A Chronicle of Iniquity
Anathema: A Chronicle of Iniquity
© 2011 | Richard Fierce
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, also known as the author.
Cover art by Stefano
Used with permission.
Anathema: a thing or person accursed or damned,
something or someone formally denounced.
The creak of an old wooden door echoed into the night. A young man, clothed in a shabby brown cloak, stepped out into the chill evening air. Though it was almost midnight, the moon was full and gave off enough light to see clearly. The man glanced around at the neighboring houses, if that was what you could call them. This was the poorer area of town, and the houses resembled cheaply made shacks more than anything else. He closed the door to the place he called home, giving another quick look around to see if anyone had looked out their windows. Discretion was his ally this night; as it was most nights.
The man pulled the cloak about him tightly to try and keep warm. He was a little over eighteen winters old, but his posture and speech made many think he was older. He was intelligent beyond his age; his mind a meticulous keeper of details. He found he could memorize most things very easily, and in his younger days his teachers had usually favored him over other students—though they would never have admitted it. He was a slim figure, but he wasn’t small by any means. His muscles, though average for his size, were defined with the lines of daily sword lessons.
Yet his true passion was magic.
He often snuck out late at night, usually to the nearby forest where he studied ancient manuscripts he had found buried in the back of a cave. Scrolls made from animal skins, black and silver leather bound books comprised most of what he found. He had “borrowed” a book on various languages from a local trader and it had taken him many weeks to decipher the words written on the scrolls with it, but once he had figured it out, reading the script came as naturally to him as breathing. He treasured knowledge above all else. His father, however, was not a scholarly man. And he didn’t approve of his son being one, either.
He made his way cautiously into the forest. Though he knew the path to the cave as well as he knew his own house, he had accidentally stumbled on a wild animal on one of his late night excursions, much to his dismay. Were it not for his sword, and his minor skill with it, he would surely have lost his life that night. He smiled as he replayed the memory and how he had made up an excuse as to how his shirt had been ripped to shreds in the middle of the night.
His father wasn’t the brightest man and Siddian often used it to his advantage. He respected his father, but the young man knew that sheer strength and skill with a blade didn’t—and couldn’t—solve everything. Sometimes things needed to be handled with diplomacy. He almost laughed aloud as he thought that. Were he so strong in his convictions, he would have already told his father he didn’t want to be a common soldier. His father was such in the nearby lord’s army, and though he was at the bottom ranks, he thought highly of the position he held.
This time the young man did laugh. “I don’t want to be a mere extension of someone’s fist,” he sighed. As he reached the boundary of the forest, he glanced over his shoulder to make sure no one was following him. Satisfied that he was still traveling alone, he stepped into the tree line and began walking toward the hidden cave. His awareness was not from being timid, but from prudence. As he began to more fully understand the spell books he was reading, he knew the consequences if he were caught would be great. The practice of magic by anyone who had no formal training was prohibited. And the practice of the dark arts was expressly prohibited. They didn’t even teach that form of magic at the Academy anymore. Not since …
He shivered from the cold and tried to pull the cloak tighter around him only to hear the sound of fabric ripping. He released his hold and shook his head in disappointment. He hated living in destitution. He stopped walking as he approached the cave’s entrance and looked up into the night sky. He stared at the moon for long moments in complete silence, then promised himself he would be a great mage one day.
Stepping into the cave, he immediately realized that something was amiss. As he stood in the darkness of the cave trying to let his eyes adjust to the deep gloom, he realized also that he was not alone. He stood perfectly still, not daring to move until he knew whether the presence he felt was a threat or not.
“Young you are to be studying the arts of darkness.” The voice sounded loud in the cave, and the words cut through the young man’s defenses, straight to his heart. The young man was slightly afraid, and he knew that his face would have displayed as much to this mysterious person. He was relieved in that moment for the darkness. He swallowed hard and coughed softly to clear his throat.
“Who are you?”
He heard a slight shuffling, whether from footsteps or the person’s clothing he didn’t know. “That is not as important as why I am here.” A resplendent orange light flared to life, illuminating the cave. The young man staggered back from the brightness, his right hand raised in front of his face to block the radiance from his eyes. He stared in horror as he saw the light had come from a fire, a fire fueled by his spell books.
“No!” The young man flung himself toward the fire, scraping his hands as he tried to grab dirt from the cave’s floor to quench the flames. The manuscripts were old and very dry; they burned up too quickly for him to save them from the blaze. His emerald green eyes shot up at the robed figure, his anger evident. Before he could say anything, the unknown figure raised a hand to halt him.
“Do not be angry. These—” he waved his hand toward the dimming fire “—are petty compared to the books I have. These were probably placed here by an amateur wizard in fear of being caught.” The figure pulled his hood back. His face was gaunt and unnaturally pale. His head was bald; not a trace of hair remaining. His eyes were sunken deep into his head, and a scraggly goatee hung down from his chin. He was a figure of gothic power; ready for the grave. The young man couldn’t hide his look of disgust. The man’s appearance was appalling, yet there was something that radiated from the man that drew his interest; a sinister power of great proportions.
“This is my true form, though I do not walk the world with this look.” The figure covered his face with his hands. Whispering words of magic, he removed his hands to display his façade. The young man felt his skin tingle, and he wondered briefly if it was because of the sight he beheld, or from the magic. Later, when he would contemplate back to the moment, he would assume it was a little of both.
His beauty was staggering. Long golden-brown hair cascaded down around his shoulders, his flesh a healthy tanned hue. The figure’s eyes, however, remained devoid of any light. Even the dying light of the fire seemed to be sucked into their depthless void. “Power has a price; a costly price. The dark arts will drain your health, but it will give you such unlimited possibilities! Though the magic within these petty books is weak, it called to my spirit. I have sought you out as a wolf seeks out its prey. I can give you knowledge; give you power unrestrained. But you must weigh the cost. Is it worth the sacrifice for you?”
The young man slowly raised himself up from his knees. He stood staring at the man, through the man; his gaze turned inward and outward. He searched his soul; looked out toward the vast world before him. Then he met the robed figure’s stare, the fury of his desire reflecting back at him.
“I am Siddian; and the world will tremble beneath my hands.”
Siddian stood with his arms folded across his chest, staring out at the vast city in the distance. His room was small, roughly eight feet by ten. The Academy almost always put one student to a room, and Siddian was no different despite his seemingly innate talent. The only furnishings consisted of a bed and a small side table, atop which a candle burned lightly. The walls were smooth and nondescript, the color of fresh snow. Made from the hands of magic, one could find no flaw in the construction that one might with buildings made by the hands of men.
The window Siddian stared out was made of crystal, but it was as clear as though it were plain glass. Many of the students didn’t know that. But Siddian did. He knew almost everything there was to know about the Academy. His master held nightly sessions with him, tutoring him in the way of the dark arts and about the history of their order. During the day, he was a simple student learning the basics. From the hierarchy of the Order to its humble beginnings—and, of course, about magic.
To the right, from the corner of his eye, he could see the sun setting on the horizon. The sky boasted colors of reds and pinks all swirled together. Siddian envied the display; how he desired to be immortalized by something he created. Like the gods, he mused. As the cloak of night descended upon the surrounding landscape, the lights of the city began to twinkle into existence. The sight reminded him of home, in a way. The town he grew up in was by far smaller than the prodigious city. Zelphor was the heart of the human kingdom, the very life-force of civilization. Home to thousands of every different people and culture, it was the epitome of race-mixture.
His thoughts went from his home town to his father. He wondered what his father might be doing, but even as the thought entered his mind he answered his own question. He’s probably still just a soldier. He frowned as he considered how he left home with his mentor. The night he met the man in the cave and accepted the cost of discipleship, he had left. He didn’t even tell his father goodbye. He paused mid-thought to conjure up an image of his father in his mind.
It had been two years since he had left his life behind. Two long, grueling years of study and discipline. But he knew the reward far outweighed the sacrifice.
He pushed the thoughts of his old home—and his father—from his mind. Turning his attention to watch the last of the sun’s spherical shape descend where the sky met the earth, he failed to hear his master’s entrance.
Siddian didn’t bother whirling around to see who entered his private quarters. He knew that only one person could penetrate the magical defenses he himself placed on his room; his master. He inhaled deeply and composed himself, knowing that his mentor would frown disapprovingly at any display of weakness.
“Hardly,” he replied as he turned to greet the man. “Reminiscing, perhaps. Never day dreaming.” He bowed low to his master before meeting his gaze.
Erastus, the boy’s master, stared at his acolyte intensely. He saw a youthful boy, almost a man by the Law’s standards. He was average in height for a human. His hair, black as the shadows, made his bright green eyes stand out in contrast. His flesh was always a mild bronze color despite the fact that he almost never left the walls of the university. And his passion for the craft … it was unrivaled by any except the masters of the Order. Erastus hid his smile within the depths of his hood. He had done well in choosing this one.
“What will we be studying tonight, Master?”
Siddian scowled in disappointment. He thought his mentor had mentioned the practice of shadow casting at their next session. His facial expression revealed his thoughts as well as his words would of, he knew.
“We will not be studying anything. Tonight, we shall practice.”
Siddian felt his heart leap in his chest. His master was going to allow him to cast magic of the dark arts this night? His joy burst forth in laughter and a smile that took up his entire face. His rebuking was swift.
“Do not get excited!” Erastus never raised his voice above a certain level, but he did put force behind his words. “You will need complete focus for this task. Bring your book and meet me in the auditorium.”
Siddian didn’t bother to watch his master fade from sight. His exhilaration had him soaring.
Things had not gone well. At least, that was the thought that continued to run through his mind. Siddian wrung his hands together nervously as he quietly made his way back to his room. Another—a student—had seen them casting magic. Erastus was a master of the Academy, true; but they were not merely casting light globes and conjuring fire. They were summoning foul spirits of the netherworld. It didn’t take an experienced student to know that kind of magic was proscribed. The ramifications swirled through his mind like a whirlwind. He bit his lip in an attempt to divert his mind elsewhere, but it was futile.
Siddian paused as he reached his room. He put his left hand on the door to lean against it, forgetting the defense magic in his panicked state. A burst of electricity jolted through his body. He cried out in agony and shock, watched his arm fall lifelessly to his side. Pain slowly gave way to anger. How could he have let such a small matter affect his rationale? And worse, he hadn’t been paying attention. He could likely have lost his life to the magic that guarded his door.
“Control,” he reprimanded himself. Calming himself and forcing his emotions back to their silent corner, he dropped the magical shield and entered his room. He stood in darkness, having blown the candle on his table out before he left to meet his master. He closed his eyes and let the darkness envelope him completely, comforting him like nothing else could.
How long he stood with his eyes closed, he didn’t know. It could have only been a few minutes, but Siddian assumed it had been much longer than that. His legs had fallen asleep under his unmoving weight and they tingled numbly as he shifted them around. He opened his eyes and immediately noticed his master staring out the single window the room provided. Siddian’s face scrunched up as he attempted to take a step. The numbness in his legs had not diminished, and he tumbled to the floor.
“It seems that a student will be missing in the morning,” Erastus whispered softly. Siddian didn’t move his legs in the hope that the tingling would subside. “What do you mean missing? He went back to his room. I saw him.” Siddian looked to where his master was standing and noticed it was still dark outside; the sun had yet to rise. “He will tell the Council. You are not safe so long as he is here. I’ve left a gift on your table. Use it before daylight.”
And then his master was gone.
It felt as though hundreds of needles were trying to escape his legs. He lay very still, waiting for his circulation to restore itself. He looked at the table to glimpse what gift his master had given him. As if on cue with his thoughts, a shaft of moonlight spilled through his window to reveal a small dagger with ruins etched along the blade. The ruins glimmered with a faint bluish radiance.
Use it before daylight.
The words burned in his mind. The tingling in his legs had finally subsided and he got back onto his feet. He made a mental note to look back through his book on Torpor, the elven art of resting without being fully asleep. Siddian picked the blade up off the table and examined it. He couldn’t decipher the meaning of the ruins, but they did remind him of a book he had seen once when his master had taken him to a secret chamber underneath the Academy.
He would never forget that book. It emanated magical power so strong that it made his skin crawl just being in the same room with it. When his master had opened it, dazzling white and turquoise light burst forth from the pages. He decided then that one day he would subdue the power of that book. He forced his thoughts back to the present. The student who had seen them stayed down the hall from him. He couldn’t be seen outside his room; couldn’t risk being associated with what he was about to do.
Siddian pulled a small wooden chest from under his bed. It was adorned with a tiny, nondescript imprint of a dragon. Inside was a small crystal of a dim red hue, a book of spells his master had given him, and a silver brooch that matched the dragon on the chest. He paid a small fortune for the chest from a Choshech’alfar trader. The elf swore superior quality on his goods, but Siddian had yet to test any of the items. He pinned it to his robes, which were the customary dull brown of a novice, and watched as his hands slowly became opaque, then completely invisible. A smirk spread across his face as a wave of adrenaline rushed over him.
“Such power!” he whispered aloud. Being hidden from sight made him feel powerful. To walk the halls of the Academy in secrecy, without anyone knowing he was near … it made him feel dangerous. Invincible.
Siddian had little trouble getting the door to his fellow student’s room open. It slid open soundlessly. He paused in the doorway hesitantly, the risk of what he was about to do sobering him from his power hungry stupor. Peering into the darkness, he could vaguely make out the silhouette of the bed. He glanced around the hallway to make sure none of the council guards were nearby, and certain that all was acceptable, he stepped into the room.
It was essentially the same as his own abode, but while his own room had a window, this room did not. Siddian crept up beside the bed and quietly slid the dagger his master had given him from his boot. The ruins still glowed faintly and seemed to add to the eeriness of his task.
His peer sat up in his bed. “Who’s there?” he questioned.
Without another thought, Siddian plunged the blade into the man’s throat, twisted it, then pulled it free. Blood spurt from the gaping wound and a gargling sound filled the silence of the room. He watched the dreadful scene with an impassive face. The body slumped back down onto the bed, and Siddian slipped out of the room back into the hallway. It was still devoid of anyone’s presence, and he swiftly made his way back to his own chamber.
When he was younger, his father often told him stories of newer soldiers who had to take the life of another for the first time. In each story, everyone’s reaction was the same: it made them feel ill. Siddian attributed that to the guilt of killing another person. He wasn’t sure what he should be feeling, but he didn’t feel guilty for killing the other student. He felt … unemotional about it. He did what needed to be done. What his master wanted him to do.
The following morning when he “awoke” from torpor, he found his master standing by the window.
“What have you done?” Erastus hissed, turning from the window to face him. Siddian felt confused. “I did what you instructed”
“I did not instruct you to kill him,” his master interrupted. “The dagger was to be used as a gift to bribe his silence and make him withdraw from the Academy. Where is the blade?” Siddian shrugged. “I threw it away,” he lied.
“Lucky for you the guards have not found it then. The ruins on the blade were telepathic. If you would have been intelligent enough to bribe him with it, the ruins would have helped to convince him to keep his mouth shut about what he saw and to make him leave the Academy altogether. Now …”
Erastus shook his head. “Now the council is on alert. They fear someone within the school committed the murder. If they discover it was you, you are on your own. My hands are tied in this matter.”
“You could simply convince them by your power to forget the matter,” Siddian replied.
“I am outnumbered and overpowered. Though my knowledge of the dark arts is extensive, I could not hope to overpower the others. Do nothing to bring attention upon yourself.” And then his master was gone.
As the days passed, Siddian took his master’s advice and laid low. From what he could gather of all the rumors being whispered, the Council had launched an investigation into the murder, even going so far as to bring in a psionicist. Often referred to as “mind mages”, they draw their powers from their own consciousness using methods that usually need to be replenished by resting. His own master had developed similar skills.
Siddian wasn’t concerned. There was no evidence that pointed to him, or anyone else. His thoughts had been on the dagger that his master had given him. The ruins had stopped glowing the faint blue since the night he used it to kill the other student. Now they glowed with a dull murky color. It wasn’t the color that had him intrigued, however. It was the ruins themselves. Siddian had gone through almost every book on ruins in the library, but he could not find anything similar to what was etched on the blade.
The harder he tried to decipher them, the more frustrated he got. Until it had hit him. Erastus’ book had ruins on it as well. Ones different from anything he had seen before. He could sneak to the underground room where his master kept the book, but it would not be easy. He wouldn’t need long, just a few minutes … he pinned the brooch on and headed to the secret door.
Erastus had taken him there on multiple occasions, but he could count the number of times he had seen the book on one hand. His master claimed that the book was invaluable, filled with incomparable knowledge and power. Siddian believed it too. He knew that his master was a powerful wizard, not only from the respect he had among the other council members, but because as he studied the histories of not only the Academy, but the art and Order itself, he saw that the most powerful wizards in times past were those who followed the darker side of the art; the shadow mages.
Ages ago, when magic had first been discovered to exist, the wisest of those possessing the power divided into factions. Some thought it should be used for the betterment of humanity, while others thought that those who had the gifts should be elevated as lords and rulers of the people. And another group felt that the power was for neither good nor evil, but used according to the wishes of the caster.
Thus the Order of the Sun was born. The factions of shadow, upright, and neutral held their own views on the use of magic and never agreed on much. As time passed, the upright gained in strength and number, and eventuallyunder the reign of King Cen Trabanned the study and practice of the dark arts. Despite the ban and subsequent persecution that followed, some still risked their lives to practice the forbidden powers.
Siddian had learned from his master that these people usually stayed out of the public eye for fear that the Academy’s council would track them down and kill them. His master was a rarity, however. He lived a dangerous double life to keep the shadow mages alive inside the Academy. As far as he knew, he was Erastus’ only apprentice. He paused as he came to the end of the hallway, a wall seemingly a dead end. He traced his finger along memorized lines on the smooth stone.
The wall shuddered slightly, then slid to the side to reveal a carved passageway. He attempted to step through, but some invisible force was holding him back. He didn’t remember his master putting any fields of magic on this door in the past. He could feel the power of the unseen force and decided to break through it. He would replace the spell when he left. Easily blasting through the defense, he stepped into the passage. He knew the way to the hidden room he was looking for, and soon he would know what those ruins meant.
Erastus entered the assembly chamber to meet with Shalareven, the head of the council. He had been abruptly summoned, which was not in the leader’s character. Assuming it had something to do with the murder, he answered hastily. Shalareven was already waiting on him.
“Welcome Erastus. I appreciate your urgency. This matter is of the highest priority.”
“Has the psion found anything?”
Shalareven shook his head. “Not necessarily. Though what I am about to show you may give us a clue.” The center of the room was occupied by a large rectangular table. Towards the middle of it, the surface was lower as if it had been ground down by a large stone. Picking up a silver carafe, Shalareven poured water onto the table. It collected in the depression and formed a small pool. Whispering an incantation, an image formed onto the watery surface.
Erastus recognized it immediately as his hidden room, but his face did not betray his thoughts. “What are we looking at?” he questioned.
Shalareven seemed taken aback. “You don’t remember this room? It was where the shadow mages used to gather.”
Feigning remembrance, Erastus nodded. “I do remember, now that you said so. I had almost forgotten about those chambers below the Academy. Why are we looking at this one?”
“The student you brought here is inside.”
Erastus laughed. “Impossible. I sealed the entrance myself years ago as you instructed. No one but a member of the council could undo the enchantment on that door. And I do not see anyone in the image.”
“Focus your attention at the desk. He is not visible with the fleshly eye, but with the magical one. He has some sort of book.”
A burst of blinding bluish white light lit up the image. Erastus looked closer and concentrated his power to reveal the unseen. Then he saw Siddian, looking through his book … and he had the dagger! Anger rushed through him and he slammed his fist onto the table, causing the image on the water to ripple. He realized that Shalareven was staring at him intently.
“How could he betray us in this manner? Betray me of all people … I brought him here, taught him the craft.”
The head of the council frowned. “Perhaps our judgment about him was misguided. This is not the only disturbing news I have. The psionicist has found a chest enchanted with dark magic in his room. There are guards waiting for him there, and I have sent the psionicist for him. I thought that book was destroyed?”
“As did I,” he lied.
“You know what the Law demands.”
“All too well,” Erastus replied as he watched his apprentice hide the book within the folds of his robes.
He was out of his mind. At least, Siddian felt that way. The power of the book has coursed through the air so strongly that he knew he needed to take it. His own master’s power seemed weak and inconsequential in compare. It had to be his. Logically, he knew his master would notice the book missing, but he didn’t care. He would deal with the consequences when they came.
As he made his way back to his chambers, he felt a soft droning sound in his ears. He ignored the noise and halted outside his door, ensuring no one was around when he pulled the brooch off and became visible again. The power to be undetected was an addicting thing he noticed. Siddian had to remind himself of his self-control. He pushed the door open and saw two guards and his master standing within.
The guards rushed forward. One grabbed him and pulled him in the room while the other quickly shut the door. Releasing his grip, the guard struck Siddian on the back of his head and knocked him to the floor.
The room started to spin, or perhaps it was just his imagination. He heard his master berate the guard, but he couldn’t make out the words. They sounded distant and muddled. He forced his eyes shut and tried to get his bearings back. When he opened them, the guards were gone.
“You fool!” his master whispered harshly at him. “Did I not command you to keep unnoticed? The council knows you are involved in the dark arts.”
Siddian began to feel his grip on control fraying within his hands. How could he have been caught? He used the brooch; it wasn’t possible anyone had seen him.
“Clever toy you found yourself,” his master remarked, nudging the magical item with his boot. “But it will not save you. I told you I would not be able to aid you if you were caught. They are going to execute you. That is the repercussion of betraying the Order. That is not my problem. But you have put me in a serious dilemma. I saw you take the book, as did Shalareven. He will destroy it … you know I cannot allow that. Give it to me.”
Many thoughts rushed through Siddian’s mind with that last statement. He couldn’t possibly give the book up, not now that he felt its power in his own hands. He would not allow himself to die here. He had only one choice; he had to fight. He would die for the power of the book. It was a last, desperate move. He wasn’t even certain it would work. And he almost regretted it.
He stood up slowly and reached into his robes. Pulling out the dagger, he lunged at his master and attempted to stab him in the chest.
Erastus grabbed Siddian’s wrist with his right hand, and using his left, he slammed his palm into his apprentice’s elbow. A loud cracking noise echoed off the walls and Siddian dropped to his knees, and to Erastus’ surprise, he did not cry out.
“Your treachery knows no bounds!” Erastus snarled. “You could have been one of the strongest. Such waste …”
Siddian glared up at his master. His arm was throbbing with excruciating pain, but he would not allow the agony to show on his face. Whispering a few words, Siddian aimed his good arm toward Erastus and unleashed a fist-sized ball of red flames. His master deflected it into the wall with a deft wave of his hand. Clenching his teeth against the pain, Siddian leaped to his feet, sliced the wrist of his injured arm, and hurled the dagger into the air.
As soon as the blade left his hand, he covered his fingers in the blood coming from his wrist and snapped his fingers. The blood stretched, elongated, hardened, and turned a deep onyx color. The dagger missed its mark, flying past Erastus’ head. But his master’s attention was on the dagger, which is exactly what Siddian wanted. He flung himself at his master and stabbed him in the left side of his head, right below the temple. The magical blade shattered as it entered his flesh and sent shards straight into Erastus’ brain and an unholy shriek of horror escaped his master’s lungs.
Siddian scrabbled across the floor and snatched his chest from under the bed. He opened it and grabbed the spell book and crystal out just as his door flung open and snapped off the hinges. A figure covered from head to toe in dark gray stormed into the room, the two guards that Erastus sent outside close behind.
“You are a crafty one,” the psionicist said. “There are very few who can hide their thoughts from me. Drop what is in your hands and surrender yourself.”
Siddian lifted the red crystal and held it into the light. He could see some sort of creature suspended at an awkward angle inside it. Crafted by the only malevolent race to survive the Eradication, demon stones were semi-precious minerals enchanted with the darkest of magic to hold a lesser fiend in confinement. Once freed, it was supposed obey a single command to earn its freedom.
“I said drop what you are holding.”
Siddian hoped everything the merchant said about the items he bought was true. He tossed the crystal into the air and watched it shatter as it struck the floor. A red flash burst into existence with a blinding luminosity. In the midst of the shards and light, a demon materialized.
“Kill them!” shouted Siddian.
As soon as the demon had killed the guards, Siddian bolted out the door with the books and dagger. He could hear the demon battling the psionicist behind him. While he wanted to see the demon’s rampage, he knew it was too risky to wait around. Erastus had told him the council knew, so it was only a matter of moments before they were after him.
He pinned the brooch on and hastened down the hall toward the main courtyard of the Academy. Where would he flee to? He wouldn’t be safe in any of the neighboring cities. Not only was he in trouble for practicing forbidden magic, he was now responsible for the deaths of five people, one of them a master of the council. And he certainly could not go home. Not only would they be sure to look for him there, he never saw eye to eye with his father anyway.
He didn’t have any friends, and he had little money to speak of. As he stepped through the main gatehouse, he noticed the guards were absent from their posts. He was one step closer to ensuring that he would live another day. He assumed the council had every available guard searching for him now. He smirked to himself as he thought about how the council had no idea he just walked out the front entry.
With nowhere else to go, he set his mind on the only place he knew would be safe for him: the Ruins. He was taking the first steps on the path that had only just begun.
Shalareven looked upon the gruesome scene and could not hide his revulsion. Four bodies littered the room and blood was splattered from the floor to the ceiling. He stepped out of the room into the hallway as the rest of the council members arrived. The group of men looked over the room, then turned their attention to the council leader.
“How did an apprentice …” one of them spoke up, but his words trailed off as he seemed to be at a loss.
“Do this?” Shalareven finished. “Any number of ways, to be sure. I am inclined to believe he had some sort of device or artifact easy to activate. Siddian was a promising student, but I am doubtful he can cast magic of any real power. He was not here long enough to learn anything reserved for those … higher in rank.”
A small contingent of guards entered the hall and came to the council. “There is no sign of him on the grounds. Your orders?”
Shalareven glanced into the room. “Clean this up. And forget the traitor. He is of no consequence. To us, or anyone else for that matter.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Fierce lives in Georgia with his wife and three step-daughters. He is the author of several novels.
Feel free to contact the author.