Aldena is a magical land with a history that stretches back to the dawn of time. But something is terribly wrong. A darkness grows that threatens the very fabric of goodness that defines Aldena. Magic has been outlawed, and one by one, the greatest magicians in the land have fallen to the dark force of one man. Is there no one who can stand against such evil?
The Last Magician tells the story of Jaden, a boy who finds himself alone and adrift in a land that slowly spirals down toward oblivion. How can one small boy hope to turn back the tide of destruction? Find out in The Last Magician.
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The small boy held on to the man’s hand as they walked slowly through the fair. The man was covered from head to toe in a loosely wrapped tan robe that was common to men in the region. Only his wrinkled and vein-covered hand, like a well-worn map of his long life journey, revealed his true age. The boy wore a short-sleeve white cotton shirt and a pair of brown shorts made of a rough natural material that were held up by the bright red suspenders he had carefully chosen for this important event. The sun warmed the boy’s face and his heart beat a happy rhythm. He had been waiting many months for this very day. It was the Spring Festival, when tradesmen came to town from all over Aldena to show their wares and to celebrate the end of the long cold winter.
The smell of fresh-baked pastries made the boy’s belly growl and his mouth water. Fast-paced flute melodies filled his head with fanciful pictures of magical creatures. Some were familiar, like the fairies and unicorns he had heard about in the bedtime stories his mother had told. Other creatures he imagined were so strange and new that he had no name for them at all. Skilled dancers whirled through the crowd trailing brightly colored streamers that sparkled in the bright sunlight.
There was so much to experience that the boy’s head was spinning. He held his grandfather’s hand tightly, looked up at him and smiled.
“You are enjoying yourself, Jaden,” said the old man, who never looked down. As usual it was a statement, not a question. Somehow his grandfather always knew exactly what he was thinking. It happened so often that Jaden was quite sure his grandfather could read minds.
“Yes, Papa, yes,” said Jaden. “It’s wonderful. And I’m so glad I could come here with you.”
Now the old man turned his head and looked down into the boy’s cheerful face. A smile began to take hold, but slipped away quickly as the old man’s face got serious. “I hope you will always feel that way deep in your heart.”
It seemed an odd thing for his grandfather to say, but Jaden nodded anyway. “Can we get a pastry?” he said, pointing to a two tier baker’s cart covered in an assortment of baked goods.
The old man lightened his mood, and suddenly reached his hand behind Jaden’s ear. When he pulled it back, a gold coin lay on his palm. “What have we here?” he said, pretending to be surprised. “Hmmm. This might just be enough to get us a couple of those fine looking cherry pastries.” He held out the coin.
“Thank you, Papa, thank you,” said Jaden, taking the coin carefully into his hand. It was heavier than he had expected it to be. Closing his hand tightly around the coin, he ran to the cart of pastries.
“Go away little boy, we have none to give free today,” said the baker, his forehead wrinkled in a threatening scowl.
Jaden held out his hand and opened it, showing the man his coin.
Like magic, the man’s frown changed to a broad smile. “Ahhh, a man of great wealth, I see.” He snatched the coin from Jaden’s hand and bit it before dropping it into his pocket. Then he put his arm around the boy, drawing him closer to the pastry cart. “You have come to the right place. These are the finest pastries in all the land. What would you like?”
“I want two of the cherry ones, one for me and one for my grandfather.”
“A wise choice,” said the baker, still smiling as he wrapped the pastries in a piece of cloth and handed them to Jaden. “Run along now,” he said, still smiling and knowing full well the gold coin was far too much money for what he had given the boy.
Jaden hurried back to his grandfather with his prize, never noticing that the baker was frantically searching his pockets for the coin which had mysteriously disappeared.
Jaden and his grandfather stood together quietly munching the pastries and enjoying each other’s company. Jaden could not remember a better day.
When the baker who had tried to take advantage of Jaden spotted them eating, he rushed over and grabbed the old man’s arm. “What are you trying to—” He stopped in mid-sentence when he saw who it was. “Malachi,” said the baker. “P—please enjoy the pastries.” The baker turned and disappeared into the crowd, leaving Jaden and his grandfather to themselves.
“They’re coming,” shouted a frantic voice in the crowd.
“Who is it, Papa?” said Jaden, thinking it must be some new and exciting entertainment.
The old man ignored the question, dropping his pastry to the ground as his body stiffened at the news. He grabbed Jaden’s hand and stared toward the mountains to the north.
Jaden looked toward the mountains as well, sensing danger but seeing nothing. He strained his perceptions, reaching out farther than he thought he could. There it was—a low, steady rumbling, a sound that he felt as much as heard. Visions burst into his head, frightening visions of wild creatures and wizards doing battle on a wide plain while a dark, blurry face with strange eyes watched and laughed fiendishly. Jaden opened his mouth to say something when his grandfather’s hand clamped his own like a vise, snapping Jaden back from the nightmare fantasies that swirled in his head.
“You’re hurting me,” said the boy.
“Be silent, Jaden,” said Malachi in a sharp commanding voice that the boy had never before heard from his grandfather.
“Papa, you are hurting me,” said Jaden, wincing in pain.
The dangerous rumbling increased in volume and all eyes were fixed on the ridge north of the town. The old man released his grip and shoved Jaden into the crowd just before a row of armed men thundered over the rise, galloping at a frightful speed toward the town. The helmeted soldiers were heavily armored all in black, and they rode four abreast on enormous horses whose wide hairy hooves punished the ground when they struck. Row after row rippled over the rise like a giant black caterpillar.
As the riders approached the town, the skies above them darkened and a cold north wind whipped fiercely down through the square, knocking off hats and forcing people to turn away. When the first row reached the edge of town showing no sign of slowing down, the sea of people parted as if on command. Any who hadn’t moved quickly enough dove aside to avoid being trampled under the horses’ crashing hooves. Still the men advanced straight toward the center of the square where Jaden’s grandfather stood.
After seeing that Jaden was well away from him, Malachi turned to face the approaching riders. His brown cloak seemed to unfurl itself and now flapped freely behind him like a great sail. The old man looked much larger than Jaden had thought he was.
Because Jaden had been pushed aside by the people trying to avoid the horses, he was now ten meters away. His impulse was to run to his grandfather’s side.
Before Jaden could move, the single word, “HIDE,” echoed loudly inside his head. It wasn’t exactly a voice but somehow he knew it came from his grandfather. Jaden thought to run, but didn’t. He couldn’t leave his grandfather alone. It wasn’t right.
Again one word echoed inside Jaden’s skull. “HIDE.” The hair stood up on the back of his neck and fear froze his feet to the ground. He could do nothing but watch.
The first row of riders closed quickly with swords drawn. The old man gently flicked his hands upward. The horses suddenly reared on their hind legs, dumping the soldiers to the ground and then bolting away. A bold sweep of the old man’s arm knocked the next row of riders off their horses and sent them flying twenty meters across the square against the wall of a building.
The remaining riders pulled hard on their reins to stop their advance. Instead they formed two long columns in the town square. The columns slowly separated as the riders skillfully sidestepped their horses, forcing the crowd further back and leaving a wide path in the middle. A single rider advanced forward from the rear. The man was dressed in tight-fitting black chain mail and carried what looked like a black rolled-up hide over one shoulder. His huge jet-black horse snorted as he trotted slowly forward, and Jaden shivered with each of the horse’s icy cold breaths.
“I have come for Lucassan,” said the rider, with no hint of emotion in his voice.
“You have come to the wrong place. You’ll not find him here,” said the old man. He began slowly swirling his hand in the air.
“I’m not so sure,” said the horseman, as he carefully scanned the crowd in the square looking for a sign of the one prize he most sought. Finally giving up, he returned his gaze to the old man. “Pity. You will have to do, Malachi.” He pulled the dark hide from his shoulder.
As the old man swirled his hand, what started as a dim glow turned rapidly into a blazing ball of fire. He reached back suddenly and hurled the fireball at the rider. The man raised his forearm and the fireball hit him and burst into a bright shower of sparks. When the sparks winked out, the man sat undamaged on his horse.
Next the old man thrust both arms forward and a crackling stream of electricity shot out from between his hands.
This time the rider unfurled the dark hide in front of him, blocking the blazing stream and somehow absorbing it. The hide began to pulse and ooze like thick bubbling tar. The rider let go and the black mass shot along the beam toward the old man. When it reached him, it wrapped itself around him and he fell to the ground, struggling unsuccessfully to free himself. Within seconds all movement stopped. The black mass began to harden and turn a lighter color, looking like an enormous gray cocoon.
Jaden tried to shout but a strong hand clamped over his mouth and pulled him backward. He kicked and waved his arms with no success, and moments later he slipped into unconsciousness.
* * *
When Jaden awoke, he was lying on his back. Above him he saw the tops of trees and below him he felt the crunch of leaves. As he looked around, Jaden realized he was deep in a forest. He had no idea where he was or how long he had been lying there. Oddly, when he thought about where he had come from he was shocked to find that not only could he not remember where he lived, he couldn’t even remember his own name.
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