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Authors: Curtis Cornett

Tags: #curtis cornett, #epic, #magic, #fallen magician, #dragon, #fantasy, #rogue, #magician, #prince

Magician Prince (5 page)

BOOK: Magician Prince
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Time to slip back into the role of Baryn,
the faithful servant
, he thought. “Pardon my tardiness,
mistress, but Master Gilkame was unavailable. I left the message
with his man-servant and he assured me that he would deliver it as
soon as your nephew returned.”

“Then what took so long?” she demanded.

The berating continued for a half hour until
Gryte returned with an answer to Gesela’s letter, but Baryn barely
noticed as he delivered impeccable agreements to every derogatory
word that came from her mouth. The old man tried to recall what
little he knew of the castle and its grounds from his previous
visit as he tried to guess the best way to reach the dungeons.

Chapter 4

 

 

 

Much had changed in Mollifas since the last
time Byrn visited the capital. The streets were the same, as were
the buildings, but the people were far different from what he
remembered. Nearly two years had passed since Byrn’s first trip to
the city. The Sunshillah Festival was underway and the city was in
a state of celebration, though he admittedly took little notice of
it at the time. Now as he took the time the look upon the capital’s
citizens the fear was plain to see on the haggard faces of everyone
that walked the streets. No one tarried out in public for long,
instead choosing to do their business and return to the safety of
their homes or shops.

Byrn understood their worries. He held them
not so long ago before he became a master magician. It was the same
dread that hung over his head every day in Lion’s Landing as he
secretly worried that the Kenzai would find him and his friends. It
was the not knowing, the constant anxiety at wondering if today
would be the day that their world suddenly came crashing down
around them, that ate at these people just as it had eaten at
him.

It began with Xander Necros destroying Colum
and Baj. In that attack he reminded the non-magical population why
they hated and feared magicians with such fervor. From that time,
Xander built an army of magicians under the banner of the
Collective. It was small by all accounts, but even a small army of
magic users could devastate the kingdom should they put forth a
concerted effort to do so. The only reason the Collective did not
wipe out every last shred of humanity already was that they wanted
to be more than rulers of a dead land. Some wanted to live
peacefully alongside normal people as Byrn did, others like Xander
took a more extreme view and believed that their place was to be
the rulers of men.

Only after the destruction of Colum did Byrn
realize the events he set into motion by freeing Xander Necros.
Instead of rescuing a symbol of hope for magicians, he released a
mad man who if this war did not go his way might instead decide to
wipe out all life in the kingdom and the thought that truly
terrified Byrn was that Xander might actually have that power at
his command.

“Kill him!” The scream roused Byrn from his
thoughts. Instantly, he raised his protective magical armor as he
sought to identify the threat. It did not take long for him to
identify the group of men surrounding someone not far ahead.

“He’s a wizard!” shouted another voice and
Byrn sprinted to see what was happening. He pushed his way through
the crowd with unconscious strength born of the magic hidden within
him until he could see the prone figure of a boy- about ten years
old- taking a kick to the ribs from a grown man. The crowd cheered,
encouraging the man to continue beating the child.

Byrn moved with preternatural speed and
smashed the side of the man’s face with his bare fist, sending him
reeling into the crowd in pain where he was caught and held before
he could hit the ground. A few other men from those gathered around
stepped forward from the crowd, but as Byrn stood ready to face
them and showed no sign of backing down, they hesitated.

“What right do you have to hit this boy? What
has he done?”

“He’s a wizard!” shouted a man in the
back.

Ignoring the insulting term, Byrn asked
again, “What has
this child
done or do you simply form mobs
and start beating children for no reason now?”

“That is my nephew and I tell you he is one
of them,” the man Byrn had punched spoke up, still wobbling from
the blow. “His parents were killed in Colum, but he survived. How
could he have done that if he wasn’t a wizard? Now he’s with me and
I’ve had nothing but ill fortune since I took him in. You explain
how that can be or maybe you’re one of them too.”

Byrn ignored the accusation. “This boy
survived a horror against all odds and instead of being thankful
you abuse him and make wild claims. You say you’ve had bad luck?
This boy’s parents were taken from him and instead of being sent to
someone who will love and protect him, he is sent to a man, if you
can be called such a thing, who beats him for his own
misfortunes.”

“Do not listen,” the boy’s uncle spat some
blood onto the street, “He’s probably a wizard too, just out to
save his own kind. Let’s get him.”

Byrn braced for an attack, but the mob
faltered. His words had reached enough of them so that they were
regaining some sense of reason. “This is out of control,” he
pleaded with the crowd, “He is only a child. He could have been any
of your children. This boy has been through enough.”

Doubt set into the crowd as men and women who
were screaming for blood looked at one another and started to
realize that they had gone too far. Soon they began to disperse and
Byrn let loose a sigh of relief. There would be no more lynching
for today at least. Byrn helped the boy up and examined his
injuries. He was tall for his age and had the look of a lad
accustomed to working. His face was dirty and bloodied as was his
stringy red hair. The boy was fortunate that most of his wounds
were superficial, though he was likely hurting.

Taking the boy’s hand in his own, Byrn willed
a small bit of healing energy into the lad’s body. It was enough to
ease his pain and promote healing, but would not draw any unwanted
attention. Then Byrn felt for the boy’s magical energy and found no
more than resided in any other normal person. He was not a
magician.

“Give him back to me,” demanded the boy’s
uncle and the child went to meekly obey until he was stopped by
Byrn’s hand on his shoulder.

“He won’t be going anywhere with you. Leave.
Now.”

“And what are you gonna do with him?” the
uncle demanded to know.

Byrn ignored the man and bent down on one
knee. “What is your name, son?” he asked gently.

The boy sniffled and rubbed his right eye
where his uncle must have hit him earlier. It showed small signs of
bruising, but by nightfall would be swollen and purple. “Kaleb,
sir.”

“Kaleb, I’m going to give you a choice, which
I bet is something you haven’t been given in a long time. You can
go with your uncle or you can come with me and I’ll find you a new
home. I don’t know that it will be the best life, but I promise
that it will be better than the one you have now.”

Kaleb looked from Byrn to his uncle and back
again. In answer, he slinked behind Byrn so that his sudden
benefactor stood between him and his former guardian.

“You bewitched him, cause you’re a wizard
too!”

Byrn grabbed the man by the collar and pulled
him in so that their faces were within inches of each other. “I’d
be careful of who you accuse of being a magician,” Byrn whispered
with malice, “One day you might be right and what do you think that
magician will do to you when you reveal his secret?”

The man’s eyes grew big and he stumbled
backwards when Byrn suddenly let go of him. He spun around and fled
clipping several people who had gathered to view the
altercation.

“Are you alright, Kaleb?” Byrn asked turning
his attention back to the boy who tentatively nodded. “Hungry?”

“Yes, sir,” the red-haired child answered
with sudden enthusiasm.

The unlikely pair found a good eatery soon
enough. Kaleb knew his way around the city and took delight in
leading his new friend around. The restaurant was a simple one, but
it fit Byrn’s coin purse well enough and they soon fed on cuts of
beef and beer.

“You’re from Colum? I grew up there too. Were
you in the city when it was destroyed?” Byrn asked. He knew he was
asking the boy to recall painful memories, but could not help his
own curiosity.

“It was awful,” Kaleb looked at his plate as
he spoke, not wishing to establish eye contact as he relived that
day. “The sky grew dark, but it was the middle of the day. I
remember looking up to see this moving blackness overhead and there
was this voice that came from everywhere. It told us not to bother
hiding, because we were all going to die, but I did run. I ran home
and hid under my bed while these black snakes came from all
directions and buried their heads into my parents right in front of
me. My mom was holding my baby sister and they got her too, but I
didn’t do anything. They died and I screamed, but the black snakes
left me alone for some reason like they didn’t think I was worth
eating.”

Then Kaleb did look up into Byrn’s eyes. His
little voice trembled as he continued; “My uncle thinks they left
me alone on account of me being a wizard. Do you think he could be
right?”

“Don’t use the word ‘wizard.’ It’s
offensive,” Byrn told him, but there was no hardness in his tone
and Kaleb agreed before Byrn asked, “Would it be so bad if you were
a magician?”

Kaleb shrugged. “They’re scary and people
hate them, but if I was one then I could stop people from hurting
me.”

“You’re not a magician, Kaleb.”

“But how do you know?” Kaleb’s voice rose and
squeaked.

Byrn did not say anything, but he did not
break eye contact either. Slowly, Kaleb worked out the answer for
himself.

“Are you-?”

“I’m your friend, Kaleb. That is all that
matters.”

Kaleb seemed to accept Byrn’s words with a
nod and did not press the matter further. The magician and boy
finished their meal and found a nice inn to stay at for the week.
Byrn explained that he had business in the city and could be there
for upwards of a month although he hoped to be done with his
dealings much sooner. Then he would be able to see about finding
Kaleb a nice family to take him in. Perhaps a farm that was short
on sons and would be willing to take in a boy who was able to work
for food and board. Kaleb was a city boy, but admitted to liking
the idea of being part of a family again.

Eventually the night grew long and Kaleb and
Byrn retired to their room. Kaleb stared at the ceiling, wide-awake
with nervous energy while Byrn tried to get some rest. “Byrn, can I
ask you a question?”

“Does that count?” the sleepy magician
muttered.

“Why did you help me? I mean I understand why
you interfered when I was being beat up. My dad told me that there
were people in the world that could not stand to see bad things
happen to others. He said that they were rare, but when you find
one you can always count on them to do what was right and I think
that is how you are. I mean afterwards. You didn’t have to feed me
or give me a place to sleep.”

Byrn rolled over in his bed, so that he was
facing Kaleb. “When I was your age I was an orphan too. I lived in
the Colum orphanage until I was eleven or twelve and it was lonely.
I felt like I was out of place there, like I didn’t belong, and
there was no one that I thought could help me, but I was wrong. I
got lucky and was adopted by a loving family. They couldn’t have
children of their own, so I was all they had and it worked out well
for me, because they were all that I had too. I don’t know. I guess
I just want to give you that chance that they gave me. Every boy
should have that chance.”

Kaleb sat up in his bed, suddenly remembering
the black snakes. “Were they in Colum when the snake-magician
attacked?”

“No, my father died a few years ago and my
mother passed last year, though not in Colum. I still miss them
very much and even when I am in the company of good friends there
is still emptiness in me that I can’t seem to fill. Sometimes when
the night is quiet and my mind is still I can hear their voices and
that might sound sad, but it makes me feel better, because I know
that they still love me and are still watching over me.”

Lying back down, Kaleb was silent while he
thought about what Byrn had said. “Do you think my parents are
watching over me too?” he asked.

“I’m sure of it.”

Kaleb fell asleep not long after that, but
Byrn found he could not sleep as worries over the Collective and
their rebellion kept him up. There had to be a solution between the
two extremes that fought for control of Aurelia. He had to find a
middle ground that would put an end to the fighting and the cycles
of subjugation. As the night wore on the call of sleep would not be
denied any longer and somewhere between the realms of waking and
dreaming he heard the voice of his adoptive father, Tannys
Lightfoot, faintly whisper, “It is time to speak with your birth
father, King Kale Aurel.”

Chapter 5

 

 

 

The solid rock walls that protected the
castle were impenetrable to any attack save for the most deadly of
magic or siege warfare, but with a press of his hand against the
cold stone the rock quietly moved to do his bidding as if it were
made of water and created an entrance that any man could walk
through. Once through, the magician returned the wall to its
natural state and none would be the wiser.

There was a hundred and fifty yards between
Byrn and the castle proper and he reached out with his innate
senses to find the body heat of all those who lived in this place.
He could clearly feel the radiant warmth of the guards on the walls
and those patrolling the grounds and determined that none were near
enough to see him sneaking around in the black cloak he now wore.
Then he tried to extend his senses to the palace itself, but the
cold stonework provided enough interference that he could not get
an accurate idea of where anyone was, but it mattered little since
he was reasonably sure of where the king would be at this late hour
and had no intentions of setting foot within the castle.

BOOK: Magician Prince
11.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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