Kora Porteg slammed her brother’s window shut as the autumn wind’s whistle died with a choke. The curtains fell limp against the wall. Kora didn’t usually attack windows in the quaint cottage she’d called home all her seventeen years, but she was alarmed at the state of this one.
“Don’t leave your window open to the world, Zacry.”
“Things aren’t that—”
“Things are that bad! You should know, since you steal Mother’s newsletter.”
Zacry scowled. “I haven’t snagged one in weeks. She’s started torching them.”
Burning them is wise, Kora thought as her brother climbed into bed, frustration brightening his gray-green eyes. He would often sneak away for news of the resistance, and he was only eleven.
“You should focus on schoolwork,” Kora encouraged him.
“What, are you Father now?”
That made Kora jump, and a strand of chestnut curls fell from her bun. She stared out at a robust moon that just allowed her to make out the line of the road to Hogarane, the nearest village in the countryside on the large island nation of Herezoth. She closed the curtains, trying to mask her emotion.
“I’m sorry,” Zacry murmured to Kora’s back. “I know you miss him too.” He paused. “Would you tell me a story? The one about the sorcerers?”
Their father had told the tale many times over the years. Kora tousled his hair, a shade or two darker than hers, and began as their father always had, “Centuries before you were born, the God-blessed kingdom of Herezoth—”
“Godforsaken is more like it.”
With a sympathetic glance she sat at the foot of the bed. “The God-blessed kingdom of Herezoth was home to many sorcerers. Sorceresses too. You could recognize them because they had a special birthmark.”
Kora nodded. “People say the mark was a triangle because you need three things to do sorcery: power, will, and knowledge. You have to be born with the power to cast spells, and you have to will their effects deliberately. You also need to know proper incantations.”
“What happened to the sorcerers?” asked Zacry.
“At first they lived with the normal folk in peace. They had their own court to govern magic. The Hall of Sorcery was high in the mountains, and people say you needed magic to find the path to the peak where the Hall’s tallest spire broke the clouds. People like us weren’t afraid to go to Brenthor, the magical court’s most famous leader, offering money for favors or begging for aid. To this day some claim that Brenthor honored every honest plea. We know he advised the sorcerers who crafted spells to put them in books, which he stored in the library next to the Hall. Brenthor himself led the king’s warriors when they put down the Sorcerers’ Revolt.”
Kora paused for Zacry to ask about the revolt. He did so. “A sorcerer came before the court when Brenthor was off on royal business. This man’s name was Hansrelto, and he was cunning and cruel. He claimed Brenthor shouldn’t serve the king or sell incantations.
“You see, Hansrelto wanted sorcerers to overthrow the royals and rule Herezoth.” That made Zac growl. “Brenthor’s second-in-command, a sorceress named Mayven, was in charge the day he came to the Hall. She called his views maniacal, but because Hansrelto thought all the magicked had rights, he cast no spell against her. He’d come to marshal the court, and he took a third of its members with him, blowing apart the doors.
“Well, Mayven wasted no time uniting her sorcerers against Hansrelto while he terrorized the villages nearby. Brenthor took command of Mayven’s army when he returned with ten thousand foot soldiers from the king. A battle took place then at the foot of the mountains, and most of the magicked died. The ordinary soldiers fared little better. Hansrelto’s spells took out people by the dozens.”
“Did the bad guys have trolls?” Zacry asked. He didn’t look tired in the least.
Kora smiled nostalgically. “Father always said that.”
“Yeah. He said Hansrelto got two tribes of trolls to fight for him. Do you think that’s true?”
“I’m not sure.” Kora couldn’t imagine the king’s troops overcoming that kind of disadvantage. Troll encounters weren’t common, but they weren’t unheard of near the mountains up north. As varied as the stories were, they all agreed that trolls were twice the size of men and as strong as oxen. “Trolls or no trolls, Brenthor triumphed, but the wicked Hansrelto escaped to a nearby cave. Brenthor cast an enchantment on the entrance, one that would kill his foe if he walked out. Hansrelto died years later in his prison, but his revolt changed how people thought of sorcery, Zac. They saw what magic could do in evil hands, and they forgot Brenthor’s bravery. As for Mayven, no one heard from her again. Most think she was wounded and left the battle to die. Perhaps that was best, because anyone who could cast spells was shunned after the revolt. Using sorcery was grounds for death. Magic arts were lost to time, or so it seemed.”
The boy gritted his teeth. “Until Zalski.”
Determined to keep emotion from her voice, Kora looked down at her hands. “A duke’s son. He bribed the royal guards. Some he threatened, I’m sure. Whatever his tactics, he had enough support to overthrow the king two years ago. No one at the palace stood against him when he started using incantations.”
Zacry sighed. “It feels longer than two years.”
“That’s because Zalski Forzythe’s taken two-thirds of what we’ve earned for the past twenty months. It’s his way of keeping us weak so we can’t rise up. Even down here he’s got Farmer Byjon on his side, and Farmer Byjon controls everything.”
“But people did rise up.” Excitement shone in Zacry’s eyes as he sat up. “The Crimson League rescued those political prisoners three months ago. And their raids—”
“They have courage,” Kora admitted. “They deserve better than the deaths awaiting them, but they’re outnumbered, and—”
Zacry lay back down. “I believe in them.”
“Believe silently, then. Now, it’s late. Sleep well, Zac.”
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Herezoth’s rich history, as well as its tumultuous present.
You can read other excerpts about Zac’s trouble at school and how Kora first heard about Zalski.
Mark your calendars for June 15, and please spread the word to anyone you know who would enjoy this action/adventure, sword and sorcery journey!
Leave a Reply