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.
Sien nocked an arrow carefully, her weapon still grasped in her hand as she trekked down the corridor furthest left from the entrance. Her mouth and tongue were dry, her breaths shallow. Being inside of this stronghold made her feel uneasy enough already, and the foul stench of the medicine filling the are did nothing to help alleviate her nerves. The creak of a nearby door alerted her, causing her to turn her back with her weapon ready to fire, only to find that there
was nothing in her path. Maybe it was the wind from an open window. She lowered her bow again, sighing in relief.
The idea of being so close to terrorists that destroyed her home was overwhelming. They were willing to stop at nothing to have Rem’s power, likely to hold him for ransom and have his lineage act as a catalyst for the Orb of Concord. If his untapped power was used for malice, there would be no country left to defend, let alone no war to draw out the end.
“Playing adventure, are we?”
Sien jumped at the new voice. It was real, no doubt about it. They were hidden, beyond well for what skills she possessed. She squinted her eyes, and every half second, a silhouette swept through the halls before meeting head-on.
Centimeters from her face, touching her nose, grazing Sien’s parted lips to close them shut again, stood a girl with long blonde hair tied with red bows into two ponytails cascading down her back. She was clothed in a black cloak, red rosaries on either side.
“We’ve never had strange visitors in Megalina before.” The girl’s voice was rather seductive, and Sien felt more confused than aroused. “Hi, I’m Faris! You’re a real cutie.”
“Megalina?” Sien cut in, deciding not to acknowledge her obvious advances in favor of answers. “Is that the name of this place?”
“Right!” Faris beamed, not seeming to mind the cold shoulder. “It’s a name with many meanings—sanctuary, understanding, resolve. But we call it ‘home.’ It’s torn and desolate, much like the rest of us. We have no place in this world as isolated magic-users.” The girl ran her fingers along Sien’s exposed shoulder, her scarlet locks becoming entangled in her aquamarine-coated nails. Sien swallowed, her head spinning from her overwhelming anxiety in tandem with the antiseptic odor, but she didn’t allow herself to drop her guard. “But you… you’re different. You’re a drifter, I can tell. You don’t act like the others.”
“I use my gift to help others,” Sien retorted, prying herself free from the girl, pointing an arrow at her. “I don’t kill without reason.” The girl folded her arms behind her back, cocking her head to the left, a soft grin on her delicate features. Not a single line on her face went out of place; there was no fear resonating in her. That made her dangerous.
“That makes you brave. Not a lot of people can keep their cool.” Sien eyed the girl’s movements closely. Her fingers were twitching, but hardly enough to peak Sien’s attention. Still, something about her calm demeanor was unnerving.
“Why don’t you stay a while longer? We can play together!”
Faris swept her hand out, a stream of needles conjuring from her fingertips. Sien barely gasped when the needles pierced through every fragment of skin, pinning her to a wall. Her bow and arrow fell in front of her, blood seeping from the miniscule cuts on her body. They were multiplying each passing second, and the pain erupted all at once. She couldn’t close every wound no matter how fast she could channel her energy. There would be more to take its place.
“Your aura interests me. It’s rare to find people blessed with the art of healing, and those that possess it lose themselves along the way because people become so ungrateful. But the way that you carry yourself is dull.” Sien’s heart skipped a beat, and her struggle to escape her prickly prison had ceased. Faris sat on top of a nearby pillar, kicking her feet, her hands resting under her chin. “You don’t provide much entertainment. It’s going to be hard to remember you if all
that you can do is act serious.”
Sien lowered her head, ignoring her budding tears. This girl was a mastermind at manipulation, and she knew it well, but the words still cut to the core. There was little that she had to offer besides some laughs now and again, bottling her pain in favor of spreading more joy to others. If she could make one person smile, it was worth a little more pain, but for what? Compared to such magnificent people in her group like a wayward prince, a future Warlord, and a jack-of-all-trades servant, where did she stand? She wasn’t strong and could fight at a distance. Her magic was minimal, good for healing wounds. She was nothing but a walking burden.
All she could do was laugh now to mask her agony.
Faris raised an eyebrow. “Did I say something funny, darling?”
As much as Sien wanted to scream at her for annulled criticism, or even curl up in a corner to resolve the issue right away, she couldn’t help laughing at herself. Her face probably looked so horrible. She always scrunched up her nose when she was fighting tears, and her eyes always got puffy and red even when she wasn’t letting it all out. Crying was the most terrible feeling in the world. Letting go of the burdens and weeping made it seem like all hope was lost the moment they started to fall.
Faris scoffed, stomping her foot, the sound of her heel clanking against the metal floor echoing. “Stop laughing! For a cute girl, you’re really not dignified at all!”
“I-I’m sorry,” she responded, continuing to laugh. “It’s just, you’re judging someone that you don’t even know. I mean, not that I don’t think I’m boring too, but you can’t go around saying things like that. It makes you look as undignified as me.”
Faris’s mouth fell open. “I-I-” Her lips curved into a scowl, and she flung a finger forward, pointing at the girl. The action sent a few needles flying, grazing the side of Sien’s face before sticking into the wall next to her. “You are unbelievable! How dare you say something so outlandish!”
“I’m not too wise, but idiocy is easy to read,” Sien pointed out. “I get nothing but backlash from Solus every time that I try to come up with ideas. Leilana can be so focused on her goals sometimes that I fear breaking her from her thoughts. Rem is so conflicted that it’s hard to tell when his head shifts from left to right. Even my little sister criticizes me. You wanna tear me down, you’ve got to do better than that. I’ve gotten a lot better at getting my head out of my ass
when it counts.” Faris’s shoulders were trembling. “So, what’s your insecurity? Do you go the typical route of tearing people down because you’re lonely and unaccepted, or do you just like causing mayhem for no reason at all?”
“Don’t belittle me!” Faris plunged needles into the girl’s stomach, and Sien shrieked.
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.