Excerpt: Prince of the Forgotten Planet

Valfe left Kolen as the cold blue sun rose over the stark wastelands of Gatar. He had spent his last credits on two fuel cells to get him out to Crater Valley and back. He only hoped his bike would stay together long enough to get him home before shut-down.

It was coldest during the day, and the sun’s rays pierced through the layers of synthetic leather and fabric, chilling him to the bone. He tightened his body reflexively and hunched over the barely sound vehicle, keeping his face away from the whipping wind and prepping himself for a long, cold ride.

There was nothing ostentatious about his destination at all—a flat plain with jagged peaks and dusty cliffs all around, which cast long black shadows, darker even than the cool dusk of daylight. His only reassurance that he had come to the right place was the old, rehabilitated scanner he pulled from his breast-pocket from time to time, its insides be-spelled by Annite to lead him directly to his prize. Supposedly, anyway, he thought grimly as he dismounted from his bike and followed the softly pulsing indicator over the terrain. His boots made no noise on the hard ground as he walked, but they kicked up stagnant dust that swirled around him. It was as if no one had tread there in hundreds of years. It was said that once the entire planet of Gatar had been covered with great cities and forests, but no sign of that remained, and Valfe was loath to believe folk tales.

His pace slowed as the small blue light that indicated Valfe himself and the pulsing white of his destination intersected. The scanner made a small, encouraging noise. He sighed and glanced around, seeing nothing. He looked up—nothing but the faint stars and the dusty azure sky.

“Down, then,” he muttered, crouching to examine the dry rock below. He pulled the worn leather gloves from his hands and, after a moment of hesitation, placed his palms on the ground. Then, with a furtive glance around, he allowed his magic to emerge from his palms. Instantly his body felt warm again. The opaque black form of his magic slowly worked its way downwards, seeping through the cracks and pushing earth aside in its quest.

Nothing … nothing … and then, aha! His magic connected with something—something so bright and vast that he could hardly believe his own senses, and his mind’s image was only that of a blinding white glow. Slowly and carefully, he pushed aside the rock with his magic, until a deep crevasse opened in the ground. He brought his magic up underneath the object and tentatively began to lift it. For Annite, it would have been a simple task—but her magic was suited to delicate manipulation. His was best used as a destructive force, and he had never bothered to hone it further, so this proved to be very difficult indeed.

After several failed attempts and very nearly leaving in a rage, he finally caught sight of the object atop the black mass of his magic and reached down to grasp it. For something that had glowed so brightly in his mind’s eye, it was deceptively plain: a small, clear crystal, sparkling in the dim light. It was about the length of his hand and wickedly sharp. He held it up to examine it, and as he did his eyes caught a dark shape looming on the horizon.

A surge of panic welled up inside of him. He swore hoarsely and tucked the crystal hastily into his breast-pocket, annoyed at himself for neglecting his surroundings. Then he stood, slowly and calmly, so as not to alert the wolves.

They stood on the crest of a large cliff about thirty paces away, their eyes gleaming a sickly green and their jaws dripping saliva. Valfe didn’t know exactly how they managed to survive on the sparse, mutated wildlife of Gatar, but he suspected they had had help. He didn’t think there were any animals living wild any more, but he knew that sometimes Koleni scientists did experiments on animals and released them to die when they were no longer useful. They were probably mad and half-starved already, but he knew that those jaws could easily snap him in half if he let them get close enough. He didn’t intend to.

His bike was closer to the wolves than him, but if he could manage to get a head start before they noticed him …

He lifted his hands to slide his gloves back on, and the leader of the pack snapped its jaws and let out a low growl. So much for that. Well, there was nothing else for it. He dug his heel into the ground, and then, with as much speed as possible, began the race to his bike.

They were faster—he should have known that they would be, and they were bigger than he had expected. He had fought two-hundred pound men in close quarters before and won easily, but this would be slightly more difficult.

Valfe stopped when it became clear that he would not reach his bike in time, and in the last moments before they set upon him, drew up the full extent of his power and readied it for attack. It was barely a passing thought in his mind that he might not win the fight. If he died, it would only be a pre-emptive to the inevitable, and it was a better death than some of the alternatives available for his kind. But Anni would wonder what had happened to him. Perhaps she would blame herself. He didn’t want that.

Just before the wolves reached him, they left the ground, their thick hind legs propelling them directly at him. But he was ready. He threw his arms out with all his strength, and thick black swaths of magic shot out from them like scythes. There were a few panicked yelps as the scythes cut into the hides of several wolves, and the force of the magic was enough to throw all of them backwards onto the ground. He steadied himself as three more stood, their fallen comrades crying out or growling angrily. One lashed at him, and he retaliated with another thick swipe of magic, sending it backwards, crying.

Valfe turned away from it and focused on the two still unharmed. One growled and let out a fierce bark, but then it retreated, obviously wary. The others still alive followed suit, dragging themselves after their comrade. Only one remained, staring Valfe dead in the eye and growling low. He could see that this one looked meaner than the others. It was smaller too, so it was probably hungry, and it had a look in its eyes that hinted at madness.

“Come at me, then,” he taunted, “come on, I haven’t got all day. Come on—”

The wolf lunged, faster than he had anticipated, and, instead of going for his chest or throat, latched its teeth onto his leg and bit through the fabric and into his flesh. Sharp pain shot through his leg as the wolf’s teeth sank deep.

“Agh!” Valfe cried out, grasping at the beast instinctively to pull it away. It dug its teeth in deeper and growled. The pain was immense, like a live thing burrowing into him. Valfe cried out again, angry this time, and with a quick motion he grasped at the dirty, patched fur of the wolf’s neck. He took a deep breath, preparing himself, and then sent a thin slice of magic downwards, severing the beast’s spinal cord. Mottled, sour-smelling blood spurted out, spattering his clothes.

Ptesh! Shit!” Adrenaline still racing through him, Valfe threw the animal off of him with the last of his strength and, still swearing, began to limp back to his bike. Pain shot through him at every step, and he was bleeding heavily. But he had no time or way to treat it. He had to get back by shut-down. Then he could patch himself up.

As he drove home, his leg throbbing, the primary thought in his head was that Annite had better appreciate this. He was the best damn husband ever.

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