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Authors: Trudi Canavan

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Romance, #Magic, #Fantasy, #Young Adult, #Adventure, #Epic

The Magicians' Guild

BOOK: The Magicians' Guild
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This book is dedicated to my father,

Denis Canavan.

He provided the spark that lit the twin fires of curiosity and creativity.

Acknowledgements

Many people have given me valuable encouragement, support and constructive criticism during the writing of this trilogy. Thank you to:

Mum and Dad, for believing I could be whatever I wanted to be; Yvonne Hardingham, the big sister I never had; Paul Marshall, for his inexhaustible ability to reread; Steven Pemberton, for gallons of tea and some very silly suggestions; Anthony Mauriks, for the discussions on weaponry and demonstrations of fighting; Mike Hughes, who foolishly wants to be a character; Shelley Muir, for friendship and honesty; Julia Taylor, for her generosity, and Dirk Strasser, for giving it a go.

Also to Jack Dann, for giving me confidence in my writing when I needed it most; Jane Williams, Victoria Hammond, and especially Gail Bell for making me feel welcome among non-sf writers at the Varuna Writers’ Centre and Carol Boothman, for her wisdom.

And I couldn’t forget to thank Ann Jeffree. Paul Potiki, Donna Johansen, Sarah Endacott, Anthony Oakman, David and Michelle Le Blanc, and Les Petersen.

A warm thank you to Peter Bishop and the Varuna team. You helped me in ways too numerous to mention.

Last, but not least, a special thanks goes to Fran Bryson, my agent and hero, for taking the books that step further; and Linda Funnell, who said “yes, please!”

PART
ONE
Chapter 1
The Purge

It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow city streets because it is grieved by what it finds there. On the day of the Purge it whistled amongst the swaying masts in the Marina, rushed through the Western Gates and screamed between the buildings. Then, as if appalled by the ragged souls it met there, it quietened to a whimper.

Or so it seemed to Sonea. As another gust of cold wind battered her, she wrapped her arms around her chest and hugged her worn coat closer to her body. Looking down, she scowled at the dirty sludge that splashed over her shoes with each step she took. The cloth she had stuffed into her oversized boots was already saturated and her toes stung with the chill.

A sudden movement to her right caught her attention, and she side-stepped as a man with straggly gray hair staggered toward her from an alley entrance and fell to his knees. Stopping, Sonea offered him her hand, but the old man did not seem to notice. He clambered to his feet and joined the hunched figures making their way down the street.

Sighing, Sonea peered around the edge of her hood. A guard slouched in the entrance of the alley. His mouth was curled into a sneer of disdain; his gaze flitted from figure to figure. She narrowed her eyes at him, but when his head turned in her direction, she quickly looked away.

Curse the guards,
she thought.
May they all find poisonous faren crawling in their boots.
The names of a few good-natured guards pricked her conscience, but she was in no mood to make exceptions.

Falling into step with the shuffling figures around her, Sonea followed them out of the street into a wider thoroughfare. Two- and three-story houses rose on either side of them. The windows of the higher floors were crowded with faces. In one, a well-dressed man was holding up a small boy so he could watch the people below. The man’s nose wrinkled with disdain and, as he pointed his finger down, the boy grimaced as if he had tasted something foul.

Sonea glared at them.
Wouldn’t be so smug if I threw a rock through their window.
She looked about half-heartedly, but if any rocks were lying about, they were well hidden beneath the sludge.

A few steps farther on, she caught sight of a pair of guards ahead of her, standing in the entrance to an alley. Dressed in stiff boiled-leather coats and iron helmets, they looked to be twice the weight of the beggars they watched. They carried wooden shields, and at their waists hung kebin—iron bars which were used as cudgels, but with a hook attached just above the handle, designed to catch an attacker’s knife. Dropping her eyes to the ground, Sonea walked by the two men.

“—cut ‘em off before they reach the square,” one of the guards was saying. “About twenty of ‘em. Gang leader’s big. Got a scar on his neck and—”

Sonea’s heart skipped a beat. _Could it be … _?

A few steps past the guards was a recessed doorway. Slipping into the shallow alcove, she turned her head to sneak a look at the two men, then jumped as she saw two dark eyes staring back at her from the doorway.

A woman gazed at her, eyes wide with surprise. Sonea took a step back. The stranger retreated too, then smiled as Sonea let out a quick laugh.

Just a reflection!
Sonea reached out and her fingers met a square of polished metal attached to the wall. Words had been etched into its surface, but she knew too little about letters to make out what they said.

She examined her image. A thin, hollow-cheeked face. Short, dark hair. No one had ever called her pretty. She could still manage to pass herself off as a boy when she wanted to. Her aunt said that she looked more like her long-dead mother than her father, but Sonea suspected Jonna simply did not want to see any resemblance to her absent marriage-brother.

Sonea leaned closer to the reflection. Her mother had been beautiful. _ Perhaps, if I grew my hair long,_ she mused,
and I wore something feminine …

... oh, don’t bother.
With a self-mocking snort, she turned away, annoyed at herself for being distracted by such fantasies.

“—’bout twenty minutes ago,” said a nearby voice. She stiffened as she remembered why she had stepped into the alcove.

“And where are they expectin’ to trap ‘em?”

“D’know, Mol.”

“Ah, I’d like to be there. Saw what they did to Porlen last year, little bastards. Took several weeks for the rash to go away, and he couldn’t see properly for days. Wonder if I can get out of—Hai! Wrong way, boy!”

Sonea ignored the soldier’s shout, knowing that he and his companion would not leave their position at the entrance of the alley, in case the people in the street took advantage of their distraction to slip away. She broke into a jog, weaving through the steadily thickening crowd. From time to time, she paused to search for familiar faces.

She had no doubt which gang the guards had been talking about. Stories of what Harrin’s youths had done during the last Purge had been retold over and over through the harsh winter of the previous year. It had amused her to hear that her old friends were still making mischief, though she had to agree with her aunt that she was better off keeping away from their troublemaking. Now it seemed the guards were planning to have their revenge.

Which only proves Jonna right.
Sonea smiled grimly.
She’d flay me if she knew what I was doing, but I have to warn Harrin.
She scanned the crowd again.
It’s not like I’m going to rejoin the gang. I only have to find a watcher

there!

In the shadows of a doorway, a youth slouched, glowering at his surroundings with sullen hostility. Despite his apparent disinterest, his gaze shifted from one alley entrance to another. As his gaze met hers, Sonea reached up to adjust her hood and made what would be taken to be a crude sign by most. His eyes narrowed, and he quickly signed back.

the crowd and stopped a few steps away from the door, pretending to adjust the binding of her boot.

“Who’re you with?” he asked, looking away.

“No one.”

“You used an old sign.”

“Haven’t been about for a while.”

He paused. “What you want?”

“Heard the guards talking,” she told him. “Plan to catch someone.”

The watcher made a rude noise. “And why should I believe you?”

“I used to know Harrin,” she replied, straightening.

The boy considered her for a moment, then stepped out of the alcove and grabbed her arm. “Let’s see if he remembers you, then.”

Sonea’s heart skipped as he began to pull her into the crowd. The mud was slippery, and she knew she would end up sprawling in it if she tried to brace her feet. She muttered a curse.

“You don’t have to take me to him,” she said. “Just tell him my name. He’ll know I wouldn’t mess him about.”

The boy ignored her. Guards eyed them suspiciously as they passed. Sonea twisted her arm, but the boy’s grip was strong. He pulled her into a side street.

“Listen to me,” she said. “My name is Sonea. He knows me. So does Cery.”

“Then you won’t mind seeing him again,” the boy tossed over his shoulder.

The side street was crowded, and the people seemed to be in a hurry. She grabbed a lamppost and pulled him to a halt.

“I can’t go with you. I have to meet my aunt. Let me go—”

The press of people ended as the crowd passed and continued down the street. Sonea looked up and groaned.

“Jonna’s going to kill me.”

A line of guards stretched across the street, shields held high. Several youths paced before them, shouting insults and jibes. As Sonea watched, one threw a small object at the guards. The missile struck a shield and exploded into a cloud of red dust. A cheer erupted from the youths as the guards backed away a few steps.

Several paces back from the youths stood two familiar figures. One was taller and bulkier than she remembered, standing with his hands on his hips. Two years of growth had erased Harrin’s boyish looks but from his stance, she guessed that little else had changed. He had always been the undisputed leader of the gang, quick to smarten up anyone with a well-placed fist.

Beside him was a youth almost half his size. Sonea could not help smiling. Cery had not grown at all since she had last seen him, and she knew how much that would annoy him. Despite his small stature, Cery had always been respected in the gang because his father had worked for the Thieves.

As the watcher pulled her closer, she saw Cery lick a finger and hold it high, then nod. Harrin gave a shout. The youths pulled small bundles from their clothes and hurled them at the guards. A cloud of red billowed from the shields, and Sonea grinned as the men began to curse and cry out in pain.

Then, from an alley behind the guards, a lone figure stepped into the street. Sonea looked up and her blood froze.

“Magician!” she gasped.

The boy at her side drew in a sharp breath as he too saw the robed figure. “Hai! Magician!” he shouted. The youths and guards straightened and turned toward the newcomer.

Then all staggered back as a hot gust of wind battered them. An unpleasant smell filled Sonea’s nostrils, and her eyes began to sting as the red dust was blown into her face. The wind ceased abruptly, and all was silent and still.

Rubbing tears away, Sonea blinked at the ground, hoping for some clean snow to ease the sting. Only mud surrounded her, smooth and unbroken by footprints. But that couldn’t be right. As her vision cleared, she saw it was marked with fine ripples—all radiating out from the magician’s feet.

“Go!” Harrin bellowed. At once the youths sprang away from the guards and fled past Sonea. With a yelp, the watcher pulled her around and dragged her after them.

Her mouth went dry as she saw that another line of guards waited at the end of the street. This was the trap!
And I’ve gone and got myself caught with them!

The watcher pulled her along, following Harrin’s gang as the youths raced toward the guards. As they drew close, the guards lifted their shields in anticipation. A few strides from the line, the youths veered into an alleyway. Following on their heels, Sonea noted a pair of uniformed men lying slumped against a wall by the entrance.

“Duck!” a familiar voice shouted.

A hand grabbed her and pulled her down. She winced as her knees struck the cobblestones under the mud. Hearing cries behind her, she looked back to see a mass of arms and shields filling the narrow gap between the buildings, a cloud of red dust billowing around them.

“Sonea?”

The voice was familiar and full of amazement. She looked up, and grinned as she saw Cery crouching beside her.

“She told me the guards were planning an ambush,” the watcher told him.

Cery nodded. “We knew.” A smile spread slowly across his face, then his eyes flickered past her to the guards, and the smile vanished. “Come on, everyone. Time to go!”

He took her hand, pulled her to her feet and led her between the youths bombarding the guards. As they did, a flash of light filled the alley with a blinding whiteness.

“What was that?” Sonea gasped, trying to brink away the image of the narrow street which seemed to hang before her eyes.

“The magician,” Cery hissed.

“Run!” Harrin bellowed nearby. Half blind, Sonea stumbled forward. A body slammed into her back and she fell. Cery grasped her arms, pulled her to her feet, and guided her onward.

They leapt out of the alley and Sonea found herself back on the main street. The youths slowed, lifting hoods and hunching their backs as they spread amongst the crowd. Sonea followed suit, and for several minutes she and Cery walked in silence. A tall figure moved to Cery’s side and peered around the edge of his hood to regard her.

BOOK: The Magicians' Guild
10.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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