The Jewel Keeper - Prologue
A long time ago, on a sullen and windy day, out on the western edge of the known world, a small but sturdy-looking wooden ship was sailing through choppy waters along the towering cliffs of a forested island.
It was hurrying along as fast as it could, for her crew was very eager to reach dock as soon as possible, even if it was still a day off. They had been gone for a long time, much longer than they had intended to, all those years ago when they had first set off on their journey. And now, they were anxious to get home as quickly as possible.
As the ship sailed speedily past, two figures watched them from the cliff tops high above, taking note of the ship’s damaged rudder and small size. It was an Orynthian Skimmer, the sort of ship that would typically be found patrolling harbours, not navigating the treacherous waters of the West Passage, sailing as if something was chasing it.
The first of the figures was a tall man with a neatly trimmed black beard. He was wearing ash-coloured robes, a dark purple cloak hanging from his shoulders and flapping in the wind malevolently. His chiselled face was as impassive as the cliff below him, while his hawk-like eyes intently watched the ship down in the restless sea. In his hands, he clutched a tall ebony staff that ended in three sharp prongs, working together to balance a gemstone
the colour of dried blood between them.
The second figure was an old woman with a lined face and hunched body. The wind pulled at her grey robes, black cloak and blacker hair viciously, as if trying to steal her away. Numerous strange symbols glinted on her robes. She leaned heavily on a sinister looking staff, a staff woven from bones. It seemed to shimmer slightly in the fading light.
Not one of the crew members on the ship could see the two figures. They were invisible against the dark sky, ghosts in the fog.
It was fairly clear that the two figures were not ordinary people; they were wizards. Even back in those times, wizards were quite rare. Everyone had a bit of magic, but the vast majority were not powerful enough to cast spells, let alone become wizards. It was rather clear that the two people up on the clifftop had powerful magic. Looking
at their staves, the occasional wisp of magic could be seen leaking out of the shafts and swirling around for a bit before dissolving, like the sparks of a fire. Peering at the old woman’s eyes, a quiet gathering energy could be discerned within those dark depths, waiting patiently for the moment it might be released. The man’s boots shimmered ever so slightly with a hidden enchantment. They both had magic, and quite a lot of it.
“That’s the ship?” The man asked, peering intently at the vessel navigating the grey waves.
“Yes,” the old woman replied, leaning over the cliff for a closer look. Her voice was hoarse and ancient, yet authoritative. “It is one of Kimorgan’s. I always knew he was a fool, but I didn’t know he was this incapable. Just as he found our prize, it slipped through his fingers like smoke.
“So now I just have to follow the ship and steal the item?” The man asked, not taking his eyes off the ship.
It was now chugging past a large sea stack. As it passed, a tall and muscular man emerged from the cabin to relieve one of the other crew members of duty. Even from this distance, his mannerisms and posture made him out to be the leader.
“As we have discussed many times before this,” the woman’s voice turned hard and commanding. “Sink the ship if necessary! It cannot reach port or we’ll lose it. The Liege Family there is very powerful and it would be foolish to try and take it from under their watchful eyes.”
“I understand,” the man replied, watching the tall figure on deck and thinking hard about all the things that could go wrong. “But I’ve heard that the captain of that ship is quite resourceful, so if he does get past me, we could still hire some sort of mercenary to steal it.”
“Don’t rely too heavily on outside help,” the woman warned. “I don’t want the entire criminal underworld finding out about the value of what we are seeking.”
By now, the Orynthian Skimmer had made its way around the sea stack and was heading steadily for open waters again.
“Now go, before we lose it!” the woman ordered. “Report to me as soon as you have the object in your possession.”
“Consider it done,” the man replied.
“Good,” a smile tugged at the woman’s craggy lips. She turned and started walking towards the woods, away from the cliff. Her staff glowed brightly for a split second, a purple fire roaring to life at its tip, and the air before her shimmered and seemed to crack apart. Fog emerged from the crack as it grew bigger, hissing and sputtering with white-hot sparks that were carried off by the wind. The woman walked straight into the opening and disappeared, as if she really was a ghost. A moment later, the crack sealed itself and the shimmers disappeared. The only evidence that she had ever been there to begin with was the smell of ozone and a few small wisps of fog, swirling slowly and lazily over the spot where she’d just been.
The man turned back to the cliff and pulled from his pocket a small, dark green crystal, shaped like a shard of broken glass. He gazed down into its infinite sea-green depths. This item was unbelievably valuable and powerful. Every facet, every infinitesimally small particle that made up this crystal was ancient and brimming with magic.
He called upon this magic now, using his staff to pull it out of the crystal and coax it into orbiting him, like a ring around a planet. His staff glowed as the magic answered his summonings. The only thing that glowed brighter was the crystal, shining with a strange viridescent radiance that seemed to cast more shadows than light. Meanwhile, magic swirled around the cloaked wizard invisibly and clumped together as more and more of it piled in. The man drew the magic into his staff and pointed it up into the cloudy skies above.
As far as the eye could see, the already heavy and rain-filled clouds thickened and darkened, slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, then gathering speed, the wizard’s staff vibrating from the intense catalytic forces spewing out of it. It started to rain and the wind picked up, pulling at the man’s clothes. He paid it no attention, concentrating hard upon the center of the storm above instead. His staff began to get warmer as more power coursed through it. The crystal in his hand shone with a dark brilliance, illuminating the gleam in his eyes as he called upon ever more magic to aid him. Then, a jagged lightning bolt split the sky as the rain began to pour down in buckets.
The ship was now fleeing, somehow going even faster than it had before. No doubt the captain was hoping to outrun the storm. And if this was a normal storm then yes, he probably could. After all, Skimmers were fast and Orynthian Skimmers the fastest. However, this was not a normal, nor natural storm. Fueled by magic, it would catch up to the ship and engulf it, winds and rain beating down from above, waves striking from below. The ship would sink, and as far as anyone was concerned, its crew would be another victim of the fierce and hungry tempests of the Archipelago.
The winds had now accelerated to such speeds that the man on the cliff was having trouble keeping his balance. This was exactly what he wanted.
He put the crystal shard, still glowing with that sinister green light, back in his pocket and walked over to the drop, pulling some of the wind toward him. It flew around and under his body, swirling in a net that slowly pulled upwards, lifting the wizard up into the air. He flew up into the sky, his cloak whirling around him, controlling the winds like a conductor at an orchestra and directed the storm to head east, after the fleeing ship, her captain and crew still thinking they were being chased by a normal tempest, and not by a wizard.
They wouldn’t know what hit them.
Jakub Zeleznik je mladý (začínajúci) autor. Je to syn slovenského manželského páru píšuci anglicky. Táto ukážka jeho štýlu, akým sa prihovára hlavne mladej generácii, je prológom k prvej knihe jeho plánovanej série, The Chronicles of Zeno.
Prajem Jakubovi veľa inšpirácie a síl v pokračovaní započatej spisovateľskej cesty. Verím, že o Jakubovi a jeho tvorbe budeme ešte počuť.
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