Here is the first chapter to Warlord Arcanist. If you’d like to see more chapters before the book’s release, please consider joining my Patreon. I’ll be posting more there, all the way to the release of the book!
I hope you enjoy the continuation of the Frith Chronicles!
THE PUREST MAGIC
Every night since I had bonded with the world serpent, I’d had the same dream.
I swam in the ocean. In the distance, beyond the waves, I could see the gigantic tree where the world serpent had been born. But there wasn’t where I was heading. Instead, I swam for a castle poking out of the water—all I could see were the tips of roofs and the heads of fearsome gargoyle statues. However, the closer I got to the castle, the more turbulent the waves became.
Every night, I woke before I reached the structure, my body dabbled in sweat, and my heart racing. I had never seen the castle before, nor did I know why I was swimming there.
And no one was with me. Not Illia, not the world serpent…
Tonight, instead of sleeping, I stood on the edge of Gentel’s shell, all the way by her head. The cold ocean winds kept me wide awake, despite my exhaustion. I wrapped my coat around my body and buttoned it closed. My thick boots and sailing trousers shielded me from the weather better than my thin tunic and gloves, but it didn’t matter. The chill wouldn’t force me back to the guild manor house.
Guildmaster Eventide had given me a new room to live in. It wasn’t like what I’d had as an apprentice or journeyman arcanist—it was one of the major rooms reserved for master arcanists.
Which was ironic, given the fact that I had just recently bonded with Terrakona, the second world serpent. I might as well have been an apprentice all over again.
But I knew better. I wasn’t a normal arcanist anymore. I was a legendary god-arcanist, one of twelve individuals bonded to mystical creatures so powerful, they could alter the world. Funny how little that had changed about me.
Gentel, the atlas turtle the whole guild had been built upon, was large enough to host a field of grass, a pond, a giant oak tree, and a three-story building. And when I stared forward and examined the massive size of her head—and realized I could easily fit in her mouth like a cherry could fit in mine—it made me feel small, both metaphorically and literally.
The world was filled with wonders I still knew nothing about, yet I was supposed to lead civilization into a new age of knowledge of magic.
This was the turning of an age that so many scholars had written about.
I stared down at my gloved hand, the moonlight bright enough that I could notice the stitching.
“There’s no turning back, Volke,” I said to myself, my breath a hot mist.
The ocean waters bulged a moment as the world serpent lifted his head beyond the waves. Terrakona’s scales were a brilliant jade. Even at night, I could appreciate the depth of green.
And despite the fact Terrakona was a hatching world serpent, he was already the size of a full-grown leviathan and a few hundred feet long. When he emerged from the ocean, water splashed onto Gentel. Terrakona didn’t attempt to get onto Gentel’s shell. Instead, he swam alongside the colossal atlas turtle, keeping Gentel’s pace with a concertina movement all serpentine creatures were known for.
Terrakona turned his draconic face to stare down at me.
I admired his eyes—the right was scarlet, and the left was sapphire—and his slit pupils expanded and constricted as Terrakona focused on me.
“Warlord,” Terrakona telepathically said, his voice so deep, regal, and precise, it was like hearing him speak aloud. “We have yet to reach our destination. What troubles you? I sense none of our enemies nearby.”
Terrakona didn’t have a hood, like vipers. Instead, he had spines made of crystal, clustered like a mane or crest. The crystals themselves were similar to star shards. They glittered with inner power and were a dark black, like the night sky. It was as if he were made of the world—natural gemstones, crystals, and metals, all mixed to form his epic body.
I rubbed the back of my neck. “Nothing is troubling me.”
“Why aren’t you safe in your den?”
“My… den?” I asked. When I realized he meant bedroom, I chuckled. “I’m not in my room because I wanted to be alone.” I exhaled and stared up into the cloudless night sky. “And I know what you’re thinking. Wouldn’t I be alone in my room? But you would be surprised by how many people just barge in to speak to me.”
“Who are these people? Children of Yama? Should they face punishment for their trespasses against you?” Terrakona flashed his massive fangs. They were long and came to a fine point, and some even glistened with venom that leaked from the glands.
I held up both my hands. “Whoa, whoa. I meant my friends would barge in. They don’t deserve any wrath.” I forced a nervous smile. “Trust me.”
“Yeah. Illia—well, she’s my sister—sometimes teleports into my room to speak with me. Usually about Zaxis, or stealing something, or about something she discovered a while ago.” I lowered my hands and shrugged. “And occasionally, Fain comes to see me while he’s invisible. I mean, I wish he’d let me know.” I laughed as I paced the edge of atlas turtle shell. “Half the time, Fain doesn’t even say anything. He just stands in the corner of the room like a piece of ghost furniture.”
I hesitated a moment as I recalled the many—numerous—times people had entered my room without notice or consent.
“Evianna always wants to discuss something and just shadow-steps under the door,” I said, half-smiling. “Karna disguises herself as my other friends using her doppelgänger magic. Hexa’s hydra once broke my door down by slamming its many heads into it.” I ran a hand down my face. “And don’t even get me started about Adelgis… He hears all of my thoughts, watches most of my dreams, and has seen more of my memories than I can even remember.”
I really had zero privacy.
“No one understands the word boundaries,” I quipped.
Terrakona shook his head, misting the air with salt water. Then his forked tongue darted out for a brief second. Even his tongue appeared highly magical—it was marked with glowing runes, similar to the runestone used to open his lair.
“You have a great responsibility as a god-arcanist,” Terrakona said. “You cannot afford to suffer the company of fools. You should surround yourself with advisors, diplomats, and the most talented of instructors.”
“Master Zelfree has guided me along,” I muttered, my chest tight. “Even if he’s… rough around the edges. And Guildmaster Eventide has been growing the guild and reaching out to other nations. Everyone knows of the Second Ascension’s villainy because of her.”
“A tree surrounded by weeds will wither.” Terrakona lifted his serpentine head high into the air, his gaze still focused on me. Water dripped from his chin and splashed across the atlas turtle. “Associate with talent, Young Warlord. You don’t have the experience of a long-lived life. Rely on those who can offer you wisdom, not heartache.”
While I wanted to reply to his words, an odd thought struck me.
“Terrakona,” I muttered, staring up at him. “Why is it you sound so old, when you’ve only just been born? I mean, you don’t have the experience of a long-lived life, either, yet you have wisdoms to offer.”
Terrakona growled—a much different sound than his telepathy—and it rumbled throughout his throat, creating a haunting echo.
“Magic connects all things,” he eventually stated. “From the grass to the blood in your veins to the stars in the night sky. And I was bathed in the purest of magics since I entered this world. All my knowledge… I have gained by absorbing it.”
I had never been formally educated. My ability to read and write, and my love of history, all came from Gravekeeper William. Those times had been difficult. Every scrap of information, especially from the steps of the Pillar, I had studied hard in order to remember. I couldn’t even imagine just knowing things.
“If you can just know things, why don’t you know what kind of magics I can wield?” I asked.
Terrakona snorted. “The knowledge I’ve acquired is not chosen. It comes to me in brief moments of clarity.” The gigantic world serpent flared the scales near his head. “You have touched the purest magic as well, Warlord. When your knightmare achieved his true form, you should have felt it. Perhaps just for a moment, but it was there.”
When Luthair achieved true form?
That moment was etched into my memories so thoroughly that I could relive it whenever I wanted. There had been a fraction of a second in which I had felt limitless possibility—like I had grazed greatness, but then lost it just as quickly.
Terrakona lowered himself into the waves of the ocean, but when I leaned over the edge of the atlas turtle shell, I could still spot the darkened shadow of his massive body. He swam from side to side, staying close enough to the surface to create wakes.
“Wait,” I said, holding out my hand. “I think we should practice our magic together. I haven’t learned anything yet, and we’ve been bonded for five whole days.”
The guild had been franticly chaotic since we left the lair of the world serpent. My brother—whom I hadn’t even known I had six days ago—was also bonded to a massive creature of untold magic, and he had no idea what his magics did either. The guild had fought the forces of the Second Ascension, and while they had teleported away, we still had to sail back to civilization. Several of our arcanists were injured, and some infected with the madness-inducing arcane plague. They could be cured, but everything took time and tested our sanity.
Everything made it difficult to focus on studying my own magic.
“You should rest,” Terrakona said, his telepathy clear, even while he swam under the waves.
“But we’ll arrive in Fortuna in roughly a week,” I said, half-tempted to leap into the ocean. “I don’t have any more time to rest.” I never had time to rest, it seemed. Our enemies were always scheming and plotting.
And what would Luthair think if he saw me lounging about? I couldn’t dishonor his sacrifice by lying in bed when the world needed me.
Terrakona burst out of the water and arced through the air. He crashed back into the water like a dolphin, his serpentine body trailing for a length. His scales glittered under the starlight.
“The magic god-arcanists wield is devastating. Do not take it lightly. Wait until you are fully recovered.”
I glanced down at my body. With hasty movements, I patted myself from the shoulders down to my knees. “I’m not injured.” I stood straight and motioned to myself. “I’m totally fine. I swear.”
“When you lose your eldrin, you carry a wound you cannot see with your eyes. Your soul has been gouged. It will take a little more rest before you are ready, Warlord.”
I caught my breath and then ran a hand up my coat. My fingers twisted into the fabric as I remembered the way Luthair had unmerged with me just in time to deal the killing blow to the grim reaper. He had saved me with the ultimate sacrifice. A part of me still couldn’t believe it.
We had been through so much together.
I clenched my jaw and tightened my grip on my coat.
The past couldn’t be rewritten. Dwelling on sadness wouldn’t make anything right. I had to move forward. I had train myself for the perils to come. I had to…
But the ache in my chest grew worse with each passing moment. I hadn’t thought much about Luthair since my time in the world serpent’s lair. Whenever I tried to recall his gruff voice, I grew shaky and less confident.
What if I couldn’t protect the ones I loved? What if someone else died trying to save me?
But then I remembered the seventeenth step of the Pillar. Confidence. Without it, we surrender too early.
I would protect those I cared about.
By the abyssal hells, I was a god-arcanist! If anyone could protect the Frith Guild, it was me. I forced a smile and a nod.
“You’ve got this, Volke,” I muttered to myself. “Don’t let fear cripple you.”
Luthair’s final words had been, “Future greatness awaits you. Don’t allow this moment to hold you back.”
And I didn’t intend to.
With a deep breath, I turned on my heel and headed for the guild manor house. The sky had shifted in color with the rising of the sun. Purple night bled into a pink and orange morning. Salt water always smelled different in the morning, and I enjoyed the aroma as I made my way to my room for a long rest.
Chapters 2 and 3 are up on Patreon now, and more are to come. Thank you again! I hope you all enjoy the preview.