Eilidh’s company of friends has splintered.
Rochelle is hunting for clues in the magical capital, Merlyon, assisted by the strange old man, Artisho. The war is outside the barrier, the politics are on the inside...and the danger is everywhere.
Phaer is returning to his people – the people who despise him. They’ll execute him and he knows it…unless he’s killed on the way.
The obsidian dragon Loric is seeking the mysteries of the Penta Drauka quest, while silver Callie embraces her true self, but in these days of Ancient magic, the world can be a dangerous place…even for dragons.
Meanwhile, Eilidh leads a band of four on a mission to a golden temple of the dead, at the behest of a sage known only as the Wise One. Will she find the answers she needs, the key to success…or just whole heap of trouble?
They may fail, they may succeed, but either way…there will be consequences.
Also by Gary Stringer on obooko:
Merlyn was the greatest mage in the world: a man of great wisdom and experience, but also one with a great responsibility, a terrible burden.
The magic was dying. It had ever been a weak, insubstantial force in this world and now it was nearly spent. For years now, while others had made futile attempts to preserve or revive the magic, he had been scrying for a new home across the cosmos. The relocation plan was ambitious. He called it his Great Endeavour. It was little short of madness - something he had been accused of more than once. Now he was about to attempt something scarcely less ridiculous: a meeting with other magic users from across the world.
Mages were a solitary, secretive people by circumstance if not by nature. They met rarely, if ever, and when they did it was not often a peaceful encounter. Merlyn believed that needed to change, especially now. Therefore he had sent a message out to wherever magic still clung to the world, seeking out magic users of all kinds. The message was cryptic, since he dared not risk revealing too much. It simply requested in the strongest possible terms, an audience on neutral ground that was sacred to them all: the Great Stone Circle. It was a prudent choice, since no mage would ever harm another within the Circle. Especially not at the time of the meeting: sunset - the time-between-times when it was neither day, nor night; neither dark nor light. It was imperative that this meeting pass peacefully.
So it was, then, that at that sacred time on the appointed day, in that most holy of places, mages came from distances great and small, gathering at the behest of the wizard Merlyn. Some came because they feared or respected Merlyn. Some came because they believed in the concept of sharing magical knowledge. Some came to voice grievances or outrage at being summoned thus. Others came because they dared not risk a rival gaining an advantage by attending while they stayed away in ignorance. Still others came because they were simply curious. Motives were many, but absences were few and that was what counted in Merlyn's eyes. In the outside world, some of these mages were rivals - even enemies - but here they met in peaceful tolerance.
Satisfied, and indeed gratified beyond all expectation, Merlyn strode into the crowd, coming to stand by the central standing stone as the last red and purple tendrils of the sun faded into black. Thus began the very first Council of Magic in history.
“I welcome thee, one and all,” boomed Merlyn's deep, resonant baritone. He was dressed in a humble robe of coarse sackcloth dyed red in the blood of a sacrificial virgin lamb. It was by far the simplest garment of any worn by the assembled crowd. None would dare do otherwise. In all other walks of life in this world, status was symbolised by clothing. A rich noble wore expensive trappings to demonstrate his superiority over the simple farmer, who in turn wore greater finery than the hired stable hand, and so on down to the lowliest slave. In the world of magic, this worked in reverse. A novice would wear fancy attire, and gradually shed his earthly trappings as he grew in the magic. It also served a practical function - in many places, magic was reviled and those who practised it burned. The lack of earthly finery made it easier to move in the world unnoticed. They did not stand out in a crowd. Indeed, mostly they were paid little or no attention whatsoever. This suited the magic-users very well. Merlyn was the greatest wizard of his age and so he had shed all but the barest of earthly possessions.
“Prithee, I beg thine indulgence for not sparing greater detail in my missive, but rest assured that this is a historic meeting of the utmost importance to us all.”
“If it be thine intention to engender our fullest attention, Great One,” said a female voice, in a neutral tone, “then thou hast succeeded. What, pray tell, is this dire event of such universal consequence?”
“Truly, madam, events are dire indeed,” Merlyn agreed. “The erosion of magic is happening slowly and quietly, not suddenly and forcefully, but that doth make it all the more dangerous. However, universal it is not,” he argued, “as ye will see. Let me be plain: I hath called ye all here to discuss the future. Our future. The future of all magic.”
“It will be a short meeting, then,” said a derisive shaman from a land far to the South; a man with ebony skin, shaven head and a muscular upper body of which many a warrior would envious. “For I see no future at all for us or for magic in this world.”
“Though thou knowest not, sir, thou hast squarely hit the mark. It is true that the magic of this world is dying and doth seek to take us with it, but perhaps it need not be so. That is what I hath asked thee here to discuss.”
That caused a stir. Could it be true? They wondered. Had the Great Merlyn found a solution to their plight? Was it even possible?