In The Service Of Princes


The University chapel was empty when the group arrived, as it had to be because Jonas’s spell would have made any stray human who had tried to enter it at that point disorientated and wishing to be anywhere else.

‘So here we are, Staszek,’ the elf said, ‘D’you still want to go through with this?’

The ex-duke shrugged. ‘If it works, then I’ll at least see the future I made possible, even though I gave up my own future to buy it.’

The being that had once been Karl Wollherz took and squeezed his bare shoulder. ‘We thank you, serene highness, and this gift is the very least we can do to repay you. You shall at least not lack love. We’ll take care of your husband and the two of you’ll meet often down the ages, and while you’re separated he’ll be working for me on my own special project.’

Jonas took his hand and led him over to the new tomb set against the chapel’s north wall, on which his marble effigy lay now reclining on its stone table. It was the tomb nearest the altar, and east of the tomb of his great grandfather, William Stanislas IV. On the wall behind his effigy was erected a white marble tablet topped by his ducal arms, the shield supported by two grinning skeletons. It proclaimed that here rested Duke William Stanislas VI in hope of a resurrection to new life.

The wording had been specified by Staszek. It did not use the commonplace phrasing that ‘here rested the remains of the departed in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life’. As he told Orestes, he did not want to rest under an untruth, because for one thing he would not be in the grave below the stone, and for him resurrection was going to be negotiable. The rest of the epitaph was a stanza in Rothenian from his own epic poem Anti-Pygmalion.

‘It’ll be a clue to the future as to the nature of what in fact lies here,’ he told Orestes, ‘because one day it will no longer be a place of concealment, so the Dead have assured me.’

He hugged his husband long and hard, kissed him in reassurance and then hoisted himself up on to the table of the tomb. He first straddled the effigy then slowly knelt down as if the table was flat and empty, but as he sank down his living body melted into the marble and adopted its pose.

Orestes could not resist choking out a sob as he somehow felt his lover leave him. He heard the voices of the Dead and the elf congratulate each other on one of the greatest feats of magic ever accomplished. He felt a warm hand on his shoulder. ‘Now, young man,’ said the shade of Karl Wollherz, ‘it’s your turn, though this part of the plan is a lot less trouble for us.’

‘Bye, Orry,’ came the voice of the elf, ‘I can’t go where you’re about to. But maybe I’ll see you again one day.’

‘You will,’ affirmed the voice of one of the solemn and anonymous Dead, ‘though it will be far down the stream of time and in a guise other than the one you occupy here, Accuser.’

Orestes Ortolan blinked and when his eyes opened vision returned to him, so he knew himself to be once more in Faërie. He stood on the shore of a dark lake, the water lapping gently on a pebbly beach on which he stood. Opposite and about a half mile away rose a tall and wooded island topped by a white tower. A beautiful blond youth stood next to him, as naked as he was. It was Karl Wollherz manifesting as a teenager of Orestes’ own age. He took him by the hand. ‘Let me take you to the dwelling prepared for you, Orestes,’ he said with a smile.


Freddie Winslow travelled to Glottenburg to keep his promise to the late Duke Staszek to be in the University chapel as the sun went down on 29 September 1798. He carried a satchel of books with him. The students had not yet returned for the new term, but he felt that there was a reason beyond that why the chapel was empty. He had a feeling that there were forces that were willing to admit him that afternoon, but no one else. He examined the tomb of his late pupil and found its effigy as astonishingly life-like as ever. It really seemed as though the part-opened mouth was taking a breath and the limbs stirring.

‘Hello, Freddie,’ came a voice from behind him. He spun round to see a familiar form advancing on him. It was a handsome nude youth who had the face of Karl Wollherz as he must have been at the age of eighteen. ‘Strip off, my friend,’ the revenant said, ‘you’re going on a journey with me once more. Once the last of the sun leaves this chapel, we’ll have another companion if, that is, the great spell we worked here still holds.’

So Freddie threw off his clothes and stood on the cold flagstones, hugging his ribcage and shivering. It was after all deep in autumn. He and his companion watched the light fade and he unconsciously took Karl’s warm hand as a crackling sound came from behind. He was just in time to see the pale hue of the marble fade into lifelike flesh tones and the boy-duke rise on his tomb. Staszek stretched and grinned as he looked down on his friends. Then he hopped lightly down to the flagstones, and hugged and kissed Freddie.

‘My Mr Winslow,’ he giggled as he stood back and surveyed his friend, ‘you’ve gone a little grey. But you’ve kept your figure at least. How’s the colonel? Is he a general now? How’s Charlie doing?’

Freddie hugged the boy hard, and found him warm and flexible. He stood back to reply. ‘No, Bastian’s still a colonel, but since his father died and he became the Baron Wollherz he’s been too busy with the family business to hanker after promotion. He may even sell his regiment. Though I hope not.’

‘And my friend Charlie?’

‘Ah well, not much good to report there. He’s no longer a clergyman. His behaviour with Martin Griffiths became too reckless, and he resigned and was defrocked for sodomy. He lives now in London as a notorious free spirit and one of London’s great literary figures. He dines out on his reflected fame as being the friend and discoverer of the poet-prince of Glottenburg; that’s you, your serene highness.’

‘Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that.’

‘How do you feel, sir?’

‘Oh me? A bit stiff, as you may not be surprised to hear. And it really is cold in this chapel. But to me it just seems as if I’d woken up after a nap. Shall we get on, Herr Wollherz?’

‘Yes, Willem. If you two gentlemen will each take a hand, I’ll transport you to Orestes. It may not seem to him as though you two have been apart for a whole decade, but it will seem long enough that he’s eager to see his husband. You should be prepared to find him somewhat changed by long residence in Faërie.’

Then in an instant they exchanged the gloom of the chapel to the bright shore of one of the Isles of the Blessed. Freddie looked around with curiosity. So this was that sacred place which was portrayed on the tombs of Karl Wollherz and Willem Antonin.

Karl Wollherz peered around him. ‘This particular island is not the one where the Dead take counsel with the living, that’s the one across the water with the tower on its crest. This is an island where they sometimes allow mortals to reunite with their departed friends or family. That grace was given to me a century ago by the Dead, to live here a while with my dead parents and sister, and to be a child again in our reunited family. I seemed to spend as much as a year here with them, but in real time it was only an instant. Time travels strangely here. It can move at a glacial pace or rush past. Orestes has been favoured to spend ten years here in what may have seemed to him to have been only a month or two. Even so, it has changed him and he’s been kept busy working with some friends of mine. Come. Follow this path.’

So the three walked inland up a woodland path which brought them to a cottage nestling in the trees among green lawns. ‘Willem!’ a voice called, and Staszek’s husband pounded down the path to catch him up and swing the slighter youth around. Then he set the boy down and they stared at each other. Orestes Ortolan had lived long in the light of Eden and drunk its waters, and it had worked changes. His skin was a flawless amber, and his hair was now rich and dark brown, tumbling half way to his butt. The two boys kissed long and hard.

Once they had got that out of their system, Orestes led them up to his door, at which point Karl Wollherz said farewell, promising to return for Staszek and Freddie when the time came for them to leave.

The inside of the cottage was cosy, its large living room furnished not unlike any Rothenian country house. Freddie imagined that rooms like a kitchen, bedchamber and water closet would have been unnecessary here, though he did find a study and book room overlooking the sunny lawn. He unloaded his satchel on the desk, which had contained a dozen volumes on recent history and politics he had brought for the two boys. The pair leafed through them as Freddie gave a thumbnail sketch of what they had missed in the world since 1787.

‘France is the big problem once again,’ he said. ‘The French executed their king and then declared a republic. Since then they’ve gone to war with the rest of Europe. At the moment things are quiet after the Austrians were defeated by one of the new French generals, a remarkable man called Bonaparte. Only Britain is still at war with the French, but that’s a war confined to the sea.

‘King Ferdinand had some good luck when he led the Ruritanian army in support of the Austrians under Archduke Charles on the Rhine. The king defeated a smaller French army under General Moreau in Bavaria. For the first time my Bastian led his regiment into battle in General Stracenz’s division. Your cousin the king was very pleased at the victory, Staszek, and went over the top in raising triumphal arches and monuments to his glory all over the kingdom. But Bastian says he's no Henry the Lion, and his win was more by luck than judgement.’

Staszek exchanged glances with Orestes before asking. ‘And … er … how’s my granny?’

‘In good health despite her advancing age, I believe,’ Freddie replied. ‘But following your apparent death she retired from public life to Medeln Abbey, and I believe she’s given up her schemes and the open use of her power as Guardian, which is what Jonas Niemand wanted. So it seems that for the moment all the strategies of the powers of the World Beyond have had the result the elf aimed for. Sebastienne Wollherz is now Prioress of the Angerkloster, and if she’s still scheming it only disturbs the peace of the Bavarian church.’

Freddie looked at the infatuated couple opposite him, and resolved to leave shortly to let them consummate their reunion. But he had one pressing curiosity to satisfy first. ‘Tell me Orestes, what was it that Karl Wollherz recruited you to do?’

The eager youth grinned. ‘Ah yes! The Dead have one scheme that will come to fruition in the far distant future, and it will need a lot of work to bring to a conclusion. In the Unlikely Forest is a colony of winged horses Karl brought to Eden half a century ago.’

Freddie nodded, ‘They’re led by the Equine Empress, Brunhild the Great. We met once.’

‘She’s my good friend now. Her people have adapted well to life in Eden but before they can return to the world of the living, as the Dead say they will, they need to cultivate new skills. They communicate well amongst themselves, and can touch the minds of some gifted humans, as Karl was. But to all other humans, they’re dumb beasts. So my job here is to teach them to talk Rothenian.’


‘It’s not easy, of course. Making certain sounds are beyond their capacities at present, though Karl says that it may be possible to alter them magically in time so they can make the full range of sounds human speech demands. But intellectually, they’re up to it. Then there’s breeding. Karl wants to increase their numbers dramatically – ever the horse dealer. So he’s been lent power by his people to set up a stud for pegasuses in a remote corner of the Universe and take a breeding herd back for a while in safety into the living world, where mares can be impregnated by stallions, and colts and fillies can mature, before bringing them back here to Faërie to absorb its magic. The pegasuses now number a few hundreds. It makes my job the harder, but the young ones who’ve never known the human world are a delight to deal with and very quick to learn. I love them all dearly. I hope you’re here long enough to meet some of my equine friends.’

‘And I definitely want to ride a winged horse,’ Staszek said firmly. ‘But first there’s something else I’m desperate to do, so if you’ll disappear for a while Mr Winslow, we’ll be very grateful.’


The coronation of King Henry II of Ruritania occurred in the summer of the year 1814. It was still a time of war even though the Emperor Napoleon was now in exile, residing on an island off the coast of Italy. The Ruritanian army under Field Marshal Stracenz had just occupied the neighbouring Kingdom of Bavaria. The Elphberg-Wittelsbach War had been the culmination of Ruritania’s successful bid to reclaim the province of Mittenheim, which the Emperor Napoleon had taken from the Elphbergs and awarded to his ally King Maximilian after his defeat of King Ferdinand at the Battle of Hofbau and the subsequent occupation of Strelsau in the year 1807. Bavaria had turned down the request of the Congress of Vienna to surrender Mittenheim peacefully.

The new king pressed his brother, Lord Burlesdon, to attend his coronation. James duly crossed over to the continent, for the first time in over a decade, with his countess and the young Lord Lowestoft, his son and heir. Countess Christina headed towards Passau for a long delayed reunion with her family, frustrated by nearly two decades of European warfare. The viscount decided to stay with his father and meet his Ruritanian relatives. He had in fact once met his uncle King Ferdinand, who had visited England during the wars of the Directorate, and had graciously stayed at Burlesdon for several weeks to enjoy the shooting and hunting.

But young Lord Robert Rassendyll had yet to meet his other uncle, the new king Henry, who was very pleased to meet his nephew ‘Bobby’. James for his part was delighted to see that his son got on very well with the new Crown Prince, his cousin, Prince Rudolf of Mittenheim. The two youths rode out together in the parks, Robert in his red militia lieutenant’s uniform and shako looking quite as smart as the prince did in his white Leibgarde gear with its silver, red-crested helmet. The king was not alone in observing the strong resemblance between the cousins.

‘People will talk,’ laughed Henry, ‘it’ll drag up old gossip. Now come with me and I’ll show you the Botanic Gardens I’ve had laid out across from the Hofburg. It’s quite as well stocked as the one in Oxford I dragged you round for a year, and better planned too.’

As James and Henry strolled the grand orangery that Henry himself had designed, James conveyed his compliments about Henry’s achievement in reconciling Glottenburg to Elphberg rule. ‘Freddie Winslow tells me that your wise and patient rule as Regent for Ferdinand made it the happiest region of Ruritania.’

‘I blush,’ the king laughed. ‘But the fact is that I just followed Aunt Osra’s advice. “Don’t try to make Glottenburg Elphberg,” she said. “Make the Elphbergs Rothenian!” And she was right. It all fell into place. You’ll notice that Rothenian is becoming the language of the court here, no longer German. My boy Rudolf speaks it as his mother tongue. I have hopes of that lad, though he is a little too much of a devotee of Tsar Alexander and his noxious Holy Alliance. But that’s his generation, they suffered so much from the atheistical French revolutionaries who upended the old world.’

King Henry thought for the moment, then added. ‘Of course the sudden death of dear young Staszek has left us a strange legacy in Glottenburg. The boy appealed to the mystical and romantic streak in the Rothenian psyche. So even relatively sane Glottenburgers will tell you he isn’t dead, but sleeping, and that one day in a moment of the duchy’s greatest peril, he will return to claim his throne and save his people. Just like the legend of Arthur and the Britons! I won’t tax your scepticism by repeating the legends that have gathered around his tomb. But his memory isn’t fading. That’s a lot to do with his poetry. You’ll have read it in the English translations the boy himself made, but the Rothenian versions are sublime. They’re becoming the foundation of modern Rothenian literature, especially his Anti-Pygmalion. I founded a Willem Stanislas VI chair in Rothenian in the University of Glottenburg. Perhaps that’ll exorcise him.’


Henry Atwood was finding his day tagging round after his friend King Rudolf VI of Rothenia in Glottenburg a very welcome distraction. An unexpected treat was being left to explore the historic campus of the Rothenian University of Radelngrad/Glottenberh, which had once been the castle of the old dukes of Glottenburg, many of whom he found lying in its former Hofkapelle, now the University chapel.

Henry admired the tumbled baroque of the reredos to the high altar. But more interesting to him were the tombs. He began with the medieval ones, an unusual line in front of the altar, obviously moved from somewhere else. Four crowned effigies lay flat, their feet to the east, ducal swords unsheathed and resting on their shoulders. The execution was very fine, and although Henry was no expert, he guessed they had been made elsewhere than Rothenia – Flanders maybe.

Along the north wall of the nave lay the early modern dukes of Glottenburg, in the armour and ruffs of the age of Gustavus Adolphus, and the wigs and lace of the age of Louis XIV. He finished with a very intriguing monument, the last duke, Willem Stanislas VI, who had died aged eighteen in 1788. It was composed in a Classical style, the boy – very handsome apparently – depicted lying rather erotically in just a few convenient drapes. It was deliberately sensuous, and Henry remembered reading somewhere how the erotic was a part of the art of death: smooth flesh and swelling muscle used to counterpoint the transience of human beauty and the tragedy of mortality.

The boy’s mouth was slightly parted and his eyes were open, as though he was still drinking in light and breath. Henry could not resist running his hands down the torso and long limbs, marvelling at the delicacy of the sculptor’s art brought out in the faint lines of veins and the play of muscle under the skin, made beautifully real in stone. At that point he was startled by the momentary illusion that he was actually touching warm flesh and that it moved under his hand. So startling was the illusion that he snapped his gaze down to the effigy’s face, but he found it still staring blankly upward into eternity.

When he hooked up again with his student guide, Henry felt he had to mention his strange encounter. She grinned. ‘You’re not the first person to feel that,’ she said. ‘That’s the tomb of Prince Staszek, who may not have lived long but he’s famous as a great poet in our language. Some of his verse is inscribed above the grave. There are a lot of stories about that tomb.’

‘Do tell, I sincerely believe in ghosts,’ Henry encouraged.

‘People say that he rises from it on the day of his death, which was a Michaelmas, and he’s seen walking the old parts of the campus,’ she laughed. ‘He does it naked, so it’s a sight I’d love to see, phantom or not. Last year we had a vigil in the chapel at the eve of Michaelmas, but he didn’t turn up.’

‘Disappointing for you,’ Henry agreed.

‘Female students, and quite a few male ones, kiss his marble lips when they arrive and depart from the university. An odd thing is that though this has been going on for decades, maybe over a century, there’s no sign of wear on the stone, as you might expect. Good quality marble no doubt.’

Henry looked closer at the stone face, and then surprised himself by leaning down and kissing the effigy’s mouth. He half hoped there’d be a reaction, maybe even tongue, but nothing happened this time.

‘The people of our province believe Prince Staszek only sleeps, and one day he’ll return to his people on a day of mortal danger and save us. Some had hopes it might happen under the Nazi occupation, but he slept through it, so maybe the danger is even more horrible and is still yet to come.’


On the night of 29 September 2028 the ancient magic once more rekindled Staszek to life. He emerged from his stone chrysallis and sat up, swinging his shapely legs over the edge of the table, and pondering what was odd about this occasion. There was no member of the Council of the Dead in the silent and unchanged chapel. That hadn’t happened before. Instead a living human youth lounged against a wall, of an age to be a student. But he couldn’t be, because the spell would have made it impossible for any ordinary human to stand where he stood in that place.

‘Hi Staszek,’ the youth said, ‘know me?’ He handed an opened plastic bottle of water up to the prince. Staszek regarded the strange container closely before swilling his mouth, and spitting out the result.

‘That’s better, thanks. Have we met?’

‘Oh yeah. The first time was back in 1773 when you were a toddler in the charge of your beloved granny.’

Staszek hopped down and walked up close to the dark-haired youth, a stunningly beautiful boy quite as gorgeous as Staszek himself, whose face was indeed familiar, though not in quite that form. ‘Hold on, you’re Jonas Niemand! You grew up! Is that why you’re a human now?’

‘I go by Lance Atwood these days. It’s a long story, and we’ll have time to catch up, because the Dead like me a lot better now I’m mortal, so I’m allowed on the Isles of the Blessed these days. I’m your ride.’

‘Sorry? Ride?’

‘No matter, Willem. We’d better do your usual library raid before we go. I’ve also got a carrier bag here full of selected magazines for you and Orry. I’ll get out of my clothes. It’s real kinky to roam the campus naked. As a human I get off a bit on being kinky in public, sad to say.’

The two boys padded through the empty castle. There was some confusion when it turned out that the old library had moved out of the castle to a new Peacher Infotek Centre, which it was not possible to gain access to. Instead they raided the History Faculty departmental library and filled a sack Lance had brought.

Staszek sighed. ‘I feel guilty about taking these books and never bringing them back. Orry’s book room’s getting quite full of stolen goods.’

‘It’s a sacrifice the university can afford. After all, aren’t you its founder, technically speaking? Okay, ready?’

Staszek looked puzzled, ‘What is this “okay”?’

‘Just an English phrase kids have used for the past seventy odd years. File it away. It’s not going to go out of fashion for a while yet I think.’

Lance winked and they stood all of a sudden beside the dark lapping waters of the Isles of the Blessed in the full light of Faërie. The two boys hauled their heavy bags up through the woodland trail, and when they got to the lawn in front of Orestes’ house found it occupied by the boy himself and a small troop of winged horses. Lance dropped his sack, yelled ‘Brunhild!’ and raced up to his old friend, hugged her neck and kissed her nose.

‘Tickles, Yonas!’ the mare exclaimed, audibly and intelligibly in Rothenian.

‘What’s this? You can talk?’

‘Restes teaching us,’ Brunhild gave the sort of gentle snort that Lance recognised as her expression of amusement.

Orestes Ortolan came up and surveyed Lance, paying special attention to his handsome package. ‘You’ve grown to be a very big boy, Jonas. It’s wonderful to see you – to be able to see you – after all this time.’

‘Let’s go inside, and I’ll bring you boys up to date. It’s a good story. I’ve got a family now and a brilliant boyfriend. But there’s some very important information I have to share with you two. The Plan of the Dead for the future of humanity is becoming a lot clearer in these latter days, and something tells me that the close-mouthed sods haven’t been sharing it with you. But now I’ve seen Brunhild and her people are being trained to talk to humans, it’s getting more obvious to me.’


‘So there’s a black horde threatening the western world from the east, ruled over by an evil emperor? They sound a lot worse than the Ottomans my grandfather fought.’

‘Oh, they are. The Turks in their day were out to extend their civilisation and religion. This horde is as civilised as a plague of locusts. But the King of Rothenia is the leader of the West – Uncle Rudi I call him. He’s a greater leader than Henry the Lion and I’m picking up hints that the Dead have a plan for him and for humanity beyond anything anyone could expect.’

‘So is this when I arise from my tomb to save my people of Glottenburg?’

Lance shook his head. ‘Your day is yet to come, though it will come, I’m sure. But the Dead have a plan, and it looks like this.’ Lance stood on the lawn where they were talking, frowned down of the ground, and then transformed into a huge and dark winged man. His wings were grey and blue and their tips towered as high as the roof of Orestes’s cottage.

Orestes yelped, leaped up and retreated, but Staszek kept his seat on the grass, and just smiled upward at the apparition. ‘But you’ve always been able to do this, Jonas. It’s just a bigger version of when you were Jonas the Elf Boy. So now you’re Lance the Archangel. How’s this any different? You’ve even got the horns, still blue, just bigger.’

‘Well, this is the difference,’ Lance said. Staszek leapt to his feet, and transformed as Lance had, though the skin of his new body was tinted peach and his wings were a bright scarlet and green. An exclamation and curse from behind caused his head to whip round, and he saw Orestes too was now as he was, a winged man somewhat taller than him, a large endowment swelling between his legs, larger than Staszek’s. Suddenly a maddening itch afflicted Staszek’s forehead and great horns, whorled green and red, burst out of his temples.

‘See what I mean?’ Lance grinned. ‘I can do this to certain sorts of people these days: your sort, humans of deep goodness already marked out by the Dead for transformation.’

Staszek caught his breath. ‘So you’re an agent or catalyst for a new sort of human, is that it?’

‘Exactly. The Dead are going to solve the problems of humanity by redefining what it is to be human. They’re up to something just as radical with Brunhild’s people. What it is, I don’t know, but giving the horses speech means that they foresee the pegasuses interacting with the human race in a new way. But where? In the world of 2028 there’s no place for winged humans and horses. I don’t quite get it. But whatever it is they foresee, back in the living world we’re heading full throttle into a huge crisis, as any fool can tell. I have no way of knowing what it is you’ll wake up to next time you rise from your tomb, Staszek.’

Staszek shrugged and then his attention was caught by the thick shaft that rose from Orestes’s groin and the burning in his husband’s eyes. He called over to Lance. ‘I think I can see my immediate future right now.’

The prince laughed, flexed his wings and shot into the air, Orestes close behind him. In the space between the Isles of the Blessed Orestes caught up with his lover and there, with shouts of ecstasy they tumbled and coupled in mid-air as no humans ever had before.


Orestes Ortolan found that after the departure of his mate and Jonas Niemand, or Lance Atwood as he was now called, he could adopt or lose his new winged form at will, though there were good and practical reasons not to, not least as his winged body was on too big a scale for his little home. But it did have some advantages, when for instance he was associating with Brunhild and her people. They had a lot of tips about wing care and the process of flying, which required him to devise whole new vocabularies for them to express themselves. Also he was now able also to fly to the Unlikely Forest to them, rather than wait for them to come to his island.

He was particularly fond of the colts and fillies who had been bred off planet. They were brought back to Eden at the age of six when they were fully mature. Orestes found them all happy, carefree and humorous beings and a delight to be with. They had no cultural memory of their race’s subjection to humanity so they held nothing back from Orestes, who now shared their wings.

He was bemused to find that this youngest generation of equines were capable not just of speaking but were experimenting with singing. He applauded a piece by one particular friend amongst the colts on the subject of being unable to rip up and eat green grass in Eden, and of missing the process of digesting and defecating it. Not promising material, but hilarious the way the equines sang it.

He was being listened to eagerly and with horror on the subject of the gelding of colts that was practised back on earth. ‘The humans cut off our balls!’ one shocked six-year-old stallion screamed. ‘Why? I’d kick the balls off any human that tried that with me.’

The stallion had taken the name Whitetail Brunhildscolt of the Low Moor Herd. The pegasuses found that they needed to develop names by which to identify themselves, so they took their surname from their dominant parent and added the herd or clan in which they roamed Eden. Whitetail was an equine prince, for the Brunhild of his surname was Brunhild the Great, the empress. She still mated with favoured stallions and went off-world to get pregnant and deliver the child or children. There was as a result a very large equine royal family. Every pegasus could recite his or her genealogy, which usually ended with Brunhild, or if not, one of her stable mates back in seventeenth-century Ruritania.

The young pegasuses had no season of heat and they mated constantly, on the ground or on the wing. Orestes observed to Whitetail that it was compensation for being unable to graze grass. ‘You may be right,’ his friend said, as he climbed on the back of a very willing filly. ‘Maybe if we ever return to the mortal lands it’ll wear off.’ Then he plunged his sensational , length into his temporary mate and Orestes took wing and flew off since intelligent conversation with his friend was no longer possible.


The next time Staszek awoke from his spell it was to find things much as usual. As he swung his legs over the edge of his tomb it was with a sense of relief that his land had survived the assault of the Black Horde. He looked around for his ‘ride’ as his old friend Jonas had put it. A youth was indeed present, but it was not Lance Atwood. He was a boy in his late teens wearing what he recognised as an English school uniform: a blazer, white shirt and striped tie. He had a shock of golden hair and looks of an order beyond the human.

‘Who are you?’ Staszek asked.

‘Me?’ the boy replied. ‘I’m King Maxim II of Rothenia, your cousin I suppose. I’m the son of Rudolf Elphberg, Emperor of the Oecumene of Earth. I’m also the One long promised. So I’m what you might have been had you ever lived your alloted span. We have a lot to talk about, cuz. Lance gave me a list of things to talk through with you. By the way, did he ever tell you he was the Satan?’