Authors: Bill Allen
“Don’t know,” said Lucky. “I haven’t seen either of them since you left.”
The two boys rushed off to seek out King Peter, whom they found alone in his study, reading a book. The girls were conspicuously absent.
“Maybe they did kill each other,” whispered Lucky.
“If you’re referring to the girls, they’re fine,” said the king. “Much better than expected. So, how did your trip to Gyrth go, Greghart? Did you find Nathan?”
“Yes, Your Majesty—”
“Peter, Greg. Just Peter.”
“Right. Anyway, I did find him, and I warned him about Witch Hazel. I’d hoped you would have heard from him by now.”
“Oh dear, not a word.”
“Great, what do we do now?” said Lucky.
The door opened, and a harried-looking Brandon Alexander rushed in carrying a large tome. Behind him walked Mordred, his face nearly concealed by his hood.
“Sorry it took so long, Sire,” Brandon said, “but someone placed it back on the shelf in the wrong spot.”
“Peter, Brandon. Just Peter.”
“What’s that?” asked Lucky, motioning toward the book Brandon carried.
“It contains the first of the Greghart prophecies,” the king said. He took the book from Brandon. “I’ve gleaned all I can from the current prophecy and the last, but haven’t learned anything that will help us. I had hoped the first might hold some clue we’ve overlooked.”
“I doubt you will find anything there, Sire,” said Mordred. “If you ask me, Nathaniel Caine is the only man who can tell us what we seek. He’s known about events to come his entire life, and has spent all of that time preparing for them.”
“Nathan’s not here?” said Brandon. “That’s odd.”
“How so?” King Peter asked. “He’s been gone for over five days.”
“Nonsense.” The scribe’s face reddened. “I-I mean—”
King Peter waved away the words. “Are you saying Nathan’s back?”
“I don’t know if he’s back or not, but I do know I saw him yesterday morning. He told me if Greghart arrived before he got back to let him know not to worry, that he would return before sunset with a solution to our problem.”
“This is great,” said Lucky.
Greg frowned. The situation seemed anything but great, but it was not the first time Lucky was happy to be in a spot that would have brought Greg to tears.
“Don’t you see?” Lucky said. “Your trip to Gyrth must have worked. Before you left, Nathan had been gone for days. Now you changed history, and Nathan was here just yesterday morning.”
Greg would have been ecstatic, except for one thing. “But he’s still not here now.”
Mordred grunted. “I told you. Nathan can’t be trusted.”
“He can too!” Greg’s voice echoed throughout the King’s chambers for several awkward moments.
Finally King Peter cleared his throat. “I believe Greg is right. I’d trust Nathanial Caine with my life. If he’s not back, I’m sure he has a very good reason.”
“He must be in terrible trouble,” said Lucky.
Mordred frowned. “You don’t know that.”
“No, but he could be. Couldn’t he, Sire?”
“Peter, Lucky. Please.”
“Perhaps it’s nothing,” said Brandon. “Maybe his note can tell us more.”
“His note?” King Peter said.
“Well, the note he asked me to put to parchment.”
The king stared at the scribe expectantly.
Brandon stared back. His eyes grew wide. “Didn’t I give you the note?” He patted down his tunic until he heard a crinkling sound, then hastily dug out a wrinkled swath of parchment. “Sorry, here you go.” He passed it to the king, who studied it for a few seconds.
“I can’t read this.”
“What do you mean?” said the scribe. He peered over King Peter’s shoulder, moving his lips silently as he scanned the page.
“Just tell us what it says.” Mordred’s tone suggested he was more annoyed than any magician ought to be.
“Well, it’s all right here, plain as day.
Dear Greg, I have gone to the Netherworld to see a man named Dolzowt De . . .
What’s this word?” he asked Greg, holding the parchment out and pointing at a spot where it looked as if someone had swatted a fly.
“You’re asking me?”
“Deth,” said Mordred. “He’s gone to see Dolzowt Deth.”
Brandon’s eyes brightened. “Yes, exactly. I don’t know why I didn’t see it. Anyway . . .
I have gone to the Netherworld to see a man named Dolzowt Deth about a matter of highest imprint—
import. I should be back by nightfall, but if you are feeling anxious about events to come, you can start making separations—
preparations—without me. Get the king’s magicians to assist you, but warn them to avoid using too much magic. They will want to conserve their strength for our upcoming battle, as we will need every resource we can find to overcome the throat that lies before us.
Greg’s stomach was beginning to churn in a peculiar way he’d come to associate with the world of Myrth. “The throat that lies before us?” he repeated.
“I think he means
,” King Peter said with a wink.
“Oh, right,” said Brandon. “
We will need every resource we can find to overcome the
that lies before us.
“This is terribly helpful,” said Mordred. “Does Nathan have any other profound words of wisdom for us?”
“Uh, let’s see.” Brandon used a finger to guide himself through the lines on the parchment. “Oh, yes, here we are.
I would start by eliciting help from the spirelings. Their race far outnumbers our own, and as they are masters at battle, they may have a few useful suggestions. Queen Gnarla should be receptive to our needs. If not, remind her that she and her people share in our flight.
Er, I mean
Remember, if you can find one of her kind, you will hold her ear.
Hold her ear? That can’t be right.” Brandon started reciting other options to himself until Mordred interrupted.
“He means she will hear you, imbecile. The spirelings share a single mind when it comes to matters of the senses.”
“Now, now, let’s not be rude,” said King Peter. “What else did he have to say, Brandon?”
The scribe took a moment to find his place again. “
You may want to contact Marvin Greatheart, as well, and his father, Norman, since both have experience battling dragons.
” The churning in Greg’s stomach took on a more gnawing quality. “
Even Melvin may have a part to play in this. I cannot be sure. Finally, I would suggest you work closely with my old friend Mordred.
“Me?” said Mordred. “It does not say that.” He snatched the parchment from Brandon’s hands and scanned the page for himself. “Were you having some sort of fit when you wrote this?”
“Is there anything else?” asked King Peter.
Mordred stared at the note with a bewildered expression, eventually shrugged, and handed it back to Brandon. The scribe glared at the magician over his nose before turning his attention back to the page.
Mordred knows Hazel better than even I. If anyone there can second-guess what she will do, it will be he. If all goes well, when I return I will bring with me a solution to our troubles. If you just do your best until then, I am sure Simon’s prophecy will play out as predicted. Wait, no, don’t write that. The prophecy says Greg is going to die, remember?
Brandon looked up, rather embarrassed. “I guess he wanted me to leave that part out.”
“Yes,” King Peter quickly interjected, “well, I’m sure Simon must have . . . that is to say, the prophecy is clearly . . . well, I hardly think it’s possible . . . ”
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” said Greg.
“No, of course not,” said everyone in unison. All except Mordred, who did his best to offer a sympathetic, “I can’t see how not.”
“Mordred, please,” scolded the king. “Well, I guess we shouldn’t be standing around wasting time. This note makes it quite clear what our plan should be.”
“But what about Nathan?” said Greg. “Lucky’s right. He must be in terrible trouble.”
Mordred scowled. “Which is exactly what he should expect.”
“Enough,” said King Peter. “You heard Nathan’s advice. We’ll all need to work together if we’re going to live through this latest threat.”
And even if we’re not,
“Of course, Sire,” said Mordred. “I would never let Nathan’s senseless disregard for his craft stand in my way of protecting this kingdom.”
“Glad you’re being so big about it,” said the king.
“I will see to his recommendations myself.”
“Very good. And you’ll take Greghart with you, of course.”
Mordred glared at Greg as if he were seriously contemplating conjuring up a bolt of lightning to clear the spot where Greg stood. “Of course, Your Majesty.”
“Peter, Mordred. Why can’t anyone just call me Peter?”
“Wait,” said Greg.
“What about the girls?”
He and Mordred were striding down the hall away from King Peter’s chambers when Greg slowed. Mordred stopped and turned, his robe wafting out around him, making him appear twice as large as he really was. Greg couldn’t say he liked the effect.
“Why are you stopping?” the magician hissed.
“I forgot about Kristin and Priscilla,” Greg told him. “King Peter said the two of them are together somewhere.”
“No, you don’t understand. They’re both very headstrong. I’m afraid they might . . . you know . . . kill each other or something.”
A giggle echoed down the corridor. A short way off the two girls came strolling in Greg’s direction, engaged in an animated conversation broken only by their wide smiles and exuberant laughter.
“Yes, I see what you mean,” said Mordred.
“Greg!” both girls cried out. They ran at him so quickly, Greg nearly bolted away. Once they reached him, they squeezed him fiercely until his face turned blue.
“I should think you’d be more worried about
” observed Mordred.
“When did you get back?” Priscilla asked.
“Yes, when? We’ve been so worried,” added Kristin.
“We?” said Greg.
“Prissy and I.”
“Prissy?” Greg said, cringing. “She hates being called that.”
“No, I don’t mind,” said Priscilla. “Krissy likes it. That way we rhyme.”
“Right,” said Kristin. “She’s Prissy. I’m Krissy. Cute, don’t you think?”
Greg wasn’t sure, but he thought he liked it better when the girls were fighting.
“If you’re about through here,” interrupted Mordred, “do you think we can get back to saving the kingdom?”
“Oh, right,” said Greg.
Kristin smiled at the menacing magician and back at Greg. “You came up with a plan? That’s great.”
“Then you must have found Nathan,” Priscilla said. “Where is he?”
“We still don’t know.” Greg started to tell her about the note, until Mordred stopped him with an impatient groan.
“We really don’t have time for this,” Mordred said. “Hazel is surely becoming more adept at the use of that amulet with every passing hour. If we don’t put a stop to this right away, we may find her too powerful to fight.”
“You’re going to fight Hazel already?” Kristin asked Greg.
“Not yet. We still have some things we need to do first.”
Priscilla breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. We’ll come with you.”
“Yes,” Kristin said, placing a hand on Priscilla’s shoulder, “we want to help.”
“Wonderful,” said Mordred. He turned and stalked off down the hallway. Greg and the girls ran to keep up.
“Hang on,” called Lucky, who was just leaving King Peter’s quarters.
Greg couldn’t risk slowing down. Lucky didn’t catch up until many hallways later, when Mordred was approaching the castle entrance that Greg and Kristin had used days earlier. A guard rushed up and swung open the door so Mordred could pass without breaking stride. The others followed. Outside Mordred scanned the area, a frown across his face.
“What are you looking for?” asked Priscilla.
“The spirelings who delivered Greghart and your friend to us,” Mordred answered.
“The spirelings brought you?” Priscilla said to Greg, excitedly. “Gnash and Gnaw, I hope.”
Greg started to answer, but Mordred waved him into silence. The magician signaled to the guard. “What happened to the spirelings who arrived here three days ago?”
“Ah, that lot. They hung around here patient enough for a couple days, but then one said something about their queen needing them, and off they went. You should’ve seen it. I never saw a body move so fast—let alone four of them.”
“Great,” said Mordred. He stormed back through the gate toward the Great Hall, leaving the others to scurry after. The dark magician passed through the expansive room and into the antechamber, where King Peter’s staff of magicians waited in the shadows lining the walls.
“Do these guys ever leave here?” Greg whispered to Priscilla.
“I don’t really know. They’ve been here every time I have.”
“What are we doing?” Kristin asked.
Mordred scowled at the interruption. “I am hoping to be able to contact the spirelings from here.”
“Why don’t you just send one of those apparition things like you and Nathan used last time I was here?” asked Greg.
“That’s precisely what I intend to do. I’m just not sure they’ll be able to see it.”
“Why not?” said Priscilla. “We all saw it fine when you did it with Nathan.”
“Yes, well, Nathan is a magician. You were able to see me because he tuned into my signal for you. Had he not been there to act as a receiver, I’m sure you would have walked right past.”
“Then how do you expect the spirelings to see?” asked Kristin.
“Fortunately spirelings are not all as dull-witted as your average man. Or in this case, child. The Canarazas even count a few hundred mages among their race. If we can locate one of them, chances are good they will hear us.”
“How exciting,” squealed Kristin.
“I know,” Priscilla said. She squeezed Kristin’s hand while the two of them waited to see what the magicians would do next. Lucky glanced questioningly at Greg, who shrugged.