Story of the warrior

Savior

A black cloud, heavy and menacing, looms over the grove. Moves so low that almost touches the tops of the trees on the right side of the path. Sullenly roars. Cold air is filled with freshness. In a few minutes — and rumbling mess of ink breaks out with rain, hail and lightning. So three horsemen do not spare their horses, whipping them in hope to get to the middle of the cloud. They need to buy time so than later then the dusty road turns into the sucking mud, when light wind will turn into the whip they won’t be afraid to keep up with the clouds black as rotten flesh.

At Emerald Lake wimpled, white swans rose into the air and with shouts looking like human voices, flew to a safe place — where the black sky becomes gangrenous red first, and then — a solid blue. Live bushes on the right side of the path pressed their branches to the ground mumbling something...

Forward! Forward! There is no time to pay attention to the fear widening in the chest. A guy in a black cloak lined with silver fox, in a shiny chain mail, spotlessly clean leather pants and pointy boots made from ogre skin presses against the back of a horse, setting his jaw. He is a few meters behind from two other riders — the gray-haired woman with deep wrinkles, and painfully thin man with a two-handed sword, hanging out on the back.

— Dajla, not so fast! — The guy shouted throwing frightened glances to the north. — I can’t ride so fast!

Woman did not even turn her head; predatory half-smile appeared on her face.

— Loyd! Tell her!

All his demands went unanswered. Cursing mercenary-old woman and a goner, the guy started to think about how well they will be punished after the demon dies. «You can’t treat me like this — he thought. — You’ll be sorry. »

Dazzling lightning stroke. First heavy drops of rain fall of the face.

Broken with the refugees’ carts and rain soaked road champed under the hooves, stuck to the boots and clothes. The old woman raised her hand and stopped the horse, making the guy almost ran into her. That would be «funny» if he lost his balance and plopped straight into the fetid puddle! However, clothes are already drenched. Even the thick coat couldn’t help the situation.

— Take rest — and continue walking, — said the old woman, tidying her gray hair straying from under the hood.

— Walking? — Asked Shegun tiredly watching as goner beamed. He pulled a flask from his belt unscrew the lid and began guzzling.

— That’s right, Shegun. Walking

— But Dajla...

— Horses will break legs on such road. — said the old woman. — Be humble.

— But I’m in charge here! If we walk we can go out from under the cloud. And then everything will be useless! Do you have any idea, whom we have to go against?

— Man, either we do it my way, or I’m going back home with Lloyd. Thus, Lloyd?

Goner nodded smiling. The rain beat him on the head, running down on the wet hair and face. But the rider didn’t give a damn.

Shegun grunted and lowered his head, not wanting to meet anyone’s gaze. These damn fools! Archmage gave them a clear order to obey him. But no! That cursed woman is trying to show whose boss in the group, and the goner accompanies her tune. And was it necessary to descend from the mountains of eastern hunting grounds of Morrigan groves to endure the antics of these two?

«Calm down, Shegun. Now is not the time. »

He nodded silently. And looked there, where the borders of the black cloud end and blue sky brightens. What he wanted most — was to go home to the chamber of magicians. Shegun instinctively touched the chain around his neck. Cold amulet pricked his index and middle fingers.

Fire Ball mercilessly shines in the sky above the plain, clouds of black smoke wreathe over the treetops — another village was consumed. Hogvird Ku’Arg laughed, sticking his tongue snake. He was happy to see trembling hot air, and melting stones. The lamblike human crowd has tripled in the last few days! Their eyes were empty and hard as glass. And all the thoughts, memories, feelings absorbed. Now people are just vessels filled with energy.

Madness embraced demon’s consciousness. Lulled, whispered about the imminent release. His fingers gently touched the box, the claws slid along the familiar notches and cracks... Abyss of unbearable pain seemed infinitely deep painting the whole world in red and black. Consume, consume, consume! As long as the chaos does not devour villages, castles and cities. As long as the hearts of the bipeds are beating. Until there will be two colors — black and red.

The paw glowed with scarlet magic fire. Hogvird mentally ordered the crowd to gather around him. He gently stepped on the backs, shoulders and heads, with no fear that the neck of these pathetic creatures would break. The main thing was do not fall. Otherwise, all the work will be in vain. From now on land, on which he could step — was human flesh.

Hogvird stood on the shoulders of giant human, and began to look into the faces of those whom he consumed. There was an ugly village woman with a large nose, with a wart on the tip of it, the wrinkled old man with a goatee, the boy of six with a dull expression on his face.

All of them were vessels full of energy. One has only to want, and it will break free beast of prey, destroying everything and everyone on the road.

There was a terrible roar, the demon turned toward the sound source. Over the noise in the temples, black cloud was approaching to him. She swallowed venous sky and brought strong wind, which rustled the trees.

Hogvird Ku’Arg frowned.

— Do not lag behind, Shegun! — Dajla told him, confidently striding forward.

Feet got stuck in the mud; he barely managed to stay on his feet. Also goddamn rain slapped in the face, prevents breathing. As if trying to pass the marsh.

— The cloud goes a long way — the guy said, breathing heavily. — We will be vulnerable to a demon.

— Take It Easy.

— Dajla, we need to return to the horses!

— But...

— I said, «No,» — interrupted the old woman.

The hardest thing was to pull the leg out of a sticky slime and then reposition it, and then you might fight with the second boot. This activity seemed to be endless. Again and again. Again and again...

— Lloyd — called Shegun. — And what do you think?

Goner didn’t answer. He was holding his two-handed sword preventing it from falling to the mud.

«Nameless take them all!» — thought Shegun. His heart was pounding, yielding a pain in the fingertips. Each step was a test; every breath was like a challenge. «What will happen when we meet the demon? We can’t fight properly with all that mud around. However, I don’t not even want to think about it».

Frowning, Shegun was thinking, how he would get even with Lloyd and Dajla. He would complain at the old woman to Lord Gracewood. He’d tell him she contradicted in a way that prevented the implementation of the plan... But the goner... Who should he turn him to? Fairies? Funny, very funny.

Shegun acquainted with the dossier on his companions before leaving the temple.

Dajla worked as mercenary for Lord Gracewood most part of her life. She never had husband or kids. The only thing she was good at — was swordplay. Even men asked her to teach them sword fight, although Shegun always thought that there was nothing more humiliating than to go to a woman for advice. However, Lord Gracewood respected Dajla and when she became too old to work in guard, he tried to send her to retirement in the village, hiding in the Olannor forests. However, the case broke: a demon broke into Ericuria like a hot knife in butter. And Dajla was ordered to escort Shegun.

«I’m sure Lord Gracewood just decided to get rid of her.»

Carefully studying the dossier of an old woman, Shegun came across an interesting fact. Dajla had a nickname «Second life». What did that mean? Perhaps under other circumstances Shegun asked the women herself about it but now precious time should be spent otherwise.

It was easier with Loyd: He lost his parents and his sister due to demons’ attack to their village. And he had no choice but to join the royal army, in order to take revenge. Having worked for the guard for more than fifteen years, for no apparent reason he moved to live in the Darkstider’s forest. Loyd was mysterious and silent. And it is unclear how Archmage forced him to leave the house.

— What are you thinking of, sorcerer? — Dajla asked, turning.

— Nothing important.

— You look like shot and dead. Do the wizards in these mountains of yours only stew over ancient tomes?

After jumping through another puddle and almost sprawled on the ground, Shegun replied:

— Know your place, mercenary. You can not even imagine how dangerous were the challenges I has to go through.

— Yah? — The old woman exchanged glances with a goner.

— Exactly. For the first time I forgive your ignorance. Sorcerers do not know mercy to their disciples. But they were especially angry with me. I was forced to go through the northern Morrigan groves three times!

— Do you at least remember your parents? — asked Dajla.

Shegun replied, pretending he’s not tired

— Well... Not very much, to be honest. I remember that Mom and Dad were a strange couple. Father — as thin as a rake, and mother, on the contrary, barely passed through the rapids — her belly was immense.

— What do you think, sorcerer, are we going to die today?

Shegun felt uncomfortable from this unexpected question like a huge cold snake coiled in his guts.

— It all depends on how well you’re going to protect me, — said Shegun.

— For one I intend to return home. And you, Loyd?

Goner nodded and smiled slightly.

— You see, sorcerer. Even Loyd wants to survive. So you are in safe hands. The main thing is not to bungle with spells. I know your kind, head in the clouds...

Shegun did not answer.

The crowd run silently like a muddy stream, bearing the pain and suffering. Growling battle song, Hogvird jumped on the shoulders of the old man and prepared for the time when the cloud will cover the Fire Ball.

Flashback: He is in the second row with his brothers, waiting for shamans to rise their staffs proudly and begin the song of blood. Raven Legion becomes a single being. Hogvird hears a demon panting behind him. His palms a sweaty and the sword hilt is slipping through his fingers and tries to fall to the trampled ground.

Stumbling up the hill, a hunchbacked sorcerer with burned face raise his staff with a hand quivering and thin as a twig and opens its mouth to scream. Demons wait. Demons crave the taste of human flesh. Demons can not wait to let the animal rage boil over.

... Hogvird shook his head, banishing the memory. It was a long time ago. But again and again images and sounds of the past appear before mind’s eye. The clash of swords. Low drums. Cries of joy and pain. Saber turned into a deadly vortex of steel, cutting the flesh of enemies on the way. But people, come and come like sheep to the slaughter. He no longer has to restrain himself! Smash skulls! Split chests! Break and tear ligaments! Lose sense in rage of the battle. Blood gushes from the human wounds lands on the lips, stains armor.

Hogvird grimaced. Demons lost that battle due to reinforcements came to the rescue of humans. He barely survived: he had to leave wounded brothers and run into the woods. Eight days and nights he was hiding under the firs and oaks, devoured by self-hatred.

Coward! Coward! Hogvird still remembered the fear. You put your foot on the leaves, and only then, slowly, step on it. And damned foliage rustles and crackles...

On the ninth day he found in the woods a strange box that fit in the palm.

And everything changed.

Hogvird allowed the soul of the Forgotten hidden in this little box, to guide him. Instead he got incredible power. His brothers of the Raven Legion would be proud of him.

Ericuria, the land of wretched silly humans will know real pain!

... The black cloud engulfed the crowd, and Hogvird felt painful prick in the chest. He did not immediately realize that he had lost part of his forces. Box in his hand shone even white light.

Demon howled.

Distant howling made Shegun go hot and cold. Hand instinctively found the staff behind his back.

— We got him. — It was the first time Loyd spoke during the quest.

— Now, is not going anywhere, — said the old mercenary nodding.

Streams freezing rain continued to dash down from heaven. Clothing long been wet. Pants stuck to the buttocks.

— You see him? — asked Shegun.

— And you? — answered Dajla with a question.

— No...

— So do we. Am I right, Lloyd?

Goner barely nodded.

— Did you ever kill demons? — asked mercenary.

Shegun lied:

— Yes of course. They taught us that in the mountains.

— And how many did you kill?

— Well... — the guy hesitated.

— Got it, — said Dajla, suddenly serious. — Be careful, sorcerer. Our lives are in your hands.

The howling in the distance repeated.

— And why this creature is so afraid of the clouds? — Loyd said, spitting.

— It’s not exactly a cloud — said Shegun. — It’s a bunch of dark energy. Archmage had to work hard to learn how to weaken the demon.

Mercenary looked up at the inky heavens.

— And what they found?

— This demon acts alone. And it seems that he’s ruled by The Forgotten, although I’m not exactly sure. You know... — Shegun paused trying to find simple words for the explanation. — Archmage doesn’t have the necessary knowledge to stop the magic of the Forgotten, so...

— Say it already! — could not stand the old woman.

— In general, this black cloud — is one of the incarnations of the Nameless.

Loyd suddenly stopped, turned to the Shegun and grabbed him by the lapels.

— What?! Nameless?

— Let me go...

— Explain, sorcerer! What is «the embodiment of the Nameless»?

Shegun tried to escape, but it was easier to kill a flock of wild shieldbacks than get rid of the goner’s grip.

— Archmage was in a cleft stick! — He cried. — It was necessary to stop this beast as quickly as possible. And the means and capabilities were not enough! So my teacher made an agreement with the Patriarch of secret paths.

Mercenary stood in front of Shegun.

— You’re lying, — she said. — None of the senior royal officials would not engage in dialogue with this madman.

— You are mistaken. Archmage were forced. Patriarch awakened one of the Nameless, and in return received the treasure.

Loyd let Shegun go and looked in the direction where there supposedly was a demon.

— Why didn’t anyone tell us, sorcerer?

— It must remain a secret. You know, Archmage not want to show off their connection with the Patriarch of the Deep roads. Believe it or not, but my teacher Bartholomeus cried like a baby when he found out that there are no other ways to stop the demon.

The old woman sighed and said:

— Does it make you laugh?

— I think the victory is worth the price. The main thing is to destroy the monster in our land.

— Then you’re even dumber than I thought.

— I do not care what you think, mercenary. Just take me to the demon and try not to die.

Shegun defiantly pushed the goner’s shoulder and trudged along the road. He did not understand why his companions were so frightened to hear that the Patriarch of the Deep roads helped to stop the demon. Would it be better if the monster continued terrorizing Ericuria?

«All these people are just idiots, afraid of every shadow. And I’m not like that. Nothing and no one can stop me.»

The rain broke on the heads and shoulders of the human crowd with bright splashes. Drops of water washed away particles of the energy, making the demon feel how weakened his control over the crowd. He did not immediately realize that he was driven into a trap. On the right side ripples Emerald Lake, and on the left — stone ridge is piercing the low sky, so all they have to do is to move forward.

Looking forward to the battle Hogvird Ku’Arg patted bald head of the giant. Let human magic weakened the box. Let the rain prevented him from seeing the number of enemies. His opponents did not know that in addition to the force of the Forgotten Hogvird had a sharp sword. He would win. Again. The demons of the Legion Raven fight to the end.

Very, very soon the feast would begin.

The rain had stopped, and Shegun finally saw huge crowd of people with a large horned creature. Jumping on their heads. The guy froze in fear feeling cold in the stomach. All memorized spells were immediately forgotten.

«I cannot... I must run away.»

Enough.

Trying to calm down, Shegun touched an amulet around his neck. Useless bauble as always gave him strength and confidence.

«Bards will compose songs about me.»

He saw a picture in his mind: he Shegun, writhing in pain and horny creature, laughing, delves into his guts...

«That will not happen.»

Mercenary stopped, drew her gladius, her eyes sparkled wildly.

— I think it’s time, — she said.

Loyd chuckled unleashing his two-handed sword, putting half meter blade at the left shoulder. Goner’s muscles tensed, swollen, barely breaking the core.

Shegun continued fumbling the amulet nervously, trying not to think about the upcoming battle. He focused on the moment when he was just a kin running in the Morrigan groves, trying to complete the magicians’ challenge. He still remembered the stupefying smell of the pines. His task was to survive in the wilds at least for a month.

Tormented by hunger and thirst, Shegun then found a small cave not far from the canyon and tried to place traps to catch squirrels or a hare. What was his surprise when a hunched old man wearing tons of amulets came out of the forest. This bearded man in a long robe, dotted with patches asked for water.

There was some water left in Shegun’s flask, and he gave it to the man without hesitation — now he wouldn’t do something that stupid of course. Old man emptied the flask gave a loud belch and, in gratitude gave the boy a strange amulet in the shape of a snake eating its own tail.

«This is magic amulet», — said the stranger. His piercing eyes seemed to nail Shegun to one place.

Boy took the gift with a grateful nod, and the bearded man disappeared in the woods...

«He just lied to me.»

Later, much later, Shegun often got in serious troubles, but always managed to survive. And the old man’s amulet never worked, so he had to rely only on himself.

Not only that: later the guy learned that the snake that eats its own tail — is called Ouroboros and that it’s one of the many deities of the demons. According to legend a giant slimy creature lays eggs with the bodies of the creatures of fire in the depths of the Earth and calls for souls from the Halls of Nameless to revive its spawn.

Shegun attached a gem to the head of the snake, so his teachers didn’t take the amulet from him.

— ...sorcerer, third time I ask: what do we do? — Dajla asked worriedly.

The guy seemed to come up from sleep and stopped to finger amulet.

— It’s simple: you protect me.

— Surely the demon will send the crowd right at us — Lloyd muttered.

— People can not be killed — said Shegun.

— And why is that? — asked the mercenary.

— Monster uses them as the seat of power. Should anyone of you, fools, at least injure a person — it’ll free such a power that just wipes us out. So hide, leap, do whatever you want, but do not touch the crowd. Otherwise we all are dead.

Goner spitted and said:

— That was really nice of you, sorcerer.

Hogvird howled with glee. Three! There are only three of them against him! He was afraid to meet an army of wizards and knights clad in armor. And now he saw the old woman that could hardly stand, a goner that barely raised his two-handed sword, and beardless youngster!

Growling demon stretched his lips into a smirk. Anger boiled inside him spreading through the crowd, as magma of the awakened volcano. Its heat felt even at a distance. Waving his clawed hand Hogvird sang combat spell, begging the box to help him. A boy in the crowd screamed, fell to his knees, growing with spikes and claws. In just a few moments, human cub turned into a giant shieldback.

Let the bloody massacre begin!

— Faster, sorcerer! — screamed the mercenary.

Trying not to look ahead Shegun put his index finger on the cold staff, calling magic. Sun’s rays went from his mouth, the burned face stroke with cold. It was harder to concentrate because of the black cloud. And even more difficult was to find the right thread of the spell. Shegun thought that now he looked like the puppeteer, who saw a puppet for the first time.

A drop of sweat fell from his forehead.

Giant shieldback approached with huge leaps, four clawed legs sucking in the mud. Thick red shell shone, and saliva dropped from the huge predatory mouth. Beast made by magic of the Forgotten has chosen its goal — gray-haired old woman. Her fear tickled its nostrils.

And somewhere behind master’s voice was encouraging him...

Magic staff emitted a beam of bright green light that hit the shieldback in the back right after it swung its paw to pull down Dajla’s head. There was a hoarse roar and Shegun almost fell into a puddle from the wave of hot stinking air.

Wild beast disappeared in a blinding white flash.

Magician heard a kid’s groan in his head. Rollback after the magical effect hit him as a painful blow in the ribs. He felt himself strange, like the fabric of the reality begun to tear apart, revealing the mysterious images.

The boy looks as his father, smiling, deftly working a piece of wood with a knife. Today, he promised to make a horse for a knight. Mom stands near the furnace and softly humming something, ensures that nothing is burnt. In the twilight of a summer day, she seems incredibly beautiful. The boy wants to get out of bed and hug her.

Shegun shook his head, dismissing the vision. For a moment, he managed to quell the fear. He felt thirsty.

— What is it, a sorcerer? — He heard Dajla voice as from under water.

The demon didn’t hurry to let the monsters, admiring how the youth was writhing in the mud. He must be given time to understand: the soul of the Forgotten, enclosed in a box, could not be stopped. Many have tried to challenge the power of Hogvird, but now they either become part of his silent army, or rot in the ground.

Even weakened by this magical rain he felt victorious. Pathetic tricks with the weather did not help this human scum. Fair punishment would take all of them. And now, when the human sorcerer, faced the simplest spell of the enemy, he was deprived of the possibility to resist. Now his skull was torn by memories and feelings of boy turned into a shieldback.

Goner with two-handed sword on his shoulder was staring at Hogvird. There was no fear in his eyes — only complete resignation to his fate. The fool would fight until he bleeds to death. Guys like him die first.

Rolling thunder rumbled and in the bowels of the ink clouds flared white lightning.

Sighing deeply, the demon began to turn the box flaming with blue flame.

— How are you? Can you stand? — asked the mercenary.

Swallowing hard lump in his throat, Shegun nodded, and raised leaning on a carved staff. Horned creature dancing on backs and heads of the crowd, was laughing happily, enjoying his first victory.

«We’ll see who wins...»

— Thank you, — said the gray-haired woman.

Shegun frowned, eyes turned to the Dajla. She was peering at him sternly.

— Something is wrong.

— And what is that, sorcerer?

— If I knew! — snapped the guy.

He still could not move after that storm of the other person’s memories. Disappeared in the chaos of death, the boy somehow managed to transfer the memory of himself. Shegun can say that the poor guy loved where he lived, where he slept and what were the names of his parents...

«Hold on! You were prepared for things like that!»

— I was promised that everything will be different, — muttered Dajla irritably. — That you, sorcerer, will kill this horny bastard with a finger snap, and then we return to our homes, celebrating a great victory over darkness.

— Just try to survive, mercenary.

— Survive? Are you out of your mind? This shieldback barely cut my head! I’m not ready for that!

Lloyd waved his left hand, saying quickly:

— I think our friend is preparing a new surprise.

Waving a box lighting with magic fire demon spitted out the words of the spell. They emitted from his mouth like green flashes, dissolving in the air. Four large men came out of the crowd and headed towards travelers.

— Do not touch the humans! — ordered Shegun.

— Yes, I understand, I understand — muttered the goner, taking the fighting stance.

Bewitched giants grew in their eyes, the muscles swelled, tearing clothes.

— Oh, by the Nameless... — Loyd said in surprise. — Demon’s making ogres from them!

Skin of the poor men turned green, faces turned into shapeless masks with a deliberately large noses and lips. Humps began to swell from their backs and green moss immediately sprouted at it.

— Woo-hoo! — roared one of the giants, revealing sharp triangular teeth. He easily grasped a huge boulder with one hand and tossed aside the goner.

He instinctively jumped to the side. Stone flopped to the ground, rolled, leaving deep furrows. Then he got stuck in the mud.

Shegun gripped the staff with both hands chattering the spell. The air around him and his satellites trembled howling under the influence of magic. Mercenary and the goner stood in front of him. Big gray balls rose from the mud and swirled around people.

Ogres did not hurry to attack stupidly staring at the trembling air.

— What are they waiting for? — Lloyd whispered, ready at any moment to cut the monsters with his two-handed sword.

Shegun did not answer. He closed his eyes, trying to focus. It was cold on the plain after rain but he felt sweat beaded on his brow. Staff has to summon earth golems long ago, but nothing happened.

«Now ogres will guess that these balloons — are just a cheap illusion.»

— I can’t... I can’t, — rasped Shegun sweating. — It does not work...

He opened his eyes at that moment, when the green giant stepped into the quivering air and passed through the created sphere without any trouble.

— I need more time.

— You don’t have it, — managed to say mercenary before ogre tried to grab her.

The demon could not take his eyes off the goner that managed to evade attacks of the giants. The earth was shaking under feet, and scary growls were in the air, it seemed every second stretched into minutes, and minutes into hours. The dance of death still could not start.

Hogvird admiring how cleverly gray-haired woman run on a small piece of the road, trying to save her worthless life. How ogres raged unable to catch people. They were too stupid and clumsy, to group and attack together. Hogvird created him like that hoping the humans would exhale and try to finish the giants.

However, it seemed youngster magician warned them of the consequences.

This young fool tried to conjure, but he didn’t have time — ogres came after them.

Demon patted old woman that he was sitting at on her head, and thought about how to create new monsters.

A stump flew over his head, snatching a handful of hair; Shegun almost lost his balance and sprawled on the cold ground. Without thinking what he was doing, he drew a bag with a premade spell from his pocket and threw it into an ogre. Then there was a flash.

The monster fell to its knees, trying to brush away the green flames from the face.

— You said, we can not kill them! — shouted Dajla, coming closer to the sorcerer.

Moving away from a roaring monster Shegun said:

— This is an unusual magic. I release the soul from the power of the box of the Forgotten.

— That is killing!

As the flames engulfed the whole body, ogre sprawled in a pool, weakening with every beat of the heart.

«Now it begins...»

He looks to shiny polished bronze basin, trying to figure out how good he looks. The daughter of the miller has blown off most beautiful guys in the village. Does he have a chance? He is clumsy, clubfoot. And he skanks. His chances are low. However he needs to try! Tomorrow he will try to woo the miller’s daughter!

He felt pain in the temples as if someone put a rusty needle in them. Other people’s memories swirled before his eyes, echoing in his head. Shegun would have fallen, but he was picked up by the mercenary.

— What’s wrong with you, sorcerer?! I cannot save your butt every time.

He was silent, his tongue didn’t obey him.

«It’s not time to be lazy! Fight.» Strangely, ogres did not pay attention to him, and gray-haired woman.

— I need time...

— You’ve already said that. Arise, Shegun, Nameless got you!

— Apparently, cloud blocks the free flow of magic. I feel like a meat that went through the grinder.

— Oh, I see. You all turned gray.

Finally, Shegun was able to stand and focus his eyes.

— We’ll have to use the premade spell.

Mercenary ran to help Loyd.

Blue snakes of energy danced around his claws, and a yellow smoke started swirling on the back of his hand. This smoke took the form of the girl moaning in pain, then the dancing flames, then the marine reptile. Magic Box was shaking and the demon could hear someone was scratching from the inside.

Concentrating, Hogvird Ku’Arg stretched out his hand controlling the magic and pointed it at the old woman. His skin tingled from discharge and he felt blissful heat rising in his chest.

The demon grimaced, gritted his teeth. He could no longer wait. It was time to show the true power.

Yellow smoke sparkling, low droning, quickly went to the mercenary.

Shegun didn’t have time to do anything: a cloud of ocher dust emitted by horned creature swallowed Dajla. There was a bloodcurdling scream. Pulsating beams of light burst out of pulsating smoke, vibration and hum increased. After a while, the light became so bright that it burned his retinas.

«You have to put an end to the old woman suffering» — petty inner voice woke up inside him.

Shegun, trembling, shook his head. No, he would not do it.

«She can not be saved.»

No!

«The demon must understand that you will fight to the end.»

But not at this price.

«Never mind! Winners are not judged! »

It was still possible to pull the mercenary out of the ocher cloud!

«You know perfectly well that it will not help.»

Reaching into his coat pocket, Shegun felt almost weightless ball of premade spell. In the end, it was not necessary to cast, to suffer from the effort. All he had to do was to throw the ball in the dust.

«Imagine that you throw a pebble into the lake.»

Not wasting time anymore, the boy swung and threw a ball of spell.

The head exploded of sharp pain.

Sweltering autumn sky covered with scatterings of stars, presses on the head. It smells of burning and death. Dajla’s shaking, hugging her knees. She unbearably wants to wake up and appear in bed with her husband. To hug him tight. To tell about all her fears of approaching troops of demons and to cook porridge to their son.

But it’s not a dream. Dajla looks at her hands and face covered with ash, trying to understand what happened. Lord Gracewood’s soldiers run by without noticing her. In the moonlight their armor reminiscent bumpy skin of the creatures of fire. Somewhere far garrison magician scolds his disciples.

Dajla repeatedly revives a terrible picture in her mind.

...Thin lips stretched in a terrible parody of a smile, the demon is leaning over her. He stinks of goat. His eyes burn her with the cold of death, freezing the heart and brain. Enjoying her agony, the monster turns out — in the darkness of the hut bodies of her relatives can be confused with a bogey that her husband made in the spring.

Dajla tries to scream, but her throat is squeezed by invisible grip. Demon thoughtfully examines the blade in his hand, as if he did not want to spoil it on the useless wife of a blacksmith.

However, he doesn’t think long...

— How are you? — asks the magician.

He sits down next to her on the log, rearranges the ends of the patched cloak, and then scratches his tousled gray beard.

— Normal — responds Dajla without a single emotion.

— Now everything will be fine.

— No, Agvar. It will not.

— Do you know what the soldiers call you «Second life»?

— I do not care.

— Not at all, girl. The gods don’t raise you from death for no reason.

She shrugs. Tears burn lower eyelids, the world around her spreads with luminous blots.

— I want to die.

— Do not say that, Dajla.

— But it’s true! Why should I live, if my husband and son... If they...

She sobs and don’t hold the tears anymore.

Magician hugs her tight.

— Gods of Sphere made you a great gift, girl. Appreciate it.

Dajla wants to argue, to send the magician to the hell of Nameless!

But she just can’t stop the tears.

Shegun lies on the cold ground, staring at the black sky. Instinct requires: rise as soon as possible and continue dodging the ogres. But he does not care! Let them crush, chew, tear, trample him... Body seems to be made of lead, every movement requires enormous effort. In addition, memories of the old mercenary press him down like a gravestone.

How many challenges had Dajla passed during her long life? How many times was she within the hair of death? How many times has she saved the squad of Lord Gracewood...? And how did he pay her for the service? Sent to a certain death.

Shegun was disgusted by the way he treated the mercenary. As if she was not human at all. Just a small insect, that got underfoot. Crush it — and no one will notice.

A guy hears his heavy breathing. Heartbeat is echoing in temples and fingertips. All other sounds are heard as if through a layer of cotton wool. The roar of the ogres, barely audible laughter of the demon, and goner’s groan.

«I have to save Lloyd.»

It’s the end. The battle is lost. Patriarch of the Deep roads had cheated on all of them: magicians, Lord Gracewood, even the King. The cloud will not stop horned creature.

«I will not resist. I can’t. I’m tired, so tired... »

This crowd is totally under the demon influence. He can’t get through their memories. Another people’s pain will simply burn his brain.

Another lightning struck form the black clouds.

Hogvird Ku’Arg pulled magical strings directing ogres to the goner still holding his two-handed sword. The youth would die last. It would be so nice to see his suffering!

Trying not to touch the monsters with the blade goner slid on dirt, jumped evading huge heavy fists. Fatigue slowly overpowered him: movements became careless, breath was straying. Finally, the warrior lost his balance and fell in viscous goo.

Ogres did not know mercy.

From the Loyd’s loud cry staff emitted a purple flash and started pulsating. At the same moment magician saw a bright orange flash in the black clouds, and it started to rain. Dense rain filled Shegun with power, charged his amulets and staff with a pure energy.

Groaning, the guy got up and caught sight of the ogres. They eagerly shoving something scarlet in their smelly mouths, crowded around the goner. A few meters away two-handed sword lied lonely in the mud.

Shegun went to the demon lighting his way with his staff. Horned freak laughed, showing curved sharp teeth, and raised the box of the Forgotten. Jumping on people’s heads, he spun in a known only to him spell casting dance. The air vibrated around the crowd and...

Magic box goes off.

Ogres howled behind Shegun’s back. Man continued to go forward. His gray hair fluttered in the wind, got into the eye.

«Now there is no escape for you, beast.»

Confusedly patting the box, the demon shouted something unintelligible, and then moaned. In an instant he shrank, became small and worthless.

«You will pay for their death.»

Clutching a staff with one hand. Shegun understands that ink mess over his head, this embodiment of the Nameless, required sacrifices. And Loyd and Dajla became those.

«I was right, they were doomed.»

When there are just a few steps to the silent and faceless crowd, and when the smell of unwashed bodies reached his nostrils, he pointed his staff to the demon. And monstrous power escaped from the magic stone, and embraced the horned creature. There was a deafening low hum.

Shegun and the Beast, covered with white lights, flew up to the sky.

The rain stopped.

The wind was whistling in his ears, pulling the fur. He couldn’t understand where the top and bottom were. All was spinning; legs were trying to feel some ground beneath, but floundering in a vacuum. Hogvird Ku’Arg shook his hand, trying to get rid of the box. But damned box merged with the flesh. Then demon, snorting with anger, grabbed the hilt of his sword, pulled over.

Metal jingled, blade flashed before his eyes.

Hogvird promised himself that he would not give up so easily. No magic would stop him.

Shegun had no control over the flight; all he had to do was to hold the shaft of the staff as tightly as possible. The air grew cold, and he couldn’t take his eyes off the terrible blackness which came closer and closer. He felt like falling into the darkness of the abyss. Fear gripped the body with the cold of the grave.

«I have to kill the demon.»

But how to do it, if he didn’t even feel the foothold? Swirling darkness drew to itself. This feeling seemed frightening and totally unknown. Shegun waved his arms, struggling with the thought that he was falling into someone’s enormous mouth.

When there were only a few meters to the dense inky clouds, he froze. The surface of the darkness stirred like a single giant organism. One could see the haze forming into bizarre creatures. Skeletons, miniature armies, dragons, ogres, giants... like Shegun was looking at a picture, consisting of three colors — gray, white and black.

Focusing on the case, Shegun turned his head to the left. Demon was floundering in the air, waving his sword, as if to repel the attacks of enemies. He fought desperately. Demon was so close that the man could see struggling wreaths at the temples of the horned creature, drop of saliva falling from his lower lip, and his wide open eyes.

Shining of the staff weakened and Shegun began to slowly move away from the swirling darkness. Ink cloud in just a few heartbeats turned into a giant open mouthed skull and ate the demon with his box with a low growl.

«It’s over» — thought Shegun. The magical power left him, and the guy flew down like a stone.

He didn’t feel the strength to live. This falling seemed the logical outcome of all this useless commotion with the horned beast. Soon he would be dead, and his brains scattered on the grove. Shegun only hoped that he wouldn’t feel pain when hit the ground. Loyd and Dajla. He was entrusted with their life, and he did not even try to protect them. «And who I’m trying to lie to? I just wanted to prove to the Archmage, that I deserve that power more than they do».

Remembering his childhood and youth, Shegun realized how he lost the ability to see the beauty of the world due to his selfishness. Any end justifies the means? Sure! Farmers that plow from down till dusk to feed their family are just dirt under your feet? Of course!

Eighteen years in the shadow of his own ego! Was there anything good at all?

Wind was rotating his body throwing it from one side to another. He felt dizzy, swallowing a lump in his throat. Shegun closed his eyes and immediately saw vivid pictures of Dajla’s life in front of his eyes. This woman was indeed worth living! Only a strong man can withstand the death of family and start life from scratch.

«Your husband and son would be proud of you, Dajla. I’m sure. Hopefully, whenever you are now you will reunite with them».

Shegun dropped already useless staff and prepared to die.

A piece of the gem suddenly fell away from the amulet still hanging on Shegun’s neck. Eyes of the steel snake eating its own tail, slightly glistened with crimson light.

The sharp whistling sound of the wind suddenly disappeared. The cold was gone. Not knowing what was happening, Shegun opened his eyes, and his eyebrows went up. No, he wasn’t flattened on the ground. He was flying in the black space, dotted with a thousand stars... No, not the stars. Spheres. Some of them were expanding, and then, if carefully looking, it was possible to see the life of bizarre and strange worlds through the «glass».

«It’s all part of Duhkalakoya» — he thought.

Spheres surrounded by a halo of white lights, changed their color: their surface was filled with a black haze.

Kaleidoscope of death.

Shegun finally noticed that all spheres were connected by a thin, barely visible thread.

«Umbilical cord».

He tried to hold of the closest sphere afraid to get lost in the darkness...

— Hey guy! Wake up.

— I...

— Be careful, do not shake your head. You hit hard stone.

— Where I am?

— In a safe place. You’re truly born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

— Wha...

— Calm down, I say. Have a drink. Come on drink it all. We found you in the woods. Never seen so many bruises on one person! Fortunately no fractures.

— Thanks.

— You welcome fellow. My name is Baptiste by the way. Do you have any idea where you are? No? Okay, okay, do not waste your strength in vain. I understood. The Lord Almighty has brought you to our monastery!

The story based on the game «Sphere 3: Enchanted world».
By Alexander Godov

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