THE NEW LORD
Darkness clouds the lands of Couvrant, a big part of AKTES King Xevon’s realm. Agony and despair reigns in the small towns, since the lands of Couvrant lack a leader. The old lord has died without leaving a son or daughter to take over the throne of this kingdom, and that’s why the land is in peril. There are two politicians, former dukes of smaller countries, who claim the throne of Couvrant; but both are cruel and full of treachery. But without a solution, the land won’t definitely live for long a huge army of Ichiak is threatening the land and there is no hope of fighting them back!
At the same time, a dark experiment in the Dragonlands has brought a new creature to life the dragon warrior Groul! Dragons used their magic and genes, to create a being with the strength of a dragon, the wisdom of Reptilian and intelligence of man. But the experiment has failed; the dragons decided to put Groul into exile, since he was no use to them anymore.
And now, the lonely dragon warrior is roaming over the lands to the west seeking for a chance to make a new life…
Groul: After many hours wandering thru never ending shady mountains, Groul lets out a yawn. It’s getting letting late for this evening. "Better to stop somewhere where I won’t get any attention from nobody", Groul thinks. "I’m alone, banned to exile so none cares about me anymore..." A small tear pours from his blue eye. "Why they ever thought that I could compete with such of intelligence and mental strength?" (Groul’s fingers pressing in to fist.) "Nevertheless, I cannot escape from that fact." Suddenly, while Groul was intending to sit down, he saw some light penetrating the trees nearby. "Guess it’s nothing", Groul says aloud taking his step back to standing position. "Look, what’s there?" Probably, I should take a closer look." With the eagerness for exploring surroundings Groul heads towards the light.
The dragon warrior increases the speed of his footsteps. Even after walking for many days without any rest, his strengths are still enough to raise the tempo a little bit. Sharp rays of light are cutting through the woods, and finally Groul recognizes its origin: a city! The forest ends, leaving the last trees behind and opens a vast view over a city in the distance: the capitol of Couvrant!
Groul: "Hm, this town looks most definitely decayed." Groul grins for first time in the week: but not for joy. For pure sinfulness of his own life and whole world that surrounds him. Within the dark night Groul heads towards darker streets; smell of greasy food and snarling beneath his horned belly plates helps him to concentrate to something else. "At least there’s someone who reads my mind like a book: I’m starving!"
While Groul closes on to the city walls, a cloaked person is getting in his way. Soon, Groul recognizes this to be a brown Reptilian, wearing a green robe and carrying many goods. The person comes closer, seems to be without any fear, and greets Groul with a lifted right hand, which is waving in the air.
Graag: Hello, stranger! My name is Graag Valcor, and I am a well known merchant in the lands. I trade and sell many goods, if you are interested? I see, you must come from far away… (pointing at Groul’s feet, which are covered with mud and dirt.) Yes, am I right? You are a wanderer, or what else? Okay, this is none of my business… my business is here! (he opens his robe and shows Groul many shiny things.) Best and most precious jewellery! And I also got some artefacts and weapons… for more stuff, visit my shop in the city. I just opened this there. One must look for new markets, ya know? But what am I talking… you want something?
Groul: "Mmmmroummmmm..." Groul measures this smaller creature with a pale glance. "Nice jewellery you got there." (Dragons of realm are used to collect goods of many kind. Usually jewellery, because in some cases they could have some ancient magical forces within them. Sparkling diamonds, wands, swords, staffs, artefacts and everything else: you just have to name them.) Groul feels some kind of pulse flowing as an aura from blue gemmed bracers that Graag holds in front of him. But he ignores old magical aura. "Seems that you have stuff for all delights and dreams. All I’m asking now is do you have something to eat? I’m burning in desire to have at least one juicy boar leg..." Groul inclines his head to left. "I must get those bracers later if I’d be alive tomorrow!" Groul thoughts.
Graag: (smiles.) Aww, I see you are one of the kind who enjoys good food and well living! (searches in his bags.) Well, I do have some nice cookies and salt meat. You know, I cannot carry much food around it would rot in my bags. But you are lucky… (lifts a bag.) These cookies are not for kids, this is great food. They are made of a component wheat, which stops hunger immediately! It is not much… and for only 2 gold pieces, they are yours! What ya say?
Groul: His lips are twitching, when he realizes that he doesn’t have any money to pay for those. "Ehm, fact is: I don’t have any money. Since I’ve been living in an outback for so long." Now, Groul makes a gesture with his hands that he hasn’t got anything.
Graag: (watches the dragon creature with half closed eyes.) So…? You are out of money, or you just don’t wanna pay good price for good stuff? I guess, you wanna trade!! (smiles again.) Well, do ya have something precious to offer to me? I collect many things… gems, stones, gold, even stuff like maps or… (thinks.) even information about many things.
Groul: "An information? About what? I have some... but I don’t know, if I should tell them." Groul wears a mask of unhappy mood fulfilled with secrets of many kind.
Graag: (puts his arm around Groul’s hip, since the shoulder is too high for Graag to reach.) Well, my friend you are tough… but since I can hear your belly grumble even from the distance, I might be able to help ya out. I just happened to want something, which you could provide me… (his other hand is crawling into a bag and returns quickly; showing a precious medal in shape of a dragon head.) The guy who sold me this, claimed that this is a medal made by dragons! But I don’t believe and I won’t be able to sell this, until I know for sure. And since you make a dragon like appearance to me… I thought, you could tell me, if this is truly done by dragons. Here, check it!
Groul: He grabs a medal over from Graag´s offering hand. "Hhmmmmmm…" Groul measures and glances even a small detail for twice. "There’s a one ancient rule that bounds me to hide my powers. However, I’m too fed up with my ancestors and their poetic laws!" Groul says something that sounds odd to Graag and makes a circle into the backward direction on top of an old medallion. Medallion bursts a red flame that touches Groul’s index finger and casts a reflection to Graag´s doubtful eyes. "So how is it? It is quite real to me..." Groul smirks.
Graag: (mumbles amazed.) Hrrmmmm…. So, it is true! I was thinking this way, before. Such skill on forging metal and magic must be dragon work. And since I see no lie in your eyes, I believe you. Thank you for the information… (takes the medal again and hides it in his belt.) Here, for your belly. (gives Groul the bag of cookies.) And this for the next tavern in the city! (gives him 5 pieces of gold.) If you wanna know why I am so generous, well… (smiles evil.) this dragon medal will gain me at least 15 pieces of gold or even more! So, I have no loss. And you are an interesting being… don’t want to lose a good customer, either. (slaps Groul’s chest.) Okay, farewell my friend.
Groul: He is still little bit bothered about his action: revealed a secret of mighty medallion (medallion of red dragon provides a fire resistance for its user and strength for fight). Graag disappears in the way like he appeared to Groul. Soon, so delighted for being a nice being and about that good bargain, he goes on his way to a tavern nearby.
Graag: (shouts after Groul from the distance.) Awwwww, before I forget… in your case, I would first meet the tavern called “Black Cat”. It is truly cheap and yet nice. You can buy a meal and a room there for the night for only 3 golden coins! See you in the future…
Groul: Graag knew where he was heading at. The tavern called "Black Cat" stands in front of Groul with its rusty sign in form of black cat squeaking a little in the light cold breeze of autumn wind. Groul enters inside from huge door made of oak. Within the moment, a warm greasy breeze of air comes from the inside into Groul’s nostrils. "Very, very nice", he thinks.
Groul enters the tavern and gets immediately a warm shell of smoke of many kind. The people in the tavern are talking, laughing, smoking weird stuff with a strong smell, and drinking and eating. Despite the rusty sign and the old wooden walls, Graag was right about the house: it is cosy and fills Groul with a warm feeling of home. He walks straight to the bartender.
Bartender: Aye, what have we hea? Ya not look like some of tee usual customers? (washes a cup of beer with a tissue and places it before Groul. Then, he fills the cup with some sort of local beer and pushes it to the dragon warrior.) Here, lad. This is my welcoming gift! Ya might have stories to tell, huh? And ya look so of a stranger from far away. Go on, take a drink and tell me… what can I do for ya?
Groul: Sits in before bar desk and drinks a whole flask of beer within gulp. He bBurps loudly. A few citizens makes a doubtful glance at him. Only one doesn’t pay an attention with a glance: there’s a caped man sitting opposite corner of him with unrecognisable facial shapes. That man nodded at Groul and lifted a bit that flask of beer that he is obviously drinking. “Well, there’s so much to tell.. Dunno, if you wanna know the shady parts of long path that I’ve been walking along...” Glances at smaller bartender with darkening eyes.
Bartender: (he seems to listen to that only with half interest.) Hmmm, aye. As you wish, my lord! Anyway, if ya wanna stay: thea is ay nice room free upstairs with ay great watch over the city. Since you seem to be new here, I shall give ya tee room in tee attic. Shall be good for ya! For only 3 coins of gold… a meal including. By tee way, if ya gimme 15 pieces, ya will get that room and one meal for tee whole week! This is my current special price for visitors. What ya say?
Groul: “I must find work for myself first before I can afford for 15 gold coins.” A dark caped man in the opposite corner reduced drinking his beer and obviously observers Groul with unveiled interest. “I will rent a room for this night only for now. But who is that man anyway?”
Bartender: (recognizes the man.) Aye, that is lord Dugan. He comes here every day. Got some business of his own. Well, he is more a politician with duke status… but he claims the throne of Couvrant. Pity, our former king died without a son or daughter to climb the throne. But if you seek for some doubtful jobs, he is the man to ask for…
Groul: “Doubtful jobs fits me like my own horns. But thank you for you information.” Groul eats few cookies that Graag gave him, stands up and walks towards caped man called lord Dugan. That man is pretty wealthy looking but yet in good health. Muscular dark haired hands lying on the table. Dugan makes no clear gestures at Groul: is it okay to sit down before him. As a matter of fact Groul is quite fearless being so it doesn’t pay much mental strength to sit down to face this man. Groul measures lord Dugan who still wears capes hood over his head and awaits for an icebreaker.
Dugan: Well, what have we here? You certainly are not from here. And your looks tells me you seek for work? How are you called my friend?
Groul: “Yes, I’m searching for a job and you are then who could tell me what do? Hm, my name is Groul Akgez, wanderer of dark lands.”
Dugan: Alright… I see, you are a tight guy. And I feel, you are not doing everyone’s work… let me tell you, I am your friend. You can trust me! I have much to offer… you are new here? No problem, work for me and your pockets and belly will be filled every day! Wanna hear what job I offer you?
Groul: Sounds like you are trustworthy as an employer or whatever you want to call yourself. Good to me. Nevertheless, tell me what to do?
Dugan: Okay… but let us leave this house for now. For what I have to tell you, is not meant for many ears. (he stands up and leaves the room with Groul at his side. He throws a few golden coins to the bartender and gets out.)
Outside the tavern, Dugan lights a pipe and starts smoking. After a few smokes, he talks to Groul with a serious voice and weird looks in his eyes.
Dugan: Well, there are individuals… complete groups around, which are a common threat to our city. I don’t wanna walk in circles and tell you the truth: the land is in danger! There is a man… duke Khalagh! He got many men around him… he tries to get the throne of Couvrant, which is I am honest to you rightful mine. I don’t wanna sound greedy or hideous… but his men have to be stopped! He tries to get more power every day, and he won’t stop until the land is in his grasp. He even killed many of my men, just to lower my morale and to intimidate the people here. So, here is my offer: I want you to kill his people. They roam in small groups through this city; murdering innocent people just for fun and to rob them. If you find and kill these scattered groups, you will get money from me and the respect from the entire town! What do ya say?
Groul: Sure, I’m in! Though, I hope you can make sure that I earn for killing around all these people. When will I begin?
Dugan: (offers Groul his hand, where a precious ring with a round ruby sits.) When you kiss that ring, our contract is verified! (Groul hesitates a moment, then kisses the ring quickly. Dugan smiles and reveals a map from his coat.) Excellent. You’ve just made yourself a very honourable and precious deal, my new friend. Okay, you can start right now… in this night, if you like! Here, this map shows the most probable hiding places of the hideous gangs, which are threatening our once peaceful city. The red crosses mark some possible hideouts! You shall enter and wipe them out with the lack of mercy and humanity… (Dugan talks to himself: but when I watch you, I cannot see any humanity!)
Groul: “Guess, this is it and I should by own my way.” Groul noticed Dugan’s silenced thought and that made Groul to feel bad again. (No friends: just a mercenary leader without no mercy and hope for better ways to clean that mess, which is now in hands.) Groul takes the map and hides himself quickly in the shadows of the streets of Couvrant.
Dugan: Good luck, my red hunter! (Dugan goes back into the tavern and talks to the bartender.) This is magnificent… I have just won another fool to serve me!
Bartender: When he finds that out, he might bite ya to bits!
Dugan: (makes a wave with his hand.) I am well prepared against this vagabond… he cannot harm me, or he must sleep in the cold and wet surroundings of this forsaken city! He will serve me, or starve to death! Talking about starving… (shouts to all people in the tavern.) Hey! Everyone gets a drink on my round!! (people celebrate.)
Meanwhile, Groul has left the tavern’s outdoor and moves to his next target. Though he doesn’t know this foreign city, he got a great sense of orientation and starts to walk directly to the next red cross on the map, the duke gave him. The possible hideout is an old and rotten shop, formerly used as vegetable store.
Groul: (Within few turns and a short walk ahead, he reaches the first target to infiltrate in and take all mobs out one by one. Old vegetable shop is surrounded by silence. There are no remarkable signs of life inside: not even a sound of scattering cat when he appeared. “Probably, I’ll just make few more closer looks”, Groul talks to himself; his voice muffled by his teeth. Soon Groul finds a little hole penetrated into the wooden wall. There’re ten people inside… drinking, laughing, and having fun with a girl they obviously just kidnapped from somewhere. Girl is resisting with all powers she has left. The mob doesn’t have any clue with whom they are getting cope with soon.)
Grotesque looking guy: (suddenly hears a slight sound of Groul’s entering. He raises his head, turns and recognizes the dragon warrior.) Eehuuu… who are ya there and what is your business? This is a private meeting… you have no business here! Back off, stranger!!
Groul: He ignores that warning and steps inside, where his horns are scratching the roof. “I heard some rumours, that your meetings aren’t so private and most of all out of business for your intensions against this city.” Groul has no weapons so he has to fight with his bear hands. The rest of the mob are looking frightened from Groul’s sudden appearance.
Grotesque looking guy: (laughs.) Indeed… it is a VERY private and even more delicate meeting of ours. We plan to conquer the whole city… we and this brat here! (the harsh tune of sarcasm is not difficult to recognize.) So, you’re going to stop us…? All of us? Hehehe, I wanna see that! By the way… this bitch here is no innocent, if ya want to know this. It is a hired hoar and we’re just getting what we’ve paid for!
Groul: “You will have no use for her DEAD!” Groul acts fast in advance (faster than people thought in beforehand): he grabs that man on his shoulder, pulls him so close and snaps his spine with single backward twist. The body falls to ground: indolent as rag. Angered from this act, all other people attack against Groul at the same time. But still, the mob is unaware, what this fearless and fierce creature can do.
Tall guy: (jumps behind Groul and smashes a chair on the back of the dragon warrior; it seems to have no effect. In return, Groul spins around and crushes the man’s face with one single blast of his fist. Another volley of his fists hit the mob and people fly and fall to the ground.)
Another guy: (screams, as his body is lifted by Groul and thrown against the inner walls of the house. His bones shatter, when he hits the wood.)
Groul: Two enraged guys are both running towards him in order to stab Groul’s belly with dagger. When both are in reach of Groul hands: he acts viciously and slashes in to other mob’s face with him clawed hand. Blood splashes in air and mob fell to ground with horrible gurgling voice, dead. Another tried to stab him behind but dagger could make such of major damage to Groul, only blood draining scratch. “Now you’ll pay from you irritating sting on my back”! Only single one hand need to blast within the fist mob’s face in to unrecognisable form.
The fight reaches its final stage, as only 3 guys are left in the battle. Groul pants a little bit, since he already fought and killed 7 humans! But this is nothing compared to the huge dragon battles, he has fought in the past before he was banned to exile. Groul can’t effort to think now he acts purely on animal instincts. The beast inside him has awaken! He roars and jumps against the 3 remaining humans, who seem to have chosen retreat. But he is not willing to let them escape. Groul jumps to a cupboard in the near corner, grabs it and throws it right to the only door in the house. The way out has been blocked! The people shiver in fear, as the door is no longer a way out for them. Awaiting the next move of the beast, they act only in fear and amok. Meanwhile, the girl has crawled to the opposite corner and closes her eyes with her hands.
The guys take all the furniture which is left and throw it against Groul; but he just smashes them into pieces with his fists. Groul dashes towards the guys and grabs the first one he can get. He lifts the whole body, rips it into pieces and uses the body parts to slam the others in the face. Groul spins and kicks at one guy; slicing his chest open with his foot claws. The last one will have another quick and bloody death: Groul makes one more step to the remaining man, jumps to the ceiling of the house and lands right behind the man. When the guy turns, huge jaws with big, razor sharp teeth are greeting him. Groul bites a big piece of red flesh out of the man’s throat.
Suddenly, it is all quiet. Groul moves to the girl in the corner.
Groul: It is alright now… you are safe. Those guys won’t hurt you anymore.
Girl: (shivering, trembling and staring at Groul with fear. She can hardly speak.) Let… off me, you monster… go… please, don’t kill me, too!
Groul: (irritated.) I was… saving you!
Girl: You… killed them… like animals… you butchered them all… like an animal! Please leave me… don’t hurt me…
Groul: (watches her a last time. Then kicks the cupboard out of his way and leaves the house through the door.)
Girl: (silent whisper.) Monster… killed like an animal… monster…
Groul: (thinking.) Yes, this is what I am cursed to be…
After this first successful mission, Groul returns to the tavern “Black Cat”. The duke Dugan is already awaiting him with a smile on his face.
Dugan: Awww… my new friend. Well, how’s work been? Did you find my other “friends” and told them my message?
Groul: “Yes, mission was a success and also exploiting ten man’s life.” Some blood trips and falls to the floor Groul’s fingers. “As a matter of fact, I haven’t felt like this for long time just like that girl said: killed man like a beast. So, what about your next move? I wanna get paid. Groul still feeling how adrenaline flows in his veins. And what to do next?”
Dugan: Of course, you get paid… first, let me express my gratitude. But… do you have something to proof, that you killed the people I wanted to have killed? (talks very quiet.)
Groul: Shows Dugan his blood tripling fingers. “Warm enough? And take a look of this one here...” Takes a piece of cloth out of a bag his wearing attached to his loincloth. Piece is all coloured with blood and ripped from edges from Groul’s sharp claws. “I guess, there’s no gratitude needed. Nevertheless, job is finished.”
Dugan: I knew, you could do it! You are indeed a worthy warrior… here is your reward for this day! (throws a bag of gold pieces on the table.) 50 pieces for every man! This makes 500 for this day… quite profitable, don’t you think? And more can be yours… you see, there are many more crosses on the map. Other friends to meet…
Groul: “Mmmmm, I see you are a man who can pay for job well done. I can visit in next red cross whenever it is needed. Should I visit in next hideout tonight, or shall I rest here for night?” Smiles at Dugan in gratitude but not as a friend.
Dugan: Well, in order to reduce suspicion, I’d propose that you don’t visit more then one or two hideouts in a week! It would look very strange, if the people… would vanish all in one week, wouldn’t it?? (smiles and drinks beer.) But you don’t have to worry… we have plenty to do and plenty more time. It shall be enough for this day! By the way… you can take the opportunity, to get this city to know better. Why don’t you just take a walk? (he really wants Groul to leave the tavern.)
Groul: “As you wish, Dugan”. Either both aren’t so coped with each other or is it just a matter of difference between man and beast. Groul turns around and walks to door, opens it and vanishes in to cold night outside tavern.
Dugan: (runs after Groul.) Alright then… tomorrow, I won’t be available for you, so I’d propose that you enjoy the day for yourself. Money should not be the problem right now… and maybe, you find yourself a girl or a boy or something expensive to buy… this is not my concern, Enjoy the time, you deserve it. And I see you in two days, my warrior! (goes back to another table, where some men are sitting.)
With 500 gold pieces in his money bag, Groul cannot believe his luck. He came without anything and could buy himself a room and food for over a month! Then, he got an idea… one guy on the street has told him, that there is even a second tavern, known as “Northern Street”. This inn is supposed to be very cosy and comfortable, as well. Since Groul has some more money now, he does not seem to need this old inn anymore. A better, and more comfortable room might be suitable for him, he thinks. It is the dragon affection for luxury, which is making him to go out of the “Black Cat” now and walk across the streets. Soon, he stands right before the inn called “Northern Street”. Groul enters the door, and finds himself in a way more modern, clean and comfortable environment. There are no dirty looking humans; they’re all dressed up in expensive clothing and armour. Knights, lords and even some strange looking Reptilians, who are wearing gold and jewels all over their bodies. Groul soaks the air; it is filled with the smell most delicious food! He wastes no time and places himself at a single round table and orders beer and the daily meal. The people around him seem not to be impressed of him; they go on eating and drinking their stuff. The bartender returns with a big piece of meat and potatoes and a huge pod of best beer in town. It seems to be usual here, to serve this meal to a new guest who just arrived; of course, nobody would sit himself down, if he’d have no money. And since Groul appears to be hungry, the bartender did well by giving him a huge portion of meat. The prizes here are three times bigger, than in the “Black Cat”. But Groul does not care any more!
Clulak: My name is Clulak, I am the bartender of the “Northern Street” inn! Welcome, stranger. (serves food and drink.) If you want anything else, just call me! (runs to other guests.)
Groul: (smiles and starts eating his meal.)
Guy in the shadow: (speaks slow and calm.) I salute you, strange one. Usually, the people come here to meet others of their kind, to order a room for the week, or just to drink. What are you here for?
Groul: “I was looking for a job. But in case there comes a better man with better job who is willing to share his own luck with me. I am more than willing to have some. No matter about circumstances or time... Hm, whatever. I think that isn’t your business. Or..?” Eats with feeling of unleashed hunger. Groul doubts that this man here has something else for him.
Duke Khalagh: I see. I am Khalagh, duke of Couvrant. If you have heard, that there is a well known duke called Dugan, who claims to have the right to sit on the throne of this land… don’t believe that fool! He has neither the right for the throne, nor to sit on a hill made of crap! He cannot even tell you the proper colour of shit… pardon my words. But it is true… he is a cutthroat and evil gangster. If I were you, I won’t try to get close to him. He cannot be trusted! And furthermore, he takes any illegal step necessary, to compromise me and my men. He even killed some of my friends, just to make me to give the right of the throne to him! Can you believe that? (drinks and smokes.) Well, never mind… you probably never heard of him. You just arrived here, right? I know almost every soul of this city and I have never seen you. I guess, nobody else has seen you, either… hmmmmmm. (thinks.) So, you are looking for a job indeed? Would you like to do a good bargain with me, my foreign friend? (smiles gently.)
Groul: This cannot happen to me, Groul thinks in his mind. I’m in the playground of two greedy dukes, who fight childishly in order to claim themselves a position as a king of Couvrant! He is licking his lips that where so messy after eating. “Depends, if you have something for me, no? And that duke sitting somewhere among us... I don’t know about him, not even a rumours before you told me.”
Khalagh: Good! And what I want from you is not that difficult… and what I offer is very profitable. (shows Groul jewels and gems.) I don’t have so much gold, you know? But last month, my cousin came back with a shipment full of jewels, he has found in the depth of the ocean. So, I choose to spend my money in form of gems and jewels! They are beautiful, aren’t they? (plays with the gems in his hands.) Well, here is my offer: Since you are new and unknown here, I would like you to… well, to spy a little bit for me. I want to know, what my competitor Dugan is planning… and where his men are hiding! I want to know exactly, where he is doing his business and with whom. Tomorrow is Midday, right? He is always gone at this day… I would love to know where. If you find out, what he is planning against me and where he has his hideouts, my reward will be generous. (plays with the gems before Groul’s face.)
Groul: “And that is what you will get.” As a agreement Groul nods at Khalagh, another duke in same madness - inseparable twins. “So, I’ll start tomorrow in order to get you some information about your arch-enemy. Where I can meet you so I can give you every information I’ve collected?” Groul closes a bag with the remains of clothing of one of Khalagh’s men, before he notices it.
Khalagh: You can meet me every evening here in this inn. Don’t worry, I will find you, anyway. So be it then! (shakes Groul’s hand.) Bless you… I think, the gods have send you! Finally, justice will be done to Couvrant. Seek out this miserable and hideous duke Dugan and all his henchmen! When they are all gone, peace will return to this split land. (thoughts and plans about being king of Couvrant dash through the duke’s mind. Visions and happy thoughts of power and control with the help of his new spy, Groul!) You can take a room for tonight on my costs, if you like. The beds are very comfortable. And tomorrow, you shall try to find out, what this bastard Dugan is planning… I wish you a pleasant night. (bows, leaves Groul and arranges quarters for him at the bartender. Then, Khalagh goes out of the tavern.)
Groul finishes his meal with a satisfied smile on his face. Then, he moves to his room, throws himself on the bed reserved for him and immediately falls into a deep sleep dreaming about the next days to come…
The next day, Groul awakens in the tavern “Northern Street”. It is very early and nobody is sitting in the main hall. The bartender just prepares a few tables, as Groul walks down the stairs.
Clulak: Heyas, big red. Did you sleep well?
Groul: “Good morning. Yes, as a matter of fact, I haven’t slept like this for few months now. Breakfast ready soon?”
Clulak: Well…. (runs behind his table and gets some meat and bread.) of course. But unfortunately, it is so early that I had no time to warm it up… does it matter to you? I could…
Groul: “No hesitation is need. Everything is sufficient during the morning. You can keep doing your job and meanwhile I can arrange few thoughts in my head.” Walks towards big wooden table and sits down. Clulak comes and handles Groul a few pieces of bread and juicy meat steaks. Groul eats his breakfast bit absent minded because last night is still haunting his thoughts.
Clulak: Good. Are you going out for long today? I could give you some food for the time your are not here. It is a special service for “good paying customers”… (smiles.) In fact, the duke Khalagh told me, that you might be out all time today… so (gets a bag of leather filled with food and a bottle.) I fetched some rations for you. And in the late evening, we will have a big feast today! One of our most respected men reaches the age of 100, can you believe it? There will be dancing, music, food a whole ox over the fire and much to drink! Hope, you will accompany us later. (gives Groul the bag.) Have a good day then! I must prepare the house, so excuse me…
Groul: “Thank you, Clulak, I have to be own my way as well. There’s so much to do before I can join to your party. Have a good day!” Stands up and leaves Northern Street behind as quickly as he can. “Today I’ll be spying on my own mercenary duke who gave my the same specific task as Khalagh gave me last night.” Shakes his head due to overcoming stupidity. “Humans: always greedy beings to cope with...”
Outside the tavern, Groul stretches his muscles and walks on. He thinks about his job. Today is the day, when Dugan was supposed to meet at the harbour of Couvrant with some men. Groul asks himself through the way to the harbour; since his appearance causes much fear and respect, nobody denies him any information. But there are also people, who don’t pay attention. Other even watch him with hatred. What Groul cannot know, is that the enemy of this land called Ichiak looks in appearance quite similar to him. The Ichiak are red, huge and got large fangs and horns. But they have wings, which Groul lacks.
With no confusion, Groul reaches the main river of Couvrant at its biggest width. He can already smell Dugan, who is standing with some people at a wooden bridge. The dukes smell is quite familiar to Groul. The dragon warrior hides himself behind some barrels and waits and listens…
Dugan: And you say, it is all settled as planned?
Tall guy: Yes, my liege. It is all prepared!
Dugan: How’s the plan going?
Tall guy: Let me explain, my duke… it is a cunning, yet ingenious idea. We learned, that duke Khalagh is taking a ride with his ship every second weekend to meet his cousin. That one seems to be a sailor of some sort. What we did is simple and evil: we sabotaged the duke’s ship in a way, that it will sink after a few miles on the sea. And the best part: it will leave no traces, but the same damage, caused by old material!
Dugan: So that means, that anyone who’d inspect this, will think it was a normal and usual accident?
Tall man: That is the idea! And it will work out just fine.
Dugan: Perfect! (gives the man his hand and a bag of gold.) You have done well my friend. I owe you…
Tall man: (gets the bag.) Oh, forget it. When you rule this land, think of me…
Dugan: Of course. Your harbour and ships will be the most wanted in the whole land! Have a good day.
Tall man: Thank you, my liege. (goes away.)
Groul: After tall man is on his way Groul stands up. “Now I have every piece of information I need. Hm, bet Dugan has some more tasks for me to accomplish before I can get back to Khalagh.” Dugan has turned around watching far away in horizon where seagulls are flying over the Couvrant bay. Groul gets behind Dugan silently. Horned shadow is now casting over smaller human who soon finds out who’s behind him. “Hello there, Dugan! Do you have any plans for tonight?”
Dugan: (shrugs and turns quickly. Feels relieved, when he recognizes Groul.) Awww, it is you my friend. Pew, you got me scared! Please… try not to sneak up like this. My heart is not very young. (smiles and walks with Groul.) Well, I don’t know what you are talking about… is there anything, I can join you? In my case, I have nothing to do this night.
Groul: “To be more precisely for you: I mean, do you have some tasks for tonight? There are many red crosses over a map of this town.” Glancing at Dugan with eye on the left side of his head. “I could afford for more taking-out-mobs tasks.” Not smiling for this thought Groul goes on walking with this traitorous and greedy duke.
Dugan: Awwww, that is what you’re talking about. (shakes head and laughs.) Sorry, my mind was not here for a moment. (he was afraid, that Groul could have heard from his plans against Khalagh.) Well, right now… other friends are performing plans, to get rid of Khalagh’s men, as well. It does not mean, that I am not trusting your skills… to have many people fighting for a good cause is always best! And you don’t have to do it all alone then. But this evening… I recall of one man… an old one. He is no warrior but a friend of Khalagh. As I remember, this man was called… Mathsah. Yes, Mathsah! He is reaching the age of 100 this night… (getting closer to Groul.) You know him?
Groul: “Probably I’ve heard some rumours. This town is smaller than it use to look. Every rumour goes peer to peer. How come?”
Dugan: It is not quite a task of your map… but I just recalled this old man. It would be a grave loss for Khalagh, if Mathsah would… (speaks quiet.) die suddenly after the party. We can also set it up, like if he died of natural cause. It will be a big party and he is old… so, would you take care of him later?
Groul: “This plan includes a huge risk of being exposed. I really have to consider your task. Of course this isn’t related to my own thoughts of being afraid for such of task.” Groul grins at Dugan. “How should I get rid of his body afterwards?”
Dugan: (laughs.) Hey, this is even a part of my hideous idea! You have NOT to get rid of the body. Everyone shall see, that the party was too much for poor old Mathsah and especially Khalagh shall witness his death. I want him to be broken! Killing his men is not enough… we must get rid of beloved ones, too. Since he has no big family, we need to find targets like his friends!
Groul: “I will consider your request. So, parties are tonight but where exactly?” Slightly, Groul feels frustrated: this request is too overcoming. He should kill Mathsah not regretting it before Khalagh’s eyes. Now Groul’s head is pointing downwards. He is really regretting in advance. I really has to do something before this insomnia goes further. Dugan is really reaching an end of his sanity.
Dugan: Well, he usually celebrates his feasts in… (thinks.) yes, the “Northern Street” inn! This is a quite expensive inn… no wonder, Mathsah gets his party financed by Khalagh. You cannot miss this tavern. It is like the name says right at the end of the most northern street of this city! So… if you would excuse me, I have some work to attend to! I will not come to this celebration, of course… my hands must not be spilled with blood and guild. (smiles.) I see you tomorrow in the “Black Cat”! (goes quickly.)
Groul: “No, of course not. It is my job to do all mercenary things. Well, you gotta go on with your tasks. I will try to find this inn before the great party.” Turns around and watching a path to get back to the where he came but before he was about leave Dugan with own businesses Groul says: “Oh, if I succeed, those parties will be unforgettable!” Not smiling and more frustrated goes on with own troubled mind and way he came. Back to the “Northern Street” inn.
The day already dawned and the inn of the “Northern Street” is lighted up with many lamps. Warm light shines through the windows in every possible colour; tasty smell reaches out to the whole street seeking its way to the nostrils of the red dragon warrior. It took Groul almost all day, to reach the inn again. He was lost in own thoughts about his task and his future; but after taking a look at his filled gold bad around his belt, he pushed his troubling thoughts aside for some time. After all, this job is highly profitable.
Groul enters the inn and a wave of heat, delicious smell, laughter and singing is hitting in his face…
Groul: The inn is full of people having nice time with each other. Soon, Groul recognizes that old man called Mathsah how sitting next to his friend lord Khalagh. Decision is now to be made… Groul thinks and walks towards Khalagh, who soon finds out who has entered and coming towards him. His smile, after watching Groul’s serious face expression, dies soon from Khalagh’s lips. “I have something very important to tell you...” Groul looks deeply in lord Khalagh’s trustworthy eyes. “It’s very serious concerning about Mathsah.” Old Mathsah is now gazing at Groul with suspicion. Groul noticed it and ignores old man.
Clulak: (recognizing Groul and shouting.) Aw, big red! Good to see you here! Please, take a seat at the big table. (offers Groul a seat and after a short hesitation, Groul sits down but still looks into Khalagh’s eyes.)
Khalagh: What is the matter, my friend? You look like a bearer of terrible news…
Groul: “I found something out about duke Dugan. He is going to sabotage your ship that it would sink in the bay of Couvrant within a few miles after you leave the harbour. And next topic that will concern about your dear old friend Mathsah: Dugan will hire a mercenary in order to kill him tonight before your own eyes. And I don’t want it to happen to you”. Groul is intending not to expose his own role in this evil game. “Dugan is really after you and your closest friends. He will not stop claiming a throne of Couvrant, yours and your friends lives!”
Khalagh: (shocked.) Oh, gods… this is terrible news. Although I am very grateful for your efforts, the result is terrifying. And I wanted to visit my cousin this weekend… (holds his hand before his mouth.) I thank you with all my heart. And with this… (secretly gives Groul a box, containing jewels and gems.) you earned this and my respect a million times. You have saved my life! And about my very dear old friend Mathsah… this is even more terrible! To hire a mercenary after a helpless old man… just to hurt me! This is really the top of Dugan’s cruelty!! (slams hand on the table.) Thank you, Groul… we shall try to make preparations, in order to let this tragedy never to happen!
Mathsah: (Suddenly comes from behind and slaps Groul’s shoulder.) My, what have we here… I am most honoured to welcome a dragon as my guest this night!
Khalagh: Please, Mathsah… this is not quite a dragon but you must listen…
Mathsah: Well, I don’t mind! He looks like one. At least, from stories I have heard. (smiles warmly at Groul.) You look so… handsome and dignifying. Yes, you are a great being, without any doubt! (laughs and drinks.) Yes, I am honoured to see someone like you in my old age…
Khalagh: Mathsah, old friend… let us just go back to your rooms, shall we? I am concerned… well, it is late for you. And you shall not drink and smoke too much in your age…
Mathsah: Never tell me what to do, little boy! I reached 100 circles, by DOING much drinking and smiling. (laughs.) And right now, I want to share a moment with my guest of honour… (pulls Groul’s arms.) Come, my friend. Let us go out for a while and have a smoke!
Khalagh: No, it is… late and dangerous outside.
Mathsah: With such great warrior at my side, I am in no danger. Right, my red one? I insist you take this short leave with me. Come on… (drags Groul out of the tavern.)
Khalagh: (to Groul.) Please, take care of that stubborn fool, will ya? And don’t be out for long! Just a few minutes… it is cold.
Mathsah: (Outside the tavern, Mathsah lights his large pipe, takes a smoke and passes it to Groul, who takes it with a face of stone.) Yessss… this is good stuff. (breathes and coughs.) Guess, it was too much. (smiles.) Well, 100 years… what a time spend on this world. I suppose, your kind can reach even higher ages, huh?
Groul: Now it is good moment to play and win some time, Groul thinks while fighting within his mind against that request and bound to Dugan’s command. “Well, I can live for hundreds of years... in human life tree, I can see many generations rising, turning into dust and vanishing in to the winds of eternity. But my life crawls like a small insect becoming aware that he is cursed to be banned and ignored forever from his own kind. Sometimes I really regret my own existence.” Groul’s face almost vanishes in to a shadows. Mathsah appears to be passionate for this less succeeded being.
Mathsah: Is that so? (takes the pipe again and smokes; coughing though.) You are an incredible… being. Or may I call you man? I feel, you are meant to do more with your life… since you got so much of it left. Well, as I review my life, there are many places and people I would have wanted to visit. Though I feel, my time is coming soon… like an old Mhobatak, I go to take eternal rest. After all, death is the only adventure missing in my life. (smiles.) I am kidding… this is not my serious being. I am a quite cheerful guy. Well, have been more cheerful in my young ages, when we still had a king. (sighs.) Never mind. I guess, good Khalagh will soon rule in peace and justi… (gets shaken by coughs.) Eww… its… gggnww… (shakes and lets his pipe dropping to the ground.) I… cannot breathe…
Groul: Mathsah has now fallen on to his knees coughing not able to breathe. Groul’s mission seems to having an end but how it came this way? He yells loudly: “Khalagh, anyone who hears, help! It is old Mathsah! HE CANNOT BREATHE! HELP!” Mathsah lying on the ground, silenced, not coughing or either breathing anymore.
Mathsah: (Gets struck by twitches as he crawls on the ground.) Hhgrnnn… you see… this… smoke… age… old… (one final breath.) our all fate……. (dies in Groul’s arms, as he lifts him up. Groul watches him; irritated and with mixed feelings. Mathsah is finally being carried back inside the tavern.)
Khalagh: (recognizes Groul carrying the body of Mathsah.) Oh, no… is it true… what happened… did… where you attacked?
Groul: With most serious expression he carries body of Mathsah and lets his body down on the huge table before Khalagh. “He died naturally, there wasn’t a way I could help him anymore when he fell on to ground. You have my passion. I thought he was wise man, he truly was.”
Khalagh: Yes, he was… (softly touches the face of his old friend. A tear leaves his eye. The tavern is already quiet and nobody laughs or sings anymore.) Farewell, my old stubborn friend. The god of death finally found you, in the end. Visit your ancestors and greet them from me. You have earned yourself a seat at the side of the holy saints. Be well… dear Mathsah. (cries. Then he turns back to Groul.) You see, sometimes we struggle against something, we cannot change. We fight, and lose anyway… but at least, we fight! Whatever is troubling your soul, my friend, never give up. You have proven yourself again, even if nobody could have saved Mathsah. (turns away.) I have to go… I cannot stay here. Please, excuse me… I… I will see you in the next days. I have to prepare the funeral…
Clulak: (to Groul.) Aw, big red… that is a tragedy. And it was supposed to be such a great evening. Sorry, to have you dragged into this. Well, your room is still yours for the whole month and after I saw how the duke is treating you… I guess, this house will be yours for even longer! (weak smiles.) This is life, yes… since we are all mortals. I better… cancel the celebration. (goes and begs the people to leave. Then he cleans the room. Shouts to Groul across the room.) There is still a big piece of that ox above the fire over there, if you are hungry…
Groul: “Guess, I’m not hungry anymore. (he actually is but doesn’t want to bother Clulak). I’ll be in my room till tomorrow, so I hope none bothers me for this night. Can you take care of that?” Clulak nods for agreement. “Good.” Groul leaves bright dining room and goes upstairs where can find his own room. Groul sits on the bed and eats baggage contents; juicy steaks and bread and finish his meal with great gulp from his bottle he carried attached to his loincloth. “Ah, at least I shall take this unfortunate event as a part of my accomplishment.” Groul sighs deeply.
After a few restless moments, Groul still sits on his bed and stares outside the window. There is no noise. No animal, no man is causing any sound. No sound of life, no sign of life. Just death and loneliness. Groul sighs. It was a quite well situation for him; his target Mathsah is dead and he did not even had to kill him. The objective was matched and he still has a good conscience. But does he really?
Groul looks out and thinks about the day and his future again, as something small is hissing through his door; a letter is put through under his door. Groul gets up, takes the letter with some curiosity and opens it. It is a letter from Dugan… marvellous, how quickly news in this city are being brought to other ears, Groul thinks. Then, he begins to read the letter:
Letter from Dugan
“To the red dragon warrior, known as Groul!
My other friends just let me know, that you successfully accomplished your latest task. I am very proud of you and double your prize. Frankly, I was not really believing that you could be such a cunning and senseless monster. No offence! I guess, we really share the same spirit and mind. I am happy, to know you. Now, we will strike even harder and more! There are many more targets to wipe out from this city and you will be my reaper!
I see you tomorrow in the “Black Cat”, as usual.
Success and power!”
Duke Dugan of Gladstone
Groul rips the letter into pieces and burns it over a candle. Nobody shall ever read this. But his feelings did not change after this. Like the flame of the candle destroyed the letter, so died a part of Groul’s soul. Soon, he falls into a dreamless sleep. What am I doing here, he thinks all the time…
Time goes by… days and weeks pass. Two months in Groul’s life spend in Couvrant. He saw many new people, met new people and most of all killed many people. For the past time, he did his mercenary job for both dukes. All the time, Groul fought with his own demons to get out of this pool of sins. Every night in his bed, he thinks about this and strongly considers to quit it all… but with the dawning of each new day, and with the look inside his gold bag, he knows that he will never get out of here. Long ago, he accepted his greed for gold and jewels. And he needs a place to live. In this town, he is accepted, loved and feared. What else could he desire more? Maybe the end of all these killings, he thinks every breaking day. But it is not that simple and Groul slowly faces the truth: he has either to break the chains, which are holding him, or he will continue this mercenary and ruthless live. Passion, mercy and love are no longer words known to him. His only drive is to keep his money bag and belly filled and that is all. At least, it has been this way for the last two months…
Once again, Groul takes a walk to his designated places: the two taverns. Two months ago, he would had to ask any person how to reach the taverns; right now, this way is all too familiar. The tavern “Black Cat”, where duke Dugan resides, is always his first objective. He gets new missions from the duke each evening… crucial to the duke, but painful for Groul. Too long, he had to kill people in the name of the duke. And what did he gain? Just gold… and maybe, some respect. Respect? No… fear is more like it. And Groul is tired of this situation.
The second tavern right after this meeting is the “Northern Street” Groul’s sleeping place, as well. This is where duke Khalagh resides. A man, with higher principles and less ruthless than Dugan; but both are cruel in their own way. Dugan wants Groul to eliminate Khalagh’s men Khalagh on the other hand wants Groul to spy on Dugan and to sabotage some of Dugan’s plots. Groul destroyed the one or other carriage or ship of Dugan, just to please Khalagh.
And this has to end, as well.
Groul’s time to choose has come! Each duke got closer to the desired goal: the throne of Couvrant! But both men have one final mission for Groul to perform…
Dugan: (sitting in his typical corner of the tavern, as Groul enters. He salutes the dragon warrior and begs him to sit down.) Alright, let me come to the point quickly and painless: my grasp and hold over this city is almost complete! Only a few more days, and I shall claim the throne!! Khalagh did much bad to me… I guess, even he hired some saboteurs and spies on me! But never mind, he got the worse part. He has almost no men left… and today, I want you to do your final task for me… (gets close to Groul.) Kill his cousin! The man, who delivers jewels and gems to Khalagh… this is his only source of wealth. I want you to get rid of this cousin… and in the same time, we will have crippled Khalagh in a very personal way!
Groul: “Hm, you are getting more in to that throne task by task you’ve given to me...” Shakes his head as the older memories roams over in his head, as a matter of fact for his accomplishments. “Are you definitely sure and you’ve no more particular instructions to get him out of your way? No way I want to be rude, furthermore I’m interested in your own personal plan afterwards I’m done with your tasks...” Talking barely aloud. “I will do it!”
Dugan: Excellent! You are my warrior dragon! (slave more like it, he thinks.) I bet, you have found out by now where Khalagh resides... try to wait for a perfect moment. Maybe, you try to kill him during the night... or when he is alone somewhere. I don't know, be creative. But furthermore: I want that he KNOWS who frames him in the end. Tell him, that you are hired by ME! And then kill him... that will make him unhappy even in the afterlife. (laughs.) Good, here are last instructions (gives Groul a piece of paper.), and now go. Do this for me and you will never be hungry or alone again!
Groul: “I will read this later, maybe”. Dugan is so selfish and deserves no honour as he isn’t king, just a poor man with stuffed in dreams to become a king... childish little boy, Groul thinks as he lets him to be alone once again and walks away without looking back anymore. “Huh, fortunately alone again. Ah, I have to help Khalagh somehow, but how? Now that greedy bastard wants me to expose myself for him.” After walking away from “Black Cat’s” tavern, Groul faces familiar looking place where he has been residing and received countless tasks from other mercenary “Northern street’s” inn.
Khalagh: (watches Groul coming inside.) Hello, my dear friend. Are you ready for a final mission, like I promises? (Groul nods and sits down.) Alright, here it is... usually, I was ordering you to spy on my "friend" Dugan. Well, not any more! You know, I won't ever propose you to kill him... (talks quiet.) But... he has got a wife. And it would be very... unfortunate, if something would happen to her. You know, his bloodline would end there! And I suppose, he won't take another woman for wife in the next years, maybe for the rest of his life. To make it quick: I want you to kill his wife!
Groul: “ARE you in.... ahem... must admit that i am getting a bit nervous...” Scratches his chin. Groul is getting more unaware of this man moment by moment. His seriously out of his mind despite what he had been for long time, ever since they met. “Okay, I’m ready to do it. But anyway, lemme ask you what you’re going to do after I’ve killed her? Wouldn’t it be good option to take out duke himself?” Muffled voice comes out Groul’s mouth. “Am... sorry, for impropriate questions. Where could I be able find her?”
Khalagh: Well... (thinks himself.) aww, right! Usually, she would resign in his stronghold. But most of the time, she is walking in the great park of this city. Okay, this is not good... there are many people who could watch you. And she is not going out at night. Hmm... she also comes here from time to time... not good, either. Aww, I got it! (slams hand on table.) The lake "Prosper"! She has a small boat and loves to drive on that lake very often. Here... (gives Groul a map.) you can find the lake here... (points at a blue spot.) You see this lake? I bet you have been there before... it is nice for swimming.
Groul: “So, I should dive under her boat, shed it backwards and finally drown her? Looking more uneasy because of his task.”
Khalagh: This is even better, then I thought! Yes, you can do it like this. (rubs his hands.) Ow, how great. I mean.. pity for that woman, but sacrifices have to be made in times like this, right? Okay, I suppose you shall leave now. I have important stuff to do... I see you tomorrow evening!
Groul takes the map from duke Khalagh and turns without a word. He stomps out of the tavern and is quite happy to breathe fresh air again. He never liked the duke’s smoking pipe, after all. Groul takes a look on his paper sheets... his new and final targets. But is it just a target? These are no longer crosses on a piece of paper - these are humans. Lives! And he was asked one more time to eradicate two more lives? Yes, he was ordered to do so. No, he was even paid to do so! But Groul does not want to, anymore.
A few hours later, he arrives at the harbour, where Khalagh’s cousin was supposed to be. The dragon warrior can see the man standing on his ship. The man does not know or fear anything. And he has no idea of Groul, or the plans of the duke. Most likely, nobody of Groul’s victims knew anything of the dukes plans. It was a trap all along. Groul was used and abused... a slave to each duke. He has sworn never to become a slave again, since the dragons created, abused and finally put him into exile. His services were no longer needed. He was obsolete.
In the service of the dukes, Groul felt needed. Even liked. But he was not accepted... he never has been loved! He was just another tool - a puppet on strings in a game he never understood!
Groul curses himself for being this blind and greedy. He slain many innocent. Too many! It has to stop... and it will stop this very day!
Groul left the harbour, but not without leaving a small letter for the cousin to be found.
Cousin Ghalar: (finding the letter, where his name is written on.) Well, what is that... (reads.) So, it is a letter to my cousin Khalagh! Hmmmmm... he shall meet with Groul at the huge windmill at suns dawn. Aw, it says something about... the job has been finished?! Well, dunno what this can be! (puts the letter in his pocket.) Alright, my cousin will get this letter when he comes in a few hours to get some new gems. (whistling.)
He will never know, that Groul spared his life today.
Groul walks over the streets and the park and reaches the great lake of the city. It is quite a nice place... the water is crystal clear and many boats are sailing on this surface of the water. But there are only a few women on the lake; most of them are sitting at the shore and enjoying the sun. Then, Groul recognizes a boat with a pretty lady. He reads from the paper, which duke Khalagh gave him. The description of Dugan’s wife!
And there she was... young, ebony hair, slim and beautiful. She looked like innocence in person, and this is what she was. Groul is checking his description again... this had to be her!
But he already threw the plan to assassinate her away. Instead of killing, he begins to write again. He writes a small letter, and after he finished, he takes a boat himself and sails to her. While she is playing with her hair, Groul closes very quickly and before she can recognize or ask him anything, he talks to her.
Groul: Excuse me, fine lady. Here is a letter for your husband duke Dugan! It was given to me and I had to swear, that I would give it to you here. I heard, you are sailing on this lake sometimes... that’s why I was looking for you here. Please, I am in quite a hurry... take this letter to your husband, will you? My best wishes! (he sails back the shore, jumps out and vanishes in the woods.)
Adley (wife of Dugan): What... this has been a very strange... one. Was it... a dragon man? (opens the letter.) Hmmm... oh, this is indeed for my husband. It says, Dugan shall meet at the huge windmill at suns dawn. So... and... there is something about a finished quest? Well, alright... Dugan will know what this can be. I suppose, it is one of his „secret stuff“ again. This man will never change! (she hides the letter in her dress, sings to the air and closes her eyes. )
She will never know, that Groul spared her life today.
With quite a good feeling and a funny tune on his mouth, Groul walks along the streets of the city. It is late already. He did not kill anyone - except his the dukes plans! He will not kill any innocent person again. While he takes a walk, many people cross his way. They seem to be frightened and nervous.
Passing man: They are coming... I have heard it!
Passing man: The ICHIAK! They will attack this city...
Groul: (looks around.) I was not aware of that and... I highly doubt it, anyway. Get out of my way! (breaks through the man and the small group, which he has gathered around himself.)
Passing man: We all gonna die... who will protect us?
Groul does not care. After some hours, he eventually reaches the windmill, where he has send the two dukes to meet with him. The day has begun to dawn again; the sun has the shape of a vibrating all of red light - like blood. Far behind the northern mountains, the red bowl is sinking down. Groul enters the windmill and is not very surprised, as he faces Dugan and Khalagh standing in front of each other and staring at him, as he enters.
Groul: I am glad you arrived. Both of you.
Khalagh: Groul, I must protest! This meeting is a farce and outrageous, too!
Dugan: Groul, what the heck is going on here? Why did you want me to come here and most of all... why is this man (pointing at Khalagh.) here, as well? My wife gave me a letter, that you wanted to meet me here... alone!
Khalagh: Your... wife...? (turns to Groul.) And you wanted him to do WHAT? So, now I understand... (evil look in his eyes.) You traitor! You used all the information and time spying on Dugan against me in the end? You... (bites his tongue.) You serve Dugan now? And I trusted you!!
Dugan: On this, I agree to Khalagh. I trusted you, as well! Why did you fool me? Didn’t I pay you enough gold? This is it... you want more, right? Or did you want to kill Khalagh right here as well, so I can see it?
Groul: I did not kill anybody. And I won’t.
Khalagh: (to Dugan again. Both men are now raising fists.) Groul is no good at all. I should have ordered him to kill YOU, when I had the chance... and when he was NOT out of his mind!
Dugan: And just today, news have reached my ear that a grand army of ICHIAK has reached our borders. And I wanted you (to Groul again.) to prove your worth as warrior by fighting against the Ichiak for me... but now, you became crazy. Dragons cannot be trusted!
Khalagh: Yes, Groul... you must have turned completely insane by now. It is either the much amount of vine you’ve consumed in my tavern, or it is...
Groul: SILENCE!!! (his hard and feral voice immediately seizes the talk between the men.)
Dugan and Khalagh: (slowly.) What... do you want?
Groul: ȁI don’t care about your goals anymore. This time, I won’t be any of your slave anymore! It is over from now on. You seem no respecting for other people surrounding you, only blindly looking forward for throne of Couvrant, where sanity will drain out from both of you - I will not let this happen!” Points at both dukes with his index finger in order to give weight for his own words. “I am the one who should bring order in this chaos! But, nevertheless, it’s obviously true that I have to concentrate on more important task like SAVING this city! What both you are going to say to compete against me?”
Dugan and Khalagh: (thinking long. Silence.) Well…
Dugan: I should… no… (knows, that his men are no match for Groul.)
Khalagh: You crippled us both… weakened our force. We cannot stand against you… we shall give it up to you…
Groul: (to Dugan and Khalagh with his arms crossed in front of his chest.) So, Gentlemen... what’s gonna be then?
Dugan: (watches at Khalagh and Groul. In his eyes is pure hatred.)
Khalagh: (cannot take his eyes from Groul, either.)
Suddenly, Dugan and Khalagh are screaming. They jump against Groul with a sudden move - trying to get him and to constrain him with united strength. While Khalagh seems eager to hold Groul’s legs, Dugan is attempting to ram his recently exposed dagger into Groul’s chest - but both men fail in their attempt, since Groul just grabs each of them with one hand and lifting them up into the air. By holding them at their chests, they quickly stop their attack; Dugan’s dagger dives to the ground - unused and uncovered with Groul’s blood. Khalagh gasps, and Groul is loosen his grip a little bit. Soon, both men understand that they are lost...
Groul: Fools. So, will you listen to me now? You can either die here... right here in this damn windmill. Or you die later by Ichiak claws, I don’t care... personally, I’d get quite a deal of satisfaction from your deaths...
Dugan: (cries.) Please, no... mercy...
Groul: (shouts.) I don’t know mercy. Neither one of you teach me this... but you teach me one thing well: one can live quite well with lies and corruption. (he lowers the men to the ground. Both cough and breath hard.)
Khalagh: (gasps.) Alright... what do you really want?
Groul: I think, I have made myself clear, didn’t I? Make me the new lord of Couvrant! Give me command over your troops... and I shall save this city, this land and your miserable lives, as well!
Dugan: (to Khalagh.) We... like I said... we both played our game against each other so well, that neither one of us has the ability or the men left to stand against the Ichiak... and Groul! (points at the dragon warrior.)
Khalagh: Maybe, with combining our forces, we can make Groul to leave this land...
Groul: Sure, go on. I cannot defeat your whole army, that is correct. And if I kill you now, suspicious questions will be asked... to me! And I might not be able to convince your troops, that I did not kill you. I would have to escape... but then, the Ichiak will destroy this land!
Dugan: Yes... we both weakened our troops with your help, that there is no more defence against the Ichiak army. But... (to Khalagh.) would it not be the lesser pain, to live with Groul... and to have him fight the Ichiak?
Khalagh: (nods.) Groul... I would hold you to your word personally! If we make you our new lord... would you... prevent this army from ever reaching Couvrant?
Groul: I cannot promise that...
Dugan: I knew!!!
Groul: (fast.) But I will fight them. And I will not lose! I will fight... for my new home. My land! My people... (thinks.) While I was doing your filthy jobs, I got to know many people of this city very well. I made some friends, you aren’t even aware of! They will accept me as their new lord... and I will gain my honour and trust from them, by defeating this Ichiak threat!! (clenches his fist.)
Dugan: Please, I need to talk with Khalagh in private... may I?
Groul: (nods and walks out of the windmill.)
Khalagh: (to Dugan.) If we would have combined our forces earlier than fighting each other, we wouldn’t had to take Groul’s services, in the first place!!
Dugan: Yes. But the deed is done... we can now hope and try to prevent the worst.
Khalagh: Would... taking Groul as our new lord be worse than the possible death by the Ichiak army?
Dugan: You are kidding, aren’t you? Of course NOT! I don’t want to admit it by now... but I see no other choice, but to make this dragon our new lord. And maybe... he will be still of use to us, later. He served us good once, he will do it again!
Khalagh: I don’t think, we can fool him again... or use him to our purpose.
Dugan: Don’t be so close minded! Don’t you see it? By making him our lord, he serves US! Alright, we will have to bow to him a few times... but our time will come again. The people of Couvrant won’t accept this stranger for long. Believe me... he will be nice and new to the people. A „fresh“ idea... a „gag“. But after some time, they will wish his disposal. He will be relieved from his duty as lord... and somebody else - a human - will take his place then!
Khalagh: (thinks.) And who will it be then...? (loud again.) Good. I see no other way, either. We shall... propose Groul to the politicians. This is why he wants us to be his servants, after all. Groul is not familiar with our society and political system... we will have to corrupt many people, to make him our lord.
Dugan: His - hopefully - success over the Ichiak army will do that for us! People will love him for that... but you are right: we know our system and its gaps. Groul does not! Yes, he will be our lord, but in the end... WE will keep the strings. (gets out of the windmill. Khalagh follows.)
Dugan: I agree to your terms.
Khalagh: I agree to your terms.
Groul: Excellent! Then let us leave this forsaken windmill and get me my army!!
With a huge fight ahead, Groul’s blood pressure begins to rise. The eagerness for blood and war drives him almost wild, as the three of them walk back to the capitol of Couvrant. Soon, they enter the great majors hall of the city. Dugan and Khalagh once again prove their skills on corruption and deception; with incredible cunning, they propose Groul to be the one and only choice for the throne of Couvrant. Words are being exchanged - gold and jewels, as well. After one night of debating, the head of staff calls out for a meeting. Groul is officially named to be the new lord of Couvrant - with all titles and responsibilities. At the same time, news about the Ichiak army reaches the hall and the ears of the new lord. The people are watching him, as Groul climbs on the throne and spreads out his arms.
Groul: People of Couvrant, you shall not worry! I will assemble all troops of this land shortly and I will lead them against the enemy. I... we will crush the enemy and defeat the Ichiak in this region once and for all!
Messenger: They are here... the Ichiak army has breached the border perimeter! If we don’t act now, we are lost!!
Groul dives from the throne and walks into the armoury to get himself armour and weapons. Then, he leaves the hall and heads for the military complex. In a matter of one hour, he gathers all troops of this city. Many more men are already waiting at the borders. Finally, Groul has arrived the battlefield with a huge army... he indeed has been able to gather quite a force. Now, he stands tall and invincible at the front of his warriors. They’re all watching at a reddish cloud in the distance: the Ichiak are coming!
Groul: It has begun...
After a few minutes, Groul reaches the battlefield.
It is a vast meadow, right behind the capitol of Couvrant… all people have left the city and smaller towns by now. Groul stomps towards his men… a huge, but very intimidated army. He shall show them respect and glory for a new fight! One man walks in Groul’s direction.
General Madhine: Greetings, Milord. I am Clavius Madhine, General of this army… we are all forces left to protect Couvrant. I know, it is not much but we will give our best to serve you and to save our land!
Groul: Greetings, General Clavius Madhine! (Salutes general with precise hand movement.) I trust you’ve gathered your army all along the way to this great battle. Because this is the only chance we have, in order to defeat those flying horrors. (cannot help smiling at those less intelligent creatures: no Ichiak beats a dragon even a were one.) You have planned our tactical movements against the Ichiak?
General Madhine: Well, sorta… (shows Groul a map on a table near to them.) You see this here? (points at a few marbles.) This is us… our men. And… (points at a great wooden block, covering all the upper side of the map.) this is the enemy force! Yes… (sighs.) it is quite huge… but… we shall prevail with you at our side. (does not sound very comforting.) So much about our tactics? Well… we have no certain idea, how to confront the enemy. We thought about a sudden strike, or “fight and retreat”. After all, we have the city as main defence perimeter. It can give us cover, but… I guess, this won’t help. The enemy is too strong. And I doubt, we can just run into them…
Groul: Guess, it is the only thing we can do now. I have no doubt that there will be losses on either sides anyway! But order has to prevail in our troops during the battle, because in case it doesn’t, we’ll be lost forever. (Groul is slowly reaching his top blood pressure. Soon he will fight like a beast.) Nevertheless, we don’t have much time to loose. Ichiak are on the move!
And Groul was more right, then would admit in the first place: suddenly, the darkness of the night got even darker. Where once was a meadow, lightened by the moonlights at least a little bit, is now darkness and reddish mass. The Ichiak force is moving on and passes the border. The flying ones are covering the moons; the walking ones are covering the grass. No light reaches the battlefield anymore, as the huge mass of flesh, claws, fangs, wings and fire is roaming over the place.
Groul’s men light some torches. Groul braces himself for the great battle most likely his greatest! General Madhine wants to propose some more strategy tactics, but Groul cannot be hold tight anymore it is time to unleash the beast!
With an incredible war cry, Groul begins to run and dashes against the Ichiak army! Like a red berserker, he jumps into a mass of reddish flesh and scales… and the only sounds which are reaching his men, are sounds of slaughter and pain. The Ichiak scream, bones crush, limbs are getting cut off and blood flows in rivers!
This is the moment, when Madhine gives the rest of his men the signal for sudden strike, as well. The Ichiak never thought of this move so, the army of Couvrant has one advantage. But will this advantage turn out for good in the end?
Groul had a chance for a while to unleash the true beast mayhem deep within. A great sized Ichiak warrior faces it’s own doom when Groul slashes its head off with great bastard sword holding. Another Ichiak comes behind meanwhile Groul was about to ahead for next opponent. The Ichiak rams against Groul’s back with all remaining power that the creature is able to generate; it has the clear intention to scatter him down! But Groul - being far more fierce - punches the Ichiak’s face so hard with a tilt of his sword, that the sound of crushing bones could have been heard over a long distance. Another Ichiak dies after another. There’s obviously light in the end of war. Sun rises from a horizon. We’ll have our VICTORY, Groul yell’s to the remaining troops.
The fight takes on with relentless force. Soon, it’s reaching it’s climax, as the general is been caught by one Ichiak, who is taller than anyone else. It must be some leader figure, and it is grabbing the general with one hand. As the man is being lift up, he gasps and loses his sword. Just in the moment, as the Ichiak attempts to rip the man’s head off, a stunning and sharp pain pins his chest the edge of a large sword is sticking out of his chest. Groul is standing behind the leader Ichiak and got him pierced through with his blade. But suddenly, the Ichiak turns and attacks Groul. The dragon warrior dodges the attack; the general falls to the ground and is free, at last. The leader Ichiak describes a circle with his own weapon, as Groul strafes aside, jumps over the huge monster and cuts it’s head off with one swift string. The Ichiak body falls down, with no sound. Groul watches the general and as he nods, both know that everything is alright so far. Both are screaming out loud and run into the battle again.
The battle moves on and surprisingly with Groul’s “hot shot” like fighting the army of Couvrant prevails so far. The mass of Ichiak enemies is breaking apart; the Ichiak are no longer a whole force, but only scattered and single warriors easily defeated. The army of Couvrant is still holding together and together, they all hunt the enemy forces down relentlessly and with less losses, than expected.
Finally, Groul’s sword finishes the life of another Ichiak, as there are almost no more Ichiak left. The men fought bravely. Many died in the battle, but even more survived and prevailed!
Groul and the general Madhine are standing next to each other and look over the battlefield.
General Madhine: (breathes hard. He got a bloody scar above his right eye. But his opponents lost their lives.) I… to be honest… I never expected us to win. (to Groul.) You are a great leader, if I may say so… you seem to have been BORN to fight and to lead a war! (holds Groul’s hand with a tight grip.) It was an honour fighting with you… for you! And I will always be at your service, Milord. (kneels.) Hands forth, you shall be known as the saviour of Couvrant: the “Crimson Blaze”! This is a title, which has been given to great heroes in our history of war!
Groul: (Tries to catch his breath; his heart is pounding so hard as if it would penetrate his chest if couldn’t concentrate on keeping it steady.) It has been a great battle with your cooperation. Unless we wouldn’t have kept our front line pushing against our enemies, we could have been defeated one by one and after that whole town of Couvrant could be devoured till the last man. Those of us who fell dead on to blood stained ground we praise their presence in this great moment of victory and shall bury them after news of our victory has travelled along. Thus I have spoken. HAIL VICTORY AND REMAINING HEROES!
General Madhine: Indeed, well spoken! You did a great job as leader today… my experience would not have been sufficient this time. But with your skills and bloodlust, pardon me the word, it was an easy victory! (salutes Groul again.) Please, take the gratitude of Couvrant! Come… let us return to the main hall.
In the late evening, the most important delegates from the army are reaching the main hall. Groul, the general and many captains enter the hall and salute to Dugan and Khalagh, who are waiting for them.
Dugan: Well done, Red.
Khalagh: Yes, indeed! You made it… you saved us. You… did accordingly to your title. The gods bless you.
Dugan: (takes a crown and offers Groul the throne in the hall.) Here he is… the saviour or Couvrant.
Khalagh: (as Groul sits on the throne, he and Dugan place the crown on his red head.) Hail to the NEW LORD of Couvrant!!!
All people hail and celebrate. Groul smiles warmly and proud. This is his new life! A new time has begun, a new legend was born.
But deep behind him n a dark corner, two greedy dukes are smiling with hidden thoughts and evil plans in their minds…