Chosen - Sample

In the large cities where the Necromancer's supporters were everywhere, Ascendance Day was cause for celebration.

In Harper's Meadow, it would forever be a day of mourning.

Many of the town's elders had been children when the Tower of God fell. Come Ascendance day, each of them would each tell their own story of that final, crushing defeat to the youngest villagers. They would always start by telling the children that they must never forget the day the light went out of the world. How they stood by helpless as the last bastion of resistance against the dark magic of the Necromancer failed and finally fell.

Tears sometimes ran down their tired, wrinkled faces as they remembered the lost loved ones and told of how they died. Sadness would turn to a righteous anger as they would describe how afterward the dark shadow of the Necromancer swept unopposed to cover every corner of Rigel in a smoky darkness.

After the night fires had gone out, five agents of the Rebellion arrived looking for a boy. Not just any boy; they sought one in particular. Avi watched as the strange group told his Father that they believed they had found him.

Avi sat on a wooden barrel in his father's smithy, stunned.

The old Bloodmage was talking to his parents. Chosen, he said of the boy. Written of in prophecy, and destined to rise up and overthrow the Necromancer and his minions. An end to nearly a century of bloody oppression. The boy would be taken at once, and trained in the ways of war and the strange art of blood magic.

The Chosen One would be protected and secreted away by the Rebellion, honed into a weapon that would one day restore light and freedom to the people of Rigel. His mother was weeping, but Avi could see pride in her eyes as she looked his way. His father was a rock, as hard as the steel he forged in his smithy. Still, his chest puffed out with pride and Avi thought he saw a bright glistening in his father's eyes. His father was nodding as the old man yammered on about destiny, prophecy and sacred duty.

Avi looked over in disgust at his brother Arryn who sat next to him on another barrel, mouth hanging open in shock.

Figures, Avi thought. Why couldn't it have been me?

Avi's parents and Arryn had left the smithy to talk in the main house with one of the Knights that had come with the old man. For a time, Avi sat in the corner near the forge, forgotten. While the other soldiers mingled around his father's workshop, the Bloodmage hobbled over to lean heavily on his dark, crooked staff.

The old sorceror grinned at Avi, and the boy suddenly felt naked. It felt as if every thought and feeling he had in his head and heart were laid bare. Avi realized suddenly that the things they whispered about the Bloodmages had to be true; the old man had a presence about him that absolutely reeked of sly and sinister power.

"What is your name, boy?" the bloodmage whispered, fingering a small crystal phial that hung about his neck.

Avi glanced at the little decanter, at the thick, red liquid sliding around inside. Blood, Avi knew. The source of his power and the way he controls others around him. A single drop from every man or beast he had ever worked his art upon. It was nearly full. He gulped. "Avi, sir."

The old man sat on the barrel that had been occupied only moments ago by his brother. "Call me Arathmus."

Avi said nothing. The old man glanced down at the braces clamped onto Avi's legs and then to the pair of wooden crutches leaning against a pile of crates. "You're a cripple, eh boy?"

Avi felt his temper flare, but fear kept him in check. "I'm not crippled. I walk just fine. I need the crutches sometimes when the air is damp, is all." A slight exaggeration on his part, but there was no blood of his in the old Spook's phial - not yet. It was a harmless lie, after all.

Arathmus smiled at him. It was a smile that a wolf showed to a lamb right before he devoured it. "Got some fire in the belly, eh? You'll need it. If the Dark One finds out what we're about here - and make no mistake, he'll find out - then this little pimple of a village is in for a mighty rough ride, I'd say." He let out a dry, raspy laugh.

"Leave the boy alone," a deep voice called out from across the room. Avi turned to see a grizzled, soldier walking their way. The man was frowning at the Bloodmage and Avi saw the man's face was heavily scarred. "This kid's got enough on his mind without you playing with his head."

The bloodmage's smile turned to a scowl, and the old man rose and shuffled away, laughing.

When he was gone, Avi looked up at the Knight. "I'm not a cripple, sir. I can ride a horse and even run, after a fashion. I'm the best shot with a longbow in all of the Meadows. I brought down two deer this past Summer, and my brother didn't even get any."

The man nodded at Avi's arms. "Well you've got strong arms, and that's no mistake. Your forearms have the look of a bowman." He sat down where the Bloodmage had been moments before. "You practice?"

Avi nodded. "Near every day."

"Can you make a steady shot without those?" The Knight gestured towards his crutches.

"Yes sir," Avi answered. "I've won the Archery contest three years running now at the Fall Harvest Festival."

The Knight clapped Avi on the back and he nearly toppled off the barrel. "Good man. How old are you, son?"

"Four and ten, sir."

The big man stood, and took out a clay pipe and began fumbling with a bag of leaf. "Near a man grown, eh? Well, look us up when you've got a year or two more on you. The Rebellion can always use a good marksman. Who knows - in a few years, maybe you'll be fighting right alongside your brother, eh?"

Avi frowned, but the Knight was already walking off into the darkness to enjoy his pipe.