Wizard of the winds

Allan Cole

Part One When The Gods Slept



The villagers fear him.

They draw lots each day to see who must fill his beggar's bowl.

The loser creeps up the hill trembling and clutching a talisman. The stranger knows they fear the evil eye so he doesn't look when the approach is made. He makes no sound or movement until the deed is done and the villager flees as if there were a dervish at his heels.

The villagers think the stranger is a mad priest and curse the day he came to hide in these hills.

He's not mad and he is no priest. But he lets them believe what they like. If his true identity were revealed the village treasury would soon be bursting with gold. For the stranger is a fugitive from the King. Safar Timura, who was once Grand Wazier to King Protarus, is hunted by him now.

They were blood oath brothers. Safar sat by his friend's throne and gave him counsel and exorcised the devils troubling his sleep. Several times he saved the King's life. He was rewarded with lands and palaces and jewels and more honors than most men have ever dreamed.

When the history of King Protarus is written they'll say it was Lord Timura who betrayed him. They'll say Safar gambled and lost all for love.

To the first he pleads innocent. It's Safar's view it was the King who betrayed him. As for the second he admits guilt. And it is for that crime Protarus wants his head. But for the King's offense Safar demands more.

And he will have his paymentif the king doesn't catch him first.

Safar can see his enemy's city from his lonely post. At night, under the swirling Demon Moon, he can see the lights of Zanzair blur the stars. See the smoke from the foundries and kitchens rise up each morning to haze the day. And he can see the King's Grand Palace quite clearly, its windows a rosy glow in the dawn.

He models the palace in clay of the purest whiteskillfully forming the towers between wet palms, etching the designs on the parapets with his silver witch's knife. He whispers potter's spells as he shapes the domes and pillars. Breathing his hate into the clay.

At night he wraps the model in wet leaves and sets it aside to await the new day. He empties the beggar's bowl, then wraps himself against the chill in a black mourning cloak. At dawn he begins anew.

When the palace is done and the great spell is cast Safar Timura's revenge will be complete.

Then he'll depart that lonely hill. He'll flee across deserts and grasslands and wide rocky plains to the mountains of his birth.

Where the snowy passes carry the high caravans to clear horizons.

The place he should never have left.

The place where this tale begins.



It was a time when the world was large and dreams were small. Few ships strayed from the four great turtles who bore the mountains and plains across the seas. Humankind and demonkind alike brooded under the faded banners of kings who'd ruled too long. Borders were no more distant than a fast march could secure. All who dwelt beyond huddled in armed settlements to keep thieves and beasts at bay.

It was an uneasy time, a time crying out for change. Royal wizards studied the stars for signs to reassure their masters. Subjects gathered in secret to implore the gods to rid them of those same masters.

But the gods gave no clue of their intentions. The starry wheel where the gods slept in their ten holy realms churned onward year after year, heedless to all pleas.

Then the portent came. It was not from the slumbering gods but from the molten depths of the world itself. And it was a boy, not a master wizard, who first marked the sign.

That boy was Safar Timura.

He lived in the land known as Esmir, the Turtle of The Middle Seas. It was a land where demons faced humans across the Forbidden Desert. Only an ancient curse and constant internal warfare kept those ancestral enemies from overrunning and slaughtering the other.

In the demon city of Zanzair, however, King Manacia and his sorcerers plotted and waited for the right moment. Although humans were greater in number, Manacia knew their magic was weak and their leaders cowardly. And he yearned for the day when he'd make their corpses a staircase to a grander throne.

To achieve his dreams he pored over ancient maps and tomes and consulted many oracles. Then he created the greatest oracle of all, sacrificing five thousand human slaves in the process.


The human head was mounted on a metal post in the center of Manacia's courtroom. The eyes were closed. The mouth slack. The skin ghastly.

Manacia cast his most powerful spell and then commanded: Speak, O Brother of the Shades. What is the key to my heart's desire? What road do I take, what passage do I seek, to win the throne of the King of Kings?'

The head's eyes came open, blazing in hate and agony. Stiff lips formed a word:

'Kyrania, the head croaked, sounding like an old raven with its mouth full of gore.

'What place is that? the king demanded.

'Kyrania, the head croaked again.

The whole court looked on, demon jaws parting in anticipation, as the king jabbed a long sharp talon at an ancient wall map of the human lands.

'Where do I find this… Kyrania? he asked.

'The Valley of the Clouds, the head answered. And then its eyes dulled and its mouth sagged back into death.

'Speak! the king ordered, casting another mighty spell. But it was no use. The oracle was emptied of its power.

The Demon King turned to his assembled wizards and advisors. Find me this place, he thundered. Find me this Kyrania!…

'…This Valley of the Clouds!'


A thousand miles distant Safar Timura and his people toiled the land and tended their flocks in relative peace. They lived high above the troubles of the world and had grown to think they were of small concern.

Their valley was so remote it appeared on few maps. And those were jealously held by the merchant princes

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