The song of birds echoing in Fárion’s high moors pierced the misty morning, as Niniär rode north to meet the edge of the woodland of Oroth, the farthest away from home she ever went. There she took joy in the banks of one of the streams of the river Kyrai, to the west of the Red forest in a place where strange trees grew. Of such trees there was no likeness in the country of Nárlond, these could only be found beyond the borders of Uldr and Wejnor to the far north where the country ended, into a nameless land that belonged to nature’s wild grasp. It seemed that these trees reposed after much toil during their youth, they were ever juvenile, with the colors of fire and the autumn afternoon sky when night approaches, silver bark and often wore darker stripes, and seldom did they grew more than thirty three feet tall. There she sat on the mossy rocks, dipping her feet in the water. All stood still and in silence as the endless East awoke in anger. She stood waiting, for she felt a strange menace coiling towards her. Fierce it grew along with the grey monstrous clouds. Above her the roaring wind and the rolling thunder, and the clouds took shapes of hideous beasts, gloom gathered and she stood alone in darkness. A grim voice could be herd in the distance, approaching, it brought hate and dismay in its speech, the closer it got, the better could she understand. It became clear, it was calling for her… niniär… Niniär… Niniär!
She awoke from the nightmare, as her eyes pierced the fog and the world began to take shape, she knew now where she was, trapped in the hoary woodland of Lürnothil along with the hateful King Dárius and his horde by the banks of the lake Unir. Fires were flickering here and there, warriors wandering, busy, cruel and ill-looking, horses neighed under the ghostly-pale night. Reality was no better than her previous nightmare, and Dárius stood there with the light of the moon reflected on his face giving him a terrifying guise. It was his grim voice she herd on the dream and still was he shouting her name demanding that she woke up.
Dárius was a figure reminiscent of the sunless sky during the harsh winter falling upon the forests leaving them leafless and dark, and the cold grey stones under a frozen lake were the mirror of his heart. In all his evilness and brilliant schemes, he planed to give Niniär to Lutzar, the son of the Noble of Kûd who was no other than Dárius’ older brother, and as Dárius had no sons nor daughters, Lutzar was a prince in the making.
Before he could settle this arrangement, Dárius had other plans in mind, since his main goal was to seize the wealth of all the peoples of Nárlond, he had to strike right into the strongest, bravest, wealthier regions to better control all the others who were too weak to protect themselves. He knew well where to strike..
The people of the North was his main concern, those who lived in the plains of Uldr, and the clans that lived in the mountainous regions of Wejnor, where the thirteen most powerful clans ruled over the others, but to enter those regions he had to pass through the Varghöss and the Wutnar clans, allies bond by marriage, trading and centuries of battles together against common foes. Dárius had to gain the favour of the council of Harkudr, the only city in the mountainous regions, which remained neutral to the conflicts of the northern clans and was the place of gathering of all the chieftains of each clan to settle their disputes in the Hall of Judges.
Years before, Dárius had already managed to keep the Varghöss clan at bay, by bribing the Kjärmun, the worst enemy clan of both the Varghöss and the Wutnar, it was they who killed Hallor the chieftain of the Varghöss and also his wife during a supposedly meeting of truce in the Varg’s own great hall, and their only son was lost, escaped into Heimr to the east and was probably eaten by wolves, as he was only a child of eight winters old.
As the years passed, Dárius invented a war against the Duirnir kingdom to the North-East of Nárlond, and as the northern clans were the ones closer to this kingdom, all of them were mustered and sent to war. Three years of a long meaningless war. The clans were broken, scattered, most warriors were still lost in Duirnir, others forlorn in those unknown lands. Time had come for Dárius to go into the North, meet the Wutnar in the Wolf’s Mouth, the Khuz mountain, which held the underground city of the same name, filled with a wealth that even Dárius in his greedy mind couldn’t think of, conquering the Wutnar, the way was opened to reach all the other clans of the North. Dárius made up his mind, he was ready to march towards the north and leave his nephew Lutzar in charge of the southern armies that would stay behind.
Lutzar was much pleased with the situation, being in charge of an whole army, a beautiful woman to take as wife and all he had to do was to sit and wait as his uncle brought the Northern wealth, an heirloom of his future kingship. Sit and wait was indeed what Lutzar did best, as he became round by doing it so often, but his greedy joy wouldn’t take long, after his uncle departed and step by step Lutzar came towards Niniär to take her as wife as she lay trembling in fear, the tide of events changed dramatically.
The moon perished and a weeping wind started to come from within the forest, then dead silence fell. Out of the depths unfurling fogs floated and all was drowned with mist. The shape of trees with twisted arms in the gloom filled with dread the hearts of men. Fear clutched the souls of the host encamped by the lake. Fires fainted, no word spoken, ere they could grasp the hilt of their swords, a great howl, forlorn and lonely, came from the darkness, but it wasn’t from a wolf. The echo of the howl was like a frozen cry that came from the burning depths. In the mist, shapes of wolves were running towards the men and into the lake, careless, not afraid to drown, for the wolves that was a better fate than to fell prey to the things that were gathering in the woods. None that stood there knew why the forests of Lürnothil were so abandoned and why the nearest towns were at least sixty miles away from the forest in all directions, but they would soon know why. Out of the fathomless valleys deep within the forests, looming forth came they, the only thing that could put fear in the hearts of wolves… Lo! They are coming!…
To be continued…
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