Nox Aeterna | The Desperation Deal

Story by Arnold Boukes | © 2015

Nox Aeterna - The Desperation Deal


- Einarr: (Memoirist) Jorund′s older brother; yearns for power and immortalising his name and actions; short fuse, agressive nature.
- Jorund: Einarr′s younger brother; calm nature, humble and generous .
- Raanah: Demonic appearance in dark shadows; fulfills wishes and deep desires; feeds on life energy in return.
- Var Tekin: The settlement from where Einarr reigns.
- Incaris: Immortal creatures; slave drivers in the slave army of their master Incarnos; cannot be killed by human hands; die only when their master is killed.
- Incarnos: Master of the Incaris; rules the army of slaves.
- Kahn: Wandering legion of barbarians; take what they want; show no mercy; rob, plunder and torture victims for their own pleasure .
- Kortobarden: Final flock of men that Einarr was looking for before his confrontation with the Army of the East.
- Army of the East: Army of highly skilled fighters led by a power-hungry man; his only goal is total domination over everyone and everything.

Chapter I - Part 1

The story begins in an old army tent, the tent of the leader. A small fire is burning, in the corner is a table full with food and drinks. In the other corner there′s a large bed. Under the blankets made of deerskins lays a man, he′s resting. The man hasn′t got long to live and he′s fighting his nearing death. Suddenly a young man rushes into the tent. The young man is in the prime of his life, shrouded in full armour, feared by many. The mix of fresh blood and sweat on the young man′s head reflects the flames of the small fire. The young man quickly rushes to the bed. When he sees the old man he stands as nailed to the ground. He falls on his knees besides the bed, awakening the old man. ′My brother, what kind of magic has done this to you?′ the young man says.The old man slowly opens his eyes, he looks at the young man with piercing eyes and whispers ′Did we defeat the enemy?′ ′Yes, the enemy is defeated, despite we thought we all would die′ The old man looks satisfied and laughs heartedly and coughs. The young brother looks surprised ′Brother, why are you laughing and what made you so weak?′ The old man, noticeably irritated, snarls ′Weak′ who are you to call me weak? Know your place young kinsman, show respect to your leader!′

′I′m sorry my lord, but I don′t understand.′ the young man continues humble, ′When the enemy commenced its last attack you were walking next to me strong as an ox. You ordered me to lead the attack when fleeing looked like the only option. The enemy′s army was at least five times bigger than ours. Many of our men lived. Only a few found their destiny in death, but you where nowhere to be seen on the battlefield.′′Don′t worry about me and my nearing death my young brother, with this victory my name will be remembered forever. Everybody will know about my great deeds!!′ the old man speaks with a stately voice. ′Now be a good brother and let me rest.′As you wish my lord.′ the young man says, then he gets up. He kisses his older brother on his forehead en leaves the tent. The old man closes his eyes but he can′t fall asleep. He thinks back at what took place right before the unlikely victory of his men.

Chapter I - Part 2

On a cold winter day just before the dusk arrives, there sounds a horn in the silence. That sound hasn′t been heard for weeks. The enemy is near, ready to bring death and destruction.

The camp goes from calm and quiet, where men are brotherly surrounding a fire where a freshly slaughtered pig is roasted on, to a chaotic shouting. Between the chaotically mass of running men two men stand, brothers in blood and in battle. The oldest, relentless and embittered, the leader of the army. The younger, calm and righteously natured.A blustering shout from the oldest brother draws the attention of many ′To war, for glory and immortality!′ While the men mentally prepare for a battle of life or death, the two brothers take lead. Through the trees heading to an open space where the battle will take place. Arriving at the plain the brothers look at the shimmering horizon, where the first enemy troops arrive. It′s soon clear that the enemy′s army is far more bigger than their own. The brothers look disillusioned at each other. ′Lead the attack and show no mercy′ the oldest brother says to the youngest brother on a firm tone. The youngest brother looks doubtful and says ′We have to retreat and live so we can fight another day. This will be the death of us all.′ The older brother looks at him pejoratively ′Do what you′ve been told, I won′t be defeated today!′ While the army, under command of the youngest brother, runs loudly screaming to the open space to attack. The oldest brother stands untiringly. He falls on his knees and mutters ′Demon of death, show yourself to me.′ Out of nothing a shape appears in front of him. It looks like a humanlike entity, but it only exists of shadows. ′Kill them all, all my enemies′ make my name immortal.′ The older brother speaks with hate and envy in his voice. ′I don′t care about the price′ he continued in the same tone. ′To do that I have to take twenty years of your life energy, is that worth it?′ the entity says with a double sinister voice. The man answers ′what is twenty years compared to immortality? This will be my legacy, do it!′ ′As you wish′ the shade answers before it disappears in the upcoming nightfall.

Chapter I - Part 3

Under the command of the young brother the army rumbles forward. At first it looks like they have no chance of winning against these fearful odds. Just before the armies clash overwhelming screams sound. The screams aren′t rousing, but it are screams and cries of dying men. The piercing screams can even be heard at the edge of the forest where the older brother is waiting. ′Good...good′ he whispers with a furious look full of envy on his countenance. ′Who do they think they are? Defy me and suffer the consequences′ he spits out. While the armies clash as two great waves, another force is working in the fight. Between the human fight black shadows fly in between them. Like gusts got colour. Despite the camouflage of the shadows they are seen by many. However, are the shadows being seen? Or are it the traces of blood they cause? The young brother is standing in the middle of the fight. He has also seen the shadows. While he′s watching at the damage caused by the shadows with disbelief, he thinks ′A human opponent isn′t a problem for me, few can defeat me. But a supernatural force which I can′t kill with a sword is insanity.′ In the moment of resignation, he isn′t aware of the impending doom. Purely by instinct the young man turns. From behind him a enemy runs at him with his weapon high in the air, ready to strike. From nowhere a shadow shoots past the assailant. Of unknown cause blood sprays from the neck and the stomach of the tyrant. He collapses on his knees and falls in front of the young man on the blood drenched, cold, hard ground. With the blood of his assailant still on his face the young man looks again at the battlefield. While he wipes the blood out of his eyes he realises that the shadows are only killing the enemy troops and not his own men.

After a short fierce battle the impossible has happened. The army of the brothers has won the fight which appeared to be unwinnable. There sounds a roaring victory cry that can be heard miles away. Upon hearing the relieving victory cry the old brother, meanwhile full of satisfaction, realises it′s time to return to his camp. The price he had to pay will soon be claimed. He can feel the energy slowly drain from his once so strong legs. There seems to be no end on the road to the camp that takes him trough the dark forest. Like a wounded warrior he stumbles from tree to tree, looking for grip. Heavily breathing he eventually arrives at the camp. Upon entering his tents he lets his mighty sword and his robust shield fall, the weapons of his ancestors. Half unconscious he looks at his hands that have become grey, wrinkled and weak. With his last effort he drops himself on his impressive bed. I′ll be remembered as a god′ the old man mutters. A soundless laugh is the last expression before he loses consciousness.

Chapter II - Part 1

On a cold plain a legion is marching. This isn′t a normal legion, but a legion of slaves. Men and women taken from their homeland, snatched from their families and earthly possessions. Many don′t know how they got in the slave legion, as if they′re kidnapped and brainwashed by a dark power at night. Despite its victory the troops look defeated. Because after the threat of dying in battle they fear one thing more, a long residence at the slave camp. There is a bigger, more terrifying threat than on the battlefield. When the Incaris, slavers and the immortal sons of the darkness, haven′t got any orders to claim more land, they get easily bored. As pastime the slaves are getting tortured and maimed on terribly ways to please the oppressors and their master Incarnos. The horrifying screams in the night mark those cruel tortures. Most of the slaves are mentally broken and accept their fate. There is no use to stand up against the Incaris. These creatures can′t be killed by mortals. The only way to defeat them is to kill their master. Only a few slaves aren′t mentally broken. The two brothers Einarr and Jorund included. It′s only been two days since they′ve been taken away in the night, taken from their home and families. The brothers are bonded by blood, a strong connection which cannot be broken. Their will is strong and the brainwashing magic hasn′t been fully incorporated yet. The longer they wait, the stronger the hold of the darkness will get. Totally amazed and with lots of incomprehension they dazedly walk in between the other slaves in the camp, not knowing what their fate will be.

The slave camp is standing on ash-grey stone landscape, shielded with a massive fence made of wooden poles with razor sharp spears made of steel sticking out. In the middle of the camp burns a massive fire with many feet high bursting flames. There is little shelter for the slaves, only a few unburned bushes provide shadow during the day. The slaves, staved with sunken faces, wear no more than a dirty old rag. There′s hardly any food, only insects are eaten as alternation on the regular meal.

The usual meal consist of human flesh, the bodies of dead slaves. Due this forced cannibalism, to eat or to die of starvation, many new slaves, who get in the army, lose the last piece of humanity they have left. The brothers wander off from the camp, looking for answers to their questions. The questions ′What kind of place is this?′ and ′How did we get here?′ keep going through their heads. On a rock a slave is chewing on a bone, it seems to be a human femur. ′Cursed...we are all cursed′ he whispers when the brothers are staring amazedly at his meal. ′Eat or be eaten′ he speaks with an insane voice. Suddenly there sounds a lot of crackling that is accompanied by dull rumbling, the gate which separates the camp from the outside world opens. The legion has returned from a bloody battlefield. Hundreds of rows which exist of staved souls enter the gate, all armed with primitive weapons that get taken away at entry by two Incaris. After all the slaves have entered the camp, the gate shuts with a lot of crackling and closes with a thud. The slaves gather around the big fire, the warm glow falls on their cold blood-stained bodies. Under the guidance of four Incaris there stands an appearance in the middle, the master. ′You have fought well today, your master is proud′ he speaks with a low voice. ′As a reward you will feast on human flesh tonight′ he continues. A loud roaring cry of the slaves as a result. The brothers, still dazed and confused, observe the scenery. A cold shiver runs down their strong backs. ′You don′t think that we′′ Jorund says to Einarr. ′Not today, behold′ Einarr answers.

Out of nowhere five Incaris walk towards the fire. Each one is dragging two slaves with a chain around the neck with them. The slaves, moaning and pulling the chain with full force, are aware of their upcoming end. They′ve been in the situation more often, but not as the food. When the slaves arrive at the master, he raises his hands towards the sky. In his right hand he holds a dagger. ′Feast upon this flesh, my legion′ he speaks with a powerful voice. Once again with a loud roaring cry of the slaves as a result. One by one the slaves are taken to the master. With a powerful stroke with his dagger, he slits their throats. Heavily bleeding and gasping for air they get thrown into the legion by the Incaris. Without any hesitation the legion attacks their reward like dogs. ′This is madness′ Einarr mumbles. ′I have no idea what′s happening here, or what cursed place this is, but I′d rather stand my ground and die than meet my destiny like this.′

′Is that so?′ it sounds from behind the brothers. Whilst they turn around they see a slave driver standing behind them. ′What are you planning to do about it slave?′ Einarr responses foaming ′I will bite off your throats and will dance on your rotting corpse!′ ′Shut up maggot′ the dark shape speaks ′your will hasn′t been broken yet, but that′ll happen soon enough. Maybe you don′t care about your own life, but does that apply for the life of your brother as well? As punishment for this insult, you′ve just sealed his fate. I will feed his flesh to your future brothers in battle.′ In a flash the slave driver strikes Einarr with a short powerful stroke down to the ground. The slave driver raises his hand to Jorund, then a chain quickly shoots out of his hand and get stuck around Jorund′s throat. Whilst Jorund gets dragged to the mass, the slave driver snarls ′Say farewell to your brother.′ Einarr, smitten by the stroke sits on his hands and knees, he looks up and sees his younger brother being dragged towards the fire, in the direction of the master. ′Not my brother, not like this...′ he stammers with a weak voice. Arrived at the master, the slave driver speaks ′Master, another piece of meat for the troops.′ The master looks sharply at Jorund without saying a word. He focuses his attention on the legion that isn′t finished with their first meal. ′My legion, tonight you will get an extra reward. Behold, this traitor is yours to have!′ the master speaks with a powerful voice. He raises his hands towards the sky with in his right hand the dagger which has still blood dripping off it from the slaughter before.

Regardless the dozens of feet between the brothers, their eyes seek each other. Jorund is aware of his upcoming end. Their eyes meet each other and Jorund sees the madness in the eyes of his older brother.

Chapter II - Part 2

Still shaken by the destructively hit of the slave driver Einarr can only watch while fate is calling down on his younger brother. Full with anger and hatred in his eyes, with his teeth firmly together, he lisps ′Not my brother, I will hunt you down and slaughter you as a pig... nothing will stop me in this life or the next. No stone shall be unturned. Not even the darkest corners of earth will keep you safe from my wrath.′ A chilly breeze blows over his body. ′I won′t stop to avenge Jorund, I don′t care if it costs me my life or my life in the afterlife.′ He continues his plea ′I swear this on the blood of my ancestors!′ Out nowhere the wind appears around Einarr, it looks like he′s in the eye of a storm. Within the invisible, yet clearly perceptible wind gusts, dark shadows shoot around him. First one, quickly multiplying until he′s surrounded by a dark shadow. ′How badly do you want to see your brother′s live be saved?′ an ominous voice with feminine timbre sounds. ′Who said that, show yourself.′ Einarr answers. ′Are you willing to live up to your words and give your own life?′ the mysterious voice continues. ′In a twinkling of an eye, but who are you?′ Einarr says, with a firm voice. ′The Incaris can′t be killed by human hands. The only way to kill them is by killing their master, Incarnos... This I can do, but it comes with a price.′ the shadows whisper. ′I′ll give you everything you want, but do it fast.′ Einarr answers. ′The price I ask for killing the slave master is a year of your life energy, do you accept my terms Einarr?′ ′Without a doubt, if that′s what it takes to kills those damned creatures and save my brother.′ Einarr speaks without hesitation. ′It shall be done.′ the shadows whisper before they disappear as quickly as they came.

Meanwhile Incarnos is ready to kill Jorund and feed his carcass to his starving legion. The master is standing before Jorund and lashes out with his sharp dagger. Jorund closes his eyes in a reflex and feels a cold wind shooting past him, but doesn′t feel the dagger which should have slit his throat.

When he opens his eyes the slave master is standing before him with at arm′s length, the dagger inches in front of his throat. When Jorund looks closely he sees a streak of blood coming out of the head of his intended murderer. The upper part of his head moves diagonally downward, then the torso and legs whereby the body falls apart to the ground in three parts. The slave master is no more. When their master falls apart the Incaris are nailed to the ground and scream out loud. A high scream is the last thing they produce before they vanish from the earth. Whilst Jorund looks with disbelief at the shattered body of the once mighty master his brother is also watching from a distance. A disdainful smile appears on his face. Suddenly a shadows appears in front of Einarr. ′The deed is done, now it′s time for your part of the bargain... I will now take a year of your life energy.′ it says. ′Thank you for saving my brother′s life, but before you claim your price tell me, what are you and what′s your name?′

Chapter II - Part 3

′You wish to know my roots′ ah, the human need to understand and explain everything.′ the shadows speak. ′Very well, before I take what′s mine, I′ll tell you what I am.′ A long time ago there lived a fisherman′s family, poor in possession but rich at heart. Together with his wife, two young teenage sons and a younger daughter they lived along the coast in a small but cosy cottage. They didn′t have a lot, but they had each other. As long as there was food on the table and their bellies were filled they were happy. On a cold morning at the end of the winter it went terribly wrong for the fisher family. The father had just left to catch fish with his two sons, mother and daughter would remain by the house. While the men were only a few minutes away it happened′ The ground began to shake from heavy trembling of hooves. For a while there was a rumour of an itinerant legion called the Kahn, a horde of barbarians with wolf skulls on their heads. Riding on foaming, black steeds that were half time as large as normal horses. Raiding, butchering, raping and torturing they ride from town to town, feasting on the stocks of the residents. When the stocks ran out it was time to move on. But not before the entire village including any surviving inhabitants were put on fire. A trail of blood and ash remain. Startled by the trembling ground the woman ran outside and saw her suspicion become real. On the beach, not far from their home where the simple fishing boat lays, riders circle her husband and young sons. In vain, the fisherman tried to defend himself as he holds his boys behind him for protection. Weakened by the cold months that brought little food they had no chance against the massive power. With a few blows the resistance of the poor fisherman and his sons is broken. The leader of the group whistles fiercely, then a few men dismount their horses. With ropes they bind the limbs of the three bodies to their horses. Whilst her husband and her sons are quartered alive and cry of agony the woman runs, on pure instinct, inside. She has heard the rumours what these men do with women and especially young girls. She wants to save her daughter from that cruel fate. She decides to take the life of her young daughter, a fate that the child will save a lot of grief if she falls into the hands of the Kahn.

After entering the house she picks up a blade and she calls her daughter forth. The child runs to her mother and looks questioningly at her. The innocence in the eyes of her daughter almost breaks the woman, but she has to continue. First take the life of her daughter and then her own. She kneels down in front of her daughter and with a firm slice with the knife she goes right through the flesh of the daughter′s belly.

After she pulled out the knife of her daughter she gives her one last big hug and whispers ′please forgive me′ to the young girl. The woman is in tears as the blood flows out of the little body. With the bloody knife still clamped into her hand she cries of grief and anger. Suddenly the door of the cottage is kicked open and a figure is standing in the doorway. An imposing man wrapped in black animal skin with a wolf skull on his head. The woman turns her head, she′s still on her knees with the body ,now bled to death, pressed in her arms. She lets go of the body and stands up, covered in the blood of her daughter. She looks at the man with piercing eyes. Full of sorrow for her family, anger at herself and hatred for the men on the black steeds she says ′I curse you and your families, may the flesh of your bodies rot forever and may your spirit wander for eternity without finding any peace!!′ The cruel man looks questioningly at her but says nothing. She then slits her own throat. ′From that sacrifice, fuelled by grief and hatred, the shades that are before you were created. My first action was, as you′ll understand, to let the Kahn rot. I made them immortal with permanently shattered bones. Every day they pray for death that will never come.′ ′Now I appear to those who are worthy of me, who are driven by hatred and grief. I grant the deepest desires and feed on their life energy. They call me Demon of Death, Eater of Souls′ but you can call me Raanah.′ ′Now you know what I am and I′ll take what is mine now.′ the shadow shoots at Einarr and disappears into him. He′s gasping for air. Suddenly the shadow shoots out of him and vanishes. Heavily weakened Einarr falls to his knees. ′Until our next meeting.′ the wind whispers.

Chapter II - Part 4

Slightly dazed, Jorund is still looking at the pool of blood at his feet. ′What just happened here?′ he asks himself. Looking for answers he frantically looks around. While he looks at Einarr he sees him collapse. Then he runs towards Einarr. The unscrupulous slaves gather around the body parts of what was once their master. Full with disbelief and incomprehension they gaze at the body. Then they all throw themselves at the body and begin to eat it. In the hustle to get to the meat of the dead body the slaves get in a fight amongst themselves. It quickly creates great chaos whereby they fight each other, killing each other until the last soul. When Jorund reaches his brother, he puts his arms around him and helps him to his feet. ′We should go brother, quickly while we still can.′ Together they stumble towards the gate and flee the slave camp. After the brothers fled through the huge gate, they are at a deserted wasteland consisting of rocks and ash. On the horizon they see a forest. They decide to flee to the woods, which will provide shelter. The night is at its deepest when the brothers reach the woods. The bright moonlight is the only light that shines upon them, it entails some sort of peace. Deep in the woods the brothers decide to rest for the night and regain their strength. The exhausting attempt to escape has weakened the brothers. However, they′re used to it and will be fully recovered after a few hours of sleep. Sheltered between the roots of a large tree they lie on a bed made of leaves. Jorund falls asleep almost immediately, but that doesn′t apply to Einarr. Einarr can′t fall asleep, he can′t keep his mind of the apparition called Raanah. Using that inexplicable force he can finally be what he has been dreaming since his childhood, a powerful leader, equalled by no other. He patiently waits until Jorund is in deep sleep. When he′s sure he won′t wake his young brother, he sneaks away from the shelter made of the roots of the tree. On a small clearing among the trees with the moonlight on his face he calls upon his trump. ′Raanah, Demon of Death, hear my call′ show yourself to me.′ he speaks with a subdued voice. He realises that a loud scream will be heard far in the woods, exposing him to lurking danger, it can also awaken Jorund. Jorund won′t understand what he′s doing, he has always been modest. He′s always satisfied with what life throws his way, no desire for more.

Einarr repeats his call ′Raanah, Demon of Death, show yourself to me.′ For seconds he stands there, his eyes are scanning the perimeter. Suddenly he feels a cold wind and a figure appears before him. Einarr smiles smugly. ′We meet each other faster than expected, what can I do for you?′ the figure says. Raanah, fulfil my deepest desires and make me a powerful man. A strong leader with an equally strong army. Indestructible, undefeatable, a king of kings. It remains silence for a while before the shadow answers ′What do I get in return?′ Einarr had already expected this question and answers firmly, ′I know you feed on life energy, so I want to offer you three years of my life.′ ′Hahaha′′ sounds a shrill laugh from the shadow. ′Three years seems a lot for you, right? Perhaps on a human life, but if you′re hundreds years old, like me, three years are nothing. Three years don′t even come close to an agreement.′ ′But, Einarr, I admire your ambition and I feel a burning desire. The voice continued. Go home, and when you get there you′ll see that some changes have occurred. You′ll be welcomed as a king, a leader. The first five years no one will attack you, there won′t be a threat from anywhere. Build your settlement and build the army that you need. After five years your protection ends, so you have to prepare yourself. Nobody, not even your young brother, will suspect something of our agreement.′ ′That sounds great!′ says Einarr. ′What do you want in return?′ ′Every year during the night of the shortest day I will appear to you and take a year of your life energy. I will keep doing this until you die.′ Raanah speaks. ′Do you accept my offer, oh mighty king?′ Blinded by the opportunity that has just offered him, Einarr doesn′t even think about the proposal and he confidently answers ′Yes, I accept your terms. Every year during the night of the shortest day I′ll give you a year of my life.′ ′So it shall be.′ the shadow speaks. ′Now go to sleep and continue your way home at the first light of the day.′ is the last thing that the shadows say while they disappear into nothing. Einarr stands alone on the small clearing among the trees, a smile of satisfaction appears on his face. He looks up to the moon and thinks to himself ′I will be the greatest conqueror who ever lived or will live.′

Chapter III - Part 1

On a sunny morning there sounds a dull clop across the fields. The morning dew is still visible on the tall grass and shines like thousand of little diamonds. On the galloping black horse sits a cloaked rider riding with great haste. On the horizon appears an immense camp called Var Terkin, a stately settlement surrounded by stones and rocks. When the rider arrives at the camp, he hurries to the large building in the middle. When he arrives at the large doors he jumps of his horse and takes off his cowl. It is Jorund, an imposing yet fair warrior. With a powerful push he opens the doors. The building is full of people. All attendees have question and requests for their king. In the middle of the hall sits Einarr, he looks slightly bored. At the sight of his brother he jumps up from his throne out of enthusiasm. The chattering crowd silences. ′Jorund, what news do you bring?′ Einarr asks. ′Brother, I have found them, the last group of Kortobarden who opposes us. They are camped less than two hours marching from here. If we leave now we can use a surprise attack, they won′t know what hit them.′ Jorund speaks slightly rushed and with enthusiasm in his voice. It′s almost five years after the brothers fled the Incaris′ camp and Einarr made a deal with Raanah. Since the day the brothers returned to their homeland and Einarr was hailed as a king, like Raanah had promised, Einarr is working hard to expand his land and army. ′Good Jorund, good′ let us ride to the Kortobarden and overpower them. Whoever resists will be killed and the ones that beg for mercy will be a nice acquisition for our legion.′ the king says. With thirty of his best warriors king Einarr and Jorund head out to the camp of the Kortobarden. Einarr knows he′s outnumbered but he has his agreement with Raanah on his side. He can′t be defeated, a reputation known by many. The majority of people who come in contact with the brothers join them. Knowing he′s untouchable Einarr is a righteous king to his subjects. However if somebody offers resistance he will punish them without mercy. This gives the legion the necessary exercise to keep them ready for battle.

Once arrived at the camp of the Kortobarden they surprisingly see that there′s not much left of the camp. As if there raged an immense inferno across the camp. Remnants of tents still smoulder a bit, on a blackened ground. The brothers and their companions walk amazed among the remains, which was a lively place full of activity a few hours ago. The smell of burnt bodies hangs like a veil over the camp. ′Jorund, what happened here?′ Einarr asks his younger brother. ′No idea, it′s like the mother of fire demons has wreaked havoc here.′ Jorund answers. Suddenly they see a moving arm between the remains of charred beams. Without any doubt they begin to lift the beams and a man appears under the debris. Seriously injured by the many burns on his body the half-burned man says ′Kahn′ Kahn′ They have returned′′ after a brief respite, he continues ′Out of nowhere, they were there′ they didn′t ask any questions′ took nothing of value′ began to murder us and burned down our camp′ as playful dogs whose straps were loosened they ranted.′ Again following a brief respite ′Do me a favour now and help this old man out of his misery. I won′t survive this wounds, so please put me out of my misery.′ Einarr nods to one of the companies who draws his dagger and pierces the heart of the already dying man. ′Brother, I′ve heard the stories about these Kahn, but they are many years old. It seems unlikely that this legendary folk has returned.′ Jorund says. ′Yes, that seems′ unlikely′′ Einarr answers but with doubt in his voice. He has already seen and experienced stranger things. Here he can′t talk about it with anybody, except the one it concerns. His strength and also his weakness, Raanah.

Chapter III - Part 2

Back home at the majestic Var Tekin, Einarr and Jorund ride straight to the throne room. They push open the imposing doors and Einarr orders the attendees to leave the room. ′Leave the room and close the doors′ you too Jorund′ don′t disrupt me until I show myself.′ he snarls as he walks to his throne. ′I need to think this through, Jorund. Nobody is allowed to enter the room and you are responsible for that.′ Without saying anything the younger brother does what he′s told. When his older brother has a mood like that then you do what he says, if you know what′s good for you. The doors are barely closed when Einarr starts to shout ′Raanah, where are you? Show yourself to me!!′ Within seconds the scene, which Einarr became familiar with, begins. First a cold gust of wind followed by the appearance of a form made out of shadows. Every year Einarr witnesses this appearance, but in that case it′s Raanah who wants something from Einarr. Now the tables turns. ′Raanah, tell me′ The Kahn that you told me about during our first meeting′ are they still in your power?′ asks Einarr irritated and rushed. Einarr senses it coming, the five years of protection are almost over and the Kahn are a serious threat to everything he has built over the past years. ′But of course, oh mighty king′ the shadows speak with a belittling overtone. ′The Kahn are still suffering, waiting for their never coming death. Why do you doubt my word?′ ′Forgive me Raanah, but today I witnessed something that showed a remarkable resemblance of the Kahn′s work. Everyone knows the legends and stories of their terrifying actions. Especially now, after my five years of protection almost end, I want to know who, or what, I have to deal with.′

′Ah, you wish to know what is threatening you, so that you can quickly eliminate it. Why didn′t you just ask that?′ the shadows speak. ′Very well, since my protection is almost over, I will help you by telling you what you′re dealing with.′ ′The group you′re dealing with is the Army of the East, an army of highly skilled warriors. The leader of that army is a power-hungry man, just like you. You′re different from him because he doesn′t care about anything or anyone. His only goal is total domination over everything and everyone.′ ′Now you know what you′re up against. If you don′t need anything else from me, I′ll disappear again until you need me.′ The shadows speak while they fade away. Einarr is a little bit perplexed while the shadows are fading away. ′How can he not care, I wonder if he cares when I strike his head off his body.′ Einarr thinks to himself. ′If that army is really that big and skilled, my victory will be known beyond eternity.′ Einarr opens the doors of the throne room and sees Jorund standing guard. Jorund looks with a serious look at Einarr but doesn′t say anything. ′Jorund prepare the army′ Tomorrow at first light we ride East.′ Einarr says on a pervasive way to his brother before he closes the doors again.

Chapter III - Part 3

The next morning the entire army departs from Var Tekin heading East. Under the command of the brothers a killing pace is set, through the woods and mountains. Days go by, but nowhere is a sign of the Army of the East that Raanah spoke of. Slowly days turn into weeks, still to no avail. It seems like they′re are searching for a ghost. One night Raanah appeared as Einarr feared. It wasn′t the night of the shortest day, that would bear him less worries. Raanah appeared to inform Einarr that his five years of protection are over and that he has become vulnerable to potential enemies. Einarr can′t deal with this too, because he hasn′t found the Army of the East yet. ′Raanah, you can′t do this to me now, please grant me some extra time′ until I have defeat the army of the East.′ Einarr begs her. ′I′m sorry, but a deal is a deal. Five years have passed and you know what that means.′ is the underhanded answer. Then Raanah disappears into the night leaving Einarr tormented and helpless. The sun rises and the troops are preparing themselves to move on. Suddenly a rider rides into the camp, ′King Einarr! Where is king Einarr?!′ he yells. It′s a young boy, too young to fight with the men. Under guidance he is taken to Einarr. When he arrived at his king the lad falls to his knees. ′I′m sorry lord, but I have bad news. In your absence Var Tekin is overrun by a malevolent army. They destroyed everything. They locked the remaining people in the throne room and set it on fire. Everyone is burned alive. Only the stone walls are still standing, but that′s all what′s left′′

Einarr is full with anger at hearing this bad news. Everything he has built in five years has been wiped out from the one moment to the other. As if it was all planned in a dark conspiracy against him. ′They have outsmarted us, but we′ll get our revenge!!′ he spits out. ′Men, get ready, we ride to Var Tekin.′ ′As long as I command this army nobody is equal to me, mark my words′ I will have my revenge′ Einarr whispers as he walks away. Two full days and two full nights the army heads back to the once majestic Var Tekin. On the third day Jorund notices that the effort starts to taking its toll. With a compelling argument ′Brother, the men are exhausted. Let us rest tonight and regain our strength. When we meet the assailant we′ll be at our best′ he convinces Einarr to rest overnight. A camp is set up to make it through the night. The winter has gradually arrived. While the men recover from the effort and feast on food and drinks there sounds a horn in the setting dusk.

Chapter IV

The old king is still resting in his bed. He looks back to the sacrifice he has made, the sacrifice that has earned him the greatest victory of his life. Yet he has an empty feeling inside, a feeling that something is missing. In just five years he has built a massive empire but it wasn′t enough, the army that had just been defeated is proof of that. ′What if there are more of these armies′′ is the thought that keeps going through his mind. Of course Var Tekin can be rebuild, but what′s the point. What if there are more legions such as the Army of the East, that means that there always will be a threat. The old man feels that his earthy existence will soon come to an end. He realises that his name will be remembered and will last the ravages of time. But that will only happen if his legion survives and will continue to grow. If his legion is swept away, so will his legacy which he has sacrificed so much for. Eventually the old king falls asleep. The next morning starts hectic. Jorund, in full battle gear, rushes into Einarr′s tent. ′Brother, they have returned′ the Army of the East has returned.′ he says with a serious voice. ′Last night a second legion arrived, at least twice as big as the previous.′ ′Help me put on my armour, Jorund′ then we′ll defeat this group before we return to Var Tekin′ the old Einarr says with a feeble voice. ′My brother, you have no business on the battlefield′ I′ll lead the men, rest my brother.′ Jorund determinedly speaks before he turns around and confidently walks out of the tent.

′Without the help of Raanah they will be massacred and worse′ my legacy will fade away as blood in a flowing river′ never′ Einarr mutters. ′Raanah, show yourself to me one more time′ make my men immortal during the battle and let them win, I beg you.′ While the shadows appear there sounds an answer. ′Oh mighty king, of course I can help your men and change their fate. But what do I get in return? You′re too weak to pay the price that is needed.′ ′Please Raanah, be merciful′ don′t let everything I have given be for nothing!!′ the desperate Einarr speaks. An icy silence follows after Einarr′s supplication, finally an answer follows. ′There is a way, but you′re not going to like it. You′re too weak to pay the price for this agreement, but your brother has enough life energy to immortalize your whole army until sundown. Jorund will fight to defend your honour but he will fail and he is doomed. The way I see it, your brother will die either way, but with my help you can save your army and legacy.′ ′Do we have a deal?′ Einarr doesn′t know what to do. The only option he has is the one that Raanah presented him. He can′t comprehend that his brother will die anyway. ′My brother, my army, my legacy′ everything is falling apart.′ he stammers in disbelief. ′Einarr, do we have a deal or should I disappear again?′ the shadows speaks in a hasty manner.

′You give me no choice Raanah, you give me no choice′ alright, we have a deal.′ Einarr answers with dismay in his voice. ′Jorund will die and in return my men will be immortal until sundown.′ ′And so it shall be, my king′ Einarr stays behind defeated, what has he done? He sacrificed the life of his younger brother to secure his legacy. The old man is furious and angry at everything and everyone. Bound to his bed, he′s alone, alone with haunting thoughts. Hours slowly pass, the clatter of weapons is heard well in Einarr′s tent. Remarkably, there seems to be no end to it, not even when the afternoon ends.

The old man is tired of waiting and climbs out of bed. He tried to put on his armour but he can′t. ′Then I′ll only take my sword.′ he thinks. With his sword in his hand he opens the tent, he feels his feeble legs shake. In the distance he sees two armies fighting each other, the sun almost disappears in the background behind the mountain peaks. Step by step he ambles towards the battle that′s been lasting for hours. The old man realises that this is his last day on this earth, every step he takes could be his last. Broken by the fact that betraying and sacrificing his brother was for nothing, he walks to the two fighting legions. Stumbling and leaning on his sword he arrived on the battlefield then mixes himself between the fights. While he′s looking at the mountains he sees the last sunlight disappear then he hears the sound of dying men. The deal with Raanah has ended, his legacy comes to an end. With his eyes, he hastily scans the battlefield, looking for his brother. Not far from him, he sees a whirlwind of shadows flying around a man. ′Jorund, forgive me!!′ he yells, but he knows that his younger brother can′t hear him. Suddenly the shadows disappear, Einarr sees the body of his once so powerful brother collapse. Leaning on his sword, he feels defeated and dismayed.

Out of nowhere he feels a knife slide in his chest. He sees a young man. Not a great warrior or a powerful leader, but an ordinary boy. He falls on the ground and feels his last strength leaving his body, he sees his men fall in droves. They had no chance against this majority, it feels like everything was planned this way. With that thought he exhales his final breath′ At the edge of the forest stands a man in full battle gear, his eyes are scanning the battlefield impatiently. Suddenly he feels a cold wind and he sees some black shadows fly around him. First one, but quickly more until the man is surrounded by spinning shadows. ′Raanah, you have kept your word′ the Western legion was vulnerable after sunset. We stood our ground and finally we killed them all. Thanks to you, I′ve achieved my greatest victory! I′ll be remembered as a god!′ ′The deed is done, now it′s time for you to fulfil your part of the deal′ I will now take five years of your life.′ it sounds while the shadows fly towards the man.