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To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.

 - Winston Churchill

Chapter Twelve


            With entry into the priesthood not an option, and his imagination stirred by the stories of Tangle, Prince Carl had taken it upon himself to be a great magician. He spoke with many of the learned men of the castle, and questioned his tutors relentlessly. The tutors, being Christian scholars, and mostly monks, admonished him severely about involving himself in magic. Brother Paul in particular cautioned him.

            “My son, you are a good boy; but do not know the nature of what you attempt.”

            The young prince earnestly explained “But it is good magic, and I shall be a great defender of humanity – like Tangle.”

            The brother shook his head sadly, “Tangle is nothing but a legend, stories to entertain small boys on their way to sleep. There is no good magic. It all comes from darkness and evil.”

            “I bow to your mastery in all things scriptural, sir; but you are a man of God, not a maker of magic.”

            In frustration, Brother Paul argued “Is it for no reason? I am also not a thief or murderer. I avoid all sources of evil, demonology, and the black arts. I council you to do the same young prince, or you may never live to see your kingship.”

            “So you will not help me.”

            In a more kindly tone of voice, Brother Paul replied “I do help you, my son, by refusing to aid you in this folly.”

            Prince Carl then went to speak to the learned men upon whom his father often leaned; but he found little better response. Of the secular scholars, mechanics, and builders, none would help, thinking this mere superstitious foolishness on the part of a young boy. So Prince Carl found himself caught between the brothers, who took the subject too seriously, and the secular scholars and builders, who did not take it seriously at all.

            Despite the obstacles, once the young prince was set upon a course, it was nearly impossible to dissuade him. He haunted the libraries of the castle, monastery, and rectory, like one of the spirits he sought to control; yet his efforts were fruitless. Without some sort of help and guidance, Prince Carl was lost in a foreign world of books, old languages, and endless searching.

            Such books were not kept at the monastery, and if discovered would be immediately burned or otherwise discarded. Prince Carl found himself more often visiting the nearby university, where a more neutral attitude towards knowledge prevailed. Books and scrolls were very expensive; but being the prince conferred certain privileges.

            It soon became his habit to visit the university once or twice a week. Relieved that Carl had given up on the priesthood, King William assigned him two guards, and gave his son permission to visit the university whenever he liked. Here, The Prince found more sympathy and cooperation among the various scholars and students, than he had been able to inspire among the brothers. One young man was particularly helpful. Prince Carl estimated the man’s age to be about ten years older than his own. He had noticed him during several of his previous visits; but now the young man approached.

            “Good day, young scholar. I am called Jubal Christian.”

            “So you are a priest.”

            Laughing, Jubal said “Not exactly. I am a solider of sorts, who has become a Christian scholar. I do hope to become a bishop or attain some other high position in the church. Perhaps I will be a great Christian knight, and go off on a quest.”

            The eyes of The Prince lit up with excitement, “When I am king, I will sponsor your quest, and send you off with a company of good men.”

            A darkness crossed the face of Jubal, so briefly that Prince Carl thought he might have imagined it. The man then smiled broadly, and said “Thank you, young prince. I am honored by your offer, and hope you remember it when the time comes.”

            “I will remember. My father has taught me the value of a man keeping his word.”

            “So what is it you are studying?”

            “It is magic, and the various related arts. I must warn you, that if you seek to be a priest, you may wish to avoid my company. The brothers have declared the subject taboo and work of the devil. They have offered no help in locating any books on the subject. Here at the university, there are no such prejudices; but also little interest.”

            Jubal suggested “I can find you such books, though I have no idea how you might read them. Most are written in old languages that have not touched a human ear since the tongues that spoke them long ago turned to dust”

            “I shall have to learn these languages.”

            “Jubal laughed, “Learning a language is no small thing, particularly when there are no longer any living native speakers. How will you learn?”

            Prince Carl shrugged, “I learned the language we are speaking, and learned it when I was much younger.”

            Jubal looked at him in amusement, “At your age, it seems that every year increases your grasp, yet you will soon find that some things become harder with age, rather than easier.”

            “I shall strive to do my best, despite the encroachment of age.”

            So with the help of Jubal, writings were found, and their languages determined. Eventually, being the systematic young boy that he was, Carl collected and copied a series of scrolls, and organized them into groups.

            Though the guards never completely lost their suspicion of Jubal, after some weeks and months, they became a bit less uneasy. They informed The King, of course; but he seemed undisturbed. The university was a safe place full of educated and privileged men. After half a year of research, The Prince had compiled what he needed, and ceased his regular visits to the university.

            Wanting to introduce his father to Jubal, and hoping for a bit of help with his studies, he sent a messenger to the university to invite Jubal to the castle. The messenger returned with disappointing news. Jubal had left less than two weeks after The Prince had ceased his visits.

            With the disappearance of Jubal, The King, who had shown little concern before, suddenly became suspicious. Men were sent out, and enquiries were made; but none were able to determine the identity or the whereabouts of the young man.

            Without the help of Jubal, the magical studies took more time than Carl had planned, yet after two more months, he considered himself ready to make his first attempt at using some of the knowledge for which he had labored. Waiting for a night when the huge banquet hall would be unused, he made his way there. He brought his books, charts, and a few bits of magical apparatus that he had meticulously constructed according to descriptions found in some of the old writings. Having set up his gear, he began to call upon the great invisible powers. He was uncertain of the pronunciation of some of the words; but did his best.

            He spoke the incantations over and over again, both in the common tongue to which he had laboriously translated them, and in their original Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Babylonian. For hours he did this, changing his tone, cant, and measure, with no effect. Discouraged, he contemplated the scrolls, now spread out across a huge banquet table.

            Prince Carl sat dejectedly, and decided that the stories of Tangle, The Darkwood, and the other creatures of myth were mere stories for children. Feeling foolish and more than a bit disillusioned, he shouted out one last incantation, and added “I charge you in the name of the mighty Tangle of the Darkwood, to do my bidding.”

            Out of the corner of his eye, Prince Carl thought to see the chairs move ever so slightly. When he turned to look, a huge draft came down the chimney and blew the fire into a wall of flame that extended several feet into the room. The fire then went out, along with all candles and other illumination. The huge room was cloaked in darkness; but was not without sounds.

            He felt terror begin its slow unraveling of his mind, even as it drained his body of all its strength. Even in his fear, the analytical side of his mind looked for the reason for his weakness. He thought of the legends of the wraiths, and wondered if it was really terror that caused these effects. Legend had it that the wraiths fed off of terror. If this was true, they were feeding upon him even now. This would explain the well known weakness that usually accompanied great fear.

            Suddenly he no longer aspired to kingship, mastery of magic, or even to manhood. He was a young boy in a large black room, afraid of the dark, and of something else which seemed to fill the room with menace. He felt a malevolent presence that stayed very near him, but never quite touched him.

            In desperation, and recalling the warnings of Brother Paul and the other priests, Prince Carl shouted “God forgive and protect me. I have made an error and repent of my evil.”

            The sounds stopped, and the deep darkness lifted. Though the room was still dark, a bit of illumination was now present from the dying embers of the fire, and the cracks under and around the doors. These had not previously been visible. Silently offering thanks, Carl ran to a door and flung it open, allowing light to pour within.

            “I shall never be afraid again.” he shouted to the room.

            He thought to hear a faint sound as he left the room. Was it a soft laugh?  He turned to face it, repeating, “I shall never be afraid again.”