“Shroud a light in a blanket, it must start a fire…Water speaks truth child. Here, perhaps, a thorn bush might sprout, that could have grown, but for carelessness. Yet for want of this moisture, somewhere else, another useful plant withers. A seed bears no harvest, and a child perhaps, starves for the lack of its sustenance. That death in turn may be the one thing that brings on the ruin of a tribe. Worse than that, maybe, if the lost child’s destiny was fated. The waste of that life might perhaps come to open the rift that unravels the world.”
One seemingly insignificant life can mean everything, in “Child of Prophecy”, a heart-breaking yet hopeful approximately 30-page short story, set in the universe of Janny Wurts’ main series, “The Wars of Light and Shadow”.
This story is available to be purchased online, only on the author’s website, as an ebook.
A young woman’s courage is put to the test, in this tale of predestination, prophecy, and overcoming the odds stacked against you, to attempt to forge a brighter future.
Child trafficking and prostitution plague our present day world, and it also is a detestable scourge in the world of Athera that the author has created.
Approximately five hundred years before the events of “Curse of the Mistwraith”, the first book in the main “Wars of Light and Shadow” series, the reader is brought to the mean streets of Durn.
There, poor Meiglin has been raised in a brothel, her mother a prostitute, earning her keep for both herself and her daughter. Meiglin’s mother is getting past prime age for selling her charms, and sadly, it’s Meiglin’s turn to enter the world’s oldest profession.
Meiglin, being groomed for the same future as her mother, at fourteen years old, will soon no longer be permitted to only be a servant in the bawdyhouse, housekeeping, running minor errands and the like. Disgustingly, and predictably, the time has come for her to be a courtesan as well, whether she wants to or not.
“Her future had been in plain sight all along, her prospects no better than the other whores’ daughters born comely enough for the house. Tomorrow she would have cream for her oatmeal, to fill out her coltish frame. She would no longer wash dishes or scrub soiled linen. By the time the new gown had been made to measure, her chapped hands would be soft, and her lips would be painted. She would be presented as the new virgin jewel, and the clients would do more than wink.”
But Meiglin’s mother plans to rescue her daughter from a doomed existence as a prostitute. Meiglin’s mother has concealed Meiglin’s true heritage, in order to protect her. For although Townborn, Meiglin has grown up believing she’s the product of her mother’s coupling with a random client. That is not the truth.
In reality, Meiglin is the legitimate heir, conceived in wedlock of her mother to a Clanborn lord, Egan s’Deineval. Her lineage would get her killed, had people known. This is due to the recent uprising against the High Kings, and their feal clanborn vassals. Since the revolt, a heavy bounty lying on the heads of the Clanborn, courtesy of the town mayors, who inspire bands of cutthroats to assassinate the Clanborn.
But now the time has come for Meiglin to display the fortitude and resourcefulness of the clanborn, and flee out into the unknown, before she can be either marked for death by those hunting the clanborn, or initiated into a life of prostitution. How will Meiglin survive, in the cold, with just the clothes on her back, no friends, family, or money to speak of, in danger due to her bloodline, that she knew nothing about until that day?
As the Mistwraith begins to cast its inevitable shadow over the land, a young woman, haunted by prophetic dreams, will fight for survival, and play a role in world events beyond what she could ever have imagined.
Who could help but cheer and feel anguish for the fate of a teenage girl, bereft of kin and any material possessions, cast out into the world, the potential target of assassins, trying to abscond from the terrible fate that would condemn her to exploitation, and despair? Meiglin is a protagonist that anyone can care about. Her pluck, empathy, bravery in the face of dread, will pull at the reader’s heartstrings.
Secondary characters such as Tawbas, were very well-drawn, and the appearance of the rivalry sorcery groups, the Fellowship and the Koriathain, brings some surprising and somewhat sinister connotations and outcomes.
Virtuoso writer Wurts is extremely adroit at packing a lot of worldbuilding and detail in just a few pages. The author paints the bleak picture of a land gripped by somewhat lawlessness, internal squabbling, rumour, confusion, and disruption in the chaos of the Mistwraith’s incursion, while noble forces fighting to resist the geas, are pitifully cut down. Yet in all of that, gleams flickers of hope, for future generations born to restore order, and fight back effectively against the Mistwraith.
As the Mistwraith snatches the natural light of the sky, in the impending darkness, there is a valiant resistance by human kind, even as the powerful Paravians, such as the unicorns and their centaur guardians, begin to fall, and vanish from the lands inhabited by mortals.
In terms of themes, besides the horrors of child and adult exploitation, a view of the deep-seeded and complicated division between the human factions in this time of strife, internally, and against the Mistwraith, is provided. Romance, passion, love, loss, prognostication, and destiny, are also important themes in the book.
With her usual consummate storytelling skill, dexterous, beautiful, enchanting prose that raises the standard for writing fantasy to the highest bar, Wurts provides a powerful, intense, and haunting short story that serves as an excellent companion, or introduction, for the immense world she has created for her “Wars of Light and Shadow” series.
“Child of Prophecy” is appropriate for novice readers to the “War of Light and Shadow” series. Reading this short fiction will give a peak into the writer’s definitive and superlative authorial voice, otherworldly delicious prose, and hint at the enormity and depth of the main series.