The following is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of The Evenarian. It is a rough draft and we hope to post a newer version as soon as we get it back from our editor.
Suddenly, a huge flash of brilliant white light blinded me. It did not come through the stained-glass windows that ringed the throne room. No, this was not natural light. It emanated from the center of the great chamber and lit up even the darkest corners and crevices in its crimson walls.
I threw my arms in front of my face to protect my eyes as I cried out. So did everyone else, for I heard gasps and shouts all around. There was also the distinct metallic noise of the guards drawing their swords. Then, just as quickly, I heard the sound of them quickly re-sheathing those same weapons.. But why?
When I dared open my eyes again, there was a old man standing just beside me on the throne room's red carpet. He had long, straight white hair and wore jet black velvet robes. I jumped back, a little startled, but he took no note of me.
“Your grace, I have been summoned?” he asked the king. His voice was almost a whisper, yet it seemed to come from all corners of the room at the same time. His eyes were a bright blue—a luminous, glowing blue.
I backed slowly away from him, for I now knew who he was. Prior Dorrian would often tell us young seekers at Thornmage about the great mages of our times. Dorrian's tales left no doubt in my mind about who has just appeared before us in that flash of light. This was Fellmon, the Arch Prelate. The mage above all other mages.
“Damn your bones, Fellmon!” King Eldren laughed while the queen nearly melted into her throne. “I will never get used to you doing that! But indeed your transcendence, we have been visited by an Old One who has brought us troubling prophecies. He speaks of the Evenarian. Surely you know this prophecy?”
“Yes your grace.” Now he turned his head ever so slightly to acknowledge the Court Mage, who was also staring at this man who held power over even him. “My friend Colam summoned me. I heard his thoughts—quite troubled thoughts, I may add,” Fellmon said in that same eerie voice.
I had learned long ago that the greatest mages could communicate with thought alone, that their powers could transcend their very bodies. That was why the Arch Prelate was addressed as your transcendence.
“I would like to hear these words from the man who calls himself an Old One. But please remember that prophecy is not my vocation,” he said. “I am called to the military arts of magic. I trust the Court Mage has already verified these prophecies?”
Colam gave the Arch Prelate a quick nod. “Your transcendence, the prophecies are in line with what has already been foreseen. However the new portents we heard today can only have come from one who has witnessed the flow of time from within the amber.”
There was a pause as Arch Prelate Fellmon closed his glowing eyes, perhaps to meditate on what Colam had just said. Meanwhile, I found myself pondering these two powerful beings. I was a just young Seeker from a back-water cloister. When would I ever have such a chance again?
Despite his obvious powers and great knowledge of prophecy, Colam did not actually rank very highly in the order of Seekers of Truth. His authority derived from his place on the king's council, and the king's favor which, I was beginning to see, was a changeable as the winds. Still, Colam's authority within the Kingsrealm meant that he could speak for the king. Even tribal elders had to obey him.
According to Prior Dorian's stories, Colam and Fellmon had indeed been friends at one point, but each had authority over the other in different domains. The Court Mage was above the Arch Prelate as a subject of the King, yet the Arch Prelate was above the Court Mage as a Seeker. It was an odd sort of balance.
“And where is this Old One who has used the forgotten wisdom of the First Mages to sleep in amber and awake here in our time?” Fellmon said as he glanced around the throne room. Every word he spoke seemed to drip with menace. I hoped Josh noticed this, too.
I realized she said this to try to claim credit for bringing Josh here, as if we had not already been waiting to come before the king when she found us! As though she could sense my thoughts, Elena's gaze shifted towards me. She furrowed her brow and then I knew that she'd really wanted to say, The troublesome man stands before you!
Fellmon eyed Josh for a long moment and slowly approached him. “This one here? Very well,” he said in that loud whisper that seemed to chill the whole throne room.
According to Prior Dorian, Fellmon was younger than Colam by a few years. But now that I saw him in person, he seemed infinitely older, for his movements were so slow and deliberate, like he was invoking a spell with every turn of his wrist. I tried to recall what else I knew of Fellmon. He came from a family of high-ranking mages who had groomed him for power since the day he was born, and who had used their influence within the Seekers of Truth to help him advance. How could such a man not reach greatness? Perhaps it was his destiny.
“How did you get here?” he inquired, directing his glowing icy blue stare straight at Josh.
I tried to will Josh not to shrug, but that is exactly what he did.
“I came here in amber, and traveled to Wythlecliff through the Stairs at Eastgate with my new companion, Turo,” Josh said, looking at me when he spoke my name.
I wondered if the Arch Prelate was using his powers to read Josh's mind. I had read that only the most powerful mages could do such things. He was surely such a mage, and we had good reason to fear him. And here I was, a student of the Histories, capable of a handful of simple spells—and ones I'd only learned grudgingly at that. I could spin out the life story of Eldren I better than the most accomplished bard in Huddlset, but what help could I offer Josh now?
Fellmon nodded and said, “You speak of the Evenarian, the one who shall bring about the Golden Age of Transformation.” The Arch Prelate began to circle Josh.
I realized everyone else around us had stepped back and given Fellmon wide berth. Some had even stepped off of the carpet that led to the king and queen's dais, preferring the hard stone floor. Even Colam had sidled away, no doubt anticipating the Arch Prelate's reaction of the things Josh had to say.
“Yes, but this 'Golden Age' is not what you think. It will remove magic from the world, and bring about endless war.” Josh was, as ever, unfazed.
Did he not know what there was to be afraid of? The Arch Prelate was the head of all the cloisters in the Kingsrealm. Wythleminster was his seat of power and during his tenure at the head of the Dictate Tribunal, he'd helped Wythleminster earn its dreaded byname of “Burningmage.”
“Endless war?” Fellmon blinked his glowing eyes. He sounded truly perplexed. “And where would magic go? What of prophecy? What would take its place?”
“Magic will be replaced by the belief that only things that can been seen are real. The followers of this belief will despise magic,” Josh said. “The cloisters will be forcibly converted into halls of learning for this new belief's acolytes. You call these people 'mechanics' now. You think they're just fringe cults. Dismiss them all you want, but in the end, all traces of magic will be destroyed.”
The Arch Prelate's eyes narrowed into bright blue splinters. “You mean to say that the heretics whom we now burn will some day bring their heresies into the solemn halls of our cloisters?”
Fellmon's voice was burning in my ears, echoing around my mind. No, it was as if he was in my mind. I looked to the Sonans. Senator Delius was frowning and he had a hand on Elena's shoulder. I felt a brief twinge of satisfaction. These diplomats had finally encountered someone who could see past their perfectly crafted words, and I could tell they were as surprised as anyone else in the room. Elena herself was looking at Josh, her lips parted as if she were about to speak, but she said nothing.
Josh raised his chin and looked Fellmon in the eye. “If they are rallied by the Evenarian, then yes, that is precisely what will happen. But you can prevent it all by working with the mechanic cults now. Find a way to exist side-by-side with them. The Seekers must teach the mechanics the error of disbelieving the unseen, but you must also learn from their discoveries. Otherwise, when the Evenarian comes, they will kill you all.”
There was as sound like the wind blowing through trees, but it sounded distant and muffled. Then I realized this was actually Fellmon chuckling and I shuddered. I knew mages like him existed, but I'd never known they were so...terrifying. Why did Dorian leave that bit out of his lessons?
The Arch Prelate turned to the king. “Your grace, you should have summoned me sooner. Why would an Old One have us embrace heretics?” Fellmon shook his head. More wind rustling invisible leaves. The throne room seemed to grow cold for a moment, and I shuddered. “Clearly the mechanics—those who do not believe as we do—are wrong. We are, as ever, powerful in our righteousness. Why should we even entertain that which we know is false? It is an outrage.”
“I'm telling you,” Josh replied. “Persecution and martyrdom will only strengthen their cause and make it easier for the Evenarian to rally them.”
Fellmon shot Josh an icy stare. “Oh, and what would you do with the Evenarian? What are your plans for this great man who has been prophesied for millennia?”
Josh crossed his arms and glanced over at Fellmon. “We must kill him. We must kill the prophecy to save history.”
Fellmon gasped, a horrid whooshing sound that made me cover my ears and wince. Everyone began talking at once.
“Tampering with destiny is no simple matter!” Colam began to protest. The Sonan delegates were suddenly apologizing to anyone who'd look at them. Eldren IV stood from his throne, shouting orders no one listened to.
“Silence,” the wind itself seemed to call out.
The great hall shook and the thick pillars rattled. The stained glass windows vibrated within their lead and stone frames. An earthquake! I thought before recalling my Histories. Such tremors were know in other parts of the Kingsrealm, but not Wythlecliff.
Royal guardsmen were instantly on the dais surrounding the king and queen. But the great dome did not crumble on us. When the tremor ceased, there was indeed silence—the silence of a tomb, until Eldren IV pushed aside one of the guards.
“Fellmon, what was the meaning of that display?” he shouted at the arch prelate, spittle flying from his mouth.
“Your grace, I have heard enough,” Fellmon said, calm as a glassy lake.
We'd all moved even further away from him now; even Colam seemed to fear what may happen. He had called the Arch Prelate here, as was only his duty. But Fellmon was above him, was beyond him—beyond all of us. I tried to recall the rules that governed the Arch Prelate's powers. Could the king overrule him? Or could he overrule the king?
Fellmon began to speak again, his wispy voice filling the throne room as water fills the cracks in stone. “I, the Abbot of Wythleminster and Arch Prelate of the Seekers of Truth, do decree that we are in the presence of an awakened Old One, the first awakening so witnessed within several centuries.”
King Eldren turned to his scribe, his eyes wide, and made a circular motion with his hand. The scribe hurriedly grabbed a new piece of parchment, dipped his pen in ink, and rushed to capture the Arch Prelate's dictate.
“Great,” Josh said out loud. “Now can we—”
“However!” Fellmon continued and the throne room shook again, more violently this time. A tapestry depicting the great battle of the Stessian Plains fell off the wall beside the throne room's tall doors. I struggled to keep my footing and heard the queen cry out. Only Fellmon and Josh remained perfectly still. “This Old One has awoken from the amber with a mission that lacks the providence of destiny,” the Arch Prelate said in his strange voice that rang through the room. “I hereby called upon this Old One to re-enter the cloisters on pain of judgment by the Dictate Tribunal.”
All eyes were on Josh now but I dared not call out my suspicions. Why were Colam and Fellmon not in awe of an Old One? Why did it seem like they were trying to trap him?
Josh snorted. “Was that trick supposed to frighten me?”
The arch prelate's mouth betrayed a hint of a smile which chilled me to the bone. “Where did you study so that we may know where to send you for your re-integration?”
“Maythis Abbey,” Josh said. I saw Colam scowl at this but Fellmon's face was a mask.
“Then it is my great sorrow to tell you that your great cloister burned to the ground some 30 years ago,” the Arch Prelate replied. “We cannot send you back to the Green Ruins, as it is now called. You may accompany me to Wythleminster instead.”
My heart skipped a beat. Had I heard correctly? Had Josh just been invited—nay, ordered to the great cloister of Wythleminster? Did Fellmon truly want to offer him its vast libraries and the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest mages in the Kingsrealm? Something was not right here.
“Old One, I urge you to follow the Arch Prelate's judgement,” Colam said to him. His normal voice was like a roar compared to Fellmon's unearthly whisper. “Much has changed in the world during your slumber. We must inform you of many things...and ask you many things as well. Perhaps you can enlighten us as to some of the lost wisdom of the First Mages?”
There was something oily in Colam's sudden grin, like he was trying to conceal, to cajole. Now he looked to King Eldren, who was still standing on the dais, looking as if he were about to grab a sword from one of his guards and come charging down at us. It was then I noticed the queen sprawled on the ground surrounded by guardsmen. She must have fainted. But Colam was unfazed.
“Your grace, it is still my opinion as Court Mage that the Old One's prophecy about trade prospects through Thiffmouth stands as true.” I heard Elena let out an audible sigh of relief at this, but Colam went on. “This scrying about the Evenarian does require closer examination. I believe we must be on the lookout for such a man so the king's justice may protect him or the peace of the Kingsrealm.”
To his credit, the king collected himself and nodded. “Then let it be so, good mages,” he rasped.
Fellmon was quickly closing the space between himself and Josh. “Now then, if you would follow me...”
“You can ask me whatever you want after I complete my mission,” Josh said. I noticed he'd put a hand into his breech's side pocket.
“Very well,” Fellmon said softly and he raised his hand. “I have already mentioned the alternative...”
I felt a knot tighten in my stomach. I had always been told that a true Old One, should they ever appear, would be praised and aided. Had the prophecies been wrong? Was an Old One about to be branded as a common charlatan? I was certain of this much: Something was terribly out of place here.
Just then, the doors to the throne room flew open behind us, as if hit by a huge gust of wind. I saw one of Fellmon's boney fingers pointed at the gaping doorway. This was a show of power to stun us, I was certain, and Josh was meant to follow him obediently back to Wythleminster. But Fellmon did not know Josh.
“Let's go!” Josh shouted at me. I spun on my heel and made to do just that, but Colam stopped me in my tracks. His amber eyes had turned a molten yellow and he was grimacing.
“Traitors!” he hissed at me and raised a glowing fist.
I gasped and tried to summon up a protection spell, but the missile was not meant for me. Josh was still running as Colam pointed his finger at him. There was a horrid sun-bright flash filled with fiery heat. I shouted Josh's name and darted around Colam, but every step I took seemed to take a thousand years.
But the ball of light never reached Josh. It ricocheted, bouncing off the throne room's pillars and ceiling. I did not want to wait and see where it landed. Then I heard a woman's anguished wail behind me and turned to see the senator stretched out on the floor, singed robes fanned around him. Colam's spell had found purchase after all.
The guards went scrambling. I turned and saw one of the Sonan bodyguards push Elena aside just as Josh and I reached the doors. The Sonan delegations' guards drew their short swords and the royal guards drew theirs as well. Steel clashed and men cried out.
Now everything exploded in chaos. The royal guardsmen were all on the dais now, piling onto the king and queen as if they were a bunch of village boys playing catch-the-carrier. And the doors were still open and unmanned.
“Queen Margut's Drawbridge!” I heard Elena scream just as I turned and ran face-first into the Arch Prelate.
He said nothing; he only stared at me with those bright, throbbing blue eyes. Then he grinned and began a low, hymnal whisper. I felt my throat begin to tighten as the song penetrated my lungs. I could not draw air in. We were of a height, I realized. It was an odd thing to think in such a moment. Then I fell to my knees and all I could see was a curtain of blackness. Was this how it had been for Bly right before he died?
There was a crackling sound, like the strike of lightning upon a tree, and Fellmon crumpled before me like an empty burlap sack. Josh was behind him, another one of his odd wands in his right hand, this one was very wide with black and yellow patterns on it and was shaped with a slight curve. He reached for me with his free arm. And we ran.