Genre: Epic Fantasy / Coming of Age Fantasy
Page Count: Prequel
BORN INTO A WORLD where magic is not only feared but outlawed, Ferrin’s choice to use his abilities brings the Black Watch to his doorstep. Caged alongside a helpless band of half-starved wielders, he formulates a strategy to escape. Armed with nothing more than his sarcastic wit and a determination to never give in, Ferrin attempts the impossible.
YOU’RE GOING TO GET us killed, Ferrin, or worse—captured.”
Ferrin smiled. His twin sister, Myriah, had always held a flare for the dramatic. He shook his mop of red hair out of the way, loose beads of sweat scattering as he landed another hard swing of his mallet on the anvil. The rhythm of each stroke was a song to which he could pair his heart, the beats as steady as the life pumping through his veins.
His smithy was a humble affair. A large kiln sat at the back, taking up nearly a quarter of his workspace. Its hearth glowed with fresh coals, the heat a familiar comfort that Ferrin found invigorating. Next to the kiln was a cooling tank, rung with a variety of tongs, hammers, and swages. Covering every inch of the stone walls were racks of tools and molds. Pieces of metal of all shapes and sizes lay in what might seem haphazard piles on the floor, but each pile was organized by type, future use, and amount of time required to forge.
In front of Ferrin sat a stone pedestal, roughly one foot in height. On top, an anvil, holding a long strip of metal he had been preparing for one of Rhowynn’s nobility. It was to be a gift for their grandson. His first sword. Ferrin thought it rather silly, considering the boy was only three, but as long as their gold was good, a contract was a contract.
“Are you listening to me?” Myriah asked.
Ferrin could practically hear her arms folding. He grunted. He had no intention of stopping for another one of their heated debates concerning his use of magic. The rumors of the Black Watch being spotted crossing into Keldor had many on edge, his sister included. The White Tower’s reach was growing. This new Archchancellor seemed to be on a personal mission to purge the five kingdoms of every last wielder.
Ferrin remained silent. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy a good verbal joust with his sister, but he was too deep within the flow of his transferal to offer a proper rebuttal. Besides, an argument at this point would only end in defeat. She was right, after all. The magic coursed through him, its heat as strong as the forge he used. It started in his stomach and worked its way up and out through his arms and hands. The magic required his full attention.
“You’re using it again, aren’t you? I can always tell, you know.” She slowly moved her hand in front of her face. “The air . . . it tingles.” His sister had no magic of her own, but she could sense his. Ferrin didn’t know if it had something to do with their being twins. “Take the transferal off before someone catches you. I don’t plan on spending the rest of my life in the White Tower because of your carelessness.”
Ferrin continued swinging as he counted down. Five . . . Four . . .
“Ferrin!” His name was followed with a hard foot stomp.
He stopped mid-swing, his mallet still hanging in the air. Didn’t make it to three this time. Slowly, he lowered the hammer to his waist and turned around. He used the countdowns to judge his sister’s mood, how far he could push without getting into too much trouble. If he could count all the way to one, then he didn’t have anything to worry about. Four meant you better stop and listen, and Five . . . Well, last time he’d seen a Five, he had to duck a flying tong.
His sister stood just inside the doorway, tapping her foot on one of the wooden steps leading down into his shop. Having his smithy connected to their home was a convenience, but there were times he wished she would allow him to install a proper lock on his side.
“I heard you the first time,” he said.
“You need to do more than hear me. You need to stop.”
Myriah scowled at him. Her long red hair was tied back, which meant she was either about to start or had just finished cleaning. She took his acknowledgment of her presence as a small victory and carefully worked her way across the room.
Ferrin propped his hammer on the anvil and took a deep breath. He could feel the heat draining from his body. It wasn’t a heat that stemmed from an emotional trigger like love, or desire, or even rage. It was a different kind of heat, one that burned from the inside out. It rose from the depths of his soul. It was part of him.
Magic, his uncle had called it, right before selling him to an old peddler to keep the wrath of the White Tower away from his home. His uncle wasn’t a bad man, just not very brave.
Ferrin didn’t understand why everyone was so terrified of magic. He loved the way it felt.
“Take it off, Ferrin. You know you don’t need the crystal to make a quality blade. You’re a skilled swordsmith. None of the other smithies have to resort to magic to meet their orders; neither should you.”
Ferrin fingered the silver chain around his neck. He could feel the small stone resting against his chest under his sweat-soaked tunic.
“The other smithies aren’t located in Southside. The most we can hope for is the occasional farmer whose sickles need a new peening before harvest. We wouldn’t have survived last year if I hadn’t found a way to attract the right sort of clientele—”
“Your attraction is what worries me,” Myriah said, arms crossed. “You’ve already ostracized yourself from most of the merchant guild. Your ability has made you an open target. How long do you think it’ll be before the other smiths demand your secrets?”
Ferrin mulled over her concerns. The two of them had always managed to scrape by, but times were getting harder. Customers were waiting longer between sharpenings, and his less-wealthy patrons were opting to make do with old equipment.
He had decided not to tell Myriah how bad their finances had gotten, because he didn’t want her to worry. She had enough to deal with keeping up with the household and him. She didn’t need the added knowledge that they might lose the smithy, too. That was why he had resorted to using magic.
At first, it was for simple things like adding a small flourish, or a finer edge, when coming up on a hard deadline. Those simple uses, however, quickly turned into more. Pretty soon, there wasn’t a single piece of metal passing through his shop that hadn’t had some form of magic added to it in the process.
It was those same magic-infused weapons that had earned him a commission by the High King himself. It was also that very commission that had sealed his fate with the merchant guild. Apparently, the older, more-established smithies didn’t appreciate having some young upstart steal the work right out from under their noses. The sad thing was that even without the magic, he was still twice the smith they could ever hope to be.
In the end, he only had one excuse to offer. “We needed the money.”
Myriah grunted. “We don’t need it that badly. I can always find some more work—”
“You already have a job.”
“I can find another. Delana has been asking me to come help her in their shop. I can do that in the evenings and—”
“No.” Ferrin struck the anvil with the top of his hammer, just missing the piece of metal on top. “The gold I made from the king’s commission will get us through the rest of the year. You have enough to worry about with Lord and Lady Resdin’s children to go looking for more work.”
Even with their occasional bickering, Ferrin loved his sister. They were inseparable. He could still remember her walking into Pinon’s camp two days after Ferrin had been sold to the peddler. Myriah had left home with nothing more than the clothes on her back and her favorite dolly. The thought of being separated from her brother was more than she could bear.
Ferrin smiled and removed the chain from his neck. If his sister was willing enough to look for another job on top of all her other responsibilities, he guessed he could be willing to work without his magic. He held the transferal out between them and watched as the small crystal on the end swung back and forth, reflecting the light of his kiln’s fire.
“As soon as I finish these last two pieces, I’ll stop using it, if that’s what you want.” He still had immediate deadlines that wouldn’t be met if he quit right on the spot.
She smiled, then walked over and planted a kiss on his cheek. “You’re the best big brother a girl could ever hope to have.”
“We’re twins. For all we know, you could be older.”
“Yeah, but you’re definitely bigger,” she said, emphasizing the point by standing on her tiptoes to look him in the eyes. “Unfortunately, bigger doesn’t always mean smarter.” She chuckled and headed for the door, a victorious spring in her step.
“Don’t forget today’s Sixthday,” she called back to him. “You look like you have about three layers of silt to wash off before tonight, not to mention the smell.” Myriah pinched her nose and made a face, then closed the door behind her.
It was Sixthday already? Ferrin glanced at the cooling piece of steel on his anvil and shrugged. The work could wait. He lifted one of the buckets of water used for quenching and doused the coals. They hissed and released a thick blanket of steam into the air. If only he had a bar of soap handy, he could have nearly washed from the moisture.
Somehow, he doubted Myriah would have been happy with him if he had.