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Despite the devastation wrought after 196 years of battling trolls – killing two-thirds of the Commonwealth – the united army of Liraehne cleared the lands. The great Fanaal Emperor Tian’Tal pushed the trolls to the edge of the Frontier, making a stand at the outpost of Tarn, but it was the leadership of Queen Kalynn Wytestarr who led the final victory within the Crax. Of those who went to war, many would never return home, some not because death claimed them but because their wounds made travel impossible, and the outpost swelled into a city.

As Tarn grew, with farmers and families restoring a sense of normal after so much loss, the great heroes and leaders began to pass into legend and new powers began to arise to fill the voids left behind. 

This is the story of one of them.

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Part One: The Mentor

“You hear, but you do not listen.”

With smoke rising from his shoulders and his pale face reddening beneath singed, short-cropped brown hair, the boy met the old man’s glare. Breathing slowly, he concentrated on steadying a shaky leg, while the tight fist behind his back dug dirty nails into his palm.

“What more must I do? How many different ways must you be told?”

“Gaeldur Finney!”

The old man turned, brow dipping and mouth drawing a tight line across his face within the trimmed gray beard. A one-armed man, wearing leathers that bore the colors and style of the Army of Liraehne, stood at the open door of the cottage. With a hand hovering above the hilt of the sheathed arming sword, the man’s glare briefly rested on the boy before returning to the old man. “The people of Tarn will not continue—”

“Kantin, you may refer to me as Magis Finney or Liege. The war is over, and the army has been disbanded. There are no more Gaeldurs.”

“My apologies, sir—old habits.” Taking a breath, he began again, reciting the words he no doubt practiced during the short journey to the far edge of town. “Magis Finney, the people of Tarn will not continue allowing your ward to—”

“Onvical is an abecedarian, not a ward.”


Pursing his lips together, the old man snorted a breath through his nose. “Tradesmen take apprentices, scholars take pupils, soldiers take recruits, and sorcerers take abecedarians. Among all of the trades in all of the world, none are referred to as wards. A ward is someone who is taken in for protection, not someone to be taught. I think it is quite apparent that Onvical requires teaching, not protecting.”

“The fire he—um, expanded, injured three boys and set Kasilla’s stable on fire.”

“Three burly young farmhands, who are each twice the size of this skinny young boy?”

“Well, yes.”

“Were these three not providing young Onvical here with a  thorough beatdown?”

“There were circumstances!”

“They are bullies and deserve—”

“That-that boy,” Kantin pointed, his finger trembled, “he—magicked a young heifer to death.”

Turning, Finney leaned down towards the boy. “You did what?”

Averting his eyes, Onvical looked for someplace to retreat but felt himself unable to move.

“I told you—” the soldier began, but stepped back when the old man’s head whipped around.

“I will handle this, Kantin. Tell Kasilla to expect payment for the damage to the stable and for the heifer.”

“But, sir, the people want—”

“Kantin. Leave.”

Without a word, the soldier turned and walked away from the open door.

Taking a deep breath, the old man began to circle his abecedarian. “I served with your mother. I owe her my life several times over. It is for her that I took you in to protect you from the Mer purifiers instead of standing at her defense. Even though I knew your talents for magic likely came from that bit of Mer blood running through you, I decided to teach you.”

Finishing the circle, he stood before the boy, hands on his hips.

Held so still that his chest could barely rise to breathe, Onvical futilely pushed against the old man’s magic.

“With so much rebuilding to do, I believe there is little chance that the purifiers will come for you. But then I remind myself that you are orphaned because they hunted down your mother who mated with a man of half Mer blood. You already had the talent, so training you in the ways of magic seemed like the best way to provide you with the means to protect yourself.”

When the magic holding him faded, Onvical slumped to the floor, gasping for breath.

“I was wrong.”

“Wh-what do you mean,” the boy gasped.

“I will no longer teach you. You do not deserve to be my abecedarian and will be a ward for as long as you remain in my home.”

“I lost control. It was an accident. I didn’t mean to—”

“You think I am not aware of the pit in the forest where you throw the carcasses of the animals you kill?” Seeing the boy’s eyes go wide, he continued. “Don’t take me for a fool, boy. Repeatedly I have told you not to use your magic on living beings until you have much greater control, and what do you do. Trap small animals to see how the magic affects them. I should have put an end to it, but I well understand curiosity, and the war blunted me to killing.”

Pushing himself up, Onvical stood before the old man, his hands at his sides. “I—”

“No words will change my mind.”

Balling his hands into fists, the boy stepped around his former mentor and went to the door of the study. An invisible barrier kept his hand away from the handle.

“That room is closed to you.”

“But, my books are in there.”

Finney shook his head. “Those books possess my knowledge. Go to your room and cleanup, ward.”

*              *              *

For three days, Onvical begged the old man to change his mind, but no words or number of completed chores had swayed him.

“I have to get into the study,” he mumbled, weaving his way through the woodland around Tarn, keeping the mountains to his left so he’d be able to easily find his way back. This time of year, the smaller crimson sun led his big golden sister across the sky, making for longer days and shorter nights.

This day seemed to just go on.

Earlier, he’d been forced to issue an apology to the old Rylin, Kasilla, and the three bullies he’d scorched when he turned their torch into a breath of fire. None of them deserved an apology, and the old fool handed over a much too large bag of coins for the small amount of damage he’d caused. Still, Onvical had hopes of changing Finney’s mind, so he’d played along.

Stepping up onto an old log, he walked down its length before jumping back down into the underbrush. Straying this far from the town could be dangerous. Though it had been more than two seasons since a troll had last been spotted in the vicinity, they could be anywhere. One could be stalking him right now.

Stopping, he closed his eyes and concentrated. Feeling the warmth at his shoulders, he tried to push it down towards his hands. It begins as a trickle, but you can turn it into a stream, the old man had said in an early lesson. Before you can perform more than these superficial effects, you must learn how it flows.

Except that he’d already figured that part out.

Opening his eyes, Onvical looked down at his hands, their outline blurred under the power he’d summoned. Magic. Raw and unfiltered, he could drive it forward—with destructive effect, but he couldn’t yet shape it. Without access to Finney’s books, he wouldn’t be able to figure out how he had caused the flame from the torch to explode outward. Not just that, he had somehow controlled its direction. And when the flame touched the stable, he’d felt it spread.

A cackle snapped him out of the moment.

Turning all around, he saw no one.

“That had to be the wind,” he whispered to himself, feeling his legs shake and a chill on his arms.

Putting the mountains on his right, he took two steps forward when he saw her.

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