The Fallen World

     Lost and alone, disheartened by failure and wanting only to go home, Thomas Gown and his companions face the darkest hour of their lives when they stumble across a remnant of the once mighty Agglemonian Empire. There they make a stunning discovery that could mean the salvation of the world if only they can get word to the desperate, embattled armies of civilization, but instead they face a lifetime of crippling servitude, hopeless prisoners of the insane tyrant, Lord Basil Konnen…

Extract from The Fallen World.

     The servant arrived dressed as a butler, since that was the role it played in the rak’s household, for the most part. It consisted of the soul of one of his most hated enemies imprisoned in a body carved from local rock, and if it ever broke free of the spells Malefactos had cast on it, its enormous strength and power, great intelligence and endless resourcefulness would make it a fearsome opponent, perhaps even capable of destroying the ark rak and thus ending the thirty year long feud between them. Malefactos was confident that his hold over it was secure, though, and felt no apprehension at all about leaving it in charge during his absence. Giving it orders and watching it going off to obey, hating him but unable to disobey, was one of the great joys of his life, being a constant reminder of the special reason he had for hating it, the betrayal that had ended for ever his chances for a normal, happy life and started him down the path of cruelty and lust for power that he’d been following ever since.

     “I’m going now, Arok,” said the rak. “I trust everything will be alright while I’m away.”

     “Yes, master,” replied the servant, and Malefactos exulted in the hatred that blazed in its carved stone eyes. “The staff have their instructions. Everything will be kept in good order. No-one will enter your laboratory for any reason. You will find everything as it is now when you return.”

     “Good, I can leave with an easy mind, then. Oh, one more thing. I don’t want you getting bored while I’m away, so whenever you get any free time I want you to go down into the valley, search for stones exactly one inch across and arrange them in straight lines running directly away from the castle. If you run out of stones that size, break up rocks to make them. Understand?”

     “Yes, master,” replied Arok, deliberately restricting itself to a simple acknowledgement so as not to give the rak the satisfaction of hearing it protest, any protest being useless, of course. If it was lucky, the winds would be blowing from the mountains while it was outside, carrying none of the abrasive dust that it picked up when it blew from the plains, and its stone body wouldn’t suffer any further erosion. Every bit of erosion it suffered reduced its strength and mobility a little, and one day, centuries from now, it would be reduced to a vaguely man shaped lump of rock as immobile as any other lump of rock but with its mind and intelligence intact, incapable of anything except suffering and cursing its fate. That was the fate that Malefactos had in store for it, it knew, and the rak wanted it to have a long, long time to look forward to it.

     Giving Arok a final pat on the shoulder in mock affection, therefore, Malefactos left the room and climbed the long spiral staircase to the very top of his fortress, where a slim tower rose above the bubble of magical energy that surrounded the bulk of the castle and which, in addition to shielding the castle from the violent weather, also served as a barrier to teleportation. The top of the tower widened out to form a wide platform with no wall or fence around it to protect people from the hundred foot drop all around, and it was occupied by four of his magical creations, terrible creatures carved from stone with teeth, claws and batlike wings that would come to life and tear to pieces any intruder attempting to enter the fortress that way. Malefactos gave them only a passing glance, though, as he walked to the very edge of the platform, spoke a word and vanished.

     Just under nine minutes later, having covered the distance between the two worlds at the speed of light, he reappeared in the master bedroom of the imperial palace in the city of Darundra, largest of the Five Cities of the Tannaric plains. This was the place where he’d carved out and ruled over a thriving empire in the wild and exciting days of his youth, and he’d chosen it as his destination because teleporting was much safer when you were aiming at a place you were familiar with. Teleporting into unfamiliar territory always carried an element of risk, and although he’d do it if necessary, only a very stupid wizard would take such a risk if it could possibly be avoided.

     He looked around the room with unexpected nostalgia as all the memories came flooding back. The early days when he’d first come to this city, the pain of Arok’s betrayal still fresh and burning. The way he’d murdered its corrupt and stupid king and his entire family, except for the sixteen year old daughter he’d taken as his wife, needing her to give a seal of validity to his rule and impressed despite himself by her courage as she held back her grief for her family and submitted willingly to him to save her people from further misery. The way he’d terrorised its inhabitants into submission, the slow and painful process by which he’d slowly gained his new subjects’ admiration and respect as he dragged them, kicking and screaming, back to strength and prosperity, and the days of glory as he’d led his armies against one of the Tannaric plains’ other cities after another, uniting them into a budding empire that had made every other kingdom and city for hundreds of miles around sit up nervously and take notice. Ah, the plans he’d had, the glories he would have achieved if he’d had longer! Genista would have been next, the jewel of the Moaning Mountains, and then Cortis, the so called Mala of the south, and by then he’d have been strong enough to go up against Tannar itself, the mighty independent city that dominated this part of the world and gave it its name. He would have moved his throne to Tannar then, making it his capital after having created the largest human nation south of the Great Lake, but all his great ambitions had been cruelly curtailed when his illness had started and, feeling the cold hand of death on his shoulder, he'd been forced to return to Lexandria Valley to begin his futile quest for immortality, leaving his son, Olmak, to rule in his place.

     Did his son still rule the Five Cities? he wondered briefly. He found that he didn’t really care, and although he could have found out by simply crossing over to the bed and looking under the sheets to see who was sleeping in it, wrapped in the arms of a pale skinned, golden haired beauty, he instead turned his back on the lovers and silently left the room. He had left behind the world of the living and everything that went with it. He had new interests now and new ambitions, and the fate of his children was no longer of any interest to him. It would all be the same soon enough, anyway, whether any relative of his still ruled the Five Cities or not.

     He walked swiftly and confidently along the familiar corridors of the palace, not caring who saw him and ignoring the occasional panicked scream from those members of the palace staff who happened to be around at this time of night, and as soon as he reached the high walls that looked out over the city below he spoke the word of command that activated his robes of flying and rose swiftly into the air. The black robes billowed out behind him as he flew, and those who happened to be looking in the right direction at the time saw a dark, batlike shape outlined against the stars and, filled with terror, fled indoors to hide their heads under pillows and blankets until it had gone. The next day the city was filled with rumours of a bat demon that had invaded the palace in an attempt to kill the King, no doubt sent by an evil wizard in the employ of the city’s enemies, and the palace guard were quick to take the credit for driving it away, but no-one ever discovered the true identity of the city’s mysterious visitor that night.