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Alastair J. Archibald
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After saving Lord Dominie Horin from the attentions of the evil and powerful witch, Prioress Lizaveta, Mage Questor Grimm Afelnor finds himself elevated to the Seventh Rank and the head of a secret Quest to eliminate the influence of her pernicious cult.
The mission becomes difficult as Grimm finds his magical aides are a sarcastic dandy (who happens to be Lizaveta’s resentful grandson) and a cowardly Necromancer (who would prefer to sing than cast magic). The difficulties compound themselves as Grimm finds himself in an unwitting mental struggle for supremacy with the man he trusts above all others.
After being freed by a mutiny about which he knows nothing, all Grimm has to do is destroy a gladiatorial slavemaster and a ruthless businessman after battling hundreds of mindless fighting drones trained to the peak of physical perfection.
And the Quest has only just begun.
Lord Thorn Virias, Prelate of Arnor House of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Magic-users, Sorcerers and Thaumaturges, groaned as the scrying-crystal on his marble desk flashed a baleful, sickly shade of green. This could only mean that his mother, Lizaveta, sought discourse with him. He considered ignoring the insistent flashing of the glass, but he soon thought better of it; Lizaveta would know he was in his chamber, even without the mental link the crystal provided.
He placed his hands on the crystal with care, as if the bauble might explode at his very touch, and he patterned his mind for the sleight of Telepathy.
“Thorn, my dearest son,” hissed the familiar voice in his head.
The mental voice invoked the sensation of an army of slimy, slithering worms cascading into his skull. Thorn knew his mother’s words were born of anything but love, and he was on his guard in a moment.
“What do you want, Mother?”
“May a mother not contact her only child without suspicion of some ulterior motive?”
In your case, never, you hateful old witch...
It was all Thorn could do to suppress this dangerous thought, but he was a Mage Questor of the Seventh Rank, after all, possessing the willpower of any ten Seculars.
“I am sorry, Mother,” he replied, masking his true thoughts.
“Are you satisfied with your lot, Thorn? You sound peevish to me, and you know how I dislike that tone. I greatly prefer ambition to self-pity.”
The old witch is playing games with me again, he thought, again just managing to screen his inner mind from her.
“Mother, I am the Prelate of a prestigious Guild House and a full member of the Guild Presidium. I have already achieved more than most mages ever do.
“With your inestimable aid,” he quickly added.
“So, you are content to be second-rate; is that it, Thorn?”
Thorn shut his eyes and grimaced. Lizaveta must have further plans in mind for him and he felt, in truth, satisfied with his current position. The political games of High Lodge did not appeal to him in the least. His mother’s actions might have obtained him his current lofty rank, but he had been more than happy as a Mage Questor, alongside his steadfast friend and ally, Loras Afelnor: the blood brother he had betrayed.
“May I not rest, Mother?” His telepathic voice emerged plaintive and pitiful, and Thorn reviled himself for grovelling when he had intended to be strong.
“Rest? You may rest when you are dead, Thorn, or when you are High Dominie. Not before.”
Thorn knew Lizaveta would never be content, even if he achieved the Guild’s ultimate rank. She would always be chiding him, goading him, driving him to some new goal. Lizaveta might leave him alone for a little while after he obtained the position of Dominie, doubtless after some additional, covert act of treachery. Then it would start again: the Guild needed more Houses and more dominions under its thrall: the Houses needed tighter control: the Guild needed more money. It would never end. The Prelate resolved to try once more to beat down his mother’s incessant, insensate demands. He knew browbeating and pleading would never work, so he attempted diplomacy instead.
“Mother, I beg you to reconsider. My position here is strong and influential. The House intake of paying Students is up for the second year in a row, and I am a prominent member of the Guild Presidium. However, five others in the ruling council are senior to me. It would be regarded as suspicious in the extreme, to say the least, if they were all to die or renounce their seniorities within a short space of time. You must understand this, Mother. I am working hard to raise my status in the Guild hierarchy, and this is my only sensible method of obtaining the post of Lord Dominie.”
A long silence ensued, and Thorn knew Lizaveta was either considering his arguments or preparing another biting rebuke for her hapless son.
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 392
Paper Weight (lb): 16.2
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