Author's note: Sorry for those of you who have been reading and reviewing-I am extremely short on time lately. I still promise to review all those who review mine-it just might take a while. I'm in a bit of a financial mess. This one, I think, isn't as good as the previous two.

The Last Good Kingdom

There once was a man who called himself Matthis, who was a great scholar and had no small knowledge of magic. From the days of his youth he immersed himself in books, particularly those pertaining to history. He became known across the world as a man of wisdom.

There came a day when the land in which Matthis lived faced a great crisis. The world, it seemed, was under siege by a cruel king who wore a black crown, and the kingdom in which Matthis lived was to be the next to face invasion. Matthis was a scholar, not a warrior, and though he held his kingdom in high esteem, he knew that it could not help but fall before the black crowned king.

And so, as the drums of war sounded, Matthis packed up what books he could carry, and with his considerable wealth arranged for transportation of his family, so that they might escape the war. His students, who loved Matthis very much and whom were instilled with an intense desire to learn, followed him on foot. Together, they numbered nearly twenty.

There were few places that they might flee to. Many lands and kingdoms had been taken by the cruel and conquering king. The only land known to be safe, as of yet, was a large kingdom ruled over by a council of clever merchants. Though not warlike, the people of the kingdom were crafty, and they were protected by mountains and other hazardous terrain through which a marching army would falter. The swiftest route to this kingdom was a trek through a treacherous desert. In preparation, Matthis filled as many casks of water as he could to bring with him.

When the grassland through which they traveled gave way to rock and eventually sand, Matthis and his family looked back on the kingdom which they were to leave behind. In the twilight, they thought they could see the dim glow of immense fires, and they wept at the thought of the destruction that those they had left behind must face.

The desert baked them during the day and froze them during the night, the stars were strange and unfamiliar and difficult to navigate by, and at no point did they ever come across an oasis. After only a month, Matthis and his followers had run out of water, and all faced a terrible death.

One day, however, a man dressed in expensive red silks appeared out of the desert sands, walking with bare feet over the incredibly hot ground. He did not seem surprised at all to find other people in the desert, and soon revealed himself as a magician. He claimed, however, that he was utterly lost, having been struck blind and cast into the desert by a great warrior, and indeed, a red silk bandana covered his eyes.

"I understand that you are in a dire situation," said the man in red, "And I know you, Matthis, and I know of your magic. I will teach you a small charm to bring water from the sand if you will make me a trade."

"What must I trade you?" asked Matthis, wary of the man in red. He felt as if he had seen this magician somewhere before, a long time ago.

"Your eyes," said the Red Wizard, "I would like your eyes."

Matthis, thinking this a terrible price but unwilling to watch his family and his students suffer and die before him, allowed the magician to pluck the eyes from his head, surprisingly painlessly. The Red Wizard placed them in the empty sockets beneath his bandana, and within an hour he had regained his sight. In return, he taught Matthis the incantations and words needed to make water bubble forth from the sand.

Matthis, now blind, still led his followers through the desert, with the man in red trailing behind them. It took many years of suffering, and the journey was riddled with loss and pain, but eventually Matthis, his wife, four of his students and the magician came across land that was not all hot sand and stone, land in which the grass grew, land in which they found roads that led to vibrant towns and cities.

"We have made it," said Matthis, as his students described to him the glorious, relieving sights they saw before them. "We have made it to perhaps the last free kingdom in the world."

"Yes," said the Red Wizard, as the small group celebrated their good fortune and escape from the black-crowned man. "I think I will enjoy myself here."