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Authors: Edward Lazellari

The Lost Prince (6 page)

BOOK: The Lost Prince
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“How fare you, my lord?” Oulfsan asked.

“We shall know shortly,” Dorn said, shaking the bottle of pills. “What news?”

Oulfsan fidgeted uncomfortably.

“Well?” Dorn said curtly.

“Our devoted taxi driver, Salim, has gone missing.”

“Missing?” asked Dorn, incredulously. “He has no family, no green card. I hold the man’s heart in a velvet sack. Where could he have gone?”

“Lhars saw him in the elevator this morning, looking more miserable than usual,” Oulfsan said.

“And what of our other heartless? Are they of a mind to defect?”

“The specialist is set to his task and awaits the proper opportunity. The other, Tom, remains at the hotel. He is far less ambitious than the others and seems to be content, so long as we allow him to watch the Devils play hockey. I’ve never seen someone less concerned that he is missing his heart. He doesn’t realize he should be more worried. He may have been mentally deficient prior to our converting him.”

Dorn’s sour stomach competed with his migraine for the greatest discomfort. Half of their contingent had been lost in a battle upstate two nights past. What remained were idiots, freaks, and half-breeds with only Lhars, Gunther, and Hommar his last three human soldiers from Farrenheil. They were loyal and trustworthy, if not particularly bright. A new migraine struggled against the medicine he just took. He rubbed his temples and hoped Korensteen’s treatment would kick in. “Our heartless minions are dropping like flies,” he pointed out.

“Perhaps, my lord, if we restored one minion to health, Tom perhaps, it might inspire the more able servants,” Oulfsan said.

Dorn laughed. Oulfsan wasn’t seeing the humor.

“Creating a minion is an act of sorcery,” Dorn said. “Restoring one to full life is an act of divinity. We can
return
their hearts, but only a cleric can return their breath. Do you see any clerics in our party?”

“Then we…”

“Lied,” Dorn said. “Hope is the chain that binds our thralls to their purpose. Speaking of which, what news of our fair detective?”

“Krebe has followed him to Baltimore. The boy resides in a suburb, but … there was some type of incident at the home. The police have sealed the scene and he could not get closer to investigate.”

Another stab of pain cut across Dorn’s stomach. If the migraines didn’t kill him, the ulcer surely would. “What type of action?” he asked.

“It looks as though the prince was involved in a murder, and … has fled.”

With no warning, Dorn backhanded Oulfsan across the cheek. The man broke his fall clutching the edge of the examining table. He was shocked, frightened. Dorn’s agitation accumulated in his temple, feeding his migraine.

“You waited to tell me this?” Dorn said. Another wave of pain restrained his rage. He backed off cradling his forehead.

“I-I w-was concerned a-a-about your health, my lord,” Oulfsan stammered.

“My health? My health will improve when I am attended by true healers and not these pill mongers!
Where
is the detective?”

“He searches for the boy still. His car is parked at the motel where he took a room. He has not called in over a day.”

“In other words, we’ve lost him as well.”

“My lord, he found the prince once,” Oulfsan pointed out.

Dretch was indeed a godsend. His detective business in ruins, under indictment, desperate, Dorn could not have found a more valuable asset at a time when they could not buy a lead on the prince for a million dollars. The man was a master sleuth.

“He found the boy’s trail upstate when it was cold and no one else could,” Oulfsan continued. “And unlike Tom, Dretch has a very healthy survival instinct. He has been out of communication before. His methods are—”

“DAMN HIS METHODS! Dretch is the slyest, craftiest, and most intelligent person we’ve encountered in this gods-forsaken universe!” Dorn never could abide by any person capable of doing anything better than he could. It vexed him to need someone so. “We should be watching him like a hawk, always!”

Dorn was of a mood to kill everybody that worked for him and start over from scratch. He’d create a thousand heartless minions and tell them only the one who brought him the prince’s head would get their heart back.

Symian popped his head into the room nervously. As part of his clothing upgrade, he had ditched the trench coat, scarf, and large brimmed hat for more contemporary blue jeans, black hoodie, sneakers, and Mets cap, under which he hid his yellowish eyes. He carried a large duffel bag. “You told him?” he asked Oulfsan.

Dorn waved Symian in. Although it turned his stomach to think that a human woman once copulated with a troll, the boy’s nature made it difficult to dislike him, even with his large, sharp canine incisors and disturbing yellow eyes. He was innocent of the rape that produced him, and almost as pure as his father was evil. Oddly enough, this half-breed worked hard to bring about Farrenheil’s vision for the empire. Symian wanted no woman to suffer at the hands of a troll or any other creature as his mother had. The lad hated his troll half more than Dorn did.

“Salim just pulled up to the Midtown police precinct on Fifty-fourth Street,” Symian said.

Everyone knew what Salim intended to do.

“Give it to me,” Dorn said.

Symian reached into the bag and handed Lord Dorn a thumping velvet sack. Dorn motioned for Symian to leave. Oulfsan stood quietly in the corner staring somberly at the floor; he was a proficient killer in his own right, but his brother Krebe was the true artist at death. Salim’s defection came at a good time … Dorn had wanted to kill something ever since he entered the waiting room three hours ago. He put the bag in a curved steel medical tray. This was the heart he had promised the detective—young and healthy with no blockage or arterial sclerosis—Colby’s eyes had lit up at the prospect of living decades longer than he had any right to. In one of the drawers he found a large scalpel sealed in plastic. He unwrapped it, and without ceremony, impaled the bag with the scalpel. It lurched like a struck animal, thumping faster and causing the pan to bounce on the counter.

He stabbed at it a second time and it soon stopped moving. The velvet sack absorbed the blood. Dorn pulled the organ out and examined it—indeed pink and healthy.
At least we know the detective still lives,
he thought to himself, amused at the prospect of possibly killing the wrong man. That left him only Dretch, the specialist, and Tom. He would need to replenish his magical supplies and make more.

Dorn spotted a container for medical waste. He wrapped the dead heart in a plastic bag and stuffed it in the bottom of the container. Then he washed his hands, and handed the scalpel and the metal container to Oulfsan to clean.

Dorn was tired. As he finished dressing, his options for the next steps rolled through his thoughts. He picked up the iPad and looked again at the scans of the forbidden scrolls before putting the device to sleep. Perhaps the trebuchet approach was not unwarranted. He hated this world. He could not wait to be rid of it. What did he care what happened to it after he left?

It was time to retrench, retool, and begin preparations for an alternative approach. They needed insurance against the detective, who was the most pivotal piece in this game at the moment—too important to allow a free run. Dorn did not like that the detective vanished for periods at a time—thralls should be on a short leash. A trip to Brooklyn looked unavoidable. He would have to split up what was left of the men; Kraten to Brooklyn, Symian to collect the components for an ambitious bit of sorcery—the kind banned from Aandor for over a thousand years. Hesz will take the remaining men to Baltimore to assist Krebe and put pressure on the detective, and more importantly, retrieve from the prince’s home the necessary components for the spell he wanted to cast should the worst come to pass.

A good plan,
thought Dorn. He was pleased. It had been some time since his thoughts crystallized so easily. It was then he became aware of his clarity. The migraine had subsided considerably. With his ability to strategize again, he could end this task and be home in time to stave off death from this unknown malady. The doctor had bought him a fighting chance. Korensteen had earned another day.

2

Hesz looked up from his book. Symian hovered before him, reading over the top. Hesz doubted the half-troll would understand its contents right-side up, much less inverted. They were in the alley adjoining the doctor’s ground floor office. Hesz, in only his stylish suit and fedora despite the chill, had found a sturdy milk crate to sit on. As alleys went, this one beside Manhattan’s famed Fifth Avenue was cleaner and better kept than most of the streets of the world.

“What have you there?” Symian asked.

Hesz tilted the book to reveal the cover.


The Tipping Point
?” Symian said. Hesz had hoped the lad would take the gesture as a sign that he wanted to continue reading. Dorn’s doctor visit afforded Hesz a generous piece of downtime.

“Does the story recount a great battle or romance? Or a quest?” Symian continued.

Hesz had some affinity for Symian, who was a mixed breed like himself and therefore a second-class citizen of the kingdoms. Unlike Hesz, though, Symian relished the comforts of Lord Dorn’s service.
A master’s favorite dog is still a dog at day’s end,
the frost giant thought. It was beneath Hesz’s dignity to beg for scraps.

Hesz was one-quarter frost giant. He stood eight feet when he didn’t hunch, his arms were thick as telephone poles—when he had his custom suit fitted, the tailor’s measuring tape would not reach around his chest. He tried to sit as often as he could since he resented hunching in human company; a book was often on his person.

Hesz debated with himself how much he could he share with his young companion. How much would the half-troll understand of his ideals and goals? Symian was not even aware of the extent to which Dorn’s incompetence had cost them many advantages and put their lives at risk. The enemy was now aware they were being hunted. They had fought back successfully, cutting Dorn’s numbers by half. Hesz checked his watch and wondered how much longer the lord of Farrenheil would be.

“You are always pensive and sulking, my big friend,” Symian said. Despite Symian’s shortage of worldly thoughts, the young half-troll was amiable. Hesz could see how his friend had charmed his way into Magnus Proust’s academy in Aandor, despite his dark lineage.

“Have you ever wondered what happened in our universe?” Hesz said. His deep voice rumbled from the depths of his chest like a rolling black storm.

“What in particular?” asked Symian. “The war against Aandor?”

Hesz would take a risk—test where the lad’s thoughts lie on the subjects dearest to his heart. “What happened that gave men dominion over all other races?”

“I have never thought of it,” Symian admitted. “What does it profit me to think of past events? I look only ahead. Fortune and glory.” He smiled.

“‘Fortune and glory’?” Hesz repeated. “What corner of the world of men have you found where they turn a blind eye to your grayish hue and jaundiced eyes? Or to my size and jutting lower cuspids?”

“Gold is the color that matters most to men, Hesz. With enough gold before them, they are blinded by its radiance and men and maidens will see what they want to see.”

The boy was daft if he believed any father would let his daughter consort with the issue of a troll rape. Even whores would shun him. The boy was annoyingly positive. His expression, Hesz realized, had betrayed his thoughts. Symian returned his best impression of mock glum, with pouty lips and frown.

“You are in a foul mood today, Hesz—which is to say, you are completely yourself. I will humor your diatribe.” He smiled. “Tell me of the sins of men.”

Hesz looked up and down the alley to confirm their privacy. “Man has drawn lines on a map and created kingdoms to rule with banners of griffons, krakens, phoenixes, and so on,” he said. “Within these lines on their maps are centaur villages, dwarv mines, troll hives, gnoll camps, and so on. Who gave the humans leave to draw these lines and say to all others that they exist within
their
kingdoms?”

“Most races pay no heed to the maps of men, Hesz. And men also draw on their small maps those places where they fear to tread … where they know better than to push their luck.”

“Those places are fewer in number each year, my young friend. The kingdoms of men should be abolished, and only the old boundaries observed.”

“You talk treason,” Symian whispered. He looked around nervously.

“Ah … so much for your interest in my lecture,” Hesz said and returned to his book.

“No, pray, do continue, Hesz. I would know more of the thoughts that keep you perpetually foul of temper.”

Hesz folded the corner of his page and closed the book. He needed Symian’s friendship for his own purposes. “The lords of Aandor, with their squabbling, do not want us to talk of such things because they wish us to believe their rule is absolute,” he said. “But it had not always been so. Tell me, in a battle between a centaur and an unarmored man, who would be the victor?”

“I would wager on the centaur,” Symian said. “I would wager the centaur even if the man were armored.”

“Agreed. And between a man and a frost giant?”

“The giant, of course.”

“Of course,” Hesz repeated. “And a gnoll?”

“What is your point, Hesz?”

“Man is a fragile creature—glass and sticks held together by twine and spit.”

“And yet they rule?”

“And yet, they rule,” Hesz pointed out, his index finger aimed upward as though the inference were marked in the sky above them. Symian’s comment pleased him. The lad had a good mind. Hesz pointed to alley door that led to the doctor’s office and said, simply, “Wizards.”

“Yes,” Symian said. “Better to be with them than against them. Only a soon-to-be-dead fool goes into battle against a wizard.” Hesz noted that Symian did not include himself among that group, though he was quite proficient at magic in his own right.

“But it was not always so,” said the frost giant. “I have read the histories in various libraries of the masters I’ve served—long ago, man did not wield magic. Man was equal to, or more accurately,
inferior
to the other races of our world. The giants of Nurvenheim have tales of the days when they would enter a human settlement at will and take what food they wanted. They gnawed on the bones of men in the dead of winter when there was naught else to eat. Before wizardry, humans lived behind wooden walls in fear of everything. And then, about six thousand years ago, all changed. Why?”

BOOK: The Lost Prince
3.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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