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

The first thing he uncon­scious­ly per­cei­ved was the melan­cho­ly melo­dy of a flu­te accom­pa­nied by gent­le harp sounds. As always, when he was still half asleep, he tur­ned onto his sto­mach, let his right arm sli­de out of bed and touched the floor. Nor­mal­ly his Clay­mo­re lay the­re, but this time his hand reached into not­hing. Irri­ta­ted, he ope­ned his eyes and stret­ched his head over the edge of the bed to look down. It was not there!

Could it be that he had been so drunk the night befo­re that he had for­got­ten to put it the­re? No, he ans­we­red his ques­ti­on to hims­elf. Even in his wil­dest days, back befo­re the four gre­at batt­les, when he had tried to test his limits with his best friend Gawyn, even then he had never made such a mistake.

Never give your wea­pon out of your hand, and if you do, lea­ve it whe­re you can reach it fas­ter than your enemy. We have hard times, and it is vital for you to make my words your own! Do you under­stand me?”

He felt as if his father’s words, spo­ken so many years ago, were still echo­ing through his head, for he had given them extre­me­ly power­ful empha­sis. And not just once. The­re­fo­re, he had inter­na­li­zed the evening ritu­al of pla­cing his sword on the floor just below his bed to such an extent that even a drun­ken stu­por would not have pre­ven­ted him from doing it.

So you‘re final­ly awake!”

The deep, smo­ky voice of a woman snap­ped him out of his thoughts, and he win­ced. Jer­king, he threw hims­elf onto his back, while his hand once again instinc­tively slid across the floor to reach for his sword, but again in vain. He hesi­ta­ted brief­ly, but only to pre­pa­re hims­elf mental­ly for an attack that he would have to fend off with his bare fists if necessa­ry. While all the sce­n­a­ri­os of immi­nent attacks and their defen­se were now rewin­ding in his head, she burst out laug­hing soft­ly. A throaty laugh­ter that slow­ly grew lou­der and final­ly echoed off the walls. Abrupt­ly, he paused.

You will not find what you are loo­king for here,” he heard her say with the chuck­le of a sup­pres­sed laugh in her voice. “And you won’t need it here either!”

It was only at that moment that he real­ly woke up and rea­li­zed that he was not in his own cham­ber at all, but …

Damn it, whe­re was he anyway?

Irri­ta­ted, he loo­ked around, igno­ring the figu­re stan­ding at the foot of his bed and burs­t­ing out laug­hing again.

The bed on which he lay was almost twice as wide as his own. The bed­ding was not made of white linen eit­her, but of a fiber com­ple­te­ly unknown to him, and it shim­me­red red­dish like liquid metal. It was also so trans­pa­rent that his bare skin sho­ne through it.

His bare skin? Why was he expo­sed? Damn!What had he got­ten hims­elf into?

Alt­hough nor­mal­ly not exact­ly shame­ful, he gathe­red the fea­ther-light fab­ric over the cer­tain area, so that it was cove­r­ed by several lay­ers of it. The stran­ger ack­now­led­ged this with even lou­der laugh­ter, but then she fell silent.

His gaze instinc­tively wan­de­red over to her. She was about a head shor­ter than he, which was asto­nis­hing for a woman, for he hims­elf towe­red over most of his clans­men only by the same head length. But at the same time, she did not seem coar­se or unfe­mi­ni­ne, as women of her size usual­ly did, qui­te the oppo­si­te. She was deli­ca­te. Her skin was as white like fresh­ly fal­len snow, with a sil­very-bluish glow. Her ange­lic fea­tures were framed by pitch-black, sil­ky curls that reached down to her thighs. But some­thing about her almost divi­ne appearan­ce con­fu­sed him. Some­thing was wrong with her.

The stran­ger now moved grace­ful­ly towards him, fixing him with her eyes. Her gaze was so pene­tra­ting that he noti­ced how his heart began to beat fas­ter. Not from exci­te­ment, but rather from fear.

Fear? Why was he afraid of her? She was just a woman after all!

And sud­den­ly he knew what was wrong with her. Her eme­rald eyes lacked any lus­ter. They see­med icy-cold and remin­ded him of the eyes of a dead frog.

Who are you? Whe­re am I? How did I get here, and most import­ant­ly, what am I doing here?”

Ins­tead of ans­we­ring him immedia­te­ly, she lithe­ly sett­led down next to him on the bed, a sinis­ter grin play­ing around her fea­tures. He felt like a mou­se being lur­ked by a cat, and just as he pro­bab­ly would with one, his heart­beat stop­ped for a moment befo­re ham­me­ring so hard he could feel it all the way to his temp­les. Even in the batt­les of Kil­lie­cran­kie and Dun­keld, back in the gre­at upri­sing, when they had suf­fe­red first 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 as an inti­ma­te part from child­hood and had lear­ned to live with the con­se­quen­ces that came from it. But this was some­thing com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent. Some­thing his mind just couldn’t 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 would have pre­fer­red to run away from her. But he did­n’t want to give hims­elf that naked­ness, becau­se he was no lon­ger a frigh­te­ned child and cer­tain­ly not her will-less prey.

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

Mor­ga­ne”? The Mor­ga­ne, you mean?”

This very one.

If you are Mor­ga­ne, then I am Merlin.”

She burst into her throaty laugh­ter again.

Not just big, strong and beau­ti­ful …! No, you amu­se me, too! I made a real­ly good choice!” she remar­ked more to herself than direc­ted at him.

What do you mean? You made a good choice?”

Do you think I brought you to me on a whim?”

He did­n’t ans­wer, but just sta­red at her.

I’m defi­ni­te­ly a litt­le moo­dy some­ti­mes, my dear” she con­ti­nued. “But your sal­va­ti­on had not­hing to do with my mood. I’ve been watching you for qui­te a while. I’ve seen you fight in Kil­lie­cran­kie and Dun­keld. Your fero­ci­ty and unbrid­led power! It made me won­der if you use it in other situa­tions as well.”

Her gaze slid from him to the bed sheet and then back to his eyes. “Not always, I found!”

You’ve been watching me do this?”

Ins­tead of ans­we­ring him, she now lea­ned com­ple­te­ly over him, her long hair brushing his bare chest as she sig­hed softly.

Aren’t you going to show me some of your power?”

You want me to what?”, he replied indi­gnant­ly, but at the same moment she pres­sed her lips onto his. Dus­ten was caught com­ple­te­ly off guard. It took a while befo­re he was even capa­ble of a reac­tion, but then he grab­bed her by the shoul­ders and for­ci­b­ly pushed her away from him.

Stop that!”

Don’t be so coy! We’re going to spend a lot of time tog­e­ther, and the soo­ner you com­ply, the easier it will be for you.”

I will not com­ply! Never! You can send me back again.”

Send you back? Why should I? And bes­i­des, what are you doing up the­re? You’d bet­ter enjoy my hos­pi­ta­li­ty, be gra­te­ful that you’­re ali­ve thanks to my fore­sight, and show your appreciation!”

Again she moved clo­ser, but this time Dus­ten was pre­pa­red for it. He jer­ki­ly tur­ned to the side, yan­king the beds­pread with him. Mor­ga­ne lost her foo­ting 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? What 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 onto her side, sup­por­ting her head with one hand while loo­king him in the eye again.

I alrea­dy told you that! All dead!”

You’­re lying! It can’t be!”

I never lie!” Anger min­gled in her lust­ful gaze. “See for yourself!”

With her free hand, she made a cir­cu­lar moti­on right in front of his eyes. At first, not­hing hap­pen­ed, but then the air insi­de the cir­cle began to shim­mer. Ever­ything he saw dis­tor­ted, beca­me dar­ker and final­ly an image for­med of the val­ley whe­re he had spent half his life: Gleann Comhann!