Doubles Talk Book 1
Date Published: June 30
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Kelgan Defthand is used to being top dog at the Academy of Magic where he
is Senior Apprentice Mage. Compared to his peers, he’s faster, more
skillful, and well aware of it, but when he finds himself beset by fearful
voices that come in the night, his confidence is shaken.
Adding to his worries, Kelgan is summoned to the headmaster, Sargal’s
presence; it looks like he’s really in trouble. But to his
bewilderment, he finds he’s being sent on a “mission” with
two very hostile-seeming aristocratic twins, Neroma and Nevander Di
Upon embarking on this mission with the twins, Kelgan soon realizes the
world outside the cloistered Academy is a bit different than he imagined.
First of all, there seems to be women doing magic! Secondly, he’s not
the only one hearing voices.
Following a strange compulsion, Kelgan and the Di Nerrills find themselves
seeking out the source of the voices, hoping to put an end to it.
The fateful journey tests Kelgan’s underdeveloped skills to the
limit, and could come at an unbearable cost to both to him and his
companions. Once Kelgan accepts the challenge of Magehood, there’s no
··· 1 ···
The Summons (which begins it all)
he voices came, night after night. “Too much.” “Too little.” “Too soon.” “Too late.” “Too few.” “Too many.” Then came the laughter, one high and mocking, one low and scornful.
The voices faded with the dawn. An hour of blessed sleep ensued before he rose to begin another round of the day’s obligations. This day, unable to keep his eyelids from drooping shut during his late afternoon tutoring session, he cut short a surprised pupil in the middle of an illusion. Muttering a feeble excuse, he hastened back to his room for an illicit nap. The sleepy chirping of birds settling in for the night startled him awake. He realized the lateness of the evening hour. For a moment he hated them, then he felt ashamed. They happily twittered, glad of every day. So should I be. Am I not doing what I have always wished for? So, should he be, but, of late, was not.
With a groan he rolled over the side of his cot and staggered to the small washstand with its apologetic mirror, Kelgan Defthand, Senior Apprentice Mage. Jokes about “SAMs” abounded among the lower classmen. He surveyed his hollow-eyed reflection with disfavor. It soberly regarded him—a snub nose, a wiry crop of sandy curls, indeterminate hazel eyes. Not exactly impressive. Only his lanky height set him apart from the crowd.
Kelgan had shown so much promise at the beginning. A dangerous promise. It had been so easy. As a latecomer to formal training at the Academy, he was already five years past the usual admission age of fourteen. His talent manifested itself during his toddler stage, but the death of his father kept him, the eldest of five, close to home. Only his mother’s remarriage had freed him.
His step-father, a miller and a kindly man, had insisted that Kelgan follow his heart and talent. He caught up with ease, quickly outstripping the other apprentices. He sailed through the basics of sorcery, cutting his apprenticeship from ten years to six as he rapidly earned the sobriquet of Defthand. Now he was a senior apprentice, just short months from graduation and only a bit older than his peers. During their recent lesson periods, his master, Sargal Wishworker, had begun to notice Kelgan’s slowed reflexes, wandering attention, and lackluster performances at even the simplest spell-casts. Sargal’s comments remained neutral, but his curiosity was obvious. The sudden inability of a senior star-pupil invited further scrutiny.
Kelgan acknowledged that his ego swelled with his ability, pride in his accomplishments earning him many a sour and resentful look from his less able fellows. Was that what was behind this? Could a disgruntled junior have concocted an oh-so-clever and spiteful retribution? No. This was sorcery far too sophisticated for a mere apprentice, even himself. The voices, more than just disembodied whispers, possessed distinct personalities. One, rash, impulsive and malicious, the other older, patient but infinitely cruel. He didn’t doubt that both represented pure evil.
A peremptory knocking at his door brought him back to reality with a start. He strode to the door and threw it open, giving no hint of the unease he felt at the unusual interruption.
“You are summoned to Magister Wishworker’s study,” announced one of the juniors with a smug smile.
A summons of this sort generally meant a dressing-down, and the junior made no effort to conceal his malice. Concealing his emotions, Kelgan acknowledged the summons with a curt nod, threw his cloak around his shoulders and followed the junior.
He paused to lock his door, remembering a past carelessness. The incident began innocently with a request from another junior.
“Senior Apprentice Defthand, can you help me?”
“Of course, Second Year Apprentice Notready,” he had replied, emphasizing the other’s title as he stared down his nose at the junior.
“It’s the increase spell, s-s-sir,” stammered the junior, “I just can’t seem to increase anything more than the tiniest bit.”
His mind gave an almost physical wince, as he recalled what happened next. The junior showed him the desiccated orange pip he wished to turn into a half-grown tree. Kelgan repeated the words of the basic increase mantra at least three times for the seeming dolt of an underclassman, who forgot at least three words every time, until at last Kelgan shouted the words himself. To his horror, the single orange pip became a small orchard, knocking the windows out of the dormitory and punching several nice holes in the ceiling.
Peals of laughter accompanied his performance. Three of his fellow year-mates, hidden in the closet, recited an echo spell every time he repeated the increase cantrip, thus tripling the effect of the spell. Pushing the memory from his mind with effort, he resumed his pose of superiority. Deliberately blocking any glimpse of his room from the curious junior, he stepped out and fastened the door behind him.
A blustery wind assailed them as they left the dormitory. The sky appeared leaden and the clouds hung low, obliterating any trace of the Manlost Mountains, which rose in jagged splendor from the Academy’s perch in the foothills. Below the school, Kelgan glimpsed his home town of Belleran. Beyond that sprawled the Bellerwald Forest and, almost farther than the eye could see, the autarchy of Bellermond. The Academy, itself, possessed no name. None was needed.
The first fat drops began to splash angrily on the pavement by the time they reached the Sorcerers’ lodge. Drawing his own dun-colored cloak more tightly around him, the junior smirked, said, “Here you are,” and turned on his heel.
About the Author
Recently retired from a job as a university professor, and looking for a
diversion in sunny Southern California, Loran Holt did what any Southern
California does – took up writing, of course. Feeling that sword and
sorcery fitted her personality admirably, she set her sights on that genre.
Nightmasters is the result, and her first work of published fiction, but she
is already the published author of two books on the Silent Film era, with a
third on the way. Recently