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Authors: Curtis Cornett

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

Magician Prince (6 page)

BOOK: Magician Prince
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His neck craned upward and Byrn saw the
central spire that the royal family and their honored guests like
warlords or dignitaries used. How safe they must feel up there as
they looked down upon the world. Did they think that no harm could
befall them from that perch or did they fear the threat brought on
by this rebellion as keenly as the people living in fear in the
city below? For good or ill, he would soon know the answer and
hoped that the king would be willing to listen.

Byrn looked for the magical energies that
flowed from the ground and sky and pulled some more of it into his
body before sending it back into the wall of the palace and
commanded it to form a series of steps along the side of the wall
leading ten feet up before abruptly ending. As he ascended the
staircase to nowhere the steps behind him receded back into the
wall and new steps were formed above him so that as Byrn progressed
a temporary staircase led him ever upward toward the royal
chambers.

The cold bit at his unprotected face and
heavy gusts of wind threatened to blow him free of his little
moving staircase the higher up he went. A sliver of magic was all
it took to warm his body and quiet the nearby wind enough to
prevent him from falling, but a quick glance hundreds of feet
downward cause his stomach to do an unexpected flip as it
remembered a childhood fear of heights that had become irrational
following Byrn’s magical ascension. He quieted the voice of fear in
his mind that he knew could cripple an otherwise able magic user
and continued his climb to the royal chambers.

A half hour had passed since Byrn’s climb
began and he reached the first window of the royal apartments. The
wooden shutters were closed against the cold that was prevalent
even in the warmer months this high up, but Byrn could sense the
presence of two people lying near each other in the room.

He could see the window’s latch clearly in
his mind’s eye and envisioned it unhooking of its own accord. Then
Byrn pulled one of the shutters open and looked inside. He was
unfamiliar with the amply endowed blonde woman that shared the bed,
but he knew the man with her. It was his brother, Prince Janus. Had
Janus known of their familial bond when they dined together years
ago following Lady Tian’s rescue or was he as clueless as Byrn had
been at the time? It did not matter, Byrn told himself as he closed
the shutter and relatched it with a thought. What Janus did or did
not know back then had no bearing on the events that were unfolding
now.

The next room was shuttered as well, but when
Byrn opened them he found who he was looking for. The king and
queen laid side by side, both in a deep sleep. He climbed into the
room and took a minute to enjoy the warmth of the small fire that
was little more than embers in their hearth.

The thought that this was the first time that
he had seen the king and queen since learning of his royal heritage
struck him and he could not help staring at his birth parents,
intently memorizing the lines and curves of their faces. Byrn’s
nose was very much that of the queen’s and his jaw line was strong
like that of the king. When he first met King Kale he had been
hotheaded and rude. When he dined with the both of them the next
night he managed to keep his feelings under control at the urging
of Sane and tried to make a case for the rights of magicians. Now
it would seem that after more than two years apart they would
finally have a chance to finish that discussion. The only
difference was that instead of it being a theoretical discussion,
now the destiny of a kingdom and all of its in habitants would rest
on the outcome of their conversation.

Byrn breathed a deep sigh. No pressure.

He gently shook the king awake and placed his
finger to his lips. “Please be calm, your Highness. I mean you no
harm.”

The king looked ready to holler for his
guards who were just on the other side of the door when Byrn placed
a mild enchantment on King Kale. It would strike the king mute for
a minute, which would be just long enough for Byrn to convince King
Kale to hear him out. He could risk no spell more powerful than
that and still hope for a chance at the king’s aid, father or
not.

“Please stay calm and listen. You are under a
mild paralysis spell to prevent you from calling out. It will wear
off very soon and then you may summon your guards if you wish.

“Do you recognize me? I am your son, Byrn,
and I only want to talk. I have been gone from the kingdom since
before the fighting broke out and am distressed by what I have seen
since returning. I want to end this war between the kingdom and the
Collective without further bloodshed, but I need your help in order
to do it.”

As promised the spell wore off and the king
immediately turned toward the door. Thankfully, King Kale did not
call for his Kenzai guards and after several tense seconds turned
his head back to Byrn. He sat up and said, “Yes, Byrn, I remember
you although we met only briefly I would not forget the face of my
own son. I also did not forget that you betrayed the throne and
joined the Collective. Why should I trust anything that you have to
say?”

“I don’t agree with the actions that the
Collective has taken since this war began, but I still believe in
their ideals of freedom for magicians. I am here, because I desire
an end to the fighting and it is my hope that you do as well,” Byrn
assured him. “If you don’t believe me, then I will leave now
without another word. Just say the word.”

King Kale looked in his eyes, trying to
discern whether or not to trust Byrn. Byrn hoped that he would.
This was the only path he saw to peace and if the king was
unwilling to give him a chance, then it would mean that this war
would not end until one side was completely eradicated. “Hold a
moment. This is not a decision that I can make alone,” the king
finally told him and shook his wife awake. “Darling, we have a
visitor.”

“What could be so important to disturb us at
such an unearthly hour?” Queen Wendi yawned, unaware that said
visitor was in the room with them.

“It is our son, Byrn. He has come back.”

“Byrn?”

“I am here.”

The queen gasped in surprise and Kale grabbed
her hand reassuringly. “If he wanted to do us harm, he would have
done so by now.” To Byrn, he added, “You take great risk by coming
here. So tell us what you want.”

“I want to broker a truce between the
Collective and the kingdom. I want people to once again feel safe
whether they are a normal person or a magician. When I walk the
streets of Mollifas feelings of fear and desperation are
everywhere. Just today I stopped a mob from beating a child on the
street that they decided was a magician. They were wrong.”

“How can we trust him?” Queen Wendi warned
her husband, “He has already turned his back on us once when we set
him up as a vassal to Nightwind. Trust is not so easily earned a
second time.”

“You question my loyalty to you, but did you
ever stop to think that you have not been terribly loyal to me
either.” A sudden rush of emotion surged through Byrn, but he kept
his voice level and in turn controlled the rise of feeling. His
adoptive mother, Marian, would have kept a level head and Byrn
resolved to do the same. “Most of my life I have spent in hiding
with no knowledge of my true lineage. I’ve watched friends die who
wanted nothing more than a peaceful life. I knew children that were
slaughtered in their beds by kingdom-sanctioned assassins. Being
here and asking for your help is not easy for me either, but I am
here nonetheless. I am taking a chance on the two of you now,
because I fear for the lives of everyone in Aurelia, magician and
otherwise, if this war is allowed to run its natural course.”

The king and queen exchanged a glance that
conveyed a secret conversation had just taken place that Byrn was
completely unaware of. King Kale gave a short nod and turned his
attention back to his estranged son. “A few months ago Sane had a
vision of Aurelia being destroyed. I am loath to admit it, but that
vision has kept me up some nights with worry for my people. If you
truly believe that you can deliver us peace, then I am
listening…”

Byrn breathed a short sigh of relief. “The
Collective magicians have two main concerns. One is the
criminalization of magic and its users. Most magicians just want to
live a life without having to worry about being kidnapped from
their homes or murdered in their sleep simply for being born
differently.

“The second thing is the destruction of all
magician control collars and the release of everyone being
controlled now. I have seen the effects of these collars and wore
one very briefly myself. A lasting peace can never be reached as
long as there is the threat of these collars hanging over our
heads.”

“You ask much,” King Kale grimaced at the
thought of free roaming magicians. “In the past when magicians have
been given freedom, they have used that freedom to subjugate
others. It will not happen again, not while I am king.”

“With one concentrated effort Collective
magicians could turn this whole palace to rubble. I don’t have to
tell you that they can mobilize and strike with a speed that is
undreamt of by your armies. Most don’t have my level of skill, but
can you imagine what two or three hundred magicians like Sane could
do. If that were to happen you wouldn’t be king for very long.”

King Kale bristled at the thought. “Is that
some kind of veiled threat? I thought that we were going to have a
civil conversation, not a list of absurd demands.”

“It is no threat and what I ask is the bare
minimum required to achieving peace,” Byrn tried to mollify his
king and father, “I am merely trying to get you to see this
conflict as I do. I have a greater understanding of what a magician
is capable of than you do.”

Kale shook his head, “It’s impossible. The
people are scared. If magicians were suddenly allowed into their
midst, then it would cause a panic. We would have another
revolution on our hands and I do have my enemies. They would see my
capitulation as a sign of weakness and capitalize on that paranoia
to seize power.”

Byrn sat on the windowsill and thought about
the king’s words. It would seem that they were at an impasse, but
he was thankful that they were not pressing him for a solution. The
Collective would never agree to be imprisoned again in domains or
otherwise.

“Then there will be no truce,” Queen Wendi
concluded and neither man uttered a word of disagreement. “Instead,
there must be an alliance.”

Kale grinned wolfishly. “The wheels are
turning. Watch closely, Byrn, this is something that most men do
not get to see. Your mother is content to plot with me behind
closed doors, but she possesses a fierce intellect to rival my most
accomplished warlords.

“What do you have in mind, my dear?”

“Long ago you gave Sane a choice to serve you
in exchange for his freedom. What if we extended that offer to the
Collective as a whole? No one could question their strength as an
army and so taking them under our banner could only be seen as a
sign of strengthening the kingdom. As part of the payment for their
service, we could extend that freedom to all magicians.”

The king paced the room as he considered the
ramifications of such a course of action. Would setting the
magicians free end this war or simply make it easier for the
Collective to take over the kingdom? “I am not so sure about this.
What assurances do I have that once they have their freedom they
will not seek to take over the kingdom either through force or more
subtle magics?”

“If an agreement can be reached with the
Collective, then I will be the first to swear my loyalty to you and
will serve as your personal magician as Sane once did. I can detect
even subtle uses of magic and will not allow you to be manipulated
through enchantments,” Byrn suggested.

The queen chimed in, “Having the ‘infamous
magician-prince’ back in the fold and serving faithfully would go a
long way toward showing that all is forgiven with this recent
rebellion.”

“And what of the collars?” an intrigued Byrn
asked. Janus was behind the collars and few knew of the cost of
life to make them. He really wanted to ask how much they knew about
the magician collars, but feared knowing the answer.

“They will be destroyed and the policing of
magicians will fall to the Collective in accordance with the Kenzai
Order. Will the Collective agree to this?”

Byrn did not take long to think on it. “I
believe that most will agree to that.” His only question was would
Xander agree? Besides being supremely powerful, he was also well
regarded among the Collective unless things had drastically
changed. Convincing him would be key to this negotiation’s
success.

“So you do not have the authority to speak on
their behalf?” King Kale’s mood sunk. His brows furrowed in
aggravation. “How long will it take for you to speak with the
Collective and return with those required to make this covenant a
reality?”

“I have not been in contact with them for
some time, having only recently returned to Aurelia. Two months
should be enough for me to reach them and return with an envoy to
discuss an alliance in more detail.”

“Two months,” mused Kale, “Are they in
Wolfsbane as some believe?”

Byrn hesitated. His gut told him not to
answer that question, but there had to be mutual trust between them
if there was to be any hope of success. “They are.”

Stroking his chin, King Kale murmured with a
wry grin, “Janus was right, but I doubted… or perhaps I did not
want to believe…” He banished his train of thought with an abrupt
shake of his head, “It does not matter now.”

The night was growing dimmer, reminding Byrn
that his time was growing short. He would be missed soon. “Before I
go, I’d like to ask for one more boon to make my journey to
Wolfsbane a little bit safer,” he lied. The truth was that Byrn had
not felt truly threatened by another individual since he left
Aurelia and any stray bandits he might come across on his way to
Wolfsbane would be little more than an annoyance. Even if he were
attacked by other magicians he had grown beyond such concerns, but
he had already made up his mind and would not be leaving the
capital without him. “I would like to take Sane with me as a
representative of the kingdom.”

BOOK: Magician Prince
9.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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