deep rumble which reverberated in the air long after the creature had finished speaking. The figure reached inside his cloak with an invisible hand and drew an evil, cruel looking sword with sharp notches on the blade and a very thin hilt, and began advancing on the three companions. Phorn and Dairn drew their own swords, while directing Von behind them to cover them with her bow.

Phorn and Dairn stood their ground as the figure advanced towards them. It reached them and swung a blow strait at Phorn with its sword. Phorn swung his sword up to block the blow. Their swords collided and Phorn's back buckled under the incredible power of the blow, far greater in strength than any human, and he collapsed. The figure swung its sword over its head, preparing to behead Phorn. The sword swung down, but was knocked aside by a hefty blow from Dairns sword. The figure turned to face Dairn and swung its sword, and, as it did so, the shadow enveloping it reached out like some evil, clawed hand, snatching blindly at Dairn before dissolving. Dairn flew several meters back and landed in a crumpled heap next to the cliff's edge, groaning in pain. However, Dairn's intervention had given Phorn time to recover and get back to his feet.

`Get ready. Fire when I say so, not before.' Phorn yelled over his shoulder to Von, who nodded in response. Von fitted a gold tipped arrow to her bow string and drew it back to her ear, trying to keep a steady aim. A cloud of golden light tossed fitfully around the arrow, growing in intensity the longer it stayed on the string, illuminating the battlefield.

A fury had come over Phorn, after seeing what happened to Dairn, and attacked the figure with a terrifying strength and fury, which even he didn't realize he had had in him. The figures blows seemed to have no affect on him as he struck its sword repeatedly with his, sending sparks flying. After several minutes of furious fighting the figures sword was notched in several places, but it was showing no sign of weariness. Coming to a silent agreement, Phorn dived out of the way of the figures blows, and at the same time Von released the enchanted arrow. It streaked off towards its target, the golden light creating a spectacular tail around and behind it like a comet. It passed just over Phorn as he fell, rippling his clothes as it passed, and plunged into the figure. A circular wave of bright light radiated from the figure as the arrow impacted, spreading outward and disappeared. The figure staggered backwards with the force of the impact, bright golden light pouring from its wound, and it plunged over the cliff. Von and Phorn rushed to the edge and saw the figure plunging toward the ground. A long, low scream, either of frustration or amusement issued from the figure, and it struck the ground three hundred feet below, exploding in millions of golden fragments.

There was absolute silence.


Phorn lay as though dead on the ground for several minutes, then moaned and sat up. Von was again kneeling beside him, fanning him with the curiously painted fan she always carried with her. The fan was painted with designs showing flames flying up from a river of what looked like molten rock, with hundreds of faces in the background, all showing a look of shock and terror.

Feeling stronger, Phorn stood up shakily, glanced around and seeing Dairn lying still on his back close by, ran over to him and kneeled down next to him, checking his pulse. As Phorn's hand made contact with Dairn's wrist, Phorn drew it back almost instantly as though he had been burned. Indeed, as he looked down at his hand, he saw that the palm and fingers of his hand were burned badly, shiny and raw.

`He is burning, burning away from within himself. I can do little, perhaps nothing' Phorn muttered to Von, who moved at once from Phorn, to Dairn where he lay. Von had a considerable talent at healing.

`No, he is passing, slowly. At most we must bring him home, before he dies, if we can.' Von replied. Phorn sat down cross legged, positioned behind Dairn's head, with his hands resting lightly on Dairn's short, dark brown hair, and spoke to Dairn in a low voice. Only Dairn heard the words Phorn spoke, and Phorn would never speak them again. Dairn's body stopped steaming and cooled, allowing the pair of them to lift Dairn and carry his unconscious form between them.

They began heading back over the lightly wooded moorlands southward and a little to the west towards their home town, Fornen. As they walked in haste through the snow covered moors, Dairn's body began to burn again, until it was almost unbearable to touch. Eventually they lay him down on the snow covered heather, face up. Phorn knelt down beside Dairn, and slid one hand under his head, preparing to enter Dairn's mind. Once again Phorn acquired the peaceful, utterly relaxed state necessary, and entered in to Dairn's consciousness. Phorn, having once before shared a link with Dairn, was startled. He sensed evil, random thoughts flying in all directions inside his mind, thoughts that were not even his own, repressing his personality completely. Phorn flew through, punching a hole in the barrier suppressing Dairn. The instant Dairn's mind was clear, a searing pain, the pain of Dairns own body flowed through Phorn, forcing him to break the connection.

Phorn's thought patterns returned to his own body and he found himself panting for breath, his body steaming. Dairn opened his eyes, and jerkily reached over and took Phorn's right hand in both of his own. Phorn looked sadly back in to Dairn's eyes, realizing that he was dying.

`My lord, my lord, my…' he whispered, then lay still, his eyes staring up through a gap in the cloudy sky to the light blue sky above, lit by the sun of our world.

`He's gone.' Phorn said gravely, `He said this would be his last venturing, and I forced myself to believe he was wrong, when my heart told me I was right.'

`There is nothing we could have done. If he dreamt it was so, as he undoubtedly did, we couldn't have stopped him. Nothing would have.' Von replied, looking up through the same gap in the clouds that Dairn's unseeing eyes did.

The pair spoke their farewells to Dairn, a great leader and warrior he had been, and their friend through many journeys. The pair of them then proceeded to build a bier to carry Dairns body, using Dairns own fur lined cloak and several fallen branches of a pellyrn tree nearby. Pellyrn trees bear strong light wood of very dark colourage.

They trekked further southward, through increasingly barren moorlands for many miles, until they reached the peak of one of the hills which form a great barrier in the Dawn Moorlands, a huge arm thrust out many hundreds of miles from the great Tekarn mountain range in the north. They crested the hill, and looked out in awe across the landscape before them. The range of hills fell away sharply before them, in to a lush hollow in the land. Nestled between two hills in the great hollow, was their own town of Fornen. In the west, the clouds which had covered the sky for several days were breaking up, allowing the blood red light of the sunset to flow through, reflecting brilliantly off the snow which blanketed all the land as far as the eye could see.

The town of Fornen was built by the Nyneirn, Phorns people, long ago, before the Great War of the Resistance, which laid waste to practically the whole of Nyneirn civilization in Eil. The few surviving groups of people traveled slowly north for many years, until after much hardship and loss they reached the Tekarn Mountains, of simply Mountains of Ice Steel. They dwelt in these hills for many years as a rustic, cave dwelling society until continuous feuds and fighting between family groups divided the people. One group had a mind for advancing their technology and for prisons and violence, held a similar mentality to the Progression faction in the Great War, while the other group was more passive and claimed they wanted to live the way they always had done. Eventually the pacifists abandoned the aggressors and traveled south along the great spur in the mountains until they came upon one of the many ruined towns laid waste by the war. When they first reached the valley of Fornen there were but two buildings remaining where the town had one stood, the viaduct bridge that spanned the River Syleng, and the immaculately carved Hall of Governing. However, the Fornenites, as they called themselves, labored long and rebuilt the town with logs from trees felled in the long slash of woodland south of the valley. The aggressors in the Tekarn Mountains passed out of all knowledge and memory, they were forgotten.

Phorn and Von descended towards Fornen, the sunlight reflected off the snow turning their skin and clothes a glowing pink. They descended the steep, rough path down the hill side, until they were come before the gate guarding the huge stone viaduct bridge spanning the River Syleng. Half way across the bridge were two tall, ornately carved pillars, one on each side of the walkway. As Phorn and Von approached, two guards sprang out from behind the two pillars. Both the guards wore leather chest armor bound by gold, very finely crafted but obviously extremely old, and both were armed with spears, the shafts of which were made from highly polished pellyrn wood, and the heads of finely wrought meteoric steel. The instant the guards were clear of the pillars they lowered their spears, and thrust them forwards towards Phorn, who had been walking in front. The guards surveyed Phorn and Von keenly in the dying light for a moment, then a look of dawning recognition appeared on the pair's faces, and they both heaved sighs of relief. The taller of the two guards stepped forward, lowering his spear. The man was tall, and had short brown hair tipped with silver, and his deep brown eyes looked steadily in to Phorns as he spoke.

`Greetings Phorn. It is a great relief to see you alive, many of our people have given you up as lost, believing you to have perished. And you also, Von…,' he added, almost as an afterthought.

The guards name was Hehrad. He and Phorn were in fact good friends, and had been for many years, as they had both been guards of Fornen together for many years. The relative peace that had settled over the world in the aftermath of the Great War had rendered a guard system practically unnecessary, but the Nyneirn had kept the Guard active strictly as a tradition.

`I bring good tidings, and bad tidings, I'm sorry to say. I'm sorry to tell you Dairn is dead, he died defending me,' Phorn said. Both the guards bowed their heads. Dairn had been a great man, the last living Fornenite of those who had lead their people forth from the Tekarn mountains, and had also been the ruling Lord of Fornen. This lordship now passed to Phorn, the last remaining relative of Dairn. `As for the good news,' Phorn continued, `the Sheppard and families may return north, the terror has past, Von slew the fell beast after a long battle. It was that beast who slew Dairn.' Phorn fell silent after this and would say no more. Both guards stepped back to their posts and allowed the pair to pass silently in to Fornen, through the huge doorway in the stone wall, its polished oak doors standing open inwards.

The pair walked along the main terrace, a wide paved stone road bordered by many small stone houses, mostly small and square, all had their curtains drawn but slivers of golden light escaped from gaps in some curtains, illuminating small stretches of the road in the failing light of dusk. At the far end the terrace forked in two, one road going left, the other right. Between these two roads stood the Hall of Governing, a towering triangular building, carved from the Illemin, the Heart of Fornen, a boulder of the rare gold marble, originally almost fifty feet high, the Illemin had been carved in to the Hall of Governing by the Nyneirn at the peak of their skill, many thousands of years ago. Miners and craftsmen had traveled from as far away as Burrendel to aid in its construction.

As Phorn and Von nodded their silent goodbyes, the distant thud of the gates closing reached their ears. They were home, after three months in the wilderness, but they both knew in their hearts that it was but a brief respite, the calm before the onslaught of the storm.

Chapter 2

The first few weeks following Phorn and Vons return were perhaps the loneliest they had ever experienced. They were shunned by most of the inhabitants of Fornen, who all believed Phorn and Von to be cursed, or worse. One of the few people, who had not been surprised or disturbed in any way by the return of Phorn and Von, was Benear, the blacksmith. Benear was ancient, the eldest of all the inhabitants of Fornen, and one of the few surviving Nyrien who had originally traveled south to Fornen from the far north; he was also by far the sanest. Despite his old age, Benear was still strong and cunning at his craft, one of the great craftsmen, most of which have long passed in to legend.

One evening, several weeks after Phorn arrived in Fornen, just as spring was beginning to show signs of stirring in the wide world; Phorn was to be found by Benears fireside, he and Benear deep in conversation.

`It seems so strange to me some how,' Phorn was saying, Benear studying his face closely, `something like what we saw out there, being able to lie hidden for so long, leaving no trace of its comings and goings to be seen anywhere in the land. It certainly left no visible trace.' Benear was silent still, wrapped in old memories, thinking harder and farther back than he had been accustomed to for many years. `We learned little of them, in our many encounters. We had been fleeing the Fherrenis, the remaining aggressors who had grouped together against us, fleeing for many days, before we first saw them. Our company of thirty was camped in the lower reaches of the Ice Gate, between the final outthrust feet of Ielensin and Zhernil. We had been in constant fear of pursuit for many days, but somehow that fear seemed to grow to a climax as we sat there, in the icy snow vainly attempting to kindle our dying fire. They simply appeared over the ridge of a small hillock near our camp, silently as if they were born of the icy wind which surrounded us. They just attacked us, no provocation or warning, but I've always felt there was more to their attack, as though they knew already of all our movements, or maybe they were just highly intelligent.' He reminisced. At this point Phorn interrupted,

`I believe your second guess was true, but that's not to say you're not right on both accounts. I have glimpsed one of their minds, their dark thoughts; my uneasiness has been growing since. I still feel those dark emotions, like as from a great distance, and only flashes, but they grow fainter day by day.'

`The dark visions have shown me many sights, but I do not always know what I see. Often since my return I believe I have glimpsed the Tekarn Mountains, though I've never seen them with my waking eyes, I feel I know the landscape intimately. I feel movements within them, ever trying to conceal themselves from us, yet that is beginning to be there undoing.' These last words Phorn spoke as though from the tongue of another. Benear studied his face closely, with some concern, and was silent awhile before he spoke again. `There is something strange at work here, which I do not clearly understand, but such visions rarely lie. Who can say, perhaps the Fherrenis still inhabit the Tekarn mountains, and did not die out, as most wives-tales these days would have us believe. That would be a dreadful evil, the long time dwelling in the mountains would have turned them strong beyond reckoning. Perhaps this attack forebodes evil to come, the Fherrenis may even now be planning their final stroke, to bind all the land in their dominion. Who can say…' he trailed off, as though the full weight of what he had pronounced had descended upon him. Phorn's expression was hard to read, as though a wall had sprung up between his mind and the world, concealing the cold horror which had descended on him as Benear spoke.

After a moment Phorn mastered himself, `There are many who would say your words were crazed, but your words are wisdom I deem. But perhaps not all will think so, if you attempt to bring this matter to the council.' Phorn spoke slowly, choosing his words carefully. `No! To take this matter to the council will place us all in the utmost peril,' Benear exclaimed, `there are many on the council who were sympathizers to the Fherrenis and their beliefs, and only retreated south with us after the deaths and violence became too much for them. If as I am beginning to suspect more and more, the Fherrenis are spying on Fornen, news that people are beginning to be suspicious would soon pass to them, if we entrust this matter to the council. If you are wise, watch and listen, observe all things closely if you go wandering outside Fornen again. If the Fherrenis are making a move, most likely there will be many spies already gathered around the valley, and any news will pass quickly to them.'

`It will be difficult to do, if we are to avoid being noticed by the council as well as the guards, but I will try, and hopefully Von also. Had I a blade such as my parents used to forge when they dwelt in Burrendel, I would feel safer though. Do you know if any of their craft survived, after they fell in the razing of Burrendel?' Phorn said, reviving dim memories of his life with his parents, long ago.

`It is long since I recalled that day, and ever I have tried to keep the horror of it from surfacing in my mind, but if only for your sake, I will tell you the tale, but we must be brief. I feel time is of the uttermost essence, and soon you must go, if you are to begin the watch.' Spoke Benear, who had begun every now and then to cast a fearful glance out the window, as though he expected to see large yellow eyes staring in at him even as he spoke, `You were only a newborn at the time, and so naturally would not remember. You were not present at the battle of course, but I told you the tale while we traveled across the plains of Nyrien, to Lamen?eron. The works of your parents in those days were legendary. They forged many fine swords and armor, and many other things besides, but none as fair and keen as the one sword the pair forged together, for your father. Circil it was called, as I recall, and it was unrivalled by any other sword in the world save those of the elves, but the elves were lost to us long ago. However, later that year, several months after the War of the Resistance began, you were born. Your father ordained that Circil be passed on to you, when he was too old or crippled to wield it. But barely a week after you were born, the tides of the war reached Burrendel, as we all knew they must, so we were not totally unprepared. An army at least six thousand strong began driving its way steadfastly west towards Burrendel. They drove their way through our outer defenses, torching all the houses they passed. For three days the story was much the same, scouts or lone soldiers would ride in to Burrendel, wounded and broken beyond hope of help, each told the same story of a vast army of men, and some spoke of fell creatures also in their service, like to trolls, but kindled with a cold fire. Then, just before noon on the fourth day, they reached the mines and lead-works, at the heart of Burrendel. There, the majority of the defense was gathered, but also there were many workers in the mines, as well as the blasting furnaces. Our enemies were cunning, and had obviously spied out the land long before. They swept their way down in to the valley in a feigned assault, I was standing at the rear of the defense, and only I perceived the true purpose of the assault, only in the nick of time as it seems now. While the battle was being fought on the slopes of the valley, a small company of the enemy had slipped around the valley and began creeping in from the west, instead of through the main front of the battle on the eastern slopes. They brought with them a new devilry, the like of which we had not seen before, but would become too familiar with later. They brought explosives, vast kegs of powder, and boxes of the stuff. These they planted beneath the largest of the blasting furnaces, a four story high building set in to the side of the slope. This I perceived at the last moment, I knew there was no hope for your parents, who were working the furnaces that day, but I flew from the battlefield in haste, to your house where you were sleeping. Even as I ran, the ground was shaken from the blast, although I was already several miles away. After I had taken you up in my arms, I flew back eastwards to the battle field to see how things went. I wish to this day that I never had…' Benear's voice, which had stayed strong through the story so far, faltered, and a single tear ran down his cheek. `What did you see?' Phorn asked quietly, though in his heart he knew what was coming.

`I came upon the westernmost ridge of the valley, closest to the blasting furnace. As I reached the top of the ridge, I was almost pushed backwards by the force of the heat which rushed up to meet me, mingled with the smell of charred flesh. The blasting furnace had been destroyed utterly, and a river of molten lead had flowed down in to the valley, swallowing friend and foe alike, and the lake, which had once been clear and blue in the middle of the valley, was gone. I had been gone awhile, and now that I had returned, some of the lead had cooled enough to walk on, though I was burned terribly by the heat still rising from it. As I walked through the sea of lead, every now and then a body, or part of one, would protrude from the molten mess, horribly disfigured by the heat and the force of the metal as it hit them. Some were still alive, twitching and whispering for help. There was no hope for them, so I did not try to help them, though I am still haunted by the choice. Finally, I found your father, still alive and with the majority of his body free from the metal, yet he was dying simply from the force of the explosion. I told him you were safe, and that I would take you to Lamen?eron. He never spoke, I think the pain was too much for him, but he nodded showing that he understood. He died in my arms, but I had little time to grieve. Small parties of the enemy who had not been present at the time were beginning to pick their way through the valley, fearing they would find me, I fled from your fathers body back the way I had came, and we left Burrendel the long way, creeping around far to the north until we were within sight of the Twimlit forest. After that we traveled in haste directly east across the Dawn Moorlands, we found some healing for our grief there, the westernmost reaches of the Dawn Moorlands are rich and full of life, perhaps some of the virtue of the elves remains in them. Rumor of the war was passing swiftly throughout the land, but we did not stop to listen, instead we traveled on with all speed, and eventually reached the capital, Lamen?eron, where we were able to dwell in peace for a time. And that, my dear Phorn, is the story of Burrendel and your parent's works. I never knew what became of Circil, perhaps it rests somewhere in the ruins of Burrendel still, for ruins still remain. There was no time to hunt for it then, and I never had the heart to return to look for it.'

There was silence in the room for some time after Benear had finished speaking, the fire died lower and lower; each was lost in their own private thoughts. The cold dread which had settled in Phorn's heart hardened him, but now there was something else too, a burning desire to see Burrendel for himself. One of Benear's plates, which had been resting on a shelf to one side of the room suddenly plunged to the stone floor for no apparent reason, and broke with a loud crack, startling the pair of them out of their silent thinking. Benear in particular found this quite disturbing, and would not rest until he had thoroughly searched his house and was convinced there were no spies lurking in a shadowy corner. Once they had searched every room, which took a surprisingly long time, they returned to Benear's lounge room. `And now,' Benear spoke, `you must go and summon Von and begin your watch. Think about what you think should be done. We will talk again soon, I'm sure of it.' Phorn thanked Benear for his hospitality, and walked off in to the dark night towards Von's house, feeling that a far better reward would have been rest and sleep, for his body and mind.

The walk was only short, but lonely and cold for Phorn, with only the bright stars overhead for company. Whenever any light shone through a window from the house, he would carefully avoid it. Disquiet and unrest ruled the hearts of most of those still dwelling in Fornen, and they did not welcome night time visitors. Even the stars, which had often been Phorns only company on his long journeys, seemed uneasy, seeming sometimes brighter and sometimes as though grey cloth had been drawn across the heavens, diffusing their light.

The journey was over sooner than Phorn expected, lost in his own musings he had lost almost all track of time, and without knowing it found himself standing outside Vons house. He did not use the large knocker on her door, but instead pulled a small golden chain cunningly concealed behind the stonework framing the door. The faint, sweet note of a bell rang from somewhere far inside the house, and Von soon opened the door, beckoning him inside. There was no sign of a smile or any kind of welcome on her face.

Phorn gladly stepped inside, and placed his traveling cloak on one of the hooks by the door. The pair seated themselves in Vons lounge room, facing each other by the fireplace, where the dying remains of a fire still spread a dull red glow across Vons somber face.

`You felt it too?' Von inquired quietly, as though trying not to be overheard. Phorn shook his head, `What was it?'

`Some kind of powerful disturbance, it was very unsettling. About half an hour ago now, I think, it's still a little disturbing. It was sort of like I suddenly became alert, and I was afraid. And…' she spoke, trying to recall, `I think it was a vision. Only for a moment, I saw tall grey mountains, there was snow on the higher slopes, and they were crawling like anthills, small black specks moving in endless lines.'

`I have been talking with Benear, I must have been so focused on the conversation I never felt it. I think Benear did though; we had been talking long, when a dish from his old wooden shelf fell and cracked. It unsettled him far more than it should have, to my mind, he was extremely uneasy, and insisted on searching his whole house for intruders. The mood is strange outside too; it is as though the stars themselves are disturbed, and the air quivers with anticipation.' Phorn stopped, recalling the feeling he had had when he was walking made his unease grow. `There is something evil at work here, for many things in my home were disturbed also, although I luckily have carpet so my belongings were spared.' Von spoke. Looking around, Phorn noticed that the room was indeed in disarray, various curiosities of Von's littered the floor, and the tapestry which usually hung on the wall near the door was crumpled on the floor below.

`Benear believes the evil powers are stirring in the Tekarn mountains once again, and that the Fherrenis may even now be moving in the land, they may already be spying on Fornen. He bids us take up the watch immediately, so we must leave as soon as you are ready.' Phorns voice faltered as he spoke, the night was freezing outside, and he knew they would most likely be on the moors for some days. `This I have feared ever since I first laid eyes on the creature in the hills. Benear has described the Fherrenis warriors to me many times, and I will never forget them. If there are spies watching the town, they may be disturbed by our presence, so let us go soon. I will be ready in only a minute.' Von announced. Reaching up above the mantle piece, she drew down from a hook on the wall, Actim, Vons sword which had passed through thirteen generations in Vons family, then strode over and put on her own fur lined traveling cloak from beside Phorns, Phorn taking his as well. Without a backward glance, the pair strode off in to the night, having never before been so fearful at the beginning of a journey.

Chapter 3

Phorn and Von had traveled the dawn moorlands in many seasons, but before had never known such a brooding watchful silence as that which lay now over the land. In all seasons, even the harsh winters following the War of Resistance, many animals of various varieties had dwelt on the moors, now no sign of bird nor beast were to be found. A strange power seeped through the land, a silent yet ever watchful presence.

Phorn and Von had passed through the high eastern borders of Fornen without difficulty. As they stood on the high western banks of the Syleng River, looking down on Fornen, they saw, far off in the west, a small light twinkling in the eastern guard towers. Phorn was the first to turn away, setting his back to the Syleng valley, setting his eyes instead upon the wide western moors.

`The night is quiet. We must wait until the morning for tidings. I fear truth runs all to clearly in Benear's words, we must move quietly, and find somewhere where we may lie hidden until the morning.' Phorn breathed, a fine haze rising from his mouth with each word he spoke.

Three days of their watch passed, the threat becoming more present and apparent as the days went by. Von saw nothing, merely content to keep pace beside Phorn, feeling the tension in the air. Phorn had eyes far better than Von, their first morning on the moors he sighted two eagles, high above the moors, swooping here and there above the Syleng Valley. Every now and then his ears discerned a single, harsh cry. Many other animals too had begun to gather around the valley, strange animals from far lands, hawks too were circling in the sky, and many creatures of the earth too, moles and badgers from the wide northern forests. Phorn frowned, but trudged silently through the snow. Phorn and Von dwelt several weeks on the moors, remaining hidden during the day, walking at night, southward and eastward so that they gradually passed Fornen to the south, and began once again come up upon its easternmost borders.

The Nyneirn ancient word for the World, as far as they knew of it

The two highest peaks of the Tekarn mountains, which form the Ice Gate to the lands beyond


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