Summary: The young wizard Kieran is nearing the completion of his training on Bright Isle and hopes to become the Royal Wizard, serving his close friend King Edouard. But the current Royal Wizard has other ideas and the imprisoned wizard Imbario still has supporters. Together, Edouard and Kieran must face new trials, six years after we first met them in The Wizard of Bright Isle.
Chapter 1: The Bonds of Friendship
"Kieran!" Tanaka Trasker, called Tank by his friends, burst through Kieran's door without knocking. "Guess what?"
Kieran, seated at his small desk, swiveled around in his chair. "Um… You've learned to open doors without touching them?"
"No! Anyone can do that." Tank paused and his eyes narrowed. "Are you teasing me?"
Kieran suppressed a grin and regarded Tank with a blank expression.
"You are!" Tank accused. He burst out laughing and flopped down on Kieran's bed, wrinkling the carefully smoothed coverlet. "Everyone thinks you're so serious, but you're always making jokes. Anyway, what I came to tell you is that I invented a new spell!"
"You're always inventing new spells," Kieran replied. "The last time I was in your lab you had about a dozen under development."
Tank waved it away. "Yeah, but most of them are worthless. But my new one is great. It's a locator spell. It can find anyone or anything."
Kieran blinked thoughtfully. "That does sound useful. Far-seers take forever to locate things sometimes."
"That's right!" Tank agreed, nodding vigorously. "There's only one drawback. I haven't figured out how to make the spell signal back when it's found the target. Right now, it just disappears in a puff of blue smoke as soon as it comes in contact. That's fine if what you're looking for is nearby, but no good if it's far away. I'm still working on that part, but I have an idea that may work."
He slid off the bed and, at Kieran's pained look, turned around to smooth the coverlet. "I'm planning to use this spell for my final exam. If Professor Nakayama approves it, I'll get my robes. I already passed the oral test." Tank turned back to Kieran, his face shining. "My family will be so proud of me. I'll be the first Trasker ever to make royal wizard."
"But probably not the last," Kieran said. "Your children will undoubtedly end up in the Wizards Hall one day."
"Thanks!" Tank beamed at him. "Anyway, I just wanted to tell someone. I'll quit bugging you now." He bounded out of the room.
Kieran turned back to his desk, shaking his head. Tank's enthusiasm for wizardry was refreshing. So many wizards were dour and serious all the time, but Tank found the process of discovery and invention endlessly exciting. Kieran was glad Tank had applied to become an instructor. His infectious passion for magic would likely turn out some of the best wizards the Hall had ever seen.
Most of the students in Kieran's class had already passed the oral exam and were working on their practical demonstration to receive their robes, just like Tank. Any student who passed the oral exam automatically became a wizard, but only those who demonstrated exceptional skill during the practical exam became royal wizards.
Only Tank knew that Kieran had already taken his practical exam. He had used a refinement of his suppression spell as his final demonstration. Kieran had first created the spell when he was just a third year student with only a few months of formal training in the Wizards Hall. Back then, the spell indiscriminately suppressed the powers of every wizard within a certain radius. Kieran had since refined the spell so he could target specific wizards and apply the spell over greater distances. After the demonstration, when the testing wizards had congratulated him and said that he would be awarded his robes, they had then informed him that his suppression spell had been declared a restricted spell and he was told he could only use it with the express permission of the king.
Kieran had not been surprised. Although Lord Gavilan had been adamant about keeping him in the Wizards Hall, Kieran had never quite escaped his reputation as a potential rogue wizard, so he had always been very circumspect about demonstrating the full range of his powers.
A gust of wind swirled through the open window and turned the pages of the book Kieran had been reading. It was a beautiful day. Sunlight sparkled on the water and dozens of boats could be seen splashing through the waves. Kieran closed his eyes and focused on the bond connecting him to King Edouard through the spell that protected the king from magic. That spell was just as strong now as it had been when Kieran cast it six years ago; a fact that had many in the Wizards Hall whispering again. It was normal for a spell to fade over time, even a very powerful one. But no one had been able to detect even the slightest change in Kieran's spell. While some people speculated that this was just another sign that Kieran was a rogue, Kieran wondered what they would say if they knew the real truth. Which would bother people more: the idea that his spells did not fade or the knowledge that he had been holding the spell in place, waking and sleeping, for six years?
The old herbalist and possible rogue wizard who had first instructed him in magic, Ma Bricker, had once told Kieran, "All spells fade, it's just a fact of life. The magic leaches away. If you want a spell to be permanent you have to hold on to the end of it when you cast it. If you do that, the spell will last until you let it go or die."
"How many spells can a wizard hold that way?" Kieran had asked.
"Don't know!" Ma Bricker had grinned at him. "I've never had a reason to hold a spell before."
"Is that the only way to make a spell permanent?"
"It is if you cast it on an object or a normal person. It's different if your target is a wizard, though."
"Because you can attach the spell to the wizard's own power. The spell can drain away the wizard's power maintaining itself." Then Ma Bricker leaned toward him with a serious expression. "That's the very darkest magic!" she had whispered. "You must never do that without very good cause."
"Wouldn't the wizard try to stop you?" Kieran had asked, wide-eyed.
"He would try if he saw it coming."
Kieran remembered that conversation as he stared out the window. At the time, he had had no idea how one might attach a spell to a wizard, but now, after six years of training, he knew exactly how to do it. In a sense, all wizards knew how because the aversion spell cast on failed wizards to make them afraid to use their powers drew on the wizard's own power to maintain itself. But Kieran was not sure how many wizards realized the technique could be applied to any spell.
He sighed and a rueful chuckle escaped him. Thinking about such things was probably just another sign that he was a rogue wizard. He returned his attention to his book, but he did not resume reading. He had not visited Edouard in nearly a month because of the oral exams and he missed the young king. With a sigh, he closed the book and stood up, extending his arms over his head to stretch his back. The graduation ceremony at which the new wizards would receive their robes would not be held for another week to give the remaining students time to take their practical exams. Given that, Kieran wondered if he should visit Edouard for a day or two. Until he received his robes, he was just another wizard trainee, so Lord Moretz would have no reason to be irritated by his presence.
"But he'll be irritated anyway if I show up at court," Kieran signed to himself.
Edouard had appointed Lord Moretz to the post of Royal Wizard on Lord Colwyn's recommendation after Colwyn himself refused the position. But right from the beginning it had been no secret that Edouard really wanted Kieran in that role. But with years of training still ahead of him at the time, there was no way Edouard could grant Kieran the post. And now Moretz had grown comfortable with the power and prestige that came with being the Royal Wizard.
Kieran shook his head and sighed yet again. "Don't think about it," he told himself. "Just go." He left his cloak hanging behind the door. In the middle of summer as it was now, the evenings remained warm enough to make a cloak unnecessary. He walked down to the dock and arrived just as the afternoon ferry was loading. He did not bother to tell anyone he was leaving. One of the privileges of being a student in his final year was the freedom to come and go as he pleased.
He boarded the ferry with several dozen other passengers. Visitors from White Shores liked to come to Bright Isle during the summer to swim in the shallow aqua blue waters off the beaches south of town. A third evening ferry sailed from Lands End to White Shores during the summer to accommodate the tourists, but the afternoon ferry was still quite crowded. Kieran chose to remain on deck rather than use one of the small cabins, because then no one else would use it. Even in his student's garb of plain gray trousers and jacket, he was still recognized as a wizard and therefore something for common citizens to avoid.
Kieran leaned on the railing as the ship pulled away from the dock and tacked out into the open water. As the wind billowed the sails, the ferry dipped into the waves, throwing up a spume-filled splash of water. Kieran shook the droplets from his fingers and smiled. He remembered how astonished he had been by the size of the lake when he first saw it. He had thought it was the sea and did not believe Colwyn when the wizard had told him it was just a lake. But he had been all around the lake since then and had developed a deep affection for its brilliant blue waters.
When the ferry arrived at White Shores, Kieran elected to walk to the palace rather than hire a carriage. He enjoyed strolling through the city. The route from the docks to the palace passed through three market squares, two of them quite large, and Kieran liked to shop for trinkets. Having grown up a poor servant with no money of his own to spend, it had taken Kieran years to get comfortable with the idea of spending money. At first, the only things he would buy were clothes and books, and then usually only when Tank talked him into it. But the epiphany had come when he had been wandering in a market place with Edouard. A simple necklace of cut and polished crystals had caught his eye and Edouard had urged him to buy it.
"But I don't need it!" Kieran had protested at the time with the glittering necklace draped over his palm.
"But you want it and you can afford it," Edouard had responded reasonably. "So buy it. There's nothing wrong with buying something every now and then just because it's pretty."
So Kieran had bought the necklace. He touched his fingers briefly to where it lay hidden under his shirt, resting against his skin. Ever since that day, he had continued to occasionally purchase inexpensive trinkets. He had a box of rings and bracelets in his room, some plain gold or silver, others with semi-precious stones mounted in the metal.
He stopped at the various jewelry sellers as he passed by, not really intending to buy anything, but at one stall he found a ring made of polished silver with threads of gold running through it like veins, and wherever the network of gold lines crossed, a tiny jewel, either a blood red ruby, a dark blue sapphire or a deep green emerald, was embedded. He picked up the ring to examine it more closely and the proprietor was immediately at his elbow.
"Excellent choice, my lord! Excellent choice!" the man exclaimed in a somewhat breathy voice. "That ring is ancient and once belonged to a great noble family."
"Indeed?" Kieran lifted an eyebrow. "That would make it very valuable."
The proprietor looked around quickly and licked his lips. Then he stepped closer to Kieran and lowered his voice. "In truth, I bought that ring from a trader who told me that story. He seemed anxious to get rid of it and sold it for less than it's worth."
"I see." Kieran studied the ring carefully. Now that he was holding it he could detect faint traces of power emanating from it. "This ring probably belonged to a wizard," he said.
The proprietor's eyes went round. "It's yours, my lord, for ten gold coins."
"Did I say ten? I meant eight."
Kieran smiled and fished eight gold coins out of the pouch in his pocket.
The proprietor accepted them with a nervous smile. "Thank you, my lord! Good day to you!"
"Good day." Kieran slipped the ring onto the third finger of his right hand, where it fit comfortably. He continued on his way to the palace and arrived just as the guard was changing, which meant he had an hour until dinner. Since Edouard always changed before dinner, Kieran went to his rooms to wait for him.
Justus, one of Edouard's two body servants, answered his knock. "Good evening, Kieran," he said with a smile. "I was not told to expect you."
"Edouard doesn't know I'm here," Kieran answered as he entered the room. "I just decided to come see him."
"Very good. Can I get you anything while you wait?"
"No, thank you." Kieran took a seat on the couch and picked up one of the books scattered on the table before it. As usual, it looked as if Edouard was reading about ten books at once. Edouard was a voracious reader, a trait he had retained from his years as an invalid. Kieran began reading and quickly lost track of time.
"Kieran!" Edouard's delighted cry tumbled from his lips as soon as he stepped through the door. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming? I would have skipped my last meeting." He crossed the room quickly to Kieran, who had risen to greet him, and embraced him.
"That's why I didn't tell you," Kieran chuckled. "I wasn't in the mood for another one of Landon's lectures about interfering in the business of the kingdom."
"Well, I am canceling my dinner engagements. Justus, please order my dinner to be sent here."
Edouard caught Kieran's hand and drew him back down on the couch. "Have you completed your exams yet?"
"Yes. I took my practical exam last week."
"And you passed, of course."
Edouard scowled. "So now I need to figure out how to convince Moretz to step aside."
"The appointment to Royal Wizard is supposed to be for life," Kieran reminded him gently.
"I know!" Edouard chewed his lip. "But I want you at court. And you're the most powerful wizard in the kingdom. You should be the Royal Wizard."
"Perhaps. But for now, we'll just have to accept things as they are."
Edouard frowned at him. "You say that so easily."
Kieran smiled. "It's not easy, Edouard. My only goal is to serve you and I will do that in whatever capacity I am allowed."
After a moment Edouard's face relaxed into a smile. "All right. Since you ask it of me, I'll be patient." His eyes fell to Kieran's hands. "You bought a new ring."
"Yes." Kieran held up his hand and the ring flashed in the lamplight. "It's pretty, isn't it?"
"Very." Edouard grew thoughtful. "But there's something familiar about it." He tapped a finger to his lips as he studied the ring. "Oh!" he exclaimed suddenly. "I remember where I've seen something like it." He jumped to his feet and hurried to his bookshelf. "Let's see…" he murmured. "Ah! Here it is." He pulled a book from the shelf and hurried back to Kieran. "There's something about a ring like that in here." He sat down and thumbed through the pages. "This is it." He showed a page to Kieran containing a neatly rendered color sketch of a ring similar to his. "It's called a Soma Ring." Edouard began to read.
"Approximately forty Soma Rings were made by the wizard Geffen during the Wizard Wars, which were used to counter the power of the rogue wizard Atarkan and his allies. Most of the rings were destroyed during the war and only a handful still exist today. Soma Rings were matched to the wearer and only responded to that wizard's power. The knowledge of how to make and use Soma Rings was lost with the wizard Geffen, who guarded the secret until his death eighteen years after the end of the Wizard Wars."
Edouard took Kieran's hand and drew it close so he could examine the ring. "This ring has to be over eight hundred years old. Where did you get it?"
"At a jewelry seller in the market."
"Seriously? How much did you pay?"
"That's all?!" Edouard stared. "For the historical value alone, this ring is worth hundreds!"
Kieran studied the ring thoughtfully. "I can detect lingering traces of power in it. If it has been eight hundred years since its wearer last used it, the wizard must have died in the act. That's the only way I can think of that would leave traces of power that would last that long."
Edouard pursed his lips. "This ring should probably be in the Royal Museum."
"You can have it if you want."
Edouard smiled. "No, it's yours. It will be interesting to see if any of your soon-to-be peers recognize it."
"You need to stop baiting the Wizards Hall," Kieran said. "Lord Gavilan and Lady Divwall think you still don't trust wizards because of Imbario."
"I don't." Edouard met Kieran's eyes. "You're the only wizard I trust, Kieran."
"Excuse me, Sire," Justus interrupted. "Dinner has arrived."
Over dinner, Edouard asked Kieran about his exams. "Were they very difficult? Are you allowed to talk about it?"
"They didn't specifically say I couldn't," Kieran answered with a smile, "but I suspect they would prefer I not go into detail about it, especially with a non-wizard. But the oral exams covered nearly all of the subjects I studied for the past six years. For the practical exam…" Kieran shifted uncomfortably, "they require us to perform one spell that we feel demonstrates the ability that makes us eligible to be royal wizards."
Edouard studied his face. "What spell did you use?"
"The suppression spell."
"Ah," Edouard nodded slowly. "And I suppose they told you never to use it again."
"Not without your permission. How did you know that?"
"I understand wizards better than they think I do," Edouard replied with a smirk. "Any spell that limits a wizard's power is automatically declared restricted. In fact, in my studies, I have come to the conclusion that the label of rogue wizard is slapped on anyone who uses restricted spells without permission and wizards who attack other wizards are always labeled rogues."
"Oh." Kieran frowned. "So that's why so many wizards treat me like a rogue."
"Well, I shouldn't ever need to use that spell again," Kieran sighed, "especially since my protection spell is still guarding you from magic."
"I was wondering about that," Edouard said, suddenly thoughtful. "Shouldn't it have faded by now?"
Kieran flushed. "Well… uh…yes, normally."
"So why hasn't it?" Edouard held his eyes, waiting for Kieran's response.
"Well…" Kieran fumbled for words, wondering how to explain it. "You see, I'm still holding the spell."
"Holding the spell?" Edouard's brow wrinkled. "What does that mean?"
"It means…" Kieran drew a deep breath. "It means I am always supplying power to the spell so it won't fade."
Edouard blinked. "Isn't that hard?"
Kieran slowly shook his head. "Not especially. And I don't mind doing it because it means I am always in contact with you; I'm always aware of you."
"Always aware of me…" Edouard murmured. "But why can't I feel you? Is it because I'm not a wizard?"
Kieran nodded. "Probably."
"You shouldn't be squandering your power like this, Kieran," Edouard said gravely. "With Imbario bound and imprisoned, I am in no danger. I may not trust wizards, but I don't fear them."
"It really doesn't require any effort for me to maintain the spell, Edouard," Kieran said quickly. The thought of losing his bond with Edouard dismayed him. "It would be different if I was living at the palace and we could see each other all the time. But since we spend so much time apart…"
"I understand," Edouard interrupted him. "I am not asking you to stop." Kieran sighed with relief. "However, I do wonder how many other people know about this."
"No one does," Kieran replied. "I've never told anyone before."
Edouard fell silent and sat back, his fork resting lightly between his fingers. "It's odd," he said after a moment. "As well as I know you, I still don't think I understand the full extent of your powers."
Kieran smiled ruefully. "That's all right. I don't think I do either."
"No wonder they fear you."
"It's you they should fear," Kieran said softly. "You hold my leash."
They gazed at each other in silence for a long time.
"How long can you stay?" Edouard finally asked.
"For a day or two."
Edouard smiled. "Good. It's too late to cancel my morning meetings, but I'll postpone the afternoon ones. We can go riding. I haven't been on a horse for months."
"That sounds like fun."
"It's settled, then. Tomorrow afternoon, we'll go riding. What will you do all morning?"
"Sleep!" Kieran grinned. "You don't know what a luxury it is for a servant to sleep in. Even at the Wizards Hall they make us get up early."
"Ugh!" Edouard made a face. "I never get to sleep in anymore. I didn't think I'd ever miss lying in bed after being an invalid for so many years, but now I understand how nice it can be." He balled up his napkin and tossed it at Kieran. "I think I'll wake you up tomorrow just because!"
Kieran laughed wickedly. "But I'll go right back to sleep as soon as you leave!"