The characters and events in this story are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people/events is merely coincidental. Granted, I you do happen to know of such events happening in real life, please do tell me about them!! Enjoy!

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Chapter #1 – The Sorceress of Jaciona

It had only been four days since Miande had arrived at Muali Castle as a guest, but that had been more than enough. When she had first arrived she marveled at the grandeur of the castle, which was built from black marble and was set with real diamonds that twinkled magically even on the darkest of nights as though they were stars in the sky. Ebony furniture and doors were found throughout the castle, a rarity anywhere in the kingdom since that wood was quite exotic and expensive. Each of the rooms was beautifully decorated with priceless tapestries, rugs, and vases from antiquity. She had found it almost impossible to sleep in her room her first night there because it was so lovely.

Yet the second day she was there was when she first saw the ugliness of the castle. That ugliness was the current master of the castle, the wizard Viroti. Though his appearance was a bit rough – what with his scraggly beard and sort of weathered appearance – he had been extremely kind and chivalrous to her, he was harsh and cruel towards the servants, even in her presence. He cared for nothing but the money and power he had achieved by obtaining the title of Lord of Rycori. She was appalled by his attitude.

The evening of her second night there, she had begun her search of the castle, as best she could with him there, to fulfill the real reason she had come to the island…finding information about what happened to High Chancellor Jariath, the Twilight Sorcerer, who was the true Lord of Rycori and Muali Castle. But there was also another reason besides that one, one that had bothered her since she had found out about it, which was to discover the reason why the High Council of Magic had originally done nothing to find Jariath and why they had also been so reluctant to allow her to come here in the first place.

As she explored the castle by herself that evening, she had discovered the entrance to the dungeons where she found several prisoners, all of whom were being starved to death. One of them had told her that once Viroti had taken power, he had captured and tortured anyone that might be a threat to his power then left them to die in the dungeons. This was just one more thing to add to the list she knew the High Chancelloress had already complied.

For the next two days, Miande had watched Viroti's every move as best she could. That was difficult to do, though, without drawing too much attention to herself. But she wanted as much information as possible on him before she turned him over to the Council, but, as those days went by she realized she would not be able to take much more of his arrogance and cruelties.

It was evening and Viroti had invited her out into the garden for a stroll before dinner. With her patience at an end, she knew that this was probably the last chance she would have to calmly reason with him. When they stopped by the garden's fountain, Miande chose then to question him. She asked him about what had happened the day he had come to Rycori to see Jariath, the day he was last seen. He looked at her, though only for a moment before he attacked her, sending a weak stunning spell at her. It was foolish of him to do that, though. He was far less powerful than she, after all, but she would prove her superiority to him. Magic began flying between them.

It was a short battle. Viroti was finished once her own stunning spell found purchase. He had been a bit more vehement in the fight, though, sending true attack magic at her. Her purple robes were tattered in several places but she was not bleeding, thankfully. He had used some pretty nasty stuff for his level of expertise. Her brown hair, which had been up in a good tight braid that morning, was now rather flyaway from the static shock she had gotten from his opening attempt to stun her.

Feeling the residual energy still crackling around her body, still waiting to be used to defend her or attack, she closed her eyes and dropped to her knees. She placed her hands on the ground, letting the excess energy flow from her into the earth beneath her. She took a few moments to gather herself, calming her mind. It had been far easier than she had expected it to be, and she had gotten herself worked up over nothing. She laughed slightly at herself.

After a moment, she looked up to the man that was lying on the ground several feet from her. She pushed herself up and walked to him. She looked down at him with eyes that held no pity or triumph. He was not moving but he was not dead, only unconscious. His green robes were slightly smoky looking from the power of her stun attack. His black hair was disheveled. She did not have the right to kill him, though she did not really have the urge to anyway. He had to finally be brought before the High Council of Magic for the things he had been charged of and they would decide his fate.

"Natius!" She looked around for a moment then an older man, his red hair still dominating the grays that were in it, appeared near the fountain. He nodded to her in greeting and walked to her. He had been close since her arrival there, waiting for her to call him. He was chewing on a pipe at the moment. "Get him to the Council. I'll deal with what's left here."

"You do know that the Council has said that you may take over the duties of ruler of the Rycori Isles." The redheaded man lightly rested his arm on her shoulder, gesturing with his other hand at the garden around them. She only glared at him. He was still trying to prod her into taking up the titles of the castle. "It is a lovely place and all."

The sorceress lifted his arm and pushed it away. "And I told the Council that I do not want to stay here. They can appoint someone else to the position if I cannot find Jariath."

There was a look of utter disappointment on his face. "Miande…"

"No," she said firmly.

"Killjoy," he said with a pouty face and a fake sniffle. Miande had never understood how a man that was nearly old enough to be a grandfather could act so childish.

Miande just ignored him, being far too used to his immaturity. She looked towards the castle and sighed. "I will finish up here then report to the Council. Though I do not know how long it'll take."

"Understood." He nodded then looked at the unconscious man on the ground. He sighed, not really liking his little job here. "I guess I'll take Viroti now."

"Alright," she said, rather distantly, as she stared off into space.

"And…Miande…"

The sorceress turned back to him, the tone of his voice getting her attention. "Yeah?"

For once, his look was serious, something that rarely happened. "Find out what really happened to him."

Miande nodded, looking somewhat grave. "I will."

The redheaded sorcerer touched the unconscious man on the forehead then vanished with him. The sorceress stayed there for a moment longer then walked off to the castle, heading to the main entrance, where the two head servants met her with wide eyes. There were a few other servants standing just inside the castle, whispering amongst themselves. She smiled at the two on the steps as she came closer.

"Lady Miande?"

All she could do was smile. They had surely heard Viroti's attempts to subdue her. "I am quite alright, Sergi. Viroti is no longer in charge here."

"Is he…dead," the woman asked, looking a bit pale.

"No, I had to only disable him. He is supposed to be put on trial by the Council."

"I'm glad he's gone." The man sighed then looked at the sorceress, a little hopeful. "Are you going to be…"

"No, I am not staying permanently." She could see the disappointment on all the servants' faces. In just the past few days they had grown to love her immensely. "I am simply staying here long enough to find out what happened three years ago."

"But…but everyone knows that he was killed. There's nothing to find out," the woman said, though she looked like she did not even believe her own words.

"The High Chancellor was not killed." She felt like she had said these words a thousand times already, and she probably actually had. "There is something else that happened that day. I plan to find out what it was. There are just too many things that don't fit."

"You're staying then…for a while at least?"

"Yes, Kadie." The young woman looked up at the castle that stood nearly one hundred fifty feet at the peak of the highest tower. "First thing's first, though. I must uncover this castle's secrets and they will, no doubt, help me find him."

Sergi shook his head. "But Viroti said he had found nothing of the…"

"He was not a very powerful magician." She looked at the older servant for a moment then returned her attention to the highest tower. "How he defeated High Chancellor Jariath is beyond my understanding."

Kadie bit her lip for a moment. She had liked Miande from the moment she arrived and did not like to think of her leaving so soon. "How long do you think you'll be here?"

"A month or two, at the least, though it all depends on how difficult my search for information is." Turning her attention back to the stairs in front of her, she walked up them and though the door, the two servants following while the other servants quickly returned to the servants' quarters. Her stomach growled and she laughed at herself then tilted her head back in Kadie's direction. "Do you think that you could bring my dinner to my room in about an hour or so?"

"Of course, ladyship."

"Miande." She stopped, turning to Kadie with a slight smile. "Call me Miande. I don't like being addressed with any sort of titles unless it is 'Sorceress of Jaciona.' That's the only title I've earned."

"I see. As you wish."

"And tell the rest of the servants, as well, that I want to be called Miande and nothing else."

Both of the servants nodded. "Alright."

The sorceress walked across the large entry hall while the servants headed down a side corridor to go to the kitchen. Miande headed to the stairs that were directly opposite the main entrance. As she climbed the stairs, she thought about everything that had occurred in the past few days. A lot had happened, though she had hoped to achieve more, she had been worried about too openly exploring the castle for traces of the former High Chancellor and what might have happened to him with Viroti still there.

Miande stopped at the top of the stairs and sighed. She had still been an apprentice when she first heard the stories of the Jariath's defeat. Unlike nearly all the other magicians of the kingdom, she felt that he had not been killed. She had studied the possibilities of someone as insignificant as Viroti defeating Jariath and they did not add up. The fact that Jariath's body was not found also fueled her debate. After many times begging the Council once her being an apprentice was over, she was finally granted permission to try and prove her theories correct, but she had to bring in Viroti as the price. She had done that…now there was only one thing left to do – find Jariath.

As she walked down the hall to her room, she studied everything, trying to think if some secret was hidden in the vase or behind the landscape painting. Just how many secrets did the castle hold? She knew it had to hold many. It had been the home of some of the most powerful magicians in the kingdom for nearly fifty generations. She promised herself that she would find those secrets. Especially the biggest one: the location of Jariath's lair, the place all his magic was stored. Even when he was alive, only he knew its location…and any apprentice he may have had.

Stopping in front of the ebony door that led to her room, she glanced down the rest of the dimly lit hall, towards the stairs to the next floor that beckoned to her, then opened her door. Blue and purple graced every inch of the room. Her bed was canopied with lavish blue velvet curtains. The walls were covered in tapestries that had intricate knots of color on them, perfect for her daily mediations. She had a balcony that overlooked the rear garden with its fountain and rows of white roses. All the furniture was made of ebony. Even the walls here, though hardly visible with the tapestries that covered them, were the same black marble as elsewhere in the castle. The fire in the hearth blazed an amazing blue to match the décor of the room.

Miande walked to her bed and sat on its edge. She fell back and lay across its feather softness. A sigh escaped her lips. She needed to change…actually she needed a bath, but that could wait till after dinner. Eating after expending so much energy was the best thing to do, then she would bathe and go straight to sleep. Tomorrow she had a lot of things to do, so she would need all the rest she could get.