Excerpt from Color Mage
It’s been quite a while since I’ve done this, so I thought I’d post an excerpt from Color Mage.
Color Mage is set in a world where Collared Lords have absolute power in their own lands — at the same time as they’re kept in a kind of magical servitude, unable to leave their lands as they keep a never-ending Watch for magical attack on the borders of Righar.
Seagard’s Collared Lord, Mikati, kept watch for the Black Tide, an attack by the psychic mages of the island of Ha’las. In Book Two, Sword of Jashan, Lord Zelan struggles with his magical binding against a foe that no longer exists.
In this excerpt, Healer Kirian experiences an attack of the Black Tide, first hand.
Kirian had never been in a boat, not even the little mage-powered sailcraft that drifted in circles around Lake Heart in Sugetre. There, the sailcraft were rented by the hour to those who were willing to pay a few coins for the pleasure, and never had a sailcraft been lost or even capsized on the calm little lake. So Kirian had boarded the Homebound with some trepidation. But after a few hours of sitting at her ease on deck, soaking up the sun and delighting in the beauty of the smiling sea, she was reconciled. She loved the feel of the sun, and the shouts and calls of the fish merchants at Two Merkhan were a pleasure to hear after the quiet of little Seagard.
After the pair had sold their catch, the Homebound turned south again, heading for home.
“I envy you,” she told Rashiri when the other woman took a break from her work to sip a jar of cold honeyed tea with Kirian in the bow. “You’re surrounded by such amazing beauty here.”
“We’re very lucky to be able to do this together,” Rashiri said. Her face was creased and deeply tanned from exposure to the sun and wind. Her uncomplicated smile showed strong white teeth. “But don’t think it’s all like this.”
“There must be storms, and rain and wind.”
“Those are bitter cold days indeed,” Rashiri said. “And there are days with no fish, and days when one of us gets sliced by one of our own knives or the teeth on some unexpected catch.” She held out one arm to show Kirian the frightening white scar that ran around her forearm in an arc. “That’s teeth,” she said.
“I see,” Kirian said faintly.
“Spilled right out of the net with the catch and bit me before I could say aye. Kin got it off me, but Ruthan was busy that day and a few after, I can tell you.”
“Fishing isn’t so peaceful, then.”
“It’s hard work. But I love it, Hon Kirian, and it’s the blessing from the Unknown God that I can be out on the bright sea every day with my love. How many can do that? Here, have some more tea.”
Kirian held out her mug and let the other woman splash some caramel-colored tea into it. The Homebound was approaching port now, steered by Kin in his stained, fishy tunic. Kirian looked straight ahead, to the clutter of houses on the shore that was Seagard Village, then up and up, to the castle that looked out like a hawk on the promontory. She wondered how the newly-bound Lord Arias was progressing, and remembered Lord Callo’s amber eyes.
Behind them, the sun sank hotly to the edge of the sea.
Out on the far horizon, like a pencil-line drawn by an artist to delineate the sea, lay a mark between sea and sky.
“Rashiri! What is that?”
Rashiri stood and craned her neck, then cried out to her husband in the bow. “Kin! Black Tide!”
The line grew thicker, as if the artist inked it, a black border lying on the surface of the ocean. Kirian stared as the line widened, broad as a brush now, and felt her breath torn away by a freshening wind or by fear, she could not tell which.
Then it seemed to rush toward them, speeding towards the craft as Kin and Rashiri rushed to push all possible speed from the Homebound.
“Gods! We’re in its path!” shouted Kin, and the sheet of black drawn over the ocean sped closer.
Kin shouted orders and the wind rushed louder. Kirian, trying to stay out of the way, felt the boat surge forward under their expert handling. But the dock was too far away, and there was no way to beat the accelerating darkness. She watched in paralyzed shock as the whole western sea turned black. A tumble of stunned and helpless fish were washed along in the front of the blackness, those creatures already experiencing the deadening effects of the Black Tide. The Tide was so close she could see its odd matte surface, which did not reflect the rays of the setting sun.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a flare of brilliance from the Castle. Someone there, one of the Alkirani mages, was on duty. A wave of energy swept off the shore and onto the sea – glorious reds, blues, greens, golds. The colors overtook the Homebound and swept her with radiance before meeting the Black Tide in an inaudible crash. A vibrant shield rose into the sky. Through the translucent colors Kirian saw the Black Tide curling back, retreating against the strength of the defense.
“Jashan and all the gods,” whispered Kirian.
The Homebound reached dock. Helping hands grabbed ropes to moor the boat, and grasped their arms to hustle them to shore. They left the Homebound bobbing, at the mercy of the stiffening wind, but not even Kin and Rashiri dared to wait outside to put her properly away.
“Did you see that?” cried Elder Hame, his white hair whipped in the sudden gale. “Did you see that?”
“Couldn’t help seeing it old one, we were almost eaten by it,” Kin said. He sat down abruptly on a stool in the house they had been ushered into. He put his head in his hands. Rashiri stood behind him and put her calloused hands gently on his shoulders.
“I take it,” Kirian said carefully, “That doesn’t happen, uh, often?”
Hame laughed. “Never seen it, though they say it happened once ten years ago. What power! My lord mage was brilliant! That’ll teach those Ha’lasi not to sneak up on us that way!”
“It was too close,” Rashiri said.
“I need to go back to Ruthan,” Kirian said. “Kin, Rashiri, you get yourselves home and a warm mug of wine. That’s from your Healer, now!”
“We have to tend to the Homebound,” Kin said.
“Leave her. Someone else will take care of her for you this time. You’ve had a shock, you know.” Two men nodded at her and went out to take care of the Homebound.
Rashiri nodded, hands still on Kin’s shoulders as he slumped on the stool. “I’ll get us home, Hon Healer,” she said. “We’re fine though. Get to Ruthan, she’ll be worried about you.”
Kirian backed away, her eyes still on Kin, torn between her duty to old Ruthan and the possible need for her here. The door opened and Ruthan stood there, bent with age and the struggle against the wind, cloaked for a journey.
“Young Kirian!” she said. “Come! They will be calling for us at the castle.”
“We’re fine,” Rashiri said. “Go.”
Kirian waited only to grab her cloak and she was gone.