The first act of our tale closes as Michael Donnington’s world is shattered once he learns the truth about his birth and tragedy strikes that changes not only Gard but all of Mid-Land forever.

Revelations

The walk back to town was awkward with nary a word spoken between the party. Ariana walked beside Geldolf, leading her horse with an indifferent expression on her face. She had learned many years ago how to suppress her emotions though she was overjoyed to have found her brother, she also knew there were more important things at stake and that a tearful reunion would have to wait.

Geldolf’s expression was of relief and regret. He was about to be relieved of a burden he bore for years but he regretted that this secret was going to come at the expense of another’s happiness.

Michael’s face bore an expression of anger and confusion. Confusion because a random girl had shown up in his life claiming to be a long lost sister his parents never mentioned. Anger because Geldolf and the girl refused to tell him anything more. Questions plagued him. Did he really have a sister? Did his parents lie to him? Did his father have a child in a previous marriage? Was his father married before? Was she her mother’s with another man? Why this elaborate act to find him when they could’ve knocked on his door? He wanted answers and he wanted them now.

Biff’s expression was concern. Concern because he had never seen his master act like this before. His dog instincts took over telling him that something was wrong and he hated seeing his master upset or in pain.

The townsfolk cheered Michael return, especially because he wasn’t lashed to a horse. On a regular day Michael would’ve soaked up the attention, but not today. The crowd was puzzled by his lack of enthusiasm but their puzzlement soon turned to surprise once they saw the unmasked visage of the knight who had been terrorizing their town. The idea that the knight was a girl never occurred to anyone in town. Her beauty mesmerized some people while others, especially those already beaten, turned away in embarrassment at being humiliated by a girl.

Thessaly rushed toward Michael her arms wide open to hug him like he was never hugged before. He pushed her aside.

“Not now.”

“But…Michael…”

“NOT NOW!” he snapped. She was speechless. Michael had never yelled at her like that before. Something was wrong and she was determined to find it out.

Michael swung his front door open forcefully to the astonishment of his parents.

“Congratulations!” Arthur awkwardly greeted.

“What’s going on?” Michael demanded as Geldolf and Ariana entered the house. “Who is she?”

His parents looked at each other. Their sullen expressions told him they too were keeping a very important secret from him. Margaret was too upset to look upon her son.

“Michael” Arthur softly began “You have to understand…”

“Understand what!” Michael interrupted “What’s going on? She says she’s my sister! Did you have a child before me? Who is she?” he demanded with frustration.  The entire room was silent. “I’m waiting!”

“Michael you were never ours” his father reluctantly revealed to a silent room. Tears welled up in his Margaret’s eyes once Michael’s jaw dropped in shock.

“You’re joking right? Right?” he continued his voice got less confident by the second. Arthur too fought back tears. “Dad? Dad? Dad c’mon you…you…”

“Your real name is Michael Stormrider” Geldolf stepped in. “Son of King Michael and Queen Elena Stormrider. Brother of Ariana Stormrider and rightful heir to the throne of Kalidor!”

Michael gasped in disbelief at the revelation. His world came crashing down. First he’s told he has a long lost sister but more importantly that his parents were not his parents. One of these was enough to drive a seventeen year old mad all together was too much. He could barely stand up and started having trouble breathing. He didn’t know what to say, his whole life was a lie. What could he say?

“I’m sorry. I know it sounds unbelievable…” the wizard attempted to console him “but if you search your feelings you know we speak the truth”

“Geldolf brought us to you one night” Arthur explained “You were a just a baby. You don’t remember. He told us to take care of you until the time…”

“Shut up. Shut up. SHUT UP! All of you!” Michael interrupted, his voice raising every word. “This…this is…ludicrous!”

“Brother, the sword you carry. It’s the sword of our father, that’s how I knew you. At long last we can avenge our parents murder at the hands of the witch Talia.”

“No!” He buried his face in his hands hoping it all was a dream. “You!” he pointed to Ariana “I don’t know who you are or where you come from but one thing I do know is that you are not my sister! And this is a sham. Everyone knows I’m your son!” he spoke to his parents. “Mom, you always told me about the night I was born” his Mother looked away from him. She couldn’t bear to face her only son who she loved so much. Couldn’t bear to tell him she was only his mother in name.

“Mom?” he asked softly.

“We tried…”she cried as the memories came back to her “we tried and tried and tried. All we ever wanted was a child. But no matter how hard we tried and prayed it couldn’t be done. We went to see Doctor Rayburn and he said…I was infertile, I would never be able to have children,” she sobbed. “Then a miracle happened, Geldolf brought you to us Michael, that stormy night. And we swore we would protect you and love you like you were our own.” She continued sobbing.

“That…that can’t be true …because if it was then how come the whole town remembers you were pregnant?”

“I believe I’ll answer that. I cast a spell on the town that made everybody remember your mother as being pregnant up until the night you were born.”

It all made sense now. Why he was called a miracle. Why he didn’t resemble his parents. Why he felt a kinship toward Ariana. Why Geldolf had always taken a great interest in him. It explained everything and as much as Michael wanted to deny it he knew in his heart that this was the truth.

“You…you put a curse on the town? You toyed around with people’s memories!”

“Michael, you have understand…” Geldolf attempted to explain.

“Understand what? That you cast a spell upon people for your own convenience just like the evil your always telling me you fight!” he reprimanded Geldolf. “And you two!” he pointed at his parents “you lied to me my whole life and allowed him to go through with that! You’re sick! All of you!”

“Michael, we didn’t mean to…” Margaret cried.

“I did what was necessary Michael!” Geldolf raised his voice, “Talia knows the son of Michael Stormrider and his sister will eventually come forth and over throw her. If she found out a couple living in Gard had adopted a child brought by a wizard she would’ve put two and two together, found you, and not only killed you but them as well.”

“And that makes what you did right? You abused your power Geldolf! You used it for your own means! I thought you knew better…”

“I used my power to protect you Michael Donnington-Stormrider and this entire village!” Geldolf shouted.

A small rustling noise from the garden was over heard. Geldolf motioned for everyone to be silent then crept silently to the window, reached down and grabbed the intruder by its hair. The intruder let out a loud ‘eep’ as Geldolf through her on the floor.

“Thessaly Rose, were you eavesdropping?” He shouted to her pinning her to the ground with his staff.

Michael drew his sword directly at Geldolf’s throat. “Leave her alone!” he demanded.

“It is very, very, very unwise to draw a sword at a wizard my young friend.” He let Thessaly up and she ran into Michael’s arms trembling.

“Stay away from her.” Michael warned.

“What did you hear?” Geldolf asked.

“Not…not much, something about Michael being a king and a witch” she trembled.

“Don’t even think about making her forget!” Michael flashed his sword ready to protect her at any cost.

“I won’t tell anyone. I promise!” She pled.

“Very well. Now where was I? Oh now I remember Michael it is your destiny to come with your sister and I to overthrow the witch and take your rightful place as the King of Kalidor.” Geldolf went on.

“Wait a minute. Wait a minute.” Michael interrupted “I…I’m no King. I don’t even own a farm yet. I did this to go on a quest and prove that I’m worthy for Thessaly’s hand. Nothing more nothing less.”

“What did you think the quest was?” Geldolf asked.

“Not that!” he answered.

“You can’t deny your destiny baby brother” Ariana tried to tell him.

Michael let Thessaly go and gazed toward everyone in the room “First of all I told you not to call me that! Secondly why doesn’t she take the throne she’s older then me and clearly cares more about this feud then I do!” he told everyone.

“Michael. The throne of Kalidor goes to the first born son.” Geldolf explained.

“I don’t care! I don’t want to be a King! I don’t want any of this ‘it’s your destiny’ nonsense that you’re all spewing! I…I…I don’t even know who I am anymore” and he stormed out tearfully.

“I’ll go talk to him” Arthur following his son said.

“No” Thessaly stopped him. “Let me talk to him.” Arthur and Margaret looked at each other. “Please. He’ll listen to me. I promise.”

Margaret agreed, “Go” she told Thessaly.

Michael was in his backyard sitting down with his face buried in his hands. His whole life had come crashing down. Thessaly sat beside him, put her arm around his shoulder, and held him close.

“Penny for your thoughts” she asked.

“Is that all they’re worth?” he answered.

“You know they love you, they always have and always will.”

“Then why didn’t they tell me? Why did they say I was theirs?” <sniff> he asked sadly.

“I don’t know. I wish I could tell you.” She answered in the most comforting way possible, kissing his head gently. “Maybe it didn’t matter to them. They always saw you as their own. They certainly love you like you are, and they want you to be happy and not hurt. Maybe they love you so much that they forgot that you weren’t theirs, I don’t know. All I know is that they it pains them watching you suffer like this and if it was up to them this never would’ve happened” she kissed him again. “Look, I know it sounds like I’m talking nonsense but to your parents it doesn’t matter that you were adopted. What matters it that they love you and are always there for you and will always be there to catch you when you fall. And they have Michael. They have.”

Michael closed his eyes for a moment, knowing Thessaly’s words to be true. He got up, took her hand and walked together back to his house. When he came in he gazed into the eyes couple that raised him his whole life, that loved him more then he could ever imagine, and hugged his parents tighter then he ever had in his life.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry for the way I acted.”

“Its okay. Its okay” his mother told him tearfully. “We still love you.”

“No matter what happens you will always be our son.” His father said.

“Thanks, Dad” he turned to Geldolf “So when do we leave?”

“Tomorrow morning!” the wizard answered. Suddenly Biff began barking.

“What’s going on?” Ariana asked.

“Trouble. He always gets this way when there’s trouble.” Michael answered her.

“How does he know that?” she asked.

“The nose!”

“I thought you made that up to impress the girls?” Thessaly asked Michael who shot her a look while Biff continued to bark.

“He’s getting louder I better have a look outside c’mon Michael!” Arthur motioned. It turns out Biff’s nose was once again right, for emerging from the forest, torches blazing, was an army of orcs and goblins from Kalidor.

*

The Defense of Gard

The army’s flames drew the townsfolk out like moths. They wondered what an orc army from Kalidor would want with a small village like Gard. True, Gard was a heavily disputed territory in the past but since the agreement between the two kingdoms, Gard was known for the jousting competition. Once Talia took over the tournaments stopped and Kalidor under the witch had all but severed all ties with Gard, why the interest now? An orc stepped forth, he was dressed regally and his armor bore the new crest of Kalidor of the silver phoenix trapped by black serpent, this was Luritz the commander.

“People of Gard, Talia high Queen of Kalidor, the jewel of the Silver city of Valora, decrees that all maidens between the ages of sixteen to thirty be surrendered to her custody immediately!”

The people of the town gasped. Was this really happening? Why would they want their daughters? Mayor Glassman worked his way through the crowd to face the orc captain.

“Captain of the Guard, surely you are aware of the pact forged between Kalidor and Duros over a century ago. Gard is a neutral territory; neither part of Kalidor nor Duros, an attack on Gard by either kingdom is a declaration of war on the other. In the interest of both kingdom’s I suggest that you and your army turn around and leave our village immediately!” The mayor ordered.

Luritz stepped back, he hadn’t been spoken to like that by a human for a very long time, he paused then in one sudden, swift motion drew his sword and cut the throat of Mayor Glassman to the horror of the on looking townsfolk.

“The pact is broken!” the orc signaled to his archers who fired a volley of arrows. The people ran in a panic, knocking each other over, not bothering to help their fallen neighbors. The only thing on their minds was getting out of the arrows range. Luritz signaled again and another volley was fired raining death upon the villagers. Luritz gave the orcs to command to storm the village and to leave only the maidens alive.

The orcs and goblins fell upon the village like a flood washing away anything that moved. They swept up girls whenever they could in the chaos. They had an advantage until one of them received a sledgehammer to the face courtesy of Mr. Rose.

“For Gard!” Mr. Rose shouted, immediately rallying the militia. Sir Francis mustered the militia and they broke upon the orcs like a dam breaks a river.  Swords clanged, spears shattered and screams curdled while steal met flesh.

Michael and Arthur fought side-by-side cutting down orcs left and right. They had a method with Michael cutting the enemies legs while Arthur would chop the next ones head in a bobbing and weaving motion. Margaret did her part protecting Thessaly by holding her close and keeping her away from the fracas.

“Michael watch out!” his father shouted. He turned aside and was pounced by a massive wolf. He grabbed its throat and tried to push it off him but the creature’s strength was great and its sharp nails dug deeply into him. Out of nowhere a little black bullet trounced the wolf and killed it; Biff.

“Nice save” Michael complemented.

Thessaly desperately wanted to help her father, who was smashing multiple orcs with the head of his hammer but Margaret held her back to protect her from the orcs and goblins carrying off girls.

Geldolf jumped into the fray sowing rows of orcs at a time with his enchanted sword and staff. Those looking at the white wizard in battle saw a different man. No longer was he the clumsy magician who would perform tricks for children but a battle-hardened warrior using his magic and his skills to stop all in his path. Suddenly he froze. Coming through the chaos was the one figure he hoped he would not see, Morgal, the Fist of Talia. He unsheathed his mace, Geldolf unleashed his staffs blinding white light it didn’t faze Morgal for on his neck he wore a charm that protected him from the wizards magic.

“Your effort is futile!” the sinister creature sneered, bringing down his mace upon the old man. Geldolf narrowly dodged the attack but maintained focus allowing him to his opponent move for move. Morgal too was able to match him, while grinning a mocking smile. “Did you really think you could hide them forever?” Morgal taunted, blades clashing in the air. Morgal saw the wizard was distracted and used his massive strength to drive Geldolf to the ground. Morgal unsheathe his blade, poised to finish off Geldolf to be stopped by Ariana dressed in her full armor. Morgal’s smile widened.

The militia, though it took a lot of losses, was able to push the invaders back. “Keep pressing. Forward!” Sir Francis encouraged.

Luritz watched from the hill then roared signaling another brigade to attack. The villagers were now vastly out numbered, as the orcs and hobgoblins swept in carrying everything from blades. to whips, to torches, attacking everything in their path.

“Fall back!” Sir Francis ordered.

Michael and Biff fought their way through as many as they could. But the more they’d slain the more came. In the distance Michael was able to see Vincent, Alex, Christopher and others working their way through the throng while orcs torching citizens and houses.

What do I do? He asked himself. Everywhere he looked people were in need of help and he was frozen by the enormity of the situation.

“Mike!” Vincent called to him for aid. Michael dashed toward his friend by was stopped suddenly when a blade exploded from Vincent’s chest. In less then a second Vincent’s body fell but too Michael it was an eternity. His body tightened and froze. His friend was dead. Another cry came, from Christopher this time, struck down by an arrow to the heart. Michael never liked him but he would never wish death upon him. Cries of agony rang through the air as Michael’s neighbors and friends were cut down around him. Suddenly, he heard a familiar scream, Thessaly’s.

Mr. Rose kept fighting, determined to protect his family but even a mighty blacksmith can only fight for so long. An arrow pierced his midsection, stunning him, while a dozen orcs swarmed and finished him off.

“Daddy!!!!” Thessaly screamed in horror. Every stab on father’s being pierced her heart. She could watch no more and with all her might broke away from Margaret to aid her father. Margaret tried to stop her but didn’t have the strength. She could only cry out in horror when Thessaly was intercepted by an orc and taken to the cart holding the other girls.

Michael sprinted with the speed of a leopard toward her but was blocked by a couple of orcs. He and Biff went through them like they were hacking apart bushes.

“Michael!” his father shouted “after them, save the girls!” Michael darted toward the stables, mounted the first horse he could find, and rode into the battlefield towards the cart.

Luritz drank the terror surrounding him, ordered his lieutenant too, “fall back and burn this village to the ground, kill all that moves” and mounted the wagon to begin his retreat.

“Faster!” Michael, with Biff at his side, ordered his horse while watching the carriage leave. He rode the horse as hard as he could, barreling through everything in his path. Nothing would keep him from that cart.

Morgal shoved Ariana to the ground but she executed a back roll to break her fall, get back on her feet, unsheathed two katana swords, and attacked Morgal. She struck at him he parried as she struck with her other sword. He spun around and took a mighty swing at Ariana. She leapt backward and trapped the blade between her two swords. Morgal inched closer, using his weight to force Ariana off balance. His smile widened and he gave her a mighty head butt denting elven helmet. Morgal stood triumphantly poised to finish her but got distracted by flying rocks. He spun around and caught Geldolf guiding the attacking rocks with magic. (After all Morgal did wear a charm protecting him from magic but not rocks)

“Is this what the mighty White Wizard is reduced to? Throwing rocks like a disobedient child?”

Geldolf raised another group of rocks and flung them at Morgal, who parried a couple of them before falling to the furious pelting. Ariana got up dazed, but even with her helmets eyes busted in she could still see Geldolf levitating a huge boulder toward Morgal until Luritz arrived with the cart containing Thessaly. Geldolf threw the rock at the carts driver but Morgal intercepted and sliced it in two. The rock split down the middle with such force it nailed Geldolf in the head giving him a giant gash. Morgal hopped on the cart and escaped.

Suddenly, Michael emerged on his horse, sword raised, with Biff running right beside him. Geldolf shouted at him to stop, but he didn’t listen. Saving Thessaly was the only thing on his mind. Nothing would stop him.

“Michael!” Thessaly shouted from the back of the cart reaching out her hand to grab him. Morgal saw Michael out of the corner of his eye and stood up with a bow and arrow. He fired at Michael piercing the horse’s throat. It fell face first to the ground tossing Michael with such force it knocked him out. Dazed, Michael tried to get up but his body wouldn’t let him. The last thing he saw, as his vision started to turn blue was the cart riding off with Thessaly crying out his name.

*

Aftermath

“Michael. Michael” Thessaly whispered. “Michael you did it” she kissed him. “You saved me,” She continued kissing him.

Michael grunted a sign of life, slowly opening his eyes to see Biff licking him. He patted the dog on the head. Dizzy and disoriented with his head was throbbing he struggled to stand up. Biff barked and led him along the path back to town. Michael staggered until he came to a clearing in the woods where he saw smoke rising from every house in Gard. He ran into town. Dead bodies were strewn all over. He passed Sir Francis, Christopher, the mayor, even Dougie all dead. The orcs left none standing and burnt most of the homes to the ground. Biff caught wind of a familiar scent and barked to Michael that he found something. He followed the little dog only to find the body of his father with three arrows in it.

“Dad! Dad!” Michael cried running toward and kneeling before his father’s body. He checked for a pulse, there was none. He pumped his fathers chest three times then administered mouth to mouth. Nothing. He repeated the process countless times knowing his efforts were futile.

“C’mon Dad!” he shouted until finally Geldolf and Ariana arrived.

“Michael…I’m so sorry…” he tried to comfort the devastated youth.

“Get off me! Now!” Michael screamed, shoving away the wizard and continuing to check for signs of life. There were none and he accepted the inevitable. A moment later he sprung to life and ran toward his house.

“Mom!” he cried looking for some sign of his mother.  Biff’s barking led him toward his mother with an arrow in her heart. Michael cradled her in his arms. He checked her pulse it was still there but her breathing was faint.

“Mom…” he asked worriedly “Mom! Mom, please say something. Anything” Margaret finally opened her eyes and gazed into the tearing eyes of her only son.

“Michael” she spoke softly, using her remaining strength to caress his cheeks. “My boy. My…beautiful baby boy” she said deliriously.

“I’m here Mom. You’re gonna be okay.”

“No Michael. Let me look at you one last time.” They met each other’s gaze silently, Michael trying his hardest to hold back his tears.

“Michael, don’t cry for those whose time has come. Become King save Thessaly. Your father and I are proud of you…”

“No. Don’t say that I can save you.”

“Your father and I love you. We’ve always loved you and remember, no matter where you are and who you are, you will always be our son.”

“I love you Mom and…”

“I know. I’m tired…so tired.” She closed her eyes and passed on.

“Mom! Mom!” he wept “wake up Mom, please wake up” he sobbed as he cradled his mother’s body. Biff howled in sorrow and began cried himself, for he too loved the Donningtons as much as a dog could.

A little later a small memorial service was held for the Donningtons. Prayers were said as Michael knelt and promised to make his parents proud. He rose up and attached his father’s dagger to his belt along with his father’s sword. He tied around his shoulder his mother’s scarf a gift Thessaly helped him knit for her birthday when he was ten. He sheathed his sword and turned to Geldolf and Ariana, his face morphed from sorrow to anger.

“We’ll travel east as soon as you’re ready” Geldolf told the boy.

“East?” Michael asked, “Kalidor is to the west”

“We ride to Duros. You’ll need the aid of an army to break the walls of Kalidor. It is only a days ride to Durnhelm, the capital.” Geldolf explained.

“C’mon boy.” Michael told Biff.

“No.” Ariana paused and pointed at Biff. “He has to stay.”

Michael’s jaw dropped.

“I’m sorry brother. We cannot bear him as a burden.” She continued.

Michael looked into Biff’s eyes, “Don’t make me leave you,” they begged. Michael glanced back at Ariana, wearing an expression of indifference. He went back to Biff, whose eyes appeared to tear.

“No. He comes or I don’t.” He forcefully declared. Michael winked at the dog, whose eyes had regained a measure of hope.

Geldolf took a deep breath and sighed. He knew Biff would be a burden but Michael had suffered enough and needed someone he could truly trust to aid him on this journey.

“He comes.” Geldolf decided to Biff’s joy. “Besides, this dog may come in handy.”

They mounted their horses and rode out of town with Biff beside them. Michael paused for a moment, turned around and took one last look at his beloved home. A breeze brushed away the few leaves left as Michael said goodbye to his home and his youth.

So ends the first act of my novel, “The Lost Prince”. Check back in the next year as further chapters are posted, starring new characters, death defying perils, and romance…

Copyright ã 2008 Todd Matthy

Image is by Ellaine of Tolkiengateway.net

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