- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The Fey Empire has been at peace for fifteen years. But Queen Arianna, who holds the Black Throne, has become increasingly troubled by a mysterious presence that is waking in her mind. It is a force of ruthless power, determined to seize the ...
Ships from: Oxford, MA
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
The Fey Empire has been at peace for fifteen years. But Queen Arianna, who holds the Black Throne, has become increasingly troubled by a mysterious presence that is waking in her mind. It is a force of ruthless power, determined to seize the throne even if it means destroying Arianna's very essence in the process. And when the queen's body is not her own, it spells trouble for a warlike empire already beginning to chafe under the strictures of peace.
Worse, it seems that the only person who can help Arianna is her brother, Gift, the legitimate heir to the Black Throne--and the one the Throne itself has chosen as ruler. To refuse its summoning could bring disaster, but to accept it could be more dire still. So while his sister is locked in a battle to save her very soul, Gift must use his incomplete knowledge of magic in a desperate fight to discover a solution. At stake is the fate of the entire world--which stands poised on the brink of unimaginable chaos.
He stood outside the Student's Hut in the Protectors Village and waited for Madot. Dawn had just touched the tips of the mountains, the sunlight a pale yellow as it rose over the ancient peaks. It would take another hour before the light reached him.
The village was quiet. Many of the Shaman were already busy with their daily tasks. Others, the night guardians, slept. It had taken him almost a year to get used to the rhythms of the Protectors. They gathered much of their food, and the rest was brought to them by the nearby Fey Infantry garrison, a custom that was hundreds, perhaps thousands of years old. No commerce took place here. Protectors Village served two functions: it housed the Shaman dedicated to guarding the Place of Power, and it gave the young apprentices a school of sorts, a place to train where they would be undisturbed by the outside world.
Fifty stone huts huddled on the plateau. They were round and made out of mountain rock. They had no windows and only one door. Some of the huts were built for several inhabitants, like the Student's Hut. Some were built for one person: a full-fledged Shaman who had to, by rights, live alone.
Gift wasn't a Shaman yet, and he wouldn't be for a long time. He had decades of training ahead of him. Madot, his main teacher, believed that he could cut his training short because of the power of his magic, the unprecedented strength of his Vision, but she was only guessing. There had never been an apprentice like Gift in the entire history of the Fey. His magic was unique--his heritage was unique--and because of those things, his future was uncertain.
He rubbed his hands together in the early morning chill. Madot had instructed him to wear only his apprentice's robes. She was going to take him to the Place of Power, several years before most apprentices were ever taken. It was said that a goat herder found this cave, and took his family inside. When they came out, they were Fey.
Simply entering the cave did not create a Fey. There was magic in a Place of Power that, when tapped, altered everything. That much he knew without being taught. He had discovered a second Place of Power fifteen years before, and had lived in it for several weeks. There he had seen things he still did not comprehend, things that had changed his life forever.
He would not be standing here if he hadn't lived in that place.
He shifted from one bare foot to the other. His toes were growing cold. The bottoms of his feet had become hard from use. He rarely wore shoes--they were frowned upon by the Shaman--but usually he was moving. He almost never stood still.
Madot saw that as a flaw. She saw many things about him as flaws. He had been raised by adoptive parents who had no idea how to control his Visionary magic, and he had used his talents in ways that the Shaman here frowned upon. That his spells had been successful didn't matter, nor did the fact that with them he had saved hundreds of lives. That he had misused the magic was the important thing, the thing they wanted to corral in him.
Wild magic, or so Madot called it. She said his wild magic and his impatience were his greatest faults. Until he had come here, he thought his wild magic was his greatest asset. He hadn't even known he was impatient until he had come to a place where time seemed to have stopped.
There were no regular schedules as there had been when he lived in a Fey military camp, no rhythms as there had been when he lived in the rural areas of his homeland, Blue Isle. Here the Shaman went about their business as if they were being governed from within. He always felt at loose ends. He wanted to stay busy, although sometimes there was nothing to do.
Madot said he had to get used to quiet. He thought that the most difficult thing of all.
He glanced up the mountainside. The Place of Power was a morning's climb from the Protector's Village. From here, he could see the silvery shimmer that marked the cave's entrance. His stomach jumped slightly. He had no idea how different this Place of Power would be from the one he discovered on Blue Isle. On Blue Isle, the Place of Power contained items from the Isle's main religion, Rocaanism. But Rocaanism wasn't practiced anywhere on this continent, known as Vion. Here, at the foundation of the Fey Empire, the word "religion" wasn't used at all.
Finally, he saw the door to Madot's hut open. She stepped outside and sniffed the air, as she always did, as if the faint fragrances on the breeze gave her information that Gift could never get. To him, all the smells were familiar: the dusty sharpness of the mountains themselves; the pungent odor of the ceta plants that grew perennially behind the Student's Hut; the stench of the manure that he and the other students had spread on the communal garden just the night before. Nothing stood out, and nothing was unexpected. Once he had asked her what she smelled, and she had smiled.
The future, boy, she had said. Just the future.
It also took him a while to get used to being called "boy." He was thirty-three years old, a full adult in most places. To many Shaman, though, a thirty-three-year-old was still in his childhood. Most full Shaman didn't begin their solitary practices until they were ninety or older.
The Shaman were the longest lived of the Fey, and it was a good thing, because so few had the ability to become Shaman. Of those who did, even fewer chose the work. It was arduous and its rewards were few. He still thought of the Shaman who helped raise him--a woman he thought of as his father's Shaman, even though his father hadn't been Fey--and of the sacrifices she had made so that her Vision, her dream for the future, could come true. She had died for that dream. Apprentices did not become Shaman until they were ready to make that supreme sacrifice. It was the one area that Gift was confident he would pass. He had sacrificed so much over the years that sacrificing his life seemed a very small thing indeed.
Madot was watching him. Her eyes were dark against her wizened skin. Her white hair surrounded her face like a nimbus. The hair was the unifying feature of all the Shaman, the hair and the desiccated look of the body, the skin. It was as if in training their Vision to See and Foresee, they had lost something vital, something that nourished them from within.
Gift had none of that look. He favored his Fey mother in most things, but it was obvious that Gift was not fully Fey. His father had been the King of Blue Isle, and the people there were short, blond-haired and blue-eyed, with skin so fair that it turned red in the sun. Gift's Fey heritage showed in his height, his hair, and his faintly pointed ears, but his Islander heritage diluted his skin to a golden brown, made his cheeks round instead of angular, and gave his eyes a vivid blueness that usually startled any Fey meeting him for the first time.
Madot found Gift's appearance cause for concern. He had been having Visions since he was a child, and he had first used his Visionary powers when he was three. Thirty years of such extreme magic should have taken a toll on his skin, his hair, his face, but it had not. And that worried her. Once she had mumbled that perhaps he hadn't tapped his full power yet, and once she had said that perhaps his magic was something Other, something so different that the rules no longer applied.
"You are being impatient," she said as she approached him, her dark robes flowing around her. Her voice was high and warm. He would have called it youthful if he had heard it without seeing her. Yet she was among the oldest of the Shaman in the village, and one of the most powerful.
He smiled at her accusation. She was correct. He was impatient. "I was trying to wait," he said.
"Trying forces you to be impatient. You must not try. You must simply be."
He shook his head slightly. "You've been telling me that for five years."
"And for five years you have not understood me."
"Then perhaps the problem is with the messenger, not the recipient."