Authors: Dana Journey
Book 1: The Crimson Guard Trilogy
Copyright © 2014 Wizards Keep Publishing
All rights reserved.
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Printed in the United States of America
Cover Design: Artful Raven Studio
Editing: Terry Journey
To my smoking hot wife, Julie
This book has been a running through my head for over 10 years. I want to thank everyone who helped create this book. To the inspirations to my characters; Talon, Trevor, Jesse, and Julie. My family especially, for without them it would never have been completed. I would also like to thank Wizards Keep Publishing for taking a chance on a new writer. Hopefully we will make great things together.
It should have been a cool, peaceful night: The heat of battle made it everything but. Not even the thunderous crash of waves could drown out the murderous cries of soldiers. The battle had begun soon after the black of night washed away the last remnants of the sun from the sky.
Few had seen so much carnage. Magically woven spells and enchanted swords claimed many lives. The only man that fully understood why these two armies clashed, waited for death to knock on the ancient lighthouse door. That man was master mage Matlintoc. Standing over six feet tall with a thin frame and strawberry blond hair tied back in a braid, Matlintoc was the overseer of the Semi-Castle. No army had ever beaten his league of apprentices, at least not until now.
As Matlintoc pondered the situation there was a solid ‘Clank clank’ as the door striker sounded.
“Enter” spoke Matlintoc.
“Master, we are losing the battle” cried a tattered low level mage. “They are shielding everything we are throwing at them.” Slowly he took a breath. “What should we do? Help us!” This final exclamation caused him to break into tears.
So much weakness is inherent in the youth of today
, thought the master, no wonder we are losing this battle.
“Steady your emotions. How are you to protect yourself if your eyes are blinded by tears? ”
“But master, we need your help.” The mage nearly broke into tears again with these last words.
An almost forgotten image returned and grew stronger before Matlintoc’s eyes… Fear, excitement, tremendous power, and death. Death was all he could see now. Not only death for his army, but death for himself.
“No control” whispered the master.
“I cannot fight with you, young mage, but there is something that we can do.”
“Oh… yes, whatever we can do, sir.” Confusion and uncertainty resonated from the young mage, but not resentment which pleased the old man.
“Come with me before it’s too late.” With that, Matlintoc hurried from his study.
Not daring to ask where they were going, the mage followed. The young man’s mind was so confused by all of the activity that it did not register where they were going. The master had led him to the top of the large winding stairs, and into the forbidden tower. A place that no one but Matlintoc dared go. If it had not been a dire situation, the young mage may have paid more attention to his surroundings.
From outside, the structure appeared to be nothing more than an old lighthouse with faded paint and a tattered roof. From its’ appearance, many believed that a high wind could easily bring the building down. A lone tower rose high above the main structure. At the top a massive glass dome was filled with light. It was not like a normal lighthouse that has a light that rotates, this light was always on and shown in every direction. The old lighthouse was a building steeped in rumor. Some say the old lighthouse had always been, others swore that it just appeared one day. Either way, it had stood, warning ships of deadly rocks and other untold dangers, but now no ships sailed the seas. Even with the seas empty the light still lit up the sky.
“Come, come. Look out that window and tell me what you see.” The old mage’s voice seemed almost enchanting.
The sight was shocking to the young mage; what he did not know was the window had magic properties that allowed the seer any view he wished.
“Sir it is horrible, the enemy has broken all the defenses. Only four apprentices remain defending the entrance.” Without having to ask, Matlintoc knew who had survived. This day had been foreseen by the oracle when Matlintoc was but a young man. There shall be four she said.
“Smithson.” The young man nearly jumped from his skin when he heard his name, for this was the first time that anyone had used it since his arrival.
“Tell me when the four are within the house.”
“But sir, how do you know they will not be cut down before entering?”
“Just tell me” Matlintoc said in a rough yet tired voice.
Smithson did not know how he was going to see. The window was directly above the front door where the four were standing, trying to survive the horrific fight.
This however did not stop him from looking and thinking,
I need to see the front door
. Incredibly as he glanced out the window he did not see the ocean and waves as expected, but the lighthouse and a darkly dressed army fighting four mages who had been inching their way to perceived safety.
“Master they are within the house,” shouted Smithson.
As soon as he said that, the battle stopped. The lighthouse, which so many had died defending, vanished. All that remained were a few burned out buildings and bare ground. Frustration burst from within the invading ranks. A few even turned on each other in their anger, slaying countless more.
Some of the men just sighed, for all they wanted was to see inside. It was said that no normal, non-magical man had stepped through the great oak doors.
Further out on the battle grounds stood Taxem, a pale skinned mage. Just like the moon, no happiness had touched him in a very long time. Slowly he uttered a few oaths under his breath and went to work about resurrecting his horse. The effort was very draining but he knew the slaughtering was over. A young enemy mage, who had tricked a common soldier to kill the beautiful mare, was struggling to stand. “No, No, I am not through with you.” Taxem had already planned to take and punish the coward. He motioned to a nearby soldier, “Take this one to the dungeon.” “Yes, sir.” The soldier dragged the mage away.
“Master,” spoke a man with fire-red hair everyone would recognize, even without seeing his face, as a member of the Queen’s Royal Guard. No one with red hair was usually permitted to live.
“Tell the Queen the house has relocated to a secret place,” replied the pale man.
“The beautiful goddess would like to know where the place is.”
Taxem had always hated when they called her that, since she was not that beautiful. Well, not as beautiful as the Goddess Fram, whom he had seen in his enlightened days. “You can tell Esmeralda that I was only a student and not a master. Those secrets were kept from students in case this happened. But she can rest assured we will find them.”
However long it takes,
Maybe the four surviving mages will try and find him first
. It would make his task a lot easier.
Taxem did not want to speak further; he mounted the mare and moved away from the Guard. Pain and death were strewn across the previously beautiful golden beaches turning them a red to rival the Queen’s guard. Upon arriving at where the lighthouse once stood, he came to a stop. Taxem dismounted and knelt down, hoping to feel some residue of power. The building that had stood there not 30 minutes prior had vanished without a trace.
“I will find you Matlintoc! You can’t hide forever.”
The trail was well worn since I had traveled upon it many times. Someone once said that good things come to those who take the path less travelled. But with that direction, you may find unknown danger at every turn. Also, you may end up lost and what a terrible thing that would be. Who would want to be lost where very few go. So, in my case I will definitely stick with routine. Maybe I fear change, who knows.
I had never ventured far from my hometown; for I had no reason and little ambition to travel. Adventures just seemed like a crazy stunt to get oneself killed. If I can help it, there will be no traveling in my future.
My teacher had once spoken of destiny. He told me that your whole life is just leading towards your destiny. For some it will be a glorious life and end well, but for others there will be a terrible struggle and merely waking will be painful. I fear that my life may be leaning toward the latter path.
I had never accepted the thought of destiny, because I just could not and would not begin to understand the meaning; that was until a few nights ago.
The wind had just started blowing; it was a cold wind this evening. It always seemed chilly on training nights, especially when I came into the presence of the great house.
The house is quite creepy. Not the whole house, just the lone tower. Maybe the reason I was afraid is that I do not know what happens in the small room at the top. As a student, I was not yet allowed up there. If only I could get a glimpse through that window. Since I have not learned levitation yet, a look would be quite difficult. So maybe it’s not the building that scares me, but the mystery surrounding it.
I had not realized how far from town my feet had wandered when the tower light illuminated the night sky. There was my training house. The dark gray building had not changed in all the years of my studies. The outbuildings had not been modified either, except when I managed to blow a wall apart. I had just started to learn attack spells and was catching on surprisingly well. Then in my recklessness I destroyed one of the outbuilding’s walls. Master had made me stay all night in that cold building just so I could better understand what I had done. It was simple what happened, I blew a hole in the wall, but to the old mage there was a deeper meaning. I think to him it meant the accident was due by my arrogance or sloppiness. Still to this day I look back and that in-depth meaning eludes my grasp. Oh well, no loss to me.
A missing wall did not really affect the aesthetic value of the training yard; it was still bland and poorly arranged. On the grounds there are three identical outbuildings, each a dark brown, with one window and one door. Well, I suppose that one had two doors now.
The main structure is a big square with a tower built adjacent to the front door. It is like the description of a lighthouse in the books I had read, but why would there be a reason for someone to build one in the middle of the forest. A forest so dense the light from the dome would not penetrate. It seemed silly to me. Inside the house there are five bedrooms and three studies, not counting the Forbidden Tower. Besides its sheer size, the building is not much to look at, with fading paint and a tattered roof. However, the glass dome at the peak of the tower was quite fascinating. Never once had I heard of someone changing the light, although it shone in all directions with the intensity of a warm spring day.
Mayor Townsmend, an arrogant man who named the town after himself, had a much nicer home, full of gold and silver with beautiful paintings. I once had to talk to the mayor at the request of my master, the old mage, and I was granted admittance to the wonderful estate. Mr. Townsmend also has the swiftest horses this side of Crestville. How I wanted one.
Crestville is a huge city about two days ride South. Maybe less if you were on one of those sleek beasts owned by the mayor. However; compared to the royal capital city of Ogland, it is just a small harbor full of pirates and renegades. Quite a scary place I would think; I have never been there, but from the drunken merchants and their songs I get shudders up my spine. Compared to Crestville and Ogland my small town of Townsmend was barely worth mentioning. But Townsmend was on the main supply route, which meant that many merchants and travelers came into town; some selling their wares, others just passing through.
The King of Ogland, I do wish I could meet him. From all of the stories and rumors he seems to be a valiant and brave man. Another dream of mine is to become the King’s Royal Mage. That sounds quite nice to me ‘Lyndon, The Royal Mage,’ I do like the sound of that. A small smile crept onto my face; though it quickly fled as I crossed through the rusted gates.
I could not help but think everything was new and smelled of freshly cut wood. I wondered how long ago that would have been.
Showing up ten minutes early was part of my daily routine, in an attempt to impress my teacher. Usually I stood in the main foyer waiting for him to appear. For some reason, this night was different.
A strange feeling washed over me as I strolled across the grounds towards the ancient house. Instantly, I noticed an open window and a shadow pass across.
The being was standing much too straight for my teacher; he had a crooked back for as long as I could remember. My teacher had visitors to assist him with one thing or another. I was not overly worried about the mysterious person, so I just pushed on through the old wooden doors. The house was much darker than usual, the fire was not lit and the candles were lifeless. I knew now something was wrong. For all the years I could remember, the fire had been emitting a bright glow from the flames eating the wood.
I settled onto a large sofa and once again thought of the stranger. Slowly I stood up and headed for the grand staircase, which would lead me to the open window. The door to the tower arrived faster than I anticipated. Its instant appearance did not give me enough time to think of a game plan. Not really expecting to see anyone, I burst through the door. My body froze as ten sets of eyes found my presence. There were nine men dressed in dark blue garments with three rings adorning each shoulder. The tenth, fastened to a small white chair, was my master. One thing was clear at that moment, this night was going to be different.
I was never much of a fighter; kids would beat me up all the time before I started training. My parents hoping to strengthen my resolve and fighting spirit had looked to different teachers. It wasn’t until I met my magic teacher that anything had interested me. The minute that he levitated my mother’s coin purse I was entranced.
I still have not mastered any of the relatively small elements that my master does with ease. I am good at fire magic, which seems to please my teacher. Even though I am a mage in training, my teacher also requires weapon training and personal defense. The elegance of magic was my personal preference, over the barbaric warrior.
The men’s advance ripped me from my daydream. Over the years I had learned many spells, but in the presence of danger my brain seemed empty. As I was thinking of what to do, all of the men vanished except for three. These three continued to get closer, and then it came to me. Run! Before I knew what was happening my legs had already carried me out of the room and down the stairs. I waited near the bottom desperately searching my memory for a spell.
Only moments passed before I thought of one. Excitement washed over me, I was actually going to use my training. Time slowly passed,
they aren’t coming
I thought. I felt so pleased; I didn’t really want to fight anyone, which would have been horrible.
It took forever for me to build up enough courage to return to the room at the top of the stairs. I felt way too unsure about what I had decided to do. I had to use all of my willpower just to scale the stairs, how was I going to open the door? What if it was open? What if someone was there? Oh! How dreadful a thought! I knew I couldn’t stop climbing or surely I would find myself back downstairs, hiding behind the sofa. But I stopped anyway. From where I was now standing I could see the light beneath the door. As I reached for the ivory handle I thought to myself
this is the dumbest thing I could ever do.
Quickly I remembered the one spell I knew and prepared myself for the onslaught. With tremendous fortitude my arms threw open the door and I ran in yelling. My battle cry soon turned into a murmur as I realized that not a soul was there. I stood in astonishment, wondering how they had escaped without my knowledge. A pain spread out from the back of my head, and I noticed the floor getting closer and darker.
“Hello, hello anyone there?” My vision had not yet cleared. “Maybe I am dead, am I dead?” I could have guaranteed that I was dead until I got a reply.
“Don’t worry, you aren’t dead” came a deep voice.
“Thank you for telling me, I guess it’s a relief.” As the words left my mouth I realized how stupid they were. Now surely he will finish me off. To my amazement, he spoke again. “Sorry about the head, I thought you were one of them.”
“Who are they exactly?”
Without hesitation, he answered “Oh, they are…”
“They are who?” I replied anxiously, forgetting the pain resonating from my head. He was too far lost in thought to hear me.
“Well, I would appreciate the knowledge.” I said sarcastically. “Hey! I am talking to you stranger. I am very confused right now and you are not helping me at all except for the splitting headache! So I would appreciate some answers right now.” As soon as I said this, I knew that I was in trouble.
Slowly, with no feeling other than the deepest hate, he spoke. “They are just men, men who have been changed by their queen. The queen has many advocates and one of them leads these men. His is a sad story of pain and suffering, he once trained in this very house. It was long before when your master was just a student. That is all I am going to tell you.”
Quickly he handed me a rolled up parchment with a note attached. As the mysterious stranger neared the door, he turned and spoke one last time. “I will meet you again, but for now you must leave this place. That which you hold,” I looked down at the scroll. “Will give you some answers. Answers to questions you have yet to think of. Good bye.” He disappeared into the shadowed corridor.
Dumbfounded, I stood, for what seemed an eternity. Nothing moved; the silence was absolute.
A small creaking sound brought me back to reality. The sound of footsteps echoed throughout the house, a feeling of joy washed through me. The mysterious man was returning, hopefully with more answers. As the welcoming ‘thud, thud’ of steps drew closer, I realized that the stranger had come and gone like the wind, swiftly and silently.
Now a different set of emotions took hold, fear. Frantically I looked about; a weapon was all I needed; something; anything.
As I continued searching the door burst open. A dark figure stood in the only exit to the chamber. Now I was trapped.
A deep rumbling voice ripped through my thoughts. “I have come to finish the job I should have done before.”
Madly, I started searching for a way out. What was I to do? I knew what job he spoke of and I did not want him to finish it.
The figure slowly closed the distance between me and death. Death is my most terrible fear. With it so close, I was not afraid. I realized that if my life was taken here, no one would save my master. The distance between us suddenly closed with speed unbelievable for a human. Within seconds I knew that I would feel the cold truth of an assassin’s blade.