Read Arcane (The Arinthian Line Book 1) Online

Authors: Sever Bronny

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Arcane (The Arinthian Line Book 1)

BOOK: Arcane (The Arinthian Line Book 1)
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ARCANE

The Arinthian Line: Book One

 

By Sever Bronny

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any similarity to actual persons, living or deceased, establishments of any kind, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Bronny, Sever, 1979-, author

Arcane / Sever Bronny.

(The Arinthian Line ; book 1)

Issued in print and electronic formats.

ISBN 978-0-9937676-0-9 (pbk.).--ISBN 978-0-9937676-1-6 (ebook)

I. Title.

PS8603.R652A93 2014    jC813'.6

C2014-902405-3  C2014-902406-1

 

Copyright ©2014 Sever Bronny Ltd. All Rights reserved. Map and cover by author using creative commons and commercial licensing. “Arcane” cover font by Steve Deffeyes, deffeyes.com. For information about permission to reproduce certain portions of this work, please contact the author at [email protected] or via
www.severbronny.com

 

Willowbrook

Augum picked up a wooden bucket and splashed the stallion. Its coarse chestnut hair gleamed in the afternoon sun as water dripped to the arid dirt. He imagined it hissing like kettle water spilling on a cook fire.

He grabbed the brush and began scrubbing, hands aching from splitting wood all day. That morning, Sir Westwood had bought two rough cords from a passing merchant, so while almost every Willowbrook youth swam the Gamber, Augum had spent his time hacking at dry oak.

It was late in the season and there should be snow everywhere. Instead, the horizon quivered and cicadas filled the air with a thick buzz, slowing his thoughts to the speed of molasses.

His eyes flicked to the unmoving waist-high grass beyond a cluster of huts with cracked earthen walls and thatched roofs. The grass stretched endlessly, a placid yellow ocean broken only by crooked fencing, tilled pastures, and the occasional willow tree. Sweaty men flogged teams of oxen, trying to squeeze in one more planting of quickroot before the snows buried their exertions. Horses milled near each other, heads low as they grazed. Fat hogs sat unmoving in the shade of a gray barn. A distant clanging rang out as the smith shaped iron.

There was a wooden creak. Augum turned to find Sir Tobias Westwood standing at the plank door of their home, mop of curly gray hair shining with sweat, wheat dangling from his mouth. His leathery face creased as he squinted against the blazing sun.

“Finished yet?”

“No Sir, not yet.”

Sir Westwood scratched at his stubble and spat on the ground. “You can have a swim after. When you return, we shall study the written word.”

“Yes, Sir.” Augum wiped his brow as the old knight went back inside. He resumed washing the horse, hoping Sir Westwood would forego sword training tonight. By the time he finished, a wavering crimson sun kissed the horizon.

A voice fought its way through the hot air. “Hear ye, hear ye! Read the latest on the scourge known as the Legion! Two coppers for the Blackhaven Herald!”

Augum raised his wiry frame on tiptoes to glance over the horse’s back. A gaggle of dirty children mobbed a dark-skinned boy of about fourteen—the same age as Augum. Women in aprons and men in muddy boots rushed forward. Voices called after the boy.

“What news already, herald?”

“Tell us the Lord of the Legion spares us common folk, we don’t have none witches here!”

“We have not the money or the tongue, just speak it, boy!”

Augum groaned. He knew what this meant. They will all come over to have Sir Westwood read it aloud to them because he was one of only a handful in Willowbrook that could read. One time the herald had come when Sir Westwood was away on a hunting trip, so the villagers made Augum do the reading instead, enjoying his nervous stuttering. Augum could read well, it was just having all those hostile and impatient eyes on him that made it difficult.

Sir Westwood approached Augum holding two coppers. He grimaced. “This I do not like. He comes too soon,” and handed Augum the coins. Augum stepped before their hut and waited.

When the herald saw him, he rushed over with a crooked smile, exchanging the coins for a rolled parchment. He then strode off, continuing his entreaties, while the crowd remained behind.

A hunched man with one eye made an impatient gesture. “Well read it already, you daft boy!”

“Read it, gutterborn piglet!” Dap said. He was sixteen with a wide face and a neck as thick as the boars he butchered.

The crowd chuckled.

Sir Westwood stepped beside Augum, brows crossed like two swords. “Dap, if you do not want to feel the back of my hand, you will not repeat those words. I have told you many a time, we do not know where Augum was born.”

“Yeah well, he
is
a bastard orphan then, ain’t he? And ain’t that mean he
is
gutterborn? I mean, look at him, he has that ugly gutterborn face, them gutterborn hands—heck, he ain’t even have no friends—”

The part about friends had struck a nerve and Augum shot forward like a viper. After all, Dap had ensured he could not make any in Willowbrook, mostly by making up stories, like the one about him being raised by stray dogs.

Like many times before, Dap’s beefy arms grabbed Augum and threw him to the ground like a sack of coal. His hammy fist immediately began ramming into Augum’s face, until Sir Westwood pried the two apart.

“Go on home, Dap, else I take the proclamation and read it to myself.”

The crowd, who seemed to have enjoyed the pounding Augum took, grumbled in disappointment.

“Best go on home to your pappy, boy,” the one-eyed man said at last. “We needs to hear the news.”

Dap scowled and gave Augum a pointed look. “I’ll see
you
later.”

Augum spat blood onto the dirt as he shrugged off help from Sir Westwood. “Can’t wait.” He knew he was in for it now. It was just a matter of time before Dap and his cronies found him and beat him raw. He was their entertainment. He fought them, sure, but there were always so many, and he could not exactly run to Sir Westwood every time he had a bruised face or a torn tunic. Sir Westwood knew of course, but the old knight said nothing, instead choosing to train Augum how to defend himself using a sword and the written word.

Unfortunately, knowing how to swing a sword was useless against a boy like Dap, who was a far better swordsman. Like most other boys in Willowbrook, Dap had held a blade before he could walk, whereas Augum first gripped the pommel of a wooden practice sword only after Sir Westwood took him in, and he hardly had a knack for it.

As for the written word, it was only good for more beatings. Showing even the tiniest bit of smarts led to calls of putting on airs or witchery, even from adults. Thus, he had learned to play dumb. It was better not to say too much.

All his life, someone had picked on him, and always because he was the odd one out, the stranger, the
gutterborn orphan
. No part of him ever accepted it though. He believed there was more to his destiny than serving as a whipping boy. At night, he dreamt of riding a stallion into battle with a great silver lance, a crowd of girls looking on with adoring eyes; and even though they may not be real, he dreamed of being a magician too—or witch, or whatever they called people that could fight with their mind. Regardless of who he was in his dreams, he always had plenty of courage, honor, wit and friends—especially friends, for he had yet to make even one.

Sir Westwood picked up the parchment from the ground and shoved it into Augum’s hands. “Read it.”

Augum wiped the blood from his nose with the sleeve of his red and yellow tunic, the royal colors of King Ridian, Sir Westwood’s liege. He held up the parchment before him, trying to ignore his throbbing cheek, the one Dap had concentrated on smashing. Loopy characters slanted sharply, as if the scribe had been in a great hurry to pass on the news.

“‘Let it be known,’” Augum began reading aloud, “‘that the Blackhaven high council declares the rule of King Ridian the Third contrary to the interests of Solia—’”

The crowd gasped and exchanged anxious looks. Sir Westwood’s face darkened.

“‘Therefore,’” Augum continued, “‘King Ridian is hereby stripped of all his titles and lands, as are those loyal to him still. With this proclamation, the council disbands itself and submits its will to Lord Sparkstone and his great army, the Legion. All hail the Lord of the Legion, our new master, savior and king.’”

There was silence.

“Is that all there is, boy?” the one-eyed man asked.

Augum turned the parchment so they could see. “Yes.”

“Then we best prepare …”

The crowd dispersed, muttering amongst themselves. A few even ran.

Augum watched them go. “Prepare for what, Sir?”

Sir Westwood spat on the ground and took the proclamation from Augum. He stared at it. “For the inevitable.” His eyes searched the horizon, stopping on a spot to the north.

“But they wouldn’t come right this—” Augum’s throat tightened as his eyes fell upon the same spot.

What was that?

He ran over to his favorite willow tree behind the hut and scrambled up its thick trunk. Men from the fields had already begun sounding the alert. Bells rang and pots banged all over Willowbrook. Barefoot children cried as their mothers scooped them up, running towards the Gamber.

He placed a hand over his eyes and squinted. It was a cloud …
a cloud of charging knights
—the herald’s news was old!

“Climb down, Augum.” Sir Westwood, bathed in the crimson light of dusk, was strapping on a battered breastplate. His sword dangled in its sheath on his hip. He held Augum’s woolen coat under his arm.

Augum grabbed a handful of the willow’s drooping branches and swung off like one of those tree-living beasts he had read about in Sir Westwood’s books. The knight bent a knee and gripped him by the shoulders, looking up with stern yet kind eyes.

“Augum, if I were to choose a son, I would choose no other. You have been a faithful squire, but you cannot take part in that which comes.”

Augum began to shake his head. “No, Sir, you can’t leave me behind—”

“Look at me. It is my duty. Courage, Augum, courage. Now, the crowd will run east to the river. The soldiers will likely follow. That is why you shall travel west across the Tallows. I have thrown together a sack of journey bread, salted beef and two skins of water. Take it before you go. You are not to return, understand?”

Augum saw Sir Westwood’s lips moving but the blood rushing through his head prevented him from understanding the words. “I’m going with you, Sir. Give me a sword and—”

“No. You are not ready, nor are you able. I shall not have you slaughtered in the field like so many before you. This is the Legion, Augum,
the
Legion
. I have seen what they are capable of, and you are not to see that for yourself, not yet!” Sir Westwood’s gaze travelled beyond Augum. “I have been waiting for this a long time.”

Augum opened his mouth to protest just as a fireball mushroomed into the sky from the far end of the village. He instinctively clutched at Sir Westwood, but the knight gently pried Augum’s hands away, placing the coat around Augum’s shoulders. Sir Westwood then mounted his horse and, with one last look, galloped off toward the flames.

Augum stood breathing rapidly, watching the back of the only person that had ever cared about him ride off to certain death.

Suddenly something huge smacked into his back, sending him flying through a wooden fence. A tiny piglet squealed and scampered through the hole, only to be kicked by Dap, his face contorting with victorious glee. The piglet landed near Augum and went still.

“Told you I’d get you—”

Augum barely had time to shield his head before the rain of punches began.

“And this one’s for being smart—” Dap raised his fist just as a black-armored soldier in a pot helm careened through the fence, scattering chickens like a shark in a school of fish.

Dap, who was still sitting on Augum, raised his arms. “Wait, I’m one of you—”

BOOK: Arcane (The Arinthian Line Book 1)
4.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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