Once upon a time, not long ago and not far away, there was a boy, no longer a child and not yet a man, who lived in the Enchanted City. . . .
The boy, Scarboy, and his younger brother, Little Child, were not like the other children in the city. Yesterday, their mother had died, and they had immediately been taken into custody by the Enchanter’s men. Rumor said that the Enchanter kept orphans to stoke the huge fires that burned deep in the hold of Dagoda, the temple where the Enchanter lived and ruled.
A Burner, one of the secret police who carried out the Enchanter’s bidding, had brought the boys to the Burning Place, a vast square of ashes. There they would watch the funeral ceremonies for their mother, whose body rested on an ornate bier in the middle of the field.
The thought of his mother choked the older boy. She had been so beautiful, as beautiful as the daughter of a king.
“There is a King,” his mother had always insisted. “A real King.” She believed the ancient
tales even though signs were posted all over Enchanted City.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A KING. DEATH TO PRETENDERS.
But his mother had become ill, as so many did in the foul air of Enchanted City. In the last days before she died, she slipped in and out of the fever— often telling Scarboy the ancient tales from her childhood.
“Once a great King ruled our city,” she had said. “All the people thought him beautiful and served him willingly. But the Enchanter came and deceived the people and put a spell on the city. The King was exiled. Those who would find him must hunt for him in the place where trees grow.”’
Oo-mb-pha . . . Oo-mb-pha . . . Oo-mb-pha-din—the death drums interrupted the boy’s memories. Now he heard the ceremonial bells sewed to the hem of the Fire Priests’ robes. He heard the mourners’ chants… [Tales of the Kingdom The Enchanted City]