THE AVAESTHORÌA ("THE BOOK OF PATHS")
by ARTIMIDOR FEDERKIEL (translation by GNAEVIO)


The myth of the "Book of Path" takes place at the time of approximately 200 a.S. and describes the adventures of Eyrin Fontramonn and Leander S'Ingvendar saving the world from the darkness of Coór spreading over Santharian lands. The epic story of "Avaesthoría" is divided in three books. The first Book called "The Shadows of Móch'rónn" deals with the descent of the dark elf Saban Blackcloak's into the depths of the Hèckranian volcanoe, where he plans to topple the mythical Earthern Titan and gain immortality.

 

BOOK I: THE SHADOWS OF MÓH'RÓNN
C
HAPTER II - THE MISSION


yrin! Eyrin!"

Excitement caused the youthful voice to turn somersaults as it uttered the one name again and again. The chubby urchin to whom it belonged had just ascenced the hillock on the edge of town and was expectantly peering down the far side. Only a stone's throw now before he would have reached his goal. Downhill his legs would carry him a lot swifter than up. Below, on the other side of the rise, a quaint cottage was standing out against the spacious green surrounding pastures and the dark brown sylvan thickness of the mighty forest which stretched all the way into the roadside. The habitation was doubtless diminuitive - its front side had been found to provide room for no more than two windows - but it was surrounded by an expertly trimmed hedge of elraunias and it boasted a set of freshly painted shutters, a brand-new shingle roof which glistened in the sunshine and a sumptuous brick chimney. Some blackbirds had just then elected to perch on the latter and could be heard accompanying the progression of the day with their twitter. As the boy was puffing up the hillside however and started to yell at the top of his voice, the feathered chorus abruptly decided to leave and search elsewhere for an audience that would be more receptive of what it had to tell.

Immediately after the boy had reached the summit of the knoll, uttered his shout and surveyed for a moment the summerly landscape, he started to make his way down the other side in a rush. The painful stitches which the exercise caused him to feel in his abdomen were however drowned by a surge of heroic sentiments. One phrase in particular kept on revolving in his head: "The kingdom first!" - a phrase his uncle had the custom of favouring the public with whenever the opportunity to do so seemed to offer itself. No wonder then that this piece of verbal patriotism had by its insistance gained permanent admittance to the young mind. Now, as one of his dearest friends and the kingdom were equally concerned there remained not the shimmer of a doubt that the puny hero would gladly lay down his life in the noble cause.

"Eyrin! Eyrin!" Elation about the imminent reunion with his friend further enhanced the excitement which already had a grip on the boy. His heart missed a beat, then started racing even more madly than before.

Having finally descended all the way down to the house he heard a series of muffled sounds which apparently emanated from the barn. Turning around on the doorstep where his precipitation had already carried him, the kid instead started for the barn. He was determined to let his legs have the rest they deserved after the exertion they had so lately gone through.

"Oh! What a rare sight indeed. A visitor!"

Eyrin Fontramonn

View picture in full size Picture description: The courier of Voldar, the famous Eyrin Fontramonn, in his twenties as drawn by Vaelaron.

Eyrin was standing bare-chested amid a big heap of freshly chopped pieces of wood, a heavy axe in his hand. His square profile was shining in the light of the morning sun for a close-meshed net of sweat had already settled on his face from where it beaded to the ground in veritable torrents, an unmistakable proof that the newly risen sun hat not been shining on scenes of idleness. As Eyrin now looked up from his work and saw the whipper-snapper standing before him a smile came on his lips. Placing his big hands on the upturned axe he observed: "So I was right after all when I just fancied somebody was calling me... Hello Mobb! In town again?"

"Eyrin!", the soundly winded Mobb managed to utter once more before he dropped his head and, arms akimbo. He tried to gather at least the little strength he needed in order to continue speaking. Groggily he glanced up at the lad.

"Take it easy!" Eyrin split one more log. Then he encouragingly patted his guest on the back. "They say that some people die of exhaustion - at least that's what I've been told. You know, once upon a time in the  mine at Hog a dwarf was supposed to..."

"Yeah, yeah." Mobb made a gesture of deprecation with his hand because he already knew the story. He was still gathering stamina and breathed deeply a couple of times.

Eyrin Fontramon meanwhile decided to arrange the pieces of wood that littered the floor. He was about twenty cycles of age, tall and of an exceptionally pleasing build. The latter quality being subject to the degree of descernment one is prepared to grant in these matters to the girls of the town. His hair was markedly darker than was usual among the lads of Santharia's northern territories and reached all the way to his broad shoulders, in the manner of many an adventurous popular hero. His chin and cheeks on the contrary were always clean shaven and thus formed one more token of his vigorous youthfulness which equally did not escape the scrutiny of the town's nubile daughters. Not only the maidens however counted his features among those easily remembered: on the one hand this was apparently due to Eyrin's mysterious dark eyes which always shone enigmatically out of their sockets as not to allow their vis-à-vis any certainty on what thoughts might be harbored by the man they belonged to; on the other hand the singularity of the visage was underlined by a big scar beneath the right eye. This scar Eyrin bore as the mark of a brawl he had involuntarily gotten into the cycle before with some scoundrels from Arigost. He carried it now as if it were a lasting sign proclaiming his courage to the world and maybe the scar was one of the reasons for the general respect Eyrin was accorded by the townspeople. If so, it certainly was not the only one. Eyrin was known to be of honest and conscientious nature. He had pluck but equally circumspection and patience, a combination which distinguished him from the all too many men of the town and its environs. Some of those had set their aims higher than their inexperience would permit and thus had found a permanent and inglorious abode in some distant cemetery or even some utter wilderness. Eyrin was a stranger to this kind of excessive adventurism, this unreflecting recklessness seeking danger at any cost. He rather was a nature-loving lad who spent most of his time hunting in the woods or gathering mushrooms and berries. Apart from this he rated as the first courier in the service of the Count in case some important message had to be taken to one of the neighboring shires, a task presenting itself on not too many occassions but gratefully fulfilled by Eyrin as a welcome change. Maybe the respect Eyrin was held in by the people of Voldar, was also due to his tranquil and insouciant nature which made him avoid any familiarity with them. Well, he was an orphan after all and his education may have remained a bit fragmentary but at least he made his occasional appearance at the inn, always in a jesting mood and with some joyful tune on his lips. Only Mobb managed to indulge in the regular attention and instructive teaching of Eyrin as both of them were animated with an equal love of the woods, their mysteries and the hunt. Judging from the nature of their companionship one was almost tempted to take them for brothers. Doubtless their mutual understanding was an almost fraternal one: the younger did not ask too many personal questions about Eyrin, his senior, regarding the cycles of nature and especially as far as the hunt was concerned he was remarkably inquisitive. Eyrin in his turn took great pleasure in being outdoors and in imparting his knowledge -  which mainly concerned animals, plants and their divinely ordered coexistence -  to people who shared his interests. In any event, the two of them had become close friends.

Eyrin's smile grew increasingly roguish as he watched Mobb breathing heavily. It was not exactly a secret that the little Mobb was immensly proud of the fact that he was occasionally allowed to run minor errands for the court of the Count. Actually tasks of this order were supposed to be assigned either to members of the guard or to the pages of the court. But Mobb had the habit of going about this business with such commendable enthusiasm and reliability that the court staff saw no reason for retracting the initially probational trust it had put in the boy. After all the risk these charges afforded was usually not remarkable, neither was their frequency. As far as provincial capitals were concerned Voldar was decidedly of the peaceful sort. Everything was wont to take its steady, habitual course from year to year so that extraordinary events requiring immediate attention were about as seldom as the visits of the arch prelates dedicated to the service of Vaashi who but rarely deigned to favour the provinces with their hallowed presence in order to inquire about the weal of their flock. And so it had come about that little Mobb had equally found his place in this order without giving anybody occasion to find fault with the fact.

"How now?", Eyrin asked when he noticed that Mobb was beginning to intersperse his panting with the rudiments of distinctly articulated words. Eyrin seemed to have a lot of fun watching him. "How come I'm favoured with the honor of seeing you? Must be mighty important! Or do you want me to believe that you did almost breathe your last for no reason whatsoever?"

"No! I mean... Yessir!", Mobb managed to sputter. Then, with sudden solemnity: "Of utmost importance!"

"Ah, I'm beginning to understand. I bet you saw Ancilla leaning out of her window and this made you step on it willynilly, right?"

Well, this was the other part of Mobb's story: Almost everybody at the court knew about this open secret, namely that Mobb, not yet eight cycles of age, had cast an eye on the extremely charming Ancilla. She was two years older than he and the daughter of one of the cooks at the court. Mobb in his turn was of course ever anxious to make some overwhelming impression on the girl of his choice which naturally rendered his station as official courier in the service of His Excellency even more priceless... The guards were equally in on the "secret" and furthered in their manner - through their tacit approval of Mobb's errand-running - the gallant enterprise of the wooer, at the same time soundly convinced of the infantile nature of the whole affair. Whenever an occasion to humour the children and saving themselves some trouble to boot presented itself, unanimity usually reigned among the guards.

When Eyrin mentioned Ancilla's name Mobb's freckled face instantly flushed with embarassment. "No, no", Mobb stammered, anxious to dispell Eyrin's unfounded suspicion. "I..." The boy halted, remembering now that he had indeed cast a furtive glance at the kitchen window of the palace. So furtive a glance however that it might almost pass as none at all. Not worth mentioning anyway.

"Alright, Mobb. Now tell me - what brings you here?"

"The Count sends me, Eyrin! He wants you to come see him at once. Don't dally, it's urgent!"

Astonishment could be read on Eyrin's features.

"Don't dally - it's urgent!", Mobb repeated with triumphant emphasis. "The very words of the Count!"

"Weren't it the guards that sent you, as usual?"

"No, Eyrin. This time it was the Count in person!"

This piece of news took Eyrin wholly by surprise. He cast a thoughtful glance at Mobb, then drove his axe one more time into the badly mauled wooden stump on which he had done the chopping. Wiping the drops of sweat from his forehead he turned to Mobb again. "That's strange. How came that you met the Count in person? And didn't he hint at what the thing might be about?"

"Ah... Well..." Mobb was hesitating, searching for words. Or rather, he was not sure whether the words that lay ready on his tongue were the ones he was allowed to give utterance to. Eventually he made up his mind and once more scrutinized the nearby coppice for any eavesdroppers potentially in hide there. Thereupon he proceeded with a hushed voice. "You must know that..." Apparently Mobb was still not quite at his ease so that he began again in a mere whisper. "You must know that... well... the whole thing is top secret!" Mobb's eyes were sparkling eloquently. "Alright: I was at the market with Taram. We were playing 'Hunt the Thief!' and it was Taram's turn to search me out. I decided to hide behind some barrels at the 'Golden Lantern' - that's a good hiding-place. Well, as I was waiting there old Rosalind comes out, spies me and starts beckoning to me..."

"'Hunt the Thief!'? The 'Golden Lantern'? Rosalind?" Eyrin was blinking confusedly. His bewilderment was not just due to the fact that the landlady of the town's inn apparently played an indispensable part in Mobb's story. Eyrin knew that Mobb was a passionate and occasionally a rather prolific storyteller, but considering the words of the Count - if indeed they had been what the boy in his effort at theatrics had assured him they were - the preambles to the present story seemed nevertheless decidedly longwinded. What in all Gods' names might Rosalind have to do with the Count? "I thought the Count sent you...", he insisted.

"Sure, sure, 't was the Count alright. Just wait a second." Mobb proceeded undisturbed.

"So Rosalind says: 'Good that I find you here. Come along, there's somebody who wants to see you!' She takes hold of me and before I know what's happening she leads me into the parlour, then into the back room and down some stairs. She drags me through the cellar, down some more stairs and through a maze of narrow tunnels into a tiny room... All the way down it was... I was thinking that she wants me to haul the wine for her or something, after all it's market-day. That's what I was expecting, anyway; wouldn't have been the first time either. - By the Twelve, Eyrin, I swear, underneath that inn is a gigantic cellar, just like a maze, I'm telling you the truth! Did you know that?" Mobb's eyes gradually widened as he told his story, just as if the details were still visible to him and his voice had already reneged on its initial vow to stick to whispering. "It's just unbelieveable, Eyrin! And then..." Mobb shook his head once more in an attempt to dispel all doubt. "Then... then there isn't even a door or some lock or something down there. The tunnel just stops dead and Rosalind waves the lantern three times and all of a sudden -  it sure must have been magic! - the wall just disappears! I saw it with my own eyes! Eyrin, if you want my opinion... this old Rosalind is a witch!" Mobb made one of his eloquent pauses, apparently expecting Eyrin to come out with his views on the matter.

"Nonsense", he was told. "Carry on!"

"By the way: the whole place down there is teeming with cobwebs! You wouldn't believe it, Eyrin! Horrible, I tell you! And don't forget the rats, of course... Imagine anyhow: Rosalind taking me..."

"Mobb!" Eyrin threw in while splashing his face with some water he had meanwhile hauled out of the well. "Come to the point!"

"To the point, right..." Mobb paused for a while, then simply said: "Well, finally there was the Count down there and he sent me on my errand at once. And so here I am."

Eyrin emitted a sigh on hearing this all too concise summary. "It sure isn't easy talking to you... - Was anybody with him?"

"Yes. Two strangers. They had been at the 'Lantern' yesterday night. I saw them riding into town, yesterday afternoon, thought they might be coming for the market today. There was a third one with them yesterday, an elf, but that one wasn't down there with the Count." He shrugged. "But all three of them spent the night at the 'Lantern', that I know for sure."

Eyrin nodded, even though he knew nothing about the strangers. He was also at a loss for an explanation regarding the weird, and utterly uncourtly, meeting place selected by the Count.

"The people just won't stop talking about them, Eyrin -  them and their white horses with the golden harnesses. They're unbelievably white, whiter than snow!"

"Maybe they are nobleman", Eyrin pensively observed. "But then why doesn't the Count receive them in the palace, as he usually does, instead of letting them spend the night in a common inn?"

"By the way, the Count gave me something to deliver to you. Maybe this is going to make you see more clearly..." Mobb undid the leather bag which he carried sideward on his belt and which usually contained some treasured delicacy destined for snacktime. He produced a little medallion which showed the emblem of Voldar: an eagle, surrounded by a burning ring and four finely wrought triangles pointing in the direction of the cardinal points, the confines of the world; between the four triangles still others could be seen which were however smaller and more sharply pointed and arranged as if leading the beholder back to the center of the medallion. Those triangles were meant to symbolize the elemental forces returning from the cardinal points into the center of the world. The wings of the bird occupying the middle of the medallion however were not spread out as in the ordinary coat of arms but tucked up on the animal's side, the head of the eagle pointing downwards as if it scrutinized the ground for prey. Contrary to the freely and majestically soaring eagle on the usual emblem this one looked decidedly hostile and dangerous.

"Is this genuine silver?" Mobb was curious.

"Maybe...", Eyrin uttered absentmindedly. He ran his fingers over the relief covering the valueable piece. His presentiment had turned out to be right now that he held the unmistakeable confirmation of the Count in his hands. The medallion gave him to understand that his services as a courier would this time require the utmost degree of secrecy. Apparently the mission he was to be charged with was of such a nature that the Count thought it wise to let his own court remain ignorant about it. He rather had a kid deliver the pertaining message than send a member of his staff and thus let the business be made known.

"What kind of men were these? What did they look like?"

"The two of them who were with the governor today were wearing grey cowls, just like the members of the Foiras brotherhood at the Selidor [1]. Only that the cowls of these strangers were made of some peculiar cloth. Looked somewhat like silk to me. almost everybody in town is convinced that they must be mighty important fellows even though nobody knows who they are or where they come from. But if they are monks, what makes them stay at the inn when they should be with the Foiras Friars where they belong? Anyway, they hardly talked to anybody yesterday and imagine: they didn't even take off their hoods at dinner! Funny isn't it? Morvin says chances are that one fine noon when the diurnal astre will be 'specially scorching the fellows'll drop down dead on us at one fell swoop and nobody'll have any idea of where to send their remains to, except in case they have the name of their order or guild or whatever written behind their ears..."

A broad smile spread on Eyrin's face when he pictured to himself the stocky blacksmith with his pithy humour and the matching jocular look who regularly managed to crack up the parlour. He well remembered that sturdy - all too sturdy - logger who on the occasion of some similar remark of Morvin's had not only emitted a loud guffaw but had treated the table-top before him to such vehement pounding that the whole piece of furniture had gone asunder with a deafening noise. The scene had occasioned many a jesting comment over the following weeks.

"Well, well. Good old Morvin. Always in the mood for some joke." Eyrin started for his house. He beckoned to Mobb to follow him. "What about the third stranger you were talking about - that elf?"

"Maybe he is more of an elfling. He..."

"Half-elf!", Eyrin interjected.

"Well, half-elf, if you insist on it. At least that's what Morvin thinks. He is gaunt, almost as fragile as a human damsel and has pointed ears. Never in my lifetime have I seen ears that were as pointed as his. Morvin says, that's just what elves look like. Well, he arrived at the town-gate in the company of the other two but what became of him today I couldn't say for the life of me." Mobb shrugged. "Maybe they just accidentally struck up an acquaintance with each other on the road or the half-elf really is here on his own business... Yesterday night at the 'Lantern' he sat at a separate table, apart from  the other two as if he wouldn't have anything to do with them. For all that he was in no mood to talk to the townsfolk... Just sat there staring holes into the air... - Oh yeah, he did throw  a couple of Maengolth metals to the bard to play him a southern tune!"

"That's not extraordinary - his being so quiet I mean. Half-elves shun the company of strangers, that's no secret. They say that they sort of live between two worlds and don't feel at home in either of them. Old Minna already told me that, back when I was such a little rascal like you. I personally got to know some of them down in Carmalad that time the Count sent me to Doovens to deliver a message to the council at Jernais. Old Minna was right: elves are as silent as graves. But maybe that's not so bad after all - contrary to other people they think things over instead of just putting some half-baked decision into practice."

Mobb nodded understandingly. "That's about all I know", he added.

"Well, it's at least something. Judging from what you found out about the strangers one might almost think that you were one of the Sneaking Shadows."[2]

Eyrin cast a glance at the whipper-snapper, simultaneously raising the corners of his mouth. "You don't accidentally happen to know the number of coins in their purses, do you?"

"Don't worry. I leave that to others."

Eyrin's hand was stroking Mobb's bristly hair and amicably patted the tiny head. "Don't you ever fall in with these people! Mind my words!"

"No problem."

"However that may be", Eyrin concluded. "The Count is expecting my appearance, you say?"

"Yes, Eyrin. You'd really better hurry!" Mobbs face shone with an inflexible sense of duty.

"Then I'd rather spruce up a bit in honor of the dignified guests. As for you, Mobb, your little early excursion will be recompensed with a piece of delicious honey cake. Minna justed baked it this morning and I bet it is still warm. Any objections?"

"Er..." Mobb hesitated a bit before he roguishly retorted. "Well, as I see that it's absolutely imperative..." Well, there was no doubt that Eyrin's cheerful and occasionally ironic manner was beginning to rub off on Mobb. Mobb was apparently "coming of age".

"So come on in! Whatever the governor wants, it will have to wait for a short while. His two most important couriers must be entitled to a little refreshment or else he's soon going to have to do our job himself - and we sure don't want that to happen, do we...?"

And Mobb instantly disappeared in the house behind Eyrin.

The brown steed was trotting at a leisurely pace in the direction of the town. Its hooves rhythmically beat the heavily trodden track between the high, juicy dew-covered blades of grass that lined the wayside. Its rider was clad in plain dark green: a light leather doublet adorned his chest, matching with a pair of rawhide trousers sporting a belt with a buckle crafted of ornamented silver. In addition he wore black leather top-boots as well as brown woollen wrap which lent to his appearance an air of officialness, without however overdoing things. Holding on to the hips of the rider was a boy who was to all appearances determined to get a view of the landscape from his unaccustomed perch on the back of a horse. As a matter of fact however he was far more concerned with not falling off the swaying animal than with collecting impressions of the beauties of nature.

In regard to the latter he was thus missing a lot: It was a magnificent day. Not a single cloud was disturbing the perfect azure blue sky and only a slight, hardly noticeable breeze intermittently rocked the twigs of the bushes which were here and there standing in bloom, daydreaming, almost oblivious to themselves and only conscious of the gentle caresses occasionally lavished on them by the winds sent by the mighty Arvins. The morning was already cautiously peeking over the jagged ridges of the High Fores way down south, still hestitating however to manifest its plenipotentiary power. For a couple of hours the creatures it held in its sway would still be able to enjoy the freshness of a summer morning and gather strength for the hardships the newly dawned day would bring in its further course. Obviously the day promised to become as hot as the preceeding ones. It was one of the last days of the Month of the Burning Sun and it was destined to testify to the remarkable sense of appropriateness which had of yore guided the Santharian astronomers in their choice of names for the months of the imperial calendar. Around noon it was usually so oppressive that not even the umbrage of the vast woods could provide sufficiently agreeable shelter to the rustics going about their dreary business. Everybody was groaning and moaning then but quarreling with nature was of no use: even the most piteous laments would not placate the diurnal astre.

One of those people who had no choice to fulfil their day's work in the full heat of the sun was now squatting by the wayside as Eyrin was making his way into town. Apparently he was taking a much needed rest.

"Ho, Ferlin!", Eyrin shouted at him.

"'o", the rustic returned the salute. He had brought his whole family to till the fields with him: His wife silently nodded to Eyrin before she turned to her last born again who lay in a basket squealing for all he was worth. The other child, a girl of about Mobb's age, was too bashful for interrupting her work in order to take notice of the mounted passers-by.

Ferlin approached the rider.

"Hold, Chin!" Eyrin reined in the steed. "How is the work going?", he inquired politely, determined to shorten as much as possible any conversation with Ferlin.

The tanned face of the rustic expressed affliction. "Well, Ah'm tryin' to make ends meet", was the answer which came out in heaviest Grondian dialect. "But whatsa use a workin' when Grothar's in wuhn a 'is moods? Seems 'at da God don't care too much 'bout da trouble 'is bad tempah is causin' us. Fust 'ee's goin' fuh 'at long, cold wintah and now 'ee's sendin' us dis kind a heat! If da rain don't come soon... well... thah goes da hahvist!"

"Let's hope than that Grothar will show some understanding soon, Ferlin. Would be high time too."

"Wenta see da magus dee udda day, da whun from town. Says: 's fah 's da weddah's concerned 'ee's feelin' sump'n in 'is toes, says is mahdee strange. Says 'ee don't know fuh sure what 'ee's feelin' but if 'ee'd'a 'ave ta make a guess 'ee woulda say it's a storm comin' up soon. Says it's inna air, says 'ee. But if ya askin' me, Ah don't feel nuttin', not in mah toes nor any udda place. Well, coupla corns maybe..." Ferlin cast a glance at his drought-afflicted fields. The sun which could now be seen to rise up from the horizon seemed keen on destroying the hard-won fruits of rustic labour by its sheer indomitable presence. Deep furrows creased the brow of the tiller. He spat out. "But if 'ee wonna come den ledd'im come, 'at storm. Bettah 'at storm den nuttin' at all, Ah say."

"Got up early this morning?" Eyrin changed the subject. Considering the deadly heat it was customary for the farmers to leave their homes and go about their business long before the first rooster ever crew, to crowd the inns at noontime and to return to work only in the late afternoon. When the terrestrial disc was about to equalize the daily head start of the sun.

"Sure did." Ferlin's face lit up. "We wuddn't da on'y wuhns neida, 'count a da mahkit, wid folks comin' from all ovah da place in da middle a da nait so 's dey won't miss anyding. -  Ya know what's strange dough: a ridah Ah've nevah seen before was racin' a whaht horse outta town adda break a dawn. Didn't e'en 'ave tahm to say 'o!, da snotty fella... 's if a pack of wolves was after 'im..."

"Is that so?"

"Ah'm tellin' ya!"

"Which way did he go?"

"Well, passed bah raht 'ere and went up Shadow 'ill..."

"Up Shadow Hill? In the direction of Astran, Nyermersys?"

"Musta been where 'ee went."

Mobb softly nudged Eyrin and whispered to him behind his hand: "The half-elf! It must have been the half-elf!"

"Must have slept badly that fellow, I suppose...", Eyrin observed with a smile in order not to uncover his real feelings. His growing uneasiness was still further enhanced by his inability to make any sense of the portentious going-ons. "Well, however. I must be going", he cut short the conversation. "Ho, Ferlin! And don't forget that it will not harm to send a couple of prayers to Grothar!"

"'o!" Ferlin raised his hand in salutation. "Shoulda 'ave enuff a dem sometahm dough...", he tought by himself as he was watching the horse disappear in the distance. Then he turned to his work again.

"I'm beginning to be worried", Eyrin admitted to Mobb when they had put sufficient distance between them and the rustic's field in order for him to be able to speak his mind. This half-elf who did not treasure the night's rest - or was forbidden by the Count to do so -  disturbed the well-established order of the shire - and this not only in Ferlin's view. Who was he? What had forced him to ride to the most northern part of the empire which was usually shunned by the Vardynnians? And most of all: Why the precipitate departure in the middle of the night?

"Something is going on, Mobb. And I'm afraid we are in for some unpleasant surprise..."

"I told you it is a secret!", Mobb yelled against the airstream now caused by the swifter pace.

"And I hope you make sure it will remain a secret to your friends. You got me, Mobb?"

"Sure, Eyrin. You can count on me!"

Eyrin exhorted himself not to give free rein to his speculations. More and more he let them have their way, and the more they began to overbrim and conjure all kinds of worries. He set spurs to his steed, keen on finally getting to the bottom of this whole thing which Mobb, in the innocent and optimistic fashion of a child, had clothed in the mysterious term "secret"...


Footnotes:

1    The Foiras Friars were a sect-like brotherhood exclusively devoted to the worship of the God Foiros, "the Burning One". It was constituted before the reign of Santhros and survived for about thousand years, finally falling into oblivion around the turn of the 9th century of our era as the apocalyptic prophecies disseminated by its members turned out to be untrue. [ok]

2    A well known Vardýnnian thieves guild. [ok]

Story written by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile