The large chamber glowed with a
weakening light. It was vast, with high, crystalline walls as thick and clear
as glaciers that stretched until one’s neck grew sore trying to follow them
upward, ever upward, until you could barely see any longer. A domed ceiling
arched high above, clear like a skylight and letting in a dim glow as evening
fell on their third day in waiting.
The room was silent and still, a
funeral chamber without the funeral. The crystal walls echoed only their
breathing, and even that was near silent, as if out of respect for the
remaining Council members, all seven of them, wore their funereal robes, a
deep, rich maroon with gold threading that pooled on the floor at their feet
and stretched well past their folded hands until one could no longer see their
long, spidery fingers. Their hoods were raised in honor of the event, masking
faces solemn and anxious.
The great and mighty Jaroch was
dying. At 238 years old, he was one of the youngest members of the Council of
Bright Orders. And yet, even to those outside the Council, it was clear his
once and ever light was on the wane and would soon be extinguished forever.
As a squire,
or mage in training, young Kayne was only allowed into the death chamber in the
company of his master, Kronos. He stood against the wall with the six other
squires, all of them clad in their white robes, their hoods up, hands clasped
in front of their waists in imitation of their powerful masters.
All the squires stood nervously
against the glowing crystal walls, heads bowed in deference to the powerful
mages that filled the circular room. Their hoods covered their young faces,
curious eyes poking out every so often to take in the scene of majesty and
wonder that now greeted them. They were all too young to have seen the passing
of a mage before and each knew it could be decades before another one passed.
Jaroch had fallen ill during a
Council meeting only days earlier, sliding off his crystal throne and to his
knees and closing his eyes without uttering a single word.
opened them, or spoken, since.
Kayne yearned to hear Jaroch’s voice
once more. Of all the mages, he had been the most powerful, the most
mysterious, the most mystical and the most magical. His voice was dry and
hoarse, like anyone who had lived nearly 300 years, but until the day he spoke
no more, it had always been loud and clear and strong.
At night Jaroch had often read to
the squires from the Great Spell Book, his voice both powerful and soothing as
he recounted tales of the Old Ones, the original mages, who knew little of
their powers until forming the Council of Bright Orders and committing their
tales to the Great Book, so that history could learn from their great and
Now, Kayne feared, he might never hear
that great and mournful voice again. For, clearly, Jaroch’s time was at hand.
Even Kayne, at 17, could feel the waning of Jaroch’s power as the walls of his
death chamber glowed dimmer and dimmer with each faltering breath, the clear
crystal growing cloudy and opaque with the passing of his spirit into the Great
The ancient mage lay on a slab of
pure crystal that, like the rest of the room, glowed weakly in time with his
faltering heartbeat. It sat at the heart of the circular room and, like a
heart, what happened on the slab affected the rest of the chamber.
With each faltering heartbeat, with
each dimming flash of light, the floor beneath Kayne’s feet pulsed, as did the
walls, higher, higher, all the way to the ceiling. Each pulse of weakening
light cast shadows along the faces that lined the room, making them darker
still behind their raised and silken hoods.
Jaroch was dressed all in white, to
match his shimmering hair and pale, papery skin. His old cheeks were gaunt, his
eyes closed and still, his nostrils barely flaring. His long, bony hands were
clasped over his chest, each finger ornamented with a thick, golden ring
bearing the planet Synurgus’ finest gems.
No one spoke a word and, yet, the
room was filled with tension Kayne could feel all across his shoulders and up
the back of sore neck. He had only been a squire for a few short years, but he
knew full well that when one mage passed onto the other realm, into the Great
Beyondness, another of the same order was selected within the week to take his
place. Small, but filled with valuable
mineral resources, Synurgus was a vulnerable planet. And a magical, mystical
one. It was dominated by two races of powerful mages. The Ythurnians, who had
started the Council of Bright Orders eons ago, practiced what was known as
light magic, a powerful force for good that helped protect Synurgus from those
who would dare do it harm.
Just as powerful were the
Sinisterians, a mysterious race from over the great Crystal Mountains who
practiced black magic but only under close supervision by the Council. Though
black magic was generally frowned upon, it was valuable nonetheless in times of
war or strife with other civilizations, and many times over the centuries had
dark magic saved Synurgus from destruction.
As a result, the Council of Bright
Orders was always filled with four members from each tribe, if only to strike
the delicate balance between good and evil on the rich little planet.
As Jaroch was a light mage, he
would need to be replaced – and quickly – with another light mage in order to
keep the balance. Kayne shifted his eyes, hidden behind his own white hood, to
the likely replacement: the great and mighty Iragos of Ythurnia.
Like all the mages, Iragos was
tall and lean, sporting flowing, silvery hair that cascaded across his broad
shoulders and over his maroon funereal robe. He was a sight taller than the
other Ythurnians, and not quite as old. Despite the stern expressions worn by
all the mages on this of all days, Iragos often looked up at his old friend and
mentor, Jaroch, and offered a smile of recognition, or perhaps fond
recollection before bowing his head again out of respect.
By contrast, Kayne’s master, Kronos
of Sinisteria, looked almost gleeful at the thought of Jaroch’s passing. He
could barely hide the smirk behind his own maroon cloak, and shifted nervously
as if he wanted all of this to be over as soon as possible. He was tall and
menacing, nearly a head above his fellow Sinisterians, and with his permanent
scowl and severe features easily put the “dark” in dark arts.
Though his hair was long and silver
like the other powerful mages, he sported a dark, black goatee beneath his
long, severe nose and around his thin, gray lips. His eyes were a rich dark
green and lively, and his head was barely bent above his broad, muscular
Kayne rarely spoke to his master, at
least not unless spoken to first. Instead he merely nodded and did Kronos’
bidding, as often and as quickly as he could. Today his job was merely
“Just stand there and don’t embarrass
me,” Kronos had hissed moments before they had entered the chamber and, as
always, Kayne did as he was told. He hadn’t moved for hours, or so it seemed,
and his legs had gone beyond sore to numb.
The sky above grew dark and still
the walls around them glowed as the old mage refused to give up his physical
form. Several paces in front of Kayne, Kronos shifted from one foot to the
other. Across the room, Iragos noticed and shot Kayne’s master a withering
look. Unrepentant, Kronos rustled his robe and cleared his throat, as if to
punish his peer for daring to act his superior.
Kayne sighed beneath his hood, glad
to be hidden from the others as his face colored in the shadows. Then, just as
he was trying to blend into the walls themselves, something in the
room…changed. There was a shift in its energy, like a fizzle, or flicker.
He felt it before he saw it, creeping
from his feet through his legs, crinkling his stomach and thrumming in his
chest. Kayne wasn’t overtly magical. He had little of the powers the other
squires showed off daily at meal times, levitating their forks over the table
or sending them sailing into the wall, just to show off.
But Kayne’s teachers noted his ability
to sense things moments before they happened. It wasn’t a valuable power, as
powers go, but it was enough to get him shuffled to Sinister School and, later,
Ythulia itself. Or, as the squires called it when no one else was listening,
Here, he was a guppy in a very large
pond and yet, every once in awhile, the stirrings appeared, as they did now. He
stepped forward, instinctively, only to be yanked back by the squire beside him
lest he break protocol completely.
Kayne nodded, gratefully, but lifted
his head just the same. There, on the slab, Jaroch spasmed, hands falling off
his chest, rings clattering onto the floor as they slipped from his bony, lifeless
fingers. Only then did the other mages rush to his aide; all but Kronos, who
stood solemnly, watching, waiting, his cheeks drawn up by a wicked half-smile.
Kayne knew Kronos wanted to replace
Jaroch on the Council, but both knew the Council would never willingly have
more members of one race of mages than the other. After all, the balance
between light and dark was all that kept their little planet alive, and none of
the Council members would risk jeopardizing that.
None of the other Council members,
And so, as Iragos rushed to the old
mage’s side, as he sank to his knees in grief and the walls flickered once,
twice, before going dark, Kronos seethed, fists clenching at his sides as his
hood fell from around his face. Now his salt and pepper hair flew around his
head, unbidden, writhing like a nest of snakes.
When at last the walls were as black
as the night sky above, when only moonlight shone down on Jaroch’s cold, silent
body, Kronos turned to Kayne with a face grim as granite, his dark eyes the
only illumination in the silent room.
“Now,” he hissed and, preceding him,
Kayne led his master from the great chamber. Once outside the Hall of Grief,
Kronos darted forward with a mystical speed, leaving Kayne in his wake.
Kayne called out after him, racing to catch up.
“Leave me,” Kronos said, swiftly
advancing down the hall and leaving Kayne far behind. “Your duties are done for
the night,” Kronos called over his shoulder, disappearing around the corner in
a glimmer of gold thread and fluttering hair.
Kayne nodded and, instinctively,
returned to the Hall of Grief. It was not quite proper for a squire to join
other mages when not in the company of his master, but on this night, Kayne
hoped grief would trump protocol and allow him to pay Jaroch his last respects.
More than anything, Kayne wished to pay tribute to the fallen mage, to honor
the man who had made him proud to live in Mage City.
As he slipped back into the room,
quickly pulling his hood back onto his head, Kayne locked eyes with Iragos. A
flash of disdain and then, a blink, and the light mage smiled and nodded,
allowing him to join at the center of the room as the others – mages and
squires alike – gathered shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, to bid farewell to the
Council’s fallen leader.
I live in Kissimmee Florida with my two children Jesse and Brittany. I have been trying to write a book for several years and finally made myself sit down and do it. After having an editor go through it we submitted it to publishers. In two weeks I was signed up and on my way to living my dream!