Gerin, King of Khedesh, has long since accepted the mantle of Amber Wizard—the first in a millennium—with all the terrible responsibility that accompanies it. He has prevented the dread wizard-king, Asankaru, from attaining the all-powerful Words of Making, but the enemy grows stronger by the day.
And now Gerin must be resolute and pursue the secret of the Words at any and all cost. For a new foe has emerged in a furious race toward a magical artifact that can awaken and command monsters long thought dead. And nothing will survive the devastation wrought by dragon fire.
About the Author
David Forbes lives in Mechanicsburg, PA, where he is hard at work on the next book in the Osserian Saga.
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The Commanding Stone
In the garret room study that had once been his father's, Gerin Atreyano studied the ebony length of the Staff of Naragenth. The staff rested upon a long table, the silver ferrules shining in the light of the magefire lamps. The shaft was so black it was difficult to see, reflecting no light and blending into the very shadows it cast. In some ways the shaft was more of an absence of a thing than a thing unto itself. Though Gerin could undeniably hold it, the length of the staff was not formed from a physical material...it was made of magic itself, somehow forced through the genius of Naragenth to take and hold a physical shape.
He peered at the staff intently, and did not like what he saw.
There were secrets hidden within it, tucked carefully away by Naragenth. The secret of how it was created, and how the long dead wizard, against all understanding, imbued the staff with a mind, a presence that served as a facilitator to control the energy flowing through it, fashioning raw magic into spells.
But the mind was crippled somehow, unable to truly communicate, to reveal what it was or how it had come to be. It spoke to Gerin in images that caused him great physical pain and which were often difficult or impossible to decipher. In some manner the Presence, as Gerin had come to call the staff's consciousness, was able to read his thoughts, to glean his intentions and create the corresponding spells to carry out his will. But it could not speak to him, at least with a voice.
Gerin and Hollin had studied it obsessively after the defeat of the Havalqa. The wizard Abaru Mezza had assisted them after his arrival fromHethnost, but so far they had learned little else. Neither of the older wizards knew of any means of imbuing a physical object with life. It was simply not thought possible, though now they had irrefutable proof that it could be done.
How did you do this, Naragenth? thought Gerin as he regarded the hazy edge of the staff. Up close, it was difficult to resolve, as if it had no clear boundary delineating where it ended and the air around it began. It made his eyes hurt to look for too long. Why didn't you leave any writings about how you made your staff? You were the only one, apparently, who could enter the Varsae Estrikavis. Where are your records?
Is what you did so unspeakable that you dared not keep an account, even in the safest place in Osseria, and possibly the world?
It was Gerin's growing fear that Naragenth had used dark magic to create the staff. Something so vile that even the greatest wizard of his day dared not write down what he'd done.
It was always possible that the reason for the lack of records was paranoia that other wizards would discover and replicate what he had done, and so by keeping the knowledge within his head, he could prevent the dilution of his incredible achievement. But for whatever reason, Gerin doubted this. He could not say why. They had not found any records of how the Varsae Estrikavis had been hidden away in another world, either. Abaru argued this implied that the first amber wizard merely had been overly cautious, rather than shamed by what he had done.
Gerin disagreed. He felt that hiding the library also involved dark magic, perhaps similar to the magic that created the staff. He knew he had no proof, and some of what little they did know did not support his point of view.
When he'd called Naragenth from the grave to discover the location of the Varsae Estrikavis, the first amber wizard had claimed proudly that the "Chamber of the Moon was a great secret, and one of my greatest creations." It was not exactly the pronouncement of a guilty man, yet neither was it conclusive proof that Naragenth had not employed dark or forbidden magic to accomplish his task. Naragenth could be proud of what he had done, while at the same time feeling ashamed of how he had done it. After all, Gerin reflected, he himself felt much the same regarding his summoning of Naragenth. His calling of the spirit of the dead wizard-king had led to the discovery of the Chamber of the Moon, though it took some time for all of the pieces to fall into place.
Yet Gerin also felt shame and embarrassment that he had stolen forbidden magic from the wizards who trusted him. That he was under a powerful Compulsion from a Neddari kamichi did little to ameliorate his humiliation. He should have been stronger.
And though he had discovered the Varsae Estrikavis, hundreds died because of the imbalance he'd created between the worlds of the living and the dead. He could not help but feel responsible for that, and there were times the guilt was a crushing, paralyzing weight.
Reshel died to close that door. She sacrificed herself to give me the power I needed to force Asankaru back through the door of death. He'd often wondered if he would have had the courage, the selflessness, to do the same. And when he was brutally honest with himself, he realized he did not know. He hoped he would have done as she had, but he could not say so with absolute certainty. That realization haunted him, made him feel even more guilty, and somehow a lesser man.
Hollin was reluctant to take sides. He, too, was troubled by the staff, though he could not explain exactly what it was. "Just a feeling that there is something wrong about it," he said one evening when pressed by Abaru. "I'm troubled whenever I look at it."
Gerin called out to the staff with his thoughts. Not to invoke a spell, but to see if it would respond when asked a question. Could it show him anything? It's only form of communication was visual, images it somehow planted in his mind. Maybe if he could formulate his questions in a way that would not require words to respond, he would have better luck.
Where were you created? Can you show me?
The staff was silent. He repeated his questions. He knew from prior experience that the Presence could take time to respond.
Nothing happened. He rubbed his eyes and slumped in his chair. So far the Presence had only responded when he wanted to use the staff to wield magic.
He stood and looked out one of the dormer windows to clear his mind. Yurente Praithas, the manservant who had served three Atreyano kings, entered and asked if there was anything he needed. Gerin shook his head.
"Your Majesty, if I may be so bold, do you have plans to make this room your own?" asked Yurente. "It is unchanged from when it was your father's. The former king, may Telros bless his spirit, moved quickly to leave his mark here after King Bessel's death."
"I know, Yurente. But for now I'll leave it as it is. I don't object to anything here, and find my father's things ... comforting."
"Ah, yes," said the servant, though it was clear from the puzzled look on his face that he did not understand at all.
After Yurente left, Gerin glanced around the room at his father's rugs, paintings, furniture, and books. Keeping them as his father left them made it seem that Abran were somehow close by, drawn by the familiarity of the surroundings he'd known in life. To change these surroundings would be to lose that sense of connection with his father. He knew he was being superstitious and perhaps a little ridiculous, but he could not help it. He did not know why he wanted to keep a connection with his father, who had all but disowned him during the last few months of his life. Their relationship had strained to the breaking point, and Gerin had seen no way for them to reconcile.
Toward the end, he had hated his father.
And that, in part, was probably why he felt a need, now that his father was gone, to keep some kind of connection with him, with his memory. To salvage in death what could not be done in life.
He thought about his family. His mother and father both dead, well before their time. Old age had not taken them in their gray years. Both had been struck down far too soon.
And Reshel. Gods above me, I miss her as much as ever. He wondered if the ache of her death would ever go away. Would the pain of her loss be as keen a century from now?
Maybe that's my punishment for allowing her to die. That the pain will never dull, never lessen. Perhaps it's true that some wounds never heal.
He realized with a shiver that half of his family was dead. He, Therain, and Claressa were all that remained. Therain had come close to death, after his left hand was severed in an attack by quatans, vile creatures brought to Osseria by the Havalqa. The attack had been an attempt to capture Gerin so the Havalqa could take the Words of Making from him. So in that respect, he was also responsible for his brother's crippling, albeit indirectly.
I'm thinking the way my father did before he died, he chided himself. Blaming me for everything, and holding no one else accountable for their decisions. I didn't bring the Havalqa here. I didn't start a war with them. I didn't ask the Neddari to invade us. They made those decisions. It wasn't right for my father to blame me, and it's not right that I blame myself. Not for everything, at least. The gods know there's enough I am responsible for.
Still, it was one thing to tell himself he was not to blame, and something quite different to believe it.The Commanding Stone. Copyright © by David Forbes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Loved it, can't wait for the next book!
The story drew me in from the first page. I completely enjoyed all 3 books to this series. The characters were engaging. Prince/King Gerin is a little over the top at times but all in all a good character. I hope to see the next book out soon