Authors: Margaret Weis
The Lost King
Star of the Guardians, Book 1
In memory of my agent and friend, Ray Puechner
You always had faith in Maigrey and in me. I think you'd be proud of both of us. We miss
And as we are to have the best of guardians for our city, must they
not be those who have most the character of guardians?
And to this end they
ought to be wise and efficient, and to have a special care of the
True. . . .
Then there must be a
selection. Let us note among the guardians those who in their whole
life show the greatest eagerness to do what is for the good of their
country, and the greatest repugnance to do what is against her
interests. . . .
And they will be
watched at every age, in order that we may see whether they preserve
their resolution, and never, under the influence either of force or
enchantment, forget or cast off their sense of duty to the State.
If Fantasy is a romance
of our dreams, then Galactic Fantasy is a romance of our future.
It has always seemed to
me that the heart of any truly good and memorable story is the
romance of its characters and their environment. Its a viewpoint
which Margaret and I both share and which has always and continues
still to bring us together telling tale after tale. The emotions and
perspectives of the story's characters are shared by us as we read.
It is their thoughts which concern us; their fulfillment that we long
for; and their pain that we share. Galactic Fantasy is about people
of the starsâ€”but it is also about people we feel we could know.
Galactic Fantasy is
certainly not science-fiction. Sci-fi often deals with the romance of
plastic and chrysteel; our love and worship of technology. The Gods
of Science, rising from the crucible of the industrial age, sought to
bring its own order into romance and, somehow, dehumanized us. Now,
in the closing decade of the twentieth century, we find that our
century of technology has nearly overwhelmed us with capability, but
has done little to increase our wisdom in using itâ€”we are still
children with the tools of giants. Inevitably, technology has failed
mankind as a god.
I believe that man will
reach the stars. When he does, the 'science' of how our spaceship
gets from place to place will ultimately be less important than how
we, as people, act when we get there. Galactic Fantasy explores how
we deal with our own fears, ambitions and passions as we soar among
the heavensâ€”not the technicalities of getting there.
Both Margaret and I are
patrons of Galactic Fantasy; so much so that each of us is writing
our own series in this genre. I've rolled up my sleeves and parked
myself in front of my Macintosh to spin my own yarn in the time
between books with Margaret. But don't wait for me. Here is a story
which is about all of us in another, future time. Its a story which
Margaret has wanted to tell for yearsâ€”I am delighted now that
she has the chance to tell it.
Tracy Raye Hickman
. . . his face
Deep scars of
thunder had intrenched, and care Sat on his faded cheek, but under
brows Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride Waiting revenge. .
"I shall be as
secret as the grave."
Miguel de Cervantes,
The man in the white
coat watched a bright line of blips scitter across his portable
monitors screen in irregular bursts and pulses.
muttered, mopping his sweating brow with the starched sleeve of his
coat. He glanced around distractedly, having been so intent upon his
work that he had forgotten, momentarily, where he was. "You"â€”he
motioned to a guard, faceless in a gleaming, feather-crested helmet,
who stood at rigid attention in the doorwayâ€”"inform his
lordship that the subject is ready."
"Yes, Dr. Giesk."
The centurion turned
immediately. He did not run down the glistening corridors of the
deserted university building in search of his supreme commander.
Running would have been a serious breach of discipline. The soldier
certainly marched double-quick time, however, while two of his
comrades, left behind standing duty in the doorway, exchanged
relieved glances beneath the visors of their crested, Romanesque
helmets. The Roman touch was a whim of their lord, a fancy. The
uniforms were designed to dazzle, to intimidate, to look well on the
vids. Going into battle, they would have worn the standard
plastisteel armor. This wasn't battle, however. This was a
torturingâ€”formal, ceremonial. And their lord had been growing
footsteps could be heard advancing down the corridor. The centurions
snapped to attention, their already stiff bodies achieving a state of
rigidity normally approached successfully only by rigor mortis. The
clenched fists of their right hands thudded against their
armor-plated chestsâ€”over their heartsâ€”in salute as a tall
man entered the room that had been, only a few days before, a
"Ah, Dr. Giesk. I
was beginning to think you might fail me."
The deep baritone voice
was emotionless, almost pleasant and conversational. But Dr. Giesk
was a word the Warlord never spoke twice to
any man. The doctor could not remove his hands from the controls of
his delicate equipment, but he managed to give the Warlord a
proved unusually resistant," Giesk quavered. "Three days,
my lord! I realize he was a Guardian, but none of the others held out
that long. I can't understandâ€”"
"Of course you
The Warlord's voice was
dispassionate, but Giesk could have sworn he heard the man sigh.
Stepping around overturned desks, his boots crunching broken glass
beakers and tubes, the Warlord approached a steel table that had been
hastily wheeled into the labâ€”now deemed "interrogation
chamber." Upon that table lay a human. Small white dots of a
plastic-like substance had been placed upon the mans head and chest.
Thin beams of light ran from the dots to the doctors machine, holding
their victim in their grasp like the delicate legs of a spider. The
man's naked body twitched and jerked spasmodically. Traces of blood
stained his mouth, nose, and chest. No blood marred the floor or the
gleaming steel of the table. The centurions had made certain all was
clean. Their lord demanded things be neat.
The Warlord stared down
impassively at the man on the table. The lord's stern face was
visible only from the nose down beneath his gleaming crested helmet
that, like those of his guards, had been copied from the early
Romans. The face might have been made of the same metal as the
helmet, for it registered no emotion of any typeâ€”no elation, no
triumph, no pity. The Warlord laid a guantleted hand upon the
quivering chest of the man with as little regard as he would have
laid that same hand upon the man's coffin. Yet, when the Warlord
spoke, his voice was soft, tinged with a sadness and, it seemed,
"Who is there left
now who understands, Stavros?"
The gloved fingers
touched a jewel the man wore around his neck. Hanging from a silver
chain, the jewel was extraordinarily beautiful. Giesk had been eyeing
it greedily during the last three days, and the doctor could not
refrain from casting a jealous glance at the Warlord when he fingered
it. Carved into the shape of an eight-pointed star, the gleaming
jewel was the only object worn by the naked man, and it had been left
around his neck by the Warlords express command.
"Who knows of the
training, the discipline, Stavros? Who remembers ?"
Again, Giesk thought he
heard the Warlord sigh.
"And you. One of
The man on the table
moaned. His head moved feverishly from side to side. The Warlord
watched a moment in silence, then bent close to speak softly into the
"I saved your life
once, Stavros. Do you remember? It was at the Royal Academy. On a
dare, you had climbed that ridiculous thirty-foot statue of the king.
You were whatâ€”nine? I was fifteen and she ..." the Warlord
paused, "she would have been six. Yes, it was soon after she
came to the Academy. Only six. All eyes and hair, wild and lonely as
a catamount." His voice softened further, almost to a whisper.
The man on the table began to shiver uncontrollably.
"Frozen with fear,
Stavros, you hung onto the statues arm. It would not bear my weight,
and so it was she who crawled out to you, carrying the rope that
would save your life. Can you see her, reaching out her hand to you?
Can you see me, holding the ropes, holding the lives of both of you
in my hands?"
The mans body
murmured Giesk with professional interest, monitoring his
instruments. "I haven't been able to elicit a response that
strong in three days."
The Warlord moved his
hand up to the man's head, the gauntleted fingers stroking back the
graying hair almost caressingly. "Stavros," commanded the
Warlord, his helmeted visage bending over the man. "Stavros, can
you hear me?"
With what appeared to
be a violent effort, the man wrenched his head back and forth. He
wasn't, it seemed, negating the fact that he could hear the voice
from his past. He was negating the horror.
"That was the
night we discovered, she and I, that we were mind-linked. None of you
could understand. I could not understand myself, then, and thought
bitterly it was a cruel joke played upon me by the Creator, who
seemed to have played cruel jokes upon me from my birth."
It occurred to Giesk
that he was hearing the story of the Warlord's childhood. The subject
of many rumors among the men under the Warlord's command, his past
had become legend. Giesk foresaw nights of numerous rounds of free
drinks in the officer's club, all present calling on him to repeat
what he was hearing this day in this strange situation.
"The bastard son
of a High Priest, a man whose inability to control his passions
caused him to break his vow of chastity. I was his penanceâ€”a
daily reminder to him of his sin. He accepted it, never shirked it,
but from that day I was left in his care to the day of his death he
never spoke. By the kings command, I was sent to the Academy. You
hated me, didn't you, Stavros? Hated me because I was smarter,
stronger, better than all the rest of you. You hated me, and feared
me, and respected me."
The man on the table
made a gasping sound. Giesk, monitoring his instruments, saw the need
for haste but hesitated to interrupt the Warlord, who seemed to have
forgotten the presence of anyone else in the room except the naked
"But as much as
you hated me, you loved her. Barbarian child of a barbarian king, she
came to the Academyâ€”the first female student ever admitted, and
that only because she'd been thrown out of the girls Academy.
Rescuing you, saving your life, Stavrosâ€”it was then that she
and I discovered that we could speak to each other without wordsâ€”our
minds, our hearts, our souls were one." The Warlord fell silent,
perhaps walking the paths of the past.
Were those paths dark
and twisted? wondered the doctor. Or did they run straight and true,
leading those two children inexorably to their fate?
ventured Giesk, "his heartbeat grows increasingly erraticâ€”
The past slammed down
its iron gate of no return.
said the Warlord, "you have held out long against the tortureâ€”as
you were taught. Our masters would have been proud of you. None of
the others were able to withstand half so much, as you must surely
know since it was they who betrayed you. But resistance is useless
now, my old friend. You have no will of your own. You must do
whatever I ask. And I am going to ask you only one question. One
question. You will answer. And then I will release you from this
torment. Do you understand?"
The man on the table
made a slight moaning sound. A froth of blood appeared on his ashen
"Be quick, my
lord!" cried Dr. Giesk, "or you will lose him!"
The Warlord brought his
face so near to that of his victim that his breath touched the mans
skin, displacing the bubbles of blood and saliva on the gaping mouth.
"Where is the
The man shivered,
fighting with himself. But it was useless. The Warlord regarded him
intently. The gauntleted hand moved to rest upon the cold white
In a wild, tortured
shriek, the man screamed out words that made no sense to Giesk. He
glanced at the Warlord uncertainly.
The Warlord slowly rose
and straightened. "Well done, Dr. Giesk. You may now terminate."