by Svein Kåre Gunnarson
"It's a good thing your horse can see where he's going," the First Knight said, chuckling at the sight of his squire sprawling on the ground under his horse.
"I'm afraid it's a bit early for me..." the boy replied sulkily.
"You have to get used to that, I'm afraid," the knight said. "Now, get up boy, and let's continue."
"My name's Ronan , not 'boy'," the squire said as he got back into the saddle, avoiding the eyes of the knight.
"I know." The words were barely audible.
"Then why don't you..." Ronan snapped, but stopped abruptly when he noticed the grave expression in the knight's eyes.
The knight didn't answer, but instead made his horse start going slowly southwards. After riding for a while, with his squire keeping the pace beside him, the knight finally broke the silence:
"Knowing someone's true name gives you power over him. The power to induce fear, to hurt, to irreparably damage. Not physically, but the spirit."
"But - that's just old wives tales," Ronan said, astonished. "You don't believe in that?"
"I've seen it happen," The knight continued. "Twice. First time I..."
His voice broke, and a tear was flowing down his cheek. Ronan shifted uncomfortably in the saddle, not knowing what to say. They rode in silence again, while the knight were fighting his tears. Finally he managed to continue with a shaky voice:
"First time was back home, many months away from here. A lot of evil deeds were done there. The evil was overcome, but... I swore that never again should my name be spoken by anyone I didn't trust my life, so I left. Away from all that was known and familiar."
"And the second time?" Ronan asked, when it didn't seem that the knight would continue.
"The second time - is now!" The knight looked Ronan in the eyes before he continued, "You've seen Morgath's knights. They look healthy and strong, and they probably are, but they're drained from energy, from their will. And the one no one knows the name of any more... Poor man, that demon definitely knew his true name."
Ronan turned white as he heard this, but was calmed a bit when the knight continued.
"The tradition for using true names here seems to be all but forgotten, reduced as you say to old wives tales. That might help us in the time that lies before us, when..."
The knight stopped abruptly, staring into the distance. Ronan followed his gaze, and noticed some thick, black smoke far away.
"I have no idea what's wrong," the old wizard sighed helplessly. "None of us do. He looks healthy enough, and he should have the strength few could match, but still... All his power is just drained from him."
"And none of you have any idea of how we should treat him?" Morion looked around at everyone in the room; Wizards and sorcerers, priests and druids, wise men and women, but all of them just shook their heads. The only suggestion they had, was to feed him to keep him alive. Morion sighed and left the room. She could help the nameless knight to fight the draining, but only for very short periods. It made her exhausted, especially now that she didn't have her crystal to help.
Out in the halls she noticed a young man that was walking slowly around, devouring all the sights with wide open eyes. It was Morgath's young knight, she realised, the one who had noticed Morgath coming back with the book. She stood silently in the shadows, studying him. In front of the door to the library he stopped and hesitated. He studied the sign next to the door, and it looked like he couldn't decide if he should knock or not. Then when he lost his courage and turned away, Morion stepped forward and greeted him.
"Good morning, young man, how are you feeling today?"
He shrank startled. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to leave the room..."
"Hey hey hey, it's all right. Of course you can leave the room, why shouldn't you?" Morion touched his shoulders and calmed him. He felt tense. "Is everything well with you?"
He just nodded under Morion's concerned look, but she didn't remove her hand; The young man was slowly relaxing under her soft touch.
"How are the others, are they up too?" Morion enquired.
"No, those who were awake were still tired and wanted to sleep." He wrinkled his forehead in deep thoughts. "Or exhausted. They looked more weary than tired."
"That doesn't sound good." Morion stared unfocused at the door a while, before she looked at the young man again: "I need your help. Maybe together we can find out what has happened, and how we can overcome it. Please..." Morion stopped abruptly, searching for a word. "I don't think I know your name?"
"Li..." The young man seemed to concentrate before he slid away from Morion's touch with great effort. "John. My name is John."
Morion stared puzzled at him a brief moment. "Well then, John. Will you join me in the library and see what we can find out together?"
Without waiting for the answer she opened the door and entered the library. John stared in awe through the door opening, before slowly entering, taking the sight in. The room was huge, and there were leather bound books and rolls with pergament everywhere in the shelves that filled it. Morion was already sitting behind a solid oak table in the middle of the room, making some pergaments and a quill ready. She looked up and smiled at John, where he stood just inside the door opening.
"It's a nice library, isn't it?"
John could only nod, his mouth open in awe.
"I'm really proud of it," Morion continued. "My ancestors have have collected scrolls and books for generations - some even from far away, where people have a different skin colour."
John looked suspiciously at her, as if he wondered if she were making fun of him. "Different skin colour? Like, green?"
Morion giggled. "No, not quite that different. Just darker skin colour, like when we've been out in the sun for a long time. Some are even black." She paused for a brief moment. "And their letters are completely different from ours - I can't understand much of it. Maybe you want to see afterwards, but first we must see if we can find out more of what happened down in Morgaths castle."
John approached her and sat down on the chair across the table from Morion. There was a deep furrow in her forehead as she was thinking back on what John had told her earlier. "You said," she said slowly, "That Morgath brought with him a book after a travel westwards about a year ago."
John nodded. "Yes, he did."
Morion was biting her lower lip, then looked John directly in his eyes. "Did you ever get a glimpse of the book? Through the library door or something?"
John hesitated at first, but then started telling. "There was once some later, when I brought Morgath some food. He was then sitting in the.. the library. But as soon as he heard me he closed the book quickly and started yelling at me, so I just put the food on the end of the table and ran out. All I saw of the book was that it was thick and red with some golden ornamentation, and some sort of picture in the middle."
Morion lit up. "A picture? What was it picture of? Can you describe it? Or draw it?"
"Well - I think I can draw it."
Morion put a pergament, quill and ink in front of John, and looked at as he sketched with awkwardly movements. When he was finished, he showed the pergament back to Morion. She bit her lower lip and furrowed her forehead again. "Hmmm, I've seen that symbol before somewhere..."
They were sitting in silence for a while, as Morion tried to remember where the symbol had appeared earlier, but in the end she gave up. "Maybe I'll remember later," she said to herself, barely audible.
"Was there a title on the book?" she suddenly asked. "I don't expect you to remember it," she said as John started to look uncomfortable. "Maybe even it was written with foreign letters?"
John brightened up: "Yes, maybe it was."
Morion rose from the chair, the excitement glowing from her eyes. "I'll find some books written with various letters, and then you can see if you recognise any of them." Without waiting for any answer, she picked books and scrolls from various shelves, and a book telling about the realms in the west. That one could maybe give her some answers afterwards.
Back at the table she were spreading everything carefully out so that John could study the various types of writing to see if he recognised some of them.
"That one!" John pointed eagerly at the last book Morion put down on the table, in front of herself.
"This?" Morion touched the book with her fingers.
"Yes. The letters looked similar to those, but I can't understand them."
Morion looked down, feeling silly. She had assumed that John could read, but he couldn't - there was nothing foreign about those letters. It was the book she picked extra about the realms in the west - written with the common letters. He was just too proud to admit it, it seemed, except when he thought it was something unknown.
"Is anything wrong?" John asked after a while, to break the awkward silence.
Morion looked up and smiled at him. "No, nothing wrong. Just much to think of." She paused a moment. "Would you like to learn to read those letters? I have many books written with those, and all my knights are learning them."