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Chapter 1: Red Eyes

Description: The traveling merchant Leuven stops his covered wagon by the roadside to take a rest when he hears strange noises coming from the woods. Perhaps it would have been better to stay at home rather than venture out into the dark and brutal world. However, a stranger rushes to his aid. This stranger, however, does not seem to be like a normal human.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


Listen now as audiobook for free!

Dive into the enchanting realm of “Darkest Blood,” where a spellbinding dark fantasy audiobook is complemented by eerily mysterious music. Embark on a journey with an unexpected trio as they navigate the dangers of a medieval-inspired world, weaving a tapestry of suspense, adventure, and a distinctive atmosphere that will keep you at the edge of your seat. In a moment of respite, the wandering merchant Leuven parks his covered wagon, only to be greeted by peculiar echoes resonating from the neighboring forest. One might ponder whether staying home would have been a wiser choice than venturing into the abyss of the dark and brutal unknown. Yet, fate takes an unforeseen turn when a mysterious stranger emerges, reshaping the narrative in unexpected ways. Peel back the layers of this unfolding story, where the enigmatic figure defies ordinary expectations, adding a touch of intrigue to the unfolding tale. “Darkest Blood” invites you to experience a narrative that transcends the ordinary, where each moment is crafted to immerse you in a world where darkness and mystery converge. Hit play now and let the journey begin.

Part 1

In the distant times when the sun still loomed over the vast lands of the ancient races north of the majestic mountains of the Ironmark, the land was pervaded by an aura of peace and harmony.

Dwarves, Fauns, and the Eldári lived in harmony, and their different races complemented each other in a natural symbiosis.

They lived in accord with nature and its countless inhabitants, who were at home on land, in the air, and in the water.

But one day, the lands were invaded by humans, driven by an irrepressible desire for power and new lands.

The old races tried to welcome them, hoping to create a peaceful coexistence. But the humans, blinded by ambition and greed, soon showed that their ambitions went beyond the desire for harmony.

Violence filled the air, and the land burned as the humans drove the ancient peoples from their homeland.

The Dwarves retreated deep into the rugged mountain ranges of the Ironmark, while the Eldári lost their connection to the nature and left the lands.

The brave Fauns who rebelled against the invaders were almost wiped out and departed for the vast forests to the east.

People continued their quest for power and territory. Borders were drawn, kingdoms established, and centuries of war dominated human life.

When an era of peace finally dawned, humanity was beset by the servants of darkness. Monsters, demons, and bizarre hybrid creatures invaded and terrorised the lands.

The Human armies joined forces with the powerful sorcerers to fight these terrible creatures. A major war was avoided, but the threat remained.

The population blamed the sorcerers, who in turn blamed the rulers of the kingdoms, who in turn blamed the gods.

In this dark time of uncertainty and accusations, the Demon Hunters’ Guild rose up.

Independent and fearless, they confronted the creatures of darkness. But they were not the only ones who ventured out into the wide world to confront the evil.

Mercenaries, sorcerers, and other shady characters joined the lucrative business of hunting demons, each with their own goals and motives.

The lands were filled with an air of uncertainty, and the demon hunters walked a fine line between light and darkness, while the fate of the world hung by a thread in the stranglehold of evil.

________

On that gloomy night, the moon hung on the horizon like a glistening crystal, casting its pale rays through the encompassing darkness.

The eerie light accompanied the weary travelling merchant, Leuven, on his solitary journey.

After an endless day that had pushed him to the limits of his strength, he decided to rest near the settlement of Harrendorf.

The sleepy little village had little to offer, except for a few simple clay huts, a modest tavern, and a small marketplace, where the local farmers, hunters, and other travelling merchants crowded together, hawking their goods.

For Leuven, it hadn’t been a successful day. The villagers occasionally inspected his wares, ranging from brass cups to silver plates, but most of the time, he only received skeptical glances.

He had earned just enough money to buy himself a dry piece of bread and some water.Survival was of utmost importance in the modest village.

The residents had limited resources and struggled daily to secure enough food for the next day.

For them, the hunter’s catch or the humble yield of the farmers were life-sustaining, keeping them from hunger and death.

It almost seemed like a cruel jest to them when Leuven opened his wagon and proudly displayed his various goods in his expensive attire.

Silvered spoons, brass cups, and golden plates adorned with various embellishments gleamed in the morning sun. But for the people of Harrendorf, who often went to bed hungry, such luxury was far from their reality.

While Leuven’s wares might impress people in a larger city, they did not reflect the simple living conditions of the villagers.

In the end, he could only convince an older lady that the plate she had acquired would make a magical wedding gift for her granddaughter.

However, the lady turned out to be quite skilled in negotiations, constantly driving the price lower.

But even though the young man tried not to show it, his empty stomach forced him to give in and accept the few crowns.

Leuven couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated with his own skills.

He knew he wasn’t an outstanding merchant, but being undercut like that gnawed at his pride.

Finally, the young man managed to light the wood he had previously collected into a campfire.

The flames greedily embraced the wood, and the crackling of the fire filled his ears like a soothing melody.

This modest triumph held a deeper meaning for Leuven, beyond words.

He closed his eyes and inhaled the intoxicating scent of burning wood through his nose.

In his imagination, he saw himself sitting in a sumptuous gentleman’s room where the fire in the fireplace radiated cosy warmth.

All his worries and troubles seemed to fade as he surrendered to the protective flicker of the hearth.

But the harsh reality quickly caught up with him as the biting smoke entered his nose, triggering a coughing fit.

His eyes burned, and tears welled up as he leaned back from the fireplace and wrapped himself in a warm blanket.

With a sigh, he took a bite of his dry bread.

It wasn’t a feast, but it would at least satisfy his hunger for the evening.

He had previously unhitched his faithful mare from the wagon so she could graze at the edge of the forest.

He watched her eat for a while and felt very safe.

The night was quiet yet eerie. Only the crackling of the fire and the rustling of leaves broke the silence.

Occasionally, he heard the rhythmic chirping of crickets, which sounded like a gentle melody in the darkness.

Leuven was tired, but he felt a certain sense of comfort in the embrace of the fire.

With closed eyes, he let his thoughts wander as he listened to the night’s sounds.

In the darkness, he felt momentarily safe and sheltered, as if he were a majestic bird gliding through the air.

This peculiar yet comforting feeling enveloped him.

Leuven watched his mare dreamily as she ate of the lush greenery at the edge of the forest.

He wished he could offer her some carrots or apples, but the money simply didn’t suffice.

It was a painful realization for the wandering merchant, and he felt ashamed of himself and his loyal companion.

His gaze turned upward to the night sky.

The moon may have shone brightly, but a milky veil of mist hid the stars, as if it wanted to shield them from the gaze of people.

Leuven sighed and took another bite of his bread. But suddenly, a sharp pain shot through his jaw.

With a contorted face, he placed a hand on the throbbing area and then turned his eyes back to the fire.

Leuven threw the rest of his meal into the blazing flames and let his shoulders sag under the warm blanket.

The darkness and silence around him seemed to envelop him like an impenetrable mist.

He wondered if circumstances would improve soon or if he was destined to live in solitude and despair.

With a sad smile, he turned to his mare.

“Oh, my girl, at least we still have each other, don’t we?” the young man said, briefly bringing a smile to his lips.

For days, he felt like he could never satisfy his hunger.

His stomach growled incessantly, and his cheeks hung slack from exhaustion.

If anyone were to encounter him on the street, in his splendidly embroidered doublet and velvety beret, no one would suspect that Leuven had been on the road for weeks without a rest at an inn.

At least not until they noticed all the mud and dirt covering him.

He had a few spare clothes, but he felt most comfortable in this attire. It gave him a certain elegance and perhaps concealed his inner turmoil.

While his appearance looked somewhat worn, it still conveyed a trace of dignity that he desperately tried to uphold.

His robust stature hinted that he had only recently begun a life of hardship.

He had no desire for pity, but recognition and admiration were more than welcome.

However, the reality was different. Instead of praise and admiration, he often encountered scorn and mockery, just as he did a few days ago in the sleepy town of Harrendorf.

When he opened his wagon next to the fruit and vegetable vendors and the curious crowd inspected his crates, people quickly began to gossip.

The journey burdened him not only physically but also mentally, as his fears relentlessly gnawed at his sanity.

What if he ran out of money for food? Or worse, what if he were to be robbed and left with nothing?

Exhausted, he lay back on the damp grass.

“Maybe this was all a stupid idea,” Leuven muttered to himself as he turned to his mare. “What do you think about an early retirement, my dear? Imagine a little cottage by a lake. Every morning, I go fishing while you feast on the lush greenery. Doesn’t that sound good?”

The mare flicked her tail, snorting and ignoring Leuven’s words. That was response enough for him.

“You’re right,” he said with a sigh. “We really can’t afford that. But a bit of dreaming should be allowed.”

Suddenly, a wild neigh broke the silence, and the mare began to paw the ground restlessly. He had never observed such behavior from her before.

Leuven sat up anxiously.

“What’s wrong with you?” Leuven exclaimed.

The mare vigorously stamed the ground, as if she trying to crush vermin.

The young man rolled onto his side and struggled to get up.

His tired bones creaked in the silence of the night.

Steam billowed from the horse’s nostrils as Leuven approached, attempting to soothe her.

“There’s nothing there,” Leuven added, making another attempt to calm the nervous mare. “You’re seeing ghosts.”

But suddenly, a deep growl emanated from the depths of the surrounding underbrush.

For a fleeting moment, Leuven believed it was just the growling of his own hungry stomach, but the sound repeated itself.

Now he was certain that something menacing lurked among the gloomy trees.

His mouth filled with saliva, which he hastily swallowed.

His legs began to tremble as the leaves in the undergrowth started to rustle.

Something stirred there, and Leuven instinctively felt that it boded no good.

A sinister figure approached slowly, its steps unsteady and faltering.

At first, Leuven mistook it for a wild boar, which would have been bad enough considering the danger posed by these powerful animals.

The creature growled menacingly, revealing its sharp teeth, which jutted irregularly between the tusks. A sticky substance dripped from its mouth.

Once again, the mare puffed out steam from her nostrils as she reared her front legs and began to kick wildly.

Another creature appeared behind the horrible one, opening its foul mouth.

Leuven’s legs trembled rapidly, while his upper body seemed frozen.

The urge to flee pulsed in his head, but his body was not obeying his commands at that moment.

The mare slammed her front legs onto the ground with deafening noise, shook her massive body, and whirled wildly.

She threw Leuven to the ground and disappeared like a storm in the dark night, while her neighing still echoed in the young man’s ears.

Leuven bit his lip and slid slowly backward over the grass.

Finally, his body succumbed to his instinct to flee, and with a powerful thrust of his legs, he rolled over the ground.

His gaze wandered to his wagon.

Could he reach his cart before the creatures got him? Would the cart even offer sufficient protection? Either way, he had no other choice.

The further he slid back on the grass, the beasts took a giant step forwards.

His back ached, his legs and arms were weak, but his heart raced in his chest.

Suddenly, Luven jumped up and for a fleeting moment he felt the adrenaline coursing through his body.

But this moment was short-lived, a blink in the darkness.

A piercing pain shot through Leuven’s back, paralyzing him.

With a muffled groan, he began to stagger and finally landed in the dirt.

He bit his lip, which began to bleed, while the ominous silence of the night enveloped him.

He lay there, whimpering, spitting out leaves and blood from his mouth.

So, this was to be his end? It ran through him. He would be killed by wild beasts. What a pitiful fool he was.

Not long ago, he had a roof over his head, a comfortable bed, and he didn’t have to worry if the next day could be his last.

Boredom might have plagued him, but he had been alive.

Now he lay in the dirt, whimpering and filled with hopelessness.

Leuven closed his eyes and hoped that the sinister creatures would quickly satisfy their hunger.

He hoped that their greed for food would not make them play with him like a wild cat chasing its prey and leaving it to bleed to death.

Behind him, the creatures began to hiss, and a barking sound emanated from their throats.

He felt the cold breath on his neck, the saliva dripping onto his neck and slowly descending.

Suddenly, the beasts howled loudly.

Now it was time, it struck Leuven. Quickly, let it be over quickly.

The crunching sound of sharp teeth and the menacing growling had transformed into a wild howling that hissed through the air like a curse.

The sounds followed an almost rhythmic pattern, as if they were part of an ominous symphony.

Leuven opened his tired eyes and felt the dull pain in his body.

He breathed heavily, swirling the dust in front of his face. But the most important thing was that he was still alive.

The icy breath that had come threateningly close to him seemed to recede, just like the beasts that had surrounded him.

Suddenly, a metallic clang broke through the silence of the darkness and sharpened Leuven’s senses.

A spark of hope flashed through his exhausted body.

Leuven turned onto his back.

A shrouded figure danced from right to left, while its cloak fluttered in the wind like the wing of a bat.

The figure had attracted the attention of the beasts.

Its sword flashed several times in the moonlight.

One of the beasts dared a jump and howled in pain as the heel of a boot hit its face.

The second creature wildly bared its teeth and opened its sticky mouth.

But with a skillful leap, the cloaked figure narrowly escaped the snapping jaws.

The dark figure reared up, lunged at the creatures with its sword, and severed the first monster´s snout with a powerful strike.

Blood sprayed in all directions like a grotesque fountain of violence.

The monster jumped wildly, like a beheaded chicken in its final convulsions, before finally swaying to the ground.

A targeted stab in the back ended its suffering.

The second monster scratched wildly with its hind paws and bared its dangerous teeth.

A skillful jump, a swift sword stroke.

The head of the monster with its threatening eyes and sharp teeth landed right next to Leuven, forming a demonic grimace.

The monster´s body whirled up sand and leaves as it felt to the ground.

Leuven froze in fear as a piercing whistle sounded directly into his head.

The threatening silhouette of the stranger slowly moved towards him.

Blood dripped from the blade as the cloak blew gently in the wind.

The stranger’s eyes glowed red as he stood in front of the young merchant.

Leuven’s vision blurred as the dark figure grabbed his arms and pulled him up.

Suddenly his mind became clear.

His heart was beating hard and his legs were still shaking slightly, but Leuven gradually realized that the danger was over and that he was safe now.

“Thank you, sir,” Leuven stammered, brushing the leaves from his robe as his racing heart calmed down.

He dared to look under the hood that covered the stranger’s face.

The stranger’s eyes glowed devilishly red and the look penetrated deep into Leuven’s mind.

“You… you… are…” the young merchant snorted before taking a step back.

“Please, take what you want, but spare my life,” he whined.

The mysterious figure showed no emotion.

Leuven slowly recognized the distinctive features of a man beneath the hood.

He seemed a little older than Leuven.

“Please, sir, please,” the young merchant howled softly, his face twisted as if he feared death.

“I’m not after your belongings,” the stranger replied calmly.

Leuven’s face visibly relaxed.

“You are not?” he finally asked, confused.

“No.”

“Then what do you want?”

The stranger looked deeply into the young merchant’s glassy eyes. “Nothing at all. I happened to pass by. Your luck, it seems to me.”

“O ehm. Then I thank you!” Leuven replied in surprise and took a deep breath. “I was afraid those creatures would eat me alive.”

The stranger looked at him seriously. “I’m sure they would have done that if I hadn’t turned up.”

He examined the dead monsters with critical eyes, making sounds of surprise as he bent down to one of the beasts and rolled it aside.

“I, um, I’m Leuven,” said the young merchant, “Leuven Hansen from Uchtenberg, and you, sir?”

“Leuven Hansen from Uchtenberg?” the stranger asked suspiciously for a moment, then clicked his tongue and looked at Leuven as he stood up and wiped the dirt from his hands.

“Yes sir, yes. Leuven Hansen.”

“You can call me Evan, Evan Dhorne. But I’m not a sir. Enough of the formalities.”

The stranger turned away from the creatures, crept like a ghost toward the crackling campfire, and sat down to warm his hands.

Leuven cautiously approached his rescuer. “Evan Dhorne, well, I’m very pleased. You’re traveling to the capital, right? – I can’t do without my girl.”

“Hmm,” Evan kept a straight face. It seemed like he didn’t even blink. “She will return.”

Confused, Leuven stared at the stranger, processing his words in his head.

“Well,” the merchant smiled mischievously, “she definitely got a shock when those, uh, beasts, showed up.”

“Karraks. They are called Karraks.”

“Karraks? All right, when those Karraks showed up. I’m very worried about her.”

“Sit down,” the mysterious man ordered almost imperiously. “She will come back, for sure.”

“Yes, well, I don´t know. Hmm.” Leuven took off his hat for a moment and ran his hand through his greasy curls before putting it back on.

He stared into the darkness for a moment and finally sat down reluctantly. “Maybe you are right. However, you should know that she is a little, jumpy.”

Evan remained silent, staring into the fire as if he were in a trance.

The merchant became restless. He had several questions but neglected to ask them.

“All right. I guess I have no other choice. I probably won’t find her in this darkness anyway. I’ll look for her at daybreak,” he said finally.

“I think that’s wise,” Evan replied coldly, glancing at the merchant. “You don’t want to get eaten, do you?”

“Get eaten?” Leuven nervously swallowed the saliva that had accumulated in his mouth.

“Karraks travel in packs, which means others lurk in the forest for prey. I would be surprised if they hadn’t noticed their pack leaders’ are dead.”

“And you can sit here in peace by the fire?” Leuven jumped up, stretched his aching back and stood in front of Evan. “We have to get out of here.”

Evan sighed in annoyance. “If you leave now, you’ll be easy prey. I was able to quickly make short work of both of them; their pack will have noticed. They also have an excellent sense of smell. When they smell the blood of their own kind, they are warned for the time being. They will give us a wide berth, at least for now.”

A nervous, fleeting glance from Leuven wandered into the forest.

“I have never seen or heard of such creatures before,” he said.

Evan raised a brow thoughtfully. “I’ve never met them in Brunen either. Actually, they live in the dense forests of Cardíz. Strange.”

“You seem to know a lot about these things. Well, as a demon I suppose that’s part of it.”

“I’m not a demon!” Evan hissed, grimacing.

A shiver ran down Leuven’s spine. “Forgive me, sir. I was just thinking, well, because of your eyes.”

Evan snorted and replied calmly, “But I’m not, and now stop the formality.”

“Forgive me. – But if you don’t mind, may I ask, what are you? I don’t just mean your eyes, but also how you fought those beasts. That was impressive.”

His rescuer’s voice became quieter, almost a whisper. “Then call me a half-demon, at least that’s only half bad.”

Leuven cautiously approached his rescuer. “Half-demon. I’ve never met a half-demon before either. But you look so… um… human.”

Evan raised a brow and looked at him, puzzled. “What did you expect?”

“I don’t know. Something… well… horrible.”

“Then you must be disappointed.”

“No, no. Not at all! – I’m just a little surprised.”

Leuven crouched down and poked at the embers of the campfire with a branch. “I am really grateful to you. I have already finished with my life. What a luck that you turned up.”

Without looking at Leuven, Evan said: “You should not rest in the forest at night. If you weren’t attacked by karraks, it could have been wolves, wild boars or worse.”

“I guess we have no choice for today. But hopefully we can continue our journey tomorrow morning. I’d be happy to take you as far as Rabensberg.” Leuven said cheerfully.

The half-demon stretched his head up and looked across Leuven into the darkness. »I suspect this won’t work without your horse. Unless you want to pull your wagon by yourself. But that’s not your plan, I think.”

“You said my mare would return.”

“Yes, that is what I said.”

“So you’re not sure?” the young man asked indignantly.

»It was more of a guess. But when I think about it, I believe it less,” Evan’s voice remained cold as he said it.

»I can’t just leave my wagon here on the side of the road! – All my belongings are in there!” the young merchant growled.

“Stay calm. You’ll attract the Karraks. We will know more tomorrow. Maybe she will come back, maybe the Karraks will eat your mare. I don’t know.”

“You’re driving me crazy,” Leuven snorted. “I have to go on to Rabensberg. I can’t stay here.”

“You should sleep,” Evan said, looking at him straight.

“Sleep? – You mean I should sleep?”

“That is exactly what I mean, yes.”

“I was almost eaten by wild beasts, my horse is missing, and a demon, excuse me, a half-demon is telling me to sleep?”

Evan shrugged. “Right.”

The young merchant lowered his head. “I should have stayed home.”

The half-demon grimaced this time and nodded slightly. “I suppose that would have been a better choice.”

Leuven stood in front of him again.

“You don’t know anything!” he complained, placed his hands on his hips, leant towards Evan and raised a finger in warning. “I had no choice. All my possessions are in this wagon, I must find my mare or you will pull the wagon!”

“I wont. I saved your life, I guess that should be enough,” Evan snorted and stood up too.

Both looked deeply into each other’s eyes.

The half-demon’s red eyes flickered.

Gradually his face began to show signs of emotion.

There was a twitch at the corners of the mouth, a movement of the eyebrows, but threatening enough for the young merchant.

Leuven gave in to the look and turned his head away. “I guess I don’t have a choice. I’m going to sleep for a few hours. But as soon as the sun comes up we will look for my mare.”

“There’s something else.” The half-demon interjected.

“What do you mean?” The young merchant looked irritated.

“There is a castle nearby.” Evan said.

“A castle?” Leuven put a finger to his chin thoughtfully. “O yes, Harren Castle. Lord Johan Dancker lives there. But how could he help us?”

“I have heard that he has a problem,” Evan replied, sitting down by the fire again. “Rumors say that a poltergeist is wreaking havoc on his property.”

“A… a ghost?” Leuven’s hackles stood up.

“A poltergeist, yes,” Evan scowled. “Apparently, he visits the house’s staff in their dreams and drives them crazy. The lord should not be spared either.”

The half-demon grinned eerily; then, all of a sudden, his expression became impassive again. “But maybe that’s just some jokes people tell each other.”

“How is that supposed to help us?” asked the young merchant.

“He could show his gratitude. Maybe he can make sure you get home unharmed,” Evan replied.

“But I don’t want to go home!” Leuven protested again.

“It’s your decision,” the half-demon’s expression became ghostly, “But if there really is a ghost, get ready for horror. Your worst nightmares could come true.”

Leuven swallowed. “My worst nightmares?”

“Oh yes. Horrific creatures lurk in the shadows. They destroy you from the inside out, darken your senses, drive you astray.”

The half-demon turned his face away. He found it a little amusing to unsettle the young man.

Leuven shuddered. “Let me sleep on that tonight.”

“Do that,” Evan replied, throwing the rest of the dry bread into the fire. “But if we don’t want to starve, we should find something to eat as quickly as possible.”

The merchant turned on his heel.

He didn’t like the situation at all.

As he set off with his mare and his wagon, he dreamed of becoming rich, buying a house by the lake and enjoying the peace and silence there. But things didn’t go nearly as he had imagined.

“You don’t want to sleep?” he yawned.

“I’ll keep watch,” Evan replied. “If the karrak’s attacks us, I will make myself known.”

“Okay, do that.”

Leuven stopped abruptly. “Wait, you think the karraks might attack us?”

The half-demon looked at him with a shrug. “Who knows.”

Leuven went to his wagon, but not without looking around anxiously several times to make sure that nothing would jump out of the undergrowth.

He pushed the tarpaulin aside. The wagon tilted to one side as he got in and shifted his weight onto one axle.

Before he closed the tarpaulin, he dared to take a look at the half-demon.

Could he trust him? Leuven didn’t know how to assess him.

On the one hand, he had great respect for him and his abilities, but on the other hand, he also gave him a shudder.

He was a half-demon, so how much humanity was left? – Was that just a trick, and, in reality, did he just want Leuven’s belongings?

The thoughts revolved around the young man.

Finally, shaking his head, Leuven sat down on his bedroll and took off his dirty boots.

“I don’t know what to make of it” Leuven said to himself.

He lay down and folded his hands on his chest, weighing up the possibilities, torn between distrust and despair.

Slowly his eyelids became heavier, and his thoughts became clouded as he drifted into a restless sleep.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


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Chapter 1
Red Eyes

Description: The traveling merchant Leuven stops his covered wagon by the roadside to take a rest when he hears strange noises coming from the woods. Perhaps it would have been better to stay at home rather than venture out into the dark and brutal world. However, a stranger rushes to his aid. This stranger, however, does not seem to be like a normal human.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Listen now as audiobook for free!

Part 1

In the distant times when the sun still loomed over the vast lands of the ancient races north of the majestic mountains of the Ironmark, the land was pervaded by an aura of peace and harmony.

Dwarves, Fauns, and the Eldári lived in harmony, and their different races complemented each other in a natural symbiosis.

They lived in accord with nature and its countless inhabitants, who were at home on land, in the air, and in the water.

But one day, the lands were invaded by humans, driven by an irrepressible desire for power and new lands.

The old races tried to welcome them, hoping to create a peaceful coexistence. But the humans, blinded by ambition and greed, soon showed that their ambitions went beyond the desire for harmony.

Violence filled the air, and the land burned as the humans drove the ancient peoples from their homeland.

The Dwarves retreated deep into the rugged mountain ranges of the Ironmark, while the Eldári lost their connection to the nature and left the lands.

The brave Fauns who rebelled against the invaders were almost wiped out and departed for the vast forests to the east.

People continued their quest for power and territory. Borders were drawn, kingdoms established, and centuries of war dominated human life.

When an era of peace finally dawned, humanity was beset by the servants of darkness. Monsters, demons, and bizarre hybrid creatures invaded and terrorised the lands.

The Human armies joined forces with the powerful sorcerers to fight these terrible creatures. A major war was avoided, but the threat remained.

The population blamed the sorcerers, who in turn blamed the rulers of the kingdoms, who in turn blamed the gods.

In this dark time of uncertainty and accusations, the Demon Hunters’ Guild rose up.

Independent and fearless, they confronted the creatures of darkness. But they were not the only ones who ventured out into the wide world to confront the evil.

Mercenaries, sorcerers, and other shady characters joined the lucrative business of hunting demons, each with their own goals and motives.

The lands were filled with an air of uncertainty, and the demon hunters walked a fine line between light and darkness, while the fate of the world hung by a thread in the stranglehold of evil.

________

On that gloomy night, the moon hung on the horizon like a glistening crystal, casting its pale rays through the encompassing darkness.

The eerie light accompanied the weary travelling merchant, Leuven, on his solitary journey.

After an endless day that had pushed him to the limits of his strength, he decided to rest near the settlement of Harrendorf.

The sleepy little village had little to offer, except for a few simple clay huts, a modest tavern, and a small marketplace, where the local farmers, hunters, and other travelling merchants crowded together, hawking their goods.

For Leuven, it hadn’t been a successful day. The villagers occasionally inspected his wares, ranging from brass cups to silver plates, but most of the time, he only received skeptical glances.

He had earned just enough money to buy himself a dry piece of bread and some water.Survival was of utmost importance in the modest village.

The residents had limited resources and struggled daily to secure enough food for the next day.

For them, the hunter’s catch or the humble yield of the farmers were life-sustaining, keeping them from hunger and death.

It almost seemed like a cruel jest to them when Leuven opened his wagon and proudly displayed his various goods in his expensive attire.

Silvered spoons, brass cups, and golden plates adorned with various embellishments gleamed in the morning sun. But for the people of Harrendorf, who often went to bed hungry, such luxury was far from their reality.

While Leuven’s wares might impress people in a larger city, they did not reflect the simple living conditions of the villagers.

In the end, he could only convince an older lady that the plate she had acquired would make a magical wedding gift for her granddaughter.

However, the lady turned out to be quite skilled in negotiations, constantly driving the price lower.

But even though the young man tried not to show it, his empty stomach forced him to give in and accept the few crowns.

Leuven couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated with his own skills.

He knew he wasn’t an outstanding merchant, but being undercut like that gnawed at his pride.

Finally, the young man managed to light the wood he had previously collected into a campfire.

The flames greedily embraced the wood, and the crackling of the fire filled his ears like a soothing melody.

This modest triumph held a deeper meaning for Leuven, beyond words.

He closed his eyes and inhaled the intoxicating scent of burning wood through his nose.

In his imagination, he saw himself sitting in a sumptuous gentleman’s room where the fire in the fireplace radiated cosy warmth.

All his worries and troubles seemed to fade as he surrendered to the protective flicker of the hearth.

But the harsh reality quickly caught up with him as the biting smoke entered his nose, triggering a coughing fit.

His eyes burned, and tears welled up as he leaned back from the fireplace and wrapped himself in a warm blanket.

With a sigh, he took a bite of his dry bread.

It wasn’t a feast, but it would at least satisfy his hunger for the evening.

He had previously unhitched his faithful mare from the wagon so she could graze at the edge of the forest.

He watched her eat for a while and felt very safe.

The night was quiet yet eerie. Only the crackling of the fire and the rustling of leaves broke the silence.

Occasionally, he heard the rhythmic chirping of crickets, which sounded like a gentle melody in the darkness.

Leuven was tired, but he felt a certain sense of comfort in the embrace of the fire.

With closed eyes, he let his thoughts wander as he listened to the night’s sounds.

In the darkness, he felt momentarily safe and sheltered, as if he were a majestic bird gliding through the air.

This peculiar yet comforting feeling enveloped him.

Leuven watched his mare dreamily as she ate of the lush greenery at the edge of the forest.

He wished he could offer her some carrots or apples, but the money simply didn’t suffice.

It was a painful realization for the wandering merchant, and he felt ashamed of himself and his loyal companion.

His gaze turned upward to the night sky.

The moon may have shone brightly, but a milky veil of mist hid the stars, as if it wanted to shield them from the gaze of people.

Leuven sighed and took another bite of his bread. But suddenly, a sharp pain shot through his jaw.

With a contorted face, he placed a hand on the throbbing area and then turned his eyes back to the fire.

Leuven threw the rest of his meal into the blazing flames and let his shoulders sag under the warm blanket.

The darkness and silence around him seemed to envelop him like an impenetrable mist.

He wondered if circumstances would improve soon or if he was destined to live in solitude and despair.

With a sad smile, he turned to his mare.

“Oh, my girl, at least we still have each other, don’t we?” the young man said, briefly bringing a smile to his lips.

For days, he felt like he could never satisfy his hunger.

His stomach growled incessantly, and his cheeks hung slack from exhaustion.

If anyone were to encounter him on the street, in his splendidly embroidered doublet and velvety beret, no one would suspect that Leuven had been on the road for weeks without a rest at an inn.

At least not until they noticed all the mud and dirt covering him.

He had a few spare clothes, but he felt most comfortable in this attire. It gave him a certain elegance and perhaps concealed his inner turmoil.

While his appearance looked somewhat worn, it still conveyed a trace of dignity that he desperately tried to uphold.

His robust stature hinted that he had only recently begun a life of hardship.

He had no desire for pity, but recognition and admiration were more than welcome.

However, the reality was different. Instead of praise and admiration, he often encountered scorn and mockery, just as he did a few days ago in the sleepy town of Harrendorf.

When he opened his wagon next to the fruit and vegetable vendors and the curious crowd inspected his crates, people quickly began to gossip.

The journey burdened him not only physically but also mentally, as his fears relentlessly gnawed at his sanity.

What if he ran out of money for food? Or worse, what if he were to be robbed and left with nothing?

Exhausted, he lay back on the damp grass.

“Maybe this was all a stupid idea,” Leuven muttered to himself as he turned to his mare. “What do you think about an early retirement, my dear? Imagine a little cottage by a lake. Every morning, I go fishing while you feast on the lush greenery. Doesn’t that sound good?”

The mare flicked her tail, snorting and ignoring Leuven’s words. That was response enough for him.

“You’re right,” he said with a sigh. “We really can’t afford that. But a bit of dreaming should be allowed.”

Suddenly, a wild neigh broke the silence, and the mare began to paw the ground restlessly. He had never observed such behavior from her before.

Leuven sat up anxiously.

“What’s wrong with you?” Leuven exclaimed.

The mare vigorously stamed the ground, as if she trying to crush vermin.

The young man rolled onto his side and struggled to get up.

His tired bones creaked in the silence of the night.

Steam billowed from the horse’s nostrils as Leuven approached, attempting to soothe her.

“There’s nothing there,” Leuven added, making another attempt to calm the nervous mare. “You’re seeing ghosts.”

But suddenly, a deep growl emanated from the depths of the surrounding underbrush.

For a fleeting moment, Leuven believed it was just the growling of his own hungry stomach, but the sound repeated itself.

Now he was certain that something menacing lurked among the gloomy trees.

His mouth filled with saliva, which he hastily swallowed.

His legs began to tremble as the leaves in the undergrowth started to rustle.

Something stirred there, and Leuven instinctively felt that it boded no good.

A sinister figure approached slowly, its steps unsteady and faltering.

At first, Leuven mistook it for a wild boar, which would have been bad enough considering the danger posed by these powerful animals.

The creature growled menacingly, revealing its sharp teeth, which jutted irregularly between the tusks. A sticky substance dripped from its mouth.

Once again, the mare puffed out steam from her nostrils as she reared her front legs and began to kick wildly.

Another creature appeared behind the horrible one, opening its foul mouth.

Leuven’s legs trembled rapidly, while his upper body seemed frozen.

The urge to flee pulsed in his head, but his body was not obeying his commands at that moment.

The mare slammed her front legs onto the ground with deafening noise, shook her massive body, and whirled wildly.

She threw Leuven to the ground and disappeared like a storm in the dark night, while her neighing still echoed in the young man’s ears.

Leuven bit his lip and slid slowly backward over the grass.

Finally, his body succumbed to his instinct to flee, and with a powerful thrust of his legs, he rolled over the ground.

His gaze wandered to his wagon.

Could he reach his cart before the creatures got him? Would the cart even offer sufficient protection? Either way, he had no other choice.

The further he slid back on the grass, the beasts took a giant step forwards.

His back ached, his legs and arms were weak, but his heart raced in his chest.

Suddenly, Luven jumped up and for a fleeting moment he felt the adrenaline coursing through his body.

But this moment was short-lived, a blink in the darkness.

A piercing pain shot through Leuven’s back, paralyzing him.

With a muffled groan, he began to stagger and finally landed in the dirt.

He bit his lip, which began to bleed, while the ominous silence of the night enveloped him.

He lay there, whimpering, spitting out leaves and blood from his mouth.

So, this was to be his end? It ran through him. He would be killed by wild beasts. What a pitiful fool he was.

Not long ago, he had a roof over his head, a comfortable bed, and he didn’t have to worry if the next day could be his last.

Boredom might have plagued him, but he had been alive.

Now he lay in the dirt, whimpering and filled with hopelessness.

Leuven closed his eyes and hoped that the sinister creatures would quickly satisfy their hunger.

He hoped that their greed for food would not make them play with him like a wild cat chasing its prey and leaving it to bleed to death.

Behind him, the creatures began to hiss, and a barking sound emanated from their throats.

He felt the cold breath on his neck, the saliva dripping onto his neck and slowly descending.

Suddenly, the beasts howled loudly.

Now it was time, it struck Leuven. Quickly, let it be over quickly.

The crunching sound of sharp teeth and the menacing growling had transformed into a wild howling that hissed through the air like a curse.

The sounds followed an almost rhythmic pattern, as if they were part of an ominous symphony.

Leuven opened his tired eyes and felt the dull pain in his body.

He breathed heavily, swirling the dust in front of his face. But the most important thing was that he was still alive.

The icy breath that had come threateningly close to him seemed to recede, just like the beasts that had surrounded him.

Suddenly, a metallic clang broke through the silence of the darkness and sharpened Leuven’s senses.

A spark of hope flashed through his exhausted body.

Leuven turned onto his back.

A shrouded figure danced from right to left, while its cloak fluttered in the wind like the wing of a bat.

The figure had attracted the attention of the beasts.

Its sword flashed several times in the moonlight.

One of the beasts dared a jump and howled in pain as the heel of a boot hit its face.

The second creature wildly bared its teeth and opened its sticky mouth.

But with a skillful leap, the cloaked figure narrowly escaped the snapping jaws.

The dark figure reared up, lunged at the creatures with its sword, and severed the first monster´s snout with a powerful strike.

Blood sprayed in all directions like a grotesque fountain of violence.

The monster jumped wildly, like a beheaded chicken in its final convulsions, before finally swaying to the ground.

A targeted stab in the back ended its suffering.

The second monster scratched wildly with its hind paws and bared its dangerous teeth.

A skillful jump, a swift sword stroke.

The head of the monster with its threatening eyes and sharp teeth landed right next to Leuven, forming a demonic grimace.

The monster´s body whirled up sand and leaves as it felt to the ground.

Leuven froze in fear as a piercing whistle sounded directly into his head.

The threatening silhouette of the stranger slowly moved towards him.

Blood dripped from the blade as the cloak blew gently in the wind.

The stranger’s eyes glowed red as he stood in front of the young merchant.

Leuven’s vision blurred as the dark figure grabbed his arms and pulled him up.

Suddenly his mind became clear.

His heart was beating hard and his legs were still shaking slightly, but Leuven gradually realized that the danger was over and that he was safe now.

“Thank you, sir,” Leuven stammered, brushing the leaves from his robe as his racing heart calmed down.

He dared to look under the hood that covered the stranger’s face.

The stranger’s eyes glowed devilishly red and the look penetrated deep into Leuven’s mind.

“You… you… are…” the young merchant snorted before taking a step back.

“Please, take what you want, but spare my life,” he whined.

The mysterious figure showed no emotion.

Leuven slowly recognized the distinctive features of a man beneath the hood.

He seemed a little older than Leuven.

“Please, sir, please,” the young merchant howled softly, his face twisted as if he feared death.

“I’m not after your belongings,” the stranger replied calmly.

Leuven’s face visibly relaxed.

“You are not?” he finally asked, confused.

“No.”

“Then what do you want?”

The stranger looked deeply into the young merchant’s glassy eyes. “Nothing at all. I happened to pass by. Your luck, it seems to me.”

“O ehm. Then I thank you!” Leuven replied in surprise and took a deep breath. “I was afraid those creatures would eat me alive.”

The stranger looked at him seriously. “I’m sure they would have done that if I hadn’t turned up.”

He examined the dead monsters with critical eyes, making sounds of surprise as he bent down to one of the beasts and rolled it aside.

“I, um, I’m Leuven,” said the young merchant, “Leuven Hansen from Uchtenberg, and you, sir?”

“Leuven Hansen from Uchtenberg?” the stranger asked suspiciously for a moment, then clicked his tongue and looked at Leuven as he stood up and wiped the dirt from his hands.

“Yes sir, yes. Leuven Hansen.”

“You can call me Evan, Evan Dhorne. But I’m not a sir. Enough of the formalities.”

The stranger turned away from the creatures, crept like a ghost toward the crackling campfire, and sat down to warm his hands.

Leuven cautiously approached his rescuer. “Evan Dhorne, well, I’m very pleased. You’re traveling to the capital, right? – I can’t do without my girl.”

“Hmm,” Evan kept a straight face. It seemed like he didn’t even blink. “She will return.”

Confused, Leuven stared at the stranger, processing his words in his head.

“Well,” the merchant smiled mischievously, “she definitely got a shock when those, uh, beasts, showed up.”

“Karraks. They are called Karraks.”

“Karraks? All right, when those Karraks showed up. I’m very worried about her.”

“Sit down,” the mysterious man ordered almost imperiously. “She will come back, for sure.”

“Yes, well, I don´t know. Hmm.” Leuven took off his hat for a moment and ran his hand through his greasy curls before putting it back on.

He stared into the darkness for a moment and finally sat down reluctantly. “Maybe you are right. However, you should know that she is a little, jumpy.”

Evan remained silent, staring into the fire as if he were in a trance.

The merchant became restless. He had several questions but neglected to ask them.

“All right. I guess I have no other choice. I probably won’t find her in this darkness anyway. I’ll look for her at daybreak,” he said finally.

“I think that’s wise,” Evan replied coldly, glancing at the merchant. “You don’t want to get eaten, do you?”

“Get eaten?” Leuven nervously swallowed the saliva that had accumulated in his mouth.

“Karraks travel in packs, which means others lurk in the forest for prey. I would be surprised if they hadn’t noticed their pack leaders’ are dead.”

“And you can sit here in peace by the fire?” Leuven jumped up, stretched his aching back and stood in front of Evan. “We have to get out of here.”

Evan sighed in annoyance. “If you leave now, you’ll be easy prey. I was able to quickly make short work of both of them; their pack will have noticed. They also have an excellent sense of smell. When they smell the blood of their own kind, they are warned for the time being. They will give us a wide berth, at least for now.”

A nervous, fleeting glance from Leuven wandered into the forest.

“I have never seen or heard of such creatures before,” he said.

Evan raised a brow thoughtfully. “I’ve never met them in Brunen either. Actually, they live in the dense forests of Cardíz. Strange.”

“You seem to know a lot about these things. Well, as a demon I suppose that’s part of it.”

“I’m not a demon!” Evan hissed, grimacing.

A shiver ran down Leuven’s spine. “Forgive me, sir. I was just thinking, well, because of your eyes.”

Evan snorted and replied calmly, “But I’m not, and now stop the formality.”

“Forgive me. – But if you don’t mind, may I ask, what are you? I don’t just mean your eyes, but also how you fought those beasts. That was impressive.”

His rescuer’s voice became quieter, almost a whisper. “Then call me a half-demon, at least that’s only half bad.”

Leuven cautiously approached his rescuer. “Half-demon. I’ve never met a half-demon before either. But you look so… um… human.”

Evan raised a brow and looked at him, puzzled. “What did you expect?”

“I don’t know. Something… well… horrible.”

“Then you must be disappointed.”

“No, no. Not at all! – I’m just a little surprised.”

Leuven crouched down and poked at the embers of the campfire with a branch. “I am really grateful to you. I have already finished with my life. What a luck that you turned up.”

Without looking at Leuven, Evan said: “You should not rest in the forest at night. If you weren’t attacked by karraks, it could have been wolves, wild boars or worse.”

“I guess we have no choice for today. But hopefully we can continue our journey tomorrow morning. I’d be happy to take you as far as Rabensberg.” Leuven said cheerfully.

The half-demon stretched his head up and looked across Leuven into the darkness. »I suspect this won’t work without your horse. Unless you want to pull your wagon by yourself. But that’s not your plan, I think.”

“You said my mare would return.”

“Yes, that is what I said.”

“So you’re not sure?” the young man asked indignantly.

»It was more of a guess. But when I think about it, I believe it less,” Evan’s voice remained cold as he said it.

»I can’t just leave my wagon here on the side of the road! – All my belongings are in there!” the young merchant growled.

“Stay calm. You’ll attract the Karraks. We will know more tomorrow. Maybe she will come back, maybe the Karraks will eat your mare. I don’t know.”

“You’re driving me crazy,” Leuven snorted. “I have to go on to Rabensberg. I can’t stay here.”

“You should sleep,” Evan said, looking at him straight.

“Sleep? – You mean I should sleep?”

“That is exactly what I mean, yes.”

“I was almost eaten by wild beasts, my horse is missing, and a demon, excuse me, a half-demon is telling me to sleep?”

Evan shrugged. “Right.”

The young merchant lowered his head. “I should have stayed home.”

The half-demon grimaced this time and nodded slightly. “I suppose that would have been a better choice.”

Leuven stood in front of him again.

“You don’t know anything!” he complained, placed his hands on his hips, leant towards Evan and raised a finger in warning. “I had no choice. All my possessions are in this wagon, I must find my mare or you will pull the wagon!”

“I wont. I saved your life, I guess that should be enough,” Evan snorted and stood up too.

Both looked deeply into each other’s eyes.

The half-demon’s red eyes flickered.

Gradually his face began to show signs of emotion.

There was a twitch at the corners of the mouth, a movement of the eyebrows, but threatening enough for the young merchant.

Leuven gave in to the look and turned his head away. “I guess I don’t have a choice. I’m going to sleep for a few hours. But as soon as the sun comes up we will look for my mare.”

“There’s something else.” The half-demon interjected.

“What do you mean?” The young merchant looked irritated.

“There is a castle nearby.” Evan said.

“A castle?” Leuven put a finger to his chin thoughtfully. “O yes, Harren Castle. Lord Johan Dancker lives there. But how could he help us?”

“I have heard that he has a problem,” Evan replied, sitting down by the fire again. “Rumors say that a poltergeist is wreaking havoc on his property.”

“A… a ghost?” Leuven’s hackles stood up.

“A poltergeist, yes,” Evan scowled. “Apparently, he visits the house’s staff in their dreams and drives them crazy. The lord should not be spared either.”

The half-demon grinned eerily; then, all of a sudden, his expression became impassive again. “But maybe that’s just some jokes people tell each other.”

“How is that supposed to help us?” asked the young merchant.

“He could show his gratitude. Maybe he can make sure you get home unharmed,” Evan replied.

“But I don’t want to go home!” Leuven protested again.

“It’s your decision,” the half-demon’s expression became ghostly, “But if there really is a ghost, get ready for horror. Your worst nightmares could come true.”

Leuven swallowed. “My worst nightmares?”

“Oh yes. Horrific creatures lurk in the shadows. They destroy you from the inside out, darken your senses, drive you astray.”

The half-demon turned his face away. He found it a little amusing to unsettle the young man.

Leuven shuddered. “Let me sleep on that tonight.”

“Do that,” Evan replied, throwing the rest of the dry bread into the fire. “But if we don’t want to starve, we should find something to eat as quickly as possible.”

The merchant turned on his heel.

He didn’t like the situation at all.

As he set off with his mare and his wagon, he dreamed of becoming rich, buying a house by the lake and enjoying the peace and silence there. But things didn’t go nearly as he had imagined.

“You don’t want to sleep?” he yawned.

“I’ll keep watch,” Evan replied. “If the karrak’s attacks us, I will make myself known.”

“Okay, do that.”

Leuven stopped abruptly. “Wait, you think the karraks might attack us?”

The half-demon looked at him with a shrug. “Who knows.”

Leuven went to his wagon, but not without looking around anxiously several times to make sure that nothing would jump out of the undergrowth.

He pushed the tarpaulin aside. The wagon tilted to one side as he got in and shifted his weight onto one axle.

Before he closed the tarpaulin, he dared to take a look at the half-demon.

Could he trust him? Leuven didn’t know how to assess him.

On the one hand, he had great respect for him and his abilities, but on the other hand, he also gave him a shudder.

He was a half-demon, so how much humanity was left? – Was that just a trick, and, in reality, did he just want Leuven’s belongings?

The thoughts revolved around the young man.

Finally, shaking his head, Leuven sat down on his bedroll and took off his dirty boots.

“I don’t know what to make of it” Leuven said to himself.

He lay down and folded his hands on his chest, weighing up the possibilities, torn between distrust and despair.

Slowly his eyelids became heavier, and his thoughts became clouded as he drifted into a restless sleep.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5



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