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The Steel of Enadia
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-148-1
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 387 Pages
Published: June 2004

From inside the flap

Young Jann was one of the most talented adepts the Academy had ever seen, and, as his Master Speritus believed, someday his magical abilities would take him far. If only it weren?t for one obstacle: Jann was not of royal birth, and as a Plebeian the Quirinabi hierarchy would never permit him to obtain a high office at the palace. Had they forgotten that Jann was also a former gutter brat who had once been a promising thief on Market Street? He knew how to break the rules to get what he wanted.

The First Eye of Quirinab was the sacred source of all magic in the Empire and Jannís one chance to get the oyil talisman he needed to achieve his dreams. But when he breaks into the Central Chamber to summon the Eyeís power, Jann is cursed with the Mark of the Second Eye, a wicked scar on his chest that is supposed to be evil but has also unleashed new magical abilities within him.

With the help of a wolf-bat-dwarf-rabbit hybrid named Brodi and an Amalthean witch named Dania, Jann discovers the Oracle at Benet-om?neat and learns that he is a key player in a prophecy that could end centuries of peace in the land of Kyr. The nature of his role?executioner or deliverer?is unclear, and the only possible answers lie in the Valley of Enadia, where he hopes to find the Second Eye that has been lost for seven hundred years.

The Steel of Enadia (Excerpt)

Chapter One

Master Speritus was late for his afternoon class, which did not trouble his students. The wizard was often late, and the delay gave the young men--all of whom were restless to take their journeyman exams and leave the Academy behind for good--the chance to relax and digest their mid-day meal and have a bit of fun before the real work began. The chattering of the dozen or so students had escalated enough to rouse the masterís pet wyvern, Argus, who crouched like a stone gargoyle in one drab corner of the candlelit room. A tall, skinny youth broke ranks and stood before his classmates. Though he did not have the impressive physique of a trained Guardsman, his body was lithe, and he moved with agility and swiftness. His face was thin and angular, but not unhandsome, and his hawk-like nose was so similar to Master Speritusís that he seemed marked to someday take the wizardís coveted position at the Academy. His keen eyes judged the audience, reading the expressions of his peers.

"Now, now, settle down," the apprentice said, waving his arms for silence the way his teacher always did. "Since I?m mentored to the master, it seems only fair I take charge until his presence is reestablished."

This idea delighted several of his friends; some of the other students seemed less pleased, however.

"Instruct us, oh wise Jann of the Lean Features," said Borodred, an Ambrian whose shock of pale blonde hair, a common trait of the northern lands from which he had journeyed to learn his chosen discipline, had always made him stand out from the rest of his comrades. Most of the apprentices, like Jann, had brown hair cropped short so as not to rival the lengthy, luxurious locks sported by their superiors.

"Thank you, friend Borodred," said Jann, bowing dramatically. "To prepare you for your final trials before you are purged from this fine and honorable institution like so much bad fairy dust from a dryadís congested nostrils, I have prepared a demonstration for your amusement."

"You can?t do any demonstrations without Master Speritusís assistance," objected one of the students.

Jann regarded his heckler in the same manner a wealthy merchant might regard a village idiot who has had the misfortune of being run over by one of his caravanís gold-plated carriage wheels.

"Of course, some of you might harbor doubts about my abilities," Jann continued. "You might believe that the only way to perform wonders is with magic. To you I merely say that there are more things in this world than magic alone, as I?m certain the master would point out to you. So then, watch and be amazed!" With a flourish of his long arms, the apprentice materialized a piece of grey linen in his right hand.

His audience grunted mildly in disappointment.

"Itís just a piece of cloth," sneered the boy who had chastised Jann.

"Oh, itís more than that," said Jann. "Itís a breechcloth."

The boy snorted, "So?"

"Well, dear Pinkus, itís your breechcloth."

"Mine?" Pinkus said, his cheeks turning red. "Mine?" he repeated, and his skin showed even more astonishing hues. "You went through my clothes trunk?"

"Pinkus! I would never do such a thing to a cherished comrade. That would be a violation of your privacy."

"Then where did you get it?"

Jann struck a pensive pose. "This is a matter that might require further investigation. In the meantime, I apologize to you, Pinkus. Why don?t you come up and get your undergarment?"

Pinkus huffed, but stood up to get what belonged to him. When he did so, however, he noticed that a sensitive portion of his body was not as protected from the elements as it should have been. His mouth dropped open and his jaws clenched as he ran up to Jann with both hands gripping his apprentice robes more securely about his loins.

"Give me that, you cur!" Pinkus spat, and dashed out of the room.

The other apprentices burst into laughter as they caught on to Jannís prank. They were still laughing when Argusís husky croon announced the arrival of his master.

Though Speritus said nothing as he entered, the guffaws and chuckles abated immediately, and Jann swiftly resumed his place among the other students. The wizard patted Argus affectionately on the snout before facing his class. Speritus was a little shorter than Jann, though much more impressive in the bronze-colored robes that symbolized his stature as a full wizard of the Plebeian Brotherhood. His head was bald, but his beard still kept most of its youthful black, and his body remained thin and vigorous, especially when compared to other wizards, who did not adhere to Speritusís almost religious regimen of daily exercise. The masterís good health was reflected both in his rosy complexion and the bounce in his steps.

Around Speritusís neck was a green ribbon of silk from which hung a silver casing engraved with the Tome and Quill that was the symbol of his office. Contained within the pendant was the mageís oyil, the "little eye"--as was the literal translation from the Gaudeyn--that was a piece of the First Eye of Quirinab and which each wizard graduate of the Academy was given when he achieved journeyman status. Without his oyil, a wizard was powerless.

Jann followed Speritusís medal with his eyes, hypnotized as it swayed with the mageís movements. Above all else, the young apprentice longed for the day when he would wear such a trophy. But though Speritusís oyil was magnificent, Jann wanted something more. Apprentices wore humble necklaces made of leather from which hung empty wooden pendants edged in plain copper. As Plebeians, Jann and his comrades would receive the oyil called quirinaref--the "Touch of Quirinab"--and join others in their class like Master Speritus. But the quirinaref was not as powerful as the oyil worn by those of royal birth. The quirinayet, or "Sight of Quirinab," which was contained in a golden casing, was by far superior. Jann would never be able to perform to the best of his ability without a quirinayet, and the thought that he was ineligible by birth to ever wear one made him clench his teeth.

One day, he vowed, he would wear the golden oyil, birth right or no.

Though only a Plebeian, Speritus was nonetheless an impressive figure. And the relatively few wrinkles in his skin bore witness to the masterís rapid ascension through the ranks. Many of Speritusís peers were twice his age.

"Whereís Pinkus?" the wizard said after counting heads.

"Oh, he?ll be right back, Master Speritus," said Jann. "He had to ... make arrangements for some of his personal effects."

One or two of the students stifled a snicker. Speritus eyed them with mild curiosity before nodding slightly. "Yes, I suppose you?re all anxious to pack your things and leave Medikyr and the palace. But don?t be too anxious. You don?t realize it now, but these last five years have been the easiest you will ever experience as adepts. Becoming journeymen may seem exciting now, but you will work twice as hard as you ever have before. You will have much more responsibility, not only for the citizens whom you will be helping to care for under the aegis of your sponsors, but also for yourselves. And I don?t mean just taking care of your room and board, though many of you may find yourselves living in tents or worse." Some of the apprentices looked uncomfortable at this suggestion. "You will henceforth be held responsible for the actions you take as practitioners of the Art. You can?t fall back on the excuse that you are just apprentices and not yet fully skilled. If you make an error that causes any damage to the person or property of a citizen of this land, it is you who will be held accountable. So, you see that whatever you do, you do not only to others but to yourselves as well." The wizard studied his audience for several heartbeats before taking a seat in his chair. The students, as always, did their best to make themselves comfortable on the hard wooden floor without giving the appearance of being too relaxed.

"Are you thinking about what I?ve just said?" Speritus asked.

The apprentices nodded quietly.

"Then you may go."

"Er, which one of us should `go? first, Master?" asked one of the students.

"Why, all of you, of course. I?ll see you tomorrow to discuss your assignments and prepare you for the final ceremonies."

"You mean you?re not giving us a test?" said Borodred, catching on to what their instructor meant.

"My dear lad, if you haven?t learned enough in the last five years to obtain journeyman status, then the Academy has failed greatly in its task. Only the First Eye, and some guidance from your mentors as journeymen, can help you now. My advice to you, therefore, is to leave before I start recounting my early days in the Academy like some nostalgic old fool."

A cheer resounded from the class as they realized they had just been granted their freedom. The apprentices leaped to their feet and clambered out of Speritusís chamber. One student remained, however.

The wizard raised an eyebrow. "Still here, Jann?"

"Yes ... uh, I don?t really feel like running."

"Thatís sensible. I always knew you were different from the others, Jann, which is why I chose to be your mentor."

The door crashed open abruptly, and Pinkus ran into the room.

"Master Speritus!" Pinkus gasped, an expression of surprise mixed with panic coloring his countenance as he looked around the nearly empty room. "Where is everyone?"

"They?ve already left, Apprentice Pinkus," answered the wizard.

"Left? So soon? But thatís not fair! I haven?t had my chance at the test yet."

"Pinkus ...," Jann began.

The other apprentice whirled toward the student who had just caused him such great embarrassment. "This is all your fault, Jann! I swear by all the gods that I?ll get you for this."

Master Speritus said with abrupt sternness, "Apprentice Pinkus, calm yourself. There is no test. You will be made a journeyman as planned in two days, along with your fellows."

Pinkus looked confused. "I will?"

Jann smirked, "Didn?t Master Speritus just say so?"

"I wasn?t doubting what he said, Jann."

"I?ll explain it to you in more detail later, if you wish, apprentice," said the wizard, "but for now I?d like to have a word with Apprentice Jann, if you will excuse us."

With a hesitant bow, Pinkus said, "Of course, Master. Please forgive me. I?ll come back at a more convenient time." Almost as swiftly as he had arrived, Pinkus retreated from the room.

When they were alone again, Speritus said to Jann, "And what was that about?"

There was no circumventing the truth once his mentor deigned to investigate it. "It was only a harmless joke, Master Speritus. I just sort of ... liberated him from his undergarment when he wasn?t looking. But I gave it right back," he added quickly.

"Well, that would explain Pinkus? absence," Speritus sighed. "Five years off the streets, and heís still a little thief," he said aloud to himself. "I don?t think I?ll ever get the gutter brat out of you," he added to Jann. "How did you manage that without using an oyil?"

"Itís all a matter of preparation, distraction, and nimble hands," Jann explained. "You see...."

Speritus held up a hand. "Never mind. I don?t want to know. Will you always have larceny in your heart, Jann?"

"No, Master Speritus, I really have reformed," the apprentice insisted. "I?ll make a good journeyman, I swear it."

"I think you will. Don?t misunderstand me, Jann. I didn?t necessarily say this is a bad thing. Maybe someday the skills you learned on Market Street will prove useful to you. But they will not impress the wizards in the Central Chamber, and if you ever hope to become one of their number, you will need to learn to restrain yourself better."

"Yes, Master Speritus."

"One other thing: it is not wise to offend another adept."

"Even if the other adept is a complete fool?"

"Even so. You never can tell where Pinkus may end up someday, and it is not advisable to slaughter the sheep before all your blankets have been woven."

Jann nodded concession, "You?re right, of course, Master." He studied the neatly swept floor beneath his feet. "I guess that means you want me to apologize to Pinkus."

"I?m only a stodgy teacher, prone to speaking in platitudes, Jann. Any course of action is up to you." The wizard rose from his chair, walked over to Argus, and rubbed his pet behind one ear. The wyvern began to croon, a strange sound from such a ferocious-looking animal, and its inner eyelids closed as it focused on the pleasurable sensation. "Did you wish to talk to me about other matters besides your purloining escapades?" Speritus asked.

"Um, no, Master Speritus, except to thank you for everything you?ve done for me. I just wanted to say that."

"You?ve been a good student, Jann. Much of what you think I?ve done for you, you?ve actually done for yourself. You should be proud of your accomplishments here at the Academy."

"I wouldn?t even be here, if not for you, Master," Jann blurted, a little embarrassed in speaking so directly and honestly to his teacher.

Speritus shrugged. "If I hadn?t discovered you, someone else would have. These things have a way of working themselves out, and it would have been surprising if no one else had discovered the potential in a young boy who was living in Medikyr right under the palace gates."

"I suppose...."

"So there is no need for all this, Jann, though I appreciate it. I?ll see you tomorrow to discuss your assignment."

"Yes. Tomorrow. Goodbye, Master Speritus." Jann lingered a moment, then forced his feet to take him out of the room. What would his master think of him now, he wondered, if the mage knew of his plan? Many a night he had dreamed of "borrowing" Speritusís oyil, but then he had come up with a better solution. It was even more depraved than his original idea, and Jann was proud of it. Soon, then, he would have his golden oyil. Only for a little while, but it would be long enough.

Looking back at Speritus? chamber door, Jann brushed away any lingering feelings of guilt. If his ambitions were to bear fruit, this was the only way to harvest them.