Here’s a free glimpse at the opening chapter of Weave a Wizardry Web, by Remi Black, available exclusively from Amazon
Pearroc Ciele poured Fae power into the newly learned wizard spell. Even as it flashed lightning bright, he recognized the weakness that shattered through the spell.
“If you are to pass yourself off as a wizard during the Trials, you must defend as a wizard would, not as a Fae would.”
He twisted his shoulders. The aged man never missed a point when teaching
wizardry. He might be too weary to rise from the chair provided by the arena master, but his black eyes snapped onto a flaw and his quick mind decoded the reason for that flaw. Fae spell contorted to look like wizardry: most wizards would miss the foundation hidden by the swirling energies. Pater Drakon never missed it.
Sine Pearroc’s springtime arrival, Drakon had trained him. Pearroc had selected the aged man, one of the few clan leaders who supported Faeron. A Blade sent in secret to the wizards by his queen the Maorketh Alaisa, he fumbled like a child at some lessons. He didn’t regret his apprenticeship to the master wizard, but it was High Summer, and still he trained.
The old wizard had a point. The Fae sparked power from the tangible element: a flame for Fire, soil for Earth, and on to Air and Water. Then they built the spell based on the power borrowed from the element.s Wizards needed nothing to spark power; it came from their essence. Though Pearroc wielded wizard-shaped power, he still needed a tangible element to initiate his spells. And as he fought to twist his spells to match to wizardry, he often dropped back to the easy Fae wielding.
The sudden clash of steel against steel jerked his head around. Power sparked at his fingertips.
“Stand down,” the Drakon clan leader said. “It’s a practice arena. Are you expecting someone to assassinate me?”
Pearroc lowered his hands, but power still flashed at his fingertips. “You are a clan patriarch and a council elder. You have enemies because you so strongly support Faeron. The Maorketh considers you a valuable ally. And your comeis has not returned.”
“You do expected my assassination.”
Pearroc stopped scanning the balcony seats beside their box. He dismissed the duelists in the practice ring. “Are you surprised?”
“I am pleased that I am considered so valuable, even though my body is failing.” Drakon grinned. Light glittered in those black eyes. “We aged are always pleased when we are valued. I am not pleased you considered me worthy of assassination.”
“Your comeis is not—.”
“Huron Talenn will return in a few minutes. He is on an errand for Faeron and for me. How often can we combine two errands into one? This time we can, for the person he needs to confer with is also the person I want you to meet.” Drakon shifted on the uncushioned wooden seat. “You, however, have a greater problem. “Fae power skirrs through your spell. I can clearly see it. If I can see, others will.”
“It is a Fae defense,” Pearroc admitted, “but no wizard at the Trials will recognize it. Few wizards of this generation have fought beside the Fae against a common enemy.”
“They will recognize it if they fought at the outposts, side by side with Fae against Frost Clime.”
Pearroc dipped his fingers into the pater’s glass, stealing the water in the wine to work another little spell. He tossed the power in his hand, like a child’s ball, as he considered how to strip away the Fae glow that brightened the spell. “The Maorketh herself built the glamour around me. She decided my narrative : My home is to border Faeron. My parents hired Fae tutors when my powers manifested. Enclave wizards would not come so far from Mont Nouris. That training is the reason my spells have the Fae edge rather than orthodox Enclave training.”
“It’s still folly to reveal it.” Drakon glanced again at the practice ring. As a great wizard, he had no interest in sword-fighting, but the opponents in the arena still drew his attention. And for that reason, they drew another look from Pearroc. “Even if my fellow councilors do not know your spells are edged with Fae glow, their Fae comeis will know.”
“The comeis will not reveal it. They are bound to clan leaders, yes, but their first loyalty is to the Maorketh Alaisa. Your comeis will agree on this with me.”
“It is a mad plan: a Fae masquerading as a wizard, to pass the Trials and become a voice in the Enclave. I cannot believe your queen agreed to it. I cannot believe I agreed to it.”
“Who else would have?”
“No one,” the aged man retorted, “more evidence of its madness. And I see more and more difficulties as we near the Trials. My fellow Sages may not see the Fae skirr, but the ArchClans might send a representative. That representative could see the skirr.”
“It would take a puissant wizard.”
“Someone like Alstera, yes.”
Pearroc had met the ArchClans Letheina’s granddaughter. Puissant, brilliant, and arrogant, Alstera wielded all four elements. He’d heard rumors that she dabbled in the challenging fifth, the Chaos that few Fae could tap. She would indeed see the skirr that fragmented his spells.
Chilling with a hint of autumn, a wind skirled around the ring and gusted through the balconies. It disturbed only the few spectators. Drakon, in his sheltered box, tucked his heavy cloak closer.
Pearroc conceded Drakon’s wisdom with a formal bow, a deeper one than Fae courtesy demanded. “I will repress the Fae in my spells. We have years invested in the Maorketh’s plan. I will not cause its failure.”
The aged man’s eyes glittered. Once more he looked at the practice ring. “Forgive an old man’s worries. The nearer your trial draws, the greater my concerns. For your queen’s madness to succeed, we must enlist more aid than my orthodox training. When you construct spells, your understanding is a Fae’s understanding of the spell’s foundations. You need to consider a wizard’s basic understanding of the spell.”
Pearroc glanced at the duelists who kept drawing his mentor’s attention. Then he scanned the other spectators of the sandy arena. What aid is he planning? “You train me more than adequately for the Trials.”
He laughed. The sound turned into a cough he muffled in the wool of his cloak, and Pearroc thought again of the shorter lives of mortal men. The clan’s healer had warned Drakon only yesterday against exertion. Today he insisted on touring the entire arena before they came to his balcony box.
When the spasm passed, he leaned his head against the high chair-back and breathed.
“Do you know what you are doing with this? The healer—.”
Those black, black eyes opened and bored into hi,. “You have someone to meet.” His eyes rolled to the sanded practice ring. “There she is.”
The cane-wielding duelists had departed. Five new people had entered, one of them a woman.
Pearroc huffed. In his two months here, he’d discovered many city women affecting sword-play. Disappointment colored his question. “Another woman pretending to be a sword?”
“Not pretending. She is. Watch.”
As the new duelists prepared, he studied the woman. Her youth had passed but not many years ago. Her plaited dark hair looked stark against the white linen shirt. Long legs were encased in deerskin, same as the men, and Pearroc admired their length and shape. When she turned, he saw the patrician bones that sharpened her face. Her swan’s neck would display rich jewels to advantage. What was a noble doing at the common practice arena?
She said something that had three of the men chuckling. He recognized two as house guards for the ArchClans Letheina. The other two were Fae comeis bound to clan leaders. One was Vatar Regnant, bound to Pater duCian. The other—Pearroc looked closely—was the ArchClans’ comeis, Ruidri Talenn de Ysagrael, brother to Drakon’s comeis. He was the one shedding belt and scabbard, as the woman shed her shoulder harness. That pricked his interest more than her noble features. Fae did not spar against human opponents. Fae quickness proved too deadly.
They used edged steel, not wooden canes. With a shocked inhalation, Pearroc turned completely toward the arena—and heard Drakon chuckle.
“Is she a fool? Ruidri Talenn will take no pity on her.”
The first flurry of blows rang into the seats. Testing moves, strength and agility and skill. Then Ruidri smiled and pressed an attack.
He expected her to miss a parry, to stumble as she gave ground, to drop onto the sand, bleeding from a dozen cuts of the Fae’s blade.
“He’ll kill her. Or maim her. A woman can’t match strength against a man.”
Her sword glinted with sunlight. She met Ruidri’s sword, deflected it through a rapid pattern taught to every student of edged combat. Ruidri’s grin widened. Pearroc knew that grin, having crossed blades with the elder Fae years ago, before he left Faeron and crossed to the human world on the Maorketh’s orders.
The comeis changed the pattern. This time the woman grinned. Her defense didn’t depend on strength. Her blade slid along Ruidri’s or deflected it. Fae women learned these tricks. But this woman was no student. Her skill exceeded anything he’d see from humans.
Ruidri gave ground to her attack. She didn’t step around the comeis; she flowed around him. Her blade was spell-quick. It lacked the flashing energy that would have charged it in battle. The Fae’s sword also remained energy-free. He said something that had her laughing, the sound ringing across the clash of swords and the grunts of the cane-using duelists.
Their sparring changed again. The comeis increased to Fae speed. Pearroc held his breath, both fascinated and horrified. The woman couldn’t match his quickness and gave ground. Even so, she anticipated his thrusts. The ones she couldn’t guard against, she melted away from. The ones she didn’t deflect, she turned into throwing Ruidri off-step.
He fell back. Lightning fast, she came after—only to stop on her toes when Vatar spoke.
Her chest heaved. Sweat slicked her linen shirt while Ruidri merely gleamed with exertion. He spoke again then held his hand up in a Fae-to-Fae salute. And she returned it.
“Who is she?” Pearroc demanded.
“Impressive, isn’t she? A pity they did not magic their blades. I have heard that lightning crackles along the blades. I have always wanted to see that.”
He didn’t look away from the woman. “How is she possible? A human with Fae-training in edged combat. To support her sword with magic, that is another Fae skill. How do I not know her?”
“For the past fifteen years she has commanded Chanerro Pass.”
“Who is she?”
“She is good, isn’t she?” Drakon croaked the words then started coughing.
The woman heard and turned to look. She located the box. Eyes as black as Drakon’s stared up. Ruidri Talenn and Vatar Regnant looked as well, then Ruidri Talenn spoke to her. As Pearroc bent over his mentor, offering magic-infused water, he saw the woman shake her head. Vatar Regnant stepped closer, adding comments of his own.
The magicked water eased the coughing spasm. Drakon looked shrunken inside his voluminous cloak.
“Where is your comeis? Huron Talenn should be here by now.”
“An errand, I told you. Don’t press. I can breathe again.”
“You shouldn’t be out, Pater. The air is too chill.”
“Humor an old man a little longer. Let me enjoy the last of High Summer. I am dying, but I am not on my death bed. Ha! You didn’t protest.”
“Penthia said seven weeks, perhaps eight.”
“My own magic said that. The body decays, not the mind.”
He straightened. He gestured to the practice ring. “Who is she? Why do you point her out to me?”
“My daughter. She should be clan leader after me.”
Fae trained to shield their emotions. Pearroc hid his shock. He had already embarrassed himself enough with surprise. Drakon had no acknowledged children. Magister Brandt was his nephew. In a clan filled with his bloodline, he had no direct heir. Pearroc glanced into the ring, but the two comeis and the woman had left.
“A wizard not in your house, not even in Tres Lucerna for years. Clan leader after you? Not possible, Lord Drakon.”
A clawed hand gripped the wool cloak. “Not more impossible than a Fae passing the Wizard Trials,” he retorted. “She is no stranger to the Enclave. She is ArchClans Letheina’s daughter, Water and Air instead of our Fire.”
“The ArchClans has no love for Clan Drakon.”
Drakon laughed then wheezed, but the attack passed quickly. “An understatement, Pearroc. Camisse does not know that I am her father.”
“Lady Camisse? Commander at Chanerro Pass? Her power is—.” He stopped before he offended.
“A wizard unworthy of the rank?” The aged man admitted to the slur Pearroc had dammed. “Rumors claimed she passed the Trials only because her mother was ArchClans. They say she commands at Chanerro only because her mother pushed the posting. But she redeemed herself there: she keeps the wizards and the Fae working together. All that is true. Except that her mother helped her pass the Trials. That was my doing.”
He gaped at his mentor. “A clan leader cannot have weak power.”
“She doesn’t have weak power. She has the puissance; she can’t draw it up. Not with the spells that she was taught.”
“Enclave teaching failed?”
Drakon didn’t answer.
And Pearroc understood the problem. Puissant but unable to access her power. Taught spells for Air and Water, her mother’s elements, while her basic element that would kindle all her spells might be Fire, her father’s element. Her tutors misidentified her powers. The ArchClans controlled all of her clan and reached fingers reaching into other clans. She would not have accidentally misidentified the powers of her own child. “You’re suggesting the ArchClans crippled her daughter’s power.”
“I suggest nothing.” He spat onto the box’s rough planking. “I say it. At the Trials, Camisse only knew spells for the elements of her clan. She struggled with those spells—but she can work them. Without great puissance, that wouldn’t be possible. The girl never learned Fire. That is a deliberate choice by her tutors. If she had learned Fire and wielded it with ease, her parentage would have been suspect. My fellow councilors on the Trials banc agreed with me. Perrault suspected shackles on her power.”
“You don’t know—.”
“I know Letheina.” Venom rimed the words. “It was a political move to lure me to her bed. It was a political move to cripple her daughter’s power. It was a political move to shuffle her off to the border and keep her there, out of sight and hopefully forgotten. But Camisse is too successful in her command. Now they have recalled her and sent Raigeis’ fool sons in her place.”
Pearroc stared at the practice ring, but he didn’t see or hear the sparring there. The enmity between ArchClans and Drakon was known even in Faeron. Was Camisse the reason it had sparked? “The girl would have sparked fire when first she came into her power. How could they hide that from her?”
“All that matters is that they crippled her, restricted who had access to her, built lies all around her, used her to raise her nephew and her niece, then all but exiled her. I had hoped her time at the border would give her doubts.”
“If she can fight like that,” he mused aloud, “and edge her blade with magic—.”
“Exactly. Pearroc, I want you to teach her to wield Fire.”
He jerked around. His mentor nodded. Knowing the difficulties, the old man still asked this of him. “You are old in manipulation, Pater. What happens if I refuse?”
“My daughter remains a crippled wizard.”
“Brandt will succeed me. His voice is not strong. He will not stand against the ArchClans and her magister. They oppose more ties between the Enclave and Faeron. And your Maorketh’s mad plan to have a Fae be declared a wizard will be for naught.”
“You set a clever trap, Pater.”
‘Until three days ago I had no idea that Camisse would be recalled from the border. She is the linchpin.”
“You had to have hoped.”
He smiled, a wicked twist that revealed his manipulations.
“You are as wily and ruthless as the dragons you are named for.”
“Experience gives me wiliness; approaching death gives me ruthlessness. This is necessity, Pearroc. You must start training her soon. Tomorrow is not soon enough.”
“What do you suggest?”
He snorted. “I leave that to you. If I am not mistaken, you will fulfill more than your queen’s mad command. I saw the way you watched her.”
That comment embarrassed him. He hid his emotions, his physical reactions, but the aged man understood Fae behaviors. He didn’t look for the obvious and human signs. He counted the minutes of Pearroc’s focus. Saying “she is your daughter” did not disprove Drakon’s claim, so he added, “She is a sword. Lethal beauty.”
“And death makes me ruthless.”
Pearroc stared at the ring, but he pictured Lady Camisse, turning her lithe body to counter Ruidri’s ringing sword. “She is known for her support of Fae at Chanerro. Do you think she will stand with the Fae against her mother?”
“The ArchClans argued against more Fae inside Enclave walls. She argued against the bond with a comeis. She argued against adding Fae warriors to the king’s forces. She appointed Camisse to Chanerro Pass, probably hoping that experiment would fail—only to see her daughter regain outpost after outpost while Iscleft barely holds against Frost Clime.”
Pearroc arched an eyebrow. “You tell me this, but I do not need to be convinced. Lady Camisse is the one who must accept that she’s Fire and not Air and Water.”
The door to their balcony box opened. “Pater Drakon,” a man said.
Without looking around, the aged man nodded. “Enter Huron. Bring the others.”
The comeis bonded to Drakon entered. He bowed to the clan leader. “Lord Drakon, Comeis Vatar Regnant would speak with Commander Camisse of Letheina House in your presence, a private consultation needing a Council witness.”
“I will be honored to oversee this consultation. Please admit the commander and your fellow comeis.”
Huron Talenn retreated, leaving Pearroc to wonder what wiliness the Drakon patriarch had in play.