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The Last Wizard of Eneri Clare
By April Leonie Lindevald
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 April Leonie Lindevald
All rights reserved.
The Night It All Began
Her laughter rang out like lovely little tuned bells. "Benjin! Benjin, stop it," she whispered.
"I can't help myself – you are so irresistible, and I ... I am drunk with anticipation." Sounds of a scuffle came from behind the screen that divided her cubicle from the rest of the dormitory, and then the musical laughter again. Her voice was clear despite the screen. "Benjin, you have to stop now. You'll wake him."
"Who? The old man? He's on the other side of the house. No danger there."
"Not him. You know ... Tvrdik. He'll hear us, and he might try to follow."
In the darkness behind the thin partition, a pale-haired, gawky youth was indeed wide awake in his bed, hearing every word, not daring to stir or breathe.
"Small surprise," the deeper voice sneered. "He follows you around everywhere like a lost puppy."
"Benjin, don't be cruel. We're supposed to be his friends."
"All right, I'm sorry ... but that one is such a sap. He gets on my nerves. He's too sensitive, and I don't like the way he is so attached to you."
Behind the partition, ice-blue eyes winced in silent pain.
"He's just a little young, is all."
"He's seventeen, just a year younger than we are."
"I didn't mean in years. I meant ... how he is. Shy. You never give him a chance, Benjin. He can be sweet ..."
"Now you're the sap, my dear. In any case, he's the Master's little pet. Everything by the book. Anything old Xaarus says. He would never approve of what we are about to do."
"Which is why I said we should be careful not to wake him; it would be hard to explain. He might even fetch Xaarus and try to stop us."
The pale youth twitched, and his ears pricked now to catch their exchange. What was it they were about to do, he thought, and why would I not approve? His throat went dry, and gooseflesh covered his arms as he sensed danger. It was bad enough to find out like this that Benjin and Ailianne were ... together. His sixth sense was telling him something else was afoot that was far more upsetting. What should I do? Should I stand up and confront them now, and demand to know what they are planning? But then he would have to admit he'd been eavesdropping on their entire conversation. That would be awkward. Should I run and get the Master? And be branded forever as a snitch, a spoilsport, the Master's pet? He held his tongue, and strained to hear more. They were still talking in hushed tones, amid sounds of what were perhaps items being packed into a carrysack
"I have the book," Benjin said. "Is everything else there?"
"Yes, yes. I checked three times," the girl hissed. "Only hurry! The moon will be setting soon, and we will miss our mark."
"You sound nervous, girl. Are you having second thoughts? You aren't afraid, are you?" He spoke this last with a faint air of derision, a challenge in his voice.
"No ... no, really. I'm just excited, and eager to have done with it."
"You won't be sorry, my queen. You are far too good for this dull existence. In a few hours, you will feel a power coursing through your veins that the old man hasn't even dreamed of. We will be fulfilling our greater destiny, you and I. Think of it! Masters of time, and life, and death – powerful beyond imagination – immortal! We will have anything we wish for – fame, riches, youth, and beauty that won't fade. And we will be together forever. Ailianne, you're trembling."
The laughter again, but this time with an edge of uncertainty, which was only perceptible to someone who knew her well.
"I ... I am excited, trembling with passion. Oh, Benjin, kiss me again. Steel my nerves, fire my resolve. Tell me again how good it will be ..."
Now it was the pale youth who was trembling, but in terror. Desperate to keep silent, he struggled to push down the wave of horror and dread that overtook him. Certain they would hear his shuddering breaths, he shoved his fist into his mouth and squeezed his eyes closed. What should I do? What in heaven's name are they playing with? They were not yet adults, ill-equipped to handle the dark and dangerous forces they were attempting to unleash. Xaarus had often cautioned them against exploring the old magic without guidance. Hadn't they been listening? How could they both be so foolish, so rebellious when there was so much at stake? Overwhelmed with fear for his classmates, but deeply wounded at their snubs, Tvrdik was paralyzed with confusion.
"Let's go. It's almost time." The girl's voice sounded further away. He heard footsteps; a door opened and closed quietly. Still frozen, and uncertain what course to take, he sat another moment praying fervently that Benjin and Ailianne had stumbled onto something they did not understand and would fail to activate. They would slink back to bed in a few hours, half embarrassed, half amused, and in the morning the whole incident would be a dim, unpleasant memory, better unspoken and soon forgotten. Perhaps they only wanted to sneak off to lie together anyway, the specter of danger lending more passion to their tryst. Of course, that was what this was all about. An icy pang stopped Tvrdik's heart for a moment, and he moaned in agony. Six years he had worshipped Ailianne. In her classic beauty and grace, her keen mind and remarkable talent, he saw all that he idealized in the fair sex. She was kind to him, as a sister. But he had hoped for, longed for so much more. Well, tonight had wiped away any doubts he might have had about which way her affections tended. Fine, he thought, wounded. If it was to be like that, the two of them could have each other. In fact, they deserved each other, and they deserved whatever fate they were courting for themselves. Why should he care a whit if they insisted on being so blind and stupid? Oh gods! What was he doing? How could he even think such spiteful thoughts when the two of them could be in real danger? They had been his schoolmates, his only friends all these years. They had never done anything to harm him on purpose, and now ... what if something terrible happened? He could never live with himself. He had to go after them and stop them. He had to try.
The tall, gangly youth leapt from his cot, pulled on a tunic and leggings, fumbled to adjust a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles on his pale face, slipped on his boots and bounded to the door, careful to close it behind him. Checking to make sure he was not being watched, he padded down the path to Xaarus' front gate, clenching his teeth as he attempted to swing it open and shut without the usual loud creak. Once on the main path, he paused and looked both ways. He cursed himself for allowing his friends such a head start. Which way had they gone? There was no sign of them on the road in either direction. If he understood them correctly, they were planning some sort of sorcerer's ritual, but there were several places they might have chosen for that. He did not think they would have headed back toward the palace, where there was every chance they would be detected or detained. The other way then ... but where?
Tvrdik ventured a few steps and stopped, scratching his blonde head and combing through the lessons in his mind for anything in his apprentice wizard's training that might help now. Precious minutes ticked by. The moon was on the horizon, about to disappear. Think! With a fumbling incantation and a sharp gesture of his right hand, he threw before him a handful of glowing dust which settled itself on the energetic wake his schoolmates had left in their hasty escape, showing their trajectory in clear trails of light. It was well after midnight, and they had been so confident that they were alone that they had not even bothered to make themselves invisible or cover their tracks. Tvrdik sighed in relief and hurried down the path, following the shining flinders that pointed out the way Benjin and Ailianne had gone. He was so intent on his quarry that he did not notice another figure, cloaked and almost invisible against the night sky, gliding along behind him and shadowing his every move.
Tvrdik was almost running now, feeling a sense of urgency he could not name or comprehend. Down the riverwalk he ran, past all the familiar landmarks, then up a hidden side path that led away from the river and into the woods. He thought he knew where he was going now, a small clearing among the tall trees where they had all gone to practice invocations at dawn, and to learn the secrets of the faerie realm in the pristine wood. Sure enough, there was already a fire burning in the clearing when he came upon it. They had drawn a circle on the ground, lit the fire in the center, and surrounded it with an assortment of odd objects and some sort of unfamiliar runes drawn in charcoal about the mossy perimeter.
Ailianne and Benjin stood within the circle. She held up a wooden goblet containing some liquid, and her companion read incantations aloud in some foreign-sounding tongue, from a huge, ancient-looking book. The hair stood up on the back of Tvrdik's neck. He threw himself behind a large tree where he hoped his presence would not be detected. He need not have worried. They were so far immersed in their rituals that they never would have noticed an observer – or two – standing in the wood.
The moon had set, but the flames illuminated the scene clearly. Terrified, Tvrdik watched the scene in helpless fascination, wondering whether to call out to them, or jump out and rush forward, arms waving like a madman. He stood still. Switching to the common language now, Benjin held the book high and intoned, "Lord of the darkness, of the formless void, of the chaos before there was life, of the nothingness wherein all power, all potential, and all the impetus for creation and destruction, hear us! Keepers of the Ancient Magic, the old ways, the first and eldest, we bid you acknowledge us now, we who come to you as willing servants. Our hearts and minds we offer you, in exchange for your secrets. We have mingled our life-blood in this cup, which we pour out to you as a worthy tribute and sacrifice." Ailianne emptied the contents of her goblet onto the flame, which hissed and jumped and turned colors. Only then did Tvrdik notice the fresh, raw cuts on both of their arms, still oozing red.
"Fill us with your primal power," Benjin continued, "your knowledge of the infinite, as we call forth your essence in this place so that we may pay homage to the Old Ones. Come forth from your sleep. ... NOW!" Benjin began reciting the foreign words again in a sort of mantra, over and over, the same unfamiliar phrase. But already a wind was whipping up in the clearing, rustling leaves and branches, tossing Ailianne's long golden hair back from her face and feeding the flames. The great book's pages rifled and flipped about. For a moment, Ailianne looked confused, as Benjin continued his recitation unfazed. In seconds, the wind had intensified, accompanied by a deep rushing sound that drowned out the young man's endless droning. And then, without warning, something rose up in the center of the circle, something that was there, and not there, like a dark mass rearing up from the earth; a tear in the fabric of the air. Black, formless – a widening, bottomless space devoid of light, or hope, or joy. Tvrdik thought he heard laughter again, but not the little tuned bells he knew and loved so well. This was a laughter that froze him to the bone and turned his legs to quivering jelly.
Somewhere in the expanding dark patch appeared two hungry red eyes – eyes with no sense of soul behind them. Benjin had stopped chanting. His strong, young body began to shake. The power he had so carelessly invited to possess him was streaming into the fragile container of his physical form and overwhelming it. Ailianne was by his side in an instant.
"Drop the book, Benjin. This is all wrong. You cannot control it ... let it go." she shouted over the roar of rushing air and booming laughter that surrounded them.
"I can't!" he responded, looking more surprised than anything, "It won't free my hands."
Alarmed, she grabbed at the other end of the book with her own hands to wrench it from his grasp. But, at her touch, sparks flew from the tome, and her hands became fixed to its cover. Trapped, the two of them stood together in the circle, facing each other, the ancient volume between them holding them fast. Hair and clothing blew about furiously, and the rushing noise rose to deafening levels. The fragile mortal frames of the two young students convulsed violently, as raw power they could not contain coursed through them. Ailianne cried out. This was too much for Tvrdik, who leapt from his hiding place and ran toward the circle, shouting, "Ailianne. Ailianne!"
"Stay back!" she ordered, recognizing his voice, "I cannot hold it." She turned her face toward him and their eyes locked. In those beloved eyes, which had always been bright and beautiful to him, he now saw agony and abject terror. His own eyes widened, recognizing the depths of fear and despair in her lovely face. It was to be his last memory of her, seared into his soul for all time, for as he lunged forward to drag her out of the circle, some force knocked him off his feet and a commanding voice rang out, "No! Do not touch them."
Tvrdik collapsed on the ground. A flash of light more brilliant than a dozen suns blinded him for an instant, and he lay there with his hands over his face. When he could once again open his eyes, he saw Xaarus, his Master, standing nearby like an avenging angel, tall and imposing, brows drawn together in concentration, sharp eyes darting fiery purpose over his crooked nose. His staff was raised high in the air, a stream of light pouring from its tip straight at the dark mass in the circle. The old man was shouting out spells and incantations, his voice almost eclipsed by the roaring sound that filled the wood. His face was set in grim determination, power and light exploding from every part of him, pushing back the hostile blackness, and trying to surround its hapless victims with some sort of shield.
Tvrdik closed his eyes again in exhaustion and relief. Xaarus was here. Everything would be alright. There was another flash, several soul-wrenching screams, the sound of an explosion, and then, silence – a silence rendered more profound by contrast to what had preceded it. Breathless moments passed. At last, the pale, thin youth opened his eyes and let them focus on the Master wizard, standing stock still before him. "Master," the boy ventured, his voice breaking, "Master, I followed them, but I did not try to stop them. I should have stopped them. Thank the gods you are here."
"No, Tvrdik," came the whispered answer through the stillness, "I have come too late."
As the meaning of those words washed over his frayed consciousness, Tvrdik turned his head toward what had been the circle. In the light of Xaarus' glowing staff, he saw. There was no fire, no book, no goblet, no carry-sack, no objects placed around the edges. There was no sign of Benjin or Ailianne. Just a patch of scorched ground, and wisps of smoke still twisting and drifting up toward the starry sky. The ice-blue eyes stared in disbelief, then turned back to Xaarus, who stood rigid, staff in hand, a stricken look on his ashen face. Tvrdik had never seen his Master with such an anguished expression ... the look of defeat.
Excerpted from The Last Wizard of Eneri Clare by April Leonie Lindevald. Copyright © 2016 April Leonie Lindevald. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Night It All Began, 7,
Chapter 2 Twelve Years Later, 14,
Chapter 3 Reunions and Tales to Tell, 20,
Chapter 4 Fond Farewells and First Meetings, 35,
Chapter 5 At the Palace of Theriole, 45,
Chapter 6 Over the Threshold, 63,
Chapter 7 The Heart of the Matter, 71,
Chapter 8 Taste of Luxury, 81,
Chapter 9 Day of Discoveries, 85,
Chapter 10 The Camp and the Cottage, 106,
Chapter 11 Delphine Again, 122,
Chapter 12 In the Cottage, 136,
Chapter 13 The Grand Council, 154,
Chapter 14 The Wheel Turns, 166,
Chapter 15 Missing Pieces, 180,
Chapter 16 Celebrations, 200,
Chapter 17 A New King and a Clipped Wing, 220,
Chapter 18 The Vigil, 233,
Chapter 19 Secrets Revealed, 257,
Chapter 20 An Alternate Plan, 271,
Chapter 21 The Road to Healing, 283,
Chapter 22 The Praegers, 294,
Chapter 23 Back to the Master, 301,
Chapter 24 The Cabinet, 312,
Chapter 25 From Chaos to Compromise, 329,
Chapter 26 Coming Home, 338,
Chapter 27 The Legions of Light, 358,
Chapter 28 Meeting the Unicorns, 370,
Chapter 29 Tvrdik the Healer, 386,
Chapter 30 The Legion Assembles, 402,
Chapter 31 Brendelle, 422,
Chapter 32 Under Siege, 438,
Chapter 33 The Hero Wizard, 460,
Chapter 34 A Good Deed, an Envoy, and a Secret Weapon, 490,
Chapter 35 The Birthday Party, 507,
Chapter 36 The Unraveling, 520,
Chapter 37 Preparing For Battle, 534,
Chapter 38 It Begins, 554,
Chapter 39 Tvrdik's Greatest Challenge, 575,
Chapter 40 What Fresh Hell?, 589,
Chapter 41 Aftermath, 607,
Chapter 42 Doubts and Misgivings, 627,
Chapter 43 Rescue Attempt, 638,
Chapter 44 What Love Can Transform, 657,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Excellent book. I do not normally read books on wizardry however I couldn't put this one down. Wonderful plotline. If you're a Harry Potter fan, this is a book to add to your library.