Christopher Lawrence Burke
Death was stalking the King.
He lay prone in his deathbed, patiently prolonging the inevitable death showing in his frail body.
"Craznar, please call my sons" Lombard said, his voice faltering over each word.
"Why of course old friend" replied the ancient wizard as he walked slowly toward the door,"I feel his presence too Lombard".
Within five minutes two striking young men entered the room. The similarities between them were overshadowed by the only difference ... one had white and the other black hair. They both moved across to their fathers bedside and quickly ... almost eagerly knelt down and listened.
Lombard first turned to his blonde haired son, "Baroch", and to the other "Mern". His voice strengthened as he said "I have called you here on important business of state. I am about to die, and as one of you is the heir to my throne I need to inform you of your duties, but as chance would have it, due to an unfortunate accident at your birth the identity of the first born is to this day a mystery"
With a pained tone in his voice he continued "As the law dictates in this circumstance you must duel to the death for the crown, as this realm must not be divided".
His voice became very weak again as he turned to Craznar and said "I feel your spell is weakening, please take care of the kingdom ... and of the new king".
He turned back to the two young men and with an effort said "Farewell my two sons ... I am sorry". His hands dropped to his side as if to signal that these words were his last.
Baroch and Mern faced each other their eyes locked in combined fear.
"Baroch","Mern" Craznar snapped, breaking their gaze apart, "There is another way"
"But how can we know which of us is to rule?" Baroch asked.
"Long ago I learnt that I was cursed to walk this land for ever but in the last fifty years I have learnt of the Orb of Time - that orb can allow the wielder visions of the past. For me I wish to find the words of the curse so I can remove it. For you, a vision of your dying mothers labour would reveal the identity of the new king.
"How shall we find it" Mern questioned.
"I shall hire a guide - he shall take you to the Sourn mountains in Plan where my research shows it to be near. You shall find it and the true king and his heir shall bring this back to me - I shall do as your father asked and take care of the realm in your absence."
The hooded figure stood silently in the dark, toward the poorer area of town. A second figure approached from behind and whispered "You called upon the guild for service?"
The first figure, without moving or turning responded "Yes, my father has recently passed away and I do not want my fathers other son to ascend to a position so far beyond him"
After a brief pause he continued "What price on a prince of the realm"
"2000 crowns" he replied.
"Here take the money, enclosed are the details of your target"
"It will be done" responded the second figure and as he turned to leave he added with a sarcastic tone "I honour all bargains ... King"
It was a one day journey across the Cintra sea to the port of Dlen, the two brothers practised with the sword to pass time, neither brother was enjoying the play as usual. The looks on their faces betrayed the possible reality of the game.
On arrival at Dlen the two brothers were met by a middle aged man who seemed prematurely aged - as if he had worked hard all his life.
"Hello young men" he said as he gave a small bow of respect, "the King's wizard, Craznar, hired me to guide you to Plance, you will need to travel the further path alone to find your quarry"
"We shall leave in two hours"
The three trekked across the great eastern desert, then followed the forest through to Mein. Leaving Mein they followed the mountains through to Plance, the guide handed the brothers a piece of folded paper which bore a gold seal. "Craznar said this would guide you to the place to which you are headed, I must go quickly as others have hired my services for the return trip. Many require my assistance for the desert crossing".
Mern impatiently tore open the paper only seconds after their guide had left, he found inside a rough map and the words
THE ORB OF TIME
IS BEHIND THE FALL OF SOURN
FOLLOW CAREFULLY THIS MAP
AS THE PATH BEHIND THE FALLS
IS PERILOUS, BEYOND MY PHYSICAL ENDURANCE
Baroch said "So that is why Craznar has been unable to retrieve the orb for himself. We shall rest the night and travel at first light tomorrow to retrieve it, by the map it seems only four hours walk to the falls, but beyond that I cannot say. The future may prove fraught with danger for both of us".
The cool of the night was making itself known when Baroch stirred from a fitful repose and saw a tall dark figure walking quiet steps across from his brother's bed towards his own.
Baroch spoke in a whisper "You are here from the guild? Have you finished your work"
The dark figure responded in a haunting voice.
"Yes young King, now I will complete your brothers bidding"