Circle of Sorcerers, Chapter One

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Circle of Sorcerers

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This is Chapter One of the Circle of Sorcerers fantasy novel I’m working on now. I’ve uploaded it to a couple of critique sites to get feedback, but I might as well get some feedback from those who check out the blog. Let me know however you like.

Edit: June 10th, 2011, edit made to the chapter.

Chapter One

The warm summer breeze drifted along the seaside piers that lined the harbor of Westrock. The ocean reflected the beautiful, clear skies above, and sparkles danced across the waves out to the horizon. Sorbia was known for its mild summers and forgiving disposition; the Wayfarer’s Straight often carried a tepid current most of the year. Even in the depths of winter, the people of the western coast burned less firewood in their hearths than most.

Laedron’s last summer in Westrock was drawing to a close. As the breeze slowed, the back of his neck became hot. His skin had been tanned over the years spent along the coast, but one might experience a period of discomfort when the wind grew still from time to time. With his toes dangling in the water below the pier, he ran his fingers through his black hair to clear away the sweat.

He took pleasure in the solitude afforded by this pier. Though he could see others nearby, few of them ever came to fish the waters here. He joined them in merriment from time to time, but he was here to fish. Thrashing about in the water would have to wait for another day.

Marac approached from behind and sat beside him. “What’s bothering you so much lately, Lae?”

It’s hot today.”

No hotter than most and only for a passing moment. What’s really bothering you?”

I have a decision to make.”

I thought you already made it,” Marac said, rolling his trousers and dropping his own feet into the bay. “Morcaine, right?”

Ma makes a compelling case for Madam Ismerelda.” He tightened his lips and eyed the end of his fishing pole.

It’s your decision, right? Just tell your ma you’re going to Morcaine.”

It’s not quite that easy, you know? Ma says Ismerelda’s a much better teacher.” His pole bent in the middle, and he jerked it out of the water.

My, that’s a fine Redfish you have there! That’ll surely fetch a fine price at the stall.”

Laedron placed the fish in his wicker basket and wiped his hands on his pants. “Not this time it won’t. I’ve gone fishing for myself today. Ma’s had a taste for fish for days, but I’ve had no luck until just now.”

Something to soften the blow, eh?” He laughed as he elbowed Laedron. “You know, to let her down easy?”

I still haven’t decided. All the great mages I’ve ever heard of went to Morcaine, but ma doesn’t have a very high opinion of it.”

Marac shrugged. “I’m sure you’ll make the right decision, whichever you choose.”

I hope so.”

Oh, Lae, you’re such a worrier.” Marac eyed the basket. “You care if I accompany you home? That fish there’d do wonders for my belly aches.”

Laedron rolled his eyes. “You probably don’t want to show your face at the house right now. She’s still upset at what happened with Laren over the last few months.”

It couldn’t be helped. You know I care for you and your sister. I care for the whole Telpist family, even your ma who can’t stand me.”

You let her down hard, Marac. She was heartbroken for a long time after that.” He shifted his weight to get more comfortable.

I can’t help it now. She wanted to be married, and I’m just not ready for that yet. I’m only seventeen.”

Laedron didn’t speak, looking at him as if he were hearing nothing but excuses.

Look, you’re only a year older than me. If a woman – no matter how fair – were to come to you and say she wanted your hand, what would you do?”

I’d tell her I couldn’t.”

The same thing applies to me, doesn’t it? I’m Marac Miller, heir to the fortunes of my father Bordric and his holdings. I have responsibilities that I must tend to before I can be married.” His grand oration was cut short by a temperamental glare from Laedron.

It’s not the same, Marac. You don’t have to go and live in seclusion while you spend the next few years of your life in training. Your concerns are drinking from a tall cup and enjoying your nights.”

So what if I want to live a bit before I’m relieved of my freedom?” He raised his open palms in the air.

All I’m saying is that we’re in two different situations. I’d much prefer staying here with Ma and Laren instead of going to Westmarch.”

It can’t be that bad, Laedron. I’ve never known what sort of things your kind really do, but I’m sure it will be alright. Westmarch is a nice place. I’ve been there several times myself.”

Laedron looked at him for a few moments before speaking. “Am I really so different from you, Marac?”

He sighed, his eyes shifting back and forth. “No, you always take such offense when I bring up our differences. It is a bit major, you know?”

I’m training to become a sorcerer. It’s not all that bizarre.”

Marac’s eyes widened. “Not bizarre or strange? Only a handful of people born each year are able to wield the very elements!”

Ma says it’s more like two or three dozen, but they don’t always find out that they can.” He pulled the fishing pole from the water and set it on the pier. “It can’t be that rare. Three of us are living in this tiny village alone.”

Your ma has the powers. It’s going to be strong in you since it came from your blood. That’s what everybody says, at least.”

Laedron glanced to his feet. “Sometimes I wonder if I’ll make it wherever I choose.”

You’ve got real talent. I can see it.” Marac slapped him on the knee. “You’ll do fine.”

The fates will do as they will.”

Of course. Come on, let’s go back. You’ve got your fish there. Sitting out here is just avoiding what you can’t change.”

Maybe I want to avoid it.”

Well, that’s obvious, but it’s not going to make it any better. Come along, let’s go have a cup of tall stout on the side street.”

Laedron stood with Marac’s help and threw his pole over his shoulder. With the basket in hand, they followed the dirt pathway which led to the village. The breeze carried the scent of the blooming honeysuckles across the wooded trail.

I never get tired of that smell,” Marac said. “I know you’ll miss being here in Westrock, but I’m sure you’ll be back to visit sometime.”

Don’t count on it. No matter how much I’d like to return, there are no promises. I’ll miss you, Marac.”

Oh, don’t talk like that. You’ll have to come back someday. Maybe when your training is over you can visit us little people.”

We’ll see,” he said with a heavy heart.

You need not be so bitter, Laedron Telpist. You’re venturing off in the wide world and leaving the simple pleasures of our little town behind.”

It’s my home, Marac. I’d be perfectly content to stay here and live.”

No, you’re not the type. When we were children, you always spoke of strange lands far beyond the foothills of our homely country. Now, you get to live that dream.”

Those were just stories. I’m not so sure the outside world is as glorious and amusing as it once seemed.”

You’ll make due. Your family always does.”

Marac’s words were never truer. It was a known fact throughout the town that Ma Telpist – known as Filadrena by her contemporaries – was once a powerful sorceress. The townsfolk always saw her as a kind person, though. She never knew an enemy amongst the commoners, although she had been known to insult a high-riding nobleman from time to time, when it was deemed needed.

His father, Bannor Wardrick Telpist, died when he was but a small child. Laedron could barely remember his face, let alone anything else about him. All he knew was his father was squarely between a commoner and a noble, and his mother inherited his title when he passed.

Marac arrived first at the side street counter. It was a long, simple table with stools placed along the roadway where passersby could obtain a refreshment. After serving another patron a tall mug, Calvert approached. “You’ve brought a friend today, Marac? Is that the Telpist boy?”

Marac laughed. “Yes, it’s the archmage himself, in the flesh.”

Calvert smiled and looked to Laedron. “Ah, yes. I don’t see much of you these recent days. How is the bannorette?”

She’s well, thank you.”

And you? Marac’s told me you’ll be going to train soon.”

Yes. I haven’t decided where yet.”

That’s good,” said Calvert, taking a mug from the rack. “What can I get you? I already know Marac’s desire.”

I’ll have a tall one of your honeysuckle wine,” Marac said, interrupting Calvert as he reached to the ale keg.

Laedron eyed him for a second. “Honeysuckle wine? Not your usual fare.”

I’ve grown fond of the stuff. You should try it before you leave. It’s one of a kind.”

Fine, yes. I’ll have one, too.” He put the basket containing the Redfish on the bar and leaned his pole against an empty stool.

With a pleasant scene and a splash against the rim, the steins landed before them. Everything from the side street stand was distributed in large mugs, regardless of style, tradition, or want. It couldn’t be argued by any of the townsfolk that you didn’t get enough from Ole Calvert; he was sure to give each customer a generous portion of whichever brew they fancied.

The stall’s proximity to the fish market was the only unpleasant feature of the place. At any time of day, one could have a beer or ale while a pungent aroma wafted across the heat. A forgiving breeze would often come through strong and frequent enough to relieve the patrons and allow them to drink in peace.

The wine crossed his lips and excited his tongue. It had both a dainty and spicy flavor, a contradiction to its pleasant and subtle scent. He sipped it in a slow, deliberate manner, but Marac was unafraid to gulp it by the mouthful.

You’re taking it a bit fast, aren’t you?”

Ah, you’re such a worrier, Lae. Anything fine should be enjoyed in quantity and at whatever speed you prefer!”

I’m afraid the drink will be the death of you is all.”

You have to live a little, my friend. Life’s short, but you can make your nights longer!” He put his arm around Laedron’s shoulder and drew him close. “Maybe you wouldn’t have a problem with the women folk if you spent less time at your studies.”

As Calvert stepped away, Laedron rolled his eyes. “Now the bartender knows. I don’t have problems with the women folk!”

That’s not what I hear. I heard you’ve yet to romp through the thickets of passion!”

He looked at Marac with a forthright glare, barely containing his impatience. “Keep your voice down. There’s no need spreading rumors all over town about my personal affairs.”

I’ve said nothing to anyone else, Lae.”

Other people walking the roads eyed the pair as Laedron whispered. “No, but your voice is carrying to the nearby streets.”

I’m sorry, but it’s true, isn’t it? You’re well into your eighteenth year now, and you still haven’t… you know? You’re a handsome lad as the average goes, so that can’t be what’s holding you back.”

Let me worry about whether or not I have, won’t you? It’s not your concern, Marac.”

You’re my close friend. If I don’t worry about you, who will? You don’t seem to be upset about it.”

And what cause do I have to be upset? It’s not like I’ll whither away and die if I don’t, and who’s to say I haven’t?”

Just about everybody.”

And it’s none of their concern, either!” His palm slammed against the table.

You’ve got passion in you, that’s clear and can’t be denied, but you use it all up on your studies. You could be using it in darkened halls with a busty maid at your lips.”

It’s not passion. It’s concentration, Marac. Anyone can conjure magic, it just takes focus. Even you could do it if you could stop drinking long enough to try.”

Concentration or passion, whichever it is, could be equally applied to given fair mistress! No, magic isn’t something that any old fool can perform. I don’t agree with you there.”

Laedron saw an opportunity to steer the conversation away from his romantic life. “Some are just better at performing it. The possibility is in everyone, but not everyone will give it a chance. I can agree it’s not easy, but it is certainly possible.”

Well, I leave it to you, my friend. Perhaps you’ll be gifted enough for the both of us.”

Laedron shook his head. “Perhaps ma is right about the whole thing.”

Oh, yea? And what does she have to say about it?”

It’s not the people who have a birthmark or a funny look in their eye, she says. It’s everyone. Everyone can do magic, but only a few born each year have the will to pursue it.”

Marac took another mighty swig of his wine. “I certainly can’t argue with what your ma says. She’s the most gifted sorceress I’ve ever heard of. She’s the only one I’ve ever met, too.”

You know Laren.”

Marac laughed. “Laren’s no sorceress, though.”

She will be. She’s as much a mage as you’re a miller.”

True, perhaps. I don’t like to think of her that way.”

As if it’s bad?”

No, Lae. You’re always getting the wrong impression. It’s just different, and I don’t like to think of her as being different from other girls.”

Laedron raised an eyebrow. “It sounds to me that you still have feelings for her.”

Of course I still care for her.” He paused, and Laedron could tell something was on his mind. “I can’t talk about it, Lae.”

You used to be able to tell me anything. What’s changed, Marac?”

Not this. I’m sorry.”

Fine, keep your secrets. I’ll keep mine better.”

Marac sighed. “The real reason I couldn’t see Laren anymore is that she’s going to training herself soon.”

I suspect my mother’s hand in that.”

Please don’t tell her, Laedron. Don’t tell her I told you anything about it.”

Ease yourself,” he said, taking Marac by the shoulder. “I won’t say a word, but I want to know why.”

Laren wanted to be married, and even I wanted it, too. I do love your sister, Lae. I really do.”

Laedron folded his arms as Marac continued. “We can’t be married. Not now, at least.”

Why not?”

The training. Our parents agree it would be best.”

What do you think, Marac? You’re almost of age. Like my situation, is it not your decision?”

Marac’s eyes were locked on the bottom of his mug. “It’s fine, Lae. The training’s important to her.”

Not wanting to upset Marac any further, he tried to change the subject once more. “How is the Miller doing?”

His back is always aching these days. He said it was from an old injury early in his business. He tells me that he’s glad I’m coming of age to take it over for him.”

You’ve been working in the mill since we were young. I don’t see you having a problem keeping it up.”

No, I’ll be fine. It won’t be anything like the adventures you shall have, I’ll wager.”

We’ll see, won’t we? Anyhow, I’ve lingered here for long enough.” He reached into his pocket and produced a silver coin.

I’ll pay for it, Lae. No worries.”

You don’t have to. I can cover it.” He offered the coin to Marac as he took the basket and fishing pole.

Take it as a gift from a friend. I don’t know when I’ll see you again.”

Very well. A gift from a friend, then. Thank you for everything, Marac.”

Laedron extended his hand, but Marac took him into a full embrace. “Good luck out there, Lae. If you ever get in trouble, you have a friend in the Millers of Westrock. Don’t forget it.”

I won’t, Marac. I appreciate everything the Millers have done for us.”

Laedron turned away and walked along the road toward his home. He crept toward his house on the outskirts of village. Each step he took felt like a memory he had visited a thousand times before. As he passed the fork in the road, his eyes traced the old oak tree he and Marac had once transformed into a fortress against his sister. That same tree was the only witness to the first time Marac and Laren had kissed some years later. Even though the wooded pond was the place he had almost drowned two summers ago, he remembered it kindly as the time when they pledged to be brothers forever.

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