In Pursuit of the Pale Prince
An Arestus Adventure
by Mark Wallace Maguire
Genre: YA Fantasy
Over 5,000 years ago, in the place you call Northern Europe, a battle was looming. The Southwen were marching north in search of land. The Northern Kingdoms were fragile and scattered and The Pale Prince was trying to unite them, seeking any symbol of hope, of past glory to rally his people. Hundreds of miles away, a man dies and leaves a crown to his son. A crown that can unite the Northern Kingdoms. But can the boy deliver it in time? Join him and find out. A new adventure awaits inside.
A rustling of leaves woke me. My back was stiff. My right hand had fallen asleep and the pin pricks of needles shot up it as I pushed my body upwards. The moon wasn’t high yet in the sky, but it was waning strong and cast strong silvery light and pushed heavy shadows onto the ground around me. I strained to peer through the splotches of darkness and moonlight for any movement. A shifting shadow. The sparkle of a sword in the half light. Nothing. Then again. Footsteps crunching on leaves. I froze. Deftly slid my hand onto the cool hilt of Coal Biter. Did not unsheathe it. Did not want to risk the ring of the sword leaving the sheath. The noise. What was it? Was it Cirin? An animal? “Boy,” a low voice, grating and guttural, like the growl of a husky. “Boy. I see you. Take your hand off your sword. I have two men with me with their arrows trained on you.” I did not move. The voice came from somewhere in front of me. I squinted. Could see nothing but the play of light and shadow. A thud of footsteps and a face appeared in a slant of moonlight. He was a squat man. Thick in chest and belly. Stout legs. I could not tell if he wore a hat in the darkness, but did see the silhouette of a long beard. He kept walking toward me and into the full light of the clearing. A set of narrow eyes bordered a broad nose, and in his right hand he carried a short sword. “Boy, I said to take your hand off the sword,” this time there was a more distinct tone to his voice, as if he was addressing a dog. He expected me to do what he commanded. I still did not move. “You must be thinking of your friend. He is not here. He went to the pond over the hill. I guess he misses the water. The fool. We watched him. I think he was going for a swim. He won’t be back for a long time. Now, you can either lift your hand away from your sword and stand up and he will find a nice young pup when he returns or you can keep your hand on that sword and he will find a nice dead pup when he returns.” As he spoke, I saw two other forms move out of the shadows behind him and into the light of the clearing. “This is your last chance boy, I -” A whoosh sliced through the air like the sound of an arrow unleashed from a bow and I heard a thunk near where the two men stood. “By the gods, what was that?” a voice exclaimed. Then two, three, four thunks. The men covered their heads and yelped in pain. Another whish and the sound of a bone cracking. A yelp of pain. Another cry of surprise. And then they went running. Back into the wood toward the road. Into the night. “Leave the boy. You have no business here,” it was Cirin’s voice that came from the darkness. “I only drove your two fools off with rocks, but if you don’t leave now, your injuries will be much worse.” He emerged from behind me. His grey tunic shimmering silver in the moonlight. His eyes bright. His staff leveled in front of him. The man who was approaching me gave a low ugly cackle like spent wood in an old fire. “It is you. The sailor returns. I thought you only lived in the waters and islands now if you lived at all. This if quite the tale, if -” “Enough,” Cirin said. “Who are you and what is your business with two simple travelers?” “My name is my own. My business is with the boy.” “Well, then, ‘my name is my own,’ it is time for you to leave,” Cirin said and then in a fluid motion, leapt toward the man, raising his staff before bringing it down upon the man’s hand. The man cried in pain and jerked his hand dropping the sword onto the ground. Cirin pointed the staff at the man, rested it against the man’s heart. “Listen, ‘My name is my own’, while my patience is still firm. Take off your boots.” “My boots? But, I -” Cirin pushed the staff ever-so-slightly against the man’s chest. “Yes, yes, yes,” the man said and awkwardly began lifting one leg, then the other and leaving his boots by his feet. “Good,” Cirin said. “Now, when you return to your master, tell him there is nothing here. We are on a holy pilgrimage to the Jagyard Mountains. We have no relics or magic or silver. Nothing. So, let us be. Do you understand?” “Yes, yes.” “Good, then,” and Cirin threw the staff onto the man’s foot. A crack split the night and the man yelped. “One final thing,” Cirin continued. “Do not go back the way you came. I have two friends waiting there who are not nearly as kind as I, and they have orders to kill anything they see. Do you understand?” “Ah, yes,” the man grimaced through his pain. “Then begone. And pray you never see me again.”
Mark Wallace Maguire is a Kindle best-selling author of several books, including the highly-praised Alexandria Rising Chronicles. He is a 2017 Independent Author of the Year Finalist and a 2017 Georgia Author of The Year nominee. He is also an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers at home and abroad. He's been honored by several organizations, including The Associated Press, Georgia Sportswriter's Association, Georgia Poetry Society, Georgia Sportswriter's Association and Society of Professional Journalists.
In 2005, he was named Berry College Outstanding Young Alumni of The Year.
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