It is an excerpt from a sequence in the fantasy novel Wings of the Overlord, to be published by Knox Robinson this month.
‘What urge?’ the boy asked.
‘Thau-mat-urge,’ old An-sep repeated, his parchment face creasing in amusement as he leaned over the rough-hewn Palace garden wall. ‘A worker of wonders.’
‘So you're a miracle-man, a - a magician, is that it?’ the child observed, brightly. ‘Like Por-al Row in the Annals of Lornwater?’
A frown summoned up a strange, almost other-worldly throaty sound. ‘Well, sort of, only I'm a little more consistent with my spells.’ The lad shrank away slightly, biting his lower lip. ‘But I follow the Path of Light, unlike poor Por...’
This hasty exposal tended to mollify the boy. Inevitably, he demanded, ‘Do me a spell, then, old mage, if I'm to believe you!’ His tone was imperious, as it should be, An-sep supposed: the boy's blood was royal, after all.
Still, the thaumaturge wondered why he bothered: no amount of patient guidance helped. Once the royal children tasted power, best intentions went to Oblivion...
At that moment An-sep espied the boy's pregnant mother strolling between the aisles of sekors, flora of the Overlord. Perhaps it amounted to sacrilege, but he fancied that the sacred flowers' beauty paled beside that of the Queen. She was gracefully adorned in a gold brocade maternity gown, her plaited dark hair trailing behind.
There were no attendants in evidence.
Queen Mariposa had always been a raven-haired beauty, with shimmering cobalt-blue eyes; but now even at this distance An-sep could detect disquiet in her face: sleep-deprived eyes and a down-turned mouth implied she sorely missed her Lord, whose quest for peace in Floreskand had sent him on a mission to neighbouring Goldalese.
‘Well?’ demanded the prince, glaring.
An-sep shrugged away his concern for the vulnerable-looking woman. Might as well keep the child happy, he'd be ruler soon enough! Intoning words of Quotamontir, he flourished his hands aloft and two white doves materialized, flicking their wings as if to shrug off the after-effects of their astral journey.
The boy was suitably impressed.
Warning tremors surged in An-sep's veins.
Without thought to the consequences, he scaled the wall and landed in a flurry of robes on Royal greensward. The prince exclaimed in alarm, for any commoner who so much as bent these blades of grass would be rent by sword-blades: this was the Law.
But An-sep's impulse was beyond man-made edicts.
Queen Mariposa cried out and sank to her knees.
Dragging the boy with him, An-sep ran over the divine flower-bed. He kneeled in obeisance and then gently lowered the queen to the grass.
His gnarled cool finger on her head uncreased the brow and the pain seemed to flow out of her.
Her boy prince was trembling, eyes starting at sight of the baby emerging into the world.
The baby cried with healthy gusto.
The young prince cried too, as he cradled his new brother and held him to his mother's smiling lips.
‘By your leave.’ An-sep stood, bowed and walked the way he had come.
And in his wake the flowers and grass so recently trampled upon now resumed their natural posture as if he had never trespassed.
‘Now that's a miracle, Thaumaturge!’ the prince shouted, drying his eyes.
‘No, young prince,’ An-sep called back, ‘the real miracle is the life you hold in your arms.’
Wings of the Overlord can be pre-ordered now:
Amazon UK here
Amazon COM here
Knox Robinson here