of the Brotherhood
male with a talent belongs to the Brotherhood of Wizards. When a boy is taken
from his family or chooses to become a Wizard, he must learn his old life is
dead. His total obedience is to the Brotherhood and all Wizards become his only
Thunder pounded in his head. Had he fallen and hurt himself? He moved his arms
and legs. Pain shot through his body. His stomach lurched. He swallowed
convulsively to keep from spilling its contents. Who was he? He struggled to
remember his name.
Lajin. I am
Lajin. What more? ’Twas like a stone wall blocked him from his memories. Where
was he? Where had he been? Who was he other than a name?
him broth and kaf. He drank but kept his eyes tightly closed. To open them
would propel him into a nightmare. He heard men’s voices and recognized none of
called his name. The cry resounded in his head. He tried to answer, but his
words rebounded from the wall.
At least he thought it did. He felt as though he was moving. He smelled leather
and scents he didn’t know.
rose on the wind. Jindera. Who was she? A face tickled his thoughts and
vanished. If he would find her, he would know who he was. He opened his eyes,
saw twin moons and the stars.
awake,” a gruff voice said. “Been near a day since you got lost in dreams. All
this from a knock on the head.”
Dumor. Drink this. Will give you strength and ease the ache in your head.”
I?” Lajin grasped the mug and gulped. As the liquid burned a path down his
throat, he choked. “Vile. Bitter.”
Dumor chuckled. “I know.”
“A troop of
Wizards on the way to the stronghold. You’re one of us now, little brother.”
frowned. The man’s words triggered a stab of pain. How could he be a little
brother when he had no older ones? There was just ... just ...
He couldn’t remember and the attempt sent
shards of lightning through his temples. “What did you do to me?”
He studied the man’s smooth-shaved head and
the black robe he wore. A sense of unease rolled over Lajin. Black robes meant
“Me. I never
harmed you. Senior Wizard Selor bade you come with us. You tried to hit him. He
blasted you. Your talent is needed by the Brotherhood.”
Lajin asked. “What do you mean? I don’t
reach the stronghold, one of the Masters will test you.”
this Senior Wizard hurt me?”
refused the honor you were given. The man who sold you to us hit you.”
Dumor laughed. “What you were in the past has no meaning. Your talent makes you
He turned away. “You stabbed the
man who sold you.”
tossed him a knife. “With this.”
frowned. Had he? Wouldn’t he remember doing a thing like that? But memories of
the time before he woke were lost. He left the knife on the ground. If he’d harmed
someone with the blade, he didn’t want to touch it.
the remainder of the liquid in the mug. The drink had contained ...
He almost remembered. How did he know?
“Who am I?”
He hadn’t meant to speak aloud. He
feared the Wizard wouldn’t tell him.
have named yourself Lajin. Perchance you are the expected one.”
Dumor clasped Lajin’s shoulder. “Forget the
past. Seek not memories of what once was. To remember brings pain. To forget is
bliss. After we eat, Senior Wizard Selor will begin your instructions. When we
reach the stronghold, you will be made one in spirit with us.”
throbbing pulses beat against Lajin’s skull. Something the Wizard had said was
wrong, but Lajin couldn’t seek the wrongness. He pushed to his feet, fought a
swirl of dizziness and then shambled to the fire. A dozen black-robed men sat
on one side of the circle. Two boys were seated in the shadows beneath a tree.
One of the Wizards
handed Lajin a bowl of stew topped by a slab of bread and cheese. Lajin dipped
kaf into a mug and found a place beside the boys. Their faces seemed familiar. Did
he know them? Pain seared. He nearly dropped the food.
good to see you awake. You were out a long time.”
you fight them?”
The second boy grinned.
“We’re now part of the Brotherhood. Won’t have the village elders pushing me no
more. Going to rule Earda, we are.”
swallowed a mouthful of the tasteless stew. He looked from one boy to the other.
“Do I know you?”
the second boy asked.
“Remember my name. ’Tis all.”
The second boy pointed to the other. “He’s
of the black robes strode to them. “No talk about what you were before. You are
brothers now. Soon all your past will be gone.”
He held a tragon flask. “Hold out your mugs. You’re
due a taste of the peddler’s gift to us.”
his head. “Not me.”
He touched his
forehead. “Will make the pain worse.”
the Wizard asked. “Where’d that notion come
frowned. “Popped into my head.”
added tragon to the mugs of the other two. He walked away, then stopped and
spoke to Dumor. He gestured toward the boys.
shoulders tensed. Had he done something wrong? He ate the bread and cheese,
then took another bite of the stew. He spat and put the bowl on the ground.
to your liking?”
Wizard Dumor asked. “Selor
will be hurt, him being the cook this night.”
tasteless. Needs salt and seasonings. Like...like...I can’t remember.”
Lajin’s voice rose to a wail.
“As I told
you, the past is dead. Not remembering is good. Makes your initiation easier.”
Dumor’s fingers dug into Lajin’s shoulder. “Your
life begins today. After we reach the stronghold, the Masters will examine you.
The oldest Master has awaited you for many years. Once your testing ends, you
won’t be able to think of the past again.”
shivered. Was there a hint of malice in the man’s voice? Lajin stared at the
now cold bowl of stew. “All I know is with a bit of seasoning, the food would
we reach the stronghold, you’ll be cook’s helper.”
He pointed to the other two. “You will help
with the steeds. Saddle, groom and feed them.”
strode away, the names of some seasonings flowed through Lajin’s thoughts. Majoria,
mintos, cimon, chokla, six kinds of scallions, peppali. Some grew wild. As they
traveled, he could look for them growing along the road.
he learned these things? Once more, pain stabbed his temples. Would he ever
remember and, if he did, what would the black robes do?
At the edge of his thoughts, he heard a soft voice call his name. Who? A woman,
he decided. He tried to answer and met a solid barrier. He rose, cleaned his
bowl and dipped another mug of kaf.
One of the Wizards
beckoned. Lajin joined the other boys. “I am Senior Wizard Selor. No watch for
you three tonight or any other. ’til you’re initiated into the Brotherhood, you
are in my charge.”
“As soon as
we reach the stronghold.”
more days of hard travel. We’ll pass through several villages. If I sniff other
candidates ’twill take longer.”
we be sent ahead?”
Beder asked. “’Twould
be my pleasure to be a Wizard, to serve the Brotherhood and free Earda from the
tyranny of the Jewels.”
laughed. “Would you now?”
eagerness is noted, but you must never question my decisions.”
Selor sat on a log so they had to look up. “This
is your first lesson. The orders of a Senior Wizard are to be obeyed immediately.
No questions are permitted. Should you encounter a Master Wizard, you will
speak only if he grants permission. In the presence of one, you will kneel with
head bowed. Do you hear me?”
Lajin spoke with the others.
tell you of the Brotherhood. Through our talents, we will gain power. In the
days to come, this land will be ours and all people will serve us.”
rubbed his hands along his arms. The Wizard’s sonorous voice sent him into a
far past, the Jewels were created and the Holders selected. Each Holder took a Chosen
. From these unions, sons and daughters were born. These
children had talents. The Holders were women and each chose a daughter to hold
after her. Their sons were driven away and not permitted to hold the Jewels as
was their right.”
only a woman could be a Holder and if a man touched any of the seven, he would
die,” Audin said.
Selor glared. “Lies spread by women. For decan after decan, Wizards have been
kept from their rightful place as the true rulers of the land, but that will
leaned forward. “You say I have a talent and ’tis true. I must have Holder or Chosen
blood. There is no family record of such a
or your talent wouldn’t exist,” Selor said. “You must learn control. ’Twas ill
of you to set that farmhouse ablaze.”
scowled. “I was scared. When ...”
The Wizard grasped Beder’s arm. “You
are to forget about what occurred in your past. Those memories will be expunged.
You will learn control and will use your talent for the Brotherhood and as I
closed his eyes. He’d been at that farmhouse. The Wizard had ... had ... had
what? “She died,” he blurted.
his head. “Don’t know.”
He rubbed his
forehead. “I must sleep or I will be ill.”
nodded. “You are dismissed. Blankets are with the supplies.”
staggered to the pile. He carried a blanket to the grass near the fire circle. Senior
Wizard Selor and several of the older men entered the shelter.
blanket wrapped around him, Lajin sought sleep. He didn’t belong with these
black robes, but he had no idea where to go. He hoped in dreams he would find
the illusive memories.
* * *