Authors: Bill Allen
“Do you mind, Your Majesty?” Greg asked quickly, gesturing toward the book.
“Peter, Greghart. No, by all means.”
Greg studied the book for only a moment. If he had to guess what happened here, he’d have bet a swarm of beetles had landed in an inkwell and then struggled to escape across the page. “This writing is awful. How are you going to figure out what it says?”
“Oh, I already know—Brandon told me two days ago—I was just taking a second look, hoping maybe there was something we overlooked.”
“And is there?” asked Kristin.
“Beats me. These lines look like little more than random smudges to me.”
“Does it really say Greg’s going to die?” asked Lucky.
King Peter stiffened. “According to Brandon, I’m afraid so.”
No one said a word for several uncomfortable seconds. Finally Lucky broke the silence. “Sorry, Greg. If there were any way to change all of this . . . If it makes you feel better, you’re going to save us all before you go.”
Greg tried to smile. “Yeah, that helps.”
“What does Brandon say Greg’s supposed to do?” Kristin asked.
“Yes, Father,” Priscilla said, stepping between the two of them. “What did he say?”
“Witch Hazel has managed to reconstruct the Amulet of Tehrer,” Mordred told them both. “And she’s been wasting no time. Already she’s using it to control Ruuan.”
“We know,” said Kristin.
Greg quickly explained about their encounter with the witch along the trail.
“Oh my,” King Peter said. “It’s good Hazel has not yet figured out how to use the amulet to its full capacity. Once she does . . . well, I’m afraid Ruuan will do anything she asks.”
“This is terrible,” said Greg. “Where’s Nathan? He’ll know what to do.”
Mordred grunted, but said nothing.
King Peter frowned. “We don’t know. He left here soon after you did, right after he helped fulfill the last prophecy.”
“Probably out researching the Dark Arts,” said Mordred with disgust. “It does not surprise me he’s not here during our time of need.”
“That’s not fair,” said Greg. “Nathan would do anything for this kingdom. If he
trying to learn about Dark Magic, I’m sure he has his reasons.”
“Yes, because he can’t decide whether his loyalties rest here or with his old friend Hazel.”
Greg was so mad he wanted to hit Mordred, but he wanted even more to live out his final days as a boy rather than as a newt. Still, he found it impossible to hold his tongue. “I seem to remember you were the one making deals with Hazel when I was here before.”
“Yeah,” Kristin jumped in, “and her name sure brought a smile to your face earlier.”
“I do like her,” Mordred said, indicating Kristin with a nod. “She’s got spunk. Just like Hazel did when she was your age.”
“There’s that smile again,” accused Kristin.
“Who has the questionable motives now, Mordred?” said Greg.
The magician’s smile dissolved away. He stared at Greg with such intensity, Greg nearly slipped beneath King Peter’s table.
“Er . . .
“I made a deal with Hazel,” Mordred explained, “because years ago Nathan told me she would trade four pieces of Ruuan’s amulet for the key piece of the Amulet of Tehrer. Only, Hazel didn’t have all the pieces to trade, so I did what needed to be done. I saw to it she got them. Consequently the prophecy was fulfilled, and all turned out well for the kingdom.”
“Except now Hazel’s got the whole Amulet of Tehrer,” said Priscilla, “and she’s going to use it to destroy us.”
“Not according to Simon,” said Mordred. “The boy, here, is going to help us.”
do?” Greg asked.
“Well, for starters, I had hoped you might have the Amulet of Ruuan.”
“Me? Why would I have it?”
“You were the only logical choice to watch over it. Hazel would be looking for it here on Myrth, and even if she suspected it was safe on another world, she would have no way to find it. She doesn’t have Lucky Day’s talent to help her home in on its location.”
Lucky smiled behind a complexion nearly as red as his hair.
“And you didn’t understand how to use it,” Mordred added in a tone that suggested Greg barely knew how to use a fork. “Nor would you be able to expand your knowledge without returning to Myrth. No, more than likely Nathan kept the amulet for himself, and he is the most dangerous person to have it. Without it, he is one of the most powerful magicians on Myrth. With it, well . . . ”
He left the sentence unfinished, but Greg knew what he was implying. “You don’t have to worry about Nathan.”
“If only that were true. An artifact like that can have a tremendous pull on a man of power, especially one who has repeatedly shown an interest in the Dark Arts.”
“Nathan is not evil,” Priscilla insisted, crossing her arms over her chest in the same manner Kristin had been using ever since the princess stepped between her and Greg. “I won’t hear of it.”
“Nathan doesn’t have the amulet yet,” Greg said. “At least not all of it. Queen Gnarla still has her section.”
“Maybe that’s why he’s not here,” said Lucky. “Maybe he’s at the spire now.”
“But what if he’s not?” Greg said. “We need to find him, make sure he knows to assemble the amulet and bring it here to show us how to use it. Then we’ll be able to fight Witch Hazel on her own terms.”
“Good luck,” said Mordred. “Nathan’s not on his way to the spire, I can assure you. He’s not even within the kingdom. Or in the Styx. Or the Outer Reaches. Perhaps you’ll find him in the Void, but even my magic can’t locate him there.”
“You can tell from here if Nathan’s in the kingdom?” Greg asked. “I can do many things.”
Something about his tone reminded Greg of Nathan. It was a side of Mordred he’d never witnessed before—one that he might have liked on any other man, but in this case only made Greg question why all this time he’d trusted Nathan.
“I’ve tried to help the magicians find Nathan too,” said Lucky, “but—” He shrugged.
Greg’s hopes plummeted, for he knew if Lucky Day couldn’t find him, Nathan was not about to be found.
“I can’t believe he just left when we needed him,” said Priscilla.
“Doesn’t surprise me,” said Mordred.
“To be fair, he didn’t know we needed him,” said Greg. “He didn’t even know about Simon’s third prophecy, and no one knew Hazel would reassemble the Amulet of Tehrer so quickly.”
Kristin moved away from the table and took up Greg’s arm again, to which Priscilla frowned. “Of course Nathan didn’t know about the prophecy. You said this Simon guy just came up with it.”
“He did,” said Greg, “but that didn’t stop Nathan before. It was really weird. He knew all kinds of things about those first two prophecies before they ever happened.”
Greg thought a moment. “He said I told him about them.”
“That’s right,” said Priscilla. “I forgot. Just before you left us last time. What do you suppose he meant?” She eased up to Greg and took his other arm. Kristin’s grip tightened. Greg hoped the two weren’t preparing for a tug-of-war. Everyone was staring at Mordred, so Greg stared at him too.
“Don’t look at me,” said the magician. “Nathan may have confided in me some when we were children, but when it came to these prophecies, he remained quite secretive. Probably worried about me knowing too much about my own future.”
“That does sound like Nathan,” said Priscilla.
“Didn’t he also say he learned about the prophecies when he was still living on Gyrth?” asked Lucky.
King Peter’s eyebrows lifted. “You kids know about Gyrth, too?”
“Just that Nathan says that’s where he’s from,” Greg said, “and that he didn’t come here until he was about my age.”
“But how could you have told him anything on Gyrth?” said Priscilla. “You weren’t even alive when he was a boy. And even if you had been, you wouldn’t have known about the prophecies until they happened.”
“Maybe you’re supposed to go there now,” said Lucky.
Greg gave him a skeptical look. “What are you talking about?”
“Think about it. We need Nathan and the Amulet of Ruuan here now, right? I’m sure if Nathan knew that, he’d be here, so obviously he doesn’t know.”
“So, Nathan claimed he knew all that other stuff because you told him. Maybe you were supposed to have told him this, too.”
Greg frowned. “Let’s hope not, because obviously I didn’t.”
“But it’s not too late. King Peter’s magicians can send you to any time and any place, remember? Just have them send you back to Nathan’s past, and tell him to be here with the amulet when we need him.”
“No, it makes perfect sense,” said Priscilla.
Greg could feel Kristin tugging his arm, trying to pull him away, and he nearly let her. She leaned past him to better see Priscilla. “You think sending people back in time makes perfect sense?”
Priscilla spoke to Greg as though the two of them were alone. “Don’t you think it’s funny Nathan knew all those details about the first two prophecies and nothing about the third?”
“Sounds like us,” Lucky said.
“Exactly,” said Priscilla. “If Greg goes back to talk to Nathan now, he can tell him all about the first two prophecies, like Nathan said he did, but just like Nathan, he knows nothing of the third.”
“I know it exists,” argued Greg. “That’s more than Nathan knew.”
“Yes, but you don’t need to tell him, do you, dear?” The princess looked up into Greg’s eyes and batted her lashes.
Greg felt his face flush. “Dear?”
Priscilla’s brow furrowed. She squeezed his arm a little too hard to be a sign of affection. “Well, do you?”
Greg struggled hard to shake loose of her grip. “No, I suppose not.”
“Excellent,” said Lucky. “When do we go?”
“We?” said Priscilla. “Who said
“Who else could be lucky enough to find Nathan? He could be anywhere on Gyrth.”
“Yes,” Priscilla said, “but you don’t need to go there. You just need to tell the magicians when to open the portal, like you always do.”
“But what if Greg needs help?”
“I think I can handle it,” Greg said. “All I need to do is tell Nathan a few stories.”
He and Lucky started arguing, but nothing compared to Priscilla and Kristin, who practically got into a brawl over who could better defend Greg’s abilities.
“Hush,” said King Peter. “Quiet, everyone.”
The children’s bickering faded away, though Kristin and Priscilla each continued several seconds longer, each trying to get in the last word.
“I agree with Greg,” said the king. “It would seem his future looks quite bleak, and I think it’s only right he be the one in charge of his own destiny.” Under his breath, he added, “however short that may be.”
“Huh?” said Greg.
“Mordred, I want you to gather the other magicians. Lucky, you go with him and assist with the opening of the portal. Girls . . . well, I think you better stay here with me.”
“But—” said both girls at once.
“Sorry, the matter is not open for discussion. Now, we all know what we’re supposed to do. Let’s get to it. And good luck to all of you.”
Lucky smiled. “Don’t worry. We won’t need it.”
“Speak for yourself,” Greg muttered. Then he realized Lucky was right. No amount of luck could change the fact that Simon had already spoken. Regardless of Greg’s success or failure on Gyrth, once he returned, he held not even a glimmer of hope for survival.
Greg could see very little
within the gloomy Room of Shadows, a small anteroom off the Great Hall, where he had begun and ended two previous trips to Myrth. He should have been exhausted. All day he’d been traveling, and even if he
ridden atop a litter the whole way, he felt he had every right.
But as he waited for the magicians to cast their spell, Greg felt oddly restless. Well, perhaps not
restless. He was often afraid on Myrth, particularly in the presence of the magicians. The fact he was about to leave did little to help.
“You worried, Greg?” asked Lucky.
“Well, don’t be. King Peter will make sure the girls don’t tear each other apart.”
“What?” Greg realized Lucky was smiling. “Oh, right . . . So, you think I’ll recognize him?”
“Why wouldn’t you? How many kings do you know?” Again Lucky was smiling.
“I’m serious, Lucky. It’s hard to imagine Nathan as a kid.”
“Relax, Greg. We’re going to set you down right next to him.”
“Let’s hope so.”
A hooded figure stepped out of the shadows. “Ready, boy?”
Greg recognized the voice, even if Mordred’s face was completely lost in the shadows. “I guess.”
“Then let’s get on with it.”
Lucky handed Greg a walking stick, which Greg clenched to his chest with one hand while he passed back his knapsack with the other. Lucky grimaced. The magic packs of Myrth could carry countless objects far bigger than the packs themselves, and Lucky once told Greg no matter how much he carried inside his, he never once noticed the weight, not even the time he stuffed Princess Priscilla into the bag.
But if Lucky had been surprised by the weight, it was nothing compared to the shock he must have felt when the knapsack in his hand let out a shriek.
“Sorry, Rake,” said Greg, “you need to stay here.”
The whining only grew stronger.
“Sounds pretty serious,” said Lucky. “Maybe you should take him with you.”
“I guess I could.”
Greg took back his knapsack. He removed his text books and handed them to Lucky, then placed Rake in the pack, slipped the straps over his shoulders, and took up his walking stick again. The two boys moved to the center of the room, and Greg fought the urge to run while the magicians moved in to surround them. “Wait.”
“Yes, what is it?” said Mordred.
“How will I get back?”
“The spell we’ve prepared will keep you there a short time only. Complete your business early, because when you’re brought back, it will be without warning.”
“But what if I haven’t found Nathan yet?”
Mordred glanced at Lucky and back again. “I don’t think that will be a problem. Now, we’re wasting time.”