A simple fisherman’s life was not in the cards for young Raftennon. The wonders of the Arcane Arts drew him in. He devoted his life to them, mastered their secrets. Now he is deemed one of the most powerful mages in history.
The sacrifices he made to attain his strength did not seem too much to bear—until she decided payment was due. The cost will be high and he will have no choice but to suffer the consequences.
Will he be ready for what is to come?
Can he survive what is demanded of him?
Published by Lupyne Books
Paperback (Nov. 14, 2015) — 310 Pages — ISBN: 978-0-9949314-0-5
Kindle E-book (Nov. 13, 2015) — 900 KB, 292 Pages — ISBN: 978-0-9949314-1-2
Other E-book (Nov. 13, 2015) — 900 KB, 292 Page — ISBN: 978-0-9949314-2-9
Lightning flashed, obliterating the sunshine that strove to enter the smoke-filled room. A young man’s scream pierced through the clattering of falling books and overturned chairs. Blood splattered in an arc toward one wall.
“Where is he?” Caelynn asked. There were five other spellcasters clustered around her just inside the entrance to the large room.
“Precisely where I hit him,” Grynvellon replied, his hand still extended forward. Slender tendrils of smoke rose from his fingers, where the bolts of lightning had erupted to smash into the intruder.
The vapour cloud concealing much in the room drifted to the ceiling, gradually revealing the result of the mage’s attack. A man clad in black, his face veiled in the same dark fabric that covered the rest of his body, stood tall, a long slender blade in each hand. Everyone present in the room took in a quick breath, their eyes widening at the impossibility.
“Your spell seems to have failed.” Sevellen stared in astonishment, not believing he would ever utter those words in regard to the other man’s ability to handle the magic arts.
Daenar ignored the exchange between those five huddled by the door. He flung the now dead man off his chest, his previous screams still ringing in the spellcaster’s ears. The poor fellow’s blood soaked the floor, seeping from the long gash opened by the assailant’s sword. He had been the closest thing the mage could grab to shield himself. Now, he was just in the way.
As soon as his hands were empty, Daenar raised his right, manipulated the needed components with his left and chanted strange words. A fireball shot from the palm of his outstretched hand and slammed into the stranger. The flames engulfed his assailant, once again hiding him from sight.
Chaos continued its reign as the man burned in the centre of the room. The five spellcasters near the door took a few more steps into the chamber, fanning out as they went. Four young acolytes wailed, as they had since the attack started, and scampered about in fear, not knowing where to go to avoid the conflict. Their eyes kept flicking to their two comrades who had already fallen. Daenar overlooked their panic and stared at the blaze, preparing himself as his brothers and sister no doubt were doing.
The fire soon subsided to reveal what the mages feared. The intruder still stood, unaffected by the magic that should have finished him.
“What do you want?” Grynvellon asked.
The veiled figure lifted one sword and pointed it at Daenar. The lone spellcaster sneered, flanked by the two innocents who lost their lives saving his own—though they had not volunteered.
“What has he done?” Grynvellon continued.
Daenar scoffed at the statement. Of course, the pompous Grynvellon would assume the worst of him.
The ebony-clad man remained silent, motionless until he sprang to action. Before anyone else could react, he threw one of his swords at Daenar. It took the mage the length of a short breath to realize he needed to do something. He lunged to the side, raising his left arm to shield his face. The blade embedded in the spellcaster’s forearm, sending searing pain coursing through his entire body. Daenar grimaced as he continued to fall, managing to hold in the scream of agony that begged to pass his lips. When he hit the floor, the stone tiles dislodged the weapon from his arm. Blood gushed from the wound, turning the grey of rock to red.
Daenar’s vision began to fade, but he would have none of that. He covered the gash with his other hand and forced his eyes to lift upward. The assassin was already on the third step of his charge, his other sword raised to finish off his target. Before he halved the distance between them, the dark man staggered as a chair struck him. Daenar darted his eyes to where the projectile came from to witness Grynvellon concentrating, raising another seat to hurl at the interloper.
The warrior in black evaded the second chair, ducking under it with fluidity a cat would envy. He twirled around, flinging his free arm away from his waist. A small blade flipped through the air with such speed none witnessed its trajectory. In the span of a gasp, the hilt protruded from Grynvellon’s stomach. The spellcaster slumped to his knees, both hands around the knife in a vain attempt to keep the blood from flowing.
Daenar took advantage of the distraction and followed Grynvellon’s lead. As his attacker returned his attention to him, the magic-user hurled another projectile. Daenar was more pragmatic than his colleague, and much more callous. The assassin tried to duck under this missile, but its flailing arms and legs proved too much for him to avoid. The startled acolyte slammed into the veiled figure, sending both men tumbling to the floor. Daenar grabbed the other novices, who were even more frantic than before, and magically threw them on top of the tangled pair.
While the stranger struggled to free himself from the human net, Daenar hurried to combine two powders on the stone tile before him and chanted. “Frentalin-malis drenfâllannâs komréllan posteriâs nô ménapôlâs! Hellanân vôrtellôn trennülümâs!”
The tiles beneath the pile cracked, then fell away in a loud crash, taking everyone laying on them to the level below.
“What are you doing?” Ygrett asked, appalled.
“Saving my life,” Daenar responded. “Do not disturb me with inane questions.”
“You sacrifice innocent lives!” she persisted.
“Be content I do not sacrifice yours,” Daenar retorted, returning to the task at hand.
He stood and made his way to the edge of the gaping hole. He leaned over to peer below. Five bodies writhed over crumbled stone, as was expected. Daenar recited his previous spell and mentally lifted a set of shelves lining the wall of the room. He tilted it horizontally so no books would fall off, then floated it over the open space. He stacked two more laden bookcases over this one, just for good measure. Then he sent his makeshift press flying to the storey below. He bent his will to add more momentum to the drop. The wood of the shelves splintered with the impact, but not before the flooring under the struggling bodies gave way, sending everything tumbling another level down.
Daenar stretched himself even further out above the hole and examined his work. This time, there was no movement. The spellcaster moved away from the ravaged edge and headed for the door leading to the stairs.
“Are you satisfied now?” Grynvellon asked through gritted teeth as Ygrett gently pulled the dagger from his stomach.
“Hardly,” Daenar responded, not stopping on his way to the door.
“Let us hope you find what you seek before toppling the rest of the tower around us.”
Daenar ignored him, exiting the room before making his way down two flights of stairs. The pain in his arm reminded him of his wound. He took the cloth belt tied around his waist and bandaged his forearm as best he could with one hand. Ignoring the blood seeping through the fabric to continue trickling down to his fingers, the mage raced through the door he needed to enter the room that no longer had a ceiling—or a floor you could see.
Daenar scampered over the mound of stone and paper. He ignored the outstretched hands protruding from the carnage, motionless. He would find what he sought beneath the debris, not atop it. Using his right hand, which was at the end of his uninjured arm, he grabbed a book and flung it to the side. He disregarded the thump the tome made when it landed and reached for the next volume to fling out of the way.
Two spellcasters appeared in the doorway. They were not present in the upper room during the attack, for Grynvellon, in his infinite wisdom, had dispatched them to find out how the intruder infiltrated the tower. They were surely returning to report what they discovered. One of them indicated the other should do just that while he entered the room.
“What has happened?” the wizard who remained asked as he sidestepped to avoid getting hit by the flying books.
“Ask the Head Mage,” Daenar returned sardonically. When he did not hear the sound of retreating footsteps, he looked up to see the other spellcaster still standing where he was, perplexed. “I have no desire to explain, so if you are desperate for answers, find someone else to bother. If you wish to remain here, you can do so only if you help remove the rubble.”
The mage stood for a few moments before deciding to mount the debris. “The name is Christoffen,” he said as he settled himself to get to work.
“I did not care to know any of you when we first met. I still do not.”
So the two spellcasters dug through the destruction. They used magic to clear the larger pieces of the stone floor too heavy for them to move the conventional way. Christoffen paused every time they uncovered one of the acolytes. His face remained emotionless, save to show the respect given to a colleague who had just passed. Daenar moved the carcasses out of the way, as if they were another slab of rock, so he could continue his work.
The six other mages entered the room as Daenar removed the last acolyte from the wreckage to reveal the assassin beneath.
“You could have saved yourself all this trouble by simply shoving the man out the window,” Grynvellon said as two others helped him into the room. “It would have also saved more lives.”
“The only life that matters is still striving,” Daenar responded, not looking up from the man he stood over. “I still need answers.”
“I did not know you dabbled in necromancy, Daenar.” Grynvellon sat in a chair another mage somehow found in the destroyed room.
Daenar ignored this last statement, for he never acknowledged foolishness. If the old man wanted to demean himself with such childish pokes, he could do so by himself. Instead, Daenar bent down and tore away the cloth mask that covered his assailant’s face. The mage’s eyes fell on the large bulge and awkward slant of the assassin’s neck. He placed his hand under the stranger’s nose and waited until he was satisfied the intruder no longer breathed.
Appeased the threat was averted, Daenar took his time to study the man. He tilted the head this way and that, opened the closed mouth and stretched the eyelids further back.
“He is half-elfin,” Christoffen commented. He was the only one beside Daenar, as intent on the assessment of the body.
Daenar did not reply. Instead, he continued his examination. His hand went down to the collar of his black tunic and pulled it open. The bare chest of a fit man lay beneath. The muscles were hard and well-defined, the result of life-long training. Daenar was no expert when it came to physical betterment, but he knew how to distinguish a lout from a man devoted to fitness. The way the assassin moved in the room above proved he was one of the latter.
Daenar’s eyes focused on the stone that lay on the chiselled chest. A black cord entwined the rock, then ran around the man’s neck, keeping the unusual token close to his heart. The talisman was black like coal but seem much more resilient. Daenar lifted the odd pendant with the tips of his fingers. It was warm to the touch, much warmer than could be accounted for by its proximity to living flesh. Then the strange heat vanished, leaving an ordinary rock. Daenar would have sworn he felt a flicker of magical energy emanating from the pendant when he first touched it, but that was gone now.
Who sent you?, Daenar thought to himself.
These words caught Daenar’s attention. He did not know who uttered them, but that did not matter. He released the pendant and stood. His eyes gave the body one last cursory glance as he did so, but nothing jumped up at him that would help him identify the man or his motives. So Daenar turned to the being that had summoned the spellcasters to this tower in the first place.
“Well done, my Chosen.” Pentaclin spread his arms wide to show he was sending his praise to all present. The loose folds of the grey robes fluttered in a breeze that did not exist. His long, white hair also swayed the air current that was not there as his pupil-less white eyes took in every man and woman in the room.
After a moment of letting the mortals bask in his presence, the god of magic and knowledge slid his hands into the opposing sleeves of his robes and glided toward Daenar. His steps were indistinguishable, the hem of his vestment never leaving the floor to reveal even a single toe.
“What do we have here?” Pentaclin stopped beside the mage to study the dead assassin.
“I am certain you saw more than anyone in this room,” Daenar sneered. He hated being patronized, no matter who was doing it.
“You missed nothing, I assure you.” Pentaclin turned to face the spellcaster. “But a god need not explain himself to his worshippers.”
“I do not worship you, Great Sage. You promised me vast knowledge if I helped you defeat the Great Beast before he tore the kingdom to shreds. You were quite emphatic you could not fashion this weapon of yours without my help. You sought me. I did not seek you. So start repaying me by telling me who this man is.”
“I do not know who he is. And you were not the only one I sought. These other seven were as necessary as you in this endeavour. Without their aid, the Lance of Light would never have been fashioned. It took all eight of you to accomplish the task I set for you.”
“We were honoured to serve,” Grynvellon said, struggling to stand so he could show the god the respect he deserved. Daenar scoffed at the blatant flattery. Grynvellon ignored this and continued. “But I must ask. What happened to us during the enchantment of the weapon?”
Daenar stopped glaring at the pompous mage, for he too had felt a sudden shift in the energy they were pouring into the lance. Nothing was happening until something clicked within him. He now assumed the same realization came on all of them. It was almost as if someone lifted a veil, revealing how they should have performed the spells from the start. Daenar always suspected this particular part of his mind existed, but it continued to elude him—until this night.
Daenar cut off his introspection. He examined the other mages who had participated in the incantation that forged the only weapon capable of defeating the immortal Great Beast. They had indeed changed, and it touched more than their minds. All their hair now glistened the purest white. Their eyes, moving from one wizard to another, were now faded to a strange bluish-grey colour.
“I gave each of you incredible gifts,” Pentaclin told them. “Do not be alarmed by the change in your appearance. Onlookers will notice the white hair and assume you have a great store of wisdom. They will not know the depths of your knowledge, but they will still show you the respect you deserve. The youthful complexion will confuse them, but they will understand you still possess strength and should not be trifled with.”
Daenar grabbed a few strands from his shoulder and lifted them in front of his face. They too were white. “So you decided to shackle us together with intricate uniforms. You even went as far as giving them my eyes. How quaint.”
Pentaclin scowled at the indolence. “The greatest gift I bestowed on all of you is the ability to see more than mortals are meant to see. It will take time for your minds to acclimate to your new sight. They have only begun to register all the extra information, which is why you do not yet perceive a difference. As time goes on, you will discover slight discrepancies in everything you have looked upon before. Not only will colours and depth expand, you will also come to understand how things are made and why they interact with each other as they do. This Enlightenment lightens the iris. You will bask in the wonders of creation at a level second only to the gods.”
“Then why are his eyes white?” Caelynn asked, pointing at Daenar.
The mage whirled his head to glare at the god. “What have you done to me?”
“The same as all the others,” Pentaclin reassured everyone present. “I told you the process lightens the iris. Daenar’s eyes were light to begin with.”
This explains why I have always seen more than all these idiots, Daenar thought to himself, still not wanting to divulge this fact. This was an advantage he possessed all his life, one he never admitted having to anyone. It was the ace up his sleeve. Now it appeared he must share it with these seven.
“What you should concern yourselves with now are the fates of the mortals,” Pentaclin went on before the conversation continued down this path, one he clearly did not want to explain further. “The Great Beast may be vanquished, but he recruited five creatures as vile and almost as dangerous as he. These lieutenants still roam the lands of Kagendur and threaten the people.”
“We have already done the heavy lifting by ridding them of the Beast,” Daenar said. “The ‘people’ can take care of the rest themselves.”
“You forged a weapon,” Pentaclin reminded the mage. “Another mortal wielded it and drove it through the Great Beast’s heart. An army followed him to ensure he got close enough to accomplish the feat. Still more kept the lieutenants at bay so this warrior could strike the final blow. According to my tally of events, you accomplished as much as anyone else, no more. So you can continue helping them.”
“Your will be done,” Grynvellon said. He turned to make his way to the archway leading to the corridor, leaning on the wall for support.
Pentaclin raised his hand. “You cannot travel the ways that are accustomed to you any longer.” With his outstretched hand, the god of magic gestured to the lone window in the room.
The mages took the few steps to reach the opening. Daenar remained where he was, peering out the glass pane from afar. Bright stars sparkled in a clear night sky. The spellcaster’s eyes narrowed as something dawned on him. It was still day. They should not be able to see stars for another few hours. And if, by some unnoticed feat, time had moved faster than it should have, the smoke of the many torches lining the streets would obscure the twinkling dots the slightest bit. Could the change in their eyes attest for the strange clarity?
“The city is gone,” Sevellen gasped.
“We float among the stars,” Helaenna clarified.
“I have transported your tower from its place in the Spellcasters’ Guild,” Pentaclin explained. “Here, in the heavens, nothing will distract you from your studies. You will forget the trivialities that bog down the minds of the mundane and concentrate on greater matters. Use your new sight to understand the wonders of this universe. Study all that the gods created. Learn the secrets of the cosmos. Devote yourselves to fulfilling the potential of mortal intellect.
“Along with the gift of expanded vision, so you may catch what others miss, I also bestow immunity from the ravages of time. You will need eons to fully comprehend Everything, so I give you that time. You will not age, grow brittle with the years, or fall prey to disease. But make no mistake, I do not grant immortality, as should already be apparent.” The god of magic gestured to both Grynvellon’s and Daenar’s wounds.
“The Great Beast was kind enough to bestow that privilege to his lieutenants,” Daenar interjected.
Pentaclin turned glaring eyes on the arrogant mage. “I will not repeat that perversion,” he hissed through clenched teeth. “True immortality is a state reserved for the gods. The Great Beast cast aside the warnings of Mother Fate and has paid for it. Though I bestow considerable gifts to you, you are still mortal and subject to death. Any violent act that would steal the life from a normal man will also do the same to you.”
“All right,” Daenar once again interrupted. “We understand. We will live millennia so we may learn all there is to learn as long as we remember how to use a knife when eating. It does not explain how you want us to help this glorious army of yours if you remove us from the world itself.”
“I transported this tower for another reason. You will all wield immense power, power not meant to rule over others.” Pentaclin’s white eyes bore into Daenar’s to ensure the mage was understanding every word. “You are my Chosen, my Munaedaar. Your task not only comprises learning all you can but includes preserving the essence of knowledge. So long as one of you continues to seek answers to questions, my legacy will persist.
“You are also the Champions of Order, the Keepers of the Scale. From this lofty vantage point, you will watch over Kagendur, catch any attempts to sway the Balance of Existence. And, from here, you will return to the world in times of need to rectify any tilt.
“You are forbidden from affecting the Scales in any manner save the rectification of an unbalance. Any direct attempt to do so will result in the instant disappearance of your power. You will lose all the knowledge you acquired and the magic will also escape you. You will revert to a regular mortal, with no skills to speak of, since you have all devoted your lives to the Art.
“To curb any temptation, you will refrain from interacting with the peoples of Kagendur. You will remain out of sight as much as possible. You will abstain from resolving conflicts. Mortal disputes no longer concern you. All that matters is the Balance. Only to right the wrongs pertaining to the Scales will I allow you to interact with the mortals.”
“We are to do so now?” Christoffen asked.
“The Great Beast and his lackeys created a heavy unbalance,” Pentaclin said. “Even with his death, the Scales of Everything lean too far to one side. The good in the world cannot counterbalance the evil of these five lieutenants that still remain. You must aid in their capture. Once that task is accomplished, your true studies may commence in peace.”
“It is a shame Geneve, your mother,” Daenar said, “does not simply lift the gift of immortality from these fiends so we could kill them.”
Pentaclin lifted an arm and sent his will crashing into the arrogant mage. Daenar slammed into the wall behind him, toppling over the few books that somehow remained on their shelves after the collapse of the ceiling.
“You overstep, mortal,” Pentaclin stated. “One day my patience will be spent and you will become nothing.”
Daenar lifted his white eyes to glare at the deity. “Why do I have the impression I will never be nothing?”
Pentaclin whirled away from Daenar and motioned to the other assembled mages. “Follow me and I will show you how to travel from this tower to the lands of Kagendur.”
The seven spellcasters followed their god out of the room, leaving Daenar alone, sitting on the floor. He remained there, looking out the window to the revealed heavens. One star flew across the opening, far off in the distance, not content to remain still like the others.
“Well,” Daenar said as he stood, smoothing the folds of his robes as he did so. “At least he was good enough to keep his word. Let us commence in learning the secrets of the universe. Then we can find out who is attempting to end my life, so I may end theirs.”