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Alastair J. Archibald
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Mage Questor Grimm Afelnor and his companions find themselves in Haven, a steel fortress in the forbidding Shest Mountains, as the unwilling guests of Armitage, the reborn avatar of a long-dead Technologist, who holds ancient techniques of mental control. After being forced to fight a magical duel, Grimm and his nemesis, Questor Xylox, break free and battle the hellish array of Technological devices at Armitage's command. However, even defeating Armitage and his minions is not the end: a traitor lurks within Haven’s ranks, an envious man with his own megalomaniacal agenda…
Grimm and his companions then face a gruelling trek through a scorching desert before taking on a mighty army headed by the feared but charismatic General Q. Opposed by hordes of troops with metal weapons, several fanatically loyal if enslaved Guild Mages, and an equally dedicated Technologist, can even two potent Weapons of the Guild prevail?
Grimm awoke to agonising pains in his hands, feet and eyes as the blood returned to his pale, frigid body. He groaned at the throbbing waves of anguish suffusing his body, and he half-regretted his earlier defiant demand for life.
Perhaps I was better off dead, after all.... Now, the struggle starts again.
After what seemed like an age, the pains subsided to a more bearable level, and his mind began to clear. The mage opened his eyes and winced at the blinding light that lanced into them. Grimm forced his watering eyes to remain open, although his vision was blurred and confusing.
“Come here, Redeemer,” he muttered, his tongue feeling like wood, summoning his Mage Staff from wherever it might be lying.
A mage’s personal staff was far more than an inanimate lump of wood: no physical force could break it; it could be summoned from anywhere in the world with a thought or a word; it caused pain and injury to any who touched it without its master’s permission. No Magemaster could teach how to fashion a complete Mage Staff, but success or failure was an indicator of how well he had taught his pupil. Every Adept had to attempt to produce a staff from a lifeless lump of wood without aid, and then he had to smash it three times against his Guild House’s magically sharp and impervious Breaking Stone. The least crack or splinter condemned the Adept to further months or years of toil before he could try again.
Only when the supplicant’s staff rebounded from the Stone unharmed was the Adept accepted as a true Guild Mage and granted the coveted blue-gold ring of acceptance into the ranks of the Brethren.
Grimm felt the comforting, familiar slap of his beloved Redeemer as it appeared in the palm of his outstretched right hand, and he felt a shock of relief.
At least I’m not helpless, he thought: a Mage Staff was a potent weapon, even in the hands of a disorientated mage. He tried to take firm hold on the staff, but his nerveless fingers seemed to betray him.
“Watch over me, Redeemer.” The staff floated clear of his hand.
At last, his vision began to clear, and he began to make out details. He was lying on the floor of a strange, small hut made of some seamless, smooth, white material. He saw no seams or planks that might give a hint to the hut’s construction, so this could not be some kind of unfamiliar lumber. Grimm reached out a cautious hand to touch the white wall, and he could not feel the distinctive chill of metal, either. He saw a device of metal, glass and crystal standing in the centre of the structure, emitting a warm, orange radiation that heated and illuminated the hut, although he saw neither flame nor smoke.
“This must be Technology,” Grimm muttered, his rasping voice tinged with awe. The art of Technology was thought long-dead, but the mage could see no other explanation for these bizarre wonders.
“Technology it is,” a deep voice said behind the mage.
Grimm tried to spin round, but he ended up falling in an untidy heap on the unnatural, white floor as dizziness robbed him of his sense of balance. Standing over him, he saw a man unlike any other he had seen.
Round, steel-rimmed spectacles covered pale, blue eyes set in a clean-shaven face. The man’s clothes were green, with no seam or buttons Grimm could see, and he wore a strange helmet of another strange material, with odd protrusions and spikes emerging from it at various angles.
“I see you have your magic baton,” the man said, regarding the floating Redeemer with nervous, furtive eyes. “I knew better than to try to pick it up: I’ve seen people badly hurt after trying to handle them.”
Grimm growled, “Who are you? What do you want with us?”
“My name is Jim Foster. I don’t mean any harm, I promise you. Please, put your staff down. I’m not ready to die yet”
Grimm saw Redeemer’s brass-shod head hovering only inches from his rescuer’s head, and he ordered it to withdraw a few feet.
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 368
Paper Weight (lb): 15.2
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