Sovereign of the Seven Isles 7: Reishi Adept

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reishi Adept

Sovereign of the
Seven Isles: Book Seven

 

by

 

David A. Wells

 

REISHI ADEPT

 

Copyright © 2014 by David A. Wells

 

All rights reserved.

 

Edited by Carol L. Wells

 

This is a work of fiction. Characters, events and organizations in this novel are creations of the author’s imagination.

 

www.SovereignOfTheSevenIsles.com

 

 

 

 

 

To Mom.

Contents

Chapter 1

 

“They’re coming,”
Jack said.

Alexander sat up, wincing in pain from his leg
wound. “That didn’t take long,” he said, taking Luminessence from its resting place next to his bed. Using it for a crutch, he leveraged himself to his feet.

Anja
stood at the open door of the Wizard’s Den, her seemingly oversized broadsword held easily in one hand, belying the appearance that she was a teenage girl.

Jataan lay
unconscious, Lita’s healing magic doing its work while she sat at his side willing him to recover from the injuries he’d suffered in the underdark.

Chloe buzzed into existence in a ball of light, orb
iting Alexander’s head nervously. “There’s darkness among them, My Love.”

“Probably Nero,” Alexander said, limping to the door and
steadying himself with his free hand on Anja’s back before hobbling to the edge of the temple ruin.

“Lend me your eyes, Little One,” he said silently.

Alexander had hoped they would have more time. He’d expected the Babachenko and the Acuna wizards to take longer to regroup. He was disappointed on both counts.

A small army was assembling on the flat circle of stone that used to be the fabled city of
Mithel Dour. Just yesterday, it had been the Andalian seat of power—unassailable from its perch high above the plains below. Now it was simply gone. The Linkershim had been complete in their unbuilding of Mithel Dour, perhaps the oldest city in the Seven Isles, a place constructed with unmatched grace and beauty, magical in every sense of the word … and Alexander had destroyed it. He felt a pang of guilt, not for the people who’d lived here, they were thoroughly detestable, but for the loss of such a magnificent piece of history. Mithel Dour predated the ascension of humanity. It had been a work of art. Now it was nothing but an artificial plateau littered with the furniture, clothing, and other belongings left behind by its fleeing inhabitants.

The lake that had once been held at bay by the palace itself
had been reduced to a mountain stream flowing through ruins onto the plateau, meandering around the abandoned clutter in a thousand rivulets before trickling off the edge.

“Looks like about two hundred soldiers with a handful of wizards among them,” Alexander said.

“Fortunately, the path leading up here starts at the palace level,” Jack said. “It’ll probably take them a while to climb the debris field.”

“Not nearly enough
time,” Alexander said. “I was really hoping we’d have a few days to heal—that and I need to have a look around the world.”

“We might be able to elude them if we go deeper into the mountains and hide inside the Wizard’s Den
.”

Alexander
shook his head. “The Babachenko is guiding them. We have to run.”


I’m not sure you’re up to that,” Jack said, gesturing toward his leg.

“Me neither,” Alexander m
uttered. “We’re going to need some help.”

He winced slightly as he turned back to his Wizard’s Den.

Despite the pain of sitting cross-legged, Alexander easily slipped into the firmament and found Kiera checking the straps on her saddle.

“Report,” he said, appearing beside her.

“Lord Reishi,” Kiera said with a respectful nod. “We’ve destroyed about half of the shipyards but we’ve received reports of a large force of Lancers moving to defend what remains, so we’re falling back to the forest to consolidate our position.”

“Good
. Looks like Talia’s plan worked.”

“Only partially. They managed to
save most of their ships.”

Alexander shrugged. “No plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Some damage to their shipyards is better than none.”

“Were you successful?” she asked.

“More
so than I expected,” Alexander said. “The force lances are powerless and Mithel Dour is no more.”

She cocked her head quizzically. “You destroyed the city?”

“I had a hand in it. And the Andalians aren’t too happy about it, which brings me to the reason for my visit. We need a ride.”

“My wing rider and I will be in the air within the hour. Where will we find you?”

“In the mountains east of the city’s remains,” Alexander said. “Roar when you get close … you’ll see my light.”

“Understood.”

“Thank you, Kiera,” he said, fading back into the firmament.

He remained there for a few moments, weighing his options. There was so much he needed to do, yet every moment he spent in the firmament was one less moment he
had to distance himself from the small army moving his way.

He opened his eyes with a sense of renewed frustration welling up in his belly. He wanted to see Isabel,
he wanted to tell his father that the Lancers were crippled, and he wanted to check on the state of the battle for Fellenden, but he needed to flee. And with his leg only partially healed, the sooner he set out, the better his chances of escape.

Jack and
Anja were outside watching the progress of the advancing enemy while Lita sat at Jataan’s side. She kissed him on the forehead and followed Alexander out into the morning sun, leaving Jataan to rest and heal in the safety of the Wizard’s Den.

Two paths led from the open
-air temple, one heading to the remnants of the palace, the other leading deeper into the rugged mountain range rising up out of the heart of the Andalian continent. The first leg of the mountain trail led down, but quickly leveled out, running along a ridgeline that gradually began to rise toward an even taller peak in the distance.

“We shou
ld wait here and kill them,” Anja said. “The path is narrow enough that their numbers wouldn’t matter.”

“If Jataan and I were well enough to fight, and if they didn’t have wizards with them, I might agree, but under the circumstances our best option is flight.”

“I’m tired of running from these people,” she said, her brow deeply furrowed.

“Me too, but we have little to gain by fighting them.”

“So what’s the plan?” Jack asked.

“Kiera’s coming to pick us up,” Alexander said. “We’ll find someplace safe where we can heal and I can do some scouting, then we’ll make for the Gate and
go to Karth.”

“You’re just going to let the Babachenko live?” Anja asked.

“For now,” Alexander said.

“But he deserves to die.”

“Yes, he does, but his death isn’t nearly as important to me as Isabel’s life.”

She shook her head. “I just don’t understand. You’re at war with these people, yet you avoid fighting them every chance you get.”

“Fighting them and defeating them are two different things. If we killed ten thousand of their soldiers, it wouldn’t weaken them in the least, but destroying Mithel Dour and undoing the force lances has crippled them.”

Alexander set out before she could voice another objection, smiling to himself at the frown creasing her brow as she turned his words over in her young mind.
It wasn’t long before his full attention was fixated on the rhythmic stabs of pain in his leg. Each step hurt. Worse still, each step set back his recovery, aggravating his wound and undoing the healing he’d already done.

Objectively, he knew that each step brought him closer to the looming mountain pe
ak ahead, but it seemed as if he were walking in place. The sun was high in the sky when the path became a series of staircases cut into the stone.

“They’ve reached the temple,” Jack said.

Alexander stopped, steadying himself with Luminessence, and sent his mind to Chloe. It looked like an advance team, probably the Babachenko’s most dangerous men, and they were about an hour away. If he pushed himself, they might make the mountain top before the enemy reached them.

“Keep an eye
on them,” he said, willing himself through the pain to move faster. The world narrowed down to a simple duality—the next step and the pain he would have to endure to claim it.

He reached the top in a trance. It took a moment to realize that there wasn’t another step.
The scene before him had scarcely registered, but as it did, his entire attention was captured in an instant. The mountaintop had been perfectly leveled, creating a platform just over a hundred feet wide and half again as long. A perfect, double-ringed circle a hundred feet in diameter had been cut into the granite floor. Magical symbols of ancient and arcane origin filled the space between the circles. Seven arches of stone, spaced equally around the circle, gracefully swept up to join at an apex a hundred feet overhead, forming the illusion of a dome. In the center was a raised stone dais.


Who’s that?” Anja asked, interrupting his fevered thoughts, pulling him back to the present moment with the sheer intensity of her tone.

“Nero,” Alexander said, adjusting his grip on Luminessence and drawing the Thinblade.
The wraithkin was at the base of the stairs, moving blink by blink toward them.

“Back up at least
thirty feet,” Alexander said, giving Anja a look that forestalled any protest. She grudgingly obeyed. Jack tossed up his hood and vanished. Lita cast her shield spell. Alexander waited at the top of the stairs while his friends spread out behind him.

Nero stopped fifteen feet away, eyeing Alexander warily.
“You have Tyr’s Thinblade,” he said.

“It was never his
.”

“I suspect he believes otherwise.”

Alexander cocked his head, smiling. “Why haven’t you attacked? We both know you didn’t come all this way to talk.”

Nero scowled, visceral hatred momentarily contorting his face. “You have nowhere to run
and Master would prefer that you be delivered alive. Yasim and his men won’t be long.”

He was right about that, the Royal Assassin and six men had reached the
bottom of the stairs.

“Believe it or not, I’m glad you’re here, Nero. I have a theory I’ve been wanting to test.” Alexander closed his eyes and willed Luminessence to pulse with a kind of brilliance that transcended natural light, illuminating the world in a flash that marked that moment in time, filling it with light potent enough to wash away even the most pernicious darkness.

Nero screamed, a mix of demon shriek and human death wail. In the stark relief of Alexander’s light, the tendril stretching through the aether from the Wraith Queen to Nero was revealed, a black thread anchored to the wraithkin’s soul. Azugorath claimed that dark and broken soul as she retreated from the light, howling in fury and pain.

G
rievous wounds opened across Nero’s body, a stab here, a slash there, all of them spilling his lifeblood onto the stairs. He slumped forward, trying to right himself but slipping in his own blood and falling hard, struggling against too much injury, desperately fighting for one more breath.

“Huh, that worked better than I thought it would,”
Alexander muttered.

The Royal Assassin
and his men had stopped halfway up the series of staircases and he was casting a spell. A cloud of darkness began to form before them, amorphous, swirling and undulating, advancing ahead of them. Slowly, it moved up the stairs, obscuring a direct line of sight, possibly limiting the advantage Luminessence gave Alexander in a fight.

Alexander turned away from the stairs and stopped in his tracks. The magic circle and the stone arches were all glowing with soft white light
, but more than that, their colors revealed that this ancient shrine had become imbued with powerful magic, light and pure. He strode toward the center, feeling a warm and reassuring wave of magical energy dance over his skin as he stepped across the twin circles.

His friends followed silently—even Jack was speechless as the
y approached the central dais. It was a circular well twenty feet in diameter and two feet high filled with rich black soil. The faint image of a fallen tree stained the floor, as if, a very long time ago, a great tree had stood in the well.

“A vitalwood
,” Alexander whispered. “The fay must have revered them.”

Anja pointed her broadsword at the approaching cloud of darkness.
“Can we kill them now?” she asked.

“We’ll let the
m come to us,” Alexander said, “but yes, we can kill them now.”

The cloud
of darkness approached slowly, Yasim and his men huddling behind it, but as it met the magic circle, it evaporated, leaving the Royal Assassin and his band of murderers exposed. Yasim stood a few feet outside the threshold of the circle, flanked by his men, and began casting another spell.

Inky darkness
flowed from his hands like black water splattering forth toward them, but when it passed into the domain of the magic circle, it vanished as if it had never even existed.

“Kill them!” Yasim barked.

Four of his six men advanced into the circle, flinching slightly when they crossed the glowing lines beneath their feet, then spreading out to attack from multiple angles. Alexander recognized the two who remained behind—Chief Overseers, mage wizards in their own right.

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