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Friday, May 29, 2009


In the early dawn, Cobus squinted through blood-shot eyes and surveyed the scorched earth lying in ruins around him. The air still reeked of death and smoke, although it had now been three days since his sworn enemy, Prince Joshua of Fortiscaelum, had been imprisoned lifeless underground.

The prince’s ineffectual army had broken and scattered the moment that he had fallen. Or had he fallen? Cobus wondered fretfully. The thought nagged at him that his victory had been too easily won.

The immense golden crown rested heavily on Cobus’ head. Never before had he noticed that the weight of it practically crushed the vertebrae in his neck. But, he brushed the pain aside and stroked his spiky blond hair into place. After all, he had worn it for years. And, once again, he had prevailed and proven to the King how weak his subjects were.

“This land, and everything in it, still belongs to me! Now, to take Fortiscaelum! Move out!” Cobus shouted to his generals as, deep inside him, anxiety simmered. Thankful for the transformative white cape that disguised his age and deformity, he still wished his voice sounded lower pitched and more authoritative. He would have to counter with harsher measures to keep his army in line.

“Sir!” an officer bowed before him. “The work is ready for you to inspect.”

Cobus strode over to scrutinize the prison entrance. Laborers had worked ceaselessly over the past three days to seal the great stone in place with cement and iron chains.

“No one from either side will ever be able to move it,” the captain in charge said.

Cobus inspected the work, and gradually became convinced that the entrance had been secured. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to leave a contingent of his most elite guards at the site. “Kill anyone who even approaches this place! No one must come near it!” he said.

“Yes, sir,” the captain said with a salute and a bow. Twenty heavily armed soldiers took their places in a semi-circle around the entrance and twenty more positioned themselves on the slope above. Cobus, satisfied, turned to go.

At that very moment the earth underneath his feet shook and undulated, knocking Cobus to his knees. Dust filled the air and painted his cape a dull gray. The crown flew from his head and rolled downhill. The metal circlet bounced and bumped along the ground and landed directly in front of the great stone.

Cobus’ troops screamed in terror as deep cracks formed in the earth, swallowing up huge numbers of them. Even the elite guards were flung to the ground, where they lay frozen with fear as boulders and dirt came crashing down around them.

A giant warrior dressed in white suddenly appeared beside the stone. With one hand he pushed against it, snapping the metal chains and rods as if they were twigs. The stone rolled aside as easily as a door on rollers. Then, he picked up the crown that had fallen from Cobus’ head and kneeled in front of the entrance in anticipation.

As the morning sun burst over the horizon, rays of light simultaneously exploded from the hole in the hillside and Prince Joshua stood visible to all. As he walked out into the morning light, in the distance behind him moved an army of millions – one by one – as if awakening from a long hard sleep. The prince stopped in front of the giant white warrior who, at a gesture from the prince, stood and placed the crown on Joshua’s head. Every creature in sight fell to his knees – except Cobus.

As soon as the ground had stopped moving, Cobus had stolen away, unnoticed, to his lair. Insurgo, his silver-scaled dragon, lay sleeping inside.

“To Treabhlaim!” Cobus shouted as he sprinted inside, gathering up his bag of tricks and removing the magical white cloak. He needed no disguise with Insurgo. In seconds, he and the dragon soared through the air to his one remaining stronghold.

Almost relieved, Cobus plotted as he flew. He still had a sizable force hidden away in Treabhlaim and solid information still flowed from his spies in the field. I will call a meeting and carry out a new plan, he decided.

Pleased with himself, Cobus urged on the dragon, his anxiety subsiding. With a lucky break and some good information, he thought, Fortiscaelum can yet be brought to its knees. After all, the King has vulnerabilities – his three lovely daughters.

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