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.

Excerpt: Chapter One

Shackled Chapter Header | The White Tower Prequel Novella

“YOU’RE GOING TO GET us killed, Ferrin, or worse . . . captured.”

Ferrin’s twin sister, Myriah, had always harbored a touch of the melodramatic. Ferrin found it a good offset to his overly dry sense of humor. They complemented each other in ways neither was willing to admit or depart.

He focused his concentration. It would take more than his sister’s irritable grumbling to pull him from his one true love. He shook his mop of red hair to the side. Loose beads of sweat scattered as he landed another hard swing of his mallet against the anvil. The rhythmic sound of each stroke was a song from which he could set his heart. Its beats were as steady as the life that pumped through his veins.

“Are you listening to me?”

Ferrin could sense the folding of her arms in the tone of her voice. He managed a slight grunt, letting her know he had no intention of stopping his work to engage in another one of their heated discussions. They were growing more frequent of late, especially with rumors of the Black Watch being spotted crossing the border into Keldor. The White Tower’s reach was growing. This new Arch Chancellor seemed to be on a personal mission to purge the five kingdoms of every last wielder.

There was an awkward pause as Myriah waited for an answer. “Well?”

Ferrin remained uncommonly silent. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a leg to stand on, or that he didn’t enjoy a good verbal jousting with his sister, but he was too deep within the flow of his transferal to offer a proper rebuttal. The magic coursing through him gathered his full attention. Besides, an argument at this point would only end in his likely defeat. She was right after all.

“You’re using it again, aren’t you? I can always tell, you know.” She reached out and slowly moved her hand in front of her face. “The air . . . it tingles.” After a moment, she gave up her attempt at touching his magic and shifted her attention back to him. “Take it off, Ferrin, before someone catches you. I don’t plan on spending the rest of my life in the White Tower because of your carelessness.” Myriah paused and Ferrin started counting down from five. “Ferrin!” He didn’t make it to three. This time, his name was followed with a hard foot stomp.

Ferrin’s arm stopped mid-swing, his mallet still hanging in the air waiting for the downward fall. Slowly, he lowered it to his waist and turned around. His sister was standing just inside the doorway, tapping her foot on one of the wooden steps leading down into his shop. It was convenient having his smithy connected to their home, but there were times he wished she would allow him to install a proper lock on the inside.

Over her shoulder he could see the light from the fire in the main room filling their quaint two-story with its warm glow.

“I heard you the first time, Myriah.”

“You need to do more than hear me. If the white riders get a whiff of you using your gifts, it will be the end of us both. Now I’m telling you, you need to stop.”

There was a discernible scowl on her face. The long waves of her red hair, similar to his, had been pulled back and tied off, indicating she had either just finished her cleaning or was about to start. Myriah took his acknowledgment of her presence as a small victory and carefully made her way across the room.

Ferrin’s humble smithy, there in the lower merchant district of Rhowynn, looked smaller from the inside, but that was solely attributed to the large kiln at the back that took up nearly a quarter of his workspace. Its hearth glowed with fresh coals, and there was a comforting sense of familiarity to the heat that Ferrin found invigorating.

Connected to the kiln’s front was a cooling tank with a rather large selection of tongs, hammers, and swages resting in their brackets. Lining every inch of the stone walls were racks of tools and molds. There were pieces of metal of all shapes and sizes laying in odd piles on the floor. Ferrin had his own sense of order. Each pile was organized by type, future use, and amount of time spent in the flames.

Directly in front of Ferrin sat a spherical stone pedestal roughly one foot in height, which held the master anvil. On its surface lay a long strip of coarse 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 all rather silly considering the boy was only three, but as long as their gold was good, a contract was a contract.

Ferrin propped his hammer on the anvil and took a deep breath as he watched his sister approach. He could feel the heat draining from his body. It was a different kind of heat, one that burned from the inside out. It wasn’t a heat that stemmed from an emotional trigger like love, or desire, or even rage. It was a heat that rose from the depths of his soul. It was a part of him.

Magic was what his uncle had called it, right before selling him to an old peddler in order to keep the wrath of the White Tower away from his home. His uncle wasn’t a bad man, just not very brave. After Ferrin and Myriah’s parents died from an epidemic of black fever, he had agreed to take them in. But when Ferrin’s ability first began to manifest, his uncle grew fearful of the White Tower coming to take away the rest of his family. With the kind of rumors of what happened to those the White Tower took, his uncle had every reason to fear.

Ferrin never could understand why everyone was so afraid of magic. People cowered from it like they would a viper. It wasn’t as if magic was going to make them grow a third eye or something. Ferrin generally loved the way his magic felt. As a metallurgist, he had the ability to feel and manipulate metal ore. It was a remarkable gift.

There were times, however, when he would have traded it for a normal life. After all, it wasn’t like he had chosen to be different. He’d been born that way. And as long as he was going to be forced to bear the weight of keeping it hidden, he figured he could at least find a way to profit from it.

His twin sister, on the other hand, had not been saddled with the burden of possessing something the world wanted destroyed. Instead, she willingly chose to be with him in spite of the risk involved.

He could still remember her walking into Pinon’s camp two days after Ferrin’s departure with the old 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.

Not knowing what to do, Pinon waited to see if her uncle would show up to collect her. When he didn’t, the peddler finally agreed to allow her to come along.

Her love for Ferrin was something he cherished above all else.

“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’s hand rose to find the silver chain around his neck. He could feel the small stone on the end resting against his chest where it hung loosely under his sweat-soaked tunic. “The other smithies aren’t located in Southside. They have thriving trades in places that can reach those with coin to spend. 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 from the other side of the anvil, her arms crossed under her breasts. She raised a single brow, further indicating her disapproval of his tactics. “You’ve already ostracized yourself from most of the merchant guild. Your unexplainable ability to forge and shape weapons that are so vastly superior to every other smith in Rhowynn has made you an open target. How long do you think it’ll be before they come and demand your secrets?”

Ferrin didn’t respond as he mulled over her concerns. The two of them had always managed to scrape by, but times were getting harder. Customers were waiting longer in between sharpenings, and his less wealthy patrons were opting to continue using old equipment as opposed to purchasing new.

He had made the choice not to tell Myriah how bad their finances had gotten because he didn’t want her to worry. She had enough difficulties keeping up with the household and him, let alone adding the weighted burden of losing their only source of income with the smithy. Besides, it hadn’t been until the last couple of years that he had found himself resorting to the use of 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 which 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 use of 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 watching Lord and Lady Resdin’s children.”

“I can find another. Delana has been asking me for some time to come help her in their milliner shop. I can do that in the evenings and—”

“No.” Ferrin struck the anvil with the top of his hammer. “The gold I made from the king’s commission will be enough, if . . . I can’t believe I’m about to say this . . .” He lowered his head and stared at the smoldering length of metal waiting on the anvil. “If we are willing to put aside our plans of moving to a better district, and simply remain here.”

Myriah’s arms lowered, along with her brow. She cocked her head to the side as she sometimes did when trying to determine whether he was being serious or not. “Do you mean that? I know how much moving into one of the northern districts would mean to you.”

Ferrin smiled and removed the chain from his neck. He held it out between them and watched as the small crystal on the end dangled back and forth, reflecting the light of his kiln’s fire. He could already feel the presence of his magic diminish slightly. He had found that the farther away he was from the unique rock, the weaker his gift seemed to be.

“I’ll stop using it if that’s what you want.”

She smiled and quickly moved around the anvil in order to wrap her arms around his neck and plant 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. Ferrin smiled. “Unfortunately, bigger doesn’t always mean smarter.” She chuckled and planted a final pacifying kiss to his cheek before turning and heading for the door. There was a strong hint of victory in her steps.

Of the two, Myriah was definitely the more emotional. But, it was that same passion of spirit that made her so fiercely loyal. Once his sister set her mind and heart to something, there was little that could be done to dissuade her.

“Don’t forget today’s Sixth Day, and 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 repugnant face before closing the door behind her.

It was Sixth Day already? Ferrin glanced at the cooling piece of steel on his anvil and shrugged. The work could wait. He lifted one of the large buckets of water used for quenching and doused the kiln’s hearth. The coals immediately hissed and released a large 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 too happy with him if he had.

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