Hey everyone, today I’ve got the first excerpt of Brian Libby’s Storm Approaching for you. 🙂 What you’ll be reading is the first half of Chapter 1, titled Audacity. 🙂 Enjoy!
Chapter 1: Audacity
Her feet pounded on the cracked stone slabs. Daylight glimmered enticingly around the half-open door maybe ten yards ahead, but the pursuit sounded closer.
I’ve got to make it. Sixteen is too young to die.
Her foot caught on a broken pavement; she crashed into the rough stone wall. A moment later she heard a thud behind her. Dazed, she turned and saw in the dim corridor the prone figure of a creature that vaguely resembled a man. Apparently it too had stumbled.
Is it dead? Maybe just stunned. I’m lucky.
Walking slowly, shaking her head to clear it, she squeezed past the door into the light of a beautiful June day.
“Andiriel! Are you all right?”
The shout came from a grove. She ran to the trees and found two young women, dressed like herself in plain green smocks.
“See, I told you I’d do it.”
“You’re brave, Andi,” said one.
“Your arm’s all scraped,” said the other. “What happened?”
“I tripped in the dark, but I’m all right.” She glanced anxiously at the ancient building behind her. “Let’s go back.”
“Did you find anything? Any treasures?”
“I found this.”
She held up the metallic object she had taken from a stone table just before hearing the noise in the corridor: oval, about four inches long, with dirt-caked runes etched on one side.
“What is it?”
“It’s, uh, it’s…I don’t know, Jin.”
“The mages can tell us. Let’s go to the Wizards’ House right now.” Jin’s black eyes were wide with excitement. “Maybe it’s magical.”
They left the trees and walked back to town, a mile or so away. Jin led, skipping and humming. The other girl walked with Andiriel.
“Are you really all right, Andi? You’re bleeding a little.”
“I’m just bruised, Nel. It was dark and I tripped. I’ll tell you more later.”
She was starting to feel proud and foolish at the same time. She’d shown her friends she wasn’t a coward. But she had almost… Better not to think of it now.
They entered Javakis through the Imperial Gate, so named since the auspicious day fourteen years before when the Emperor and Empress really had visited the town. They made their way to Gold Street, largely empty on a Sunday, where stood the simple stone building that every-one called the Wizards’ House, although its proper name was the Javakis Chapter of the Federated Society of the Arcane. (With barely 10,000 people, Javakis was only just large enough to merit the a Wizards’ House and a city wall.)
“You wait,” said Andiriel. “If Vomaxx is on duty he’ll get mad if we all go, ‘cause he knows we won’t buy anything, the old grouch.” Her friends agreed and went across the street to get some ginger-nuts.
The bearded, brown-haired man behind the long counter smiled when he saw her.
“Hello, young mistress. Come to see Garjon on your day off ? Or did you want something to turn Mistress Verda into a toad?”
“Mistress Verda isn’t bad if you know how to treat her. The Chief Matron is the one to beware of. I’m glad you’re here, master. Look, I found this and I don’t know what it is. Do you?”
Garjon studied it for a moment and said, very seriously, “Andiriel, where did you get this? And what did you do to yourself?”
She gulped; then she met his eyes and said, “In the ruins near the Round Pond. Jin and Nella dared me to go in, so I did, and I explored a little. I found this thing on a stone table, and then I heard a noise, so I ran away, and the noise followed. I almost fell down, and whatever was behind me tripped and knocked itself out. It was like a big ugly man with scaly skin.”
“You…” Garjon stared at the big girl in her green Institute smock. “You went into Jagar’s Chapel and almost got caught by a gorth? Andiriel, what got into you?”
“My friends dared me to. I’m real brave, huh? Or maybe I’m dumb. But I did it. What did I find, Garjon? I told you the truth, so you help me now.”
The mage was still frowning, but he relaxed a bit after looking at her earnest face. “This is a changer, or, in Old Imperial, a samdar. It turns stored magical energy into something else. Wait just a bit. And put some salve on your arm.” He handed her a jar and went through a red curtain into the back of the building.
She applied the ointment and looked around at the shelves and bottles. She and her friends had been here often; the Wizards’ House was one of the more interesting places in town and Garjon was always friendly. She remembered, too, how in her younger days she had visited this building with fearful excitement. Everyone said that if you misbehaved, something awful might happen to you (such as being imprisoned in a beaker for a hundred years). Certainly nobody in his right mind would dare to steal anything from the Wizards’ House.
She knew where everything was; today she noticed something new: books. Taking a big volume from a shelf, she set it on a table, opened the brown leather cover, and read, “The Researches of Otacilion Tambus Concerning the Last Days of the Old Empire.”
Garjon came back.
“You have books here, master. We don’t have any at the Institute yet.”
“Yes—a shipment just a few days ago. They’ll replace scrolls and codices, eventually. The Emperor has commanded that a press be set up in every town, even this one. These came from the Capital, of course.”
“So what did you find out, master?” She put the big book back on its shelf.
“Your samdar is at least 200 years old and empty of magic. It is very well-made.”
“Can I keep it? I mean, is it really mine?”
Garjon smiled. “Whoever used it last will not come in to claim it. It’s certainly treasure- trove, my dear. Would you like to sell it?”
“How much is it worth?”
“The Society can give you G95. In fact, G100. These things are not common.”
“A hundred gold?”
“It’s a fair price. We’ll sell it for about G300, but the Society will first have to re-infuse it and discover the exact word that makes it work… Andiriel, are you all right?”
“Master, we’re paid a silver a week. That’s, uh, it’s… it’s… it’d take me twenty years to earn that much!”
“The rewards of courage, Andiriel—or of stupidity, as you said. You took the risk and did the deed, now the profits are yours. But if I buy this, you must promise never to go into Jagar’s Chapel again. Gorths are bad enough, and there are worse things in there.”
“I promise, Garjon. Orphans’ Honor.” She raised her right hand, her index finger folded behind her thumb, the other three up. “Oh, this is so great… but I can’t carry all that money around, or keep it in my room.”
“I’ll put it on account. There is no need to tell Mistress Ellana. You can draw it out as you like. Here’s G5 now, and a receipt for the rest. It should be a great help when you’re on your own in a couple of years. You’ll get a fine husband, or have the means to open a shop.”
Tomorrow I’ll post the second-half of Audacity. 🙂 You can order your copies of Storm Approaching from the publisher, Author House, or from Amazon (US/UK). South Africans reading this can also order the book from Kalahari and Exclusive Books.