You must kill …
In the dawn of a possible royal meeting in Bamberg, a bloody family feud of the Tiefenbach family rages in the Siegerland. At the centre is the deadly conflict between father and sons. An entire valley and its inhabitants are drawn into this maelstrom of brutality and infamy when a foreign army of mercenaries invades unnoticed. Only the rich merchant family Bayer is able to keep the balance of power halfway. An icy winter, a conflagration and disease drive the people into despair, misery and death. An old children’s rhyme echoes through the valley: Whether rich or poor – in death all are equal …
The first volume was published on June 18, 2023.
“Lord, don’t leave me alone.” Shocked to have uttered this request aloud, and realising that his voice had lost all strength, the charcoal burner from Walpersdorf looked up into the sky and wiped the tears from his face. Shaken by crying fits, he had had to interrupt his work again and again, but now it was done, his charcoal pile was no more.
Despair and grief had plunged him into a deep darkness. “For whom else, Michl?” But his question, which was probably addressed to God, remained unanswered.
A Bayers’ cart would come by these days and take the last sacks of coal. He was not worried about his wages, because August Bayer had always treated him decently and paid him on time.
With tears in his eyes, he shouldered the last sack while, looking inwards, he remembered last year’s summer when his wife Mathilde and little Trudel, both of whom he had lost to lung fever the previous winter, were still alive. After he had weighed the sack onto the pile, then shouldered the axe and other tools, he set off home, robbed of all joy in life.
Hopeful and hungry at the same time, he felt with his free, soot-blackened hand for the provisions bag hanging from his belt, perhaps he had missed something. No, nothing… Empty, as empty as his heart.
To reach his now lonely home before nightfall, he decided to take a shortcut through the forest.
At some point a few years ago, he had discovered the dried-up creek bed and spotted an easily passable path in it. Cautious as he was, however, he had never mustered the courage to follow the dried-up watercourse further than necessary, for the deep woods in which it was lost had always had something eerie for him.
Every now and then, a pebble would break away from under his footsteps, clattering against others before finally disappearing into the growing darkness. A blink of an eye later, he thought he heard a long drawn-out howl. Listening irritably into the imminent darkness, he stopped.
“Wolves! Make for home”, he quietly admonished himself to greater haste. Not long now, and the dense forest would disappear under a cloak of impenetrable darkness.
Driven by fear and loneliness, his steps became more hurried. Sensing rather than seeing the parched course, he realised that fate had not been merciful to him at all, for it had kept the memory of the day of his loved ones’ deaths alive like a poisonous thorn deep in his flesh. Trapped in this infinite emptiness more and more often since that day, his thoughts returned even now to those hours when his little family was wiped out …
Suddenly, an unnatural silence fell over the forest; it seemed to him to symbolise his current situation. There was nothing left to live for, only the love for his charcoal pile had kept him going, but that no longer existed either. At that moment he decided that enough was enough.
“FINALLY GET ME!”, he shouted, breaking the silence, in the direction where he thought the white and grey hunters were.
Something moved towards him in the darkness. “Come here, I’m not resisting.” Sinking to his knees, resigned to his fate, hoping soon to be reunited with his wife and daughter, he dropped his tool from his shoulder, moments later it hit the ground beside him with a metallic clang. . Addressing the shadow, he muttered, “Get it over with.”
Only a few steps away from him he could make out the wolf, a formidable animal! Slowly approaching, the long-legged hunter never took his eyes off him. He stopped not a hand’s breadth from his face. Finished with his life, he looked fearlessly into the yellow glowing eyes.
Without warning, deep, inhuman growls reached his ears. Hypnotised, he gazed at the bared teeth of the superior hunter. Then something snapped him out of his mental stupor – the beast was not attacking him! In the amber eyes of his counterpart he read a message he would never have thought possible or would ever forget:
Get out of here! Now!