Chapter 1

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“Haiyah!” yelled dozens of Chonda Clan warriors. Their wooden practice swords clacked together, thudded against metal shields, and clattered against the interlocking rings of their mail armor. “Haiyah!” Clack, thud, clatter.

The noise rose to the topmost level of an elegant granite tower—the home of Lord Kahenan, High Wizard of the Chonda. There, in his workshop, his fifteen-year-old grandson Turesobei chanted ancient words of power and in his mind pictured the runes for darkest night and relentless fire. Sparks danced about in the amber channeling stone that hung from his neck.

Slowly, as Turesobei concentrated, a ball of dark-fire formed over his sweating palm. Around the orb’s black center crackled purple flames that burned hotter than any natural fire. But as long as Turesobei maintained his focus, the fire couldn't hurt him.

“Haiyah!” Clack, thud, clatter.

Beads of sweat popped out onto his face. His hands shook. His whole body trembled beneath his steel-gray outer robes. Across from him sat High Wizard Kahenan, bobbing his bald head and tugging at his braided white beard. 

“Excellent,” he said in a smooth, lilting voice. “Go on.”

“Haiyah!” Clack, thud, clatter!

Turesobei tried to shut out the noise that blared through the open windows. He lifted his opposite hand and willed the ball of dark-fire to fly across the space between them. The orb rose and began to move.

“Haiyah!” Clack, thud, clatter!

Halfway, the orb began to bounce and weave. He couldn’t control it much longer. Turesobei rushed the orb. But he overdid it. The orb struck his opposite palm so fast that he lost control and the dark-fire seared his skin.

“Kaiwen Earth-Mother!” 

He drew his hand away, letting the spell drop entirely. The dark-fire orb sputtered and disappeared as it fell toward the floor.

Lord Kahenan scowled and offered no sympathy.

“Haiyah!” Clack, thud, clatter!

Tears welled in Turesobei's eyes. “By the gods, Grandfather! Tell them to practice somewhere else. The orchard isn’t a training field. Kilono should know better.” 

He wouldn't have dared to address any other adult that way, but Kahenan insisted that he always speak freely. Kahenan thought such behavior befitting of a prince of the Chonda.

“But Sobei,” he said, calling him by his familiar name. “I asked them to practice there. For your benefit.”

Turesobei clutched his wrist as a giant, puckered blister rose on his palm. “What?!” he said through gritted teeth. “Why would you do that?”

“Because the world does not know you need peace and quiet. And magic, I am afraid, must be worked in the world.”

“Arrrgh! I give up. I don't even want to be a wizard.”

Kahenan laughed. “What nonsense! Of course you do.”

“No, I don't. No one ever asked me.”

“No one asked me either, Sobei. But it is what you were born for, to succeed me as the High Wizard of the Chonda.”

Turesobei blew on his burned palm. He could have soothed it with a minor healing spell, but he was too upset to even think of the proper words.