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Seven Words of Power
 

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Seven Words of Power


  ¯

  SEVEN WORDS OF POWER

  By James Maxwell

  ¯

  Copyright © James Maxwell 2014.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the copyright holder. The characters and situations are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Cover design by Marc Forbes.

  www.JamesMaxwell.com

  Map

  Table of Contents

  Seven Words of Power

  The Discovery

  The Builder’s Mark

  The Attraction of Metal

  The Sins of the Past

  Splice

  The Inheritance Test

  Novels by James Maxwell

  Seven Words of Power

  Master Zoran summoned Evora Guinestor, along with his other two apprentices, to a mysterious meeting in his workroom at the Academy of Enchanters.

  As Evora, Jostin, and Barrick sat in a circle of chairs around Master Zoran, Evora caught the sidelong looks as her two rivals assessed her. They all knew only one of them would be named Master Zoran’s successor, and the competition between them was fierce.

  “The time has come,” Master Zoran said, his eyes regarding them from under bushy grey eyebrows, “to name my successor.”

  Instantly the three apprentices straightened. Evora took a breath to calm her nerves. She had worked hard and her fingers were calloused from holding a scrill, but she knew the other two had worked just as hard as she had. By this stage each apprentice knew each other's strengths and weaknesses, just as Evora knew her own. Perhaps in the end it would come down to temperament, in which case Evora's hopes would be dashed. She and Master Zoran worked well together, but their successes were the result of contention. They fought, and although the final product was better than either could have made alone, neither enjoyed the process.

  “There is one among you I have my eye on, one I think might be ready, but I am going to give the other two a chance to convince me otherwise.”

  Evora couldn’t help but look at the reactions of Jostin and Barrick. She knew she had little hope of Master Zoran choosing her. Jostin looked pleased.

  “So,” Master Zoran continued, “I am going to have something of a contest.”

  Jostin’s eyebrows shot up. Barrick gripped his knees. Evora tried hard to unclench her fists and relax in her chair.

  “In three days you will give a demonstration in the Great Court. Your task is thus. The apprentice who performs the most powerful enchantment with the fewest words to call forth its power, I will name my successor. You will be master when I retire, and you might even be named High Enchanter or High Enchantress one day, if the Lord of the Sky is kind.”

  Each apprentice digested the information.

  “Master Zoran, what about essence?” Barrick asked. “What are the limits?”

  “You may each use a quarter-measure of essence,” Master Zoran said.

  Evora drew back in surprise and she saw even Jostin’s eyes widen. Master Zoran's expression was grave. With that much essence at their disposal they could create something truly powerful. He really did mean to name his successor based on this contest.

  “You may go,” Master Zoran said. “I expect not to see you until three days’ time, on the Great Court at noon.”

  The three apprentices filed out and the door to their master’s workroom closed behind them. Evora found herself standing with the two young men. Their serious green robes contrasted with Evora's supple dress, though they all proudly wore the badge of apprenticeship on the breasts of their garments.

  Jostin glanced at Evora. He was slim and affected a pointed beard. “You might as well give up,” he said. “Master Zoran prefers to work with men, and his successor will be spending a lot of time with him.”

  “Then why did he choose me as an apprentice?” Evora asked.

  “I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but the other masters made him take on a woman.” Jostin leaned forward and tugged on the glossy silver hair that flowed to Evora’s waist. “Which, if I’m not mistaken, you are.” With a grin, he left before Evora could respond.

  “Is that true?” Evora asked Barrick. “Did they really make Master Zoran take me on?”

  “Don’t worry about him,” he said. Barrick was broad-shouldered and looked more like a smith than an enchanter. “He’s trying to rattle you. Just do your best." The great timepiece at the top of the Green Tower pealed in the distance, reminding them of the passing moments. "I’d better get to the library. I’ve got an idea, but I need to research Argon’s enchantments.”

  “Thanks for not treating me the way Jostin does.”

  “It’s simple logic.” Barrick shrugged. “Unlikely as it is, if you were a master you’d have the power to end my apprenticeship. I’m quite happy where I am. Can we make a deal? I’ll keep you on, if you keep me on.”

  “Well,” Evora said, “if I were a master I'd have other apprentices competing against you, and...,” she stressed the words, “unlikely as it is, they may be better than you. It would be wrong not to give them your place.”

  Evora felt Barrick’s glare follow her as she walked away.

  ~

  Evora needed something impressive to have a chance at being named. She knew she should start working right away, rather than spend her time searching for something special, but her mind kept returning to the seven words of power.

  Evora’s hero was Maya Pallandor, the greatest enchantress in the history of the Academy of Enchanters. Maya was the inventor of armoursilk, and the youngest ever – man or woman – to be named High Enchantress.

  Many of the principles that enchanters and enchantresses followed to this day were from Maya Pallandor’s teachings, and her unconventional exploration of new rune arrangements had led to an explosion of knowledge. A marble statue of her stood tall in the centre of the Academy’s gardens, and her famous diary was kept in a glass case in the Green Tower’s display room, overlooking the Great Court.

  Evora had read everything there was to read about Maya Pallandor, although of course she’d never held Maya’s diary in her hands. If she ever became High Enchantress, she planned to take Maya’s diary out of its case and read it from cover to cover.

  As Evora thought about Master Zoran’s test, she wondered if perhaps there was a place in the diary’s pages where Maya mentioned the seven words of power.

  Years ago, when Evora was just a student, fumbling her way through lore classes and generally getting into trouble with the masters, she'd been searching the dusty shelves at the back of the Wrenright Library when she'd come across an old book. It was a text, written in an archaic hand, and the subject was speculation about Maya Pallandor’s most powerful creations.

  The young Evora’s attention was drawn to a place where the book mentioned Maya once giving a demonstration using seven words of power. The next page was missing, but evidently Maya’s enchantment had astonished all of the masters at the Academy.

  Evora wondered why she hadn’t read about the seven words of power anywhere else, but the author of the old book, an enchanter who died a hundred years ago, also mentioned in a different section that Maya sometimes hid her scrolls outside the walls of the Academy. Eccentric and paranoid, Maya hadn’t trusted the Academy’s security. She'd wanted the lore to stay secret.

  Evora could understand the need. She herself had broken into restricted rooms in the various libraries more than once; a skilled enchantress could find her way through most locks.

  Evora had read
the old book years ago, but the story of the seven words of power had stuck with her. She had always wondered what it was that had so impressed the masters of the Academy. It must have been something powerful.

  She decided it was time to finally read the diary of Maya Pallandor.

  ~

  “Silunara-ailieri,” Evora whispered.

  The silver symbols woven into Evora’s silk dress lit up, before once more becoming dark. Slowly the green fabric of the dress moved through darker shades – from emerald to forest green, then the dark green of marshland, finally moving through to black. It was one of many sequences she had enchanted her dress with; there were times when it came in handy.

  Evora crept through the shadowed arches and columns that lined the Great Court. The Academy of Enchanters was deathly silent so late at night, but as a master’s apprentice, Evora knew there were wards in the most unlikely places.

  She already knew the words that would open the heavy lock on the door to the Green Tower; it was a secret she’d pried from Barrick over a year ago, just in case she might need it one day.

  Once inside the tower, Evora crept up the thickly-carpeted stairs, her ears pricked, listening intently. At the second floor she left the carpeted landing and walked through a doorway into a spacious gallery, the soft soles of her shoes sounding like the patter of rain on the hard floor.

  The display room in the Green Tower held nothing powerful or dangerous, merely mementos accumulated over the long years of the Academy’s existence. Standing just inside the room, Evora ignored the pedestals and shelves, her eyes instead drawn to the display case taking pride of place in the centre of the room. Within the case rested the diary of Maya Pallandor.

  Evora stepped slowly forward, but while still a dozen paces away, she reached into her pocket and withdrew a ring, slipping it onto her finger. It had taken her hours to create, and now, after a brief prayer to the Skylord, she put it to the test.

  Evora spoke some words and activated the ring. The tiny runes she’d inscribed on the metal glowed softly against the dark of the room with colors of gold and sapphire.

  Immediately Evora could see red lines where protective enchantments guarded the glass case. One crossed directly in front of her knees – a single step further and the alarms would have sounded. With her ring revealing the wards, she carefully lifted one leg, and then the other over the line. The next was diagonal, and she was able to duck under it without too much difficulty. Finally, after passing three more of the wards, Evora stood in front of the glass case.

  As Evora reached forward to touch the case, her ring turned red and she froze. She frowned, then crouched, looking underneath the pedestal the case rested on.

  There were runes on the pedestal’s underside. Knowing she had little time, Evora swiftly deciphered them, searching for the activation and deactivation sequences.

  Ah, there they are. The enchanter who had done this had obfuscated the sequences, but after she stripped the meaningless symbols away, Evora knew she could unlock the case.

  Taking a deep breath, Evora whispered three words. The ring shifted hue back to gold and she breathed a sigh of relief. Returning to her examination of the glass case, she leaned forward and lifted the edge of the glass, tilting it on its hinges until the ancient book was revealed in the glowing light of her ring.

  Evora removed the diary, and gently set the glass back down.

  She knew she had to scan the book swiftly so that she could return it and leave. Her breath quickened and her heart raced with excitement as she opened the diary and started flicking through the pages, her eyes straining in the feeble light cast by her ring. A lot of it was familiar – Evora had studied Maya endlessly in the Academy Library – but there was much that was not. Evora lost track of time as she read, and then she came to a section that made her draw in her breath.

  Maya Pallandor proudly mentioned the enchantment that “required only seven words of power”, saying that she hid it “under the bed” where no one except her could find it, “guarded by the watchful eyes of my old master”.

  Maya then started to explain the demonstration she had given, but Evora looked up.

  She could hear boots on the hard floor. Someone was approaching.

  Evora hurried to replace the book inside the glass case, wincing as it shut with a clang. She whispered the sequence that would again ward the case.

  She then looked on with dismay as the runes on her ring faded.

  Evora had left it activated for too long. The ring wasn’t made for reading; it was there to reveal the wards, and now its power was depleted.

  Evora would need to dodge the invisible lines that barred exit from memory.

  The sound of approaching footsteps grew louder. Evora closed her eyes and made a quick prayer, her chest rising and falling with her fear as she imagined what would happen if they caught her here.

  Evora ducked and weaved, expecting to hear the shriek of the alarms at any moment, waiting for the room to light up as she touched a ward. With a great leap she jumped over where she imagined the last ward line to be, and then she was free.

  Her dress as black as a shadow, Evora waited silently against the wall near the gallery doorway until the guard passed. Then she was down the carpeted stairs and out the Green Tower.

  Under the bed… Watchful eyes of her old master…

  Evora had a new riddle to solve.

  ~

  Evora found Master Zoran in his workroom. “I told you I didn’t want to see you,” he said, not looking up from whatever it was he was working on.

  “I need your help with something,” Evora said.

  “No, Evora,” Master Zoran said flatly. “I’m not helping you with anything.”

  “It’s not related to the contest,” Evora tried again.

  Master Zoran raised a shaggy eyebrow. “Not related to the contest? I would have thought you’d be hard at work, Evora Guinestor.”

  “I am,” Evora said.

  “You only have two days,” Master Zoran said.

  “I know, Master Zoran. I just need to know something for my research. Do you know where Maya Pallandor’s sleeping chambers were?”

  Master Zoran looked at her with a quizzical squint. “A perfectly normal question,” he said sardonically. He sighed. “What period?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Well, Maya Pallandor slept in various student lodgings when she was young, whereas when she was High Enchantress she slept in her chambers at the Crystal Palace.”

  Evora frowned. “When she was High Enchantress… that’s the period I’m interested in. Do you know if she ever slept near her old teacher, Master Garlan?”

  Master Zoran opened his mouth and closed it. “Evora, I’m not sure what scandalous rumors they’re putting out these days, but the love Maya Pallandor bore her old master was nothing but honorable. Maya had a great respect for him, and when he died, just after she was made High Enchantress, she had that statue made in his honour. Now,” he said, “what is this about?”

  “Nothing,” she said. “I have to go now. I’ll see you in two days.”

  Evora had an idea.

  ~

  Master Garlan was a wise-looking old man with a beard and a flowing robe draped over his body. On his breast, the symbol of Altura — the sword and flower — was beautifully stylized; the stonemasons had done a wonderful job. Evora wondered how much extra effort they had gone to at Maya Pallandor’s insistence.

  The statue was worn, but the master’s eyes were stern and watchful. Maya had probably made sure the statue captured something of her memories of her old master.

  Master Garlan stood above a fountain, in the centre of a grove of trees not far from the sandstone buildings of the Academy of Enchanters. From some unseen source, water filled an upper pool at the statue’s base, the run-off spilling down a series of smaller pools, finally flowing along a narrow canal, about a foot wide and deep, paved and walled with stone. At the end of the canal the water turned d
own a further series of steps before ending up at the largest pool of all, far beneath the statue’s base. Somehow it all made its way back to the top, where the cycle started again.

  Evora looked up at the statue’s eyes and her breath caught. Master Garlan was looking at a particular part of the stone canal.

  “Under the bed,” she muttered to herself. “Guarded by the watchful eyes of the old master.”

  Evora walked to where the statue was gazing. Here the water followed its level path, hemmed in by stone on either side. She sat on the canal's low wall and peered down into the water. Some passing girls in the green woolen dresses of students looked at her curiously, but Evora was a full enchantress, apprenticed to a master, and she was allowed to do odd things.

  Evora lifted her dress above her knees and hopped over the wall, standing now in the flow of the water, feeling it cool on her calves. Evora thought she could see some symbols on one of the fitted stones that paved the stream, but looking through the water as she was, she couldn’t be sure.

  How could she find out if there was something under the riverbed? She obviously had to remove the water, yet as far as Evora knew, the fountain had been flowing for hundreds of years. She didn’t think it would be possible to turn it off, or if there would be anyone alive who would know how. What would she say to them, anyway?

  She would have to come up with a better way.

  ~

  The next day, Evora returned to the fountain carrying a polished metal rod, covered with arcane symbols. She was eager to try out the object she’d spent all night working on

  As she approached, Evora glanced at the place in the canal where the frowning eyes of Master Garlan pointed the way. However instead of heading down to the canal, she climbed up to the statue’s base until she was close to the water of the uppermost pool. She still couldn’t see how the water from below was carried up to this pool, but she hoped it wouldn’t matter.

 
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