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Authors: Aaron Pogue

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Taming Fire

BOOK: Taming Fire
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This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

 
 

TAMING FIRE

 
 
First edition. June 14, 2011.
 

Copyright © 2011 Consortium Books.

 
 

ISBN: 978-1-936559-03-9

 
 

A Consortium Books public work. Written by Aaron Pogue.

For copyright information concerning this book, please visit
http://www.ConsortiumOKC.com/writing/copyright/

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

 
Also by Aaron Pogue
 
 

The World of the FirstKing

Taming Fire

The Dragonswarm (coming in 2011)

The Dragonprince (coming in 2012)

 
 

The World of Hathor

Gods Tomorrow

Ghost Targets: Expectation

Ghost Targets: Restraint (coming in 2011)

Ghost Targets: Camouflage (coming in 2012)

 
 

Watch for more at
Consortium Books
!

 
 
 
Table of Contents

1. Swords

2. Sorcery

3. To See the King

4. Fugitives

5. At Gath-upon-Brennes

6. The Academy

7. A Challenge

8. An Education

9. Word of War

10. The First Dragon

11. The Fisherman's Cabin

12. Chaos Magic

13. Of Violence and Blood

14. The Wizard's Plan

15. In Tirah

16. Beneath the Silver Moon

Sneak peak at Gods Tomorrow

 
 

My name is Daven Carrickson, son of shamed Carrick the Thief. I've been called Daven of Terrailles in mockery, called Daven of Teelevon in celebration, called Prince of Chaos by men and monsters. In the spring of my seventeenth year, when I was a shepherd called only Daven, they came to take me to the Academy of Wizardry.

 
 
 
1. Swords

On a pretty spring day early in the month of Korhah, I stood with sword in hand on a grassy hillside and faced a tall and angry opponent. Sweat burned my eyes and I could taste it salty on my lips. I blinked, and the glistening beads on my eyelashes flashed momentarily in the bright sun. Then he advanced. I stepped quickly to the right, fell back a pace. My muscles burned despite the chill breeze that brought goose bumps to my arms. I started to turn, feinted slightly and whirled the other direction. Two quick steps. I counted time by the thud of quick feet on the grassy turf. Timing was everything—timing and terrain. My eyes darted to the edge of the little brook, slippery mud that he always forgot, but it was too far for me to press him now. Too far for my failing strength.

He attacked, quick and vicious. The sword he swung was heavier than mine—and newer—and I fell back half a step under its blows. Then I stopped him. His arms were stronger than mine, too, and his energy was new. My side ached, my head throbbed. I sighed, danced left as I sighed, and barely avoided a wild swing. Then a desperate smile stole across my lips. He couldn't see it with his shoulder turned away. I brought my sword up quickly. Falling forward, twisting, I lashed out and caught him just beneath the shoulder, felt the resistance against the tip of my weapon just as I crashed against the unforgiving ground.

For a long while I lay there, trying to catch my breath, trying to ignore the pain in my shoulder. Then I finally rose to one knee and grounded my sword before me for support. I forced a smile, forced myself to breathe evenly, forced myself to stability as the cold wind danced across my aching body. My toes were in the brook, and I could feel the cold water seeping through old and worn leather.

Very, very slowly then the victory seeped into me. I had won, again, and the fight was done. Cooper stood above me now, frozen mid-stride and glaring at me hatefully. He should have won that round, and he knew it as well as I. A single point of brilliant blue light shone just below his shoulder, bright even in the afternoon sun. Wisps of yellow and white light trailed along his sleeves and chest, and mine as well, but the blue was the death shot, marking my victory. The same magic that made the air dance with color held him motionless, and the anger in his eyes made me glad of those few moments to catch my breath.

Slowly and unsteadily I pushed myself up. "It was a good fight, Coop." The anger in his eyes never changed. "You did well. I got lucky." He said nothing, so I counted the seconds beneath my breath and reached out to steady him when the spell expired. He fell against my arm, but instead of catching his balance he threw himself forward, hurling me down to the ground beside him. He grimaced when his shoulder struck the earth, but there was satisfaction in his eyes. It was a small victory in defeat, a bit of honor stolen.

I ground my teeth at the pain, but forced myself to calm because I was too tired to do anything else. Groaning, I pushed myself up again, and leaned against the ancient oak as I brushed some of the dirt and grass from my clothes. Mocking, Cooper said over his shoulder, "Sure. Good fight." After a moment I stepped away from the tree, knelt and washed my face in the cold brook. I rested there for a moment before turning to scoop up my battered sword and carefully sheathing it. There were already soft footsteps on the turf as two of the others stepped forward to take their turn, so I moved quickly out of the sparring area.

Cooper was sitting now among the other boys, gnawing a bit of dried venison and nodding at whatever they were talking about. Most of them were sitting on a rough-hewn wooden bench that Cooper's dad had made for us. Cooper was sitting on a large stone in front of it, which left me only a place on the grass. At Cooper's feet. I sighed and turned toward the road.

Bron yelled to me, "Daven, where are you going?"

I answered him without looking, "Back to Jemminor's. I still need to water the flock before supper." I stopped, a cruel smile stealing across my lips, "Good luck against Kyle."

They all laughed, then, and I almost decided to stay and watch that fight, but I had four wins for the day and those were points hard earned. That was some honor. I wasn't about to give that up by sitting on the grass before them. So I turned back down the graveled path, forgotten among the jibes at poor Bron, and headed for my master's house.

He was my master by choice—my employer—and I was a shepherd by choice, which still surprises some people. To me it was an opportunity to be free. I worked through the morning and afternoon out in the grassy hills of the luxurious Terrailles province. Every day I walked where the herds walked, watched over them and chased off any predators or poachers—though both were few in this land. I had a room in my master's house, a place at his servants' table and regular meals. More important by far, I had evenings off to practice the sword.

It had taken months to teach the other village boys what I knew, months more before any of us were good enough to practice with real weapons, but now we met almost daily. I taught them forms, and they taught me treachery. We dueled sometimes—the careful and polite sport of the capitol's nobility—but far more often we fought, a frightening blur of muscle and motion, of anger and desperation. All of it was governed by a little spell that I had brought with me—a child's enchantment, a referee and scorekeeper in the middle air. I had brought them together, and I dreamed that among that little group of boys I was king—or general, perhaps, of a ragged little army of miscreants. They didn't know—especially Cooper, whose family had a name—but I considered myself their liege, and they respected me as no one else had in my whole life.

At Jemminor's farm, I watered the sheep. It was heavy work, lugging bucket after bucket of water from well to trough, but it was work I did twice a day. The work of a shepherd is walking and carrying, and I had grown strong over years of it. The meal of a shepherd is a feast compared with that of a beggar boy in the capitol, and I had grown soft on too many of them, but I enjoyed that gentle luxury at the servants' table. I fell asleep on a soft bed under new quilts, and dreamed of being a soldier. It was a quiet life, and I loved it.

 
 

A shepherd's day begins before the dawn, and starts off with the smell of honey and oats—for the sheep, not the shepherd. I dumped several handfuls of sweet grain in a trough near the saltlick, then filled it the rest of the way with dry hay from the barn. The sheep came crowding in before I was done, pressing hard against my hips and legs, but I shoved between them to drop the last of the hay in the trough, then waded back out.

The day was bright and warm, and I spent long hours out in the hills with no one for company but the milling flocks. I stared up at the blue sky as soft white clouds drifted slowly by. I ran my hands through the waist-high meadow grasses as I strolled, a hundred sheep around me. I sat for an hour on a cool, mossy stone beside a quiet brook and listened to its bubbling. I enjoyed the silence, enjoyed the peace, but all day I felt the evening calling me forward. My hands strayed often to my belt, but the sword wasn't there. I had work to do yet, but the evening's fight called me on. I smiled and waited. Just like every day.

But when I climbed the low hill outside of town at the end of the day I was disappointed. I was half an hour late, and all the others were there already, but there was no sound of clattering blades, no shouts of encouragement or rage. I stepped up into our clearing and found them all sitting on the bench or spread in the grass around it, leaning forward with elbows on knees and listening intently to Cooper, who sat on the stone before them and spoke with solemn grandeur.

As I approached, Kyle tossed me a soft roll without ever looking away from Cooper. I caught it and took a bite, and I moved closer, curious. Cooper glanced up, saw me, and smiled. He looked delighted. It was the first time I had ever drawn that reaction from him. I stepped up next to Bron and nudged him and he scooted over, crowding Kyle but making enough room for me on the bench. Just as I sank down, Cooper said something that made my blood run cold.

"What?" I said, glaring at him suspiciously, "What about the Guard?"

Several of the boys scowled at me at the interruption but in a moment their eyes swiveled back to Cooper, waiting excitedly for his answer. He only laced his fingers behind his head and gave me a satisfied smile, lips pressed tight.

Kyle finally threw his hands up in frustration and said, "Coop's going to join the Guard!"

I shook my head. "That's impossible."

Kyle nodded. "It's truth. I heard it in the village green. His dad bought him a commission, and he leaves next Kingsday!" His eyes shone with excitement, they were all almost shaking with excitement.

I felt my heart sink. "Nothing so special about that," I grumbled.

Bron snorted. "You've spent too long in the sun. It's addled your brains."

I shook my head, trying to fight a panic building beneath my ribs. "No," I said, to myself as much as to them. "Don't let your daydreams fool you. It's not so fun being in the Guard." Every eye was on me again, most of them wide in disbelief. I swallowed a lump in my throat, "It's a lot of work. Think about it. And hardly any excitement at all."

Cooper grinned at me. His eyes sparkled. But Bron seemed offended. "Be serious, Daven. It's the biggest thing that's ever happened to any of us! He's leaving, he's going to see the world." For a moment he lost his intensity, gazing dreamily up at the clouds, but then he shoved me lightly and I slipped off the end of the bench, "You'd be ecstatic if it were you. You've always wanted to join the Guard."

BOOK: Taming Fire
9.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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