(a play)

The first speech of the wizard runs thusly, spoken sotto voce from the wings:

"Lo! 'Tis thus upon the plain! Stormclouds rake the land, now, and lightning spits between viper teeth! There, there, where I look, men shrink from the italicized thunder! Babes crawl through mud, mothers bleed milk, old grand-dames struggle up the sides of hills stabbing the frozen streets with sharpened canes! Tall buildings die from the cold! Fire snakes through the alleys and into the opened windows of every house!"

This is his speech of triumph, inauspiciously placed at the beginning of the play. It is the first we see of Mauvignon, the tiny villa in the bowl of the great valley, to which such unmeasurable sorrow is to come. There, in the meanest and narrowest of streets, sits the dusty, half-starved child who all too soon will become the hero of his people. And above it all, crouching in the lee of a boulder at the edge of a high cliff overlooking the villa, is the wizard Ash-Tok. Through the graphite-grey whiskers of his long moustache, he cheers the flood of darkness and misery that pours across the valley. But it is too soon in the play for triumph to be maintained. It is, in truth, his peak, the closest he comes to definitive satisfaction. It is close enough, be sure. The horrors that flew from that cursed word, the El-Ahl Majj, or unspoken, when Ash-Tok in the blindness of his greed gave it voice!
In the next scene, Sarane, the forester, is sitting on a fallen sapling bemoaning his fate:

"Alas, alas! The trees are all blasted to the ground by lightning! The people flee the cities, leaving the penniless, elderly, pregnant, children! My own wife and child lie in the streets, without food for three days, while I fell the last of the forest for what few pennies I can still command! Ash, ash, all is ashes."

The child, of course, is Duinn, Fledgling, heir to a great destiny he must undertake to bear, though it break him. So unprepared--young, ravenous with hunger, innocent entirely of the machinations of evil, unskilled in the ways of the sword and of magic. Indeed, it seems absurd: against the ultimate treachery, the coldest of deeds, the curse of El-Ahl Majj, to send this--this tiny sparrow? And yet, fate moves with such mystery as to shame the subtleties of Ash-Tok. And even now, within the breast of the child, there burns a thin, fierce flame that will not go out.

Okay, and then everything goes kablooey.