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The sorcerer Svaerd destroyed the Aurae Council in his quest to take the power of Taernfeld for himself. He almost succeeded in his designs, but was defeated by the council's lone survivor. Trapped within a haeld-sword, he plots his escape.
For four-hundred years, magic has been outlawed by Tor-Haval. Sandrik is the first bright-eye to be seen in Caladon in living memory, and he doesn’t want anyone to think of him as they did the ominous Aurae of legend, so he keeps his special abilities hidden. But there is more to Sandrik than even he knows. Now he is about to enter the ancient ruins of Taernfeld to be declared a man, but another fate awaits him. Will he escape it?
The hawk was perched above the entrance, waiting for him.
Sandrik turned the corner into a narrow, white-walled, tunnel. The outer buildings rose straight up from the cliff wall, as though Taernfeld and its buildings had been sculpted from the limestone of the mountain itself. The road emerged from the tunnel into a walled courtyard before an archway that was some forty feet in from the ramp; it may have supported a gate at one time but, somewhere in the ages, those gates had gone to dust or plunder. All that remained in their place was a vague shimmer that, if not for its bluish tint, Sandrik might have thought was a trick of the sunlight beyond the archway, where Mikael and the first four boys faced Gaemel at a cross street. The old seer hunched over his staff in a hooded white robe, his scraggly white beard hanging to below his waist, his free hand beckoning the boy in front of Sandrik to join them, which he did calmly, as though there was nothing unusual in the archway. The shimmer seemed to open around him, much as when passing through the beaded curtain in old Qaeran’s hut. Gaemel pounded his staff on the street three times, and the sound echoed from the walls around them, like dozens of hands clapping. The boy emerged into the sunlight beyond the archway and joined the others, while Gaemel gestured to Sandrik to come forward.
Sandrik stepped toward the archway, but as he reached it, he hesitated. He felt a cold breeze passing through the tunnel from Taernfeld, and in the susurrations of air against stone, he heard whispers. He could not make out what they were saying, but they reminded him of his disturbing, doomed dreams, and his sense of foreboding intensified.
Is this a test? Part of the ritual? he wondered.
He felt fearful, and yet foolish at the same time. Gaemel continued to beckon him forth, and Mikael and the other boys stood there waiting, so he closed his eyes and stepped through the gateway. He felt a sharp prickling all over, and his hair rose as it did when lightning was about to strike. An image came into his mind unbidden, of a circle of white buildings burning in the night, and a white-robed figure lying in a pool of blood. The whispers solidified into one word:
Then he heard the triple crack of Gaemel’s staff on the street and its echoes; the whispers ceased abruptly, and he opened his eyes in the bright sunshine. The others appeared unaware of what Sandrik had seen and heard, and Gaemel had already turned away and was leading the initiates further into Taernfeld. Sandrik looked back over his shoulder, but, other than that blue shimmer, there was nothing unusual in the archway. It was just the sun and shadows and wind, and his imagination and fears playing tricks on him. He shook it off and followed the others,
And thus began the fulfillment of his fate…