The Magicians' Guild
The Black Magician Trilogy
It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow city streets because it is grieved by what it finds there. On the day of the Purge it whistled amongst the swaying masts in the Marina, rushed through the Western Gates and screamed between the buildings. Then, as if appalled by the ragged souls it met there, it quietened to a whimper.
Or so it seemed to Sonea. As another gust of cold wind battered her, she wrapped her arms around her chest and hugged her worn coat closer to her body. Looking down, she scowled at the dirty sludge that splashed over her shoes with each step she took. The cloth she had stuffed into her oversized boots was already saturated and her toes stung with the chill.
A sudden movement to her right caught her attention, and she side-stepped as a man with straggly gray hair staggered toward her from an alley entrance and fell to his knees. Stopping, Sonea offered him her hand, but the old man did not seem to notice. He clambered to his feet and joined the hunched figures making their way down the street.
Sighing, Sonea peered around the edge of her hood. A guard slouched in the entrance of the alley. His mouth was curled into a sneer of disdain; his gaze flitted from figure to figure. She narrowed her eyes at him, but when his head turned in her direction, she quickly looked away.
Curse the guards, she thought. May they all find poisonous faren crawling in their boots. The names of a few good-natured guards pricked her conscience, but she was in no mood to make exceptions.
Falling into step with the shuffling figures around her, Sonea followed them out of the street into a wider thoroughfare. Two- and three-story houses rose on either side of them. The windows of the higher floors were crowded with faces. In one, a well-dressed man was holding up a small boy so he could watch the people below. The man's nose wrinkled with disdain and, as he pointed his finger down, the boy grimaced as if he had tasted something foul.
Sonea glared at them. Wouldn't be so smug if I threw a rock through their window. She looked about half-heartedly, but if any rocks were lying about, they were well hidden beneath the sludge.
A few steps farther on, she caught sight of a pair of guards ahead of her, standing in the entrance to an alley. Dressed in stiff boiled-leather coats and iron helmets, they looked to be twice the weight of the beggars they watched. They carried wooden shields, and at their waists hung kebin—iron bars which were used as cudgels, but with a hook attached just above the handle, designed to catch an attacker's knife. Dropping her eyes to the ground, Sonea walked by the two men.
"—cut 'em off before they reach the square," one of the guards was saying. "About twenty of 'em. Gang leader's big. Got a scar on his neck and—"
Sonea's heart skipped a beat. Could it be . . . ?
A few steps past the guards was a recessed doorway. Slipping into the shallow alcove, she turned her head to sneak a look at the two men, then jumped as she saw two dark eyes staring back at her from the doorway.
A woman gazed at her, eyes wide with surprise. Sonea took a step back. The stranger retreated too, then smiled as Sonea let out a quick laugh.
Just a reflection! Sonea reached out and her fingers met a square of polished metal attached to the wall. Words had been etched into its surface, but she knew too little about letters to make out what they said.
She examined her image. A thin, hollow-cheeked face. Short, dark hair. No one had ever called her pretty. She could still manage to pass herself off as a boy when she wanted to. Her aunt said that she looked more like her long-dead mother than her father, but Sonea suspected Jonna simply did not want to see any resemblance to her absent marriage-brother.
Sonea leaned closer to the reflection. Her mother had been beautiful. Perhaps, if I grew my hair long, she mused, and I wore something feminine . . .
. . . oh, don't bother. With a self-mocking snort, she turned away, annoyed at herself for being distracted by such fantasies.
"—'bout twenty minutes ago," said a nearby voice. She stiffened as she remembered why she had stepped into the alcove.
"And where are they expectin' to trap 'em?"
"Ah, I'd like to be there. Saw what they did to Porlen last year, little bastards. Took several weeks for the rash to go away, and he couldn't see properly for days. Wonder if I can get out of -- Hai! Wrong way, boy!"
Sonea ignored the soldier's shout, knowing that he and his companion would not leave their position at the entrance of the alley, in case the people in the street took advantage of their distraction to slip away. She broke into a jog, weaving through the steadily thickening crowd. From time to time, she paused to search for familiar faces.
She had no doubt which gang the guards had been talking about. Stories of what Harrin's youths had done during the last Purge had been retold over and over through the harsh winter of the previous year. It had amused her to hear that her old friends were still making mischief, though she had to agree with her aunt that she was better off keeping away from their troublemaking. Now it seemed the guards were planning to have their revenge.
Which only proves Jonna right. Sonea smiled grimly. She'd flay me if she knew what I was doing, but I have to warn Harrin . . . The Magicians' Guild
The Black Magician Trilogy
. Copyright © by Trudi Canavan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.