1st look inside ( Trapped in the Valley of Tears)

Prologue

The first thing he uncon­scious­ly per­ceived was the melan­cholic melody of a flute, accom­pa­nied by gen­tle harp sounds. As always, when he was still half asleep, he turned on his stom­ach, let his right arm slide out of bed and touched the floor. Usu­al­ly his Clay­more lay there, but this time his hand reached into the noth­ing. Irri­tat­ed, he opened his eyes and stretched his head over the edge of the bed to look down. It wasn’t there! Could he have been so drunk the night before that he had for­got­ten to put it there? No, he answered his ques­tion. He nev­er made such a mis­take, even in his wildest times, before the four great bat­tles, when he and his best friend Gawyn had tried to test their lim­its.

“Nev­er give up your weapon, and if you do, leave it where you can reach it faster than your ene­my. These are dark times, and it is vital for you to make my words your own! Do you hear me?” He felt as if his father’s words, spo­ken so many years ago, were still echo­ing in his mind, for he had giv­en them a very pow­er­ful empha­sis. And not just once. There­fore he had so inter­nal­ized the evening rit­u­al of lay­ing his sword on the floor just below his bed that even a drunk­en stu­por would not have pre­vent­ed him from doing it.

“So you have final­ly awak­ened!” His mind was torn from his thoughts by the deep, smoky voice of a woman that he flinched. Jerk­ly he threw him­self on his back, while his hand instinc­tive­ly slipped across the floor again to reach for his sword, but once again in vain. For a moment he hes­i­tat­ed, but only to pre­pare him­self men­tal­ly for an attack which he had to fend off with his bare fists if nec­es­sary. While all the sce­nar­ios of immi­nent attacks and their defence unwound in his head, she burst out in a soft laugh­ter. A throaty laugh­ter that slow­ly grew loud­er and final­ly echoed off the walls. Ther­fore he paused abrupt­ly.

“What you are look­ing for will not find here,” he heard her say with the swal­low of a sup­pressed laugh­ter in her voice. “And you won’t need it here either!” Only at that moment he did real­ly wake up and real­ize that he was not in his own cham­ber, at all, but … Damn it,actually where was he? Irri­tad­ed he looked around, ignor­ing the fig­ure who stood at the foot of his bed, laugh­ing again.

The bed on which he lay was almost twice as wide as his own. The bed­clothes were not made of white linen either, but of a fiber com­plete­ly unknown to him, and it gleamed red­dish like liq­uid met­al. It was also so trans­par­ent that his bare skin shim­mered through it. His bare skin? Why was he bared? Damn!What the hell had he got­ten into here? Although nor­mal­ly not very ashamed, he gath­ered the feath-light fab­ric over the cer­tain area, so that it was cov­ered by sev­er­al lay­ers of fab­ric. The stranger acknowl­edged this with even loud­er laugh­ter, but then she fell silent.

His gaze instinc­tive­ly wan­dered over to her. She was one head small­er than him, which was aston­ish­ing for a woman, because he sur­passed most of his clans­men only by that very length. But she did­n’t seem coarse or unfem­i­nine, as women of her size nor­mal­ly did. No, it was quite the oppo­site. She was dil­i­cate. Her skin was white like fresh­ly fall­en snow and shim­mered sil­ver-blue. Her angel­ic face was framed by pitch-black, silky curls that reached down to her thighs. But there was some­thing about her almost divine appear­ance that con­fused him. Some­thing was wrong with her.

The stranger now grace­ful­ly moved towards him, fix­ing him with her eyes. Her glance was so pen­e­trat­ing that he felt his heart begin to beat faster. Not with excite­ment, but rather with fear. Fear? Why was he afraid of her? She was just a woman …! And sud­den­ly he knew what was wrong with her. Her eyes, emer­ald green, lacked any shine. They looked icy-cold and remind­ed him of the eyes of a dead frog.

“Who are you? Where am I? How did I get here? And above all, what am I doing here?” Instead of answer­ing him imme­di­ate­ly, she sat down on the bed next to him with a eerie grin play­ing around her face. He felt like a mouse being lurked by a cat, and, just like what he might have been like, his heart­beat paused before pound­ing so hard that he could feel it down to his tem­ples. Even in the bat­tles of Kil­liecrankie and Dunkeld, back in the Great Upris­ing, when they first suf­fered a vic­to­ry and then a dev­as­tat­ing defeat, and so many good men found a quick death, he had­n’t felt that way. Per­haps it was because he had known fight­ing from his child­hood on as an impor­tant part of his life and had learned to live with the con­se­quences of it. But this was some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. Some­thing that his mind sim­ply could not com­pre­hend.

Even though she smiled at him and every move she made gave him a lit­tle more of an idea of what she real­ly want­ed from him, he want­ed to run away from her. But he did­n’t want to give him­self this kind of naked­ness, because he wasn’t a fright­ened child any­more and cer­tain­ly not her will-less prey.

“You want to know who I am?” she breathed into his ear when she had come close enough to him, while he invol­un­tar­i­ly pressed him­self into the pil­lows to increase the dis­tance between them. “They call me Mor­gane.”

“Mor­gane”? The Mor­gans?”

“That’s the one.

“If you are Mor­gane, then I am Mer­lin.” Again she broke out in her throaty laugh­ter.

“Not only tall, strong and beau­ti­ful… No, you amuse me, too. I’ve made a real­ly good choice!”, she remarked more to her­self than to him.

“What does it mean? You made a good choice?”

” Do you think I brought you to me on a whim?” He did­n’t answer, he just stared at her. ” I may be a lit­tle moody some­times, my dear, but your sal­va­tion had noth­ing to do with my mood. I have been watch­ing you for a while. I saw you fight in Kil­liecrankie and Dunkeld. Your wild­ness and unbri­dled strength! I won­dered if you would use it in oth­er sit­u­a­tions as well.” Her gaze slipped from him to the sheet and then back to his eyes. “Not always, as I real­ized!”

“You watched me do this?” Instead of answer­ing him, she bent over him com­plete­ly, her long hair brush­ing his bare chest as she sighed soft­ly. “Won’t you show me some of your strength?”

“I shall what?”, he replied enraged, but at the same moment her lips were pressed against his. Dusten was com­plete­ly tak­en by sur­prise. It took a while before he was even able to react, then he grabbed her by the shoul­ders and pushed her force­ful­ly away from him. “Stop it!”

“Don’t be so shy! We will spend a lot of time togeth­er, so as soon­er you sub­mit, as eas­i­er it will be for you.”

“I will not sub­mit! Nev­er! You can send me back.”

“Send you back? Why should I send you back? And besides, what are you doing up there? You’d bet­ter enjoy my hos­pi­tal­i­ty, be grate­ful that you’re alive because of my fore­sight, and reward me for it!” Again she came clos­er, but this time Dusten was pre­pared. He turned jerk­i­ly to the side, tear­ing the blan­ket with him. Mor­gane lost her bal­ance and land­ed with her face on the pil­low instead of on him.

“What do you mean?”

“If I had­n’t saved you, you’d be just as dead as all the oth­ers now!”

“Dead? What are you talk­ing about? Which oth­ers?”

“Your father, your moth­er, the Laird…,” she replied as if it was com­plete­ly irrel­e­vant.

“What about my moth­er, my father, and the Laird?” Mor­gane rolled ele­gant­ly to one side, sup­port­ing her head with one hand and look­ing him in the eye again.

“I’ve already told you that! All dead!”

“You’re lying! It can’t be!”

“I nev­er lie!” Anger mixed in with her las­civ­i­ous look. “See for your­self!” She moved her free hand in a cir­cu­lar motion right before his eyes. At first, noth­ing hap­pened, but then the air inside the cir­cle began to flick­er. Every­thing he saw dis­tort­ed, became dark­er and final­ly an image of the val­ley where he had spent half his life was formed: Gleann Comhann!