Scott Drakeford's epic fantasy debut, Rise of the Mages combines gripping, personal vengeance with compelling characters for an action packed first book in a trilogy.
Emrael Ire wants nothing more than to test to be a weapons master. His final exam will be a bloody insurrection, staged by corrupt nobles and priests, that enslaves his brother.
With the aid of his War Master tutor, herself an undercover mage, Emrael discovers his own latent and powerful talents.
To rescue his brother, Emrael must embrace not only his abilities as a warrior but also his place as last of the ancient Mage Kings—for the Fallen God has returned.
And he is hungry.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Release date: February 8, 2022
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Print pages: 356
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Rise of the Mages
Savian sat at his small desk, in a cramped room, inside the dilapidated stone structure that had been his home—his prison—for five long years. He stared at the night sky through his tiny, wood-framed window.
The full moon glowed with a brilliant blue light, partially illuminating the Temple grounds Savian guarded day and night. It had long been his habit to sleep by day in a windowless room in the cellar in order to spend his waking hours enveloped in the peace of the night.
He still didn’t believe that there was anything in this Glory-forsaken corner of the world to guard, but he had no choice but to stay, if he wanted to keep his rank. And his life.
Keeper of the Temple of the Fallen, they had said. No higher honor! None higher, indeed. His lips twisted into a sneer. His long, powerful fingers, callused by years of Crafting wondrous devices only he could conceive, gripped an ivory pen until it cracked under the strain.
They had used his own ambition to exile him. It had taken him years to see it, but he had eventually realized that he would never fight the Ordenan devils, never rule the Hidden Kingdoms as one of the Seventh Circle, never ascend out of this hell-pit.
So it was that he came to be the Keeper of the Temple, an ancient holy site about as far from civilization as one could get in the Hidden Kingdoms. He was the most powerful outcast in the Malithii Priesthood. His only consolation was the fear he saw in the eyes of the few brethren who visited him.
He ran his hand through his thick black hair and contemplated his own image, reflected in the windowpane. He had been practically a child when he had arrived there, but the strong lines of his face had sharpened, his excess flesh wasted away while guarding the Temple of the Fallen.
Outside, through his reflection in the window, Savian thought he saw a faint flickering light on the side of the Temple, a huge, peaked building, square at the base and triangular on each side.
Probably just moonlight reflected by quartz in the stones, he told himself. I’ll have the slave investigate.
“Kyrit, attend me!” Kyrit was technically his understudy, hoping to raise himself from the Third Circle under Savian’s tutelage. He was Savian’s Mindless now, and the Keeper had no intention of ever releasing Kyrit from the mindbinder he had designed. He felt a twinge of guilt at that but felt much better when he reminded himself that the boy was an irredeemable idiot.
If his brethren ever found out he had Bound one of their own to mindless servitude, there would be trouble. Never mind that Savian’s new Crafting was likely the greatest invention in recorded history. Well enough that few of them visited the Temple, then. None of them even knew this type of binder existed, and Savian planned to keep it that way. Not that any of them would be able to replicate it anyway.
Kyrit appeared at the doorway to Savian’s study, stopping before entering the room to look in hesitantly. His eyes had the cold, lifeless look of those who wore one of the new mindbinders, but with a slight, sharp gleam that implied some retained intelligence. More importantly, it wouldn’t mutate his body into one of the living dead like the ancient soulbinders his brethren coveted. A bit of drool seeped from the corner of Savian’s mouth to fall in his thick black beard as he grinned to himself.
He had set out to re-create the ancient soulbinders—though they had tens of thousands to spare, the secret to making them had been lost to the Priesthood for longer than anyone could remember—but was almost as excited about these that had gone wrong. He suspected that these new binders, mindbinders that sacrificed a certain amount of control for a subject that appeared autonomous, would be incredibly useful. Their like had not been seen for centuries, if they had ever been more than legend—a true work of genius. He would show the Seventh Circle yet. He would repay them their treachery. Soon he’d run the entire Malithii Priesthood—maybe the world—with his mindbinders.
“Kyrit, go take a look outside. Be sure no one has entered the grounds. No dawdling.”
Kyrit ducked his head in a pathetic cringe and plodded toward the door. Savian turned back to staring out the window at the spot on the Temple where he had seen the twinkling light.
Kyrit approached the Temple without the apprehension even Savian felt near the monument to Fallen Glory. The mindbinder did not allow Kyrit to act on the fear he undoubtedly felt. Good.
As Kyrit began to inspect the outside of the building, Savian saw the flash again, stronger this time. An intense blue light outlined the heavy stone slab that had sealed the entrance to the Temple for centuries, perhaps even millennia.
Savian drew in a sharp breath and stared in shock. What could be causing the light inside the Temple? He had heard the claims that the Fallen God of Glory rested here, that the whole reason for the Malithii’s existence was to prepare for his return. He had even used these tales to intimidate and coerce his brethren when convenient. But not until this moment had he truly believed it himself.
He rushed out of his room and into the courtyard that separated his building from the Temple. The pulsing light emanating from the Temple entrance grew stronger as he crossed the courtyard with sweeping strides of his long legs. He could hear a humming, feel a vibration in the ground that reverberated deep in his chest. It was almost as if the Holy Power had taken a life of its own, right there inside the Temple.
Kyrit stood just in front of the entrance to the Temple, staring at the light coming from the cracks around the large stone slab like the imbecile he was.
“Kyrit, come away from there! I’ll have your skin—”
Savian’s furious shout was cut off as the vibration culminated in a blinding pulse of blue light and a deafening blast that blew the stone-slab Temple door outward in a rush of flying chunks of stone.
Savian coughed as he rose unsteadily from where he had been thrown to the ground. Ears ringing, he stumbled across the courtyard toward the now-dark entrance to the Temple. Only a faint glow came from the building now, but the powerful pulsing of raw power continued.
He stepped over Kyrit’s motionless body and crossed the threshold of the Temple, sparing only a brief remorseful thought for his servant as he was drawn to the source of unimaginable power.
He paused just inside the doorway, peering cautiously inside. The interior of the structure appeared to be one enormous room. Vaguely familiar symbols and script on the walls pulsed, illuminating the interior of the Temple intermittently with a deceiving, pale blue light. The air was stale, but surprisingly … sterile.
A huge, rectangular enclosure made of stone lay in the exact center of the structure. The stone slab that appeared to have covered it was strewn about the room in chunks of various sizes.
An oversized throne carved from translucent crystal sat at the far side of the large, open room. The throne pulsed with the same rhythmic blue light as the script on the walls, only more intensely. A huge grey stone statue of a bald but otherwise perfect specimen of a man sat on the throne. The statue had more of the same overlapping, angular script inscribed into its surface, almost like the tattoos that covered the Malithii priests. Except that these were glowing and pulsing in tandem with the crystal throne, and seemed somehow more … complete, making it impossible to determine a beginning or end to the script.
“So. My children attend me this time.” A rushing tide of a voice swept over Savian; the vibrant power dropped him to one knee. He peered fearfully at the statue. It stared back at him with pale eyes—eyes that shone with life. How could this be? What was this sorcery? He staggered to his feet and drew holy infusori Power from a gold infusori coil in his pocket, prepared to direct it at this charade, to bring down whoever thought to fool him. He would make them pay.
The statue moved, pointed at him. “I prefer you on your knees, loyal one.” There was a hint of amusement in the deep, powerful voice.
As it spoke, furious energy, primal infusori on a scale he could hardly comprehend, tore through Savian, driving him back to his knees.
A sudden realization chilled him to his core, an icicle to the heart. Could the legend be true? He wanted to scream, to run from this place and never look back, but found himself unable to move.
The Being rose from the throne and drew near with heavy steps that reverberated throughout the chamber.
“Rise, child. Tell me your name.”
Savian took a shuddering breath before he rose. He could now see that what he had first thought was a statue of stone was in fact a being of living flesh, flesh an ashen grey color. The script inscribed into its skin still pulsed but changed colors and rhythm slightly as he watched. He could feel infusori energy emanate from the Being to pulse through him in perfect sync with the pulsing of the inscriptions in the Being’s skin.
“My … my name is Savian,” he croaked, finally daring to look up to the face of the magnificent Being that towered over him by a foot or more.
The Being regarded him with calm eyes. It reached out, fit its large grey fingers around Savian’s neck, and said, “I have been called many things in this world. God of Glory. Father of All. Fallen One. You shall know me as Master.”
Intense cold shot from the Fallen’s touch around Savian’s neck and through his body. Savian had known the touch of his own experimental binders and had thought it the height of pain and despair. This was worse than anything even his dark mind could have imagined.
As the icy pain reached his heart and brain, however, Savian found his emotions calming. The pain turned to intense pleasure. He looked up to his Master. The ice was power flowing through his veins. The power he had so craved all his life. His Master had made him whole.
Savian knelt on the gritty, dusty floor and proclaimed, “I live to serve, my God.”
The Fallen God of Glory smiled, stalked back to his throne, and sat once more.
“Come, Savian. We have a great work to realize. A Son of Glory has drawn his first breath, one who will taste the white flame and prepares to seize my power as his own. My Sisters ever seek to replace me, but I will prevail as I ever have. But … perhaps this time will be different, my Savian. I tire of this pitiful world. We have much to prepare, only short years until our young charge is of age. We will test him, to see what he may yet become.”
The Fallen God’s smile became a deep, mirthless chuckle. “My Sisters will yet lament imprisoning me on this earth.”
Emrael Ire and his father Janrael were the first to step from the barge onto Iraean soil. Janrael breathed in deeply, then spat to the side. He flexed his powerful hands as he stopped to survey their surroundings. “Every time I set foot here, I remember my fool father. Too proud to join the United Provinces, too weak to defeat them.”
Emrael had often been told he didn’t look much like his father. His pure white hair—the result of a training accident years ago, and the subsequent healing—was a stark contrast to his father’s dark brown hair and beard. He still felt short standing next to his father, though he was only an inch or two shorter by now, and neither were all that tall. It was his father’s presence that embellished his stature, an aura of command that made him seem the biggest man in the room regardless of physical size.
None would say that Janrael was a small man, however, and Emrael shared his father’s build. Wide, powerful shoulders built through long hours of training with sword and shield; broad backs that had lifted many a supply crate; sturdy legs shaped by long hours of marching with the Legion. They were built to be warriors.
A thrill of excitement coursed through Emrael at finally being allowed to visit his ancestral homeland. He had just seen his twentieth summer, graduated from the Barros Junior Legion, and would be assigned a post soon if he chose to enlist in the Barros Legion right away. He couldn’t contain his eagerness, despite his father’s foul mood. The Iraean countryside looked much like the northern Barrosian countryside, giant pines, oaks, and maples quilted between large swaths of farmland and pasture. Still, it felt different to him. He stepped closer to his father so they were shoulder to shoulder. “I don’t understand why you and Grandmother never returned, after the war ended.”
Janrael chuckled darkly, hand now gripping the rune-carved hilt of his sword, the ancient sword of Ire kings, passed down from father to son for centuries. “We didn’t have many options, son. My mother and her guard fled just before the Corrandes and the armies of the Provinces besieged Ire’s End, and Corrande would have killed our entire family. We’ve had to rebuild our lives from nothing.”
“But you’re the Commander First of the Barros Legion now. Why don’t we go back?”
“The Iraeans that stayed in Iraea don’t like us much either, Em. Many don’t see us as true Iraeans, despite the blood of Mage Kings in our veins, and they’re right. I was born at Ire’s End but raised in Naeran, as you were. The Iraeans would likely throw us to the Watchers or kill us themselves as soon as help us take our ancestral Holding back, never mind handing us a throne. A throne that doesn’t exist anymore, mind.”
Before Emrael could ask more questions, Janrael clapped Emrael on the back. “Let’s go help our men.”
Emrael followed his father back to the barge to help the four squads of fellow Barros Legionmen unload their horses and gear for the campaign. “But you earned your Mark as a Master of War at the Citadel, you could have gone anywhere you wanted and been respected after that. Even Iraea, right? Why do we still fight for Barros?” He said that last quietly, not wanting the other men to hear.
Janrael grimaced, staring at the tattoo of the Citadel’s sword and infusori coil crest on his forearm for a moment, then responded in a grim tone as they led horses from the deck of the ferry. “Many in the Barros Legion are Iraeans like us, who’ve fled the Watchers’ brutality and taxes in our homeland and can’t go back. I’m lucky my mother’s guard joined the Barros Legion and supported us until I was old enough to go to the Citadel, then join myself. I couldn’t leave them behind after what they sacrificed for us. For me. We might have starved, without them. Many did.”
Copyright © 2021 by Scott Lofgren Smith
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