pátek 15. června 2012

Song of spirits and omens: Game of swords

Game of swords – part 2

It was the second day of Fangus employment as Ratar-O’s new servant and he was busy writing a report about damages created by the earthquake which caused the extraction of the sword of Plundarr. Fortunately said damages were just an unpleasant number of fallen cups and plates but not a single rodent citizen of Geopolis, a new town nearest to the mine in mount Plundarr, was harmed.

After finishing arguing with the last Gerbil mother distressed that her daughter lost half her dowry, he prepared for the return back to palace. On his way he mused about what he saw this day and also sooner before he got his new job. The people were noticeably shaken by recent events.

The earthquake was bad enough and then Ratilla’s sword was taken by rogue Cats and to top it all the released magic lured to the mountain the core of Mumm-ra’s army. The average Rodent citizens were distrustful of the old warlock and more of his armored Reptilian troops. In the past there were some skirmishes between the Mammals and Reptiles, which were still remembered in folktales and the recent incursion of the foreign soldiers didn’t help to improve the relationships between these two societies.

All in all, Ratar-O’s popularity among his subjects dropped significantly. There wasn’t any riots against king being formed yet but the masses needed something to boost their morale again. Fangus used the time on the road to think what and, more importantly, how he will tell his superior what should be done to secure the throne.

The journey back to the palace was short and soon the king’s servant found himself on the way to the meeting hall, where important happenings such as negotiations with other species were held. Today the highest lords of Rodents assembled to discuss matters of politics, economy and interracial relations. The assembly of rodent lords consisted largely from Ratar-O’s various uncles, cousins and other more or less distant relatives. Today’s meeting was almost finished so it didn’t take long till the last lord bowed before Ratar-O and left and Fangus was soon allowed to approach his ruler.

After finishing the formalities and discussing the report, Fangus gathered the courage to start talking about the topic of rising spirit of Rodent population: “My lord, excuse me for speaking my mind but I have the feeling that the inhabitants of your kingdom are unhappy.”

Ratar-O paid his servant only little attention and snorted: “People are always unhappy and complaining. Once it’s farmers because the fields don’t have enough water, other times it’s merchants because the taxes are too high. They all come to me whining about their pathetic lives. Are you done?” asked the large rat man annoyed by the long assembly filled with petty arguments and the report didn’t exactly make him happier either.

Fangus was afraid his master may not be in the mood for talking about something like this, however he wasn’t someone who gives up easily: “I see, but what about providing some entertainment for the people. It can help with our cause.” That was something that finally caught Ratar-O’s attention.

He looked at his new servant and began thinking aloud: “Right, the shestnut festival starts in a week. I could prolong the festivities for a day this year,” suddenly Ratar-O stopped and observed Fangus, the smaller rat looked rather nervous. “May I suggest something?” asked the servant slowly. “Go on,” said the king interested what clever or stupid thing had his servant on mind.

“I was talking about a wedding,” said his right hand man reluctantly. The larger rat man tilted his head to one side:“A wedding? Interesting idea. Go ask if any of my relatives is going to marry, the closer to me the better. We will make it a special occasion for everyone. Family stays and celebrates together,” said the king halfheartedly relieved that this problem was solved and he was about to close the subject.

Unfortunately for him Fangus hurried with his reply: “Actually I meant you, my lord.” “I’m not going to marry, you halfwit,” said Ratar-O more surprised than angry. Fangus breathed deeply. Now or never. “That’s what I want to talk about. I couldn’t help but notice that your highness isn’t married and doesn’t have any heirs. I’m sorry to say that but you’re not getting any younger. Finding a suitable bride would solve two problems at once.”

After speaking those words an awkward silence reigned for a while. The shorter rat was afraid he signed his own death sentence. But Ratar-O just barred his teeth. His new servant was right. In a way. He would never admit it openly but Fangus had a point.

 Weddings and other celebrations organized by nobility meant at least a day off work and a lot of free food and drinks for even the poorest mice. And more importantly, every empire needed an heir to ensure there will be a ruler in the future, otherwise the kingdom may fall apart in a civil war.

Unfortunately it wasn’t such merry occasion for the ruler and Ratar-O himself was always occupied with some sort of project like renovating old halls or finding and extracting the sword of Plundarr. Not that he didn’t like a woman’s body. But a concubine was more of a service he could use whenever he wanted. Later they always conveniently vanished when he didn’t need them anymore. A wife on the other hand…

That lion bastard had the advantage that he could have fun with any female who crosses his path and even if it had some consequences, he may easily avoid any responsibility. He on the other hand has to pick carefully as to win as much political support as possible without offending other powerful families. Then there’s the thing about the bride’s personality.

Ratar-O was secretly worried that either he will end up with a wealthy, yet stupid gossipy hen or even with some power hungry beast that will assassinate him as soon as their first son is born and set herself as a regent. His concern stemmed from the fact that he met quite a few of such females in person.

In the rat society the women were forbidden to start a conversation with a male stranger. Therefore many females sought out the opportunities to meet attractive men and tried to catch their interest nonverbally. For example an assembly of Rodent lords or an audience was considered to be such an opportunity. Many a father was pestered by his daughter (and wife) that she has to accompany him to meeting with king Ratar-O. This began already when Ratar-O was a boy. The rat women would come in hope that they will be the wife of a mighty rat lord. Some she-suitors were twice as old as the young rat prince, some would wiggle on their chair and constantly wave their hair around. It was unnerving for a little rat boy but as he grew up, Ratar-O got eventually used to such behavior, though he still regarded it as silly.

“I will think about it but don’t get too cocky because you suggested that idea,” warned Ratar-O his servant Fangus and shoot a death glare towards him to strengthen his words. The servant understood its meaning and deeply bowing left his master to his own thoughts.

There was other thing than stupid girls on king’s mind. Eventhough the empire of Thundera has fallen, the rats still weren’t at the tip of the hierarchy. The cat warriors were bad enough, now that the mighty undead wizard was released things might become even tougher. If Mumm-ra knew that Ratar-O was planning to keep the sword of Plundarr for himself, he would unleash his worst spells on the Ratmen. Ratar-O sighed. He wished the decayed warlock had stayed away rotting in his pyramid forever. But these damned Cats made everything worse. They are so sick they destroyed themselves and now we must pay for it.

Thundercats 2011 belong to Warner Bros. Animation
So this time I added a bit about how the Rodent society works. I have to say it’s really funny. I hope the show won’t get cancelled because I really enjoy writing this fic. Are you’re interested why I let Fangus call Ratar-O ‘my lord’, ’sir’ and such? Well, I found it weird for a servant to call his master with his name. Particularly someone as arrogant as Ratar-O. They probably knew each other very very long, like Mordax being servant of the previous king or something. Apropos king, Ratar-O’s title is never explicitly stated but I thought that the title of king fits best. Even though real life Huns called their leader khan I assume that Ratilla after obtaining Sword of Plundarr would like to call himself the same as leader of the Thundercats, hence the king. Ratar-O’s last words belong to the fact that Mumm-ra was released by Grune, a Cat, which only strenghtens his hatred for them.

neděle 10. června 2012

Song of spirits and omens: Game of swords - part 1

It was dark in the room except for one lone torch lighting the whole chamber across the room. He sighed. Of course, it was dark, he was in the old underground palace. Again. The absence of sun in the underground was very depressing and the pain in his back didn’t help at all. Slowly as to not strain his back too much, he sat in his bed. He almost opened his mouth to call for his personal servant, when he remembered that he left him. Anger filled him at once. Only few days ago, he was scarcely humiliated. He was betrayed by his own right hand man, his butt was kicked by a Cat, no, a kitty, and, to top it all, the stupid Thundercats stole his race’s greatest treasure. Furiously, he hit the stone wall next to him with his fist and then cursed, because no matter how enraged any rat is a stone is always harder.

Later that day he was heading to the old throne room where his father used to give orders and him as well before the throne hall in mine Plundarr was built. And again he felt the desperate need to blow up that brat, who calls himself a king, with the Rat’s eye and to strangle to death that treacherous cockroach named Mordax. Alas he will have to wait for that to happen.

On the way to the throne room he heard voices coming from the direction he was heading. “I wish to speak with the king,” said an unknown voice. The other speaker, probably guards, stayed unfazed: “You have to wait. The king hasn’t come yet.” Soon he saw the first speaker. It was an unknown rat talking to the guards. It was an unusual sight to see a commoner at this hour in Ratar-O’s palace because ordinary people with complains would come later. This newcomer was tall, but shorter than him, lean rat with a crooked snout as if it was broken several times in a brawl. “The king has already arrived,” claimed Ratar-O and the other three rodents bowed down their heads. “Well, what do you want?” Asked Ratar-O the stranger when he deemed that the formalities took long enough. “My name is Fangus and I would like to serve you, sir,” after finishing his request Fangus bowed again.

The bigger rat measured him before spoke again: “To serve me? And what kind of service did you head in mind? Do you want to cook for me? Or clean the floors of the palace many rooms? Make your mind because this is not a place for indecisive simpletons,” teased Ratar-O his subject.

The smaller rodent kept cool head and answered with carefully chosen words: “If I may be so bold I want to become your personal servant. I recently heard you may be in need of one and I swear you I would follow your every order.” Fangus noticed that the larger rat man frowned and narrowed his eyes and for a while he wondered if he didn’t overdo it.

“The rumors spread quickly I see,” said Ratar-O and a grow crawled into his voice, “Do you have any experiences with such a type of service?” Fangus mentally sighed relieved that he didn’t made his king furious and hurried with the answer: “I worked years for one very rich merchant in Lettucetown so I get the idea how big institutions work. But I wanted to pay my tributes to all the people working hard for the kingdom so I decided to join them.” Of course he didn’t say that his previous master was the lord of thieves, smugglers and pimps.

Ratar-O chuckled: “Enough rambling. So you have some experiences. Good for you because we are facing hard times.”

“I understand clearly, sir. I will follow you to the hell and back if you tell me to do it,” said Fangus maybe a tad bit more eagerly than necessarily needed.

The bigger rat frowned again: “Be careful. It may happen sooner than you think.”

Notes: Sadly I don’t own ThunderCats but it sure is one damn awesome intellectual property. I’m Storycollector and apart of writing my original stories sometimes I feel a strong urge to write a fanfiction. But unlike my own stories I find writing fan fictions even harder because I of the difficulty to fuse one’s own creativity with other person’s ideas.
This story is from the fandom Thundercats 2011 aka New series and it focuses on the villain Ratar-O.

My stories

As some of my readers know I write short stories and I'm currently writing at least one book. 90% of these stories is my original work, however sometimes I have a nice idea for a fanfiction. I write mostly in Czech language but these stories are to be found on my other web www.storycollector.webnode.cz. Warning! That website contains articles in Czech language and they may not make sense with google translator.
Therefore I have this blog where I post english stuff. I know that I have only few articles but that may hopefully change in the future.
What I want to say is that I'm currently writing a story in English. It's fan fiction about Thundercats 2011. I grew up with the old series and I find this new series even greater than its predecessor. And I'm going to put it right here on my blog. :)

čtvrtek 22. prosince 2011

A sample chapter of Garth Nix's Confusion of Princes (part 3)

The last part of first chapter of the new not yet published book of Garth Nix.

My internal chronometer said I had been a Prince for all of thirty-five minutes. If I made
it through another twenty-five minutes, I’d be ahead of the statistical curve. . .

‘Our first priority must be for you to connect to the Imperial Mind,’ said Haddad. ‘This
will have three positive results. Firstly, it will remove the possibility of permanent death, and
so the benefit of assassinating you will reduce, possibly enough that any plans already laid
will be postponed. Secondly, it will allow you to access resources and information necessary
for your protection and future plans. And thirdly, you will be able to call upon the Mind to
witness, and this will make blatant breaches of the law against you more unlikely.’

‘What?’ I exploded. This was getting worse and worse. ‘Blatant breaches? You mean a Prince could act against the Imperial Law?’
‘It is a question of the potential benefit versus the potential punishment,’ replied Haddad.
‘There are also ways and means of obscuring the Mind’s viewpoints and capture of
information so that it is not entirely clear whether a breach has been committed or not—’
‘I’m going to go and ask Uncle Coleport some serious questions,’ I interrupted. ‘With a

‘There’s no time for that, Highness,’ continued Haddad, as unruffled as ever. ‘Do you
have any possessions you need to pack?’
I was stuck thinking about what Haddad had just told me. I had been taught that the
Imperial Mind watched over everything, that it knew everything, and that Imperial Law was
always followed to the letter. Though of course Imperial Law was not for the ordinary
citizens of the Empire. They had to do whatever their ruling Prince decreed. Imperial Law
was for Princes, setting down how the authority of a Prince worked with other Princes, the
precedence of Princely commands, and so on.

‘Possessions . . .’ I repeated slowly. Though my mind was supposedly as accelerated as
my body, I did not find my thoughts coming quickly.
I looked around my living chamber and through the doorway to my bedroom. All my
clothes were brought to me, fresh and new, each morning. Information flowed to my mind
directly, or sometimes via secure pods that were also brought to my rooms. Practice weapons
came from the armory and went back there at the end of a session.

‘No. I have nothing. Uh . . . where are we going and . . . why are we going anyway?
Surely it would be better to stay here and . . . um . . . plan . . .’
My voice trailed off. Though I had long imagined the day when I would become a full
Prince, none of my daydreaming had included being almost killed and then having to flee.
Mostly it had consisted of looking at the specifications of various extremely fast and deadly

‘We can’t remain here,’ explained Haddad. ‘This temple will not allow you to stay
beyond the first hour, Highness, and we must reach a place of relative safety, somewhere
where you can access the Imperial Mind. Had you planned which service to join for your
initial career?’

Princes supplied the officers of all the key services of the Empire: Navy, Marines, the
Diplomatic Corps, Survey, Imperial Government, Colonial Government . . . but they all
sounded like hard work, and though I had expected I would join one of them at some stage,
the thought of yet more training did not appeal to me. Also, it would mean putting myself
into a hierarchy of Princes where I would be the lowest of the low. It would be much more
fun to simply go somewhere interesting and be a Prince at large, preferably the only one
around. Then I could do whatever I wanted.

‘Uh, I don’t want to commit to any service and all that training malarkey,’ I said. ‘I want
to enjoy myself first. Get a ship—you know, a corvette or maybe something smaller, of
course with high automation, head out for some distant stars, see something beyond this
moldy old temple, smoke a few Naknuk ships or the like. . . ‘

I looked at my Master of Assassins.
‘That’s not going to happen, is it?’
‘Not advisable,’ said Haddad tersely. ‘The nearest shipyard that might have a vessel not
already earmarked for a Prince or under the aegis of a Prince would be . . . Jearan Six. We’d
have to go commercial from here, several changes, several lines—the risk would be
extremely high. Also, it would mean delaying your connection to the Mind.’

‘Can’t I connect here, before we leave?’ I asked. I knew the procedure. Though I would
later be able to communicate with the Imperial Mind wherever there were available priests to
relay, my first connection needed to be from within the inner sanctum of a temple.
‘It is forbidden for Princes to enter the sanctums of temples other than temples of their
own service when on duty, or on direct Imperial orders,’ said Haddad.

‘But I go to the sanctum here often . . . ah . . . when I was a Prince candidate I went there
. . .’
‘Exactly, Highness. The optimum possible node now is the Temple of the Aspect of the
Noble Warrior on Kwanantil Nine, which serves the Kwanantil Domain Naval Academy of
the Imperial Navy.’

‘But you said a Prince can only enter the sanctum of a temple of their own service, or
with direct orders,’ I said. My augmented and accelerated brain clearly wasn't working as it

‘Yes, Highness,’ said Haddad.
‘You mean I’ll have to join the Navy.’
‘Yes, Highness.’

My dream of a slender space yacht, lavishly appointed and crewed by suitably attractive
mind-programmed servants, disappeared, driven away by the fresh, sharp memory of the
flower-trap’s sunbeam going over my head. Next time, there might be more than one
assassin, more than one sunbeam. . .

‘In addition to connecting to the Imperial Mind, the Navy would also offer you a high
level of protection, Highness. Apart from the vacation period, cadets at a Naval Academy or
officers on active service may not be assassinated. Not legally, though accidents do happen.
You must always be vigilant.’

‘It just gets better and better, doesn’t it?’
Haddad nodded. I wasn’t sure if this was in agreement or just some kind of punctuation.
‘What are the alternatives and the probability of success?’ I asked as crisply as I could.
This line was straight out of one of my favorite Princely biographies, a Psitek experience of
thirty-nine episodes entitled The Achievements of Prince Garikm that I had lived through
numerous times. Garikm was always snapping it out, or some variation, like the immortal
short form
‘Alternatives! Probabilities!’

‘Without a priest to calculate the probabilities I cannot say exactly, Highness.’
Oh yeah. I’d forgotten that when Garikm said the line, he had about fifty fawning priests
standing by to figure out probabilities. All I had was one Master of Assassins and a lot of
problems. I had also just begun to realise that the ‘biographical’ Psitek experiences were
probably a load of crap. At least none of them ever showed Princes just killing each other or
organizing assassinations. It was all formal duels and clever outmanoeuvering that left one
Prince looking stupid. Not lying headless on the ground with a burning wound where their
neck used to be.

‘Despite the lack of probability analysis, I believe a fast transit to Kwanantil Domain
Naval Academy and entry into the Navy provides the optimal path for your survival.’
‘Right,’ I said. For a moment I adopted my ‘Prince Garikm thinking’ pose, but unlike
when I’d posed in a Psitek simulation, it just felt silly now. Resting your chin on two bunched
fists is pretty unnatural. Instead I paced around my room. I didn’t even notice I was flicking
my fingers nervously until I hit my own leg and flinched.

What the hell was I going to do? Haddad knew far more about my situation than I did,
and obviously had a much better grasp of what could be done. But could I trust him? Maybe
there were some other alternatives, but how could I find out what they were in the twenty-odd
minutes before we got kicked out of the temple? The temple that was the only place I really
knew, though I would never call it home . . .

‘We must move soon, Highness,’ said Haddad as I continued my pacing. I stopped and looked at him. He’d saved me once already, maybe twice.
‘Okay, damn it,’ I said. ‘I’ll join the Navy. So let’s go to Kwanantil Nine.’
I paused, then added, ‘Uh, how do we get there?’
‘I have an idea, Highness,’ replied Haddad. ‘But I am afraid it will not be a comfortable
He quickly outlined his plan, which of course I approved, given that I had no other ideas.
Then he gave me two of his many weapons: a three-shot deintegration wand that went into
two loops on my inside left sleeve, and an egg-shaped phage emitter that I had to initialise
with a lick of my tongue so the Bitek agents inside would not act against me. That sat in the
top of my boot, in a pocket that had always seemed extraneous frippery. My clothes had
many such loops, pockets, and pouches. I had never wondered why they were there before.

‘I am ready,’ I pronounced.
But I wasn’t, not at all.

Sample chapter of Garth Nix's Confusion of princes (2nd part)

This is the second part of the first chapter of the book 'Confusion of Princes' by Gart Nix, the author of Sabriel and the Keys of Kingdom series. All rights belong to him.

Even after I was brought up into consciousness, I was often returned to the dream state in
order to aid recovery from the surgeries that bonded Mektek enhancements to my bone and
Once my organic body met the requirements and the Mektek enhancement was done, I
spent most of my time in the sometimes nightmarish mental space where I learned the
particular Psitek capabilities reserved for Princes, the arts of domination and command the more ordinary techniques of mental communication, shielding, and so forth.
I’m not sure if you can call this a childhood, now that I think about it.

From the age of ten to seventeen, I was fully conscious, being taught more mundane
things by various priests, and I played with holographic friends and the mind-programmed
children of servants. It was always my games we played. From very early on, I knew I was a
Prince, and very special, and in my own mind absolutely certain to rise even higher and
become Emperor in time. Everything reinforced this, and in fact for some time I thought I
was the only Prince in the whole galaxy, a willful misapprehension that persisted to some
degree even after I had been taught that I was one of millions.

This was because even though I had been told of the existence of other Princes, I had not
yet met any. Nor did I know when I was going to, until one day I awoke with the familiar
mental voice of my tutor, Uncle Coleport, whispering in the back of my mind. (I called him
‘Uncle’ because that is the mode of address for male priests. Female ones are called ‘Aunt,’
but of course there is no familial relationship.)

:Prince Khemri. This is the day of your investiture, the
sixteenth anniversary of your selection. Your Master of
Assassins awaits an audience:

I opened my eyes and smiled. It was the first time in my life that I had been addressed
not as ‘Prince Candidate,’ but ‘Prince.’ My remaking and training was complete. I would
commandeer a sleek, deadly warship, probably a Verrent corvette or something similar, and go out into the Empire and immediately make my mark.
Or so I thought.

As I was dressed by my valet, a mind-programmed thrall, I reviewed what I knew about
the investiture of a Prince, which was surprisingly little. The first step was to be assigned a
personal court, and the most important member of that court was the Master of Assassins. He
or she was directly assigned by the Imperial Mind and so could be entirely trusted. My
Master of Assassins would help me select my other staff and vet them, an essential process. If
a Prince could not depend upon their court, they would not long survive.

I met my Master of Assassins in one of the temple’s reception rooms, a chamber of
pleasant waterfalls paying homage to a past Emperor’s love of water features. It was a
favored spot for punishment details, and as was often the case, the sound of the falling water
was being suppressed by the work of novices who stood in the pools up to their waists, blue
pulsing in their temples as they flexed their Psitek strength. I had been there once when the
rumble of a waterfall suddenly cut in, and I saw an unconscious novice float by and be
sucked under where the flowing river met a bulkhead. The priests also undergo harsh
training, sometimes with fatal results.

:My name is Haddad <<identifier>>. I am sent by the
<<Sigil of the Imperial Mind>> to serve you, Prince

Haddad was also a priest. All the assassins are priests of the Emperor in Hier Aspect of
the Shadowed Blade. Unlike most of the other Aspects, assassins do not specialise in any one
of the trinity of Imperial techs; they are generalists who use all techs in the service of their

:Greetings, Uncle Haddad. I accept you, and bind you to my

‘Good, Highness,’ said Haddad. ‘Speak aloud. What weapons are you carrying?’
‘None,’ I replied. I was surprised. ‘We are in a temple—’
‘We are in a reception room of a temple, Highness,’ said Haddad. ‘It is not covered by
the general truce. Have the priests here trained you with Bitek weapons?’
‘No. . . .’
‘Any weapons?’
‘Sword and dagger, hand blaster, nerve-lash, the basics for dueling,’ I said. Haddad was
looking around, moving about me, an ovoid instrument that I did not recognise in his hand. I
presumed it was some kind of weapon.

For the first time in my life, I was becoming nervous, and already the euphoria of
becoming a Prince was fading, to be replaced by an emotion that I had never really felt before
and was slow to understand.

‘Slowly back away toward the inner door, Highness,’ said Haddad. He had stopped
circling and was now intent on one of the waterfalls, watching the novice who stood there,
supposedly shielding us from the noise of falling water.

I hesitated for a moment. Now that I was finally a Prince, I was reluctant to take any
more orders from a priest. But there was something in Haddad’s voice, and after all, he was
my Master of Assassins. . . . I started to retreat toward the inner door that led into the temple

The novice in the closest waterfall moved. His hand came out from under a sodden robe,
ready to throw a small silver box. But before it left his hand, Haddad fired his weapon. A
blindingly bright bolt of energy shot across the chamber, shearing the novice in half.
‘Back!’ shouted Haddad as I stood watching in disbelief, still several feet from the door.
His voice cut through even the sudden roar of the waterfall. ‘Back!’
The small silver box rose from the bloodied water to hang in the air, and it opened like a
flower to reveal a central stamen of pulsing red that was pointed directly at me. Haddad fired
again, but the box jinked away, and the energy bolt missed it by a hair.

I turned and dived for the door, a door that exploded in front of me as the silver box
delivered its payload directly above my head. I rolled away from the smoking, molten
remains of the doorway and twisted around, thinking that I would see the silver box
reorienting itself for another attack.
Instead I saw it struck by Haddad’s third shot, my additional eyelids and visual filtering
automatically adjusting so that I was not blinded forever by the brilliance of the nanofusion
implosion as the box’s power plant overloaded.

Haddad picked me up, and together we ran to one of the other doors and entered the
temple. A Priest of the Aspect of the Mending Hand coming the other way bent his head to
me before leading his gang of acolytes onward to repair the damage caused by the would-be

‘How did . . . who would . . .’ I started to say, the words
I wanted not coming readily to my tongue despite the efforts of internal autonomous
systems that were trying to steady my heartbeat and restore calm.

‘We will talk in your quarters, Highness,’ replied Haddad. ‘They are safe. For now.’
My chambers in the temple were one of the things I was looking forward to leaving
behind. Already in my imagination I had planned far more extensive and luxurious
accommodations. I knew as a Prince I could commandeer such things, provided they were not
already the property of another Prince or protected under the authority of a Prince, a temple,
or the Emperor Hierself.

But I was glad to enter the simple living chamber that day. I sat down in the single chair
as Haddad stood before me, and we both looked at each other, though of course Haddad kept
his eyes down, as was only proper.

I had not seen an assassin before, or at least had not recognised any, for Haddad looked
no different from any other priest. The priests of each Aspect had their own distinctive formal
robes, but they rarely dressed in them, usually adopting simple tan-coloured robes or
shipsuits, one-piece coveralls like the one Haddad wore now.

He was tall and spare of frame, and looked to be around forty or fifty years old. His skin
was lighter than my own, and more yellow than brown. His head was shaved, to reveal the
transparent panels that ran from his temple to the back of his ear, the mark of a full priest. I
could see the sheen of blue cooling liquid pumping around his brain, indicating that he had
some Psitek activity running, though I could detect nothing with my own Psitek abilities. He
had one natural eye, the iris a deep brown colour, and one Bitek replacement, which was
entirely green, without a pupil, and obviously specialised, but I did not know its type or

I wondered what he thought of me and how I measured up. He would have served
Princes before me, as assassins were transferred by the Emperor every ten years. Haddad
might well have been Master to other newly hatched Princes about to embark on their careers.
I was taller, faster, and stronger than the priests, the novices, and the mind-programmed
servants I had lived among, but now a faint shadow of doubt crept in as Haddad stood before
me. Perhaps I was not much of a Prince. Maybe I would be not quite as fast, or strong, or tall
as the others. I might even be ugly, for I had the face I was born to have, Princes being
forbidden to change their appearance, apart from enhancements or necessary repair. I had
never thought of this, because I had never shared the company of equals, or even those who might venture an unbiased opinion.

:What was that silver box . . .:
I began to send, but Haddad interrupted.
:Mindspeech not recommended:
‘There are too many people within the temple and the outer grounds who can eavesdrop
on mindspeech in close proximity,’ said Haddad. ‘I am blanking the aural receptors and other
devices in the room, so it is best to speak aloud.’

‘Good,’ I said, trying to act as if I was in command and Haddad was acting on my
instructions. But it did not sound like that, even to me.
‘You did well to evade the flower-trap’s firebeam, Highness,’ said Haddad. ‘However,
you must take it as a warning of things to come. A Prince or number of Princes are aware that
you have ascended, and they seek to remove you before you become even a potential threat.’
‘What? Already?’ I asked. While I knew about competition between Princes, at this stage
I thought it was more chivalrous and I had no idea it was so . . . well . . . lethal. ‘I haven’t
done anything yet! I haven’t even connected to the Imperial Mind!’

‘It is because you have not yet connected to the Mind,’ said Haddad. ‘If successfully
killed now, you are permanently removed, with no chance of rebirth. One fewer Prince to
contend with, and the Emperor’s abdication is only two years away.’
‘That makes it even more foolish of them,’ I said. ‘When I become Emperor, I certainly
won’t forget or forgive these attempts on my life!’

Haddad didn’t even blink at this remarkably naive assertion.
‘I suspect they do not recognise your true potential at this stage, Highness,’ said Haddad.
‘It is simply a common and accepted strategy to remove any newly ascended Prince
candidates as an opportunity kill.’

‘It’s a pathetic strategy,’ I muttered. ‘I wouldn’t do it. Where’s the honour in taking out a
new Prince?’
Haddad was silent, no doubt thinking that either I was a soft idiot or I would soon change
my tune.
For my part, I was bottling up a sudden rage at the priests who hadn’t told me that I
might be assassinated straightaway and had neglected to inform me that the Emperor’s
abdication was so close. I was aware that the Emperor abdicated every twenty years, and one
of the ten million Princes of the Empire would ascend the throne. But I did not know how this
came about, though I presumed the existing Emperor chose their heir, and I had not known
the next such abdication and ascension was only two years away. I would have to work fast to
do some glorious deeds and make myself known so the Emperor would choose me to be hier
successor. Which was annoying, since I wanted to just look around the Empire a bit first, in
my own ship. Though I supposed some adventures might come my way in any case.

‘The priests should have told me about all this,’ I said after a few moments of silence.
‘It is an intentional part of your education, or lack of education, Highness,’ said Haddad.
‘The winnowing begins as soon as you are made a Prince. Approximately thirty-two
percent of all ascending Prince candidates do not last past the first hour out of their childhood

A sample chapter of Garth Nix's Confusion of Princes

This is a sample of Confusion of Princes a book written by Australian author Garth Nix. The rights belong to him and to the publisher Allen&Unwin. This is just the first chapter, the book will be out in April 2012.
I divided the chapter into 3 pieces. It makes it easier to read it.
Part 1

Chapter One

I HAVE DIED THREE times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the
old Earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time.
This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.
My name is Khemri, though this is not the name my parents gave me. I do not know who
my parents are, and never will, for I was taken from them as a baby.

This is one of the secrets the Empire keeps well. No Prince may ever know his or her
parents, or the world of their birth. Even trying to find out is forbidden, which just about
sums up the paradox of being a Prince. We have vast power and seemingly limitless
authority, except when we try to exercise that power or authority beyond the bounds that have
been set for us.
It’s still about a million times better than being an ordinary Imperial subject, mind you. It
just isn’t everything that I thought it was going to be when I was a child, a Prince candidate
being carefully raised in considerable ignorance in my remote temple.

So I’m one of the ten million Princes who rule the Empire, the largest political entity in
recorded history or current knowledge. The Empire extends across a vast swath of the galaxy,
encompassing more than seventeen million systems, tens of millions of inhabited worlds, and
trillions of sentient subjects, most of them humans of old Earth stock.
It is Imperial policy that all these mostly planet-bound yokel types know as little as
possible about the apparently godlike beings who rule them. Even our enemies—the alien
Sad-Eyes, the enigmatic Deaders, and the Naknuk rebels—know more of us than our own

The ordinary folk think we’re immortal. Which is natural enough when they typically
have something like their grandfather’s grandfather’s grandmother’s nice commemorative
stereosculpture of a good-looking young Prince on the family mantelpiece and then they see
the same Prince handing out Grower of the Month awards at the annual harvest festival or
It would be the same Prince too, because while we’re not actually immortal, if we get
killed we do mostly get reborn into an identical adult body. It’s a technical difference, I

And it’s only mostly reborn. Our enemies know that we do not always come back from
the dead. To have died three times like me is no big deal for a Prince of the Empire. There are
others who have died nine, twelve, twenty times and still walk among our ranks. There are
even Princely societies where you have to have died a certain number of times to join. Like
the Nine Death Lifers. Bunch of idiots if you ask me. All suicidal for eight deaths and then
supercautious afterward? Who’d want to join that society?
Particularly since you never know if you are going to be reborn. It’s up to the Emperor,
and every now and then a dead Prince’s name just vanishes from the lists without
explanation, and if you’re dumb enough to make inquiries, you meet a lot of blank-eyed
priests who don’t know anything and a weird kind of absence of anything about that dead
Prince if you directly ask the Imperial Mind.

But before I get into my whole life story and all, let me take you through the bare facts of
my childhood. I am presuming you’re not an Imperial Prince, which you’d better not be or
I’ll have wasted all the careful preparations that are supposed to make this record detonate
with a ridiculously large antimatter explosion if it is accessed by any kind of Princely sensory
I guess not recording it in the first place would be more secure. But I have my reasons.

So. I would have been close to a year old when I was taken from my parents. Though I
have no recollection of my early life, it is likely that I was born on a typical Imperial world of
the outer quadrants, a planet once marginal for human life but long since remade by the
trinity of Imperial technology: the machines of Mektek, the biological agents and life-forms
of Bitek, and the wide-ranging and powerful mental forces of Psitek.

This is important, because if there’s anything that makes the Empire what it has become,
it is these three teks. Sure, the Sad-Eyes have better Psitek, but then we kick their parasitical
little guts in with Mektek and Bitek. The Naknuks have taken Bitek further than we have, so
we do them in with Psitek and Mektek.
The Deaders . . . it’s a bit hard to know exactly what their primary tek is since they
always blow themselves up when they’re beaten, but certainly the trinity of teks works
against them as well.

All Imperial tek is managed and controlled by priests, who are divided into orders that
worship different Aspects of the Emperor. They serve Princes in all technical roles, but it’s
worth remembering that they also get orders directly from the Imperial Mind. Princes forget
that sometimes, usually to their cost.

Okay, where was I? Getting taken from my parents. Here we go.
On a day like any other day, my parents would have had no knowledge that by nightfall
their infant son would be gone forever.
The first sign would have been a gathering darkness, a vast shadow too sharp edged to be
a cloud. Looking up, they would have seen an Imperial battleship glide across their sky, an
enormous, jagged flying mountain of rock dotted with structures built to the fashions and
whims of the Prince in command.
Under the shadow of the ship, bright spots of light would suddenly spark, thousands and
thousands of them, that a moment later would fall like brilliant rain.

They would know then, I suppose, my parents of long ago. Imperial battleships do not
drop thousands of mekbi troopers on rural villages without reason.
Sometimes I wonder what my parents did as the first wave of troopers descended, and
the wasp-ships launched as well, spiraling down to establish a perimeter to make sure no one
tried to evade the opportunity of giving their children to the Empire.

I suppose they did nothing, for nothing could be done. But unlike most other Princes, I
know something about ordinary children. I have seen parents and their children together
when they are not awed or terrified by the presence of a Prince. So I know that the bond
between them is stronger than Princes— who have no parents and are not allowed to have
children—can imagine. So perhaps they tried to escape, desperation driving them to flee or

But with a perimeter established and search squads armed with advanced scanning tek,
there could be no hope of evasion. My parents must have eventually joined the lines of
people waiting for the troopers to check everyone against the census while the Priests of the
Aspect of the Inquiring Intelligence mentally investigated any anomalies. Maybe there was a
Sad-Eye infiltrator lurking inside a host body, or a Naknuk spy, or some small domestic
criminal or terrorist, but these would be rare excitements. Mostly it would be routine.

Then, finally, at the head of the line, my parents would meet the Priests of the Aspect of
the Weighty Decision Maker, priests with glittering eyes, blue fluid swirling behind the
transparent panels in their shaven skulls, all attention focused on the approaching couple and
their child.
The genetic testing would have taken only a few minutes, using Bitek viral assays and
ultrascopic Psitek scan. Then the terrible news, presented as an opportunity for joy and
delight in being able to serve the Empire.

‘Your child is accepted as a Prince candidate.’

Sometimes I think about what it must have been like for my parents to hear those words.
I also wonder what choice they made next, for the Empire in its great compassion does allow
such parents one choice.
Not to keep the child, of course. The Empire needs Princes and so must take the
candidates. But it does allow the parents some small mercy. They can be made to forget they
ever had that child, their memories thoughtfully rearranged by the Priests of the Aspect of the
Emperor’s Loving Heart, before they are physically relocated to another world to begin anew.
Or they can choose death. As with all Imperial justice, this is done on the spot. It would
be fast, faster than they might expect. Mekbi troopers stand behind the parents when they
state their choice. Accelerated muscles and monofilament blades act upon the mental
command of the presiding Prince, and it is all over in a moment.

I do not think of my parents often, for there is no point. But I do have some reason to
hope that they chose memory erasure and a new start, and that somewhere out among the farflung
stars they live still and have new children. Children who were not taken away to be
made into Princes.

That is how I became a Prince candidate of the Empire and embarked on my candidacy,
being shipped from temple to temple as each stage of my remaking was successfully
For Princes are made, not born. The genetic testing is merely to see if we have the
potential for all the meddling that is to come, and a reasonable probability of surviving it.

I don’t really remember the first decade of my candidacy. I only know what I was told
about it later. For many years I was kept in a dream state, in a bath of Bitek gloop, my mind
directly stimulated with educational and developmental programming, while viruses rewrote
my DNA and changed and improved every part of my body.