Five hundred years ago, a clan of rebels was banished to the bottom of the enchanted world of Aeronne; ever since, these Bottom Dwellers have sought revenge, and now they are waging all-out war on the rest of humanity. Their deadly "contramagic" beams destroy buildings and attack naval airships, and their demonic drumming brings terrible storms and disrupts the magic of the people and dragons Above. The attack of their full contramagic power will create a magical armageddon.
In an effort to prevent further death, Captain Stephano de Guichen leads the Dragon Brigade, taking the fight to the Bottom. But strength of arms alone will not be enough to conquer their foe.
As the Bottom Dwellers' blood magic eats away at the world, those Above realize their only possible defense lies in the heretical secrets of contramagic. Loyal priests must decide whether to protect the Church, or risk its destruction in pursuit of the truth.
Only the Dragon Brigade can prevent an endless dark age. Their epic battle will test the mettle of those thrown into the breach, and determine the fate of this magical world.
About the Author
ROBERT KRAMMES is a game designer and the general manager at Aztec Video Productions. He is the author of the Dragon Brigade Series along with Margaret Weis. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Read an Excerpt
The Seventh Sigil
By Margaret Weis, Robert Krammes, James Frenkel
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2014 Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes
All rights reserved.
I have resisted the calls of many in the Arcanum to install a standing army within the Citadel. I fear such an army could too easily be misused for political purposes.
—Sister Marie Elizabeth, first provost of the Arcanum
The wyvern-drawn prison carriage transported Stephano de Guichen and Rodrigo de Villeneuve to a makeshift wharf located only God and the Arcanum knew where. The terrain was isolated, rockbound. A yacht painted black and marked with the symbol of the Arcanum was the only boat docked at the wharf. The rain had let up and now the sun shone through gray, trailing mists. The time must be somewhere near midafternoon. Only about an hour had passed since Stephano and his friend were accosted by the monks of Saint Klee, placed under arrest, and carried off in chains.
The carriage landed. The monks ordered Stephano and Rodrigo, both still in chains, to descend, then escorted them to the black yacht.
They had been charged with heresy. They would be taken to the dungeons at the Citadel, the home of the Arcanum, the priests who enforced Church laws. The Citadel was a fortress located on a mountain surrounded by the waters of an inland sea. If anyone had escaped from the Citadel's dungeons, they had not lived to tell the tale.
Two monks sat in the driver's box of the yacht. One was the driver, operating the helm and handling the two wyverns. The other rode along as guard.
"We're dangerous criminals," Stephano remarked bitterly to Rodrigo.
His friend said nothing, might not have even heard him. Stephano regarded him with concern. Rodrigo walked with his head bowed, seemingly oblivious to what was going on around him. He wasn't even watching where he was going. He stumbled blindly over the uneven ground.
"We'll prove our innocence, Rigo," Stephano said to him.
Rodrigo bleakly shook his head. He knew as well as Stephano that those who went into the dungeons of the Citadel never came out.
The monk who had accompanied Stephano and Rodrigo ordered them into the yacht. The entrance was located behind the driver, which meant they had to climb up on the box to make their way inside.
The driver stood to allow them to pass. Stephano hoisted himself up on the box—not easy to do with his hands shackled. Rodrigo followed more slowly, missed his step and nearly fell. The monk caught him and assisted him through the door. Once his prisoners were safely inside, the monk entered and shut and locked the door behind him.
Stephano had been in Father Jacob's black yacht. It was luxurious, homey with a table, comfortable chairs, and beds. The interior of this yacht was bare, stripped down. The only furnishings were benches that had been built into the bulwarks, a table—bolted to the deck—a chair and several storage lockers. The portholes were covered by iron bars. This yacht was designed for prisoner transport.
The driver shouted at the wyverns, and the black yacht lifted smoothly into the air.
"If you give me your word as gentlemen that you will not cause trouble, I will remove the manacles," said the monk.
Rodrigo held out his hands. Stephano was about to tell the monk to go to hell.
Rodrigo, seeing Stephano's obdurate expression, said, "Don't be a fool. Look at your wrists."
Stephano looked down. His wrists were cut and rubbed raw from the manacles. And he had to admit he felt helpless without the use of his hands.
"You have my word," he muttered dourly.
A blue spark sizzled from the monk's fingers, and the lock on the manacles clicked. The manacles popped open and fell to the floor. The monk did the same for Rodrigo, then pointed to the benches, silently indicating they were to sit there.
Stephano sat down and rubbed his wrists. Rodrigo eased himself down on the bench and lay motionless, staring up at the ceiling. He was deathly pale. Stephano rested his hand on his friend's shoulder.
"Everything's going to be all right, Rigo. These charges that we conspired with Father Jacob and Sir Ander are ludicrous. There's been some sort of mistake. We're innocent."
Stephano spoke loudly, aiming his words at the monk, who had taken a seat facing his prisoners in the yacht's only chair.
Rodrigo closed his eyes.
Stephano sat forward and continued his argument.
"These charges make no sense! The idea that either Father Jacob or Sir Ander are heretics is absurd and the notion that we conspired with them against the Church is more absurd still! Sir Ander is a Knight Protector, a man of honor, a true knight, dedicated to his faith. We met him and Father Jacob at the Abbey of Saint Agnes. They were there to investigate the murders of the nuns. When the Bottom Dwellers attacked them, their yacht was damaged and we towed them to Westfirth for repairs. That's all there was to it."
The monk remained unmoving, seemingly deaf.
"You're wasting your breath, my friend," Rodrigo said in a listless tone. "The monks of Saint Klee are the guardians of the Citadel, sent to arrest us and deliver us safely to the inquisitors. They don't care if we are guilty or innocent."
"They should care," Stephano said angrily.
Rodrigo gave a wan smile and again closed his eyes. The monk sat upright in his chair, watching Stephano and Rodrigo without appearing to watch them. Stephano had heard stories about the monks of Saint Klee, the guardians of the Citadel.
Saint Klee had been a man who taught that life was sacred and that one should subdue a foe, if possible, rather than kill him. To this end, the monks of Saint Klee had, over the centuries, developed specialized magicks designed to subdue their victims. Stephano could attest to the magic's effectiveness. His body still tingled from the spell they had cast on him, which had left him twitching and writhing on the floor.
This monk was short, lean, and spare. He wore the traditional red robes of the monks of Saint Klee. His long curly black hair was tied in a knot at the back of his head. He spoke with an Estaran accent. The other two monks in the driver's box wore the same red robes. They were both built the same—all bone and muscle and gristle. The only difference was that one had sparse graying hair and one had brown.
Stephano, feeling the need to move about, started to stand up. The monk jumped to his feet. Stephano hurriedly raised his hands to show he meant no harm.
"I gave you my word, Brother!" said Stephano, annoyed. "I just want to walk around a little, stretch my legs."
The monk considered, then nodded and settled himself again.
Stephano paced aimlessly around the yacht's only room, then walked over to look out one of the iron-barred windows. He was aware of the monk's eyes on him the entire time and he was tempted to ask if the monk thought he was going to try to rip out the bars, smash the glass, and hurl himself to his death on the ground far below.
The yacht was flying just beneath cloud level. Below, Stephano could see a walled city and outlying homes and farm fields spread over lush hillsides. A large river meandered among the hills. By the sun's location, he could tell they were sailing south. There were no other walled cities in this part of the country. The city must be Eudaine, on the banks of the river Conce.
A flash of lightning followed quickly by a crack of thunder startled him; then came a deluge. Rain poured down in a gray curtain, drumming on the roof and rolling down the windowpanes. The yacht's interior grew dark as clouds closed in.
A lamp stood on the table. The monk apparently liked to sit in the gloom, however, because he did not light it. More thunder rumbled and the yacht rocked with the gusting wind. The storm was worsening.
Rodrigo had not moved and Stephano feared he might slip into melancholia and never come out. He needed some way to distract him, rouse him from his dark thoughts. Stephano went back to sit beside him.
"Rigo, we need to talk," he said. "It's about my mother."
Rodrigo opened his eyes and sat bolt upright to stare in astonishment. The subject of Stephano's mother was forbidden by Stephano, who disliked thinking about her, much less talking about her. He was now driven by recent events to do both.
"I'm listening, but just remember, so is our friend," Rodrigo said with a glance at the monk.
Stephano gave a shrug.
"He probably knows everything anyway. D'argent showed me the will that states I am my mother's legitimate heir."
"I know," said Rodrigo. "I saw it. What about it?"
"I don't believe it. It's a fraud. To be my mother's heir, she and my father would have to have been married."
"Then that must be the case. My dear fellow, your mother's will was drawn up by lawyers, signed and attested with her signature and the signatures of witnesses. How could it be a fraud?"
"According to my grandfather, my father never saw or communicated with my mother after I was born. He never talked about her; never uttered her name."
"Your grandfather must have been wrong. You have to face facts, my friend," said Rodrigo. "Upon your mother's death—which sad occasion we all hope will not happen for many, many years—you will become one of the wealthiest men in Rosia, maybe in all the world. The riches of the crown are said to be nothing compared to those of your mother."
Stephano brushed wealth aside. "D'argent said that he told me about my mother's will on her orders, because she fears she might not return. I am worried about her, Rigo. Seems strange to say, since I have always hated her."
"You could ask Sir Ander—" Rodrigo began.
"When we see him in prison?" Stephano said drily, forgetting that he was supposed to be keeping Rodrigo's mind off their current predicament.
Rodrigo paled a bit, but he rallied.
"What I was going to say is that once we are freed, you can ask Sir Ander if he knows anything about your parents being married. He was a good friend to both of them."
Stephano thought this over. "I think Sir Ander does know something. He tried to tell me back at the Abbey, but I wouldn't listen. I resented the fact that he was friends with my mother, and I accused him of being disloyal to my father's memory. But maybe—"
He was stopped in midsentence by the shrill shrieking of the wyverns. The next moment, a fiery blast hit the yacht, throwing Stephano and Rodrigo off the bench and dumping the monk out of his chair.
"Were we struck by lightning?" Rodrigo asked.
"Not unless lighting is green," said Stephano grimly. "That was a blast of contramagic! Keep down."
Rodrigo flattened himself on the deck.
The monk twisted catlike to his feet. He cast Stephano a warning look.
"Stay where you are, sir," the monk ordered, finally speaking. "Don't move."
The monk hurried to the window. Stephano had no need to move. Looking past the monk's shoulder, he could see armed men riding gigantic bats flying out of the rain clouds.
"Bottom Dwellers," said Stephano.
"Dear God!" Rodrigo groaned. "First we're arrested and now demons are attacking us! Could this day get any worse?"
The riders appeared to be aiming their fire at the driver. The wyverns were shrieking in terror at the sight of the giant bats, and he was having difficulty controlling them. The yacht rocked and pitched, making it hard to stand. Stephano could see at least a dozen more bats emerging from the storm clouds. He doubted if even the legendary monks of Saint Klee could fight off such numbers.
The monk remained standing in front of the window, gazing out at the bat riders, who now had the yacht surrounded. Stephano waited tensely for another attack, which likely would send the yacht plunging to the ground. But nothing happened; no more blasts.
"They are trying to force us to land," Stephano said.
"Why?" Rodrigo asked in muffled tones. He lay face down on the deck with his arms covering his head. "Why not just blow us out of the sky?"
Stephano shook his head. He spoke to the monk's back. "Do you know why, Brother?"
"They want the yacht," the monk replied. "They don't want to damage it. And they want to capture us alive."
Stephano wondered why at first and then he recalled what Father Jacob had told him, about how the demons had tortured the nuns of the Abbey of Saint Agnes before they killed them. He started to say something, glanced at Rodrigo, and was silent.
The high-pitched screams of the wyverns were growing louder and more frantic. The Bottom Dwellers, wearing demonic-looking helms, flew alongside the yacht—a strange and hideous escort. The monk walked over to a bench and reached underneath it to draw out what appeared to be an ordinary wooden walking staff. Stephano guessed it wasn't ordinary and that it wasn't a staff. The monk returned to the window.
"I can help you fight them, Brother," said Stephano. "Give me a pistol. I know you rely on your magic, but you must have weapons stored somewhere on board."
The monk made no answer.
"I gave you my word as a gentleman I won't try to escape," Stephano promised.
"Mine, too," said Rodrigo from the deck. "If you have some silk I can cover it with constructs to defend against contramagic—"
"Rigo!" Stephano said sharply. In a lower voice he added, "Don't talk about contramagic! You're in enough trouble already!"
The monk was keeping watch out the window. He smiled faintly.
"We also know how to defend against contramagic, Monsieur Rodrigo. Father Jacob warned us to be prepared."
"Then why are they charging us with heresy?" Stephano asked angrily. "None of this makes any sense."
The monks launched their own attack. Bright, fiery red light reflected off the gray clouds, then another blast of green contramagic shook the yacht. Bats screeched; the wyverns screamed. Stephano caught a glimpse of a bat and its rider tumbling out of the sky trailing smoke.
"Please stand back, Captain," the monk ordered.
Placing himself directly in front of the iron-barred window, the monk raised the staff. The wood began to glow. A blast of red light streaked from the staff and struck the porthole. The glass exploded. The iron bars glowed red hot. The bat riders saw their danger, but it was too late to flee before the fiery wave hit them, immolating the two bats and their riders, consuming them in white flame.
"Good thing we didn't try to escape," Rodrigo remarked, shuddering.
The wind gusted, sending rain rushing through the broken window. The monk glanced over his shoulder at Stephano.
"The pistols are stored in a compartment in the bulkhead just above your head, Captain."
Stephano looked, but he could not see a compartment. The monk spoke a word and blue magical light illuminated the wall, revealing a secret cabinet.
"The pistols are loaded," the monk continued. "I will have to remove the warding constructs—"
A bat rider appeared outside the shattered window, and another bat rider swooped down beside him.
"Brother, duck!" Stephano warned.
Green fire blasted through the window. The monk cried out and reeled backward. Blood and rain streamed down his face. He staggered and Stephano caught hold of him.
"Rigo, light the lamp!" Stephano ordered, lowering the wounded monk to the deck. "Bring it over here. And keep your head down!"
Rodrigo activated the lamp's magic with a word. Crouching low, he brought the light to Stephano. Rodrigo took one look at the monk's face in the lamplight and sucked in a horrified breath.
"Oh, God!" he whispered.
One of the monk's eyes had been pierced by a large, jagged splinter of wood. The other eye was dark with blood.
"I can't see!" The monk started to lift his hands to his face.
"Lie still. Don't move," Stephano said to the monk. Taking hold of his hands, he gently lowered them. "I'll get help."
Green light flared, and Stephano could feel the yacht take another hit and make a stomach-dropping dive. Stephano and Rodrigo froze, helpless. Finally the driver managed to bring the yacht under control and they leveled out. Stephano breathed a sigh of relief.
"Rigo, stay with him. I'll go fetch the others."
Stephano started to stand up, but Rodrigo seized hold of his arm, dragging him back down.
"Look!" Rodrigo held the lamp over the monk.
A large stain, black against the red of the monk's robe, was slowly spreading over the monk's chest. Stephano tore open the monk's robes to examine the wound. The lantern wavered. The beam of light stabbed all around the yacht's interior.
"Stop shaking, Rigo. Hold the lamp steady," Stephano ordered curtly.
Rodrigo swallowed and made a valiant effort to hold still. A projectile of some sort had entered the monk's chest. The monk's head lolled, and his body went limp.
"He's dead," said Stephano, as he sat back on his heels.
The gray clouds reflected the green and red of the flaring attacks as the yacht rolled despite the driver's struggles with the wyverns. His fellow monk was still alive, still fighting. Another flash of red light accompanied by an extremely loud explosion was followed by the sound of a bat screeching in its death throes.
Excerpted from The Seventh Sigil by Margaret Weis, Robert Krammes, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2014 Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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