It is nearly twelve Lantiran months since Ruth Watson found herself Mage Prime of the multiverse. But there are some in the multiverse who are not happy about the rising influence of the Guardians and in particular those Guardians who are talented. In fact there are people whose fear and suspicion of those with magical talents becomes an obsession.Ruth faces a new and even greater challenge which tests her powers to the extreme.
Set in the multiverse, which was introduced in Situation Vacant. It is nearly twelve Lantiran months since Ruth Watson found herself Mage Prime of the multiverse. Comfortable now in her powers she focuses on the search for a cure for her son, emotionally damaged in the final conflict between the Guardians and the Selador Sorceresses at Zantas. With the threat of Sorceresses forever removed, the Security Council and the Guardians can begin to re-establish their role in maintaining the equilibrium between good and evil in the myriad worlds of the six parallel universes that make up the multiverse. Alongside this businesslike activity, Ruth and Richard, the Duke of Bardshelm circle around each other seeking an opportunity to rekindle their damaged relationship. In the College of Wizards, the head of the College, Orselon, and his colleague Tragentius continue to research the power of Ruth’s locus crystal.
But there are some in the multiverse who are not happy about the rising influence of the Guardians and in particular those Guardians who are talented. In fact there are people whose fear and suspicion of those with magical talents becomes an obsession – madness even. One such is Ruge; a brilliant engineer who feels his life has been ruined by a Talent. His hatred and jealousy drive him to found the Purity Movement, an extreme group dedicated to undermining the Guardians, preventing inter racial marriage, and ultimately destroying the talented. The Movement has infiltrated most of the known worlds and Ruge is preparing to publicly announce his ‘mission’. But because technology doesn’t work in magical parallels, he can only succeed if he has access to some magical abilities. Traitorous Talents are drawn to his cause but ultimately it is the magical Dreamwood from Lantira that will give him and his followers the power they seek.
The newly established trade in Dreamwood is bringing prosperity back to the people of Roth, and its Earl, Gramas is determined that the rare wood will go where it is most needed by the Guardians. The Security Council monitor all exports and when shipments of the wood start to go missing, Gillano, Ruth and Orselon along with the rest of the Security Council face a difficult task in finding the thieves. What they uncover is only the tip of the iceberg. The extent of racial hatred on the physical worlds is spiralling out of control and the Security Council and the Guardians face conflict on all fronts if they cannot turn the tide. In the midst of this all Ruth still searches for the cure for her son Will. She also deepens her understanding of her own powers and their limits. These are tested in the extreme when those close to her, Amariel of the faerie and her human fiancé Makro are stranded on a physical world at the mercy of the Purity Movement’s leaders.
Among the talented Guardians there are those who would use their talents to subdue the physical worlds and maintain the myth and secrecy of their existence. Strife breaks out in the College and sides are taken. Even the magical worlds begin to be affected by the Purity Movement and, once again the Balance tips dangerously close to disaster. Tapping the power of the long lost Pelarians; Ruth pushes her talent to even greater levels. In doing so she creates a wider understanding and acceptance of magic throughout the multiverse and takes the Guardians to the next stage in their evolution. Another step in the great plan laid down by the Pelarians eons before.
Amantis, The City of Sabon. Late Summer 5455 Tempus Parallel
Fetho Garze was a happy man. He whistled as he walked through the late evening streets. He had been dining with an old friend and fellow wine merchant on the other side of the city and was feeling well fed and extremely well imbued with the effects of some rare wines. The evening had been gratifying to say the least as Fetho had had the opportunity to regale his old friend with tales of his recent achievements. The admiring and astonished comments from his friend had suitably massaged his ego. Since he had joined forces with Gillano, the Lantiran Earl of Parnasia, his already successful business had become so profitable he was contemplating buying or establishing new vineyards and warehouses. In addition, he had just returned from a visit to Zantas where he had been quickly convinced to invest in the redevelopment of the old city. He could see that Scortha, the new leader of the Zantas community had become a shrewd businessman since giving up piracy. Added to these fortuitous events, his beloved adopted son Makro was betrothed to the delightful Amariel, a member of the Security Council and daughter of Darantiel, the leader of the Faerie. Fetho was captivated by Amariel and the idea of she and Makro having a brood of grandchildren for him to spoil made him a very contented man. He was a little uncertain about whether they would be human or Faerie and, despite Amariel’s detailed explanations of mixed race genetics and how talent was and wasn’t inherited, he had a tiny concern that he might find his staid merchant family welcoming a spell-casting infant with wings into its midst. Nevertheless, all was well in Fetho’s world.
The sky was turning deep purple as the two moons of Amantis, one blue and one red, rose in the east. The sun had long set and the rich
moonlight cast long indigo shadows in the already gloomy streets. Occasional torches sited in door brackets provided welcome islands of light in the dark tunnel of the street.
Absorbed in his thoughts, Fetho didn’t notice the sound of soft-soled feet behind him. He did, however, hear the sharp intake of breath as an arm wielding a cudgel rose behind his head. He almost managed to turn in time to see his assailant before the dense wood struck him solidly on the temple. The last thing he was aware of as he fell to the cobbles was an unfamiliar, pungent smell.
The insistent pushing of a cold, canine nose was the first thing that registered on his consciousness. This was followed closely by the pounding of huge drums somewhere close by. It took him several attempts to get into a sitting position where he could cradle his head in his hands before he realised the pounding was in his head not outside of it. A black and white dog with obvious terrier ancestry sat patiently in the middle of the quiet street and looked at him expectantly; waiting with head cocked to one side, as though it felt that its services to this particular representative of mankind deserved acknowledgement. Preferably of the edible variety.
“And what do you want?” Fetho winced as the sound reverberated around his skull.
The dog continued to look unreasonably happy and expectant. Fetho slowly pushed himself up to his feet and leaned against the wall of the nearest house. He was having trouble focussing and the outlines of the buildings seemed to waver. Random flashes of light appeared in the centre of his vision every time he moved his head.
The dog considered this sign of activity to be extremely positive and, by way of encouragement, let out a helpful bark. Fetho, just trying to re-establish his vision and quieten the sudden input of an entire timpani section, didn’t see the window open and gasped as the contents of a chamber pot landed squarely on his head.
“Take that ye stinking cur. Honest citizens can’t get any rest these days what with foreign beings jabbering away in the night and now its mangy dogs. The Satrap should do something….” The window closed and the voice could be heard mumbling into the distance as its irritated owner retired once more to her bed.
Staggering, stinking and nauseous, Fetho slowly felt his way along
the pavement and turned the corner into his own street. He pulled the bell chain by his front door and slipped down the doorpost to sit again with his head in his hands. Seemingly hours passed before he heard the bolts being drawn. The door was opened an inch.
“Hebur, it’s me.” Fetho managed to croak to his ancient major domo. Hebur pulled the door wide open and stood in his nightshirt holding up his candle. He stared at his master in dismay and disbelief. Then he reached inside the door and pulled the rope of the alarm bell.