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PROLOGUE 3rd PROLOGUE 1st CHAP 1 3rd CHAP 1 1st

Bookland Fantasy Fiction: Halden Chapter One 1st Person

The hidden cave in Northern Sweden shouldn’t have been surrounded by Attan warriors, especially amid a landscape of ice and snow. Neither had I expected salvation to step out from the inside in the form of different soldiers who obviously must be on our side since they immediately started to attack the Attans rather than us.

“These guys must be on steroids or something,” I commented as I kicked away one of the bad guys, my own back pressed against Zim’s.

He laughed ironically. “Both Attan and Zaadarian men are somewhat bulkier and often taller than human males, even though they come from different planets within the same sector,” he explained even as he kicked away another enemy. “But perhaps now is not the time for a lesson in biology?”

I snorted derisively and clunked together two Attans’ heads. “Yeah, man, you’re right. This is totally not the time, but thanks for the intel. Who’s the huge guy coming out of the cave right now? The one in the funky, glowing armor?”

Zim gaped. “I’m pretty sure that is King Ergon.”

“As in, my father?” I exclaimed. The bad guy I was kicking paused to look, and my fist slammed with a satisfying thud into his face, sending him flying. Rather than attacking me again the guy turned and ran. “What the hell?”

“Ergon’s a total bad ass,” Zim explained. “Might as well head for the cave now, he and the Setan soldiers will have these boys cleaned up in short order.”

I thought the words were crazy, but I let him take my arm and drag me through all the fighting men and retreating Attans and right into the cave entrance within less than a minute. By the time we’d stepped in the prediction had come true. All the Attans had either retreated or been killed, and there had been at least fifty of them. There weren’t even twenty of the Zaadarian fighters to eliminate them.

Inside the cave, I rounded a wall and stopped up short. A large, shimmering hole was apparently ripped into the fabric of space and time. It was a gorgeous swirling of greens and blues, mesmerizing and scary all rolled into one, and I felt my gut clench as I stared it down.

“Is that what I think it is?” I asked unnecessarily.

“It’s our way home,” said Zim. “But we should await your father before we step through. He’ll want to properly present you to King Hal and his court, and not have us take them by surprise. It’s even likely that there are guards on the other side to make certain no Attan comes through. Zaadarians are very big on protocol in all their kingdoms, but the Kingdom of Halda is probably the biggest stickler of them all.”

“How many kingdoms?” I wanted to know.

Another voice answered. “On Zaadar itself, there are but twelve. Though some of them contain sub-kingdoms, including the one you are bound for. But let’s not waste time discussing all that here, my daughter. The Attan may have retreated, but that won’t stop them from regrouping and showing up with greater numbers than before.”

I hesitated as I stared at the portal. “How does it work?”

“One minute you’re here on Earth, the next you’re on Zaadar,” he said with a shrug. “I’m no scientist, I just use the thing upon occasion, that’s all. But this thing doesn’t open into my kingdom, it’s locked to the center of Hal’s castle, down in the portal room. Come on, Princess, let’s go while it’s still possible.”

He didn’t wait for me to answer, but simply grabbed my arm and brought me right into the blue and green swirl. Before I could even blink I was standing inside a cavern filled with hundreds of glowing crystals, and I was soon herded onto a platform that lifted myself, Zim, and my father to a floor above.

The room we entered was absolutely huge. Outside the circle of pillars that surrounded us, I saw a huge room with a sleek, white-tiled floor that stretched further than a football field. It stopped at the edge of a short railing that encased an even bigger area.

Near the farthest pillar was a sort of glowing kiosk that was flashing the words: Set Platform 34, now arriving. I had no idea what that meant, but still I stepped up to the edge to have a look. The railings were surrounded by a field of energy which seemed to be there mostly to prevent noise from disturbing the people on this side of it.

Inside the enclosed area innumerable space shuttles came and went, and even more of them were neatly parked in rows below the wide-open ceiling that seemed to also be shielded by the energy, but if the blue color was any indicator, which I thought might be the case, then the energy there was reinforced with a lot more power.

“A space port?” I asked curiously as I watched one of the shuttles pass through the energy and land on a platform with a huge 34 on it. The pilot’s door opened and someone popped out. A huge and intimidating someone wearing a helmet similar to the ones we used on Earth. He tugged it off, and a long mane of black hair which was pulled back into a ponytail tumbled down his back nearly all the way down to his butt.

“This is but one of several space ports we have on this world,” said a kindly woman as she stepped over to join me.

The dark-haired man took several authoritative steps in the direction of four guards who were overseeing the exit doors that led into the castle. They each snapped to attention, eyes widening as they watched his approach. Each man crossed his left arm over his lower chest and set his right elbow into the palm, then faced his right palm inward in a kind of salute, clearly paying respect to a superior officer.

I watched as the man grabbed one of the guards by his lapels and tugged on them, then smoothed them out more neatly than they’d been before. I couldn’t hear what he was saying from this great of a distance, but he was obviously delivering a reprimand. Then he abruptly stepped through one of the doors and the four men relaxed again.

“Princess Valima, welcome to your new home,” the woman then said dryly. “I am Queen Velna, wife to King Hal. A feast has been prepared in your honor for this evening, but first we must get you changed into something more appropriate to greet the people of this world. Not everyone on Zaadar is aware of the portal between this planet and the one you grew up on, my dear. It is far better not to advertise one of your greatest treasures. Zim? How good to see that you’re home. Perhaps you should go and report to your lord.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” he said, giving the woman a bow.

I looked her over curiously. She was wearing a flowing white robe, but no crown, and nothing but a tastefully placed smallish amulet around her neck. Nothing that would particularly single her out as royalty – at least not by the standards of the human world.

The woman laughed. “Queens do not wear their crowns all day every day, Valima,” she chided. “And it would seem the first thing you must be taught is how to shield your thoughts properly. I had hoped that Zim might have somehow managed to slip that in, but the truth is that only the strongest mage can retain his or her powers while on Earth. Zim is but a servant, and not properly trained in such skills, so naturally your magical training had to be saved until your return.”

“Magic?” I repeated, looking from King Ergon to her and back again. “I have magic?”

“You are of royal blood, sweetheart,” he told me. “I imagine you’ll have quite a lot. Go with the queen for now. You and I can catch up on everything later. And Valima, choose your dress wisely. Tonight you’ll be meeting your betrothed.”

I gave him a brief bow as I had seen Zim bow to Queen Velna before he’d turned to leave a moment ago, and then I too turned away. The queen kept up a cheerful explanation of everything around us as we walked so that by the time we’d mounted some stairs and headed for the royal quarters I was led into my own chambers with a good idea of the castle’s history over the last hundred years, but still had no idea about the age or nature of my future husband.

“Will you not tell me about The Halden?” I asked hopefully. “Surely he must be the prince who will rule after King Hal, correct? My uncle did mention that one day I would be a queen.”

“You shall meet The Halden at dinner,” said Velna with a smile. “You shall be quite pleased once the initial shock wears off. My women will be here shortly to dress you for the night. We will, of course, allow you to select your own servants as soon as possible, but it could not be arranged before now. You understand.”

“Shock?” I repeated, but the queen had already turned and went out the door before I’d even properly gotten out the word. And I was almost certain that she’d done so by design. What was it with this Halden character that nobody was telling me? I sure hoped I hadn’t bitten off a bit more than I could chew.




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