Here it is!  Sorry for the prolonged wait.  Find previous chapters here.

All his life, he had sought a quiet, peaceful life.  The other magical people he knew had risen to prominence in their kingdoms, usually with deadly results for themselves, but not he, not Trevor.  He had lived under a theory that he could avoid conflict easily enough, that it was something that only came to those who sought it out.

Perhaps he was right still about the latter part.  Or perhaps conflict sought out those with special abilities.  He was heading into conflict now, part of a pitifully weak team of an aged mutt, a contract-breaking former apprentice scribe, a runaway prince, and a crippled servant girl carried by the brother who couldn’t remember her.  There was no way to avoid it, for if he turned aside now, if he took the coward’s path, surely conflict would not end now but would spread and eventually overtake him.

Or perhaps conflict was a human inevitability.  After all, his companions were all human—well, except for his trusty old dog.  His companions were human, but this conflict was just as inevitable for them.

A sharp intake of breath from the girl as the prince adjusted his grip on her called Trevor from his musings.  “Are you okay, dear?” he asked, placing his wrinkled hand against her forehead.  A light sheen of sweat stood out on her brow and her skin felt warmer than it should.

She was brave, though, this girl from the ashes.  She smiled and said, “I’m fine, Trevor.  Just a little uncomfortable.  Thanks, though.”

Steven, the apprentice boy, looked back at them, brow wrinkled.  “Perhaps we should rest,” he suggested.

The prince paused his steps, looking down at her for her decision.  Annette’s gaze lingered over the grass underfoot, which only a few days ago had been springy green but now was like charcoal, and swallowed.  “No,” she resolutely decided.  “We have to press on, or we’ll never make it in time.”

None of the men were pleased with her decision, including himself, but they grudgingly carried out her wishes and kept walking.  She was strong, too, he reminded himself.  And she knew how much she could take better than anyone.

“We should come up with a plan,” Will ordered—or perhaps he was more Bill right now.  Trevor couldn’t tell.  At Steven’s raised eyebrow, the boy amended his tone and added, “Don’t you think?”  That was more like Will.

“A wise idea,” Trevor nodded.  “What do you young ones propose?”

“Well,” Annette said slowly, “we should probably know everything possible about the sorcerer.”

Steven said, “I was going to suggest that.  I copied a codex categorizing magical people once.  Sorcerers’ main power comes from spells they cast with words.  The words can be spoken or unspoken.  This is similar to magicians, but of course the obvious difference is that magicians’ blessings and curses are permanent, while sorcerers’ powers last only until their demise.  It’s hypothesized that one can become a sorcerer without actually having magical blood, but the couple example cases typically cited were recently discovered to either be frauds or actually have some faint magical blood in them.”

Will scowled.  “How do we defeat them?”

“He said there’s power in names,” Annette said.  “When we met him in Poldar.  He had power over me and Will, but said we couldn’t have power over him because we didn’t know his name.”

The prince and apprentice’s eyes turned on him.  “You said you trained him,” Will accused.

He sighed and came to a stop, taking stock of their surroundings.  No signs of life came from any of the shadows around them.  Still, he gestured for them to come close.  Will took the opportunity to set Annette down, so he lowered himself with a grunt as his old bones protested and the boys knelt down beside them.

“I told you I trained him two hundred years ago,” he reminded them.  “There is a spell, a difficult process, that was handed down in my family, one by which the performer could prolong his life.  I had previously performed it myself.  There was so much to learn then, so many mysteries to discover, and I was young and eager to learn everything I could in this life.  Then a young man came to me, an apprentice looking for instruction in sorcery.  I thought I saw a kindred spirit in him.  I read that we would be near each other at the end of our lives, and foolishly revealed to him the secret.

“But you see, the spell is bound by a word: A name.  There is inherent power in names, yes, but the power this spell gives names is monumental.  If the name is spoken in the person’s presence, the spell snaps, and dark rumors speak of what happens after that.  It is best for the name to be forgotten.  That is what I did: I took another name, and none living remember what I was once called.

“My apprentice was not so humble.  He deigned to replace his name with only a title, and that was the first sign I had of the wickedness inside him.  I learned shortly after that he was indeed the king of Poldar, and then I feared for my life.  I fled into the night and have lived in hiding ever since.”

The young siblings stared at him in horror.  Annette had one hand over her mouth and one on her stomach, like she would be ill.  Will’s lips curled back.  “You mean he’s my great great something grandfather?”

That was the reasonable conclusion to his statement.  Trevor’s apprentice had left a young son to inherit his throne, after all, and the Kangraff line had not ended.  But their bloodlines looked so different…he wondered.

“That is not important,” he deflected the question.  “I thought you wanted to know his name.”

“Yes,” Steven agreed, leaning forward.

In the softest voice he could manage, Trevor the sage leaned forward and whispered a name.

Chapter 24 on Friday :)


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