As the world spun wildly, Talis grasped at anything to stop his fall,
but his fingers only sliced through the shimmering fog. He found himself
sprawled on the ground, a hazy light bathing bright spring buds in the
branches above. Someone was holding him down, and he glanced around
groggily, realizing Mara was shaking him and slapping his face. He
blinked. She yelled at him, her face frantic and desperate, but he
couldn’t hear a word she said.
His vision blackened and he found himself sinking backwards. He reached
out, trying to steady himself, to hold Mara, hold something, anything to
keep from falling again, but there was nothing to hold onto. He felt
himself plummeting—arms and legs flailing—from darkness to quickly
growing light, farther and farther, reaching jagged, menacing clouds.
“Mara!” he shouted, but his voice sounded deep and slurred and the
wind whistled around him as he fell towards the ground.
He twisted and stretched, and the next moment he was standing on a vast
plain dotted with boulders and stands of towering, alien trees. Talis
squinted and stared. The trunks were banded with red razor-sharp limbs
jutting out, holding limp emerald-colored leaves.
A whirlwind tumbled towards him, interrupting his fascination with the
strange trees. The devil storm gathered strength and momentum, and Talis
swore he glimpsed tortured faces within. He cringed and raised his hands
to stop the assault, and the whirlwind froze just inches away.
Inside the churning storm Talis recognized one of the faces: Rikar. His
old friend. A traitor to his own people. What had happened to him? Talis
felt a chill staring at Rikar’s pleading eyes. With a sudden pop,
Talis’s ears opened and he heard screams and moans and cries for help.
A chorus of suffering. But one voice punched through the rest. Rikar’s
voice, low and clear. Talis, you must help me. I’m sorry for
everything I’ve done. I made a terrible mistake going with Aurellia.
Then Talis heard a tremendous hissing sound like thousands of vipers
slithering in the dark. He clenched his hands over his ears, trying to
make the sound stop.
Then Rikar’s voice clear again. Come find me…I’ll die…worse than
dying. Nikulo stole the scroll. Only you—
Everything flipped inside out, spinning, and Talis was suddenly back in
the swamplands again. Mara’s hands covered her face, tears spilling
through her fingers. Charna, Talis’s pet lynx, nuzzled his hand and
gazed at him with those mystical, golden eyes. She really is a gift from
the Goddess Nacrea, Talis thought.
“What’s wrong, why won’t you come back?” Mara mumbled, her voice
choked with tears.
“Mara…” His voice sounded like an old man on a deathbed. Talis
coughed and cleared his throat.
She sprang forward and peered into his eyes. “Are you—”
“You didn’t have to slap me so many times.”
“I thought you were dead. You looked so pale after you touched the
Talis stared at her blankly, trying to remember what had happened. The
map, the vision, the other world.
Mara’s eyes widened, and she hugged him. “Don’t drift off again!
My goodness, you’re shivering. Stay with me.” She lifted her eyes
and glanced above at the wind stirring the branches and leaves.
“Let’s go home.”
As they gathered their gear and prepared to leave, Talis grabbed
“I heard him.” He sighed, remembering Rikar’s tortured eyes.
“I had a vision of Rikar…he’s out there…suffering. On that world
we saw in the Surineda Map.”
The City of Naru still looked bruised from the battle with the
Jiserians. Their flying sorcerers had attacked several times in the last
few months, but nothing like the massive battle months before. With the
Temple of the Order of the Dawn destroyed, and the crystal underneath
broken, the wizards of the Order had little power to sustain fights
against the invaders. Talis had learned to summon the power of the black
crystal that lay beneath the Temple of the Sun, and only he and Master
Jai fought together to defend their city. The other wizards refused to
come anywhere near the temple.
As Talis and Mara sauntered through Naru’s western gates, the soldiers
backed away like they were infected by the plague. A hero’s welcome,
Talis thought. Worse every day. They still hate the new temple, and
mistrust the black crystal… Now the opposition that the Order had
expressed against Talis and the black crystal affected the royal House
of Lei. Mara’s family.
“We should probably split up now.” Talis stared up at the city’s
massive stone arena.
Mara nodded, her face sad but resigned to hiding their friendship.
“I’ll see you soon?”
Her eyes glittered and she smiled, then turned and ran off towards
Father looked bleary-eyed as Talis sat on the chair next to him and
warmed his hands by the fire. He stared at the flames dancing around
hickory wood. But in the silence Talis could feel his father’s mind
“So the wizards of the Order tell me you’re to blame for all the
Jiserian attacks.” Father scoffed in disgust. “And House Lei dares
to insinuate the Jiserian sorcerers are out to steal the black
Talis bristled at the news. “They’re going too far.”
“I know, I know…but the people are listening. And Lady Malvia is
furious that Mara is still spending time with you. Be careful, son,
House Lei is not to be trifled with. Word is many of the Order are
allied with them as well.”
“Master Viridian too?”
Father shrugged and took a puff from his ornately-carved pipe.
“Perhaps not. But the others may….”
“The black crystal saved our city.” Talis said the words louder than
he intended, and his father raised an eyebrow in response.
“No one but you and your friends seem to understand…only you
experienced the Goddess Nacrea.”
“And they disbelieve me still?”
“They hate what they don’t understand.” Father inspected Talis for
a moment. “You look quite tired…unusual for you. What happened today
out on the hunt?”
Talis shook his head. “Nothing,” he lied. “I must have caught a
“Then off to bed with you. Rest up, you have your studies tomorrow.”
Although officially Talis was a student of the Order of the Dawn, since
his journey the masters of the Order had issued him strange special
assignments and forced him to study under old masters of forgotten
magical arts. Not that he minded. He could stay away from his former
classmates who now treated him as if he was an outcast.
After sneaking into the Order of the Dawn early morning through the side
gate that led into the masters’ chambers, Talis clambered down the
steps to the dungeon that was Master Grimelore’s workshop. As far as
the other wizards were concerned, Master Grimelore spent too much time
gazing at the fires that ever-burned in various stoves and heaths
scattered throughout his voluminous workshop. He rarely left, insisting
that the chill of the outside air might sap the Fire Magic from his
Master Grimelore emanated dry heat from his skin and hair and eyes. His
face looked like a leathered lizard, with a nose that seemed better
suited as a bird’s beak. Instead of giving formal lessons, this
morning Master Grimelore poked searing-hot coals with an iron stoker,
his expression seemingly unsatisfied with what he saw. Obsessed with
Fire Magic, but not fireballs or the summoning of flames, rather he
focused on the art of channeling heat directly inside his enemies. Talis
could attest it came in handy for keeping himself warm when he was out
in the cold. Other wizards avoided Master Grimelore’s eccentricities,
claiming his kind of Fire Magic was messy.
“You should try some cardamon tea.” The master waved his hand
towards a ceramic pot on a small iron table. “Are we to spend our hour
together studying or shall we play with the fire?”
Talis could tell from the wry glint in Master Grimelore’s eye that
they’d be learning how to draw heat from the roaring fire at the brick
hearth. That part was easy. Holding it inside and containing the heat
was an entirely different matter.
“Begin.” Master Grimelore stoked the coals until they seethed with
heat, and glanced at Talis out of the corner of his eye.
As Talis allowed the intense heat from the fire flow into his body, he
built an invisible container to envelop the power. But pictures of
flames melting his body to ashes caused his concentration to break. In a
rush, he pushed the heat back into the fire and Master Grimelore jumped
away from the hearth in surprise.
“What are you doing, trying to kill an old man? I know I’ve one leg
stuck in the earth, minions of the Underworld feeding on my old bones,
but do you really need to speed things up? I haven’t even had my tea
“My apologies, master. I failed to contain the heat.”
“I saw what happened.” Master Grimelore wagged a finger, a
mischievous look in his eyes. “You were thinking of that beauty of a
girl…what’s her name again? Mara? A young boy like you, of course
you can’t concentrate.” He made an obscene gesture that made Talis
believe his master was getting crazier by the day.
“Mara is a good friend.”
Master Grimelore raised his eyebrows and stuck out his tongue. “Hah! A
good friend, indeed. All those long days out on your adventure together,
and you never once had any particular…urgings? It isn’t so strange
now is it?”
Talis felt his face flush, and he turned away to stare at the fire. Why
would his master be thinking that? Did it show on his face when he
thought of Mara?
“Ah now, my apologies for embarrassing you. That will be enough for
today. When your mind is clear of all these thoughts we’ll continue
our lesson. For now, drink your tea and practice flame gazing.”
As Talis sipped the delicious milky tea, he grabbed his thoughts and
tossed them to burn in the fire.
“Breath in slowly until you feel a heaviness settle on your
face…that’s right, now let the air hiss out of your teeth. The fire
cycling through your body—your lungs great baffles fanning the fire.
Don’t drift off now, don’t get lost in drowsiness. Let yourself
remain vigilant in the shadows under the flames.”
Shadows under the flames, Talis thought. In his gazing, an inky-black
mass bubbled out, covering his face and ears in a wet, sticky sensation.
He dared not break his meditations, but felt revolted at the feeling.
Shadows. Aurellia’s face flashed in his mind’s eye, laughing and
mocking and hideous. Shadows. Rikar’s tortured face trapped in the
Talis gasped, and opened his eyes in a panic. Master Grimelore stood
towering over him. Talis somehow was lying on his back. The vision was
true. Rikar was out there on that planet being tortured. An immense
pressure fell over Talis’s chest until he felt suffocated, with a
knowing that he had to help Rikar. But considering all the terrible
things Rikar had done, and his choice to follow Aurellia, the dark lord
who devastated the Temple of the Goddess Nacrea, Talis knew that helping
Rikar was a bad idea.
But if he didn’t respond, if he ignored the call of Rikar and
Aurellia, the shadows might rise up and overtake him, like the waves
that washed over Onair and destroyed the city.
In the eerie grey and silver light, the dank subterranean room smelled
of clay and ink and fish oil. Barrels of the nasty tasting oil were
stacked randomly in the corner of the chamber. Talis arrived late again
for his least favorite subject: Rune Magic with Mistress Cavares, one of
the oldest and weirdest of the wizards of the Order. And his afternoon
studies included two hours trapped here in this dungeon.
“Have you memorized Galarian yet?” Mistress Cavares didn’t even
bother to look away from the tablet she was inscribing. She worked
painfully slow inscribing the rune, as if one mistake could blow the
whole room up.
Talis sighed. “My apologies, my lesson with Master Grimelore…ran
longer than usual.”
She finished and started chewing on a roasted snake. Talis’s skin
prickled at the crunching sound. She wiped her lips, but several shiny,
green scales still stuck to the corners of her mouth.
“You must memorize both the language and the combinations.” Her
long, claw-like fingernails were painted purple with green swirls. She
inscribed four characters on the rune, and each glowed after she lifted
her hands from the small oval-shaped clay tablet.
Mistress Cavares had forced Talis to learn many ancient and discarded
languages, mold clay tablets, and cast spells over the rune inscription.
The rune combinations and bindings and unravellings baffled Talis.
“You see here, I’m doing a double rune, in Galarian.” She studied
his eyes. “What spell have I written and what is its level of
“A double rune is the most powerful.” Talis paused a minute as he
struggled to decipher the characters. “Falling and…slow? Slow
She didn’t even smile, although Talis knew he’d gotten it right. If
he’d been wrong, she would have launched into another of her tirades
about how incompetent he was.
“Mistress Cavares? Why do none of the other masters practice Rune
She scoffed. “They’re impatient—like you—and lack the diligence
to learn the combinations and memorize the languages. They feel runes
are too indirect compared to elemental magic. What they fail to
understand is the subtlety runes offer to the skilled wizard.”
“Have you ever heard of a magical ward?”
Talis shook his head.
“What in the world are they teaching students at the Order?” She
sighed bitterly, and scraped a snake scale lodged between two yellowed
teeth. “Do you want to remain ignorant your entire life?”
“I want to learn.” Talis felt his skin crawl in anger, but he kept
“Do you really now?” Mistress Cavares narrowed her eyes, studying
him. “You’ve learned so little… You’re heart’s just not in it.
Why should I teach you a thing?”
Talis realized his heart hadn’t been in his studies. All this time
he’d been spending with Mistress Cavares he’d been thinking of other
things: his adventure, the Jiserians, the temple, and of course,
Aurellia and Rikar. But had he really learned nothing? He looked down at
the runes he’d inscribed the other day. Nothing perfect, but the
knowledge of runes was slowly seeping in.
“But I have learned a lot.” Talis softened his voice as he stared
into Mistress Cavares’s hard eyes. “Then again, perhaps my mind has
been elsewhere. Ever since I’ve returned…it’s like a storm cloud
lingering over me. I never know when the lightning will strike.”
“The war is over, child. At least that is what our astrologers tell
us… Whatever power you summoned struck a vast blow against the
“But their sorcerers still attack us. And the Order scorns me. House
Lei despises my existence. They think I lured Mara away from them.”
Mistress Cavares shook her head and muttered to herself. “The Order…
They hold much contempt for people that don’t fit their mold of what a
wizard should be, myself included. No matter, now. Let us not think of
such things. Are you truly sincere about learning?”
Talis held her gaze. “I am serious about learning. But…can I ever do
more than just learn languages and inscribe characters? What’s this
“I have many secrets to teach. You could be the first apprentice who
made it past this point. To possess the benefit of the ancient art of
Rune Magic would grant you much power.” She waved her hand at the
runes scattered across the table. “These are merely instruments used
in combination with an even deeper magic. Do you have what it takes?”
He felt suddenly determined to conquer the art of runes, despite what
the others in the Order had said. But he could tell by the skepticism in
Mistress Cavares’s eyes that he’d have to prove himself.
“I will do more than try. I swear it upon the Goddess Nacrea—”
“Words, words… You’re all the same with your words and empty
promises. I want proof.” She placed a three-character rune on the
table. “Level of power and spell? Prove to me this knowledge you claim
Talis felt a trickle of sweat drip along his neck. The spell was
inscribed in the words of the ancients, the most complicated language
from the descendants of the destroyed City of Urgar. “Three-character
rune…middling power. But written in the ancient tongue makes it
similar to the two-character rune drawn in Galarian.”
Mistress Cavares nodded her head. “Go on.”
Talis frowned, not knowing the first character. “This
character”—Talis pointed at the middle one—“is the sun in full
power.” The ancient language had three characters for the sun: rising,
full, and falling. “The last character is…melting…or burning
“And the first character?” Her face held the expression of someone
who’s caught a thief.
“I won’t guess.” He scratched the back of his head. “I don’t
Mistress Cavares puckered up her lips. “That’s because I’ve never
taught it to you. It means contained or more accurately…focused. To
focus the power of the sun and melt something. Nasty little rune.”
How is it nasty if it just sits there and does nothing? Talis thought.
“Now this rune you may have seen before.” She fingered a
“A weak rune but very specific in nature. It means trap the intruder
with a web of shadows. What exactly does that mean?”
Crinkles formed around Mistress Cavares’s eyes. “Wouldn’t you like
to know…” She waved the idea away. “Show me your abilities in
casting. I’ve seen you work against those Jiserian sorcerers, so I
know you have some skill as a wizard. But can you contain it in focused
“What spell should I cast?”
“Do you know how to cast a binding spell?”
Talis shook his head.
“Bind one form to another. Bind an intention or thought to an object.
You do know what that means?”
“In theory. But I’ve never practiced it.”
Mistress Cavares exhaled a hissing breath. “You blustering wizards,
elemental magic…boom! All noise and hard power, but little internal
strength. You’re all just surface deep.”
“Teach me. I want to learn the spell.”
“I’ll show you once. If you don’t get it, I won’t teach it to
“But that’s unfair!” Talis couldn’t believe she was being so
“Life is unfair. The universe is a hard, cruel place. Deal with it.”
She raised a hand, aiming at a stone that lay on the table. “I will
bind ice to this stone. It won’t be permanent, but it will last for a
She closed her eyes. “In my mind I see chunks of ice floating down a
mountain stream. Thick piles of snow lay at either side. I feel the
cold. It sinks into my bones. I can taste the chill as it rolls around
on my tongue. With this complete sensation, I focus letting it flow from
my mind, out my hands, and into the stone. Go!”
The stone spun around in circles. When it settled, frost slithered
across the surface. Talis reached out and cautiously touched it. The
stone was so cold Talis snapped his hand back in surprise.
“Now do it. Since you’ve master Fire Magic, imbue the same stone
with heat. Your mind, your imagination. Bind to the stone.”
Talis concentrated on similar specific images: a blazing forest fire,
the smell of roasted spiders, smoke in his eyes from huts burning, heat
surging in his chest. He opened his eyes and released it all into the
stone. The table sizzled and spat swirls of smoke from the heat of the
stone. Mistress Cavares glared at Talis as if he were mad.
“Where do you draw that kind of power from? The black crystal?”
“It’s too far away.” Talis gestured towards the fire in the
hearth. “Master Grimelore taught me to bring in power from flames. And
what I saw in my mind was what I’ve experienced before.”
“Like the ancient tongue, close to the original source of truth.”
What did she mean by that? She was always talking in riddles.
“You’ve succeeded in casting your first binding spell. It will be
easier now for you to progress. But be warned, binding is all about your
thoughts and imagination…so control yourself. A lazy, untempered mind
makes a dangerous combination with bindings.”
“What does this have to do with Rune Magic?”
“It’s time for your first lesson.” She motioned at the table.
“The ancient art of casting magical wards.” As she lifted a rune,
slivers of silver light spidered out of her fingers and into the rune.
“A magical ward is created through the combination of a rune and a
binding spell cast upon the object on which that rune is drawn.”
The light from her fingers grew stronger and bored into the characters
etched on the rune. The clay tablet melted away into ash, and a faint
glow of silver remained on the table. “The ward is locked onto the
location where the rune lay. I’ve cast a Rune of Paralysis. The next
person to touch this spot will be paralyzed. Care to try it?”
Talis shook his head and found himself stepping away from the table. He
heard a meowing sound and glanced over just as Kalix, Mistress
Cavares’s cat, sauntered across the table.
“No Kalix!” Mistress Cavares said, and scooped up the cat. “You
know you’re not supposed to sneak inside my workshop.” She scratch
the cat’s head and under his chin, and Kalix purred loudly.
Talis smiled and went to pet the cat, but his movement seemed to spook
Kalix. In a sudden jerk, the cat leapt from Mistress Cavares’s arms,
and landed directly on the spot where the rune was placed. Kalix froze
like a stuffed animal, eyes frightened, tail pointing straight up, body
as rigid as a stone sculpture.
“My poor kitty,” cried Mistress Cavares. She scrambled around Talis
and held Kalix in her arms. “You must be more careful with Kalix, she
“Is she dead?”
Mistress Cavares sighed like she’d had enough of teaching him.
“Don’t you know what a Paralysis Spell does? It’s temporary. Kitty
will be fine in an hour or so. This isn’t the first time he’s
stepped on a ward. He has a nose for finding them. One day I fear
he’ll step on the wrong ward….”
She stared into the fire, then sighed and lifted herself up. “Now
it’s your turn, prove your ability to cast wards. Choose the runes,
practice on the table. And please try and keep your power down to a
minimum. I don’t want you blowing up the workshop.”
Excerpted from "Shadow Mage: Blacklight Chronicles (Volume 3)" by John Forrester. Copyright © 2012 by John Forrester. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.