Authors: Neil Breault
The Archon’s Apprentice
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious.
Copyright © 2015 by Neil Breault
All rights reserved.
Cover illustration: Jordy Lakiere
Map by Maxime Plasse
This book is dedicated to my wife who listens to all of my rambling thoughts with a smile
And to everyone who gives this book a chance.
Mikol’s heart raced. He dodged right, Bayle’s blade missing him by an inch as his own blade swung forward. Mikol continued the momentum and forced his sword backward to score a hit on Bayle’s shirt sleeve. Bayle grunted and returned with a slice toward Mikol’s leg. The blade cut a long opening in Mikol’s left pant leg. Mikol stepped back, looking down at his ruined pants. He grimaced and then lunged forward, knowing Bayle would have to move away. While in his lunge he spun around and moved the blade in an upward arc. Bayle brought his own blade to block, but the force of the blow made him stumble. Mikol took advantage of this and gave Bayle a push. Bayle fell to the floor and futilely tried to block further blows. The floor knocked the air out of Bayle’s lungs. It took Bayle a moment before he saw Mikol’s blade pointed down at him and he could not get up.
“Sunder you, Mikol! You don’t have to show me up all the time.”
“If you practiced with me more often like I asked, you wouldn’t be so bad.”
Bayle rolled his eyes and tried to get up, but Mikol still held his blade over Bayle’s chest.
“Come on, Mikol, you won. You’re already late to see the Archon.”
Mikol’s face lit up with surprise. “What?! We’ll have to hurry.” Mikol jabbed his sword into Bayle’s chest. Bayle spasmed quickly as the magic spread over his body. Both swords disappeared and rounds of applause could be heard around the room.
“Fight goes to Mikol,” Foen said. “And he will continue to win until you use your training, son.” Foen walked over to Bayle and helped him off the floor.
“It’s not exactly fair to use that on someone not initiated in the Paragons, especially a friend.”
“You think you could beat him even then?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to win, but I don’t want to hurt him.”
“I’m sure that’s it, so I hope you like the kiss of his training blade. But remember, they are quite different from steel blades.”
“Come on, Bayle. Stop talking to that old man. We need to get to the Archon,” said Mikol.
Bayle smirked at his father and rushed off to follow Mikol, who had already left through the door. They had started sparring as the sun rose while the castle still slept. Now that it was midday some of the hallways were clogged with servants and various personnel. Most of the servants knew Mikol’s routine and were able to heed him, but there were always a few that did not get out of the way fast enough. The raven courtyard provided a flat, open ground for sparring and was the site of many tournaments, though it lay on the opposite side of the castle from the Archon’s study. When they reached the Archon’s study, any spot of clothing that had not been previously drenched in sweat finally surrendered. They stood outside the door to catch their breath. As Mikol opened the door he saw Voletain standing inside with arms crossed, waiting.
“Mikol,” said Voletain, “I believe I was expecting you some time ago. Have you not learned how to read a clock in your twenty-seven years?”
“Master, sorry, there is no clock in the Raven courtyard.”
“Yes, I can smell what you have been doing.” Voletain drew a rune in the air. “There, that’s better. Come in, we have much to go over and always less time.”
As Mikol walked over to the chair, he knew that his clothing was still soaked in sweat, but somehow it felt clean. Bayle moved to his customary position in the room: as far back as the room would allow with his arms folded across his chest. Mikol had first raised an eyebrow at his friend’s behavior, but as it provided the only means of Voletain tolerating his presence, he let it slide. Five years ago, when Mikol was first chosen as apprentice, Bayle wanted to come and learn as well. Voletain did not want any distractions and thought Bayle would hinder Mikol’s learning. But after several lessons in which Mikol did not learn anything and continued to insist Bayle be allowed to join, Voletain asked Mikol to explain why. Mikol had no one talk to about what he was learning and going through. When Voletain asked why Mikol could not talk to him, Mikol explained he did not want to appear dumb by asking questions that they had already discussed. Voletain said he understood and as long as Bayle was not disruptive he would be able to attend.
“As much as we have been able to cover, it is only a small portion of what you will need to know when you become the Archon. Unfortunately, we will never be able to cover it all. Have you been practicing and studying the runic relationships?”
“Good. Then what are the basics of magic?” Voletain turned and examined various objects at the front of the room, looking back at Mikol after a moment when he had not started speaking.
Always unsure if he was supposed to stand or stay seated, Mikol decided this time he could stayed seated, as his legs were shaky from his sparring.
“Well,” said Mikol, “um, magic only works for those that are attuned, though runes can be created that can be used by everyone.”
“Like our swords,” said Bayle.
“Thank you Bayle,” said Voletain. “I appreciate knowledge in everyone, but this is not your lesson. Please keep quiet back there.” Turning back to Mikol, “Continue.”
“All magic is created with a symbol, or rune, that will release the magic. You can combine many runes to make a complex rune. These will have more magic in them and be more powerful. Almost anything can be created with rune magic, limited only by one’s creativity and will over the flow of magic.”
“Good. That is a better answer than before. Are you ready?”
“Show me what you know.” Voletain cast the familiar aegis training rune at Mikol. It flew from Voletain’s hand and expanded as it got closer. Mikol shivered involuntarily as the rune coalesced around his body. It always felt like cold water being thrown on him.
“Start with a simple rune first and add more runes to the lattice to until I tell you to stop.”
Mikol decided to start with a simple light rune. His gestures for creating runes were not as proficient as Voletain’s, but Mikol could tell he was getting better. With each rune successfully completed and cast properly the aegis flashed green. The aegis was otherwise invisible around Mikol as he created ever-increasingly intricate rune lattices. Voletain watched intently and Mikol could hear soft sounds of surprise every so often.
When the aegis flashed red the fifth time it again shocked Mikol briefly, and Voletain called a halt to the exercise.
“Many of those runes you created would have worked. But you included some that would have backfired and consumed you in a fiery magical backwash.”
“Yes, I know. I look forward to these sessions, as I can try some of the combinations I theorize. This time I wanted to test some of the more volatile runes and see if they could be fused with some basic formulas to help sustain their reactions.”
“And what did you find?”
“Some of them did work, but most released their energy before I could configure the lattice correctly. I am not sure why.”
“Yes, those runes were the only ones that caused you issues today. The lesser of the exotic runes are able to be combined successfully, but the further from nature those runes become, the more volatile. The exotic runes are meant to be singular runes that do only one thing. But it is good you are expanding your knowledge. Remember to always use an aegis when testing new combinations of runes before actually using them. Better to receive a shock from the aegis than a missing limb from a spell gone awry. Or worse.”
Voletain turned back to the various objects in the front of the room. His hand hovered over a few of them but he turned back before picking any of them up. Voletain looked at Mikol pointedly. “Mikol, I still know I chose correctly when I appointed you as my Archon apprentice. Though, I still worry about choosing a child. But when the young are the only ones willing to learn, then that is who you must choose.”
“A child?” said Mikol, “I wasn’t a child five years ago when you chose me. And I’ve only aged since. I am twenty-seven. That’s hardly a child.”
“Mikol, you forget the potent royal runes given to the Monarchy and Archon.” Voletain pulled aside his robe and pointed to a rune emblazoned on his chest. “Once you have been given the attunement rune you will have access to the full flow of magic you will feel your own Life rune’s power, and you may start to understand.” Voletain reached out and touched Mikol’s chest. “You are still but a child to me.”
“How old are you?” asked Bayle. Voletain looked up at him and glared.
“Mikol, I hope you do not learn your manners from the company you keep. It is hardly befitting to ask an elder their age.”
“Well,” said Mikol, “how old are you? I know you are older then my father, and he is almost three hundred years old. You have been Archon ever since he has been alive.”
“It is not important to know how old I am, but to satisfy a child’s curiosity, you can think of me being simply old enough.” Voletain smiled, cleared his throat, turned back to Mikol, and looked up at Bayle. “Have either of you heard of blood magic?”
Bayle visibly stiffened and looked away. Mikol, now sitting, moved to the edge of his seat. He had read stories of blood magic, but did not believe most of them; they were too wild to be true.
“We’ve ... heard things.”
“What you have heard is most likely truth, though it may be exaggerated. You will need to know about blood magic before truly becoming Archon, but this is also why the wardens were created.”
“I thought they kept the peace in Ternia?” asked Mikol.
“Yes, and also the rest of the world. There are two groups of wardens. You have only known and seen the wardens around Valefort, but there is another group keeping the peace in the rest of Anglataea, especially in Sibilova. It is their job to hunt down any blood mage and kill them.”
“They are not bound by the rules of magic,” said Voletain, “but I have asked Omoni to speak with you today about the wardens and what they do. You will speak with all preceptors to understand what the divisions of magic do.”
Voletain raised his hand and gestured for someone to come forward. Mikol looked back to the door and saw Bayle flinch as Omoni moved forward. He wore the same black outfit common to all wardens. Unlike the other wardens Mikol had seen, Omoni’s hood lay on his back and his cape was drawn. He walked to the front of the room as quickly as he could with his stilted gait. Mikol had never noticed how much Omoni used his staff to help him walk. Mikol had never purposefully been this close to Omoni before. He could not be certain why, but Mikol did not feel comfortable around Omoni. Omoni took the other chair in the room and dragged it to face Mikol before sitting down. He then adjusted his cloak and laid his staff across his legs before fixing Mikol with a stoic gaze.