The last of an ancient group of wizards leaves a gift to the newly arrived race of men. It is revered and cared for by a line of priests until it is stolen, and the high priest and his sovereign murdered by a king who believes himself destined to be a great wizard. But from ancient writings the high priest had discovered that the gift is not benevolent as was thought. This forces the son of the high priest, unexpectedly elevated to his father’s position, and the young prince who is equally suddenly King, into a race to find the gift before it can be used as that may cause the destruction of the world. Accompanied by the retired captain of the palace guard they hope to speed their journey by crossing the Wasteland, a seeming desert, which is fabled to be populated by monsters, and from which no visitor has ever returned. In the course of their adventures they are hunted by dog faced men and captured by slavers, but the young prince truly becomes a king, and the priest discovers that he has a destiny that goes beyond the bounds of his world.
“My Lord” he said, the words finally exploding from his lips.
“Stay and be easy” Caran Tuith said. “Tell us what happened to you. You were hurt in your boat and drifted out to sea?” he tried to help the man’s memory.
Once more a startled and worried look came onto his face. He stared for what seemed an age into the Prince’s eyes and then slowly began to shake his head.
“No my Lord. I was injured before I reached the boat. I was wounded in the fighting.” His voice was steady but still weak and low.
At this revelation all of the men became attentive, even Janorin seemed to recall his thoughts to the present.
“Fighting?” said the ship’s Captain “What was this, some seafront brawl. An argument over fish?”
Again the man shook his head. “No sir. Fighting with the soldiers who came into the city. We tried to defend ourselves but there were too many, and they came in complete surprise. “ Once more he raised his hand to the wound on his head. ”I thought that I was killed when I saw that sword swing at my head. Then I woke the next morning alive, I do not know what saved me, maybe the power of the Gift.” He looked over at Bataan, realising now who he was.
Caran Tuith was now on his knees next to the man, and the others had crowded in closer to him to hear his weak voice.
“The city was attacked, by whom? Where were the Palace Guard?” he looked quickly at Janorin and saw shock and disbelief in his sallow face.
“I do not know by whom my Lord” the man continued “They were short men with cruel eyes. They came as if by magic. No one saw them and then suddenly they were all around and inside the city. They seemed to want to kill everyone. During the day I was in fear of my life. I could hear yelling in some language I had never heard before. And screaming, I heard lots of screaming. I was so weak that I could not move from where I had fallen, but by the power of the Gift they did not see me. That night I managed to crawl along the back ways down to the harbour. There were fires everywhere. The invaders in their green tunics were looting the houses and shops. I thought once or twice that I saw our soldiers stop them, but they seemed to be with them, only different, taller men.
When I reached the harbour it was night and I thought that I would surely be seen, but there was no one on the quays that I could see, so I got down into the nearest boat and set it adrift. I knew that the tide was ebbing and that it would take me out into the open water. I had not thought beyond that. The last thing I saw as the cobble cleared the quays was the sun rising behind the city and smoke filling the sky everywhere. From the city and the palace.”
About the Author
Michael Waller is British and was born in the industrial north of Yorkshire. After being asked to leave school by his Headmaster he began a varied work career. This went from Chemist to Dog Catcher with stints as a Bingo Caller and door-to-door Insurance Salesman in between. For twenty years he worked in the oil and chemical industry which took him to the Middle East and finally the USA where he is now retired and living in upstate New York.