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Chapter One

Verdant summer grass softened his footsteps on the top of the hill. The man meditatively viewed a splendid midday panorama of blue mountains and started descending from the hillside, down to a glen overgrown with fir-trees. Dark hair, dark eyes, a broad good-natured face. A grey suit and a jacket, a black satchel hanging on the shoulder, a sheath, unpretentious clothes of a knight-errant.

Suddenly resonant clanging of steel and gruff spiteful snarling became heard from behind the thicket. His hand on the hilt of his sword, the man hurried in the direction of the rattle. On a glade he saw a half of a dozen of loathsome trolls surrounding a young lady, trying to thrust at her with their lances and daggers. Malicious ugly muzzles, gnarled paws, shaggy heads, they were prevailing despite their clumsiness.

Her slim fragile figure was spinning around among the hefty slow-witted assailants, the flaps of her beige chamois-leather caftan fluttering, graceful manners in each swift gesture, in each movement of the glittering saber parrying all attempts to stab her. Two plaits of her blond hair were swaying and lashing her cheeks. Dark-blue trousers, a black belt with a circular silver buckle, elegant purple high-boots. Accurate noble features, cold indignation and resoluteness in her large velvet-blue eyes.

Straightway the man unsheathed his sword and dashed to save the girl unhesitatingly. Slashing and shattering the primitive artless panoply, he began to hew his way through the trolls towards her, his impetuous onslaught making the enemy squeal hoarsely and drop dead on the spot.

Meanwhile the lady deviated from a hurled lance and hit the head of the last presumptuous detestable monster with her saber cleaving the crudely-riveted helmet, iron bits scattered. The assailant gave a fearful whine, cowardly rushed away and quickly evanesced between fir-trees.

"It would be unwise to stay here," the man remained imperturbable when the thicket resounded with distant crackling of boughs, rattling of weapon and hollow growling of an approaching fierce horde, "the hills are infested with trolls."

"Thanks for your help!" She was trying to recover the breath, her voice turned out to be pleasantly melodious.

Looking around warily, their swords in their hands on the alert, the girl and the man retreated into the hanging branches at the other side of the glade and walked away through the dense forest.

"My valiant guardians took to their heels at the sight of the danger," a disdainful irony hardly dissembled a shade of a grievous disappointment in her intonation, "if you wonder why I am alone in the wilderness…"

"Well, I'll be glad of your company," he pronounced lively, manifestly trying to hearten her up, "I am Andreas, entirely at your service!"

"I am Lynette," she calmed down a little, but coldness lingered in her eyes, "we have to reach the town, but not along the main road."

Round the nearest hill they heard a mountainous river roaring, came out of the forest and saw the wild waters foaming and lapping between grey polished boulders, sparkling in the sunlight. They crossed a lush meadow with blossoming yellow and white flowers. Lynette leant on the hand of Andreas not to lose balance when fording the splattering stream, jumping from stone to stone and trying not to wet the tops of the high-boots.

Then they stepped onto the pebble strip and were about to ascend the slant strewed with large cracked bits of rock, but at that very moment a loud sinister howl echoed over the river dell. A dozen of trolls emerged from the woods, tramping the meadow, brandishing lances and halberds, and rushed into the water, plopping and splashing, slipping off, trying to get to the opposite bank quickly.

Andreas didn't let the first brute climb out of the stream without hindrance, met him with the saber hewing the lance shaft in half, the sharp iron tip dropped off. The stupid monster perplexedly stopped staring at the useless splintered stump in his paws, then pulled a dagger out, but one more lightning-like movement of the sword glittered smashing his ugly head too, and the waves took the dead troll away.

Lynette picked up a big oval cobble, swung her arm and hurled the stone violently, and it thudded into the forehead of one more assailant, toppling him down.

Still the other impudent brutes kept on attacking them, baring their fangs menacingly, getting nearer wading through the water, outflanking them inevitably.

All of a sudden arrows started swishing in the air overhead, piercing the screaming monsters. Lynette and Andreas looked around and saw several archers in dark-green suits, long fair hair being arranged in tails, young faces. Swiftly flicking new missiles out of their quivers and bending the bows, they were shooting uninterruptedly over and over again from between the rocks.

"Elves!!!" the trolls hoarsely bawled in horror and shrank back, but well-aimed arrows gave them no faintest chance to escape. The stream dragged the dead beasts out of sight, cleaning the landscape.

Lynette and Andreas sheathed their swords. He helped her to ascend the cliff, holding her hand, chivalrously supporting her when stones crumbled underfoot, and they came up to the archers.

"Nice to see you safe, Lynette!" one of the Elves exclaimed in a joyful clear voice, "but where are your brothers and your father? You always visit the neighbour castle together, don't you…"

"Hello, Iven!" she sighed. "Running fast, I believe, they have already hidden in the fortress… But Andreas helped me timely."

The Elves shook their heads indignantly, a mute sympathy in their kind grey-blue eyes.

"You must be a Grey Knight? Only your order prefers ordinary clothes to sumptuous attires," Iven looked at Andreas, sincere friendliness in his words, "and you wield a saber just as they do!"

"Right," Andreas gave a modest nod.

"The whole horde will be here soon!" another Elf warned peering into the woods beyond the river, "let's hurry up, or something."

All of them left the cliff rocks and got on an old unpaved road winding between hills, single grey boulders lying about. High bushes throwing chequered light and shade, the sunshine was beaming through the emerald leafage softly.

"Hm, no flags above the castle," one Elf murmured when they saw a distant fortress and stopped on a hillock to view peaked roofs of towers, grey walls with embrasures and merlons.

"We have accomplished our reconnaissance in the hinterlands," Iven turned to Lynette and Andreas, "now we must warn our queen about the troll invasion. Would you go with us?"

"I must make sure that my relatives are all right," Lynette answered pensively, "regardless of their attitude, they are my family."

"But how will you get inside?" Iven wondered, "I see the drawbridge raised!"

"Remember the tunnel where we used to play in childhood?" she explained.

"I'm going with you, Lynette," Andreas rather informed her about his decision unaffectedly than offered to help, "staying alone can be harmful to your health…"

"Oh, a Grey Knight will be the best guard for you! See you soon!" Iven smiled and waved them goodbye. The Elves disappeared in the shrubbery easily and inaudibly, stirring not a twig, not a leaf rustled.

Lynette and Andreas resumed walking along the road. In a short while she pointed at a deep ravine grown with willows, they descended to the bottom.

"This place is reminiscent of happy days. I grew up with Elvish children," she squatted down at a clear purling rill, drew up a handful of the crystal twinkling water and made a gulp, her sad coldness melted.

"Are the Elves in danger now?" he lowered onto one knee beside her to drink too.

"Hardly," she assured him. "No one knows the location of their kingdom. Somewhere in woods, but impossible to find unless they lead you there themselves."

The stony entrance archway was hidden with overhanging willow branches, but Lynette definitely knew the way. They plunged into the tunnel shade, the daylight dimly filtering through infrequent latticed square apertures in the high vaulted ceiling. The walls reflected and amplified their quiet tread.

At the end of the tunnel Lynette put her slender hand into the heart-shaped eyelet, groped for the inner latch to move it aside, and the firm wooden door screeched open when Andreas hauled the tarnished ring of the handle.

A staircase, a basement with stacks of barrels, some courtyard near a tower foundation.

Finally they found themselves in a cobble-paved lane inside of the stronghold.

Nobody all around. Deserted streets, shuttered windows of three-storeyed houses, only a wind rotating bronze weather-vanes above reddish tiles of roofs.

They came up to a granite mansion, she fumbled about in her pockets for a bunch of three figured keys and unlocked the carved oaken front door.

"Anybody home?" Lynette called but got no reply. A hall with a marble floor, no fire in the mantelpiece, no candles in gilded chandeliers. Desolate corridors and rooms with white walls, red carpets and curtains, polished furniture.

"They must have departed in haste," Andreas conjectured viewing small wooden boxes scattered on a lacquered dressing-table, near a high mirror with a plain oaken frame and on the parquet in a bedroom, open lids, no jewellery on the pink velvet padding, "however, not forgetting about expensive things."

"My mother even took all my dresses!" she looked into a large wardrobe but found only a pink silk kerchief and a brown comb. "I'm not surprised that my parents left me. They would never miss a chance to remind me that I'm a burden for the family, as I refuse to marry some depraved money-bag."

"By the way, about money," he remarked, "the horde is oncoming. I have got enough to hire a ship."

 

"Let's do it half-and-half! Mother didn't find my savings," Lynette replied taking two dark-blue velvet pouches from a deep secret drawer, poured gold out of them onto the dressing-table, Andreas added his own coins. She quickly counted, sorted and shoved everything into her pockets.

They left the building and walked towards the embankment. No ships in the port, no boats on the broad full-flowing river surface, only one small yacht standing at the wharf, dark mahogany boards, carved railings at the high stern platform, a streamline bowsprit on the prow. A stocky man in a striped vest and black trousers was sitting on the ladder first stair, the hands supporting the chin dolefully, his face had an expression of an awful offence at all the world, even the old felt hat brims drooped.

"Excuse me, but where are the people of this town?" Lynette asked him. "Could they possibly relinquish the fortress to trolls?"

"I'm afraid, they could! Soldiers, officers, ladies, everybody packed up, embarked and escaped," the man grumbled without anger, "but I am captain Jim, and I stayed. No one believes that a Dwarf can ever be a good sailor. Yes, I'm a Dwarf, so what?"

"We do believe that you can, and we want to hire you, captain!" Lynette pulled the pouch out of her caftan pocket, lightly shook it up on her palm, and a clink of coins became heard, "gold beforehand!"

"Really?! Welcome aboard!" Jim got pleasantly surprised accepting the pouch, his face brightened up, he sprang to his feet merrily, taking the hat off and making an inviting gesture. Lynette and Andreas ascended to the deck. Having untied the thick mooring rope from a low wooden pillar, Jim followed them and got busy with the uncomplicated rigging of the ship, obviously anticipating a new enthralling voyage.

While the Dwarf was tugging cords to unfold the sails on the mast, two trolls climbed up the citadel wall, pushed the chain winch levers and lowered the drawbridge. Roaring triumphantly, the horde rushed inside deluging the town and breaking into houses. Being led by a chieftain, the most loathsome monster with a black tassel on the helmet top, a considerable quantity of them appeared at the wharf tramping heavily.

At the sight of them Lynette ran to help Jim to bind the last rope end, she stayed to tighten the knot when the Dwarf dashed up the wooden staircase to the high stern platform and grasped at the steering-wheel handles.

The ladder was long and narrow, the assailants could try to get onto the ship one by one only. Meeting them at the board, his saber glittering swiftly, Andreas instantly hewed the first monster, knocking him down into the water, then parried the halberd swing of the second brute who lost his balance and got overthrown too.

The third one hesitated to fight and apprehensively stopped blocking the way, the following trolls crowded behind him jamming and pressing forward, but the wooden ladder cracked under their weight and crashed down, the squealing assailants splashed the board up with cascades of drops.

The sails flapped and caught the wind, the yacht began to move away from the wharf. Three or four hurled lances stuck into the deck planks, doing no actual harm, and the monsters bellowed in powerless malice on the embankment.

"Oh, yes, I do like such adventures!" holding the steering-wheel at the stern, the Dwarf exclaimed with a broad smile, confidently leading the ship to the middle of the majestic river scintillating in the late afternoon sunshine.

"Look, this is Iven!" Lynette exclaimed, "let's pick him up!"

Iven waved his hand, standing on a small boat being rowed simultaneously by two other Elves in silvery-green cloaks with hoods. Andreas lowered a rope-ladder when the wide blades of the short oars made equable sweeps and delivered the boat to the very board.

"Do you need an assistant, captain?" having climbed up the rope-ladder easily, smiling Iven stepped onto the deck.

"Dwarf Jim, at your service!" the captain answered cheerfully, "it would be nice to see an Elf in my crew!"

"Our queen sent me to join you," Iven told them. "A troll detachment is pursuing you overland. Maybe, you have something very important for them."

"Any news about the town people?" Lynette asked him.

"An hour ago a whole flotilla sailed away unimpeded," the Elf looked at her, "apparently, the monsters are hunting for nobody but you."

"In the forest they attacked me but let my father and my brothers run away," Lynette pronounced thoughtfully and began to examine the contents of her pockets, pulling out the bunch of keys, the pink kerchief, the comb, another pouch of money, "what can I possibly have?"

"I'll take you to the queen, she can help us to find it out," Iven comforted her and went to the stern, Jim light-heartedly let him hold the steering-wheel.

The declining day flooded the sky above hills with the golden sunlight reflecting in the limpid waters, and the yacht seemed to continue sailing ahead along a liquid amber.

Iven veered into a channel separated from the main river-bed with a long willow-grown island and directed the ship towards a wooden pier where a dozen of Elves had already been waiting for them. Andreas helped Jim to pull rigging ropes, and the sails got folded. Iven threw the mooring hank, the Elves caught it and tied the yacht to a firm pillar.

"Good evening!" one Elf greeted them on their coming down a broad plank they had put across the narrow gap between the board and the pier flooring, "queen Veronica is inviting you for a dinner. I'll show you the way."

He led Lynette, Andreas, Jim and Iven deep into the forest. No path, just a smooth carpet of grass. The last ray of the setting sun faded away, the blue twilight began to shade the thicket, but a small yellow-orange lantern flared up in the hand of their guide seemingly all by itself. Other similar lights flashed between trees, they went in that direction and came out into a not very wide opening. Hanging on branches, garlands of lanterns turned the glade into a mysterious hall. In the middle of it they saw a table laden with food, silver goblets and dishes on a white cloth.

"Welcome!" a pretty woman in a long green dress calmly offered to take chairs. She had a very young but intelligent face, a lily was plaited into her long light-brown hair. Kindness and heartiness in her grey lambent eyes.

"Thank you, your highness!" Jim answered before sitting down, "it's a great honour for us!"

They took silver forks, tasted the dishes amply flavoured with fruit salad and immediately expressed a good appetite. Two Elves, acting as servants, smiled at that mute but sincere appreciation of the cooking and poured some drink from porcelain jugs into the goblets.

"I heard about your troubles, Lynette," queen Veronica pronounced in a while.

"We were going to the dimension of Dryads to make some purchases at their market," Lynette remained calm, as though the placid harmony of the evening subtle charm had assuaged her recollections of the recent events, "but the monsters attacked us on our way to the eastern castle portal."

"I suppose, they want the key your grandmother once gave you," Veronica explained.

"What for? Isn't it just a fine trinket?!" Lynette wondered taking the bunch out, separated the biggest key and put it onto the table so that all of them could view it, "I don't even know whether it matches any lock!"

"It matches the El Dorado portal," Veronica took a goblet in her hand, "somebody has to visit that world periodically and inspect whether it is all right. Your granny was one of such emissaries."

"El Dorado!" Iven exclaimed admiringly with his usual liveliness, "the splendid fabulous land, the marvellous dimension where Elves originated from!.. Trolls must never desecrate and spoil it!"

"Can you hide the key from them, your highness?" Lynette asked staring at the engraved ornamentation of the long haft in a daze.

"Trolls will not leave us alone, the energy of this piece of metal attracts them like a beacon," the queen shook her head, "the only way out is to find El Dorado and keep the key there, beyond their reach, till they are defeated here."

"Then, I will deliver it there," Lynette pronounced quietly but resolutely and united the bunch into a single whole again, "though, my granny never told me the way."

"Maybe, she believed it would be better for you to find the way of your own," Veronica lightly shrugged, "who can ever comprehend his destiny?.."

"My ship is at your disposal!" the Dwarf declared merrily.

"We'd better depart stealthily under the cover of the night," Andreas looked at Lynette.

"Elves can see in the darkness, you'll need me," Iven also manifested his wish to go on a voyage.

"I will not dissuade you from this dangerous mission," Veronica smiled with benevolent warmth, "you are free to follow the call of your hearts, and I cherish hopes for your success."

They drank a silent toast and stood up, the queen waved them goodbye. Lanterns in hands, Elves escorted them through the forest back to the pier. The rising sickle moon gleamed from behind hills and gave enough light to set sails, the favourable night breeze slowly moved the yacht away.

"Have a safe journey! Return soon!" the Elves wished them good luck, dimmed their lights out and disappeared in the silvery bluish-azure shades before the ship left the channel.

"The pursuers must have lost us for some time," Iven gazed at the woodland intently, but no enemies allowed themselves to be seen on the banks, no noise disturbed the quiet, only gentle lapping of the crystal water glimmering with moonlight. "I'll be on watch."

"I'll substitute you in a couple of hours," Jim nodded and turned to Lynette and Andreas, "let me show you your rooms."

The Dwarf opened the hatch in the front wall of the stern height, they went downstairs to the lower deck illuminated with Elvish lanterns, passed a hall with a broad lunch counter and entered a corridor, neat yellow-brown wooden panelling all around. Jim pointed at two doors in a suite of several cabins.

"Wake me up when my turn comes, I'll be on watch too," Andreas asked the captain.

Her face and her gestures looking very tired, Lynette indifferently chose the nearest apartment. A green woollen blanket and a white pillow on a berth, a bedside-table and a compact built-in wardrobe, a round porthole. She took her caftan off and put it over the chair-back apathetically, her russet silk shirt twinkled softly when she bent down to unbuckle her high-boots, then she curled herself on the bed and closed her eyes.

Chapter Two

Wreathing like a white cloud, a dense mist covered the river valley in the early twilight before the dawn. Weak wafts of an unsteady wind, periodically tearing the pale shroud, could not be of much avail, and the yacht was mostly drifting with the current. The mainsail fluttered again, and Andreas slowly rotated the steering-wheel, peering into the distance ahead, keeping to the midstream.

"Would you like some tea?" Lynette went out of the lower deck door, two big wooden tankards with carved floral ornamentation in her hands, and came up to him. She looked rested and fresh, no more sorrows of yesterday.

"Yes, thanks!" he took a tankard gratefully.

"Tell me about Grey Knights," mere curiosity sounded in her words.

"We are just a group of dreamers who rejected vanity life to become noble and fair. Not only Elves can keep spiritual values of goodness," no pathos in his level tones, as if just musing aloud on ordinary things, he tried the steaming tea.

"An exact contrary to other knights," she was thoughtfully holding her tankard in the both hands, "due to my long friendship with Elves, I have always wanted anything more than the prevailing petty mode of living."

"We dream that somewhere, maybe in El Dorado, we shall find a blissful splendid land," his stare became a little detached from reality. "Rainbows above majestic waterfalls, rainbows at fountains near sunlit palaces where good-natured people dwell…"

The river made a bend and began to carry the yacht by a massive rocky island separated from the bank with a narrow channel. On the high sheer cliffs an immense dark-grey castle silhouetted vaguely through the mist veil, yellowish flickering of torches on watchtowers, many yachts and big boats at the stony embankment.

"The town inhabitants are surely taking refuge over there," she murmured, "this unassailable fortress can stand any siege."

"Shall we make a stop to see your parents?" Andreas looked at her sympathetically.

 

"No, we shall not! They can do without me perfectly well," no definite emotions in her quiet but resolute reply, she dispassionately turned away from the castle and gulped the tea.

The rising sun dispelled the mist and shone a great city situated at the estuary where the river was inflowing into a sea. Granite and marble edifices, magnificent palaces and imposing mansions occupied the horizon.

"Ariadna, the main city of this continent," Jim went out onto the deck together with Iven, "the trade centre with many portals."

"We have to visit the human world," Lynette made a decision, "to find any hint about the El Dorado location."

"Really, their computers are not bad, as well as television," Iven agreed, "though, they use those excellent things mainly for filth."

"Last year I bought a laptop to watch only good films," Lynette remarked.

The city was approaching. Ships of different sizes standing along wharfs, two or three frigates under full sail far away at sea, ferry boats plying between the banks.

After the mooring at a fixed gangboard, a sturdy construction of dark wood at one of the piers, Lynette and Andreas left the yacht. Green and lilac suits of Elves, florid attires of men, hauberks of Dwarfs, multifarious crowds in the cobbled streets and squares paved with granite slabs. Green standards with stylized golden trefoils at flag-posts, steel-clad guardians on patrol.

"Dryads!" Lynette exclaimed seeing three pretty young women resembling one another like sisters. Pallid skin but merry eyes, curly hair. White summer frocks were adorned with blue and violet wild flowers.

"Oh! Hello, Lynette!" one Dryad chattered joyfully, "why didn't you come yesterday? We had weaved a new dress for you!"

"Hello, Martina! Certainly I will buy it, but later," Lynette assured calmly, "trolls appeared in this world."

"Ah!" the girls gaped in frightened astonishment, "we have to warn other Dryads and Elves, our relative folk!"

"Elves already know! Go home, but avoid the eastern castle way!" Lynette recommended.

"Don't worry, here we have our own portal. See you!" the Dryads flitted away in hurry, nearly running, and disappeared among the multicoloured crowds.

Lynette and Andreas turned to an arcade flanked with small shops, booths of merchants, tables laden with goods. Clothes and footwear, carpets and utensils, baskets with fruit, many purchasers, a sale in full swing.

"Going to the human dimension? wish to exchange currency?" some sly Dwarf emerged from the throng, smiling ingratiatingly, his luxurious hauberk sparkled with rubies on the collar. He gave Andreas three greenish banknotes for a small round piece of silver and evidently became glad of the deal.

"You will need cloaks, it is rather cold at the other side," one more tradesman offered, dark coats hanging on a clothes-tree behind him, and he wore a garment of the same kind himself.

"Anyhow, we can hide our swords under them," Andreas took out another silver coin to pay, "people get nervous at the sight of weapon there."

Walking away from the shops and booths they threw their new dark-blue cloaks, loose and quite long outer clothing, over their shoulders.

"How do you earn a living?" she resumed to bate her curiosity.

"Travelling merchants eagerly hire Grey Knights as guardians," he replied, "and I get employed from time to time."

"As for me, I embroider tapestries, my granny taught me that fine skill."

They came up to a comparatively not very large bluish-white marble building at the arcade end. A broad staircase, thick high pillars supporting the moulded pediment above the open entrance.

A shady hall was dimly lit with an opalescent flare in the space under a high archway in the opposite wall, a slow whirl of soft light smoothly twinkling and flickering, not dazzling at all. Panoplied imperturbable guardsmen were standing still along the blue incrusted walls.

"Would you make a voluntary donation to the Ariadna municipality?" one knight inquired politely. A small lacquered table had a bronze tray with a mass of copper coins on it, Lynette and Andreas added some money to the heap, entered the archway and plunged into the portal hand in hand.

The shining flooded the air around them, they could see each other but neither walls nor floor slabs of that corridor. Within a few steps they found themselves in one more hall which looked like a vast grey basement. No decorations, no visible guard, observation video cameras in the corners and above an artless but neat stony staircase leading up to the exit. The lock clicked, the metal door got open in front of them, and they came out into an early evening street of another city.

Endless torrents of growling automobiles, gigantic houses drowning in a smog, a dingy sunset in the dirty sky. Puffs of dust and exhaust fumes made Lynette cough.

"We have to find an internet-cafe," Andreas also winced at the poisoned atmosphere.

"And quickly get away from here," she pulled her pink kerchief out of a pocket and tried to breathe through the fabric.

Two large black cars hurtled together, others had no time to stop and clashed against them grinding with crushed metal and scattering small glass bits of shattered windscreens. A jam blocked the traffic at once. Furious drivers started hooting and bawling arrogantly, immaculate expensive costumes and neckties but rude conceited physiognomies.

"Over there!" in a minute Andreas noticed wide brightly lit windows of a cafe. They came in and sat down to one computer in a row of tables, flat displays, chairs. Lynette hid her kerchief and began to type at the keyboard.

"El Dorado… Night clubs, gambling, shops," she commented the information on the screen, "they give this name to vulgar things."

"Let's look for legends," Andreas pressed some buttons, the display flickered, "they are much more trustworthy than any official system of notions."

"Yes, I see," Lynette examined the appearing text, "legends about Elves, Dwarfs, fairy lands… A-ha! That's it! They consider it to be abundant in gold, but unrealizable to discover."

"Maybe, Elves turned off the portal in time," Andreas surmised, "and greedy fellows could not get there."

"As that portal is closed," Lynette concluded, "there's no reason for us to stay here any longer."

Andreas left a banknote on the keyboard when standing up. A young sleek waiter, a clean white shirt and black perfectly creased trousers, picked the pay up nimbly.

They went out of the cafe and walked along the grey asphalt pavement of the dismal street. Flashy advertisements could hardly embellish the joyless bleak twilight.

Gripping at lapels of black jackets, jerking and tearing, two drunk battered men were awkwardly fighting under a red neon sign of a bar, their five or six brutal mates watching the scuffle with a guffaw.

Screams and rattling, shrill squealing music, shouts of scandals, howling of police sirens. Glum malevolent countenances, unfeeling indifferent people, fussing crowds seemed to take everything for granted. Darkness was falling quickly.

"Help me, please! I'm cold," a beggar, a middle-aged unshaven man trying to muffle himself up in a colourless threadbare suit, gave them a look of appeal, "I can recognize your kind hearts, help me!"

Lynette and Andreas took their cloaks off, gave them to the miserable man without any recompense and kept on walking.

"Thank you! Now I will not freeze to death at night!" the beggar brightened up and cried after them: "I wish you good luck, wherever you may roam!"

A short time later they reached the building with the secret basement. The door got shut as they came in, the lock clicked, and they went downstairs. Andreas put the two remaining banknotes onto the tray resembling the one at the other side but had paper money on it.

"No wonder that our ancestors emigrated from this nasty world…" Lynette murmured before entering the portal flare.

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