Authors: Andrea Závodská
Volume I : The Book of The Black Prince
By Andrea Závodská
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
© Andrea Závodská 2011
Cover design by Libuše Klechová
Cover illustration by Andrea Závodská
To my dear parents,
my best friend Liba,
and to the good old times.
What we know today becomes a legend tomorrow.
I. The Journey From The Unknown
was the worst joke I eva' heard from yeh, Eagle. You're gettin' rusty,” said a creaking voice. It came from a guard whose face was so skinny you could see the cheekbones. His big, protruding ears jutted out to the sides and the armour was nearly dangling on him.
Another guard was standing to his right side
. This man was at least twice the size of a regular guard. Many a stranger would be scared of him. Just like his colleague, he too was wearing a steel helmet on his head, which underscored the sharp features of his face and made him look even stricter. But most of all, it made his huge, crooked nose shine.
If you're so clever, tell a better one, Jackal,” he said irritably, leaning against the stone passage in the city wall, right behind the gate.
He had armed himself with a grave look in case his friend would actually say something funny. But instead, Jackal looked into the distance, eyes goggled.
No time, Eagle! We got work,” Jackal said, raising his chin slightly to point in the direction of an old road overgrown with weeds and grass right outside the town. The guards hadn't had work for a long time, since no one had entered or left the town for a few weeks. But this day was different.
It was almost noon and a stranger was nearing the gate.
On the spot!” whispered Eagle heatedly, spitting on his comrade.
Both guards pinned themselves to the shadowed walls standing opposite each other, watching the approaching newcomer.
“Who's that?” Jackal said, casting a covert glance to the road.
Eagle narrowed his eyes in an effort to recognize the basic shape of the stranger's figure. As soon as he spotted the loose rags, his trained mind already knew what to expect. “It looks like a beggar. Get ready to send him back to where he came from,” he remarked quickly.
hen the stranger came closer, the guards saw he was smaller than they thought. They certainly didn't expect a child to come out from the dangerous forest!
The little boy set foot into the shadow of the gate passage with his eyes fixed somewhere in the distance so firmly that he didn't take notice of anything else around him. So hungry he was that all he saw beyond the gate was something with which he could sate his hunger. But then he realised his promising view of a bakery filled with delicious pastries changed in second to that of rusty old armour plates in which you could hardly see your reflection.
“Hey,” hammered Eagle's deep voice. “Where do you think you’re going?”
The guard's sharp, big nose was the first thing that the stranger’s eyes could see when he looked up. He felt as if the guard would peck at him any second. On the other hand he, just a ten-year-old covered in a dusty crust after a long journey, made a very pleasant impression.
His hair was dark and short, with bangs coming to about his eyes and he had a face that looked symmetrical and kind. Well, that is, if you could actually see his face through the big black hat, which covered most of it. He wore a leather coat, almost reaching the ground, with sleeves completely covering his arms up to the fingertips. His trousers were so loose that if he didn't have a tight belt fixing them in place, they would surely have slipped off.
He had them stuck into tall, laced leather boots, which looked like boats on his little feet. A small pouch was hanging from his belt. But the strangest thing about him were his big, shimmering silver eyes.
Excuse me, I just want to pass, if you let me -” The boy tried to push through the guards standing before him, unsuccessfully. They were stiff like two rocks.
Jackal was already losing his patience, “Look at 'im, Eagle! The smaller, the cheekier!”
The little boy realised that his previous attempt probably hadn't contributed to their friendliness towards him. He
looked up from under his dusty hat and when he saw the guards' faces, he felt that these two were probably going to take “good care” of him. It seemed that strangers were not coming here too often, so his new acquaintances would surely not miss the opportunity of passing their time at work with him.
He quickly surveyed them. Both guards had deep blue tunics under their armour, which reeked of sweat, since everything was stewing under the armour plates. The boy didn't even want to learn the details.
He noticed the one called Eagle rummage through the pockets on the leather bag hanging at his right side. It looked like there was more than could possibly fit inside. After a while, the guard finally pulled out a small black bottle and handed it over to Jackal.
Hold that ink,” ordered Eagle, not letting his eyes off the confused stranger. However, no answer was coming. Eagle frowned at Jackal, if it was actually possible for him to frown even more.
Jackal's dull stare landed on his comrade.
“What?” he asked, as though he hadn
't heard anything. But it wasn't possible that he hadn't heard Eagle's voice, so the cause must have been Jackal's insufficient IQ.
Eagle impatiently forced the inkwell into Jackal's hand.
“I told you to hold that ink for me,” he repeated, as vehemently as possible, “I don't have a table here to put the inkwell on.” Finally it seemed that Jackal got the point, because he quickly opened the bottle and held it near Eagle's right hand. Meanwhile, Eagle pulled out a blank scroll and a long, frayed feather. He dipped its tip in the ink twice and wiped it on the edge of the inkwell. Then he fixed a suspicious stare on the boy. “Name, age and origin,” said Eagle flatly.
In that moment, tons of thoughts were flowing through the boy's head but none of them helped him solve this problem, it was just the opposite. The more he was thinking, the faster his heart raced. But before he could say anything, an answer had already come from another direction.
“Age- over thirty, origin- ain't sure, don't remember my name but the nickname is Jackal..."
Then Eagle's voice hammered, “Not you!" He would have given Jackal a good fist if there wasn't the danger of spilling the ink. “You," he quickly pointed the feather at the stranger with a loud swish.
The boy goggled at the fierce guard, the tip of the feather tickling his nose.
Answer, now!” Commanded Eagle, his nose wrinkled in anger.
All right, all right guys! Just calm down,” said the boy bashfully, trying to stop his voice from shaking. “I am called Magnus... I am ten... and... I am from...” he tried to remember but he could not think of anything. His memory was like a sheet of blank paper! Where
he come from? And why did he feel like he had just arrived at the one place that he was looking for? An unsettling feeling flushed him, as if he had forgotten something important. In fact, he had forgotten everything! But how could that have happened?
Magnus didn't have to answer. He could have just turned around and wandered away. But he felt that he had come here on purpose, although he couldn't recall why. Perhaps he would remember once he entered the town? That wasn't the only thing pushing him forward though. He was still as hungry as a pack of wolves and the bakery across the street looked most promising.
He was determined to enter the town, even if he had to climb over the guards themselves.
I don't know where I'm from, okay? I don't remember anything and I don't know anything about myself either,” said Magnus sharply as he involuntarily returned Eagle's hard look. But that look softened as soon as Eagle leaned over him in such a way that Magnus staggered and had to do all he could to prevent his back from breaking as he was forcibly pushed backwards.
Eagle shot him an even more suspicious look and his eyebrows twisted. “You don't know where you're from!?”
“Ten years?” Jackal added.
That was quite a stupid question but fortunately it made Eagle turn his attention to Jackal and Magnus could stand normally at last.
Eagle threw out his arms as though he could not believe that such a question was even possible. “Of course ten, what did you expect? For him to say fifty?” he said acidly, rolling his eyes.
In that moment, Jackal begun walking around Magnus in circles, like a cat around a mouse. “I dunno... 'aybe a shape-shift potion, or he's a Doppelganger sneakin' around as a lil' lad...” He certainly caught Eagle's attention with this. Doppelgangers were malicious beings which could shape-shift into anyone and turn this to their favour. It was not wise to try your luck with them.
Jackal circled Magnus for the third time. “I mean 'is robes, look at that! They're 'tleast twice his size! He must've stabbed someone at night n' taken 'is rags.”
Hearing these words, Magnus stiffened even more. Were they really judging him for something he hadn't done? Though he had to admit that he didn't have a clue how he had acquired these old loose clothes.
“Hmm,” Eagle contemplated, holding the feather in his right hand as he scratched his chin. But he didn't take his eyes off Magnus, not even for a moment. “You see, that wouldn't have occurred to me. You're not as dumb as you look.” While Jackal was enjoying the praise, Eagle pulled out a strange black box from his bag and handed it to him. “I think it's time to call the Magi Police,” he said with the utmost pleasure in his voice and started writing down all their ideas about the possible threats Magnus' presence in the city could cause.
Magnus' eyes popped so much that he feared they would fall from their sockets. Suddenly, the sound of his starving stomach cut into the silence.
Eagle smiled and looked at Jackal out of the corner of his eye. “You are hungry already, aren't you? As soon as we are done here, we'll go have lunch,” Eagle muttered, while not letting his eyes slide off the scroll.
Jackal's smile froze.
“But 'twasn't me,” he said, perplexed. He wanted to scratch his head, but his helmet prevented him from doing that.
Eagle raised his eyes for a while and looked at Jackal, “Oh, then it must have been me."
When Eagle finished writing, he made such a full stop after the text that he ripped through the paper. “What are you waiting for, Jackal? Call the police. The sooner you call them, the sooner we go have lunch."
The longer they stood there, the more complicated things were becoming. Magnus started to have the feeling that nothing would save him. But what was that black box which Eagle had given to Jackal? He did not know why, but all of his attention was caught by that little thing.
Jackal looked excited by Eagle's idea. He started to shake the box vigorously and Magnus felt like these two didn't have the slightest idea of how to use it properly, even if he himself didn't know that. Suddenly, Jackal pushed the box to his temple. It seemed that it wasn't working to his expectations because he stopped smiling suddenly.
Doesn't work!” whispered Jackal so silently, that it almost couldn't be heard. “I- I think I broke it!“ He conveyed as much fear as possible with his look to Eagle. “The general is goin' ter kill meh!” he blurted out.
Although Magnus didn't know who the general was, Jackal's terrified expression suggested he wasn't much of a fun guy.
“Hand it over!“ said Eagle impatiently as he pulled the small box from Jackal's hand and he pushed it to his temple himself. Magnus had been standing there without anyone noticing him for such a long time that he was feeling invisible. He couldn't move his eyes from the black box and due to reasons unknown to him, he knew it was a piece of something friendly in this hostile environment. Even though the guards were tinkering with the box a lot, he could catch a glimpse of a sign written on its bottom. Or was it the top? It seemed impossible to find out because not counting the sign PATHICO engraved on one of its faces, there was absolutely nothing on it. Magnus got completely lost in thought, when suddenly Eagle's voice jerked him back to reality.
Eagle here, Eagle here! Calling the police station!”
This sent a shiver down Magnus' spine. He had to do something. Something very clever. Now!
“Wait! I came here to play Magiker!” he shouted out faster than he had expected.
But then he suddenly realised that he had absolutely no idea what Magiker was, how it came to his mind and if something like that even existed. He thought he was finished for good, that he would never get into the town and that he would never remember why he had come here in the first place.
Police station here, any problems?” sensed Eagle in his head, while nobody else could hear it. The thing this box transferred was not voice but thought!
A moment,” said Eagle with an absent expression on his face.
Magnus wasn't sure if he said it to him or if he was actually talking to the box.
Eagle lowered his arm. “Have you really come here to play Magiker?”
It seemed to Magnus that it would be wise to give them a positive answer. “Y-yes, yes,” said Magnus as convincingly as possible. Suddenly he pulled up the pouch which was hanging on his belt. “You see this? I won all of it in Magiker tournaments throughout the whole kingdom. I apologise if my appearance confused you – I don't even have time to buy some proper clothes for myself. I don't do anything but play Magiker.” Magnus said this hoping he gave them a good enough answer.