The boy was running for his life.

His bare feet pounded muddy pathways as he desperately tried to elude his pursuer. The boy's fragile chest heaved for air and his throat was raw, with a taste like blood assaulting his senses. Behind him the heavy breathing of his hunter grew ever closer and the terrified youngster increased his frantic pace.

The boy began to sob uncontrollably as he ran, gasping sobs racking his lungs and pulling away valuable breath. Tears streamed down his cheeks, flowing into fierce trickles of sweat. Then he fell, his limbs sprawling in muddy mire...

A smile flickered sadistically across the face of a woman watching the chase - the younger boy was caught. She considered the pursuit as an amusement, a plaything. Once all the inhabitants of this wretched world had been her playthings, for the watching woman was Xanxia, Queen of Zanak. No velvet glove had softened the blows struck by her iron-fisted monarchy of terror, crushing all spirit or hope from her subjects.

But the once mighty Queen was now merely a memory on Zanak. Her reign was already becoming a black shadow over the planet's past, the stuff of legend. Still Xanxia lived on to plot and scheme, alone in her rotting royal residence high in the mountains above Zanak's largest settlement.

The tyrant ruler turned away from the window, instantly forgetting the miniature drama being played out below. She had more important things to do - a final ploy to play in her duel with that unbeatable foe, death. Summoning the last vestiges of her failing strength, she activated a control on a wall of complex circuitry. An invisible beam was thrown up into the heavens, like a grasping talon of death.

The Queen stumbled to her throne and collapsed into its cobwebbed elegance. She closed her eyes and breathed outwards with a sound like the rattling of old bones...

The younger boy closed his eyes tightly, waiting for the inevitable blows. But the blows did not come - instead he heard a gasp from his tormentor and felt the grip on his garments slacken. The boy took his chance and was away and running before his hunter even realised. Only when the lad was well away did he look back over his shoulder at what had distracted his pursuer.

A huge silver vessel was falling from the sky, flames and smoke pouring out behind it. The craft plunged across the dusky horizon into the mountain range overlooking the settlement. The darkness was suddenly ablaze with a light so bright the boy had to look away for a moment. Then came a great crashing like thunder booming back and forth across the plain, echoing from mountain to mountain.

Balaton clasped his hands over his ears and ran home, trying to block out this unworldly wail of death and destruction. But the echoes of this event would resound far beyond this night...

Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | Epilogue