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Authors: Michael G. Manning

Centyr Dominance

BOOK: Centyr Dominance
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Centyr
Dominance

 

By

 

Michael
G. Manning

Cover by Amalia Chitulescu

Editing by Grace Bryan Butler

© 2016 by Michael G. Manning

All rights reserved.

 

For more information about the Mageborn
series check out the author’s Facebook page:

 

https://www.facebook.com/MagebornAuthor

 

or visit the website:

 

http://www.magebornbooks.com/

 

Chapter
1

Moira Illeniel studied her companions. They stood
close to her in the near darkness of the castle courtyard. It was still some
hours until first light.

“Are you sure this is wise?” asked Gram. His new
dragon, Grace, rode on his armored shoulders. She was still small, having
hatched only a few days previously, but she already weighed close to fifty
pounds. The young warrior gave no sign of noticing her weight.

Mordecai’s creations, the dragons of Lothion, grew
quickly. Grace would probably be larger than a horse within a couple of weeks,
and she would be large enough to ride soon after that. Today though, the two
of them would ride with Moira, atop her dragon, Cassandra’s wide back.

Matthew stood next to him, looking upward with his natural
sight, although it was too dark for them to see anything. Instead his
magesight roamed outward, hoping to detect the approach of his dragon, Desacus.

The Countess will be angry once she
realizes we have gone,
noted Grace, broadcasting her
thoughts to all of them.
And I can’t say that I blame her.

“Someone has to find Father, and the people need her,”
said Moira, repeating her earlier argument. “We have to go.”

Chad Grayson spoke, “And she’ll be rightly pissed when
she discovers ye’ve tied her hands. Once the two of ye have left, she’ll be
forced to stay close to home.”

“We are much better equipped for this search,”
pronounced Matthew. “She’s better suited to handling the task of ruling
here.” He turned his face toward the hunter, “No one is asking you to come.”

Chad’s features grew irritated, “Might as well sign my
arrest warrant if ye leave me here.”

“No one knows you had any part in this,” observed
Moira.

“Heh!” chuffed the ranger. “That dark witch will suss
it out before the day is done, and they’ll have me before the Countess soon
after. Ye might as well put me in chains yerself.”

“Mother wouldn’t put you in chains…,” began Moira, but
Gram interrupted.

“Dark witch?” said the broad-shouldered knight.

“Yer mother, Lady Hightower,” clarified the woodsman. Lady
Rose Thornbear had inherited her father’s title, and while Elise Thornbear
still lived she was properly called Lady Hightower rather than Lady Thornbear.

Gram and Chad had worked together long enough that the
hunter’s rough words rarely bothered him anymore, but he was still puzzled.
“Witch? My mother doesn’t have any magical ability.”

Chad squinted in the dim light, “I ain’t so sure o’
that. She always kens more than any person has a right to know. It makes a
man nervous when she looks into his eyes.”

Moira smirked at that, but only her brother could
discern the expression in the dim light. Matthew was nodding in agreement.

“It could be that she conspires with dark powers,”
suggested Matthew with an air of mock seriousness.

Gram was agape at that. “Really? I’m surrounded by
wizards, and you’re suggesting
my
mother’s a witch?”

Moira laughed softly, keeping her voice low, “You have
to admit it’s uncanny what she figures out, Gram. I have magesight, and she
still knows more than me about what’s going on in people’s heads.”

Gram knew they were teasing him by then, and he
certainly understood how frightening his mother’s powers of discernment could
be. “She wouldn’t have you locked up,” he stated firmly, directing his remark
toward the hunter. “She’s not vindictive.”

“That’s as may be,” said Chad, “and I ain’t so sure of
it, but the Countess is most certainly temperamental. Once Lady Hightower outs
me, Her Excellency might well put me in chains for letting her young cubs run
off on their own.”

“It still might be wiser for you to take your chances
here rather than come with us,” said Moira.

“And that’s exactly why I’m comin’,” responded Chad.
“None of ye are old enough to have the sense of a goat.”

I hope you aren’t including me in that
assessment, Master Grayson,
responded Grace mentally.

His reply was drowned out by the sound of beating
wings, Cassandra and Desacus were descending. Once the massive creatures had
landed the group split up. Moira, Gram, and Grace climbed aboard Cassandra,
while Matthew and Chad took spots on Desacus’ back. Soon they were winging
their way carefully to the east, heading in the direction of the mountains
where Mordecai Illeniel had disappeared.

As they flew the sun slowly appeared on the horizon in
front of them, setting the sky aglow with red and orange hues. Gram and Chad
were white knuckled, clinging desperately to the rough scales of their
respective dragons as they rode behind Moira and Matthew. Grace was considerably
more relaxed; even if she were dislodged, she could fly on her own.

Several hours later they landed on the southern slope
of one of the smaller mountains.

“This doesn’t look promising,” said Gram, studying the
stony ground. It would be hard to track anything there, assuming they found
any sign of the lost Count to begin with.

“You’re sure this is it?” asked Matthew.

Moira nodded. “This is the area. All of my
spell-beasts returned except the one assigned to this region.”

“Bitchin’ about it ain’t gonna help,” remarked Chad.
“Let’s spread out and start lookin’.”

The dragons took to the air once more, circling to
study the terrain below. The humans did likewise, albeit much more slowly
since they were now on foot. Matthew and Moira studied the terrain with their
magesight, while Gram and Chad looked for more mundane signs.

The day dragged on slowly, while the dry mountain air
grew steadily hotter. It was shortly after noon when Gram spotted the cracked
granite stones that indicated a place where something had struck the
mountainside with tremendous force.

There was no discoloration of the rocks, but the shear
lines were fresh and sharp, a subtle contrast to the more softly weathered
stones around them. He was too far from the others for them to hear him, so he
sent his thoughts skyward, calling to his dragon.
Grace, I think I’ve found
something.

The small dragon passed the word along to the others,
and in less than a quarter of an hour they had gathered around his find.

“I don’t see anything,” said Matthew.

Moira felt similarly, but her brother’s confidence
annoyed her, “I’m not a tracker so I wouldn’t presume to make assumptions.”

Matthew glared at her, but Master Grayson spoke first,
“No, the lad has found somethin’ here. Look at the edges, do ye see that?”
The older man ran his finger along the sharp granite.

“They’re more jagged,” said Matthew, rubbing his chin.

As if he hadn’t just said he didn’t see
anything,
thought Moira. “Can you tell what happened?” she
asked, keeping her irritation to herself.

Gram and the huntsman exchanged glances. “We’re on a
mountainside, and it’s been over a week now. Anything more subtle than this is
probably long gone,” admitted Gram.

“Still, it gives us a place to work around,” suggested
Chad.

Moira closed her eyes, expanding her senses outward.
Beside her, she could feel her brother doing likewise. At first she felt
nothing unusual, but after a minute she found something. Using her aythar, she
invisibly highlighted the spot to draw her brother’s attention to the area.
“Do you see it?” she asked aloud.

“The start of a cave,” he mumbled in agreement. He
pointed downslope for the benefit of the two non-mages.

Moving carefully, they made their way downward, studying
the rocks as they went.

“I can’t see shit,” complained Chad, looking at the
area around his feet. They were near a large boulder which, along with a
sturdy bush mostly concealed what appeared to be a small recess in the
mountainside. “If he went in there is anyone’s guess.”

“He isn’t there now,” stated Moira, “unless it goes
farther in than I can sense. Hopefully, we can find something to tell us where
to go from here.”

“An’ what if we don’t? What if we find whatever put
yer almighty father down? How’re we gonna handle somethin’ like that?” said the
hunter.

Moira glared at the dour ranger, biting her tongue
rather than respond immediately. She already wished he hadn’t come with them.

“There’s nothing in there,” observed Matthew.
“Nothing powerful at least, although I can feel something odd.” His eyes held
a distant look.

“Some sort of trace aythar,” agreed Moira, “but it
smells strange.”

“Smells?” asked Gram.

“We don’t really have proper words for what we sense
with magesight, so I just borrow whatever seems to fit,” she explained. “This
has an unusual flavor, like some sort of magic I haven’t seen before.”

“Then it’s probably a trap,” advised Chad.

“You think everything is a trap,” said Gram, hoping to
lighten the mood.

“An’ I’m never disappointed,” replied the hunter,
“only pleasantly surprised when I’m mistaken. Better that than the other way
‘round.”

“It isn’t a trap,” pronounced Matthew.

“Ye can’t know that,” argued Chad.

The young wizard gave him a flat stare, “I know. I’m
familiar with this magic.”

Moira’s brow wrinkled as she listened.

Matthew understood her question, and in response he
pointed at his upper arm, tracing a line across the area just below the
shoulder. “Remember?”

That’s where I had to reattach his arm,
she
thought to herself,
after he practically amputated it.
The reminder
brought with it the memory of the strange aythar that had lingered in Matthew’s
workshop that day. Moira nodded before adding, “That isn’t reassuring.”

Her brother sighed. He should have known she wouldn’t
understand. “I need to examine whatever is in there if I’m going to figure
this out.”

“It’d be more prudent to tell yer lady mother first…”
suggested the hunter. “We probably ain’t ready fer whatever’s in there.”

“He’s already fought one god and won,” noted Gram, and
with another word he activated his sword. Scales of shining steel appeared in
a cloud around the hilt and rapidly began covering his body. Within moments he
was covered in glimmering armor.

Moira felt a hint of recognition as the scales began
winking into existence. The aythar was similar to what lay within the cave.

“An’ his father fought more’n that and look what
good…” began Chad, but Gram wasn’t listening. With his armor on, the young man
was already making his way into the cave. The twin wizards filed in behind
him.
Feckin’ kids,
groused the hunter silently.

The back of the niche held a tall but narrow passage.
The dark crack was perhaps ten feet from top to bottom, but it was only two
foot wide at its broadest point. The bottom was narrow and awkward to step on,
threatening to trap their feet or twist an ankle. There were places on either
side where the stone was scorched. Ragged grooves indicated the claw marks of
something impossibly strong.

“I don’t think the opening was originally this wide,”
suggested Gram.

Ye think?!
quipped
the hunter mentally. He kept his mouth shut, however. He was too busy trying
to figure out how he would use his bow if something came at them from the
darkness. It was on his back, with the string across his chest to allow his
hands the freedom he needed to clamber through the awkward passage. If
anything happened, he would be hard pressed to respond in any meaningful way.
Worse, the entry was so difficult it would make any sudden retreat impossible.

Ten feet in, the floor widened and they were able to
walk again, rather than scrabble along.

“It goes farther back than I thought,” said Matthew.

“Hold on,” said Moira. Lifting her hand, she focused
her will, producing a small insect-like creature of pure aythar on her palm.
Once the shape had formed, her mind twisted the strands of aythar that composed
it until they began to pulse and thrum with life. Thousands of complex
connections formed within the tiny beast in no more than the span of a minute,
guided by the young woman’s instinct.

Matthew watched her manipulating the aythar with
undisguised curiosity, and perhaps a touch of jealousy, although he would never
have admitted it. His sister’s Centyr heritage gave her the ability to do some
things that seemed patently absurd to his rational mind. After a moment, he
felt the tiny beast’s mind awaken and begin to communicate with Moira’s.

She held her arm out, and the creature leapt away,
taking flight on delicate wings. It flew into the darkness and was almost
immediately lost to sight. It remained quite visible to magesight, though. It
sent a steady stream of descriptions and mental impressions back to her as it
ranged outward to the limits of her senses, using its perception to extend her
range.

BOOK: Centyr Dominance
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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