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Authors: Edward Lazellari

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BOOK: The Lost Prince
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Symian scratched his head. “I can barely conceive of six years ago and you ask me to ponder six thousand. Does this tome have the answer?”

“This tome speaks of thresholds—of epidemics and rapid change. For what is man’s rise in our world if not an epidemic—a disease? And what changed once, might yet change again.”

Symian looked nervously again at the doctor’s back door. “Why do you serve Farrenheil?” he asked. “Your heart is so clearly set against the world of men—and yet, they, more than any other kingdom, have wronged those who were different from men.”

“They are Aandor’s enemy,” Hesz stated. “Aandor is a wretched nation that placed its hand over the world. It forces the rule of Man’s law upon all other kingdoms. It deigns to offer equality to its betters,” Hesz said. “It is no gift at all, for how can you change those into something they already are? How does one offer what he does not possess? Think of the arrogance. Magic allowed the old world order to succumb to the age of men?” He waved
The Tipping Point
before Symian. “What will turn it back is another epidemic.”

“Or a revolution,” said Symian.

“Aye.”

Symian was quiet.

Hesz was never quite sure how much of his beliefs he should divulge. He had no love of Farrenheil’s cause either, but war created opportunities, and when the nations of men attempted to destroy each other, they were all left weaker for it. Farrenheil was a stick with which to beat a dog … it was a means to an end for a larger plan, though even Hesz did not yet know its design. It might well be that Hesz would live and die without effecting any real change, but chaos and mayhem among the kingdoms served his desires nevertheless. Killing the boy prince would add years of anarchy and infighting.

“You are a very odd giant,” Symian said. “Most live for their bloodlust—battle and flesh. You devour books and speak of history like a scholar.”

Everyone expected Hesz to be the lumbering fool, ready for a brawl, even those closest to him. With a thick low brow, large jaw, and jutting cuspids, almost vestigial tusks really, protruding from his thick rubbery lower lip, everyone assumed he was stupid—a natural bully, vying for an opportunity to smash and grind bones.

Hesz’s grandmother, Gerda, was human—the daughter of landed gentry in northern Farrenheil and a remarkably tall woman. On the journey to her wedding, highwaymen attacked her party, killing everyone else and kidnapping her. She was passed among the raiders for pleasure. Because of her resistance to entertain and her height, they dubbed her “Frosty Giant,” claiming that a woman beyond six feet must have some giant ancestry. When they grew bored of Gerda, the raiders threw her, naked, into a cage with an actual frost giant that they kept for pit fights and wagering. As tall as she was, she was no true companion for an actual mountain giant. The one in the cage was rumored to be thirteen feet tall, but that did not prevent it from forcing his pleasure on her. When Gerda gave birth, it was no mystery whose seed had taken root; Hesz’s mother, Ylva, arrived into the world already the size of a three-year-old, with a downy coat of blond fur. She shattered her mother’s hips in the birthing, killing her.

The highwaymen, in an uncharacteristic act of guilt or mercy left the baby on its grandparents’ doorstep. But Gerda’s parents wanted nothing to do with this abomination and gave her to the Sweet Sisters to raise. Ylva had a frost giant’s wildness in her. To say she was a tomboy would be like calling a vulture a chicken. No sane man would ever have her for a wife. When she was fifteen, already taller than a grown man, the Sweet Sisters turned Ylva over to a brothel where an endless parade of degenerates could try to feed her insatiable lust. Ylva birthed fourteen whelps, of which Hesz was eighth. All were large children, but most came out relatively human looking, more so than Hesz, and blended into the general population. Hesz was large among most races but puny among the true frost giants of Nurvenheim. He was an outsider no matter where he made his bed.

Hesz, answering the young troll’s query, said, “I lack no skill in the ways of death. What I lack is knowledge. In Aandor, only the sorcerers, knights, clerics, and scholars have access to it. Dorn’s spell here has given me an understanding of English, and information flows in this world like ale at a summer fair. You should avail yourself, my young friend. Learn what you do not know.”

“You are perpetually unhappy,” Symian said. “If knowledge leads only to dissatisfaction, then I prefer to remain happy.”

Lord Dorn emerged from the doctor’s office with Oulfsan in tow. He smiled, a good indication that something had been done for the debilitating migraines. A twinkle in his lordship’s eye said Dorn had an idea. Hesz was about to embark on a new mission. He hoped it was to retrieve the prince. Hesz relished the notion of breaking that young neck—feeling the bones crack and splinter in his massive hands as he crushed all of the lad’s notions from his skull. He was almost happy—almost—at the idea of perpetuating the war between kingdoms for another quarter century. Perhaps somewhere in that time of squabbling and distrust, Hesz could find his epidemic, and set the world of men afire.

CHAPTER 4

SHE’S GOT LEGS …

Daniel sat with his back against the tree sketching the calm blue lake in his pad. Like a perfect mirror, the water brought a portion of the sky’s celestial peace down to earth. Colby watched from a respectful distance, allowing the boy to work and drink up the scene’s tranquility. The prince’s recent buzz cut bought him some anonymity … at least in the boy’s own mind. He’d never worn his hair this short, so the police would not have any photos of him looking as he did. Unbeknownst to Daniel, the police and his father’s murder were the least of his worries. The kid had more pressure on him than a submarine navigating the Marianas Trench; he just wasn’t aware of it. Daniel was of hearty stock, though. Colby couldn’t help but admire him.

They were staying with Colby’s half-sister and her daughter in a double-wide trailer off Route 64 in Nash County. The trailer was a bit claustrophobic. Autumn had been holding on by its fingernails in North Carolina, refusing to concede to winter, which resulted in blocks of warm and cold days. Colby prayed the weather would hold out a little longer so that Daniel could spend his days outside in the woods behind the park. Otherwise, cooped up with those two crazy chicks in an aluminum box might make the boy contemplate prison as an improvement. Colby needed to act before the weather turned for good.

Most of the people Colby had come across in his life as a detective deserved prison more than the young man before him. True, Daniel killed his stepfather, a mean-spirited, drunken waste of a human being—but it had been in self-defense, after years of being a punching bag. Yet, the circus that the kid would be put through until he proved his innocence would ruin him. His own mother would have testified against him. And then there was the matter of those people in New York who wanted Daniel dead. Daniel might never get to his kangaroo trial alive.

The boy had a price on his head of which he knew nothing about. A distant cousin who was a powerful sorcerer had traversed universes to find him—a prince of a great kingdom—and end him. Colby was collateral damage in that mission. Lord Dorn had taken his heart, literally, and was keeping it hostage in a velvet bag. Colby existed in a sort of static state. He was an undead thing of some kind, unable to experience many basic pleasures all people take for granted. The price of his heart’s return was Daniel.

The first few days of the transition were the worst. His body voided all its gas and solid waste. He felt oily and smelled awful. But as the days passed, he achieved some sort of equilibrium. Colby could not think of it as an improvement. He did not eat, did not drink—he was inert matter, existing like furniture at room temperature. He worried that the longer he remained in this state, the harder it would be to return him to the living … if Dorn intended to at all. That was the crux of this whole situation. The boy was his. All it would take is one phone call and Dorn’s men would be down in North Carolina ending the whole matter. But Colby didn’t trust Dorn.

Lord Dorn was an elitist sociopath who used everyone to his own ends. Once someone stopped being useful, he couldn’t care less about them. The most Colby saw getting out of this current situation was the money Dorn promised, and his heart handed back to him in the thumping velvet bag. That was unacceptable. Colby wanted to live again … more than he ever did before.

“You’re looking better,” Daniel said from under the tree. The kid was a true diplomat. What he really meant to say was:
Colby, you don’t smell like a reeking piss-ridden bum anymore.
Colby didn’t
look
too much better. He’d changed into fresh clothes, but his skin was still sallow and the dark circles around his eyes had become permanent fixtures.

“Thanks, kid. You’re looking better yourself,” Colby said, referring to Daniel’s bruises from his conflicts back in Maryland. “Whatever bug got me before is working its way out. I just needed a shower and a hot meal.”

“You call what Beverly serves a hot meal? I swear, it tasted like vanilla Pop-Tarts smothered in Ragu.”

Colby laughed. His sister was a terrible cook. It was probably how his niece stayed so thin when everyone else in this county was packing on pounds.

“How long are we staying here?” Daniel asked.

“A while. No one’s going to find you in this bum-fuck trailer park off a sleepy country road. Right now you’re a hot ticket in urban areas. Don’t overestimate your transformation,” he said, pointing to Daniel’s new haircut. “But give it a week or two and there’ll be dozens of new rapes and murders to take up law enforcement’s time. Time’s our friend—the more the cops dig into your family life, the more sympathetic they’ll be.”

“I’m bored out of my mind. I already filled one sketch pad. I wish I had a book. Is there a library nearby?”

Colby arched an eyebrow that told Daniel he should know better than to go waltzing into a municipal building with closed circuit security while on the lam.

“We can ask Luanne,” Daniel suggested hopefully.

“I don’t think my niece has ever seen the inside of a public library,” Colby said. “It’s not her scene. They’d probably launch a federal investigation to find out why she walked into one.”

“Jeez, Colby, she’s in high school. There’s not one book in her room. Doesn’t she have English assignments?”

“Hang tight, kiddo. I’ll see what I can scrounge up. Just draw the pretty pictures for now. Won’t stay this warm for long.”

“It’s always warm in Central America,” Daniel said.

That was the kid’s plan. Some Central American country with no extradition and no questions asked. Start life over. It actually wasn’t a bad plan. Colby himself intended to move to Costa Rica or Chile when Lord Dorn first offered him millions to find the kid. Colby was in trouble with the law himself—under indictment for extortion, embezzlement, tax evasion, and a few other charges. It was tough finding credible reasons to keep the kid from taking off. They’d only just met. If the kid had more street smarts than book smarts, he’d be more suspicious of Colby’s altruism.

Colby headed back to their temporary home. Beverly had saved enough to move into a double-wide, which for her and Luanne was definitely a step up, though to hear Luanne tell it, you’d think they were rich or something. Their trailer was on the edge of the lot, with a stretch of grass behind them that ended with trees and the lake. On the other side of them, families of four and five were crammed into single-trailer homes bunched up next to one another like drawers in a mausoleum. It wasn’t Luanne’s fault that she didn’t know any better … the girl had never been to a city bigger than Raleigh, and even that barely met the qualifications of a city. In this trailer park, she was a princess and she had it good.

From the rear deck, Colby could still see Daniel under the tree. If he hovered or stayed close too often, street smarts or not, Daniel might get suspicious. Right now, the kid thought that staying was
his
idea. He wished he could chain Daniel down. They were partners on the lam. But Colby needed to leave North Carolina. He had to find the kid’s people without tipping off his current “employer,” and see if they had the same abilities as Dorn. There was no guarantee they were any better than Dorn’s lot, but it was a chance he had to take. The devil he knew was not to be trusted.

On a bench by the glass sliding doors rested Daniel’s other sketch pad. Colby thumbed through it. He didn’t know a Picasso from a Dalí, but he did know the kid had talent. He sketched everything in the trailer: appliances, table settings, and Colby’s sister in a smock. And then there was Luanne. There were three pictures of his niece in the pad, and they were clearly ones that the boy had worked on the longest. One full-body pose of the girl reclining while watching TV was so detailed as to be almost photographic, the way the television light highlighted the ringlets in her blond hair. Colby could even see the rivets in her Daisy Duke shorts. Careful attention had been given to the lines of her long legs and the way her breasts fell across her chest in the reclined position. Something clicked in Colby’s brain.
A pretty girl and a thirteen-year-old boy with a fixation,
he thought.
Who needs chains?

He slid open the door and entered by way of the kitchen. It was a relatively large open space with the living room adjoined on the far end in the second trailer. The living room had faux wood–paneled walls, a large beige couch in front of a high-def TV, and a big La-Z-Boy recliner against the far wall by the window. A green shag carpet covered everything except the linoleum on other side of the breakfast counter where the sink, fridge, and stove were. Beverly was getting ready to make supper. She wore a new blue Adidas tracksuit with yellow arm stripes. She’d gained a lot of weight since he last saw her fifteen years earlier, and her hair, which she wore very short, had gone entirely white. Colby paid her two hundred dollars a day to put him and the kid up, and Beverly, who never made more than seventy dollars a day after taxes, got it in her head that it included board. For the kid’s sake, Colby was inclined to offer her another fifty not to cook. The counter had egg noodles, Hunt’s ketchup, garlic powder, Polly-O string cheese, and Kraft shredded Parmesan cheese.

BOOK: The Lost Prince
5.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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