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New Series

Now that WAR OF MAGIC is launched into the world,

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it’s time to move on to the new series I’ve been working on.

I haven’t settled on a series title yet, but the first book in the series will be BECOME.

Become 5

It’s loosely based on the Greek legend of Hercules (not Disney’s version) turned on its head (son of the earth goddess rather than the sky god, etc.). What fascinated me most about Hercules’s story is that while he was very good at dealing with monsters and certain other sticky situations, his personal life was a shambles. That was Hera’s fault, true. But when Hercules becomes a god at the end of the legendary cycle, what exactly about his life prepared him for that? And that’s the central problem of my series.

But, like Hercules, my hero has a half brother born at nearly the same time. And, unlike Hercules, their relationship as sometime rivals turned trusted friends (but maybe that early rivalry isn’t completely forgotten–on one side, anyway) is going to be a big part of the story. Which requires that some of what would normally be backstory–stuff that happened in their childhoods that affects that relationship–has to be shown.

Starting with the childhood history doesn’t work, though. It takes too long to get to the main story that way. So this will be an interesting experiment in telling a non-linear story. A story that sometimes (hopefully not too often) has to take a detour into the past.

In order not to interrupt the main story too often, I need to be careful in choosing which events really are important. I just deleted one entire chapter earlier this week.

Maybe I’ll use it on the blog when it comes closer to time to release this story.

One More Scene

WAR OF MAGIC releases on Tuesday! Only two more days to get it at the special pre-order price of only $0.99.

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So, here’s one more scene to whet your appetite.

Theklan sat with his back to an old pear tree in the middle of one of the lawns of the Academy and sharpened his spear. Not that he needed a sharp spear here, but it was a way of working out his frustration and anger. He’d tried for the third time to pass on Zoria’s warning about the Exiles’ intentions. Not that the Valson would be ready for a fight if—when—it came to them, but he couldn’t even get a hearing before the Valson Council. The few people who had pretended to listen to him dismissed him as just a boy worrying over fantasies.

Before he’d left the Dardani last summer, he’d already been recognized as a grown man. No one there would have just dismissed his warning. And, if he were still with the Dardani, his chosen people, they could have been warned of this threat. At least they’d be prepared to try to do something about it, even if they weren’t able to counter the Exiles’ magic. He should be there to help with that.

At least the spear helped him feel less disconnected from where he belonged. It was a Dardani weapon and Vatar had made it for him. He could feel a tingle of Vatar’s magic in the spearhead, whispering protection. But that life was far away, over the mountains and on the other side of the forest. Most of all, he belonged with Kiara.

“What’s that for?”

Theklan looked up to see Sharila, his study partner, standing over him. He sighed. “Nothing. It just reminds me of home.”

Sharila reached out to touch the point of the spear. She hissed and pulled her hand back, sucking on the tip of her finger. “Seems like a pretty dangerous memento to me.”

“It’s not a memento. This spear was meant to be used—to hunt, to protect against predators, to fight in battle. And, apart from its intended uses, it’s not dangerous if you don’t do something stupid like trying to test the edge with your finger.”

“I’d never seen a spear before,” Sharila protested.

Theklan huffed a bitter chuckle. “Why does that not surprise me?”

Sharila walked around, to the side away from the spear point, and sat down next to him. “What does that mean?”

He really shouldn’t blame Sharila for her ignorance. He’d probably known less when he followed Thekila and Vatar out of the Valley for the first time. It was only seeing it now, after living on the sea coast in Caere and especially after living on the plains among the Dardani, that the Valley seemed so . . . spineless. Theklan let the spear rest across his knees and gestured around the perfect grounds of the Academy. “No one here would know how to use a spear. Or any other weapon. Oh, maybe a few hunters up in the mountains. Even they wouldn’t know how to fight. They can’t imagine having to fight. Even when I try to warn them about what the Exiles plan, they won’t listen.”

“What you say the Exiles plan,” Sharila corrected.

Theklan ground his teeth. “No, what Z—” He cut himself off before using Zoria’s name. No knowing if the Exiles were actually still in contact with anyone in the Valley through Far Speech. And it wouldn’t do to expose her real purpose. “What Thekila—and Teran and Terania, the Valson emissaries to Caere—say they’re planning. What they’ve told me to pass on to the Valson Council.” He shook his head. “Sharila, if they’re not stopped first, they’re going to come over that Pass at the head of an army. And nobody here will even know how to resist. And the Council won’t even hear me out.”

“Well, it would be unusual for the Council to take advice from a boy—”

Theklan surged to his feet and paced in front of her. “I’m not a boy. I passed my manhood test among the Dardani before I came here. Even before that, since I got my Clan Mark at my initiation,” he paused to put a hand over the place where his tunic hid the feather tattoo on his left breast, over his heart, “I’ve had the right to be heard in my clan councils or the tribal council. But the Valson Council can’t even be bothered to let me relay a message. A message—from their own emissaries—meant to warn them so they can save themselves.” He stopped and kicked at a stone. “And I’m getting very tired of being treated like I can’t be trusted to put on my own boots without supervision.”

“It’s not that bad,” Sharila said.

“No? Your brother just denied me permission to go to the City to try for another chance to be heard. I’m restricted to the Academy grounds, according to him.” Theklan turned toward the mountains and the Pass, now blocked with winter snow, trapping him here. “If I could figure out a way to take my spear with me, I’d fly over that Pass and never look back. I don’t belong here.” An empty threat. Not just because the Pass was closed with snow until the spring thaw. He’d only come here to learn better control of his magic—specifically so he could help fight the Exiles. He had to stay until he’d accomplished that—but not one day longer.

By spring. Because the Exiles would be on the move then, attacking Caere. It wasn’t hard to figure out that the coastal city was just a stepping stone to the Dardani—and then here. And being able to help defend the Dardani was the reason he’d agreed to come back to the Valley in the first place.

Sharila drew in a breath sharply. “We can’t even go up in the mountains to practice your flying?”

Theklan snorted. That would be the one thing she worried about out of everything he’d told her. “Oh, he made an exception for that. As long as we let him know in advance. He wants to be the teacher who instructed only the third Valson to learn to fly.” He gripped the spear tighter. “As soon as that Pass opens in the spring, I’m leaving this place. And I’m never coming back.” A chill in his belly cooled the fire of his determination. Except that he didn’t know whether he’d be welcome back among the Dardani, who had an irrational fear of magic. And the shaman had seen him use his Powers. He hoped Vatar would find a way to make that right. It didn’t matter, though. If he had to go back to Caere, it would be better than this. Or . . . a new thought occurred to him. Orleus needed help to the south in Tysoe, where the Exiles and the Themyri had attacked the outposts last year. Maybe he could go there. It wouldn’t be home—only the Dardani could ever be that for him—but it would be at least away from here and on the edge of the plains. And not Caere.

“Sharlin won’t like that,” Sharila said.

“You know what? I don’t really care. He’s welcome to try to stop me—if he thinks he can.”

“What about showing him—and me—about this Spirit magic, then?”

Theklan turned back to her. Another recruit—or two—for the coming war could make all the difference. “You could come with me. Or you and Sharlin could follow later.”

Her mouth twisted to one side in a kind of grimace. “What would we do out there?”

Theklan restrained himself from reaching for her hand. That could be . . . misconstrued. But he looked directly into her eyes, willing her to understand, to agree. “Help fight the Exiles so they don’t reach the Valley.”

Sharila made a rude noise. “You just got through saying that no one here has any idea how to fight.”

“I could teach you. Orleus taught me—he’s Captain of the Tysoean Guard.” Theklan paused, staring back at the dormitory buildings, a slow smile growing on his face. “In fact, I could teach any of the students who want to learn. Maybe then there’d be at least a few who could fight back against the Exiles.”

“Why would the teachers allow that?” she asked.

Theklan shrugged, turning his gaze back to her. “It’s good exercise.” He was already constructing drills in his imagination. He’d start with staves. Easy to make, with all the wood available around the Academy grounds. And it was the first weapon Orleus had taught him to use. Then . . . maybe bows.

As we near release day next Tuesday, here’s another scene from WAR OF MAGIC.

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Vatar’s concentration was shattered by an angry shriek. He jerked and his hammer landed a hand span away from where he intended, on an empty part of the anvil instead of where it would help shape the spear point he was working on.

He dropped the hammer, which missed his foot by less distance than it had missed the hot metal, left the unfinished spear on the anvil, and ran out of his workshop. The cry had been Savara’s, no question. It wasn’t fear, but Vatar didn’t think he’d ever heard his daughter that angry. What could have happened?

The squeal was not repeated, but he followed Savara’s voice to the far side of the barn. There was a disused corner of the yard there, in a wedge between the barn and the fence that divided their farm from the neighbor’s. Once, Theklan had used it to hide from lessons and chores. Then it had been used for some experiments into the properties of Vatar’s magical shield. That was back when he’d still been hiding what he was even here in Caere, where magic was accepted. Most recently, it had been the first place Thekila had seen him take the form of an eagle and measured him for his flight training harness. He hadn’t thought the twins were quite old enough to want such a hideaway, yet.

Something struck the side of the barn just as Vatar turned the corner and he ducked instinctively. A small stone rattled down the barn wall. Another stone, presumably better aimed, struck a small heap of black feathers not far from Savara’s feet. Zavar stood at a little distance, watching the boy on the other side of the fence with clenched fists.

“Stop it!” Savara yelled. “You’re hurting it.”

“That’s the idea,” said the other boy. He looked to be about ten to Vatar. “Actually,” he said as he readied another rock, “the real point is to kill them.”

Savara bent and scooped up the injured bird, cradling it to her chest. “You’re horrible.”

Vatar winced. The bird was badly injured, likely dying, but that didn’t mean it still couldn’t deliver a vicious bite. And ravens had powerful beaks.

“Why?” the boy demanded. “They eat our crops. We have to drive them off.”

Savara glared at him. “He was off. He’s on our side. And I won’t let you kill him.”

The boy shrugged. “If I don’t, he’ll just come back when I’m not there to drive him off.”

Vatar stepped forward. “We have no right to tell you how to defend your own fields—ever. But if you throw one more rock across that fence, I’ll be having words with your father.”

The boy took one look at Vatar and ran back across the field toward his farmhouse. Zavar bent to pick up one of the rocks, but at a look from Vatar he dropped it again, putting his hands behind his back.

“He’s a mean boy,” Savara said, watching his retreat.

Vatar agreed, but he didn’t say so. He glanced back to the Dardani-style whirligigs he’d made to defend Thekila’s vegetable garden from the birds by frightening them off. Of course, the Raven was one of the Dardani’s protective spirits. No one wanted to kill a raven unless it was absolutely necessary, especially not the members of the Raven Clan, who would have to undergo a month of purges to expiate the guilt of such an act. Good thing he wasn’t Raven Clan, because he was going to have to wring that poor bird’s neck, to end its suffering.

Vatar knelt down in front of Savara, so that his eyes were nearly on her level, and held out his hands. “Savara, that bird is dying. Give it to me and I’ll make sure it doesn’t suffer any more than it already has.”

Savara twisted away so that her hands, holding the injured bird, were as far away from her father as she could get them and still look Vatar in the eye. “No. He’s not going to die. I saved him.”

Vatar drew in a deep breath. “Savara, birds have very delicate bones. He’s certainly got a broken wing. He’ll never fly again. Probably other injuries, too. He’ll die anyway. This way is easier for him.”

“No.” Savara stamped her foot. “I won’t let him die.”

Vatar shook his head, searching for an argument that would persuade a tender-hearted five year old. He blinked and stared at her hands. Something was happening, something that looked and felt like . . . magic.

After a moment, the bird started struggling against Savara’s grip and she opened her hands. The raven righted itself on her open palms and flew away. Zavar watched it go.

“Savara, what did you do?” Vatar asked in a shocked whisper.

The little girl shrugged her shoulders. “I fixed him.”

Vatar swallowed hard and forced himself to smile. “Well, then. That must have taken a lot of energy. Maybe you’d better head to the kitchen and see if Thekila has a snack for you.”

Savara grinned and ran off toward the house, two steps ahead of her twin.

Vatar sat back on his heels and ran a shaky hand through his hair. He should contact Boreala. His half-sister was a Healer, she’d know better than he did what Savara had just done. And then . . . and then what? Surely Savara was too young to begin training.

He turned to watch the children as they ran up the two steps to the kitchen door. Vatar blinked, suddenly aware that the impulse to follow them with his eyes had not been his. Taleus?

She’s so like my Calpe.

That sent a shiver down Vatar’s spine. But . . . Savara had inherited her mother’s coloring. Her hair was more tawny than her mother’s golden blonde and she had gotten her grey eyes from Vatar, but she didn’t look anything like the images of Calpe he’d seen. What do you mean? I don’t think she even looks very Fasallon.

Oh, not in looks, Taleus answered. It’s just . . . that’s exactly what Calpe would have done. There was a long pause. And that’s not a very common Talent.

Vatar could almost feel Taleus thinking. What?

Remember when I told you that, for as long as I’ve been with you you’ve never encountered anyone who could undo what Calpe did to lock away our descendants’ Talents? All but yours, that is.

Yes. Vatar answered.

I may have been mistaken, Taleus said.

Vatar stared at the door where his children had disappeared into the house. Savara?

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It’s harder than you might think to find scenes that can stand on their own without much context. But here’s another one from WAR OF MAGIC to whet your appetite for the whole story.

A few days later, they stood at the top of the bluff at the end of the northern headland. They’d last been here when they were helping to unblock the shipping channel following a landslide. It had been hard enough looking down at the turbulent waters at the mouth of the bay then. Now, he was going to actually have to try to fly out over all that water. Vatar swallowed hard.

Thekila patted his chest and held up the metal-studded leather straps she’d had made. “Don’t worry. If anything goes wrong, I’ll catch you by this harness. It worked for Quetza and me. It’s been working for Theklan, by his reports. It’ll work for you, too. I’m very good at distant manipulation, remember?”

Meaning that she would use her magic to keep him from falling into the water if he dropped out of the sky. The harness was necessary because that particular kind of magic didn’t work on living things. “You know I trust you.” Vatar closed his eyes so the abrupt change in height wouldn’t make him dizzy before he even started and concentrated on the form of a white eagle. In his mind, he put himself into that image, pushing through the discomfort of the Transformation.

Thekila slipped the top strap of the harness around his neck. The bits of leather had looked entirely inadequate before, but they were in better scale with him in this form. She knelt down to fasten the belt that ran beneath his wings and paused to stroke his breast feathers. “I never knew how soft those feathers are.” She grinned impishly as he shivered at the touch. “Hard to tell from the inside.”

She double checked the two straps, one in the front and one in the back, which connected the collar and the belt, making a minor adjustment in the back. Then she stepped back. “All right, you’re set. Now all you have to do is spread your wings and step over the edge. Then I can help you learn to fly.”

That’s all, huh? Vatar hopped forward and turned his bird’s head sideways to look down, unsure if he was more afraid of the waves or the drop. This felt like it was higher than the tower prison he’d escaped the first time he used this form. With a deep breath, he spread his wings and launched into the air. He expected the drop this time and was reassured when the warm updraft caught his wings and held him aloft. He tilted one wing downward so he could spiral back up above the level of the bluff top.

Thekila watched him. Good. You soar very well, she said through their bond.  Now, let’s try flying.

Vatar started to flap his wings. Just as had when he tried flying . . . soaring over the river during his escape, he dropped, not quite like a rock. He spread his wings again, to regain the updraft. A freak gust of wind pushed him toward the cliff face. He closed his wings to keep from breaking a bird-fragile bone. And then he tumbled downward, spinning dizzily as he fell. Before he could spread his wings again, he jerked to a stop. He could feel the pull on the harness as he rose again. The harness—no, Thekila manipulating the harness—turned him over so that he was looking down into the water instead of at an odd angle of sky and much-too-close cliff-face. Forcing himself to breathe slowly, he started to spread his wings.

No, leave them furled. It will be easier to pull you up without the wind fighting me, Thekila said through their bond. It’s harder to move something that’s moving on its own.

So he lay limp and let her do the work. She lifted him slowly. He knew she could have pulled him up much more quickly, but . . . he was glad she didn’t. Even though he would have been going up, not down, it would have been just a little too much like that helpless fall toward the waves below. He swallowed hard at the thought.

“Well, that didn’t go very well,” Thekila said once his feet were on solid ground again. She started to reach for the harness straps, then paused. “Can you show me what you were doing? Maybe I can figure out how to help you.”

Vatar nodded. As soon as his breathing had slowed, he lifted his wings and flapped rising slightly on his toes.

“Ah, that’s the problem. Birds don’t just flap, there’s a little twist . . . Here, let me show you.” She flowed, from her feet to her head, into the shape of a white eagle of ordinary size and leapt upward, flying circles around Vatar’s much-larger eagle with powerful strokes. Now watch carefully. You have to push back a little on the down stroke—just a little—and fold your wings a little on the up stroke. See how my wing twists a little with each stroke. That’s what you need to do.

I think I see, Vatar responded, starting to raise his wings.

Not yet, Thekila said. Wait until I get back up there, in case I need to catch you. Oh, and watch how I land, too. The first landings tend to be pretty rough, speaking from experience.

With powerful strokes, she rose up a little higher than the cliff face. Then, as she approached the ground, she changed the angle of her wings so that she was nearly upright, rather than horizontal as in flight, and set down lightly on the ground. She shifted back to her normal shape. “Are you sure you want to try anything more today? That was pretty scary.”

Vatar was seriously tempted to agree with her. His heartbeat had still not slowed to its normal pace. But he knew better. It wasn’t any different, really, than learning to ride. When you fell off your horse—unless you were seriously injured—you had to get right back on. Otherwise, if you gave yourself time to think about it too much, it would just be harder the next time. And this time . . . if he waited until tomorrow, he’d never fly. And he was not about to let Thekila fly over ships under Gerusa’s control, ships carrying Exiles, without him to back her up.

That didn’t mean he needed to spend a lot more time in eagle form. But he did have to go off that cliff one more time before he let this shape go. No. Give me a moment. I want to try what you just showed me while it’s fresh in my mind.

It was harder to use the breathing exercises in bird form, but Vatar did his best. After a few moments he hopped back to the cliff’s edge. Taking one last, deep breath, he spread his wings and jumped off. He spread his wings and the rising air current kept him from falling. One more deep breath and he tried the wing movement Thekila had demonstrated. He didn’t fall. He didn’t really fly either. That would imply forward movement and he wasn’t making much of that, either. Still, he was willing to settle for not falling after his last attempt.

Good, come back in, now and try a landing, Thekila told him. You don’t want to overdo it on your first flight. Trust me, even your arms will get tired at first. We’ll try loosening up your muscles by running a little as lions after you land.

That sounded like an excellent idea. Best stay away from the edge of the cliff while we run, he responded to that last comment.

Thekila laughed. Yes, I think so.

Vatar spread his wings to soar again, circled until he was facing the bluff, and tried to copy Thekila’s landing. He pitched forward. All right, he was going to have to work on that, too. At least he was back on solid ground again.

Thekila undid the straps on the harness and stepped back. Vatar released his concentration and returned to his true shape.

Thekila hugged him hard. “I think that may be one of the bravest things I’ve seen you do. And that’s saying something.”

Here’s another scene from WAR OF MAGIC. This one is from Chapter 3.

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As they crossed the market square on the way to the Merchants’ Guildhall, Vatar noticed a different tone to the crowds. The square was usually filled with people moving briskly from one stall to another, with mostly a business-like atmosphere. Now, there was a dangerous feeling, people grumbling and muttering to one another, and less bustle. Worse even than during the shortages of a year ago, caused by Kausalya’s disruptive tariffs and trade bans. He was reasonably certain he knew the reason, too.

When he’d revealed the Lie, Vatar had never expected it to remain a complete secret, but he hadn’t expected it to become common knowledge this quickly, either. Naïve. He might never have paid much attention to the way information flowed in Caere, but he knew well enough how it would work among the Dardani. Faced with a similar situation, his stepfather would tell the other chiefs—just as the Smiths’ Guild Master would tell the other guild masters—because he would consider it their right to know. One or more would tell their life mates (wives, here in Caere). At Zeda it would be the waterhole where women gathered to exchange gossip; here, it would be the marketplace. The story would lose—and gain—elements as it was retold, but it would spread from there.

He’d set the wolves in the midst of the herd when he told his guild master about the Lie. He’d believed it was necessary. And he still did. But it had certainly not simplified the issues besetting the city that had become his second home. This was his fault. And he had to find some way to fix it before it led to disaster for all of them.

He scowled at the tickle of Far Speech that interrupted his thoughts—not that his thoughts had been doing more than going in circles anyway. He almost didn’t respond. Wouldn’t have, likely, if it had been almost anyone else. “Father?”

“I’ve been asked to extend an . . . invitation for you to appear before the High Council.”

Vatar could hear the tension in his father’s mental voice. This was not an invitation that could safely be refused. And it probably wasn’t only about the news of the alliance between the Exiles and Gerusa, either. With a sigh, he answered, “When?”

“Now.”

Vatar shook his head, even though he knew Father couldn’t see it and it might make his guild master wonder about him. “Not possible. I’m on my way to meet with the Guild Council.”

“This is important, Vatar.”

“I got that. But so is the Guild Council.” Vatar drew in a deep breath before deciding to plunge on. “And, of the two councils, the Guild Council is the only one really trying to manage any of the problems in Caere right now.” Belatedly, he bit down lightly on his tongue, as if he’d actually spoken the words. That hadn’t been a very kind thing to say to his father, however frustrated Vatar might feel.

Father sighed. “I know. But the High Council will not be as . . . civilized with their next summons if you refuse this one.”

Vatar blew out a breath and then drew in another, slowly, trying for calm. “All right. I’ll let you know as soon as the Guild Council ends. That’s the best I can do.”

“Did you really reveal the Lie to the guilds?” Father sounded frightened.

The thought of facing the High Council’s wrath made Vatar’s stomach churn. But he’d accepted that when he’d made the decision. “Yes. But only to the guild masters. It was time they knew. It was impossible to move forward otherwise. You and Cestus have been trying for almost two years with no results. Something had to change.”

“The High Council will not be pleased.”

That was an understatement. “I never expected that they would.” He let out a sigh. “And if I’d known about this latest threat, I might not have done it—yet. In the end, honesty is the only way.”

For two weeks, you can still pre-order WAR OF MAGIC for only #0.99.

First, the print version of WAR OF MAGIC is now available. (Yes, while the kindle version is still in pre-order.)

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The two versions aren’t linked yet. That’ll take a couple of days. And yes, the cover is just slightly different. That’s because there are different requirements for how close the letters can get to the edges with a print book. Usually, I can manage to make the ebook cover within those confines. Obviously, I didn’t quite make that work this time.

In other news–and possibly more exciting, the boxed set of the first three books in the DUAL MAGICS series (plus the short story “Modgud Gold”) is on sale for only $1.99 today through Tuesday. You’ll never get a better chance.

Dual Magics 1-3 Boxed Set

Enjoy!

 

Sneak Peek

Here’s a glimpse at the first chapter of WAR OF MAGIC:

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Chapter 1: Premonition

 

Vatar stared into the heart of his forge, gauging both the heat of the fire—just right—and the temperature of the piece of steel heating there—not quite ready to be worked on his anvil. He twitched his shoulders against a sudden prickling sensation, the one that always presaged danger.

His heartbeat sped up in reaction. Something bad was about to happen and he had no idea what it might be. Vatar tried to look away from the forge, to look around the yard beyond his workshop and locate the source of danger. It hadn’t been that long ago that his children had been attacked in that very yard. But something about the flames held his eyes. Shapes, moving.

At one time, before he’d known about his inborn magic, he’d seen visions in the fire. Most often of Thekila, the woman who was now his life mate. He knew now that had been Far Sight—that he was actually seeing her across an impossible distance with his magic. At the time he’d thought she was only a daydream.

Now that he had better control of his magic, his Far Sight shouldn’t operate without his intention. Anyway, that itch between his shoulder blades was a weak form of Fore Sight—the least reliable and most useless aspect of his magic. The one Talent he had no control over. Well, not entirely useless. That warning prickle had never been wrong. If it was Fore Sight and if it foretold some danger, as his warning signal indicated, he’d better pay attention.

Vatar leaned a little closer, trying to make some sense of the faint images. Ships. Many ships all heading toward the mouth of a bay. Vatar sucked in a deep breath. He knew that landscape, though he hadn’t seen it from that angle. Those promontories guarded the bay on which Caere rested, unless there was another place almost identical. What did that mean? The itch between his shoulder blades only intensified, portending danger. A naval attack on Caere? From where? And why? Caere was the center of a loose and mutually-beneficial alliance of all the coastal cities—well, except for Kausalya, which had recently broken away from that coalition. But, so far, that had only resulted in trade disruptions, not warfare. Not even a minor clash at sea that he’d heard of.

Then the images shifted and Vatar’s breath caught, edging toward panic. The ships became horses. Hundreds of horses charging across the plains. The riders carried bows and spears at the ready. The Dardani going to war? Against what enemy? The obvious answer to that was the thing he’d most feared. Would the Exiles and their Themyri minions finally slip past the southern defenses? How many battles lay ahead? And how far in the future? How long did they have to prepare? Years? Days? His danger sense usually indicated imminent threat, but it was nearly winter. The last merchant ship of the season had returned to harbor more than a seven-day ago. Even the fishermen wouldn’t brave the waters beyond the bay again until the weather calmed once more late next spring. And snow would soon cover the plains, if it didn’t already. Hardly conditions for a mass battle on horseback. That thought wasn’t as much comfort as it should have been.

He shook his head to clear it as the flames returned to being merely flames and cursed his Fore Sight. Once again, his ‘gift’ had given him insufficient information to be of any use. Other than to give him nightmares. No idea when this might happen. Some of the things his ancestress, Abella, had prophesied had taken six hundred years to come to pass. Somehow, he didn’t think he’d be anywhere near that lucky with this Fore Telling.

Vatar breathed in and out slowly, using the calming exercises he’d learned to gain control of his magic. It was more difficult to bring his emotions under control than it had been for some time. Maybe, partly, because he didn’t understand. A naval attack on Caere could only come from Kausalya, the only unfriendly city on the coast. But he didn’t see any relation between that and the Dardani, who lived three days journey from the sea and had no dealings at all with Kausalya. And, if he couldn’t make sense of his own premonition, how was he supposed to warn anyone?

His fists clenched in frustration and he had to start the breathing exercise over. It wasn’t as if he could force his Fore Sight to supply the missing information. Maybe more would be revealed before whatever these images foretold happened. Maybe not.

He blinked and wiped his sweaty palms on the sides of his trousers. Vatar glanced at the red-hot steel, now ready to be worked. But, maybe, instead of a knife, as he’d intended, he’d make a spearhead. And try to harness that wild Talent that sometimes allowed him to sing power into the blades he forged. Protection for the user. Just in case.

Enjoy. Oh, and you can pre-order WAR OF MAGIC for only $0.99 until September 27th.