The Sage's Reign
The Final Lesson Book 2
by Shakyra Dunn
Genre: YA Fantasy
Eternal night looms over Adrylis.
After her Grimoire is lost to the Order of Helix, Leilana is left to prepare herself in a newfound way before her return to the crown city of Linmus to help reclaim Prince Remiel's throne. One by one, countries lay burning at their feet. Magic is on its last legs, but the Orb of Concord is within their reach.
From the opposite spectrum, the mastermind awaits, playing puppet-master as they march to their doom. Time is against them as the final moonless night looms above. The final test from the Warlords of Old has finally come into play.
Six moonless nights passed, and time etched away like a pen to paper. Six months in the dark. One by one, regions fell at the hands of the Order of Helix, and all that Prince Remiel’s party could do to quell the ordeal was train themselves further and prepare for the war at their doorstep, all the while keeping updated through Leilana’s radio and occasional travel.
Rem pushed open the slightly ajar door, tucking away his neck-length scruffy dark hair.
Leilana was planted in the center of her room with shut eyes, mumbling charms in the Minsuran tongue, incense illuminating the room in place of lanterns. Uh oh, she was in one of her zones, which meant that his timing was all wrong. Filling any free space around her were open notebooks, every page filled, and Rem didn’t want to overstep his bounds to approach her. One solid misstep, or even a word out of context, and she was sure to chew him out. The last thing that he wanted was to aggravate her. Solus was always better at handling these situations.
She remained perfectly still, her lips continuing to move at a timed pace, her voice hushed and hollow beneath the crackling wood of the incense. She wasn’t going to hear him if he called her name again, so he would have to rouse her the hard way. He stepped off of his right heel and planted a single toe rather than his foot over one of the nearby books, bringing his left leg over to bypass the remaining paper-bounds. He attempted to keep his footsteps as slow and purposeful as possible, not wanting to risk her snapping out of her fixated stupor.
“You don’t have to sneak, you know.” Rem flinched at the address in fluent. Sentience, cutting through her unwavering concentration. She didn’t open her eyes, but she did lower her head as if drifting between slumber and waking from a long dream.
“Is something wrong?”
“Not wrong at all. I think it’s something you can use to your advantage.” He held up his index finger. “Two things, matter of fact. Gale got wind of where we can find Lunious through his-”
Leilana’s eyes snapped open, a guttural snarl rushing past her once pursed lips. Rem nearly fell on his back out of fear alone.
Her vengeance was festering for months, but now it was in full bloom. “P-Please don’t shoot the messenger.”
Leilana cleared her throat, tucking some loose strands of her lengthening wavy hair behind her ear. “Sorry. What else is going on?”
“You remember that little hint you told us? Solus and I started putting pieces together about places in Adrylis that fit the mold. It has to be someplace recently impacted by magic, particularly fire. Maybe the ash from the flames causes it to rain down.”
“But that wouldn’t be a permanent occurrence.”
“I wasn’t done explaining.” Leilana nearly scoffed but decided to withhold her disdain. “Solus had another idea—what if we overlooked something on your map? The only places remaining that could involve smoke would be towns that have a lot of mining. It would explain the idea of ash always falling, and maybe those people get covered in the flakes when they’re working or whenever ash from the mines spread, which would add up ‘cloaked in shadow,’ since it’s the same shade.”
Leilana’s lips parted. Mining. How had she not considered that? There were farming towns and shrines, and even reserves scattered all over the landscape, and yet mining towns never came up anywhere in her mind. Maybe it was her over-analytical thinking that everything in scriptures had to be sentimental. It made perfect sense. The fates sure did love toying with her head, it seemed.
“We’re going to find my grimoire, scout out as many places as we can with that description, then we’re going to find our Orb of Concord, end the war, get on with our lives.”
“Good plan! Great plan!” He collided his fist with hers, and she giggled at
the enthusiasm. “Got in all of your meditation for the day? Solus wants to get
things rolling while it’s still early out, and Gale’s got our breakfast all packed.”
“I think I’m prepared enough,” she replied. Resting on her bed was a long metallic staff, freshly polished, basking under the morning glow. She could see dust on the nightstand and assortment of books drifting about, but now that the time to move on had come at long last, there was little left that she wanted to accomplish in terms of cleaning up after herself.
With a sweep of her hand, the flames burning the wood-scented incense promptly ceased to exist, a puffy haze of smoke left to fester in the room. Rem inhaled the aroma, far used to the sensation. She stepped towards the nightstand, clasping her hands around the staff. The bearings were rough on her hands, tearing into her skin the harder that she grasped the weapon, but she was well trained—the pain had gradually minimized to a dull ache rather than outright agony.
“Are you sure you don’t want one more lesson before we get back out there?” Rem’s face was reflecting into the metal, his confident expression carrying her mind into a comforting place. Leilana couldn’t help but smile. He always did get antsy when change was coming.
“I’m in the middle of one,” she replied. “I don’t want to tack on too many side-missions knowing that. I’m one step closer to becoming a Warlord, and this task will prove worthy in showing me how much loss has affected my skills.”
“Well, that loss is going to strengthen you, and all of us as well.” He glanced back when he heard his name and he rested a hand on her shoulder before gesturing towards the door. “I’m going first. Sol’s calling me. Try not to slow me down, yeah?”
“I don’t plan to.”
As Rem departed, she allowed her gaze to waver over the surroundings she had familiarized herself with for the last six months. Six grueling months of working to the bone, coming to understand that magic and power can only be formed with her own two hands, ending in the place where they began. The staff in her hands was a symbolism of growth. She could be of better use with two forms of attack, even after she retrieved her grimoire. Her time had come. She decided to change clothes after going through the wardrobe in the corner, settling with her white uniform blouse underneath a black vest, dusting off a knee-length tan skirt. She wiggled her toes around her tanned flats, satisfied with the feel. Afterward, she stepped into the hall, where Sien, Solus, and Rem were awaiting her. All three of them stood near the door.
“Took you long enough!” Sien stated. On her back was a bow and a quiver filled with arrows, her long red hair braided in two pigtails hanging past her shoulders. She was dressed in an ankle-length tanned dress, her boots concealing her legs. “We were worried that you were thinking of backing out!”
“There’s no way that I’d turn down this kind of opportunity.”
Solus chuckled, his tied shoulder-length hair practically bouncing with him.
“Happy to hear it.” He rested a hand on his dark brown pants, the sleeves of his baggy shirt slightly overlapping his arms. “I was hoping that you would keep the faith.”
Rem was bouncing in his spot, a big grin plaguing his face. “All in good faith and all that, can we go now? Please? Pretty please?”
“All right, all right,” Solus laughed, patting the boy’s head. “We’re going. Gale and Luna have given us their regards in advance. All that we need to do is set off. We will return here, someday. For now, we finish what we have begun.”
“Rula!” Rem called, “We’re leaving! Are you coming?” From the kitchen, Rula came running, his tail swishing back and forth.
“Actually, I’ve decided to stay here with Lulu and Gale,” he explained.
Rem raised an eyebrow. “What? Seriously?”
Rula lowered himself into a position where it appeared that he would pounce, and when he did, Sien caught him in her arms. “Luna says that when Lancett is done taking care of the initial work in Linarus, she wants to go back to help gather people to the city. Once everything is in order, I’ll be able to return home to the mountains. I don’t want to be too far away.”
“Well, I guess if you’re sure, we won’t stop you.” Sien rubbed the young Dirionus behind his elongated ears, and Rula graciously tilted his head to the left.
“You were a big help to us,” Solus stated. “We are grateful to you, Rulakinja. Best of luck to you. Your master would be proud of you.” Rula was gazing at each one of them as the words reached his ears before he covered his eyes with the fuzzy limbs. Sien giggled at the embarrassment he was showing off.
“You guys are too much!” Rula proclaimed. “Stop picking on me!”
“Aw, no one’s picking on you,” Rem replied, patting Rula’s head. “We just want you to know that you’re loved, no matter what.”
“Then you don’t think I’m just some monster?” Rula whimpered, staring up at Rem.
“If anything, I’m a monster too.” Rem bore his teeth, holding up both armsbefore chomping his teeth down. “A big scary Bloodlinch with spooky powers! Grr!” Rula pounced forward, hitting his face with his tail, causing Rem to falter.
Leilana and Sien couldn’t help but laugh. “Rude! Very rude!”
“Monsters aren’t all bad if you’re one then!”
“All right, all right, enough of the fun. We’ve got to get moving,” Solus stated.
The Final Lesson
The Final Lesson Book 1
"Trust none but yourself."
Leilana Erovina's got a bid for power as she takes the final test to become one of her realm's Warlords. As such, she sets out to travel the lands of Adrylis and log magical totems from respectful folk with only one hitch—no ancestral help. The quest is a pilgrimage to learn the basics of human nature. Some would call concepts like gentleness and passion fables of the heart.
In another perspective, war brews in the kingdom of Linmus, throwing Adrylis into chaos. Prince Remiel Vesarus finds himself in exile, vengeance on his mind for those who tore his life asunder. His attendant Solus Brenner at his side, they plan on restoring their kingdom against all odds.
Fate has drawn these two parties together. Conjoined at the hip, the traveler, prince and right-hand will learn the old saying of magic: "It always comes with a price."
The cinders crackled over the singed wood, rising through midnight’s earthy air. Gusts of wind drifted through the dry oak trees, the shades of early autumn teeming from the branches in the form of cracked leaves. The stars were absent from the sky, yet a faint glimmer hovered above.
The still night of a new moon; such times were hard to fall upon. That made things even more brilliant for such an announcement.
“You feel it, don’t you?” A gravelly voice cut through the silence, catching the attention of the group that surrounded him. “This air is thick. The stigma of the wind such as this besieges any and every lost soul, carrying them beyond the boundaries of time.”
“Master Hinju, you always make things more dramatic.”
Any means of a rebuttal were replaced by extended humming in a straight tone before finally, “Now is not the time for remarks.” Copper eyes opened to the sound of distant laughter caught in the indistinct gales, and a single glance at the source drew bitter silence. A stern expression coated his features as he gazed upon the group of fourteen seated around the open fire; no disturbances occurred, and he once more cleared his throat, running his fingers through the curly brown mop on his head.
“I have summoned you here today for your final examination.” For a moment, chatter progressed among the group, some questioning what he meant by a ‘final examination,’ and after a second glance, silence took over again. “Moving on… The fourteen of you have advanced through your courses with ease, rising through the ranks of your respective classes. You were hand-chosen by your mentors to reach this stage in your lives.”
“Master Hinju, what is this final examination?” One student piped up, a stalwart expression coating her pale features. “We’ve had plenty of tests, but this is the first that I’ve heard of this…”
“Curious as always, Leilana,” Hinju replied with a nod. “That is correct—you have had many of these examinations, using your time to study magic and overcome obstacles placed before you.” The man cocked his head to the right and smirked. “But how often have you been sought out by the Headmaster himself for one of them?” Leilana grew silent, tucking a loose strand of her shoulder-length dark hair behind her ear.
“He’s not wrong…” one of the students mumbled.
“I guess this is the first time we’ve had someone like Master Hinju try to teach us…”
“Your examination on the night of emptiness will be a test of your overall skill level and valor.” Hinju rose to a stand, extending his hand up towards the evening sky. “As Maesters and Arcana, under the blessing of an innovative and invisible moon, you will be guided by none other than yourself. I chose this night specifically for you to give your all.” The students turned to one another in silence before continuing to listen to their Headmaster’s words. “Two by two, you will duel one another. The winners of each respective battle will progress towards the title that you each so crave—a chance to grow closer to becoming a Warlord.”
Leilana’s eyes widened at the statement, and she clutched the golden-encrusted grimoire in her arms closer to her chest, the metal vines lining the book pricking her fingers. So, that was the prize for winning a duel. Seemed simple enough.
“Would anyone like to volunteer for the first battle?”
Shakyra Dunn can't stray away from the impression that there is always an adventure around every corner! When she isn't playing the role of the Creator, she is marching through the worlds of her favorite video game characters or taking drives around her city to see the sights. Born in Chicago, Illinois, she currently resides in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, striving to experience more than the little town.