Read Ghost Lock Online

Authors: Jonathan Moeller

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Historical, #Myths & Legends, #Greek & Roman, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #greek, #roman, #sword sorcery, #caina amalas

Ghost Lock

BOOK: Ghost Lock
11.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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GHOST LOCK

Jonathan Moeller

***

Description

Caina Amalas is the Ghost circlemaster of Istarinmul,
the leader of the Emperor's spies in the city.

When desperate refugees uncover a lost relic of
deadly sorcery, Caina must keep the relic out of the hands of the
cruel Umbarian Order.

Otherwise the Umbarians will use the relic to destroy
the Empire...

***

Ghost Lock

Copyright 2015 by Jonathan Moeller.

Smashwords Edition.

Cover image copyright Cammeraydave | Dreamstime.com -
Gears Cogs Retro Industrial Background Photo & Captblack76 |
Dreamstime.com - Beautiful Dark Woman And Magic Powers Photo.

Ebook edition published April 2015.

All Rights Reserved.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and incidents are either the product of the author's
imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously. 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 express
written permission of the author or publisher, except where
permitted by law.

***

Ghost Lock

My name is Claudia Aberon Dorius. I am not yet
thirty, but I feel as if I have lived a dozen different lives. Once
I was the daughter of Decius Aberon, First Magus of the Imperial
Magisterium. I dreamed of following in my father’s footsteps, of
using my sorcery to improve the lives of the people of the Empire.
Then I learned that my father was a tyrant and a murderer, that all
his pretty words were a justification for monstrous cruelty…and
that I had no right to use my power to rule the lives of
others.

That was a hard lesson.

I joined the Ghosts, the spies of the Emperor of
Nighmar, and trained as a physician. That was how I expected to
spend the rest of my life. Not as a magus of the Magisterium, not
as the bastard daughter of a nobleman, but as a physician, albeit
one who happened to pass reports to the Ghosts.

Then I met Martin Dorius.

Everything changed after that. We went into great
danger together, and helped to save the Empire from an ancient
necromancer of the fallen Kingdom of the Rising Sun. After that, we
fell in love and became husband and wife. I did not hesitate for a
moment.

What I did not consider was how my life would
change.

My husband is now the Emperor’s Lord Ambassador to
the court of the Padishah of Istarinmul, which means I am both a
Ghost of the Empire and the Lord Ambassador’s wife. The Empire is
in the grips of a civil war as the cruel Umbarian Order wages war
against the Emperor. So Martin’s task is to keep the Padishah from
allying with the Order against the Empire.

It is a dangerous game with high stakes, and the
Umbarians have tried to have us killed more than once. I fear for
my husband’s life, and I fear for the child growing within me.

My family’s life is on the line, so I will play this
deadly game, and I will win.

It helps to have dangerous allies.

###

I knew that something was wrong the minute I came
down the stairs.

I did not feel well that morning. I was over five
months into my pregnancy, and my belly seemed to get larger with
every passing day. Consequently, the muscles of my back and calves
felt tight and painful, and my ankles kept swelling. The nausea had
passed a few weeks ago, thank the gods, but my appetite had not
returned and I could not eat very much without stomach cramps.
Given how much I detested Istarish food (why did they put cumin and
onions in everything?) perhaps that was for the best. My moods
veered from wild elation to abject despondency.

Still, I couldn’t complain. When I had been studying
under Komnene in Calvarium, I had seen the many, many ways a
pregnancy could go wrong. So far everything was going well.

So far.

Dromio, my husband’s seneschal, waited in the
mansion’s entry hall. He was a stout Nighmarian man in middle age,
clad in sober servant’s black, his remaining fringe of graying hair
trimmed to razor perfection. The man had no sense of humor, but
managed the Lord Ambassador’s household with unflappable
equanimity, and regarded everything from kitchen mishaps to
Umbarian assassins with the same solemnity.

“Good morning, my lady,” rumbled Dromio.

“Good morning, Dromio,” I said. I managed not to
wince as I descended the last step. If my legs hurt this much now,
how would they feel in four months? “Is something amiss?”

“I fear so, my lady,” said Dromio. “Lord Martin asked
me to bring you as soon as you came down.”

Martin would not ask for my help unless it was
important. He was solicitous of me to the point of impracticality,
which could send me into a weeping fit if it caught me in the right
mood. Yet he still needed my help. I had left the Magisterium, but
I still possessed the skills of a magus. Given the array of
sorcerous powers the Umbarians and their servants commanded, he
often required my knowledge.

“Where is he?” I said.

“In the study, my lady,” said Dromio, bowing and
leading the way.

A blessedly short walk brought us to the mansion’s
study, a room lined in mostly empty wooden shelves. Martin did not
have much spare time for idle reading, but letters weighed down his
desk, missives from the Emperor’s magistrates and from the various
emirs and prominent merchants of Istarinmul. My husband stood
before the desk, his arms folded over his chest. He was a tall,
strong man in his late thirties, with deep gray eyes and black hair
prematurely shot through with gray. A short distance from him stood
an older man in the sober black of a merchant. To my surprise, he
was Saddaic. He had the gaunt features and pale, almost grayish
skin common among the people of the former Saddaic provinces of the
Empire. He turned as I approached, and offered a hasty, nervous
bow.

On the floor before the desk sat a rusted block of
metal. It was about three feet square, and so rusty that I feared
it would stain the floor. The damned thing looked heavy, and I
wondered what it was doing here.

“Lady Claudia, my lord,” announced Dromio.

“Thank you, Dromio,” said Martin. Dromio bowed and
withdrew, closing the study door behind him. Martin took my hand,
his grip warm and strong, and led me towards the desk. “Wife, this
is Talazain, a merchant from Istarinmul’s Saddaic Quarter. I
believe he has business for us.”

Talazain bowed again. “I am honored to meet you, Lady
Claudia.” He spoke High Nighmarian with a thick Saddaic accent.

“A pleasure, Master Talazain,” I said, thinking hard.
There were a lot of Saddaic people in Istarinmul. The Umbarian
Order had rampaged through the Saddaic provinces, slaughtering
thousands, and the Saddai had scattered throughout the lands
surrounding the Alqaarin Sea. Many of them had ended up in
Istarinmul, banding together in their own Quarter of the city.

After what the Umbarians had done to them, they had
proven most willing to aid the Empire…and the Ghosts.

“Lord Ambassador, Lady Claudia, your time is
valuable, so I shall be brief,” said Talazain. “I am a merchant of
some standing in Istarinmul’s Saddaic Quarter. We have been forced
to settle in Istarinmul, but we are still loyal to the Emperor, and
we wish to see him prevail against the Umbarian Order.” His gaunt
face tightened further. “We wish to see the Umbarian Order
defeated, in truth, in payment for our destroyed homes and
slaughtered kinsfolk. So we will aid the Emperor’s servants in
whatever way we can, and I believe an opportunity for that has
come.”

“Please, explain,” said Martin.

“Do you know the name of Keldrius?” said
Talazain.

“I do not,” said Martin, but I felt a cold stab of
alarm.

“I do,” I said. “Well, I don’t know him personally,
but I know the name. He was a brother of the Imperial Magisterium
about fifty years ago. He fled the Motherhouse in Artifel under
suspicion, and spent some time in Istarinmul and then the Saddaic
provinces. Evidently he learned something of necromancy in that
time, because he reappeared in the Ulkaari provinces, raising
undead servants and trying to carve himself a little kingdom in the
northeastern Empire. The Magisterium dispatched a troop of battle
magi and Magisterial Guards to kill him. They were triumphant, but
lost half their number in the fighting.” I shook my head. “I
suppose in hindsight he was likely an Umbarian. Before the Order
declared itself openly, they killed any Umbarians who made too
public of a spectacle of themselves.”

“A pity they didn’t kill themselves all off,” said
Martin. “What does a necromancer dead for a half a century have to
do with our current problems?”

“This,” said Talazain, gesturing at the rusted block
of metal. I saw the faint outline of a door and something that
looked like a set of rust-coated dials. I realized that the thing
was a massive steel safe. “When we fled to Istarinmul, we purchased
homes in the Alqaarin Quarter, for there were many abandoned
warehouses there after the Alqaarin Harbor was rebuilt several
decades ago. There were a few old mansions there as well, and we
purchased one from the Wazir of the Treasury.”

“A mansion,” said Martin as the realization came to
me, “that had once been owned by Keldrius?”

“You see keenly, my lord Ambassador,” said Talazain.
“At first we thought the history of the mansion simply a curiosity
and nothing more. The cellar had been converted to part of the
city’s aqueduct, and as we drained it, we found…this.” He gestured
at the rusted safe.

“Do you know what is in it?” said Martin.

“We’ve been unable to open it,” said Talazain. “The
lock is rusted shut, and we lack the tools to cut through it. My
lord, we would not trouble you with this affair, but for two
matters.”

“Go on,” said Martin.

“First,” said Talazain, “I believe there is an
enspelled object within the safe.”

Martin and I shared a look. I stepped forward,
lifting my hand, and whispered a spell as I summoned arcane power.
I reached out with my will, focusing my mind upon the safe, and I
sensed the flicker of sorcerous power within it. Talazain watched
me with a hint of fear on his gaunt face. Once that would have
offended me, but now I knew better. Given how much he had likely
lost to the Umbarian Order, I could not fault his fear.

“He is right, husband,” I said. “There is an object
of sorcerous power inside.”

Martin frowned. “Can you tell what it is?”

I shook my head. “No. I…think there might be a layer
of lead inside the safe, one to baffle arcane detection. There is
an object of sorcery inside the safe. I just can’t tell what it is.
I’m not even sure if it’s necromantic or not.”

“How did you discover this?” said Martin, looking at
Talazain.

He hesitated. “One of my cousins was once an initiate
of the Magisterium, though he failed in his third year of study and
rejoined our family. He knows the basic spells, and alerted me of
the danger when we found the safe.” The Saddaic merchant took a
deep breath, tugging at his black coat. “We tried to decide what to
do with it. Dumping it in the harbor might have been safer, because
a Silent Hunter tried to steal the safe last night.”

“I see,” said Martin. That was bad. The Silent
Hunters were the Umbarian Order’s spies and assassins. Thanks to
spells carved onto the skin of their chests and arms, they had the
power to turn invisible for an hour out of every day. It made them
highly dangerous. I had placed warding spells over our mansion’s
entrances and windows to alert me if any Silent Hunters penetrated
the grounds, but the spells only functioned if the Silent Hunters
were using their powers. Once inside the mansion, they could strip
out of their clothes and turn invisible, and I would not know until
an invisible dagger penetrated my ribs.

It made for some sleepless nights.

“How did you know a Silent Hunter came for the safe?”
I said.

“I saw him myself,” said Talazain. “He was naked, and
I saw the symbols carved across his flesh. I feared he would kill
us, but instead his symbols glowed with silver light, and he
vanished.”

“Little wonder,” said Martin, tapping the safe with
the toe of his boot. “This thing is rusted shut. A Silent Hunter
could not carry the kind of tools necessary to open this, not if he
wanted to use his power.”

“I decided to come to you, my lord,” said Talazain.
“You are the Emperor’s representative in the city…and if the
Umbarian Order desires the contents of this safe, perhaps it is
something they could use in the war. Perhaps it is some secret they
could use to overthrow the Emperor. I thought to dump the safe into
the harbor as I had planned…but what if the Umbarian magi retrieved
it from the waters? And what if the Emperor could use the contents
of the safe? So I brought it to you.”

BOOK: Ghost Lock
11.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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