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Authors: Curtis Cornett

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

Magician Prince (7 page)

BOOK: Magician Prince
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“Out of the question,” Kale teemed with
anger, barely held at bay, at the idea, “To his credit, Sane
cleared your name as a usurper shortly after his capture, but he
did plot against my son, your brother, and has been punished
accordingly. It pains me, but I cannot overlook that. If you truly
wish aid, I could send a Kenzai or two with you. I know you are
familiar with Kellen-”

Byrn cut him off, “I’d rather take my
chances. Until next we meet.” He headed for the window and was
about to make his exit when he felt the soft hand of the queen on
his shoulder. He turned and she leaned in to hug him.

“It would be unseemly to admit it, but your
father loves Sane like a brother. He is scheduled to return to the
palace within the week,” she whispered in his ear, “If he were to
somehow escape and join the Collective, then when an alliance is
formed your father would be able to pardon his crimes in good
conscience as part of the agreement.” Byrn looked on her with new
appreciation. She truly held a sharp mind that could rival even the
most talented strategist. How much of the king’s notoriously shrewd
cunning was the product of conversations held with his wife in
private?

“Thank you,” he told her sincerely and held
her tightly for a few moments more before creating a magical
staircase to lead him back down.

“Wait.” This time it was Kale that stopped
him. He held something in his hand and taking Byrn’s hand placed a
ring in it. The ring was gold with a crow etched on it. “If you are
going to do this, then you must do it as a servant of the crown.
This signet ring will signify to all that see it that you act at my
behest and have my favor.”

“Thank you, your highness,” Byrn said and
stepped out onto his rock staircase.

So these are my birth parents as they
truly are without court politics or posturing for the masses
,
thought Byrn. They were practically strangers, but he felt
connected to them and wondered if he could regain with them what he
lost with the deaths of Tannys and Marian Lightfoot. Then he
immediately felt guilty for thinking that anyone, even a king and
queen, could replace his parents.

“Good luck, son.” He heard the queen’s
parting words on the wind.

Chapter 6

 

 

 

Whispers were circulating throughout the
palace. King Kale had suddenly fallen severely ill in the last week
and spent most of his time in seclusion leaving Prince Janus to
rule in his stead. The castle’s residents were tense as speculation
ran rampant about the fate of the king and by extension Aurelia.
Some attributed the king’s sudden turn to his old age and the
stress of dealing with the rebellion. Others believed he was under
the effects of a spell orchestrated by the Collective. Whatever the
reason, the result was the same. King Kale was slowly dying and no
matter how much the healers prayed he was not getting better.

The king’s rapidly diminishing health was a
troubling subject, but there was another rumor going through the
servants’ quarters that was of particular interest to one old man.
Sane was back and he was being held in the castle’s dungeon, but
what made this return something to talk about was that for the
first time in months both of the castle’s collared magicians were
under the same roof even if said roof was by itself larger than a
small village.

Baryn had achieved an uneasy balance between
fulfilling his duties as a humble servant of the Axebeard family
during the day, skulking about the palace at night, and checking in
on his unexpected charge when he could. This schedule left very
little time for sleep, but sacrifices had to be made and in this
case the luxury of resting would have to wait.

A guard passed at the far end of the hall. He
would make his way back around in four minutes and another guard
would pass by in half that time. Baryn slipped into the shadows and
followed the guard down the corridor from a safe distance. He
passed a flight of stairs that could be used as a back entrance to
the western wing where most of the nobility lived without a second
thought.

There were better people for this kind of
work. He could think of two off the top of his head that were more
inclined to the arts of moving unseen and hiding in plain sight,
but neither of them was here. He missed them terribly, but it would
not be long before he would see them again. First, he had a promise
to keep.

Baryn turned a corner into a dark hallway.
This was the dangerous part, because there was nowhere to hide if
someone was to unexpectedly come down this way and there was no
reason to be going down the hall except for one: to enter the
dungeon.

The door was locked at all times and at least
one guard was posted in an antechamber on the other side. The old
retainer pulled a key from a pocket on his servant-grey vest and
inserted it into the lock with great care. Even a sound as small as
a tumbler sliding into place would echo in the deathly silent
corridor. The key turned effortlessly and the door swung open
smoothly indicating that the dungeons were visited often enough to
require regular upkeep.

Baryn followed a flight of stairs down into
the antechamber. It was well lit with sconces going down the hall.
At the far end the antechamber opened up just before another door.
Baryn could make out the edge of a table at the opposite end where
the guard would likely be sitting. There were no shadows to hide in
here. He would have to take a more direct approach to handling the
guard. As he got closer, he could tell there was a pair of dungeon
keepers sitting at a table drinking and arguing over whose wife was
the bigger nag. Both men believed that their own wife should hold
the less than lofty title, allowing Baryn to get far down the hall
before he needed to act.

“Sleep,” Baryn whispered as he felt the magic
flow from his lips and pass into the cell guards. Their heads hit
the table in unison with a pair of gratifying thuds. A quick search
of the men’s uniforms granted Baryn a set of keys to the
dungeon.

The cells were damp and cold and the lighting
was poor, but it took little effort to find the sorcerer’s cell. He
was held separately from the more common criminals in a cell all
his own. He expected this, but Baryn was not prepared for the sight
before him. He remembered Sane as being someone who held himself
with a self-assured attitude and quiet power, but this creature
before him was a disheveled mess. This Sane was covered in dirt and
laid on the floor wrapped in his tattered cloak for warmth. His
skin hung from his bones from malnutrition and there were bruises
on his face and hands… and he wore a patch over one eye.

“What have they done to you?” Baryn whispered
to Sane though he knew the sorcerer was not near enough to hear. He
opened the cell door and unchained the sorcerer. Sane’s flesh was
cold as death causing Baryn to flinch away in surprise for a
moment. His life force was so weak that it was almost a wonder that
he still lived. Left to these conditions, the elder magician would
probably be dead within a few months or weeks. Certainly, he would
not make it through the next winter. “It is time to leave this
place, old man.” Baryn told him cradling the sorcerer’s too light
body. He placed a hand to Sane’s chest and channeled healing
energies into the prisoner causing his complexion to improve from a
deathly white to a sickly off-white color over the course of
several minutes.

Sane’s good eye fluttered open to behold the
old visage holding him. “Who are you?” he asked the old man.

Baryn helped Sane to his feet. “Don’t you
recognize your old student?”

Sane looked closely at Baryn as if he was
trying to see beyond the wrinkles that adorned his face to find
someone that he might know. If Kennath could figure out that Baryn
was someone other than who he appeared to be, then surely Sane
could do the same. His lone eye grew wide as the answer came to
him, “Byrn?”

Baryn nodded. The old servant’s body
shimmered and the glamour faded away revealing the twenty-three
year old sorcerer. His wrinkles receded and his grey-white hair
darkened to a deep brown. His grey servant’s attire transformed
into travelers’ garb and a vibrant dark red cloak once more.

Sane absently tugged at his control collar.
“I cannot leave this cell as long as I wear this collar. Do you
have the key?”

Byrn examined the collar. “This is new. They
did not used to have locks. Gilkame Axebeard must have been hard at
work on the new and improved version over the last year.” He shook
his head. “I wasn’t able to get into the dwarf’s workshop without
exposing myself, but I don’t think I’ll need one. To the wearer
that collar is an unbreakable cage, but it does have a significant
weakness. To anyone on the other side, it is just a hunk of metal.
Hold very still.” Byrn placed two fingers on the gold plated
collar’s lock and clasp and flash heated the metal in that one
spot. The lock fell off and Byrn removed the collar from around the
older sorcerer’s neck.

Sane rubbed at a spot where the collar had
worn into his flesh at the point where neck met chest and his
haggard face smiled broadly. “Let us get out of here. I don’t want
to be a here a minute more.”

“We will,” Byrn agreed, “but first we need to
rescue the other magician, Kennath Altermas.”

“Kennath is dangerous without his collar. Are
you sure he can be trusted?”

“Is there something I need to know about
Kennath?” asked Byrn.

“He was in Baj for a reason. The details
aren’t important. He is a man only interested in his own welfare,
but under the circumstances he may be willing to follow your lead.
Just watch him.”

“Then we will get him and escape before any
are the wiser. Whatever he may have done in the past, he deserves a
chance to redeem himself.” Byrn admitted with some pride, “I have
remained undetected as the servant, Baryn, long enough to learn my
way around the palace inside and out.”

 

***

 

Byrn’s healing powers had reenergized the
aging sorcerer at least for the moment, but he knew that magic was
not a true substitute for the sustenance provided by real food.
Over the last year he had suffered greatly at the prince’s hands.
Sane knew that Janus had resented him. He resented anyone that held
his father’s ear especially when that someone was not of noble
birth like Sane, but it was the depth and form that hatred
manifested itself in that came as a shock. Janus saw to it that
Sane was given just enough food to keep him alive and capable of
training the conscripted magicians from the domains to form the
magic branch of the kingdom’s army who were already under the
direct command of the prince.

It was also Janus who took Sane’s eye. It
happened during the first month that Sane was returned to the
castle, as a prisoner pressed into the service of the kingdom
against his will. He had hoped futilely that his failed plot to
kill the prince would be largely ignored since it ended before it
even began, but the reality of the situation was worse than Sane
could have imagined. Instead of being forced to serve in a similar
fashion to the role he played as a free magician, he was treated as
the traitor and slave that he truly was. Janus had smacked Sane in
the face with a short billy club one day and the wood splintered at
the impact causing small splinters to become imbedded in his eye,
which became infected and lacking any treatment eventually had to
be removed or Sane would have died.

Guards were stationed outside of the prince’s
room. Byrn was fairly certain that Kennath’s quarters would be
somewhere nearby. The younger magician cast a spell of sleep with
just his bare hands upon the guards causing them to collapse
against the wall and slide down. He then twisted his head this way
and that as he read the flow of magic that was invisible to
Sane.

Byrn pointed to one of the doors. “That one,”
he said and went to the room placing his hand against the door
checking for magical wards.

Sane was forced to admit that Byrn had
surpassed him in every way. He was younger, stronger, and more
adept at magic. Byrn could do things that the older sorcerer could
barely even comprehend. If only for a moment, a pang of jealousy
stabbed at his heart, but he was also very proud of the young man
and all he had accomplished.
This is my prince,
thought
Sane,
not Janus or anyone else.
Byrn would be the next ruler
of Aurelia if Sane had anything to do with it.

Sane followed Byrn into Kennath’s room and
they found the magician asleep in a posh bed. While Sane was
subjected to torture in the dungeon, this man was living a life of
luxury! Byrn was already waking the other magician and telling him
of their plan to escape.

Kennath’s staff was leaning against a
dresser. It was long; coming to a man’s shoulder and had a gnarled
curl at the top with a crystal imbedded in it. It was a common
belief that staves containing jewels especially at their head were
more powerful, because the shiny stones could be used to focus
their powers. In truth, it was an eccentricity with no real value
harkening back to a time long past when magicians ruled the land
and such extravagancies were commonplace. Sane picked it up and
felt the comfort of once again being able to draw magic and command
it to
his
will without the need of opening up one of his
veins.

The sorcerer left the room and stepped over
the still sleeping guards. He stood before the prince’s door and
turned the knob. Locked! He pressed a palm against the wood and
pushed pure energy into it causing the door to explode inward in a
hail of splinters and wooden chunks. The pain of the club crushing
his face flashed in his memory as he watched the door explode.

Janus jumped in his bed. The prince was on
his feet with a drawn knife from under his pillow before he was
even sure what had awakened him. The guards at Sane’s feet were
also startled awake, but appeared much slower witted than Janus
whose eyes, glimmering in a dying candle’s glow, confessed fright
as they centered on Sane standing before him.

BOOK: Magician Prince
13.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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