Prince Alexander's Own Story! Exclusive Interview (aka To Heir is Human: From the Chronicles of Daventry, Part III (Part 3 in some editions)) is the novelization of KQ3 from the King's Quest Companion. It is written as an interview of Alexander for Daventry People.
The novelization is actually designed as a walkthrough that can be followed to win the game. It follows the main path through the game (as designated by the game developers).
Prince Alexander's Own Story! Exclusive Interview
Captive for 17 years, kidnapped prince escapes evil wizard, Medusa, monsters, bandits, and pirates. He crosses deserts, mountains, and the Western Sea to return home--and that was easy part. In this Daventry People exclusive, the prince tells us how he rescued both his twin sister, Princess Rosella, and the kingdom of Daventry from the very clutches of the fire-breathing dragon. Daventry People reporter Derek Karlavaegen caught up with the prince as he relaxed in Castle Daventry, the home he had never known...
To look at Prince Alexander today, it is hard to imagine that he is the same person as the bawling babe who was snatched one summer's evening from the rocking cradle on the shores of Lake Maylie, all those years ago. Lean of body, he is taller than his father, but his eyes and the firm set of his jaw are the same as King Graham's His mother's fairness of face is also there for all to see, and Alexander's resemblance to his sister, Princess Rosella, is quite pronounced. One only has to look at them together to know they are twins. Even without the evidence of the small birthmark on his right thigh, his ears alone would mark him as the king's son. His voice is soft, mature beyond his young years. As he spoke to me, it held me with its intensity as if reliving his experiences for others might exorcise the daemons of his past.
Our interview was conducted over several days and was interrupted frequently by the queen's reports on the king's improving physical condition, and by their spontaneous hugs and tears. At these times of family emotion, I would withdraw discreetly; some emotions demand their privacy. I have edited the prince's words somewhat for brevity and style.
Question: Prince Alexander, can you tell us something about what it was like growing up as a slave to the wizard Manannan?
Actually, I still have a lot of trouble with the name Alexander. The wizard named me Gwydion. It is the only name I have ever really known, and I suspect that I'll always think of myself by that identity.
Chores and punishments, work and sleep; this is all that I knew while growing up. And reading; Manannan did allow me to read books from his library, although he never allowed me to find them for myself. He would tell me that reading kept me quiet and out of trouble when I wasn't doing something useful. Manannan always fancied himself a scholar and kept books on all sorts of subjects on the shelves in his study. From them I learned of the existence of magic, although no books on how to practice it were given me. I read from the histories and legends of our world and the Other World, pored over maps, studied drawings of the beasts and creatures who roam and soar and swim, and imagined myself free of my master, roaming and adventuring throughout the fabulous world that I knew only secondhand.
Most of my time was spent doing whatever task Manannan set me to--cleaning the chamber pot in his bedroom, dusting his office with the feather brush that he kept atop the cabinet, feeding the chickens, preparing his meals--whatever he desired. He didn't like me to dawdle, either. If I did not get my job done quickly, he would point a finger of punishment at me. At those times I considered myself lucky if he only materialized me into my locked room. At least I was safe; never did he enter my poor room. Manannan always warned me if I messed up my chores once too often, it would be the last thing I ever did.
He was both evil and cruel. I knew Manannan kept a keen eye on the countryside of Llewdor by way of a looking glass he kept in the house's tower; and from there he could terrorize the people who lived in that country. He said that if I ever attempted to escape, he would be able to find me at once through the device. My penalty for such an act would be death, and when he told this to me he spoke as if he enjoyed the prospect. He delighted in telling me of the other boys who had served him and of how they had died for their various transgressions. He would tell me this in lurid detail.
Death too was threatened me if he ever caught me in possession of his personal things, or in possession of anything that might have any magical use. He would tell me, between threats, "Keep your hands clean and your pockets empty!"
Obey Manannan I did, although try as I might, he always found a petty mistake for which to exact a punishment. In the final weeks of my captivity, it was as if he were looking for an excuse to terminate my existence. It was at this time that I determined to be free of the wizard's tyranny. The worst he could do was kill me, and I suspected he was ready to do that anyway. Often had my master spoken of how none of his prior boys, for whatever reasons, had survived past their eighteenth birthday. On other occasions he promised me release when I turned that manful age. My own eighteenth birthdate was just weeks away, and I suspected--from Manannan's words and the hateful look in his eyes--that I would do my last chores that day, my last anything that day. I truly had nothing to lose and prepared myself to act at the first opportunity.
A few days later, soon after I had fed the chickens outside, Manannan materialized to inform me he was leaving on a journey and to warn me to stay out of trouble while he was gone. The moment he disappeared from view, I sprang into action.
My plan was to first make a thorough search of the house. I knew the wizard had a laboratory hidden somewhere below his study. It was a place I had never seen, but knew existed because my master occasionally spoke of going there to perform some magical experiment or other.
I also knew that he must have secrets hidden in his bedroom, because I was only allowed there to empty the chamber pot and only them for a very short time.
Question: Why hadn't you done this before?
Fear had kept my courage in check, and now desperation had given me daring. Manannan didn't like me poking around in is study except when I dusted. In one corner was the locked oak cabinet upon which the feather duster lived when it wasn't being used. A huge oak desk, chair, and wastebasket filled the rest of the space, and the bookshelves covered two walls. As I looked at the books on the right wall, I noticed a metallic glint I had never seen before. I moved the books at once and discovered a brass lever. When I pulled it, a trapdoor rose from the floor, showing me a set of stone stairs leading down. I was sure where they led.
The stairs were slick, so I had to be careful going down. Manannan's cat, the one with the name I refuse to pronounce, attempted to trip me as I descended. I'm sure I'd have broken my neck if she had, so I gave it a quick soft kick with my foot. I am not cruel to animals, but this one and I were far from friends. There was only enough force in my blow to mve the feline, not harm it.
Torches lit the laboratory at the bottom. What they revealed were shelves bearing jars full of strange things such as toad spittle, nightshade juice, mandrake root powder, and the like--ingredients for magical spells. A large oak worktable was set in the middle of the room. Upon it was a massive book bound in a curious leather, and it bore The Sorcery of Old. The ink and the handwriting within the book were very faint. Most of the writings were in languages with which I am not familiar. Some, I suspect were not written with a human hand. From the few pages I could read, I surmised the book was a spell book. The spells had names like, "Causing a deep sleep," "Flying Like An Eagle," and "Transforming another into a Cat." Ingredients and required tools were all listed. A glance at the shelves proved that they contained many, but not all, of the ingredients listed in the spell book. The worktable had much of the needed apparatus. here, I rejoiced, was the means of my escape.
Question: And was it?
Alas, no! It would be eventually, but at the time it wasn't. Search as I would, I found I had not complete makings of any spell.
I decided that my best course would be to memorize all that I could from the book and then leave the laboratory the same as if I had never been there, lest the wizard become suspicious. I would return again with what I needed to cast a spell on my evil master.
And I knew what that spell would be; the underfoot feline had given me the idea. If I could come up with a little cat fur, some fish oil, a bowl for mixing, and a magic wand, I would be delighted to turn Manannan into a cat.
When I returned to the wizard's study, I carefully pushed the lever to close the trapdoor and moved the books back into place. The room was now exactly as I had found it.
Question: You must have been scared that Manannan would return and catch you red-handed, weren't you?
Of course I was! I may be self-taught, but I'm not stupid. But at that point I wasn't too worried that he would return just then.
Question: Oh? Why was that?
My master was a man of extremely fixed and regular habits. He would rise at exactly the same time each day. Likewise he would retire to bed each night at the same time, accompanied by the same three fingers of the same awful brandy that his taste favored. When Manannan slept, it was for precisely the same period of time, and when he traveled, he always returned at the same time. It was as if he were a clockwork person with gears that repeated himself eternally.
Manannan kept in his house a magical clock unlike any I have ever read about. It was similar to an hourglass in that it would measure a certain short period of time and then begin again, then again and again and again, for as many times as you might count. The sorcerer kept the device, he would say, as a curiosity, for it measured the passing of time in an interval unknown to our kind. He told me once--why, I do not know--that it was created by another race, one that came before the human, or after--he was not sure which.
Over time I came to see the strange clock as a way to measure the man himself. His bath always took two measures of the odd time, his studies eighteen, and his sleep twenty-five--the same as his travels. It was because I knew this of Manannan that I wasn't worried that he would return just then. I knew that if I could keep track of time, as measured by the inhuman device, then my master could not catch me unawares.
Manannan would not return for some while yet. I used what time I dared to continue my household search. From the kitchen I took my favorite clay bowl from a shelf, and a wooden spoon and sharp knife from the rack next to the fireplace. As I passed through the dining room, I retrieved an old cup from upon the table. Manannan's dining room is large enough to accommodate a score of people, yet my master always ate alone under the eternal gaze of a stuffed moose head. I will always consider that a most curious sight.
I took what I had gathered to my sparsely furnished room, and I hid it all under my bed (a cot really). I was sure the wizard would not search for them there, even if he noticed them missing. then I went to catch the cat and get its contribution to my future.
She was in the wizard's tower; she could have been just about anywhere, but she was on the third floor playing with a dead fly. It took several attempts and many more scratches before I got her, but I was able to hold on to her long enough to take some fur. The unnameable cat gave me an extra scratch as she squirmed out of my hands, but the spell ingredient was mine.
As were the fly wings. I recalled that the spell for flying like a fly called for a pair of those wings, so I took the fly to get the wings. Yuk, but it was for a good cause--saving my hide. I hid the fur and fly wings under my bed with everything else.
The rest of the time I spent searching Manannan's bedroom. Large and ornate it was, with an oversized canopy bed dominating it. In one drawer of a small vanity, which held the large mirror where the wizard groomed his dark features each day, I found a hand mirror. This I replaced, but noted for later use. In the back of another drawer, in the low dresser, buried beneath unmended hosiery and soiled undergarments, was an apparently forgotten bottle labeled: Rose Petal Essence. For me this was a treasure; I remembered it as an ingredient also, although for which spell I was unsure at the time. I took it, praying my master would not notice it missing.
Manannan's tall closet was unlocked. Within were velvet robes, silken gowns, and some pointed hats of the magicians' guild. I searched the closet further and turned up a rolled piece of dusty parchment. I could see nothing on it except for some faded lines. I didn't now it at the time, but I had discovered a magical map, one that would return me to someplace I had been while carrying it. As I say, I didn't know that then, but I took it on the assumption that it might be helpful later and that my master probably wouldn't know it was gone.
The discovery that made my risks worthwhile, however, came when I stretched up and searched the top of the closet. There I found a small key. It didn't fit the bedroom closet when I tried, so I resolved to see if it would open the small locked closet in the wizard's office down the stairs.
It sure did! Inside was an ivory wand, not too ornate, smooth and cool to my touch, with an oaken handle. I had not seen a magic wand in the underground laboratory or in his bedroom, so this must be it. (Actually, I had never seen a magic wand before, but I knew such things did exist, and combined with the fact that it was kept under lock and key, it made the identity of the wand somewhat self-evident.) Manannan's magic wand--any magic wand, actually--was needed to cast all of the magic spells, and I had it! However, I wasn't ready to do any spell-casting at the moment, and I was sure that I would be just another dead slave if the wizard found it missing. So I put it back and locked the door.
Next, I headed outside to the chicken pen. I loathed the place you know. Twice every day I was forced to feed fowls. The rooster disliked me, and the hens pecked at my feet. I had to muck the coop, and chicken coops thrive on most unpleasant smells. All this plus killing an unlucky bird for the wizard's weekly supper! As I said, it was not my favorite place, but it was quick work to catch one of the hens and pluck a feather to put away for a spell. With this done, I ventured down the mountain for the first time ever.
Question: That must have been quite an experience. What was going through your mind as you were doing this?
You must understand that Manannan's house sat on the top of a lone mountain overlooking much of the land of Llewdor. From that perch I was able to see a world I had never experienced. So at first an overwhelming elation came over me, one of freedom and abandon. I came very close to terminal stupidity in those first few minutes, imagining myself able to run completely away from my master and to disappear into the vast world that was absorbing me. But then I discovered why the wizard always teleported himself to and from his home.
The path was a killer. It was narrow, steep, and twisting. The footing was treacherous and threatened to pull my feet out from under me at any step. Often on that walk I could easily have plunged to my sure death. If there were an easier way down to the world below, I would gladly have taken it.
When I did reach the bottom, though, I immersed myself in the colors and smells and sounds I had only been able to imagine before. Bird songs I had never known filled my ears. Above me an eagle soared slowly--in all my life I had only seen eagles soaring below me as I viewed them from atop the mountain. In the trees chipmunks and squirrels chattered to each other in a language I did not understand. I drank of the world I had never known, turning my face to the sun, spreading my arms, and letting the feeling of the unknown enter through all my senses, through all my body.
I didn't' stand there too long because I knew I must soon return back up that dreaded path, and I wanted to explore a little before that time. I had an idea where some things were because I had been gazing on them all of my life, but I needed to experience the great desert and put my hand in a flowing stream. As it turned out, the desert began a very short way west of where the path deposited me. I knew deserts were hot and desolate places, but I had never expected the sand to shimmer like water, making waves int he air. In the distance I spied a figure moving quickly. At first I thought it was human, the first entirely new person in my life, but I changed my mind as it came closer and I spied things squirming around its head, as if under their own power. I had read of mirages and dismissed this as such, turning my back and returning to the path where I had descended. As I discovered later, that act saved my life.
To the east of where I had come down, the country was much different. A blue and white stream sparkled through an area of occasional trees--birches and pines, I think. Just across the small stream was a large black opening in the side of a hill. I spent a moment listening to the stream's liquid sighing and dipping my hands therein, tasting the water, cold and sweet. Upon closer inspection the opening appeared to be the entrance to a cave, somewhat deep, with a faint glow barely visible within the blackness. A huge, thick spider web was stretched across the cave's front. I would have attempted to enter the cave at that moment, but I was stopped by the sound of something large moving in the tree above me. A quick glance in the sound's direction alerted me to the presence of a giant spider lurking in wait for something to get stuck in the web. My hand stopped inches from the sticky strands, and I retreated again to my main landmark, the path.
The path down from Manannan's house continued south into the trees. I wanted to follow it a ways, but the time I had allotted myself was almost used up, and I had to return to the house before the magician's arrival. As I turned to tread my careful way back up the mountain, I gazed on the eagles still winging in joyous flight through the air. I was sure they had no cruel master to take away their freedom.
A feather tumbled slowly down as I watched, doubtless lost by one of the great birds. I rushed to it as it touched the ground and took it, for I recalled an eagle's feather to be an ingredient for one of the spells in Manannan's great book. I brushed it against my cheek and hoped it would help bring me the freedom I was seeking.
Then I turned and set my steps toward home.
Question: You made it back OK, I assume. Did Manannan discover what you were doing during his absence?
I made it back sweating, both from the perilous climb and the fear that I had misjudged the time of my own absence. The curses that escaped my lips as I arrived would sear your ears if I repeated them. I hated my master even more for that mountain path.
Manannan was still a little time from returning, however. I went at once to my room to conceal my treasures and take stock of my situation. I unrolled upon my cot the parchment I had taken from the wizard's closet so that I could use it to list what I had and as a reminder of that which I should try to obtain. You might imagine my surprise when I found the blank sheet was now a map showing the places I had explored during my brief outing. This filled only some of the parchment. As I moved my finger across it, a luminous arrow seemed to follow, and the word "TELEPORT" hovered above the page. I reached and touched my other hand to the magically floating word.
I had come close to death several times during my trip down from Manannan's mountain stronghold, but at this moment I faced complete disaster.
The map was magic, of course, but I did not know that my action would transport me elsewhere. Poof! In a blink I was standing on the path at the foot of the mountain once again, the same place where my finger was resting on the parchment I still held. I was amazed, yes. But I was also terrified that I was not in my master's house and it was nearly time for his return.
I performed the same actions again, only this time my finger pointed to Manannan's house. Nothing happened: I stayed at the foot of the mountain. Several more times I tried, but I did not move. Panicked, and with time--and my life!--running out, I raced back up the path. How I survived that mad dash was a miracle. Cuts and scrapes covered my hands and elbows by the time I was in my room, but I succeeded in arriving before the wizard. The map went under the bed, and as I finished dusting myself off, I heard my master returning.
So, to finally answer your question, no. Manannan did not notice anything amiss when he returned; he merely demanded to be fed. I went to the kitchen and brought him a piece of fruit, and he just gobbled it and went about his business. I don't even think he noticed my knees shaking.
Question: Were you able to get rid of the wizard then?
Oh, not at all. I only had the ingredients for two spells, neither of which would dispose of my master. As I performed the chores Manannan demanded of me, I realized I had what was needed to turn myself into an eagle or a into a fly. I resolved an attempt making the spells as soon as the wizard retired to his sleep.
After some time he announced, as he did at the same time each evening, that he was going to sleep. I went straight to my room, prepared to make the best use of the time I would have to work.
His snores greeted me at the top of the stairs, so I took all that I had hidden and went straight to my master's study. There I retrieved the magic wand and opened the trapdoor down to the secret laboratory.
I took some saffron from one shelf, made sure I had all else that was needed for the spells, and opened the massive book to page IV. I read the directions carefully and followed them exactly. I recited the verses clearly and distinctly and waved the magic wand with only a slightly trembling hand. From what I knew from reading about magic, I would be the first to know if I had made a mistake. It would not be a pleasant experience.
Nothing bad happened to me, so I took a close look at the vial of magic essence. Only a slight glow from within betrayed its magic property. So far, so good.
Next, I looked at the map and pointed to the bottom of the path. Hoping its magic wasn't a one-time deal, I touched the word "TELEPORT." Poof! Success. Now to find some more ingredients, if possible, and go back to get my revenge on Manannan.
Question: It couldn't have been that easy, could it?
I should have been so lucky!
First I wandered south, following the path that extended down the mountain. I moved through a sparse forest, looking everywhere and listening to the sounds of the birds and other animals. In a short while, I stumbled upon a trim cottage with a thatched roof and smoke wafting out the chimney. A trim cottage with a thatched room and smoke wafting out the chimney. A small flower garden was abloom in front. I thought someone in the house could help me, but my repeated knocks brought no reply.
Unwilling at the time to enter without permission, I turned east and walked until I came to the top of a tall, steep dune overlooking the ocean. A beach stretched below me, and as my eyes followed it north, I saw outlined a pier reaching into the sea, and a small town.
"There," I thought, "is where I want to go."
An old oak, covered with moss, shaded me where I stood. As I made to leave, I noticed a dried sprig of gray-green hanging from one of the branches. It was mistletoe. I recognized it from pictures in Manannan's books. This I took, for it was an ingredient listed in Manannan's spell book.
The town was the same small seaport I had been looking down on for years. It was not much more than a general store where people could get food and supplies, a tavern where sailors might go to drink and swap tales, and a few houses.
I entered the store and there met the only other person I had seen in my life. Short of stature and of hair, the shopkeeper smiled at me with an emotion I had never known until that time--humor. Upon his shelves were many of the things I had come down the mountain to obtain, but the shopkeeper would part with none of them unless I gave him gold. My course was now clear--get some gold!
A dog lay sleeping in one corner of the shop. During my bondage I had scant experience with animals other than chickens, bugs, and vermin, so I took the opportunity to touch the dog--his name was Kenny, I believe. As I petted the beast, a tuft of fur came off on my hand. I started to wipe it away, but realized that this, too, could be used in making magic. So I kept the dog fur and left.
The tavern I entered next Its occupants were bottles of wine and rum, a pair of evil-looking men who were bragging about hurting people, and a large person with long, blond hair, wearing a dress that left most of the chest exposed. I had met my first woman. All looked upon me as an intruder. I moved into the shadows of a corner and tried to eavesdrop on what they were saying, but I could make out no distinct words.
This was as good a chance as any to try out my magic potion. I dipped the fly wings in the essence. Zip! I turned into a fly. The magic really worked!
Buzzing right up to the men, I sat glued on the wall and listened to them talk about robbing and looting travelers, and how they hid their ill-gotten gains high in a big tree. They mentioned a hidden ladder for getting into the hideout, and how one of them always guarded the treasure.
Not knowing how long flyspell would last, I buzzed out. Perhaps I could find their loot and get some gold for myself. Rob the robbers, so to speak.
Question: Well, did you?
Eventually. You see, I didn't know where the bandits' treehouse was, so I had to go find it. At the same time, I had to be mindful of how late the hour was getting. I didn't want Manannan to wake and not find me at home.
North from town took me back to the stream I had been to before. The spider's web that covered the cave was still waiting to catch the unwary, and the mysterious glow was still beckoning in the darkness.
Flush with my first magical success, I decided to take care of the waiting spider and explore the cave. An eagle, I knew, should be able to take care of a big spider.
I dipped the eagle feather into the essence. Whoosh! I was flying! Unfortunately I knew I had but a few moments in this form, so I swooped down on the big bug, grasped it in my beak and dropped it into the ocean. No sooner had I returned to the cave mouth than I returned to my real form. I was exhilarated from my flight; the freedom of the skies made me crave my personal freedom even more.
Inside the cave, the faint light became much brighter. It came from a giant crystal ball that pulsed with all the colors of the rainbow. As I stared, strange music filled the air, and I noticed a figure standing behind the ball. At that moment, my entire life shattered.
The person in the cave was an oracle, one who told the future. As she spoke, her words were reflected by visions in the glass. She spoke of the kingdom of Daventry, and how it had been invaded by a three-headed dragon years ago. I heard of how the land was devastated and the people terrified. And I learned that each year a maiden was sacrificed to the monster, and that this year the sacrificial one was to be my sister, the Princess Rosella! Time was running out for her, my parents, and Daventry!
I slumped to the ground in astonishment. Parents! A sister! In an instant I was a new person, one with a family I did not know. My sister was a princess! All were in danger! Was I a prince? I was the only one who could help them. Could I? Could I even save myself from my current predicament?
Even as I pondered these thoughts, the oracle handed me something. "Here is a small stone of amber. Use it wisely, my friend!" With that, the oracle slumped into a sleep-like trance, much like death.
Question: So, one moment you were Gwydion the slave-boy, and the next you're Prince Alexander of Daventry?
No, not really. The oracle never told me my true name. I didn't learn that until later.
I was in turns elated, depressed, and most of all confused as I continued searching for the bandits' den. Too many new ideas and too much excitement had come upon me in too short a time. I wandered past the mountain path, west again to the desert's edge, and then turned south. It was here the bandits found me.
I don't think I had gone more than five paces when I was set upon by a group of thugs. They beat me and kicked me. Then they robbed me of all I had while I was on the ground. In an instant, all was lost--my map, the amber stone, the magic-making ingredients, the magic essence--everything. All was lost! Why had I brought all of those things with me? By the time I had recovered my senses, all I could do was press on. It mattered not to me if I were caught and punished by Manannan. I was doomed already, and so was my family, and so was Daventry!
I dusted off and continued south, and as quickly as my fortunes had changed for the worse, they reversed themselves yet again. This time it was my favor.
Evidently the bandits had caught me as they were leaving their hideout. I had staggered but a short way south when I came across a large oak tree with a good-sized hole in its base. The bandits had spoken of such in the tavern as I listened in on them disguised as a fly. At once I knelt and reached into the hole. A rope was there as they had described it; I pulled it down and a ladder tumbled down out of the giant tree's branches, stopping a hand's width away from touching the ground. I rushed over to it in order to climb up.
As I did so, I noticed the ground around the tree was littered with acorns, dropped to the ground, perhaps, as a result of the cutthroats' constant comings and goings. I scrambled around and was able to find a few dried ones for later--if there ever was a later--magical experiment. Then it was time to visit the thieves' den.
As always, I had nothing to lose; sure death waited in Manannan's hands. Up the rungs I climbed and arrived at a house built in the branches. I peeked inside, looking to find the guard. There was one, so I ducked out before he saw me. Waiting outside the door the thieves' den exercised my patience and courage, but, as I have said, I was desperate and had nothing to lose. After awhile, I peeked again. This time it appeared the scruffy guard had taken to sleep. His head rested in his arms on the table, and his breathing was deep and regular.
On tiptoe I crept in, hoping the floor boards would not squeak. Looking about I saw a pouch on the table near the sleeping desperado's hand. I lifted it from near his fingers. It was heavy--later I would find the purse to contain eight gold coins.
In the far corner there was a large bin. I opened this carefully and found inside all of my possessions. They must have hidden them there right after leaving me for dead.
It was but a moment's quiet work to retrieve my things and creep back outside. Turnabout being fair play, I had indeed robbed the robbers. Back down the ladder, I fled to town.
Question: I hope things went more smoothly after that.
Things never went easy for me. Remember, while all this was going on, my master was getting closer to waking from his sleep. Anyway, Llewdor is not large, and the town was due east of the hideout. I was able to get back to the store without incident.
This time the shopkeeper was more talkative. He saw the color of my gold and extolled the quality of his wares. I spent four of my coins buying salt, lard, fish oil, and a leather pouch. On the way out, I gave Ken, the dog, and ear scratch. Things seemed to be looking up a bit.
Anyway, I felt I had stretched my luck a bit on that trip down, so I looked at the magic map and tried again to teleport home.
Question: Nothing happened, right?
Wrong. I did get teleported, but not to Manannan's. Where I ended up was the bottom of the path. I guess the magic map just didn't want to go up the mountain, or something. Anyway, I had another slippery trek ahead of me. When I finally made it inside--after another harrowing, slow, and painful climb--I rushed straight to my master's study to see if I had been discovered. All was as I had abandoned it, so I closed the trapdoor, moved the books back in place, and then put the magic wand back in the cabinet exactly as I had found it. Then, I locked the cabinet securely.
Back upstairs I peeked into my master's bedroom to find him still snoring, sounding much like the pig he once had me slaughter. Moving to my room, I hid everything I had under my bed. The wizard would be awakening soon, and there was no time to do anything else. So I composed myself and waited for him to make his presence known, which happened soon enough.
"Gwydion, empty my chamber pot!" came the shout, and life temporarily returned to normal again in the wizard's house.
Question: You obviously couldn't do much for yourself while Manannan was at home. What was going through your mind as you performed your duties?
Having tasted freedom and knowledge, I was even more eager to be done with my master and be gone. I had all I needed to make what the grimoire--the spell book--called a "cat cookie," and I was determined to prepare the concoction during the wizard's next absence and hide it in his next meal. If I served it to him plain, I was sure he would recognize and probably terminate my life quite painfully. This was something I was trying to avoid.
A quick trip down the mountain to obtain anything else I could find would come first; second, back to the laboratory to fix the cookie; third, I would fix Manannan, good and proper. If all worked out as I planned, I would have the time to create as many other spells as I could and then head off to Daventry. How I would get home I still wasn't sure. Perhaps a ship might be sailing there from the port, or maybe I could use the teleportation spell. Whatever, Manannan had to be eliminated first.
I was just returning to my cot after doing my chore when the wizard appeared in front of me. He announced he was taking another journey, and that he would be hungry when he returned. Poof! Gone again. It was time for me, too, to make a journey. This time I decided to take Manannan's hand mirror with me in case I had to go looking into any more small dark places. Quickly, I was in his room and removed it from its place in the vanity drawer.
Next into my room to collect my things. I opened up and used the magic map. In an instant I was outside the Oracle's cave.
Question: Why there? And why did you haul all those things with you when you left?
As for the second question, I was never sure what I might need. Remember, I had never been out into the world before. It just seemed right at the time, and my bag had room for it all.
Why the cave? There were blank squares on Manannan's map, places where I had not yet ventured. Included in that unknown--the "terra incognita"--was the desert where I knew I must go to collect a piece of cactus. My plan was to enter the desert at its northernmost point and travel south looking for the plant and anything else that might be helpful. It was a straight walk west to that part of the desert from the cave.
I teleported to the oracle's cave, also, because of the stream that flowed in front of it. Another thing I needed to collect was a spoonful of mud, and near water would be a good place to get mud, one would think.
Well, there was none at the cave, it was too rocky. But, just a little west of there, in the direction I was heading, the stream's bank finally did turn to mud. Using my kitchen spoon, I was able to scoop it out and leave my fingers clean. Then, it was on to the desert.
At the very point where the grass disappeared into the sand, I looked deep into the desolation. To the west if stretched as far as my eyes could see and gave every indication of being a place in which one could easily get lost. The sun blinded me as I looked in that direction, although when I squinted I thought I could make out a silhouette in the distance.
"Another mirage. Just take a few steps in, then go south," I told myself. "It's better for the eyes and I won't get lost." With that thought, I stepped into that harsh place and turned immediately south.
I mentioned earlier that turning away from the desert on my first trip had saved my life, although I didn't know it at the time. This time, as I moved south, I could notice the "mirage" again coming closer to me and closing quickly. The moving mess on the head of the figure resolved itself in an instant--snakes. I could hear them hiss and glimpse them writhing their separate bodies. All this I saw in a flash from the corner of my eye and heard through the evidence of my ears.
I might say that Manannan twice saved my life at that instant. In the books he had allowed me to read, I had learned the story of the medusas, foul creatures with snakes instead of hair. Their faces were so hideous that once full glance would turn someone to stone. Thanks to my master, I now knew what I faced, but I couldn't face it, so to speak!
A hero, once, had defeated one of the creatures by showing it its own fatal reflection in a polished shield. I had no shield, but I did have Manannan's mirror. Averting my eyes, I quickly showed the mirror to Medusa. My master's mirror won the day. Her scream was as hideous as her face must have been, but it lasted just an instant, cut off as she was turned to stone by the sight of her own image. After a few minutes of hearing no sounds--no sound of movement near me other than rocks cracking from the sun's heat--I dared look.
Even as a statue, the creature was appallingly ugly. The snakes had frozen with vendon still hanging from the tips of their fangs, doomed to spend eternity without falling. The less I say about the face the better, although I did speculate that she would make a fair mate for my master.
On the ground, not far from the new statue, I saw something dry and crumpled. Looking closer I realized it was the skin of a snake, although it did not look as if it come from one of Medusa's pets. Another victim of the desert most likely. Gently I took it, for it could easily crumple, and carried it with me.
Praying that no more of the serpent-headed creatures prowled the sands, I continued my southerly course. I trudged that way for some time, looking at every cactus in my path, but all were too thorny for me to take. At last, growing in the shade of a large rock, I noticed an unusual cactus without all the stickers, juicy and succulent in the parched land. This, too, I added to my anti-wizard collection.
Snakes and lizards were my gabbering companions as I finished that part of my trek in the southernmost desert. A glance at the map told me I had covered most of Llewdor except for the eastern seaboard. I thought I would walk there, paying another visit to the cottage in the woods on my way.
Dew glistened on the charming flowers planted in front of the house when I arrived, but I had no way to take any of the liquid. Disappointed, I walked to the door. A small sign hung there:
I knocked as I had done before. As was the case the last time, there was no answer. This time I decided to let myself in.
Question: Why this time and not the last?
Experience I think. I had been through a lot since I had come there last, so I had more confidence. Then there was the dew on the flowers. I needed something to collect it with, and maybe that something was inside. Also, I hadn't known about Daventry and my family before; I was now in a double rush both to rid myself of the wizard and to rescue my unknown homeland.
Inside, a fire burned away cheerily in the fireplace. A plank table in the room's center was flanked by three chairs, a huge oversized, overstuffed easy chair--easily large enough to comfortably seat a bear--a regular straight-backed chair, and one baby-sized chair. On the table were three bowls of what tasted like porridge. I shouted "Hello!," but still there was no reply.
Upstairs was a bedroom with three beds--giant-, normal-, and baby-sized. The place was a bit untidy, as if it had not been swept in a while. Coarse reddish-brown hear was all over as if some large animal, or animals, had been shedding their winter fur. Bears perhaps? Things were beginning to look ominous.
The only other thing there was a dresser in one corner, so I opened a drawer to look inside. A thimble rested among some mended clothes. Now I had found something in which to collect dewdrops!
As I ran back down the stairs, the steaming bowls of food gave me an idea. Porridge would be a perfect dish in which to conceal a magic cookie. I took one of the bowls from the table as I left; the smallest one seemed just right and easiest to carry. Then I was out the door.
Outside I knelt by the flower patch and collected as much dew as I could. Keeping my thumb firmly over the thimble's opening to prevent the drops from spilling, I hurried toward the sea. All the while I thought of what I had taken from the house. Necessity had prompted me to do something that I am not sure was right. Someday, after everything settles down her, I intend to go back and repay those folks in the forest. I, my family, and Daventry owe them much. I hope that my thievery is a burden they can bear.
Question: Why go to the ocean?
I wanted to complete the map. I wanted to see if I might find something I could use against Manannan. I wanted to collect some seawater that I needed for one of the spells in the book. And I wanted to see if there was a ship that might take me to Daventry. Are those enough reasons?
Anyway, I followed north along the top of the steep dunes, passing through town until the country began to leave. Where the small stream wiggled out of the woods and poured itself into the sea, I was able to make my way to the edge of the surf. There I filled my cup with seawater, and elation overcame me. All that I had risked my life to obtain was now mine, and all I had to do now was get back to Manannan's house and make the cat cookie. Then I would get back at him, good and proper.
On the other hand, I had to get back up to the house with a cup of seawater in one hand, and a thimbleful of dew in the other.
Question: I'm sure that's easier said than done.
You might say that. I was fortunate in that my adventures hunting and gathering had not taken too long a time; it gave me opportunity to inch up the slippery path with the extra care my burden needed. To anyone who might have been watching me making my snail's progress up the slope, I must have looked a comical sight. With one hand cupped over the container of seawater and the other tightly squeezing the thimble of dew, I was forced to hold my arms straight out from my sides to keep my balance. The more treacherous portions found me crawling, using my bleeding elbows for leverage. But at last I did get back.
As soon as I entered the the wizard's house, I made directly for is secret laboratory. Through the trapdoor and down the steps I went. Putting aside all that I did not need, and making double sure of having what I did require, worktable, I opened the book to the indicated page and followed each step to the letter. After reciting the verses, and waving the magic wand, I was left with a round, flat cookie with cat hairs sticking from it. I know that if someone had offered it to me looking like that, I would not have eaten it.
Actually, I had time to cast two spells. While creating the magic stone for teleporting at random, I began to notice that time itself seems to stop when the magical craft is being practiced. It seemed I could stand there working for the longest while and find later that but little time had gone by. I thought this was very curious. Helpful, but curious.
With the two spells finished, I left the laboratory as I found it and went back upstairs. For the last time, I pushed the lever to close the trap and moved the books into their proper place. For the last time, I put the magic wand back into its cabinet and locked it away. For the last time, I hid my loot under the cot in my bare room.
I crumbled the cookie into the bowl of porridge. In that form, at least, it looked edible. This alone I carried to the kitchen, where I waited for Manannan's return.
I may have dozed a bit as I waited for my master in the kitchen, for his voice and sudden appearance startled me.
"I have returned, Gwydion, and I am ready to eat."
He disappeared from the kitchen as quickly as he came. Taking the porridge, I found the old wizard sitting impatiently at the table.
"Hurry with my food!"
"Anything you say, master!"
Question: Can you describe your feelings at that instant?
I think I had no really strong feelings at that moment, except happiness, of course, and relief. I felt as if I had been holding great chains my entire life, and they were now gone. I didn't cry, or laugh, or scream to the heavens with joy. Some things, I have learned, are just too large to encompass the moment they happen.
I kicked Manannan once to get him out of my sight, not too hard, but firmly enough to convince him as to who the new master of the house was. That was about it. I had no time to reflect and celebrate because I had a sister and a family and a kingdom still to save.
I must admit that I walked slowly back to my room to retrieve my things. There was no threat of being punished for dawdling, and I savored the moment of returning there for the last time. And I also walked slowly down to the secret laboratory in order to prepare all of the other spells for which I had ingredients. Wen I left their, I had no intention of ever returning. I still don't.
With the cactus and its juice I was able to create an invisibility ointment; with the dog fur, chicken feather, and snake skin I made a magic dough that allowed me to understand what animals had to say; with the ocean water and mud I made the brew of storms. Soon all was finished. Using the magic map I teleported straight to Llewdor, ready to take on the world--and a three-headed dragon.
I was not prepared to take on pirates.
Oh, yes. There were pirates all right, but I didn't meet them at first. First I explored around the countryside again, looking for any more stray bits of information, weapons, tools, or people who might help me. People, tools, and weapons were in short supply that day, but I did turn up more information about myself in places I would not have suspected.
Birds and animals see and hear much in this world, much more than we ever credit them. When I put the magic dough that I had made into my ears, it allowed me to overhear the conversations of many of the creatures of Llewdor. Much of what I heard was on the order of catching worms or the winter's nut supply, but some concerned me directly. From a pair of birds singing in a pine tree I heard, once again, that I had a sister. But they went on to mention that my sister was my twin. Scurrying about a large rock, one squirrel told another that it was too bad I didn't know my real parents were King Graham and Queen Valanice; indeed, they thought it sad that I was a prince and didn't know it.
A lizard in the desert told another that it looked as if I were running away from Manannan and they wondered how long it might be before I was caught and punished by the wizard. In al, my plight was well known to the birds and beasts of the land. They pitied me and hated Manannan.
I used one other of Manannan's spells as I wandered the countryside. At first I used the magic map to move me quickly; all I had to do was point to someplace I had been and I could teleport myself there. Then I thought to try the wizard's "Teleportation At Random" spell. Perhaps it would take me somewhere I had yet to discover.
Whenever I rubbed the magic stone--Poof!--I would be somewhere else, but where that somewhere else was to be, I could not predict. Once I ended up back in the Laboratory; another time, on the mountain path. After one rub dropped me in the middle of the desert, totally lost and afraid another medusa might appear, I decided to put the magic stone away until I might need it in an emergency.
Of course, I prayed for a scarcity of emergencies and continued my way by map and foot.
In the end, I arrived at the Western Sea, although it is only called that in Daventry. In Llewdor, the Western Sea kisses the easternmost coast, but then there are stranger things in this world than how we name our oceans.
In the distance, a sailing ship sat tied up near the pier. I walked up to it, seeing firsthand the planks and riggings I had only read of before. She had the smell of the sea about her; not just the smell of seawater, but of tar and spices and rancid oils. The aroma of sailors, too long unwashed, drifted from one porthole. A short gangway connected the ship to the pier, and an old seaman had been set to guard it. His skin was like ancient, cracked leather, and his voice was cracked also, as if the man's throat was entirely used up. Few words and less time did the sailor have for me. "Scram" was about the extent of his reply when I asked about passage.
That's why I walked into the town tavern again. The loud sounds of bawdy songs and tall sea-tales shivered the timbers of the establishment, punctuated often by shouts of "More rum!" aimed at the blond barmaid. They were a rough-looking crew, bearing much resemblance to the bandits I had met there before. They were different individuals, to be sure, but they seemed the same kind of men.
I didn't know they were pirates. There was no way I could tell; my experience of the world was still greatly limited at the time. I approached the largest man of the group, the one wearing the gaudiest clothing. He and his men were talking about setting sail later that day for a distant land across the ocean. They may have mentioned Daventry, but the noise was too great to make out all the words being spoken.
The captain looked at me through drunken eyes, and it was the same expression Manannan wore when he was thinking up some particularly foul punishment to inflict on me. He promised that he could provide passage for me, for a price.
"Let's me see how much ya got," he slurred. I took out the purse to count my remaining coins, but the captain snatched it out of my hand before I had finished.
"Ay, lad, I'll gives ya passage," he said, fondling my gold. "We'll wait for ya at the wharf, but not fer long!" With that the whole drunken crew drank up and left. The barmaid looked at me with alarm on her face, but I rushed after the men. They were my only way home.
Question: When did you find out they really were pirates?
The moment I set foot aboard the ship, they raised the gangplank and grabbed me, twisting my arms behind my back. All of my possessions were taken, and I was thrown into the cargo hold. It hurt when I landed.
Despite this, things could have been a whole lot worse. For one thing, although I didn't know it at the time, the ship was heading for Daventry; it could have been going elsewhere. Also, while I was a "guest" in the ship's hold, I learned where the cutthroats had buried their own treasure. This came about as I was exploring my prison.
The cargo hold extended the entire length of the ship. It was broken into three areas, all connected, filled with crates and boxes of different sizes, none of which I was able to open. The part of the hold in which I had landed was directly under a rope ladder that dangled down through a hole. It was the only way in and out of where I was. Once of the larger crates was set directly under the ladder, but too high for me to get up on so I could reach the ladder.
Forward from where I had been pitched were the other two compartments, and in the middle one I found the small crate light enough for me to lift and carry. My idea was to use the small crate to get high enough to get on the larger one. As I was picking the box up, I disturbed a number of mice, which along with rats, I have read, infest all sailing vessels. Two of the vermin were chatting about how the captain and his mate were talking about where they had hidden their ill-gotten gains.
"Five paces east of the palm tree where they put ashore in Daventry," one said. "I sure wish we could do something about it!" replied the other. Their conversation then turned to fear of cats, and I heard nothing more of any interest to me, although I suspect the mice might disagree on that point!
Question: You found out about pirate treasure from mice?
Magic dough in my ears, remember? At the time, the information was interesting, and tempting, but I had no idea I'd eventually be able to put it to some practical use.
Anyway, I took the crate, dropped it beside the taller one, and then jumped on it. From there I was able to jump on top of the big create, and from there, jump up and grab the ladder. Hearing no noises above, I climbed up and stuck my head through the opening.
The ladder continued up above me to the top deck. I was on the second deck by the ship's wheel. No one seemed to be about at the moment. In front of me, on the other side of one of the ship's large masts, was a lifeboat with a shovel beside it. Beyond that were the crew's berths. There was no luxury there; the crew's quarters, with their thin blankets and hard cots, reminded me of my accommodations in Manannan's house. Even as I peered inside, I could see fleas jumping furiously from cot to cot. Lice, I'm sure also found a cozy home there.
As I moved back to the rear of the ship, I came upon the captain's stateroom. The furnishings were almost elegant--a comfortable bed, a large sea chest, and a desk and a chair. Above the desk was a chart showing the route the craft was taking. We were to land at the foot of a mountain range on the northern coast of what appeared to be a small continent. We were heading toward Daventry; the chart agreed with the maps I had seen at Manannan's. I was going home, if I could survive the journey!
A quick search of the captain's desk turned up nothing, but when I opened his chest, I discovered all my stolen possessions hidden within. I took them all and made sure the chest was closed after I finished. That's when I pushed my luck too far.
I climbed up the ladder to the deck. The bright sun and the reflections from the waves dazzled me as I popped through to the open air. For a moment I thought I might escape detection. I crept to the open air. For a moment I thought I might escape detection. I crept to the ship's rear and looked into a doorway I had noticed earlier. The ship's cook saw me though, so I fled back into the sun. Just as I reached the ladder going down, a couple of rough sailors caught up with me.
"Back down below deck, ya go, me matey. If we catches ya gain, ye'll walk the plank!"
Once again I found myself in the cargo hold. Once again my body hurt from the fall. And once again my belongings had been stolen from me. This was becoming a habit that I didn't need.
Question: So, there you are stuck below deck, threatened with death if you're caught again. How did you escape?
Patience is an art that I was forced to learn in order to survive my late master, and it was patience that carried me through my crisis. All I did was wait, and think.
Upon reflection, I realized that if I could get back to the captain's trunk, I had a pouch of powder that would put people to sleep. With the crew sleeping, I might be able to swim ashore. First, though, I had to wait until we got near our destination, and then I had to get the powder back. I ignored the possibility of turning myself into an eagle and attempting to fly, because I didn't know how far from shore I might be. Eagles may be might birds, but they cannot fly forever.
So I sat and waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. I waited until the ship's lookout cried "Land ho!" I had figured that the crew would be busy preparing to make landfall that they would have no time to keep an eye out for their prisoner. I also figured the captain would be on deck with them at the time. My assumptions proved correct.
I had waited the endless hours on top of the large crate directly under the ladder. Pausing but a few moments to allow the crew to get on deck, I hurried up the ladder to the captain's cabin and retrieved what the pirates had taken. Then it was back down the ladder into the hold--the dank, dark place necessary for casting the spell. Moments after reciting the magic words, complete quiet came over the ship. Up, again, I went. It turned out that there was no way I could move the lifeboat by myself, so I took the shovel instead. Maybe I'd have a chance to dig for that buried treasure.
The ship's deck was littered with slumbering sailors. Stepping over their bodies, I walked to the front of the vessel where I could see land not too far off to the east. Overboard I jumped, and began swimming as fast as I could toward the shore. I had almost made it when the shark showed up.
It was a race I could have easily lost, but an extra burst of speed, followed by a quick zig, and then a faster zag, brought me to land before I became the shark's supper. Breathing hard, I collapsed for a moment and let the sun dry my body and calm my soul. The escape had been much too close.
Question: Frightening, to say the least. You looked for the treasure, I assume?
It really was but a moment's work. Only one palm tree waved on the beach where I was, and it seemed the same beach as the one marked as the pirates' destination. I put my back to the tree and marched off the five paces. Then I began digging.
The small wooden chest was not buried very deeply in the soft sand. It was warped and tarnished on the outside, but inside were gems and pearls, and gold and silver. It wasn't very light, but I decided to haul it with me anyway.
Daventry! I was finally home. Not really, of course. I still had to find the castle, and I had no idea where that might be. Nonetheless, the excitement of being where I was, and the realization of what I done to get there, shot through like lightening. With a burst of energy and enthusiasm such as I had never known, I began hiking toward the giant snow-peaked mountains that lay in front of me.
It took a little searching to find the path that started up the slopes. It began a little to the northeast of where I dug up the treasure and immediately moved west, straight to a stop against a large bolder. I climbed the face of the boulder, slowly because of the weight I was carrying, and because there were not many hand- or footholds. Up and over I went until I was back on the path to my destiny.
The mountains seemingly continued to march as if moving forever in front of me. Higher and higher I climbed, the air getting colder and thinner as I went. Soon traces of snow drifted, breeze blown--not much, but enough to put sparkles in the sky. Below, a great and beautiful valley began to reveal itself. It was a very long way down, and the footing had became as treacherous as the path back to Manannan's castle. Because of this, I forced myself to move as slowly as I could and still stay warm.
Just past a small waterfall, the path ended in an eternal drop, straight down to the valley below. To advance I was forced to climb up the falls, up into the deep snows. I discovered another narrow path there, packed down as if something large had been stomping through the snow. Soon I was to discover just what that creature was.
Do you know what is tall, wide, hairy, and ugly and lives in the snow on tall mountains? Since that time, I have discovered that the creature is known to some as the Abominable Snowman. The name, I think, comes from its smell, which makes the aroma of dirty sailors seem as sweet as that of rose petal essence.
At the time I didn't know what I spied there in front of me on the path, but I knew I had to get past it. I squatted in the snow and dipped the eagle feather into the essence I carried. There was enough left to turn me into an eagle for the second time. The creature had noticed me by then, and you should have seen the look on its face when I changed form. Anyway, it left me alone as I soared by it.
This time the spell lasted for a much shorter time than it had previously. I had changed back to my own body not far past the monster, and right on the edge of a precipice. I had no choice but to clamber down the south face; it was that or face the Snowman.
The short, dangerous climb down to the small ledge immediately below was merely a taste of what was to follow.
Question: It got worse?
You should have been there. I could have used some help.
I had deposited myself on the sheer side of a cliff that was dotted with caves. Below my ledge and to the side, other openings beckoned. The problem was that from where I was, I couldn't get to them, so I explored the cave in front of me. It was extremely dark there, as you might imagine, but after a few minutes of groping about, I emerged back into the sunlight. I was on one of the other ledges, high on the far east side of the cliff! I almost fell off as I emerged, and told myself to be more careful--that brought me a chuckle!
I had no choice but to brave the cliff face this time. Moving to the far left of my ledge, I began creeping my way on a diagonal to the ledge in the center of the rock wall. There were just not enough holds for me to get there, though, so I had to crawl straight down past it to the centermost of the three bottom caves. Here I was forced back into the darkness, for I had barely enough room to stand on the ledge, much less move.
This cave also was connected to another--the one on the far west of the cliff. Here, too, the drop was abrupt. After some consideration I began rock climbing yet again. Yet again I have tried for the center ledge.
This was the hardest climb I have ever made. Straight up I went, the places where I put my hands and feet so shallow that they may have only been wishes. Straight up, and then away from the safe spot, and then up, over, and down to it. From there, I went through the cave, emerging at a path heading down in an easterly direction. Despite the slowness of my movements, exhaustion from exertion began to overtake me. I sat there for some time waiting for my strength to come back. After a bit, I began to descend from the clouds in the direction of my true home.
As I journeyed down the eastern flank of those mountains, descending through that land in the clouds, I became invigorated by the slowly returning warmth that the lower elevations brought. The snow and rocks soon turned to green grass and trees, and the path broadened into a veritable highway compared to what I had just been over. It seemed as though the closer I came to the valley floor, the more I became convinced that the worst of my journey was over.
Question: And it was, of course. But surely you knew there might be a dragon in your future?
A lesson we all learn in life, I suspect, is that when things start coming to you too easily, then it's time to watch where you're going. In my case, I wasn't watching, and when the road surface abruptly changed to air, I found myself falling head over heels
It wasn't a great fall. Indeed, most of it was rolling and sliding down the slope, but it was nasty enough for me to be reminded about how quickly death can come when you start getting smug. I had finally arrived in my father's kingdom, and I hoped no one had seen my entrance.
Question: What thoughts went through your mind when you realized you had finally arrived here?
Obviously I was shocked and depressed. I had expected a beautiful country, a land of cool woods and blue lakes. Instead I was overwhelmed by the devastation and destruction all around me.
Cracks had been torn in the earth, boulders were strewn all around as if quakes had pulled them down from the mountain. A large, black cave was at the mountain's base with what appeared to be the remnants of door hinges still hanging from the raw rock. I could see stone stairs leading up into the cave's interior, and I wondered where they led.
To the west the country looked as if it had once been beautiful. Now the landscape was dotted with blasted trees and charted vegetation. A well stood amid this sad scene, filled with rocks. I followed a stone wall north, passing through more scenes of what I now assumed to be signs of a dragon's wrath. Topping a short rise, my heart soared when I saw the spires of a grand castle in the distance. I knew this must be the home of my true parents, and I moved toward it as fast as I could.
At once I came across a run-down old shack--the first sight and sound of life I had encountered since coming down the mountain. On the shack's collapsing porch sat an incredibly ancient little man. "Wizened," I think is the proper word to describe him, like the ragged pit of a fruit set to dry as old as he was, I was surprised to find a merry twinkle lighting his eyes that still shown with both life and intelligence.
"It's about time you got here, Prince Alexander. Welcome home!"
At that moment the universe froze for me--I had finally learned who I really was. I would have wept with relief and exhaustion, but the gnome would not let me. Staring at me with a gaze that demanded respect and attention, he went on to tell of the great dragon who was responsible for the devastation I had encountered. The three-headed beast had demanded the sacrifice of a maiden, and my own twin sister, Rosella, had been offered as the kingdom's ransom. Even as we spoke, she was in the clutches of the fire-breathing monster, and her time was running out. She would be cinders by sunset.
I listened to all the little had to say. The king and queen, my parents, were to overcome by grief and responsibility for their actions that they had locked themselves away in the castle. All were turned away from there. Only I, he told me, could save Rosella and Daventry, and if I didn't get up the stairs in the mountain to her soon, there would be no princess to rescue at all.
Like vengeance itself, I flew to the cave with the stairs. I wasn't sure how I would set Rosella free and kill the dragon, but I hoped I would think of something. Up those rocks- and pebble-strewn stairs I raced to their very top. There a large opening gave way to an expanse entirely surrounded by clouds, strangely hot and moist at the same time. This place, too, was scorched, the charred trunks of trees reached to the sky like the arms of the dead begging salvation. The clouds were so pervasive that I cautioned myself to pay attention to where firm ground ended and clouds began.
I could hear the sounds of a large body moving not from from me to the west. As I crept there, I could see the massive beast, smoke drifting out of its six nostrils, circling a girl who was bound to a stake. A corrosive fluid dripped from all its maws and sizzled the earth when it splashed. Its scales were covered with moisture, and where its claws gripped the ground, great gobs of earth were ripped out.
Rosella was struggling to free herself. I could see her muscles straining against the ropes, the veins and tendons of her neck quite visible from the effort. She was screaming in terror, as would anyone faced with the sure knowledge of being scorched to death at any moment by a reptile the size of a large house. I realized I couldn't get closer to the dragon at all because its three heads allowed the monster to see in all directions at once.
Invisibility was the only answer, and I possessed the means to disappear from sight. Rubbing the invisibility ointment on my body, I saw my arm fade from sight. Intending a major diversion, I then took out the jar containing the storm brew. If this spell also worked, I should have enough time to rescue Rosella, and the rain would douse the dragon's flames.
I was half right.
Invisibly, I crept right up near to the beast's tail. I wanted to be very close when I performed the spell, so the monster would get the full brunt of the deluge. Stirring the storm brew with my finger, I recited the words to the sky and waited for the rainstorm.
The spell calls a lightening and thunder storm; rain is secondary. The sky blackened to night at once. CRACK! CRASH! BAM! BLAM! and a lot of other explosive noises tore through the heavens. The lightening was harrowing in its ferocity. Deadly, to, for the bolts shot straight at the green monster as if mating with it. Moments later it was dead, thundering the ground as its bulk collapsed. The rain washed over me, and with it came the knowledge that I had saved Rosella and, presumably, all of Daventry.
Wasting no time, I walked around the sizzling bulk, making sure to avoid the unsure footing of the clouds, and untied my now-sobbing sister.
"Who are you?" she muttered?
"I am Prince Alexander, your twin brother," I announced. She looked as if she didn't quite believe me, something I could surely understand. But she kept staring at me, trying to see her own face reflected in mine.
"I'll explain it to you later," I told her. "Let's get back to the castle." With that, I gave Rosella a great hug of happiness and a kiss of vast affection on the forehead.
"It's so good to be home," I sobbed. "It's so good to be home!"
I think that's when Rosella believed me.
Question: And your first meeting with King Graham and Queen Valanice?
Other than hate and fear, emotions had been entirely absent from my life. I had been living in a void, ignorant of love, joy, and triumph. That day I experienced those emotions, fully and for the first time. With joyous shouts we were met by the old gnome as we made our way to Castle Daventry. Gleefully he ran ahead of us to announce our return to my parents. Around us the aura of doom and oppression seemed washed away, as if by the great, cleansing storm.
Banners waved as I entered the castle for the first time. I stared in awe at the grandeur of its interior. The throne room, however, faded in front of my eyes when I saw my parents for the first time. My father stood tall and proud, every inch the way I had always imagined kings. My mother seemed the most beautiful woman ever to have lived. Tears were in their eyes--and mine, too--as we just looked at each other for a few moments. The first words came from Mother, and they seem almost funny in retrospect. Note well: they were not at the time.
- "Alexander, where have you been all these years?"
- "Rosella, you're safe!"
With those words we all broke down and began embracing each other until all were exhausted from emotion. Merlin's Mirror, which had been dull and since the night I was kidnapped, shone again, ready to foretell the future. Miracle upon miracle deemed to descend upon us. Joy and happiness reigned unbound.
At last, my father took an old hat with a bright red father from a peg by the throne and announced that, with his family together again finally, his own adventuring days were over. In ecstasy he tossed the hat to Rosella and myself.
For a brief, shining, wonder-filled moment, the hat floated in the air, slowly soaring to our outstretched hands. It was the happiest moment in my life.
It should have lasted longer than it did.
- ↑ KQC1E,