(this is very important fragment of the past, an event that led Ryon to what he became. In our tabletop RPG game he was the main mentor and quest giver (dungeon master). This story is an introduction and also explanation to the chronicle of the party)


Only a grain of sand


Fair haired elf with a bit neglected appearance poured wine into two ceramic goblets. Then he raised one for a toast.

The other, grey-haired and more refined, grasped his goblet.

"Good to see you again, Elberin."

He reached his other hand to the sliced cheese and smoked meat on the cutting board.

"Me too, Ryon. Forty years… is a long time. Even for us," he stated and also served himself some of the treats he was preparing for his guest.

They fell silent for a moment. Ryon smiled bitterly. After such a long time, it was sometimes difficult to start a conversation.

Elberin looked around the interior of his shop. Ryon followed his look.

"I see you've expanded the range of merchandise." He pointed to perfumes, mechanical toys and gadgets on display.

"Candles are still the best sellers. This is more like my hobby."

After a few sips and morsels, the crust of forced politeness melted away and the conversation gradually became natural and sincere. The two old friends ate, drank and discussed the events of the past for some time.

However, Ryon still had an unspoken question written in his piercing eyes. Elberin deliberately ignored it, so Ryon had to say it out loud.

"Why did you leave?"

A shadow passed over Elberin's face as he finally understood.

„Fuigond has changed. It has changed a lot. I've been here for seven winters. "

"What has changed there?"

"It wasn't safe there anymore. An elf can no longer trust to an elf.'

Ryon shook his head. But then he added: "That calmed me down. For a while I thought you had become an outcast too…"

"There is not much to be calm about. But you're kind of right."

Elberin refilled the wine. As he sipped from his goblet, the mention of banishment kept running through his mind.

"It's good that the thing didn't affect you in the end. Well, except for the hair. But it must have been terrible. Ryon Maelrin…"

Ryon leapt out of his chair in an instant and nearly turned over the table. Incredibly quickly his face turned red with anger. He grabbed the knife that was lying by the board with the cheese and stabbed it into the table just in front of Elberin.

Elberin turned ashen in the face, but before he could react in any way, Ryon spoke, pronouncing each word with particular emphasis:

"Do. Not. Pronounce. This. Name. Anymore."

He glared at Elberin, then tried to pull out the knife stuck deep in the solid table. He succeeded only for the third time.

Meanwhile, his anger ceased and he apologized, „Forgive me. I swore to myself that I would kill anyone who would say this again.''

Elberin finally recovered. "Take it easy, it won't be so bad. You know that many of us stood by you.'

Ryon looked at him gratefully.

He remembered the event in every tiny detail. The past few days flashed back before his eyes, as if he were reliving it all over again.       


"Rascals!" The innkeeper's shout echoed off the leafy forest wall. However, the three running youths were already out of reach of his words and staff. They stopped only when they were completely out of breath.

"You have such silly ideas, Ryon," fair-haired Namrathil chided his friend. But they were just empty words, his voice was brimming with amusement.

„’t was good, huh? Only... only that we can't enter the White Tree for some time...' laughed Ryon between gasps, strands of black hair flying around his face. He put an arm around his friend's shoulders. Not without difficulties, he himself was half a head smaller.

"Those jokes of you... You're acting like we're… thirty,“ puffed Aragil, smallest and brown-haired. As always, he was somewhat in control of his emotions, but his eyes were laughing. Each of the trio was now in their fifties and had been already adult elves for a few years. This age has long waved off the follies of youth, but still hasn't lost a pinch of enthusiasm and energy.

"Did you see the innkeeper's face? It was worth it after all,“ Namrathil defended Ryon. Aragil had to testify. When the exclusive wine is called "Blood of Hawks", it was only a matter of time before one of them thought of mangling the name. After all, it was offering itself. Soon, the chalk writing on the barrel changed with Ryon's spell.

"Blood of Gawks, I'll remember that for a long time." Namrathil still couldn't stop his laughter.

Although the young elves had drunk their wines shamelessly, they did not stagger. They knew exactly their measure. Together they aimed for home. However, a decent half-hour of walk awaited them.

The friends walked between houses with ornate arches, overgrown braids of ivy and clematis that no one had to cut. It grew on its own, not shading windows or obstructing them. The houses were quite far apart. Despite this sparse population at first glance, Fuigond was one of the larger settlements of the forest empire.

The elves, who founded the city many hundreds of years ago on the edge of the Enigmagic forest, still made up the vast majority of the population. However, the picturesqueness of the elven construction also enchanted some of the inhabitants of the neighboring kingdoms. The few men and hobbits immigrating especially from the nearest kingdom of Thornal sometimes said that the dwellings looked as natural among the trees as if they had grown in place by themselves. They had no idea how close they were to the truth, especially in the case of beams and wooden parts.

Here was beginning the north-south diamond trade route, and thus it was possible to have five inns, three blacksmith workshops and several master jewelers. Also the local weaving manufactory employed dozens of people. In addition, however, it also boasted a wizards guild and a library. Fuigond (Hidden Rock in the elvish tongue) was located in the southwestern part of the Enigmagic forest, which was the closest to the human and dwarven kingdoms. The forest continued to stretch for dozens of miles to the north and east. Elven settlements in that direction gradually thinned out as the landscape turned into complete wilderness.

It was at the library that Aragil separated from the group. The wizard apprentice Ryon said goodbye a little further away. As the son of one of the Elders, Namrathil had to walk all the way to the magnificent mansion on the high rock after which the city was named.

"And say hello to your cousin," hummed Ryon after saying goodbye.

"I will, Calnariel will be pleased," Namrathil smiled. "But you wouldn't pass greetings to her in front of Aragil, would you?", he poked his friend. Ryon growled something at him, but then just waved his hand. Everyone liked Calnariel.


The next morning found Ryon as traditionally engrossed in the scrolls.

He looked up from the text. Telling spell, again. So tedious and ineffective. Why remained so few incantation spells? The power of words is undeniable, but an incantation, where telling is coupled with melody, has a significantly greater effect. If we don't count simple analogous magic, when, for example, fire could be created with the help of a cinder from a fireplace. This almost shamanic way sometimes surprised with the range of possibilities and the effect achieved. However, all the mentioned magical disciplines were only a weak concoction compared to the ancient elven songs, the echoes of the creators' singing.

 Ryon had no choice but to read the scroll several times as usual and find any mistakes. That was now his and the others' task.

Elven spells have been gradually weakening for years. Centuries ago, almost every elf could intuitively cast spells. Today, only select individuals could strive to reach at least a partial level of their ancestors. The cause was not revealed even in the long century when the problem was discovered. Many wise minds have been hard at work on the solution. In the end, it was decided that new spells needed to be found to replace the old ones. The elven race, living relatively isolated until then, had to take over human magic willy-nilly. 

"Don't gaze into it like that, or those letters will fade out," a cheerful voice interrupted the young wizard from his thoughts. Endroth, the oldest of the apprentices, slapped him on the shoulder. Ryon returned the friendly nudge. "Says the one who nearly burned down the entire guild."

"So, has the beauty already accepted invitation to a date with you?" Endroth didn't react to Ryon’s previous poke.

"Soon," said Ryon, turning back to the scroll.

Taking over the original human magic was not at all a simple matter. Although the sages had at their disposal detailed magic tomes, they first had to understand and learn the basics of human magical power. It functioned completely differently than the elf magic, that  was based on the ability to naturally connect to the omnipresent magical field and used to spring from practically every elf. The main snag was that human magic required years of training.

Elven mages were at first unable to accept the human view of magic. He was often without elegance, so commonly… practical. However, there was no disputing that it was damn effective. And that was the point now. The most capable magicians of the human race were able to cast spells without words in certain cases, so powerful and trained were their minds. And the elven wizards immensely envied them such ability.

The goddess Niram, one of the Twelve overseeing the world of Nyatar, was of no help to them in the situation. Although she was rightly called the Guardian of Dreams and Wisdom, she could never be directly communicated with. Direct manifestations of the protective power of the blue star dedicated to her were becoming less frequent.

Elven masters at first used human spells strictly by the books. However, it soon became clear that the best results are achieved by synthesizing both foundations - by concentrating the will and at the same time unleashing elven spontaneity.

Ryon remembered a passage from a famous human mage's book that made him understand a lot more about magic:

„Magic is like the wind. You can't see it, yet you can feel it on your face. It is like sand. Even though it is dry and lifeless, there is water hidden in it, and seed grows into a plant. It is like the gray surface of a cold, rippling sea that you observe from the shore and have no idea how many unknown things are hidden in it...“ Yes, the more they delved into magic, the more mysterious it became to them. Seemingly simple things hid unexpected and much deeper connections. Even so, the effort brought results, but only as many usable new spells could be derived in that time as he could count on the fingers of his hand. Not that they took over a few, but only about one in ten were safe and usable by anyone at any time.

The basic premise was balance. The energy consumed by the spell had to be borrowed from somewhere. The first task for apprentice wizards was to learn not to let the spell drain all the energy from their bodies. The most common redirection of energy for magic was from the heat of the surrounding environment. People around wizards usually got chills down their spine. Few people realized that it was not because of fear, but a real drop of temperature. Therefore, magicians usually wore flowing robes with several layers of warm clothing underneath. With experience and in conjunction with analogous magic, magicians gained the ability to draw energy from a longer distance (for example, after casting a fireball, a small snow cloud formed somewhere in the sky). However, true masters have learned to draw energy even from other spheres. Another option was to use items that allowed you to accumulate magical power and then draw from it as a reservoir. Crystals were usually used for this, as they could store an enormous amount of magic energy in small volume. There was an impure path too: to drain power from other living beings. The so-called red magic or blood magic was banned and punishable by death in all known realms.


Ryon read to the end and smiled. The spell seemed without any problem. It had already been checked by everyone, including the master. Now it was time to finally try it.

As he uttered the last syllable of the incantation, a black vortex swirled before his eyes.

The world stopped .....  darkness ..... which ..... gradually ... fades ... and ... into .. eyes .. suddenly .. stabs .. piercing bright blue and the body begins flood the feeling of accelerated flowofredhotbloodinthechest!


Everything around is so slow.


Sitting next to him, Endroth turned his head at a snail's pace and his eyes met Ryon's. He began to slowly close his eyes.


He opened them again.


He winked, Ryon realized. Indeed, my perception is accelerated. So let's try if the body is too. He got up as calmly as possible, took a few steps towards the door, then turned slowly and went back to the other side, to the window. Then he sped up a bit and trotted the twenty paces back to the door. He turned to Endroth, watching his expression of slow-motion disbelief with amusement.


The feeling of heat in the chest was slowly stopping.

He noticed a slowly moving dot in the light beam from the ceiling window. A tiny fly plodded forward with incredible effort - or so it seemed. Her wings beat the air with deliberate movements.


So that's how it is... He started counting breaths and breaths and concentrated on sensing the effects of the spell. His insight will be needed in the report to Girwanel to complement Endroth's observation.

He was several times faster than everything around him. Such a spell could be versatile if it had no side effects. He hasn't noticed any yet.

He crossed his arms over his chest and watched as his colleague slowly raised his quill to begin noting his observations on the parchment.


The high walls of the city of Erinar were fascinating again after long time. Although the smell of pissed alleys and unwashed human bodies entered their noses, both Ryon and Filain were attracted by the bustle and variety of the big city.

They had unwittingly timed their visit at a time when a fair was going on in the town. Shoppers were touting their wares or were exchanging insults with their neighbors. Cattle were being sold in the widest open spaces, and ears were ringing from the bellowing and shouting. A wide variety of buyers were offering cloths, pots, knives and other miscellaneous goods. Hobbit farmers were offering pumpkins, cabbages and carrots. Competitors were shouting and cursing each other. There was a scuffle here and there, but the jostling people broke up the starting brawl long before the guards arrived.

„Shall we split up?“ Ryon suggested.

"Better not, we'll go get the books first," Filain said decisively. As a senior apprentice, he had the responsibilities during their mission.

They weaved their way through merchant carts, pimps, beggars, and lazy guards until they finally reached the main square. There was the first of the objectives, the book and oddity shop "Khelben's Artifacts".

The owner of the business took care of cleanliness. Every day he meticulously swept and dusted all the shelves. Despite this, the room still smelled of old parchments, musty leather, and occasionally ozone - mainly from the magic book section, which was separated from the rest of the room by a silver-plated lockable grate. The store was one of the few of its kind, and its owner was well aware of it. A pair of overseeing guards stood at the entrance. The muscled man on the left wore chain armor and wielded a dangerous-looking spear. A ferocious-looking mage in a reinforced leather jacket stood at the right side of the entrance. He was leaning on a wizard's staff with a fist-sized hematite set into its flared upper end.

Ryon and Filain weren't the only customers. An elderly man in a richly embroidered coat read a list of books on the counter. The merchant, who had just watched stoically for now, nodded to the pair of young elves in greeting and wordlessly let them go between the high walls of the libraries. Important customers who paid in diamonds were not to be bothered with formalities.

The two elves were tasked with finding any book or scroll that dealt with magic affecting the growth of plants, grain, or directly creating food. Due to the declining natural magic, this currently troubled their nation the most.

The two young men went to examine the books and scrolls on the shelves. They skimmed the titles on the backs of books or bundles of scrolls. Sometimes they opened one of them for a while, only to return it to its place without interest.

After fruitless half an hour later, they asked the shop owner to let them into the specially guarded department of magical writings. They had to be more careful here. This time they took to hand a list of names with names translated from unknown languages. Many of the titles hid almost a personality, if a parchment can be said that way. Some books gave off a faint glow. In the farthest shelf, two of the tomes were even chained to the shelf. Ryon would have sworn he saw one of them move.

However, the subject they were looking for was not even behind the silver bars.

"So we're going to Cadwant's?"

Filain was forced to agree.

There was one more shop in town where you could buy magic books and artifacts. The shop of the alchemist and medicine-man was situated crouching in a dark alley not far from the square. In terms of cleanliness and order, it was practically the opposite of Khelben's artifacts. Covering one wall of the dingy interior were floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with variously shaped bottles and flasks containing everything from promoters of growth of various body parts over healing salves to deadly poisons. Dusty scrolls and books layed on the shelves of the library along the other wall, interspersed occasionally with the skulls of unknown creatures and candles made of wax with unheard ingredients.

However, Filain and Ryon knew that even though Cadwant's resources were considerably smaller, every now and then a truly interesting piece would appear among his collection. And it was definitely worth a try.

A gaunt man with a sparse gray beard and keen eyes emerged from the back of the shop, where the shadows against the flickering hearth hinted complex distillation apparatuses. Cadwant greeted them with a warm smile.

"We would need to look at your scrolls, Master."

"Sure, gentlemen."


However, they did not succeed here either.

"I don't want to come back empty-handed..." stated Filain.

Master Girwanel knew that one cannot succeed every time and some spells simply hadn't been described yet. The problem was that the apprentices themselves felt bad about it. Nothing like that had happened to them yet, and they didn't want to disappoint their teacher, and therefore their people. After all, they undertook a five-day trip here, and they won't be coming here again for several months.

"How about taking something similar at least?" Ryon said.

Almost immediately they agreed that it would be a waste of time.

So they headed back to the marketplace. As always, they did not want to miss the opportunity to be in the city, especially during the fair.

They split up. Both of them wanted to use their free time in their own way.


Later, when they met at the north gate, Filain was smiling mysteriously. Ryon raised an eyebrow in silent question. Filain nodded and whispered, "I'd rather go outside the city."

On the way, Filain then pulled out a newly obtained tome from his bag. Ryon took a brief look at the heavy book and opened a few pages at random.

"Conjuration? That might come in handy. Where did you get it? "

Filain suddenly couldn't remember. He remembered the wooden table of the stall and a pile of other junk on display, but the rest was shrouded in a strange amnesia. Even what the salesman looked like. All he could remember was pale, slender hands that had handed him the book.

"At one of the vagrants... there, in the corner of the square," he fantasized.

Ryon just nodded. In fact it didn't matter. They made a very interesting catch, regardless of the circumstances. He smiled to himself and looked at a few more pages. Common western tongue alternated with unknown runes. This will need some careful work.

He felt great excitement, as always, when they successfully obtained good material for the master. Excitement and also like a slight drunkenness... Before his eyes, he still had several symbols of an unknown script, sharp, graceful and mysterious. And a little disturbing. He shook his head.


„Master, we have brought a new book. It looks like it could be an interesting resource.“

Girwanel walked over to Filain and looked at the tome the young man was handing him. He immediately caught his eye with its shabby appearance. When he looked at it more closely, he found that the old beef leather was decorated with geometrically precise ornaments of strange black leather. The sharp shapes were meticulously inlaid so the surface was perfectly smooth to the touch.

The master held the tome motionless for a moment, his eyes slightly closed. Then he opened it and flipped through the first few pages.

He suddenly looked up, "I hope you haven't tried any of it yourself like last time... huh, Filain?"

The young man stared at him, "No, Master. "

Ryon looked at his friend but couldn't tell if he was lying or not.

The master nodded. "We'll get right to it. Ryon, look me up a dictionary of old zydarian…"


"So you got something interesting?" Calnariel fluttered her eyelashes.

Ryon nodded and smiled.

"I can't wait to try some of the spells. Girwanel has not dealt with summoning yet."

"And what would you conjure?" she provoked him.

Ryon looked into her beautiful green eyes.

"I would conjure a gale…" he brought his face close to hers and dropped to a whisper, "…to bring you into my arms."

She dodged his embrace and ran off with a sparkling laugh.

He knew the meeting was over for today. At least he was looking in her direction before she was completely out of his sight.


The next day, when Ryon arrived at the wizards guild, he was greeted by an unusual emptiness. Apprentice Endroth, who was always arriving first, was not here. Since he was the least talented of all the students, he was tasked with cleaning in the morning and in the afternoon. Despite his slowness in learning, he was still an indispensable member of the guild.

Ryon found out that everything was already cleaned, Endroth must have been on some errand. He curiously peeked into the training hall, where the master and Filain were pondering a new discovery yesterday.

He stood surprised. And it wasn't because of the sight of walls mesmerized by tried spells - he knew them intimately and some of the smudges were his work.

Master Girwanel must have stayed up all night. He was standing over the book on a stand. Ryon only saw him in profile, but still immediately recognized the circles under his eyes and the disproportionately scattered strands of long hair from his originally styled hairstyle.

Filain was lying on the ground. His body rested on his side, his back to the door.

"Master…" muttered Ryon.

Girwanel turned to him. Instead of the tired look one would expect, the master's eyes reflected feverish enthusiasm.

"Ryon… it's good you're here. Good."

He turned his attention back to the pages.

"Master, is everything alright? What is with Filain? "

Girwanel looked at him again from the book.

"Sure. Sure! Everything is alright. Filain is sleeping. We worked a lot. It is very interesting."

The teacher's voice was still calm, but his eyes showed nervousness.

Filain fell asleep on the floor… an almost unthinkable thing. A sickly chaste disciple, for whom nothing was classy enough, is suddenly just rolling around here.

"Good. You don't need to rest anymore, master? " asked Ryon. "Should I get a glass of water, or a bite of something..."

He knew the teacher could be annoying when he was focused on something and someone interrupted him. But now he reacted almost angrily.

"Rest? Nonsense! Go, I will call you."

There must be something really important in that book, thought Ryon.

He attended to other duties, waiting for Endroth to return or for the teacher to call him.


After two hours, Ryon was getting pretty nervous. Endroth was long back and only confirmed to him the efforts and focus of the Master and the most gifted apprentice.

Ryon poured water into two cups, piled up a few cereal flat cakes, and entered the training hall with the snacks on an ornate tray.

Master Girwanel was now experimenting with casting gestures on the book. Filain was already on his feet, watching the teacher and peering over his shoulder.

Seeing the food and drink, he walked over to Ryon and grabbed a handful of flat cakes. Although they were wider than the palm of his hand, he stuffed one whole into his mouth and ate greedily. Ryon knew his unbridled appetite, but this was somehow too much.

He stared at Filain's face. He saw the same feverish gleam in his eyes as he had seen that morning at Girwanel's. But somehow he didn't remember Filain ever behaving like this before.

"So, how's it going? I'd think you'd be able to conjure up stacks of pancakes, roast pigeons, and baskets of fruit in no time with this effort," joked Ryon.

"Baskets of fruit…", Filain waved his hand, "something better! Bigger!"

Ryon raised an eyebrow in question. Filaine's eyes were bloodshot and glowed with a strange light.

It's definitely exhausting. How many times have I stayed up late myself...

He glanced at the volume on the stand. He was tempted to come closer and take a good look. The urge was so strong... But he knew that he must not approach the master now so as not to disturb him. It could have fatal consequences.

Struggling, he turned and left to go about his work.


After some time, Filain came out of the hall. He looked around frantically. Ryon looked up from the scrolls.

„Ryon! I need help. To bring some things.'

He got up and walked over to him.

„Chalk for writing. A larger supply of candles. A bag of salt. And a live chicken. Or maybe a cat." He spoke down-to-earth, but intermittently, in a strange tone.

Ryon noticed his expression again and became a little worried. A wrinkle appeared on his colleague's forehead, as if he was concentrating on something or frowning. And his eyes were even wilder than before, red veins standing out from the whites in an unnatural way.

 There are many shades of red. The red of a ripe, juicy apple, the red of a maple leaf in the low october sun, the red of blood dripping from an innocent victim. This was the third one.

Ryon nodded and ran to get the required items. Human magic occasionally needed these catalysts of power, they already knew that. But Filain's appearance was really starting to worry him. He decided he would follow them when he returned. He either convinces them to rest or actively engages in spells to help speed things up.

However, it turned out differently.

He got salt and chalk. However, he did not succeed with the chicken nor the cat. The candlemaker's son was an acquaintance of his, but he still had limited supplies.

"You really don't have any more, Elberin?"

The elf handed him the last six pieces with a shrug.

"I didn't know that there would suddenly be such a demand. There will be more tomorrow," he assured him. Soaking wicks in wax is a tedious job.

As he returned to the wizards' headquarters, he reasoned that delaying the spell due to insufficient conditions would only benefit both the master and Filain. Tomorrow, when they both get some sleep, everything will be fine again.

He explained the situation to them while handing over the items.

"Ain't no expendable vermin in Fuigond?" Girwanel excited.

Ryon shrugged. The mention of vermin was extremely disturbing, the master usually loved animals and cared about them.

"At least you'll finally get some sleep..."

The master looked at him. Something has changed. There was suddenly a great weariness in his eyes. The feverish glow was still reflected in them, but it was as if Girwanel was suddenly half a head smaller.

"Yes. We're done for today."

After all, it was an hour before sunset. He headed for the door. He motioned for the disciples to follow him out of the room.

When they were outside he took out the key and locked the hall.

He had never done this before. But the book is precious, it must be safe, thought Ryon.

He didn't miss the side glance that Filain gave the master. He had never seen so much grudge in any elf…

"By tomorrow at least one of you will bring something alive. Anything. Even a squirrel will do!"

The master left towards his home. Ryon hastily said goodbye as well so he wouldn't have to be with Filain any longer than necessary.

However, they will rest until tomorrow. They will gain strength. And in the meantime, I'll look at the book in peace. And I'll check it out. It will be mine. Only mine.


Of course, he didn't fall asleep.

Filain wanted her for himself. Also, the master locked it.

- No, that's not possible. What happened to them? It wasn't fatigue…

What if he gets back there early? What if they want to take her away?

- There's something in that book. Something bad.

I have to go back there at late night.

- I have to go back there now.


He solved the problem of the locked door by climbing to the window, the room was only on the first floor. Glass clinked, hinges creaked softly, and in a moment Ryon was standing in the training hall. There was no need to turn on the lights, the cloudless night sparkled with stars.

The book beckoned. He approached it, touched it and looked at the writing. He couldn't explain it, but despite the thick darkness, he could read almost without difficulty. The signs were so elegant, beautiful…

He immersed in the text on the open page. His eyes suddenly widened. He remembered those signs from yesterday, but now they were different! That page has changed…

When he heard footsteps in the corridor after a while, he paid no attention. He was startled only when the lock started rattling with metal sound.

I knew they would want to steal it!

When the door opened, the dimly lit hallway revealed Filain, still with lockpick in hand.

"You!" Ryon’s colleague and friend growled. "Get away from it. Now!"

Ryon was at first subdued by his tone, but then became enraged.

"Thief! Do you think I'm going to freak out? Get out of here while there's time!"

It only took two blinks of an eye before they pounced on each other.

They fought without weapons. Spontaneous and like animals.

Filain first went after Ryon's eyes, but he defended himself. He had longer arms and grabbed his opponent by the throat. Filain attacked at least as far as he could reach. He scratched Ryon’s neck until he broke his fingernails. However, he soon began to run out of breath and his movements began to slow down. Ryon, though younger, was stronger.

In their gasping and whooping disappeared footsteps of a new arriving person. Ryon didn't notice him until he was a few feet away from them. A red mist was already surrounding Filain. The last twitches of his body let know who was the winner of this terrible duel.

"Great. More blood. That cat will probably be useless."

Girwanel's voice was now loud and menacing. He raised his hand and dropped the sack on the ground, which thudded softly and screamed in pain at the same time. The master walked over to Ryon and raised his hand. He mumbled something.

Ryon felt his fingers loosen under the spell. Filain's body suddenly felt heavy. Ryon released his hands completely and his former friend collapsed to the ground unconscious. He was on the verge of death and barely breathing anymore.

Suddenly he was fully aware of the searing pain in his lacerated neck and the moist warmth on his chest.


The healthy part of Ryon's mind regained control and the young man realized what had just happened. Some demon from the book had taken over them.

He recalled all the clues and hints from the beginning. How could he be so obtuse?

But it was too late.

The sight of the wizard master was terrifying. Even in the gloom you could see his disfigured face, flaming eyes and bared teeth. A handsome, dignified elf turned into a hideous monster.

No, he will take my book…

- Enough. Enough! Enoughenoughenough…

The duel was not over yet. The fighting continued in his own brain.

I'll find a weapon and kill him. And I will complete the ritual myself.

- Damn! Niram, Athel, help me. Focus, focus…

He recalled the human exercise of the will, which its author named Mind of Stone. He focused on one word and then on one point.

"Come on, light the candles. Six will be enough," ordered Girwanel.

Ryon obeyed. He obeyed out of fear. But his fear was twofold: the first part of him was afraid of Girwanel himself and what he would do if he didn't obey quickly and servile enough. The second part was the fear of revealing that his will had not yet been completely subjugated and that he was playing a prank with the preparation of the summoning.

Ryon placed the candles in precise positions. Between them, according to the instructions, he placed several semi-precious stones so that the candles and stones formed the circumference of a large circle. He then sprinkled a narrow path with salt. Amethysts, citrines and hematites were used as decorations in the guild, now they were perfect for ritual.

Girwanel lifted the half-dead Filain like a feather and threw him into the center of the circle. He turned to the book, still open at the page with the spell that had engulfed them. Then he turned to Ryon.

"I don't need you anymore," he stated in a voice as heavy and grim as five feet of dirt over dead body. He reached out and twisted his wrist. At the same time, a cacophony of syllables came out of his mouth. The air thickened, Ryon's ears pounded and a gust of wind hit him like a battering ram. It sent him against the wall, which he broke two or three ribs, according to the piercing pain.

Then the teacher stopped noticing him and started reading in the book.

Ryon laid motionless. Various thoughts swirled in his head. But the Mind of Stone helped, he was able to cut himself off from the lure of an evil book. Slowly, as quietly as possible, he began to crawl towards the bag, which was still twitching and a soft whimper was heard from it.

Girwanel began drawing magical symbols and powerful glyphs in the circle with chalk. He was concentrating and completely oblivious to his surroundings.

Ryon untied the canvas prison and let the cat out. One of its paws was hurt, but otherwise it was fine. Then Ryon stiffened. Girwanel has captured Calnariel's little gray tomcat! He clenched his jaws in anger.

Ryon was waiting silently. So far Girwanel has completed the magic symbols. Then he reached for the penknife he had prepared and reached down to poor Filain.

Ryon closed his teary eyes.

Then he stroked the animal's head and whispered something to him. The tomcat looked at him briefly, then at Girwanel. He rubbed his head against Ryon's palm and limped to the edge of the room.


Blood spattered the lines on the floor and the demon-possessed teacher chanted. His body grew and changed, he no longer resembled an elf in the slightest.

He suddenly staggered and looked at the ground.

The little cat, who had scurried in from somewhere, suddenly reached for the circle with his paw and broke the salt path. Girwanel's monstrous eyes widened. With a single movement, he threw the animal against the wall.

He looked around quickly. In the faint candlelight he saw Ryon, lying motionless on his back. He rolled his eyes back to the text and picked up where he left off.

He suddenly stopped. A thin wisp of smoke rose from the line he had read a moment ago. There was a grain of sand on the page and it was starting to glow.

Ryon was among those whose singing still carried within it the echo of the power of the creators. His songs controlled only a part of nature, it was changing stone. He had never found this ability very useful, only now he had put it to good use. A whispered melody was enough for a tiny bit of matter.

The monster tried to sweep the speck from the book without interrupting the summoning. However, it had already melted and the little drop of lava was slowly burning through the pages.

Girwanel suddenly felt a terrible pain and cried out. Then terror washed over him. Summoning was interrupted, not completed. Anything could happen now.

He realized that the book stand was outside the circle. Ryon’s subtle plan in adjusting the place for the ritual had worked.

Ryon jumped up and reached the book in two jumps. He stabbed a shard from the broken window into the open page.

The shapeless monster roared again. Ryon was stabbing the book again and again. Blood started gushing from every hole in the pages.

What had once been Girwanel jerked and writhed. The painful roar had already exceeded the threshold of pain and did not stop.

Then everything exploded.


The council of four Elder Elves looked grimly at the demolished upper floor of the wizards guild. The fifth member, Girwanel, now laid under the canvas on the feretory. His body regained its original shape after death.

"So you're saying you and Filain brought the book?"

Bandaged Ryon nodded.

"I don't like your version," Irethil, the most important of the Elders, basically the king of the forest realm, stated sternly. "A demon possessed them? And why it did not possess you?'

Ryon recounted yesterday's events for the third time. Then he threw up his hands:

"I saved all of Fuigond! I swear! By the tears of the Creator!"

"You killed your master."

Another councilor responded: "I believe him. It was self-defense."

"But the stab wounds in Girwanel's body? This is clear evidence," said another judge.

"What about the blood magic? And the motive would be there too…" No doubt Ryon would become the new master, that much was obvious.

"Find that book!"

Gathering of Fuigond residents were also standing around.

Ryon found his love's eyes, which were wet with tears. She was hugging a shapeless grey tuft to her chest. Her gaze was showing anything but affection.

So he lost her too.


"Lord Irethil, we have not found the book. We turned over every little stone, but it was not in the ruins."

The elf frowned. That was an aggravating circumstance. However, the trial to decide Ryon's guilt had to begin.

He avoided the death penalty for murder. Three of five were opposed, including the newly elected Namrathil. Aragil also defended Ryon. In spite of not being part of the Council, he spoke in his favor.

You get to know real friends only in times of need.

However, the Council could not choose anything more moderate than exile.

The trial was public and in the open air. The unheard event caused most of the residents to come and watch. In the end, the gathering could say their last goodbyes to the young wizard.

Apprentice Endroth brought him a bag containing his belongings and a small supply of food.

Everyone was silent. Expulsion has not been carried out for decades.

The judge broke the silence. He smirked slightly and added:

"And so Ryon Mathrin is leaving the forest realm… more like Maelrin, I'd say."

Not the Twilighted. The Stained.

Ryon froze. He glared at the judge, his eyes blazing with ire. Then he raised his hand and jabbed his index finger like a dagger into the air in the judge’s direction.

"Silence! You know nothing! I wish you could experience what it's like to strangle your friend and know you're just a puppet, that your hands won't listen to you and you can't stop it… and judge only after that."

The crowd was silent, stunned by the audacity of the young convict. Breathing heavily, Ryon looked around, his finger pointing over the crowd he had only recently been able to call his kin.

Then he continued:

"I saved you! I saved all of Fuigond. But I'm not the elf I used to be. The depths into which I had to unwittingly peer, would drive many of you mad. That's the only reason I'm leaving because I don't know how dangerous I can be to my friends. But," he jabbed his index finger towards the judge again, "...but no one will insult and humiliate me."

He turned around. A cold gust ruffled his newly grayed hair. The kind of wind that carries high-flying rained-out clouds and its coolness refreshes.

My own had cast me out… but the men will accept me. He was sure of that. There are never enough experienced magicians among people. His eyes, turned black and purple by the dark ritual, focused on the path winding south to the kingdom of Thornal.


Ryon snapped out of his thoughts and found that Elberin didn't mind his long brooding at all. He was swirling the wine in his goblet and looking at some scroll. Then he looked up and smiled.

"You said your wizarding guild is based in the city of Torann?"

"Yes. We call it Brotherhood of the Blue Star. "

"Very nice…“ Elberin smiled at the reference to Niram, the goddess of wisdom.

"I have some tips for new apprentices for you if you want."

Ryon nodded. "Of course."

His gaze hardened and he pursed his lips. Presently he muttered rather to himself:

"We will need many skilled allies."


Another thing has happened that time, forty years ago. And no elf or other thinking being had witnessed it.

The sun had not yet begun to gild the eastern sky, but the morning singers were already reporting. A gray mouse poked its haired snout out from under a pile of rubble. She sniffed cautiously before climbing all the way out. The stones and fragments of rubble smelled of strange, foreign smells, but among them she recognized the familiar smell of old skin and blood. This decided further exploration. She climbed a few fragments of stone and ran across a charred beam to where the corner of a book's leather binding peeked out. She sniffed for a moment. Then she jumped the few inches onto half-buried, sloping tome. But instead of starting to bite, she froze. Suddenly she started to run in circles. She circled three times and didn't stop. She kept speeding up. Then she sprang up with a squeak and her body convulsed in spasm back into the rubble, where it stayed motionless.

The shadow of the charred beam moved only a little when the chirping songbirds suddenly fell silent. On the pathway by the guild, pebbles crunched under the shoes of an unknown visitor. At first he went zig-zagging, randomly. However, after a while, he headed for the exact spot. A pale, slender hand reached out and pulled a tattered and charred book from under the rubble. Bits of mortar crunched under the soles a few more times, and then silence reigned in the forest again. Only now did the first brave bird dare to beep and then the others. However, their singing was somewhat hesitant. Without the joy of life.

They knew that evil had returned in the realm again.