Scavenger of Souls Blog Tour with Joshua David Bellin

I’d like to welcome Joshua David Bellin back as his blog tour nears its end. Joshua is the author of Survival Colony 9 and now its sequel, Scavenger of Souls. I’ve only read the first few pages of Scavenger of Souls, but it’s looking at least as captivating as Survival Colony 9. Click on the Rafflecopter link after the except for a chance to win an autographed copy of Scavenger of Souls. (Check back here for a review soon!)

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About the book:

 

Querry Genn is running out of time. He may have saved his survival colony and defeated a nest of the monstrous Skaldi, but that doesn’t mean he has any more answers to who he is. And Querry’s mother, Aleka, isn’t talking. Instead, she’s leading the colony through a wasteland of unfamiliar territory. When they reach Aleka’s destination, everything Querry believed about his past is challenged.

 

In the middle of a burned-out desert, an entire compound of humans has survived with plenty of food and equipment. But the colonists find no welcome there, especially from Mercy, the granddaughter of the compound’s leader. Mercy is as tough a fighter as Querry has ever seen—and a girl as impetuous as he is careful. But the more Querry learns about Mercy and her colony, the more he uncovers the gruesome secrets that haunt Mercy’s past—and his own.

 

With threats mounting from the Skaldi and the other humans, Querry must grapple with the past and fight to save the future. In the thrilling conclusion to the story that began with Survival Colony 9, Joshua David Bellin narrates a tale of sacrifice, courage against overwhelming odds, and the fateful choices that define us for a lifetime.

 

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Age: 12+

Release date: August 23, 2016

For order links, visit http://joshuadavidbellin.com/my-books/

Available in hardcover and e-book

 

Praise for Survival Colony 9:

 

Tantalizing mysteries abound among the human and inhuman inhabitants of the bleak landscape, and the post-apocalyptic plot is satisfyingly full of twists.—Booklist

 

Joshua David Bellin brings serious game in a post-apocalyptic thriller that collides breathless action with devious world building and genuine heart. A terrific novel!—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and V-Wars

 

Set in a gritty post-apocalyptic world, Survival Colony 9 is both an adventure and an exploration of what it means to be human.—Margaret Peterson Haddix, New York Times bestselling author of the Missing Series

 

Scavenger of Souls

© 2016 by Joshua David Bellin

 

 

Chapter One

 

Aleka looked out over the land and frowned.

 

She stood at the crest of a low hill, squinting in the sunlight, the lines deepening around her mouth. I tried to read her expression, but as usual I failed.

 

This was Aleka, after all. Her close-cropped, graying blond hair framed a face she could turn into a mask at a moment’s notice. I’d been studying that face for the better part of a week, and I still had no idea what was going on behind her deep gray eyes.

 

Aleka. My mother. And as much a mystery to me as my own past.

 

After a long minute she spoke the name of her second-in-command. “Soon.”

 

Soon, a big guy with what might have been called a pot belly in a different time, came up beside her.

 

Aleka surveyed the unforgiving landscape, the lazy glint of river the only sign of movement in the waste. “How long?”

 

“A week. Maybe two if we’re extra careful.” He searched her face, but he must have come up empty too. “Why?”

 

She didn’t answer. The others had edged closer, listening. Any conversation that hinted at our dwindling supply of canned goods got their attention.

 

But after another long look over the barren land, she turned and strode back down the hill, refusing to meet any of our eyes. Everyone watched her go in silence, until she disappeared behind a clump of rock that stood at the base of the hill.

 

“Well, that was enlightening,” Wali said.

 

There were sixteen of us, the last survivors of Survival Colony 9. Five grown-ups counting Aleka, Soon, our camp healer Tyris, our craftswoman Nekane, and the old woman whose name no one knew, a wraith with wild white hair and a threadbare shift the same drab gray-brown as our uniforms. For the past week we’d been carrying her on a homemade stretcher, while she gripped her late husband’s collection container, a scuffed, bottle-green jar overflowing with scraps of hair and fingernails. She was amazingly heavy for a woman who’d dwindled to skin and bones.

 

The rest of us were teens and younger. Wali, with his shaggy hair and bronzed muscles, the oldest at seventeen. Nessa, the only teenage girl left in our colony since the death of Wali’s girlfriend Korah. Then there was Adem, a tall skinny awkward guy who communicated mostly with gulps and blushes. And the little ones, seven of them total, from ragged five-year-old Keely to knowing Zataias at age ten, with straggly-haired Bea in the middle.

 

And that left only me. Querry Genn. Fifteen years old last week, and thanks to an accident seven months ago, with no memory of the first fourteen.

 

Only my mother held the secret to who I was. But she wasn’t talking.

 

She hadn’t said a word to me the whole week. That entire time, we’d been creeping across a desert landscape of stripped stone and yawning crevices, the scars our ancestors had cut into the face of the land. For six of those seven days we’d been carrying the old woman. Aleka had driven us at a pace unusual even for her, with only short rests at the brutal height of day and long marches deep into the night. What she was hurrying for was another thing she wouldn’t talk to me about.

 

When we’d left our camp by the river, the old woman had babbled on about mountains somewhere to the north, licking her lips while she talked as if she could taste the snow-fresh air. She’d described green grass as high as our knees, wind rippling across it so it seemed to shimmer like something she called satin. She’d told us about yellow flowers and purple ones, trickling water so clear you could see brightly colored fish darting among the submerged stones. Clouds, she said, blanketed the mountain peaks, cool and white and soft, unlike the oppressive brown clouds that smothered the sun but almost never rained in the world we knew. At first I refused to believe her, told myself that half of what she said had to be exaggerated or misremembered or just plain crazy. But like everyone else, I’d fallen in love with the picture she painted. None of the rest of us had seen mountains, not even Tyris, who’d been two or three years old when the wars started. After a lifetime in the desert, the prospect of mountains rearing up out of nowhere, white and purple and capped with gold from the sun, was irresistible.

 

By now, though, it seemed even the old woman had forgotten where we were headed. She’d lapsed into silence, except for the times she stroked her collection jar, mumbling to it. She slept most of the time, sometimes beating her hands against her chest and mouthing words no one could make out. But even when her eyes opened, her glassy expression showed no awareness of anyone or anything around her.

 

We set her stretcher down in the best shade we could find and stood there, waiting for Aleka to return. Nessa held the old woman’s gnarled hand and sang softly, something the old woman had sung to her when she was a kid. I tried to organize a game with the little ones, but they just flopped in the dirt, limbs flung everywhere in postures of dramatic protest. I’d learned the hard way that you couldn’t get all seven of them to do anything at once, but occasionally, if you got one of them doing something that looked interesting enough, the others couldn’t stand to be left out.

 

Today, though, it wasn’t going to happen. A fossil hunt usually got them going, but this time even Keely wouldn’t bite when I told him an old, rotting buffalo skull was a T. rex.

 

“I don’t want to play that game, Querry,” he managed weakly, before putting his head down and closing his eyes. “It’s boring.”

 

Without warning, Aleka stalked back to the group. To my complete surprise, she took my arm and pulled me away from the others. I stumbled to keep up with her long strides. When we reached the rock where she’d hidden herself before, she stopped, so suddenly she just about spun me around.

 

“Querry,” she said. “We need to talk.”

 

“We’ve needed to talk all week,” I said under my breath.

 

She heard me. She always did. “That will have to wait. This is priority.”

 

“Something else always is, isn’t it?”

 

We faced off for a moment.

 

“I’m asking you to be patient,” she said. “And to believe I’m working on this.”

 

“Fine.” I wished for once I could meet her on even ground, but she had a good six inches on me, not to mention at least thirty years. “Let me know when you’ve got it all worked out.”

 

If I thought I’d get a reaction from that, I was wrong. Her face went into lockdown, and I was pretty sure the conversation was over. But then she asked, “What is it you want, Querry?”

 

“Answers,” I said. “The truth.”

 

“Answers aren’t always true,” she said. “And the truth isn’t always the answer you want.”

 

“Whatever that means.”

 

She glared at me, but kept her voice in check.

 

“It means what it means,” she said. “For one, it means that Soon’s estimate is wildly optimistic. I’ve checked our stores, and we have only a few days of food left. If we’re even stingier than usual. Which is a risk, since there’s nothing here to supplement our supplies.”

 

“Why would Soon. . . .”

 

She ignored me. “And it means the old woman is failing.  Earlier today she asked me if she could talk to Laman.”

 

“You’re kidding.”

 

“I wish I were.”

 

I stared at her, not knowing what to say. Laman Genn had led Survival Colony 9 for twenty-five years. But like so many of his followers, he’d died a little over a week ago, just before we set out on our journey.

 

Died. Been killed. I tried not to think about it, but I remembered the nest, the bloody wound in his side, the creature that had torn him open.

 

The Skaldi.

 

The ones we’d been fleeing all our lives. Monsters with the ability to consume and mimic human hosts. It was hard to believe anyone could forget them. Even though we’d destroyed their nest, I kept expecting them to reappear, like a second nightmare that catches you when you think you’re awake and drags you back under.

 

“Any more good news?” I said, trying to smile.

 

She didn’t return the offering. “The children are failing too,” she said. “Keely and Beatrice especially. If we run out of solid food. . . . We forget how fragile they are. And how many of the little ones simply don’t make it.”

 

I turned to look at the kids, lying on the ground like so many dusty garlands. “What can we do?”

 

She didn’t say anything for a long time, and her gaze left mine, drifting to the desert beyond. I thought she wasn’t going to answer when her voice came again, as far away as her eyes.

 

“I know this area,” she said. “Or at least, I did. None of the others has been here—Laman seems to have avoided it assiduously. But I was here, once upon a time. So long ago the details are fuzzy. Either that or it’s . . . changed.”

 

I glanced around us, as if I expected to see something I hadn’t noticed before. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

 

Her shoulders inched in the slightest of shrugs. “I didn’t want to give anyone false hope. They were excited enough about the mountains. And I wasn’t sure I could find it again. I’m still not sure.”

 

“What is it?”

 

She waved vaguely toward the northwest. “A sanctuary, or as much of one as we’re likely to find in this world. Not mountains, but a canyon. Shaded, protected from the worst damage of the wars. The river gains strength as it flows through, nourishing what grows on its banks. If we could only reach it, there might be a chance for the most vulnerable members of the colony.”

 

I studied her face, as still and remote as the surface of the moon. This time, though, I thought I caught something there.

 

“If this place is so great,” I said carefully, “why did Laman stay away from it?”

 

Her eyes snapped to mine, and for the briefest second I imagined I saw a glimmer of fear.

 

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About the author:

 

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, with the sequel, Scavenger of Souls, set to release on August 23, 2016. A third YA science fiction novel, the deep-space adventure/romance Freefall, will appear in 2017.

 

Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

 

To find out more about Josh and his books, visit him at the following:

 

Website: http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com

Blog: http://theyaguy.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheYAGuy

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joshuadavidbellin

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7393959.Joshua_David_Bellin

 

If this excerpt interested you, and you’d like to have more information about Joshua David Bellin and Scavenger of Souls, check out the other stops on the blog tour:

8/16     Dianne Salerni: Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction

http://diannesalerni.com/blog/

8/17     Stephanie Keyes, Author

www.stephaniekeyes.com

8/18     Margo Kelly

http://www.margokelly.net

8/19     Kat Ross

http://katrossbooks.com/index.html

8/20     Christina Farley

http://christinafarley.com/blog/

8/21     JeanzBookReadNReview

http://jeanzbookreadnreview.blogspot.co.uk/

8/22     Gold from the Dust

http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com

8/25     Yvonne Ventresca’s Word Pop

http://yvonneventresca.com/blog.html

8/26     Strands of Thought

https://kaistrand.blogspot.com/

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Truth or Lie with Crystal Collier Concludes

If you checked out my Truth or Lie post with Crystal Collier last week, where I told two truths and a lie, now you can learn which story was a lie. The stories went like this:

1. I know some guys in a local St. Louis band called Earl. Back stage at one of their shows at the Pageant, they asked me to go out after the break and play bass, which I did.
2. I’ve met Rob Zombie. In a strange sort of creepy, quazi-ironic way, I met him on Easter Sunday.
3. I have a tendency to win front row seats to concerts. I’ve seen Billy Joel, Elton John, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers all from the front row.

Check out Crystal’s blog post this week to learn which is the lie. And congratulations to Susan Swiderski for guessing correctly. She wins a paperback copy of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud and an eBook copy of The Squire and the Slave Master. While you’re there, you can check out Crystal’s Top 10 List of books in 2015.

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Exciting Book News to Start the Holiday Season!

Two new books are available in time for the holidays. Well, one new book and a new version of an older book.

Unveiling the Wizards Shroud is now available in paperback.

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Young Adult Award Winning Book

As the only son to King Kendrick, Owen despises the idea of being king one day. Magician may be the only career he’d like less. He has dreaded the days leading up to his fifteenth birthday, when his father will certainly declare Owen heir to the throne. But at the birthday celebration, his father falls ill. The only person in the kingdom that may be able to save him is a magician-the very same magician Owen holds responsible for the death of his mother.

Owen and his companions will have to travel the continent of Wittatun in search of the cure for King Kendrick. On the journey, they will battle strange beasts and harsh climates, befriend extraordinary magicians, and meet a dragon before returning to Innes Castle-where much has happened in the days since they departed.

 

Paperback available for $9.95 from:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

eBook available for $5.50 from most retailers; on sale for $2.75 (USD) from Amazon and Muse It Up Publishing:

Muse It Up Publishing

Amazon:

USUK; CA; FRAU; BR

Barnes & Nobel
Smashwords
OmniLit
Apple iTunes

Coming November 26, The Squire and the Slave Master: Saga of the Wizards: Book Two. It’s currently available for pre-order at the special price of $2.99 (regular $4.99) from select vendors with more to come. Currently an eBook only.

The Squire and the Slave Master 333x500The award winning Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud (CLC’s Best First Novel 2014) chronicled Yara, Owen, and Cedric’s quest to revive King Kendrick from a dark, magical spell. After the adventure to save King Kendrick, Yara’s everyday life has grown monotonous. The dull work of learning her father’s blacksmithing trade and the pressure from her parents to decide what she plans on doing with her life has her nerves too stressed.

Lucky for her, a surprise messenger from the castle brings the king’s request. She’s to join a collaborative mission between the Central and Western Domains of Wittatun to stop a recently discovered slave operation in a land to the west.

It’s imperative she keep secret not only her magical abilities from any possible traitors, but also her gender. The people of the Western Domain have a superstition prohibiting girls from sailing. But a chill wind carries the distinct odor of sabotage. Can one girl survive to destroy an evil rooted much deeper than mere slavery?

Pre-order from:

Amazon
Muse It Up Publishing

 

The Squire and the Slave Master–Cover Reveal!

Two of the most exciting days for an author are the day you get your cover and Release Day. Well, the first has finally come for The Squire and the Slave Master. Not only am I going to reveal the cover for the first time, but I’m also going to share an except. I originally shared this excerpt as a short story titled The Message on Lightning Quick Reads in July which had a theme of Freedom.

Before I get to the fun stuff, I have a little business/self-promotion to get out of the way. Muse It Up Publishing, the publisher for Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud and The Squire and the Slave Master, is celebrating its 5 year anniversary. From now until October 4 you can enter the coupon code 5YEARS2015  in your cart and get 50% off your total order. So take some time to browse around. While you’re there, you may notice Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud is already on 50% sale for $2.75. So with this coupon code you can have it for less than $1.40. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the perfect time before The Squire and the Slave Master’s Release Day.

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough. Here’s the cover. Just like the first book, C.K. Volnek also designed this one.

The Squire and the Slave Master 333x500

Blurb

The award winning Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud (CLC’s Best First Novel 2014) chronicled Yara, Owen, and Cedric’s quest to revive King Kendrick from a dark, magical spell. After the adventure to save King Kendrick, for Yara, everyday life has grown monotonous. The dull work of learning her father’s blacksmithing trade, and the pressure from her parents to decide what she plans on doing with her life, has her nerves so stressed she snaps at her father’s slightest teasing.

Lucky for her, a surprise messenger from the castle brings the king’s request for her to join a collaborative mission between the Central and Western Domains of Wittatun to stop a recently discovered slave operation in a land to the west. King Kendrick and Owen want her to accompany the mission as a secret weapon disguised as a squire.

She has to keep secret not only her magical abilities from any possible traitors, but also her gender. The people of the Western Domain have a superstition prohibiting girls from sailing. But a chill wind carries the distinct odor of sabotage. Can one girl survive to destroy an evil rooted much deeper than mere slavery?

And now the excerpt:

“Sir, the third ship has arrived.”

Casimir didn’t turn from the window. “Yes, Bronislaw, I’ve seen it. Prepare your men for battle. Hold a few back as guards. If any of the slaves turn against us, execute them.”

The sound of Bronislaw’s footsteps faded as he exited the chamber.

A bird flew past the upper chamber and caught Casimir’s attention. I thought I killed all the birds. Oh well, I’ll get rid of this one too.

He raised his staff but lowered it when the bird redirected for the temple. A scroll of parchment dangled from its ankle. The bird landed on the altar in the center of the room. Casimir approached it with caution. It held up a leg, and he removed and unrolled the scroll. The letter didn’t have a signature, but it didn’t need one. He recognized the handwriting from years of correspondence.

I’m free. I understand what you plan to do, but it must stop. You aren’t powerful enough with magic. The temple will open a portal to the underworld, but you’ll never manage to close it and whose body do you think he’ll take? Someone so powerful won’t survive in a body with no magical experience. He will exhaust it in less than a day. Surrender your plan and join me in the swamp in the Southern Domain. Argnam already built the necessary accommodations there.

The paper flashed into flames on his palm. “You had your chance. I have a plan and a reasonable backup plan, which is more than you’ve ever had.”

The bird pecked at a pair of tiny beetles scurrying along the wall. With the flick of his staff, a green orb of light shot and hit the bird. A singed smell and a few feathers were all that remained.

From the window, he could see troops following the path from the beach to the temple. He watched the ships for the sign. A few flashes of light came in quick succession from the southernmost ship.

“Damn!” He thought back to the note. “It’s all right. I can still do this even though he doesn’t have the magician.” He held his staff high and returned a message in flashing lights. “Change of plans. We have to capture Mansfield. Alive.”

Three lines of slaves faced east in anticipation of the troops coming through the woods. Perfect.

Casimir closed the towering double doors as he exited the chamber. With his staff and a brief incantation, he placed an invisible barrier on the room. He took a piece of stone from a pile of rubble in a corner and tossed it at the door. In a flash, it became dust and smoke. Smiling, he left in search of Bronislaw.

Outside the door of the temple, the slaves waited for the pending battle. Bronislaw had taken a spot on high ground where he could overlook the battle soon to unfurl.

Casimir strolled up to him. “We have a new arrangement. They lost the magician. I need Mansfield alive. If you find him, bring him to me.”

Bronislaw nodded and signaled to his lieutenants.

He returned to the entrance of the temple and watched the battle unfold. The first troops emerged from the forest to an onslaught from the slaves. They had probably expected to hit them with a surprise attack, but the slaves had known. Casimir had known. Casimir always knew.

The second group emerged with their swords and shields at the ready. The slaves matched them well in strength but outlasted them in stamina. Most of the fishermen from Beroe had little or no battle training.

Mansfield’s men had one major disadvantage that greatly outweighed even their lower endurance or their lack of training. Twice Casimir noticed the soldiers relinquish an opportunity to slay their opponents.

They don’t want to kill. They see my slaves as innocent victims.

Another group emerged from the trees. They almost exclusively donned long beards and, barring their sunburns, looked a lot like many of the more recently acquired slaves. Some of the slaves hesitated; others dropped their weapons.

Now we’ll identify my dedicated servants, those who recognize what they have gained by coming here.

Several slaves, most of them having significantly different appearances to the men from Beroe—taller, more muscular, darker skin, some thin with scraggly beards—turned their attention to the traitors. With their weapons lowered, they had no defense. A distant voice shouted, “No!” Heads and limbs splashed into pools of blood as men turned on each other, betraying their former lives for the promises of their master.

We Have A Winner!

Well, I don’t know if we have a winner or not. I’ve never made a post with a poll before. Since I had to schedule this post ahead of time, I don’t know exactly what it will look like. If I made a mistake, and all you can see is the poll with no results, I will have results as soon as I can. You can always click ‘View Results’ at the bottom.


Vote for Your Favorite Student Version of Chapter Three
<span style=”font:9px;”>(polls)

 

Relive the entire experience:

Intro and Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter One
Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter Two

Student Versions of Chapter Three

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Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter Three

Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter Three

While you decide which student versions of Chapter Three have earned your votes, here’s the version I wrote as it appeared in the book. Enjoy!

If you like what you’ve seen and what to read the rest of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, Muse It Up Publishing and Amazon both have it on sale for $2.75 (USD). It’s $5.50 everywhere else.

Here are the links to the other posts involving this project:

Intro and Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter One:
Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Chapter Two:

Student Versions of Chapter Three

Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4
Group 5
Group 6
Group 7
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Group 9
Group 10
Group 11
Group 12
Group 13
Group 14
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Voting open from September 18-24

Winning submission(s) announced September 25 (Link will go live on the 25th)

****

Chapter Three
Wizards

The thick forest surrounding Innes Village blocked out any moonlight. An owl screeched in the distance, as if it were mocking the inevitable use of magic. A wolf howled again, much farther away than the last time.

“Listen here, wizard!” Owen snapped. “I will not be learning any magic.”

Cedric walked on. “Of course not. That’s why I had you bring your sword. Diversity—the key to many of life’s challenges.” Cedric turned his head, his brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed leaving slits as black as the surrounding woods. “But I’m not a wizard, and I would appreciate you not calling me one. I have denounced them and their ways. The Wizard Rebellion tainted the word for all those using magic for good purposes.”

“Diversity may be key, but magic has caused me more pain and hardship than it will ever aid me.”

What good could come of magic? Owen didn’t like the idea of depending on magic to survive the desert, regardless of who cast the spells.

Cedric’s voice called out from deeper within the woods, “The hour draws late, and I can scarcely see in this forest. If my memory holds true, a clearing lies just ahead. We can set camp and build a fire there.”

When Owen caught up, Cedric had already started gathering firewood. Owen helped, happy to end the conversation about magic. The trees parted above the clearing, and the sky shown bright with stars and the waxing gibbous moon. The huge star that had shown through the window in the dining hall, much brighter than all other heavenly bodies save the moon, now twinkled just over the tall peaks of the western tree line.

They piled the wood, and Owen went in search of food. He returned with three frogs from a nearby stream, their backs speared by his blade. Another trip to the stream resulted in a full lambskin canteen. He came back to find the fire roaring.

Cedric spun the frogs on a skewer made from a small branch. He removed the meat from the fire and distributed portions. “I know you hold magic responsible for what happened to your mother. You’ve made no effort to hide your hatred of magicians. It’s no secret you blame me. I can tell you what really happened the night your mother died, if you’ll listen.”

Owen almost swallowed the frog’s leg bone from which he sucked the meat. “No! I’m not talking about that with you. If not for you, she would have never learned magic. If not for you, the Wizard Rebellion would have never shown up at Innes Castle. If not for you, my mother would still be alive!”

“The Wizard Rebellion would have attacked Innes Castle had I been there or not.” Cedric pressed his palms against his eyes. He shook his head, and hair fell over his fingers. “Owen, there’s so much you don’t understand. Magic is neither good nor evil. Evil people using magic, and their intentions, are what instill magic with evil. If you won’t let me tell you what happened when your mother died, at least let me explain the Wizard Rebellion. You need to know how they began.”

Owen thought about Cedric’s offer for a moment. Without knowing where they needed to go or how long it would take to get there, he guessed several days constituted a conservative estimate. He may as well let the crazy old man tell his story. The magician wouldn’t likely let it rest until he did. He took the last piece of frog meat from the skewer and poked the fire with a long branch before adding it to the fire. Embers sparked and floated away in the zephyr, burning out one by one.

“All right,” Owen said. “Tell me about the Wizard Rebellion.”

Cedric leaned back on a tree stump and talked. Owen listened with rapt attention to the story of how the Wizard Rebellion really started.

* * * *

The pitch black of the starless night sky violently erupted with lightning. The humid air had felt electric all day with the pending storm on the horizon. Now, nature would release all of her fury in a matter of hours. Trees would fall, and lands would flood. A gust of wind blew in through the cracked cabin window, snuffing out the lantern for the third time.

Tired of relighting it, as well as struggling to keep his newly acquired fire magic under control—a singed wall and scorched cuff on his robe accompanied the first two relights—Cedric fell back on easier magic. He took up a staff with a small sphere at the end, and he made the sphere glow a brilliant white-blue twice as lustrous as the lantern.

The light gave a purple hue to the face of the man sitting at the table reading a letter. Shadows formed in his sunken cheeks. He was lean but not unhealthy. The trick of the light made him resemble a skeleton. He ran a hand through his short hair.

“Thank you, Cedric,” Argnam said. “I think I’ll soon retire for the evening. Follum says the Western Domain passed a law restricting magic users to practice only within the confines of their own homes. He says he will journey to their land to discuss the foolishness of the law.”

Cedric moved around the table to better see the note over Argnam’s shoulder. Over a year ago, he had suggested they try establishing communication with those fearful of magic, but his mentor hadn’t thought they would listen. “Have you changed your mind about reaching out to non-magic users?”

“Nay, Follum believes fear spawns from ignorance, and he thinks people can learn to trust magic. I don’t share that optimistic world view. I’ve used my magic to heal fatal wounds, just to have the recovered person spit in my face for using magic on them.” Argnam finished reading the letter. “Follum is right about one thing, we have to do something to stop the persecution of wizards. I’ve thought about organizing a rebellion. Give me another night to think on it, and we can discuss some ideas I’ve developed tomorrow.”

That night, Cedric dreamed of a great battle. Older, and now a true magician, he fought for his life. Others fought in the battle as well; some of whom he knew well, others he didn’t. Yet in the surreal world of the dream, he knew everyone. And he understood where his loyalties lay.

A blue flash of light hurled toward Cedric. He jumped aside just in time. The magic slammed into the interior castle wall, causing it to crumble. In mid-dive, he charged his staff with strange magic he didn’t yet understand. He rolled to his feet and propelled his staff like a spear at the familiar wizard who stood before him. The spear landed home and pierced the center of his former mentor’s chest. Argnam had time to look down at the staff embedded in his chest before the staff exploded, killing him.

The next day, Cedric told Argnam of the dream.

Argnam fixed Cedric with a gaze that seemed to penetrate his inner spirit. “You know some wizards are dreamers. They can see the future in their dreams, but you’ve never had a seeing dream before, have you?”

“No.”

“Then I wouldn’t worry about it. I’ve never heard of a dreamer gaining the power as late in life as you.”

“I’m only twenty-four,” Cedric said.

“Yes, but you’re almost ten years older than the typical age. Only once have I heard of a seer gaining the gift as late in life as sixteen. It just doesn’t happen.”

“I started my training in magic later than most. Do you think that could affect the onset?”

Argnam placed his hands on Cedric’s shoulders. “Listen, I’m not going to worry about it, and neither should you.”

Cedric closed his eyes and shook his head. “I’ll try, but the dream seemed so real.”

Argnam released the young man and took a seat. He gestured for Cedric to sit as well. “I’m sure it’s nothing. Now I’d like to tell you about my plan.”

They discussed forming a band of wizards with the purpose of traveling the world, seeking more wizards to join their ranks and attempting to convince non-magical people not to fear those who could wield magic.

As he thought over the plan, Cedric scratched at the stubble of the beard he had decided to grow a week ago. It itched so much. He didn’t know how long he’d be able to keep at it. “And how do you suppose this…what should we call it, this Wizard Rebellion, should convince those who fear magic to trust it? I know you don’t believe in talking sense into them like Follum does.”

“We could hold demonstrations, public displays of magic. We could hold mass healing ceremonies. Anything to show people what good can come from magic.”

Cedric shook his head. “When people hear wizards are banning together, they will pass laws to make our congregations illegal.”

Argnam stretched his hands behind his head. A smug arrogance washed over his face, making it look more rigid than normal. “I’ve thought of that. We’ll have to organize the wizards in secret. Keep our presence as quiet as possible. When we emerge in numbers, they won’t have time to make laws.”

A vision of Cedric’s dream flashed in his head. He blinked to shake off the memory. “Some people may become violent. Fear is a great motivator.”

Argnam rose and walked to a window. “If anyone raises a hand against us, we can use our magic to defend ourselves. Of course, a non-magic user couldn’t do much to defend against one wizard, let alone many. So we’d have to be careful. Use our defensive spells sparingly. If anyone were to get hurt, it would set our cause back a great deal.”

Thus the Wizard Rebellion started. The next day, Cedric made the first recruit when Necrose came to see if they, too, had received the letter from Follum.

A year passed. Many wizards in the Western Domain and Southern Domain joined the Rebellion. Argnam wanted to gain an alliance in the Eastern Domain before moving into the Northern Domain, due to the Northern Domain’s geographical isolation. He intended to leave the political juggernaut of the Central Domain for last.

“Cedric,” Argnam said, “the time has come for your Endeavor.”

Cedric’s mouth fell agape, and he dropped the goblet of water he carried. He had hoped to take on his Endeavor soon, but the mentor always determined the time, place, and event.

“I have received another letter from Follum. Remember a year ago when he went to the Eastern Domain to convince them their laws had to change? Well, it appears they prosecuted him, and he has spent most of the last year in prison. Your Endeavor is to rescue him, and, of course, find new recruits for the Wizard Rebellion while you’re in the east.”

Cedric made haste from the swamplands of the south to Echion, the capital city of the Eastern Domain. Once there, he bypassed the barracks and headed for the rocky cliffs of the seashore. One of the wizards he met along the way, and successfully recruited for the Rebellion, informed him the prison stood on a plateau that hung over the ocean.

Looking at the fortress, Cedric thought escape was too easy for a wizard. The rocky cliff and the ocean would deter a normal person from breaking out and leave them incapable of breaking in. With magic, he scaled the rock wall and made his way to the top of the prison, only to find it completely unguarded.

Inside, he didn’t know where to start looking, but he didn’t have to wander long. He held out his hand, and a fireball ignited and floated just above his fingers. The illumination showed an elderly man on a bunk in the cell straight ahead. Follum. Cedric extinguished the fire and charged the end of his staff. The faint glow it gave off reminded him of a dream he had forgotten long ago. What had the dream been about? Had he used his staff to kill someone? He snapped back from his memory and used the staff to pass the energy to the bars of the cell. They each gave off the same glow. He stepped back, and the bars exploded.

Follum sprang from the bed much faster than seemed possible for a man of his age. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Rescuing you,” Cedric said.

Follum didn’t act old at all as his tongue tore into Cedric. “You can’t be serious. I am a master wizard. You are an apprentice. Do you think me incapable of breaking out of here if I so desired.”

Cedric stood confounded.

Follum approached him with anger in his eyes. “I’ve remained to show the people of this land that I respect them and their laws. I hoped in time they would come to understand that I intend them no harm. Did you even face any guards getting in here? I bet not. And they moved me to this cell earlier today. Someone set you up. Let’s go. We have to leave now!”

Cedric stared dumbfounded as Follum walked away. How could he have fallen for such an obvious trick? He followed Follum, and the two men hurried down the cliff wall and back toward the village.

“We’ll follow this path toward Echion and hide in the forest.”

Cedric still pondered who could have set him up. “Argnam sent me to rescue you as my Endeavor. No one else knew the plan.”

“Congratulations! You’re one of the craft now. You saved me.” Follum turned on Cedric. “You’re also a fool. He must have sent word of your coming. Let’s take this path and hide in the forest.”

Cedric felt like a fool. He thought he needed to explain himself. “We formed a rebellion to fight the injustices wizards face. We want to show people that magic can help them. I had hoped you would join us after I rescued you.”

“Peaceful demonstrations have been tried before. They never work. At some point, they get out of control. The peace turns to violence, and the original cause looks worse than it did before the demonstrations. No, I will not join you. Argnam should have known I would refuse. I think your whole Endeavor is a test of your loyalty to Argnam.”

Could Argnam have set me up to test my convictions?

Just before they reached the canopy of trees, countless soldiers emerged from the forest.

Follum made no effort to take a defensive stance. “An hour of judgment has come. Decisions made now will determine not only our fate, but the fate of all magic users in the eyes of the people of the Eastern Domain. I am prepared to wait out my days in prison. Yet we have come this far, and I will aid you in escape if you so desire.”

Cedric considered his options. He could stand down with Follum. But he’d have to spend time in prison. He didn’t share all of Follum’s beliefs. While a fight could set back what little progress had been made over the past few years. “As long as we don’t kill any soldiers, I say we fight. I don’t believe rotting in prison will convince anyone to trust magic.”

Cedric waved his staff, and the front line of soldiers flew back, knocking over the next two rows. Follum joined in the attack, and the two wizards worked their way into the forest and out of the Eastern Domain.

* * * *

By the time Cedric finished, the large, bright star in the west had progressed east to light the night sky directly overhead. He claimed exhaustion and settled down to sleep.

Owen lay awake pondering the tale. The information confounded him. This fool just told him he started the Rebellion, yet the rebellion from the story didn’t seem at all like the one he remembered. Cedric even gave the Rebellion its name. And helped recruit new members. I wonder how many of the members he recruited were involved with the bombardment of Innes Castle?

To clear his thoughts, he reminisced about his mother while he watched shooting stars burn across the clear night sky. Before long, his eyes grew heavy. Sleep overtook him.

****

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