A magical barrier. Civil war. Power-hungry Wizards.
The fate of a kingdom rests on the shoulders of three young wizards who couldn’t be more different.
As the magical barrier protecting the kingdom of Alaris begins to fail, and a fomenting rebellion threatens to divide the country in a civil war, the three wizards are thrust into the middle of a power struggle.
When the barrier comes down, the truth comes out. Was everything they were taught about their kingdom based on a lie?
Will they all choose to fight on the same side, or end up enemies in the battle over who should rule Alaris?
For lovers of dragons, magic, wizards, and adventure don’t miss this first book in a great fantasy series.
Targeted Age Group:: Young Adult/Teen
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
After having finished my first YA fantasy series, The Cremelino Prophecy, I wanted to write a book with dragons in it. And although my story is character driven, the dragons and their interaction with my characters, and eventual support in their quest made for an exciting and adventurous story.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters just pop into my head. From years of reading and my own imagination I dream them up. However, in this book in particular I created different kingdoms, cultures, and characters from many different backgrounds.
Allison Stenos, wizard apprentice, walked with guarded steps down the main road leading into the city of Orr. Her shoulder-length black hair, bangs falling over one eye, framed her youthful, pale face. A small smile tugged at her lips as she surveyed the quiet street around her.
Gorn Mahron, her mentor, strode next to her. His hardened, battle-ready body belied his years. Only the graying hair indicated that his age was past what most people would call his prime. However, as a wizard, he could live close to one hundred years. Battle wizards often lived shorter lives, however, due to their dangerous professions.
“Stay alert, Alli,” Gorn whispered without turning his head.
“Always, Mentor.” She skipped forward a step, as she spun a foot-long knife in her right hand.
“They’re here. I can sense them.” Gorn peered down a small alley to his right.
The hot desert air stilled, and this usually bustling city, at the southernmost point of the kingdom of Alaris, sat too quiet for the middle of the day. Alli glimpsed a few women peering out of the corners of their windows, pulling their heads back when she glanced their way.
“Why don’t these King-men attack in a cooler place?” Alli wiped the sweat from her forehead.
Gorn glanced her way and motioned her over to the side of the street. “I don’t think these rebels care about the heat. They only care about disrupting the Chief Judge’s government.”
Alli nodded, her eyes darting from building to building. She and Gorn were leading a battalion of the Chief Judge’s soldiers. They had heard about a group of rebels planning an attack on the governor’s mansion in Orr. The King-men, called such for their desire to have a king rather than a system of judges ruling the kingdom, had become more bold lately.
Gorn looked back and signaled for the rest of the battalion to proceed.
Alli and Gorn turned a corner, walking toward the main city square. Two men jumped down from a window, swords in hand, and attacked the two wizards. Dozens of others appeared in the town square and with yells ran toward the wizards and their battalion of men.
With her knife still in one hand, Alli used her other hand to pull her silver sword from the leather scabbard at her waist. She swung purposefully around her in a broad arc, widening the circle of attackers near her. The hot orange sun sat directly behind her, sending out long shadows from the tan stone buildings bordering the town square. The two battle wizards pushed through the attackers, Gorn moving off to Alli’s right. They used their physical weapons now, saving their magic for when they would need it the most.
The determined men opposite Alli growled at being beaten back by a mere slip of a teenage girl. Embarrassment and frustration clouded their red faces, and they pushed forward with renewed determination.
With no warning, a young boy ran out of one of the town’s buildings, his mother chasing after him. Alli turned toward him, even though she knew she shouldn’t fall prey to the distraction. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that fighting had erupted in the town square and was spreading down the side streets of Orr. If the boy didn’t get back inside, he would not survive.
The men used her distraction with the boy to press home their advantage. Alli grabbed one man’s head and pushed him to the ground. Jumping up onto his back, she flipped over another attacker, reaching down to scoop up the boy with a well-toned arm. At the same time, she gathered her magical power and pushed it out from her hand with brutal force. The magic ran along the edge of her polished sword and out the end of the blade in a bright yellow flame.
Holding the boy with her left arm, she held the sword’s grip tightly with her right hand and turned in a circle. The flame shot out toward the remaining men in the area. Six men fell instantly, three stumbled and tried to regroup, and two ran off screaming toward a trough of water, trying to put out their burning clothes.
The terrified mother of the boy grabbed him back with a tearful thank you. Alli refocused on the fight. Turning, she saw Gorn a few yards away, shaking his head at her in bewilderment. She shrugged and then plowed into a group of fighting men gathering in the far side of the square. Her battle moves were more a melodic dance than practiced motions. She flowed over the battlefield, barely touching the ground. Between the thrusts of her sword and the fire flaming from it, she took care of another dozen men.
Eventually, she found herself back to back with her mentor. Extinguishing the flames and returning to her knife and sword, she swatted away a new round of rebels.
“Allison, why did you do that?” Gorn shouted over his shoulder as he fought off a few of the more brave renegades.
“Do what?” Alli jumped up in the air and kicked a large bearded man to the ground.
“Save that little boy. He almost got you killed.”
“But he didn’t.” She turned to her right and parried the blade of a man twice her size. He mistook her size for inexperience, and she jumped into the air while spinning and came around, kicking him hard in the gut. She turned to face her mentor, the sounds of the man, groaning on the ground, fading from her ears.
“We’ll talk about this later,” Gorn said, wiping the blood from his sword onto a cloth hanging from his belt. “The boy was stupid for leaving the buildings.”
Alli needed to concentrate, but she couldn’t let this go. “Gorn, most of these people are innocent. They don’t deserve to die.”
Gorn only grunted. A large, dirty man tried to sneak up behind Alli, but Gorn brought his hand up and released a straight line of fire from his extended fingertips.
“Thanks.” Alli smiled sweetly. Her youthful eyes and pale-skinned face stood out in innocent contrast to the bloody battle.
She brushed her dark bangs out of her eyes and took a deep breath to calm her nerves. The heat of the desert city was affecting her more than had the exertion of the battle.
Gorn grunted again, but this time with less care. Alli knew she infuriated him. Gorn had been in charge of her training since she had left the Citadel a year before, at age fourteen, and she loved him like a grandfather.
No one could beat Alli in hand-to-hand combat or with weapons of any kind. Her powers far exceeded her rank of apprentice, and many men underestimated her and mistook her youth and her slight build as weaknesses. This usually happened to be the last mistake they made. However, she really would like to be treated as a wizard rather than as an apprentice that many thought they could push around.
Alli spied a young man moving on the other side of the courtyard, trying not to be seen. Before she could do anything, she felt the heat of magic shoot out from Gorn’s fingers, racing toward the man. Throwing out her own hands, Alli drew on the power of wind and pushed the wizard’s flame back. Continuing on, the wind blew into a couple of old crates, knocking them down on top of the man, stopping him in his tracks, while protecting him from the heat of Gorn’s magic flame.
“You don’t need to kill everyone, Gorn! There are other ways to take a man down.”
“But I am a battle wizard, and so will you be someday, Alli. You must learn that, in war, everyone is a potential threat.”
“So I shouldn’t help you out, then?”
“What?” Gorn’s eyebrows shot up.
“See you later,” Alli said and walked away from Gorn as a man tackled him from behind. She glanced back and grinned at Gorn, lying on the ground. She knew he could take care of himself.
The captain of the battalion called out for assistance. Alli ran over to where another pocket of fighting had broken out, on the other side of the large town square. She pulled out two knives from the tops of her soft leather boots and threw them at the legs of two men, who were about to take the captain down. They went down instead, holding their thighs and screaming in pain.
The dry wind picked up. Her heightened sense of smell caught the odor of blood and sweat on its hot breeze. This heat washed over her for a moment until she pushed it from her thoughts. She thought instead of the forests farther north, near the magical barrier, where she had grown up. She wished she was there and not on the edge of this forsaken desert.
The people of Orr lived in the middle of the great desert, in the far southern region of Alaris. The Mahli River, running south along the western barrier, here flowed down through the canyons of the great divide toward the southeast, eventually joining the Dunn River to the east. The only water around for miles, the Mahli did little to alleviate the heat. Rumors held that the desert continued for miles south of the barrier, giving way ultimately to more fertile farmlands. But, of course, the barrier of magic around Alaris blocked anyone from confirming the fact.
The ground was hard-packed dirt; the buildings, a dull brown, all made from stone and clay; and the wind blew constantly. The only wood around was used for fires and pieces of furniture and most likely came from the southern end of the Elvyn Forest, to the east. Generations of desert living had made the skin of those in the southern region darker than that of the people farther north.
Orr was normally a peaceful city, but then someone in town recently invited a group of King-men to disrupt the peace and draw the Chief Judge’s main battalion into battle. The dreary wasteland got on Alli’s nerves, and she became tired of innocent people getting hurt and dying for no other fact than that they lived where the King-men had decided to attack.
During a brief respite from the fighting, she scanned the town square. Someone needed to end this fight. Looking at Gorn, she realized her mentor would disapprove. But she had been given her powers for a reason, and she would use them now to stop other innocents from dying.
Holding her sword high and straight in the air, she chanted a few words softly. White fire erupted out of the tip. She spun the pommel of the blade vertically in the palm of her hand, and the white-hot light ran out of the sword in a dozen separate tendrils.
“Protect the innocent,” she whispered to the flames.
The first man the flames hit fell in a startled heap on the ground. The next group tried to run, but the flames circled around their bodies, holding them tightly, until they, too, collapsed to the ground and gave up their weapons. Even the soldiers in her own company backed away, afraid of standing in the way of the wild wizard’s fire.
The fire raced through the crowd and down the dirt lanes, sparing some and taking others, until the tendrils joined again and raced toward one lone man. His long legs carried him into the center of the town square.
“I surrender!” the tall, unshaven man shouted as he threw his bloodied sword down and looked around wildly.
Alli swept her hand back toward herself, and immediately the flame extinguished. The captain and a few others rushed forward to grab the man in the center of the town square, the leader of the attack.
“Where did you learn that?” Gorn moved to her side.
Alli shrugged her shoulders. “It just felt right.”
“Felt right? You know the rules. You are only an apprentice,” he said. His thick gray eyebrows displayed his displeasure, and his forehead crinkled up in anger.
“It’s done, isn’t it? No one else needed to die on our side. We gave them enough chances to stop.” Alli glared up at Gorn in defiance. “The fight needed to end.”
“I don’t care,” his voice boomed, causing a few soldiers to turn toward the two wizards. “I am the master, and you are the apprentice.”
Alli pushed her sword roughly into her scabbard and tried not to clench her fists. Her heart beat fast with anger. Why shouldn’t she be allowed to use all her powers in a battle? She was a battle wizard, apprentice rank or not.
“This is only because I’m a young girl. I have trained for over five years at the Citadel and now, at your side, for the past year. Most men are only in training for three or four years, and I am more powerful than wizards at levels one and two— maybe even more powerful than you. You cannot control me forever, Gorn.”
“You are only fifteen, Allison!” Gorn shouted in exasperation. “You are not old enough to be a full wizard—that’s simply the way it is.”
“My age should not define my rank.” She stormed away, leaving Gorn standing alone. She approached the captain and the captured prisoner, pausing to listen to their conversation.
Even while on his knees, the rebel leader was a tall man, his head almost coming up to Alli’s chin. Blood dripped down his arms: wounds from the battle.
“Why were you trying to take over the governor’s palace?” the captain asked. “What did you do with the southern judge, Azeem?”
“You can’t stop it from happening,” the man cried out. “We will have a king!”
The captain spat on the ground, his spittle soaking into the dry dirt. “Not this again. The Chief Judge has been lenient so far with this king thing, but he can charge you with treason for what you did here today. That would be along with arson, civil unrest, and murder of some of my men. Now, where are the southern judge and the governor?”
“It was not my job to take them; that was for others. I don’t know where he is.”
“And, what was your job?”
“To disrupt things as much as possible. We need a strong king to hold Alaris together. The Chief Judge is weak. We want someone more powerful, someone who can break through the magic barrier holding us apart from the other kingdoms. We want a king like the other lands have.”
His words sounded forced to Alli: memorized lines spewing forth from a small mind.
“What do you know of other lands, renegade?” the captain spat. “The barrier protects us from them, from the wars they would wage against us. Wise men put the barrier in place to save us from the other lands’ evils and ambitions. We don’t need a king. We have the judges. They have protected us for one hundred fifty years and will continue to do so. Do you deny the right of Chief Judge Daymian Khouri to rule this land?”
All of the captain’s remaining men gathered around them.
“The Chief Judges stole the kingship away from the rightful rulers. We need to restore the nobility.”
“You realize you now speak treason.” The captain motioned for some of his men to lift the prisoner up to his feet. The captain took a step back so as not to appear diminished in size next to the sizable rebel.
The captain turned to Alli. “Battle Wizard Apprentice, what should be his punishment?”
The captain’s attention surprised Alli. She wondered if Gorn had put him up to this—another one of his tests for her. Shifting her feet, she pulled the cloth band from her head, wet with the sweat of fighting. Then she leaned over slightly and shook her black hair out, loosening it from the nape of her neck.
“You want my advice?”
The captain nodded his head.
She scanned the buildings and saw some of the townspeople edging out of their doors. At least a few of these families were fatherless after today. And this man in front of her was one of the leaders of the opposition.
“Do you have a family?” Alli asked the rebel. A murmur of surprise rippled from the crowd.
“What does that have to do with anything?” one of the men asked.
The captain hushed him with a raised hand.
“Do you?” she asked again.
“No. Wife died in the desert.”
All stood in silence except for the constant rustling of wind around the stone buildings. Alli took two steps toward the rebel leader, putting her hands on her hips, over her leather shirt.
“Then you shall join her today,” she said. Having delivered her verdict, she strode away. Her throat was parched. She needed some water.
The captain called two men forward to take the rebel leader out behind one of the buildings for execution.
Alli reached the crude water well. She sat down on its smooth, stone edge and dipped in the bucket that hung from a rope for a drink. The water felt good going over her parched lips. Oh, to be back in the Elvyn Forest or to travel along the Dunn River. She tried to make these memories cool her down.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes momentarily. This blasted heat was infuriating. When she opened them again, a young boy stood in front of her, the same boy she had saved from the battle earlier. He was not more than five or six. His dark hair, peppered with sand, hung in his eyes. Those brown eyes, sitting deep in his darkening face, begged for her attention.
“I want to be a battle wizard like you.” The young boy stood with his chest puffed up.
“Oh, you do, huh?” Alli leaned forward. “Why is that?”
“Cause I want to kill the bad guys.” He stomped his foot to emphasize the point.
“It’s not all about killing.” Alli peered behind the boy and saw Gorn approaching.
“Oh no, you have to practice a lot, eat healthy, and do what people tell you to do.” With this, she glanced up at her mentor and gave him a smile.
“Oh.” The boy seemed to be thinking it over. “I don’t like it when people tell me what to do.”
Alli and Gorn laughed.
“Neither do I.” Alli stood up and tussled the boy’s hair.
The boy’s mother came up to him. “I’m sorry—again. I can’t keep track of him: always scampering around.”
“That’s all right. He told me how he wants to be a battle wizard.”
“Oh, he did?” She looked down lovingly at her son. “Ever since you arrived yesterday, he hasn’t been able to keep his eyes off you. Pardon me for saying, but aren’t you too young to be a battle wizard?”
Alli’s face reddened slightly, but before she might say anything in anger, Gorn stepped in.
“She may still be an apprentice, ma’am, but she is one of the most powerful battle wizards in all of Alaris.”
Alli raised her eyebrows at him.
“Sometimes we forget that pure wizard power doesn’t have anything to do with age. She stopped this battle today and did it without losing any more innocent people.”
It was a rare day when Gorn praised her so.
“That’s what I want to do, Mama, help the in…the inno…the…” The young boy was having a hard time saying the word innocent. “Good people,” he said, his ears turning red.
“Well, then start doing your chores and eating healthy,” Alli said to the boy. His mother led him away with a smile.
Gorn turned to Alli. “I’m sorry about what I said before. There has never been anyone like you. Well, there are a few others like you also—a new generation of apprentices that seem to exhibit extreme talent. We, the wizards at the Citadel, are not sure how to handle you.”
“Wow, quite an admission, coming from such a great wizard.” Alli flashed a large smile at him. “Maybe there is hope for you yet.”
“Now, despite the apology, what you did back there, with the white flame—”
“I know. I know. It’s dangerous, and I shouldn’t do things like that. But, Gorn, it was the only way to end this infantile conflict. Fewer died this way than fighting until the last man falls. You might think I reacted without thinking, but I didn’t. I thought about it, and it made sense. I thought it was the right thing to do.”
“The right thing to do is not always the best thing to do.” Gorn pulled a pail from the well and lifted a waterskin from his side. His stomach rumbled, and he ran his hand over it.
“Don’t try to change the subject. But, yes, I am. I don’t see how you can do all that fighting and expend so much energy without getting hungry. You need to gain some weight. You are too thin to fight all day like this.”
“You are the one tiring. I am doing fine.” Alli stood with hands on her hips.
Gorn laughed and motioned for Alli to follow him. “Allison Stenos, you might very well be one of the most dangerous people I know. One minute, you are comfortably ordering a man’s execution; the next, you are sitting with a young boy and giving him advice. You wield mercy as quickly as you dispense justice. You are going to be extremely difficult for a future husband to figure out.”
Alli grew serious and stopped. She put her small hand on Gorn’s arm and stopped him. “Gorn, don’t ever think my swift justice is comfortable. Don’t think I like killing or deciding to take the life of a war criminal. Don’t make me into a monster for dispensing justice.”
Gorn took a step back, and fear flashed in his eyes for a brief moment. “Alli, I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant that you are complicated to understand. I’m sorry if I offended you.”
Alli relaxed. “Two apologies in one day? I’m beginning to think you are getting soft in your old age.”
“Now, let’s go find you a good meal.” She pushed him forward and headed toward their camp on the edge of town.
“Now, that’s something I can understand.”
“You’d better hurry and take your fill. It’s a long road back to Cassian. The Chief Judge will want a report as soon as possible.”
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