Birthright-The Technomage Archive

BOOK: Birthright-The Technomage Archive
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Birthright

The Technomage Archive, Book One

B.J. KEETON

Copyright © 2013 B.J. Keeton

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

First Smashwords Edition 2013

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the authors, except where permitted by law.

Also by B.J. Keeton

Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel

For my Daddyo –

He never said one bad word, even though I wrote thousands of them.

Prologue

The cut didn't bleed, but it hurt.

Ceril pulled away from the loose soil he had been digging in and looked down at his hand. His eyes welled up with tears when he looked at his hand. He could see straight to the bone.

That was never a good sign. The lack of blood was probably worse, though.


Gramps?” he yelled. “Gramps!”

From across the garden his grandfather yelled, “Huh? Whatcha got?”


I think I found something,” Ceril said.


Oh yeah? Like what?” Gramps said. He stood up, patting his hands together to clean the dirt off as he walked across the garden.


I don’t know,” Ceril said, “but it cut my hand.” He reached into the dirt and pulled again, this time with his other hand. He fell back and yelped in pain. No blood came from the second wound, either. “Twice. But I’m not bleeding. Is that bad?”


Not necessarily,” his grandfather said. The old man rushed to Ceril's side and knelt down.


Why would you reach in again, Ceril? It already cut you once.”


I thought you'd want to see what it was,” the boy said, “so I was going to try to pull it out. It didn't move much, though.”


Lesson learned?”

Ceril nodded. “Lesson learned.”


Now let me see those hands,” Gramps said.

Ceril held them out, palms up, so Gramps was able to see just how deep the cuts were. Whatever was in the ground had sliced clear across his palms. From what he could see, the edges were cleanly cut, and not torn. Whatever had done it was incredibly sharp. “Those are mighty deep, Ceril. How do they feel?”

He looked at Gramps and wanted to cry, but he wasn't a kid anymore. He wasn't supposed to cry at pain. “I’m okay. My hands hurt, but not too bad.” Tears welled up in his eyes as he said it.


Can you move your fingers?” Gramps asked.

Ceril moved his fingers. “Yeah.”


Then it's nothing I can’t fix,” he said. Gramps reached over and grabbed one of the trowels with which Ceril had been digging. “What happened?”


I was just digging, and I hit something hard. A rock or something. I couldn't pry it out, so I thought I could reach in and pull it, maybe. Get a better grip.”


Not the smartest thing you've ever done, boy,” Gramps said with a smile. “Let me see what the culprit is and then we'll get you inside and doctored up, alright?”

Ceril nodded. Gramps dug carefully around the object that had cut Ceril’s hand. He cleared away the loose soil. As he dug, he revealed a long piece of golden metal, half-buried in front of them. The exposed areas glinted in the sunlight.


It’s a sword,” Ceril said. “I wouldn’t have guessed that. Is it yours, Gramps?”

The elderly man's forehead wrinkled. “Sit tight, let me get this out of the ground, and I'll get you inside and fixed up. It looks like you found yourself a new story for tonight, maybe for the rest of the summer.”


Really?” Ceril asked.

His grandfather grunted to affirm. “You'll really like this one, too.”

Ceril loved his grandfather's stories. They were the best part about coming home for the summer. The two of them would sit by the window at night, full from eating a dinner they had not only cooked, but had also grown themselves, and Gramps would tell Ceril story after story about kings, warriors, gods, devils, and places the boy had never even thought to dream about. Ceril thought that if this new story was really good, the pain in his hands might almost be worth it.

The old man dug around the blade in the ground, careful never to come into contact with the edge of the golden metal. He extracted it and then escorted his grandson back to the cottage they shared. The whole time, Gramps was very careful to hold the excavated sword as carefully as he would a newborn child.

***

Dusk was falling on the cottage. Ceril had sat and watched the first of Erlon’s suns fall below the horizon, and now the second was following suit.

Ceril bounced his leg up and down absentmindedly.


Would you mind stopping that?” his grandfather asked.


Would you mind stopping
that
?” Ceril said as he looked down at the bandage Gramps was wrapping around his injured hands.


There’s no need to be rude, Ceril. I’m just about finished.”


Just about? I’ve been sitting here for hours. My whole body is asleep.”

His grandfather smiled and tugged at the bandages he had just tightened across his grandson’s hands. Ceril winced. “Well, not your whole body. Your mouth is a little too awake.” The old man stepped back and said, “I think that’ll do it. How does that feel?”

Ceril flexed his hands. They were stiff, but only barely hurt. Whatever Gramps had done worked well enough. He wiggled his fingers. “I think they’re okay. Took long enough.”

Gramps glowered at him. “Not my fault. I’m not the one who stuck my hand
back
in the ground to get cut a second time.”


Yeah, but you could have just put some pseira on it,” Ceril said. “You didn’t
have
to sew my hands.”

His grandfather, though Ceril loved him dearly, cared little for technology and allowed almost none of the luxuries of what he called “outside life” into his home. Ceril usually loved spending his summers in such a simple home, but tonight he was in pain and wished for nothing more than an injection and a smear of pseira that would heal his hand by morning. Instead, he had been sewn like a pair of pants. It would be at least a week before he could move his hands freely again. His grandfather's distaste of technology did not typically affect him like this. It usually wasn’t much more than missing the new episodes of his favorite holovids.


I’m going to take that as your way of saying ‘thank you,’” Gramps said.


Thank you,” Ceril said. His gaze traveled across the room to the sword they had brought in from their garden. Even in the low light, it shined. The handle was thicker than on any other sword Ceril had ever seen. Ceril walked over and inspected the blade, mostly to distract himself from the stiffness and mild pain in his hands.

Ceril asked, “So what story were you talking about, Gramps? You said you had a new story for tonight.” The excitement was obvious in the teen's voice, no matter how he tried to mask it.


Well, I was thinking about it after you found the sword. You've heard of the Charons, haven’t you?”

Ceril cocked his head in a gesture of vague recollection. “Technomages?”


Well, this,” Gramps said as he picked up the sword, “is a Charon's sword. And the Charons were just another name the technomages went by, the one they called themselves.”


Really?” Ceril asked.


What do you know about the technomages, Ceril?”

Ceril thought hard and shook his head. “Nothing, really. Some of the kids at school say they were the ones who built Ennd’s Academy. They say that’s why there are so many neat things around campus that you can’t find anywhere else. The teachers tell them to stop spreading rumors.”

Gramps nodded. “What about history class? Do you ever cover them in class?”


We did a unit on mythology last year, and we read like three different versions of the myth of Vennar. The weirdest one was from Yagh.”

Gramps laughed. “I bet it was. Three, huh?”

Ceril nodded.


Well, they’re not just legends, Ceril. The Charons were as real as you or I.” The old man paused for a second and walked over to the window. He stared across the garden and Ceril watched him lightly run his hands up and down the blade of the sword. Eventually, Gramps said, “The thing is, though, I don't know why this was in my garden. Ternia isn’t exactly the center of the technomage world. Even back then, it was more than a little off the beaten path.” He left the window and sat the sword back down on the table. Ceril reached for it, but his grandfather slapped his hand away. “Don’t.”


Ow!” Pain shot up Ceril’s arm from the newly sewn wounds, but he got the message: Don’t touch the sword. He looked at his grandpa and said, “So you’ll tell me about the Charons tonight?”

Gramps considered for a moment. His already wrinkled brow furrowed while he cleaned up the mess he had made when sewing Ceril's hand. “I guess I can. It doesn’t really surprise me that Ennd’s hasn’t taught you any of this.” He walked over to the window and looked out into the darkness. “The school has been all about progress for so long, they might as well just erase history altogether.”


What do you mean?” Ceril asked.


Nothing,” his grandfather said. “Ignore me. I’m just a damn old fool, thinking about things he shouldn’t.” The old man wiped his eyes and sat down at the table. “But yes, Ceril, I'll tell you as much as I can about the Charons. After you cook me dinner.”

Ceril laughed and held up his hands. “With these?”


Always finding some way to get out of work, aren’t you, boy? Guess I’ll have to do everything myself. Why don’t you go and rest for a few. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”

Ceril rushed into the other room and flung himself face down on the bed as Gramps went into the kitchen to start chopping up fruit and vegetables for their salads.

Just then, a chime sounded from the back of the house.


What was that?” Ceril yelled from the other room.


Message of some kind,” Gramps said. “I doubt it’s anything important. Never is.”

Ceril got up and went back into the kitchen. “I didn’t think you had any of the ‘Nets out here, Gramps. I thought you hated them.”


Oh, I do hate them. I hate them more than you probably know, but they’re a necessary evil. Sometimes, people have to get in touch with me, or the other way around and there’s not exactly a good way to do it other than the CommNet. Especially when those people are from as far away as Ferran or Yagh.”


I didn’t think you had any friends,” Ceril asked.

His grandfather chuckled. “I’ll have you know that I certainly do have friends. But they’re just as old and senile as I am, so they can’t remember they’re my friends.” The old man sat the knife down that he was using to chop vegetables, and he walked toward the back of the house. “I had better check and see what that was. Might be one of them remembering they owe me money.”

He came back a few minutes later. “What was it?” Ceril asked. “Are you rich now?”


Hardly,” Gramps said. “Apparently, Ternia’s long summer has not quite extended to the rest of Erlon. Ennd’s expects you back a week from tomorrow.”


What?” Ceril said, and stood up. “I thought that wasn’t for another month, at least!”


Time has apparently gotten away from us more than we realized,” Gramps said. “You know what this means don’t you?”

Ceril nodded. “That I’ll never learn about the Charons and that sword.”


Not at all. We’ll just have to work double hard in the garden during the day,” Gramps said, “so we can finish early and have more time for the stories at night.”


Can we do that?”

The old man nodded. “This harvest should be bigger than it has been for years. And we’ve expanded the boundaries enough, I suppose. It won’t be quite as big as I had hoped, but if we hit it hard enough these next few days, it should be fine. What do you say?”


Sounds good to me,” Ceril said.


Good,” said his grandfather. He picked up the knife and pointed it at Ceril. “Now go rest, and I’ll call you when I’m finished here.”

***

The next week passed in a blur. During the day, Ceril did what he could to help with the garden, despite his injured hands, and at night, he and Gramps settled in and discussed the technomages who had made the golden sword. The stories weren’t all that different from what he had heard in school—ballads of soldiers going to war, stories of kings and nobles working with the Charons to advise the quickest path to peace, epics about technomage heroes using their Flameblades to fight off monsters or bandits. He learned that the swords were called Flameblades because of the fiery aura the technomages could summon around them. The biggest addition to the stories he knew was Gramps’ explanation for why some cultures viewed the technomages as gods. Gramps told Ceril that the strongest technomages were able to build whole cities using nothing but their hands and their minds. One technomage, Vennar, had apparently built Ennd’s Academy by himself, just by thinking about what he wanted it to be. Ceril was sure there was more to it than that. Some kind of technology had allowed him to do it (he was a
techno
mage after all), but Gramps didn’t mention any of that.

BOOK: Birthright-The Technomage Archive
13.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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