Previously: The novihomidrak, Cirvel, heads through a festival on his way to meet up with an old “friend” who has a map that Cirvel needs. The friend, Sapere Imor, isn’t happy to see Cirvel and tries to persuade Cirvel with other temptations. Irritated with not getting his answers, Cirvel seals Imor into a genie lamp. A ninja steps from the shadows and steals away the lamp containing Imor, leaving Cirvel holding only air. He returns to the shrine to discuss the situation with the Grand Sapere, who demands to take it to the Dragon Council. Cirvel knows the Council will take far too long to come to a decision. Cirvel decides to act on his own. Returning to the market, he hopes to see the woman who had taken his lamp. He finds her and but she’s not quite ready to get down to business. At least not the kind he wants to discuss. When she does give him a chance to explain, he tells her that what he has trapped in the lamp is not a genie and that she won’t be able to use the lamp irregardless because she’s not the rightful owner. She bargains with him: help in exchange for the genie lamp. He asks her why she needs a genie. She replies that she needs a powerful trap. Treshauna then takes him to the meeting house for the ninjas to meet their leader, Drelin. Cirvel pulls Imor out of the lamp to prove that Imor is not genie — just a human. But Drelin learns that Cirvel is the genie. Cirvel “convinces” Imor to reveal to him the location of a place known as Alexander’s Den. Now that Cirvel has what he wants, the ninjas are ready to go on their mission. Before traveling the Wells of the Onesong, Cirvel needs to make one stop at the shrine first. Cirvel gets the coordinates for where they are traveling and he heads out. Meeting up with the ninjas, they take to hiding within his shadow. They go through the Wells, but as soon as they come out on the other side, they discover something is waiting for them. Blindsided, Cirvel gets severely injured. He withdraws and takes Treshauna back through the Wells, but is unable to pull Drelin along. Once back, the saperes realize how wounded he is. His world blurs as he’s taken back to be healed. Waking up, Cirvel realizes three things: Treshauna has stayed with him, he’s lost the book about Alexander on a doomed world, and he is still not fully healed. He returns to his lamp where he knows he can take care of himself. After taking to the sands to heal, Cirvel returns with the strange feeling that he has fallen in love with Treshauna and she with him. He knows they must put their feelings aside, hard as it may be, to deal with the Shniktaur.
by Dawn Blair
The owner of a donkey and cart slowed as he went by them, the wooden wheels changing in cadence enough for Cirvel to detect the slackening pace. Cirvel glared at the man, but it didn’t seem to have the effect Cirvel wanted. He grabbed the sleeve of Treshauna’s black shirt and pulled her deeper into the shadows, turning her as they went so he could keep his eye on the street.
He leaned in closer to her. “I’m just thinking that a vortex is nothing but a portal from one plane of existence to another. There’s no one that can work dimensional magic better than…” He shifted his gaze to look around. “…a genie.”
“So what does that mean?”
“It means that I might have a way to get Drelin if he’s still alive. At this moment, we have no reason to think he’s not.”
“I still don’t understand. How would that even be possible? Maybe if I’d tethered his soul to something… maybe even if we had a soulcolist with us…”
Cirvel held his hand up above his head as she babbled her thoughts. A book dropped into his palm. He lowered it down slowly as if it would be an answer enough, yet her eyes still brimmed with confusion. “This,” he began slowly, “I dropped when I landed on Segin. There is no way that it didn’t go into the vortex.”
“But what if the vortex is like the Wells where a human can’t survive the trip to the other side?”
“I only know of two types of dimensional tunnels that exert so much force on something that survival is unlikely: the Wells and black holes.” He held the book up between them again. “The book is undamaged. It made it through the Wells without getting crushed because of me and my dragon presence. By itself, or if it were put into a black hole, it would be torn to shreds. But the cover isn’t even bent.”
“How did you get the book? Can you bring Drelin back the same way?”
“I can use the dimensional energy coming off this book to find out where it’s been. That will give us a starting point. But I can’t just retrieve him like an item. Drelin has consciousness, which gives him free will of movement. I can’t just summon him.”
“But that’s a start.” She was starting of down the street, moving with her thoughts. “Wait a second. If you can work dimensional magic, when we find out where he is, will you just be able to walk through the veil to get him?”
Cirvel caught up with her. “To begin with, it’s misleading to thing that a sheer curtain called a veil separates dimensions. Nor is it something that can thin and expand. It can’t just be pulled back like a magician’s cloak. It’s more like a wall and you have to know where the windows and doors are. And yes, I could probably get through and bring him back if I had a good anchor in this world, something that could hold both of our energies here. I don’t suppose this is Drelin’s home world?”
Treshauna shook her head.
“All energies naturally seek their home worlds. That makes it easier.”
Her face took on a look of thoughtful contemplation. “I’ve heard that novihomidraks don’t remember their lives before the dragon took them.”
“That is correct.”
“So why don’t they use dimensional magic to locate their home planet?”
“Because they can’t work that kind of magic themselves and novihomidraks are not known to be the most trusting people. Also, the incubation process which binds a novihomidrak to the Onesong and allows us to listen to the Humline of many different worlds, destroys the energy of our homeworld.”
She swiveled and faced him. “How did the dragon swallow you? I thought they only choose humans to incubate as novihomidraks because other humanoids were risky. Didn’t the dragon know you were a genie?”
Ever since she’d seen the truth about him, he knew this moment was coming. “I was an experiment. My mother was a Shil’mak who didn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter. Her family is one of the lowest classes, even among her breed. The Dragon Council ordered her submission.”
“How old were you?”
“I was a teen.”
“A teenager? I thought a dragon could only swallow a toddler safely.”
“My novimather consumed my lamp.”
She seemed confused. “You weren’t in it?”
“I was very much inside it.”
Treshauna steps faltered as she stared gape-mouthed at him. “Then how did you break out of the egg?”
“Pearl,” he corrected. “I could hear her every time she spoke. She told me when she was delivering me. Then, when she told me it was time to come out of the pearl, her voice sounded different. I streamed out of my lamp into the pearl. Because of the small size, I pretty much broke it right away.”
“Wait, if you aren’t supposed to remember your life before, how do you know you were a teen?”
Cirvel chuckled, a bit too nervously for his liking. “I do remember. I am not a human novihomidrak.”
He put a hand on her shoulder. “I was told exactly what was going to happen to me in my transformation from a genie to a novihomidrak. Because of my size, I could also be incubated for nearly double the time of a normal novi. The Dragon Council has special programs and institutions for those of us who are born not quite right or wrong entirely. I never want to see one of those places again.”
“The saperes took you to one?”
“When I was being prepared for this experiment.” He nodded. “They wanted me to be fully aware of what a novihomidrak was and what could happen.”
Treshauna glanced away. “What do you need to find out what dimension Drelin is in?”
Her change of subject made him wish he hadn’t been so forthright with her. She now knew one of his deepest fears, one he’d never shared with anyone and even he didn’t like to often think about. Yet, he knew that if she had kept their topic, he might find himself answering more questions he wasn’t sure he felt ready to do. “A quiet place to work, preferably one that doesn’t have a lot of trace magic clinging to it. Something of Drelin’s like a hair so that I can focus on his energy.”
“And probably somewhere without the energy of several ninjas making you nervous.”
He grinned. “Yes, that too I suppose.”
“Let’s try T’kiel’s shop?”
“Old merchant guy. Removes magic from dang near anything you put in front of him.”
She grabbed his sleeve and dragged him down the alley. “He takes curses off items. Or, as you say, wipes trace magic off of things, making it all shiny and new again. Things cling, and sometimes it can get downright nasty.”
Cirvel wasn’t really certain he wanted to be around someone like that. “How does he do this?”
“Space magic, I’m sure,” she said. Then she laughed. “You’re not afraid, are you?”
“No! Why would I be?”
“Good. Just keep your lamp away from him. I’d hate to see what kind of cleaning he’d give that, and I want your lamp to fix you up as good as new again should we ever need it.” She let her words hang there for a moment, then playfully slapped his arm. “I’m kidding. He wants good, solid payment for his cleanings. His services don’t come cheaply. Let’s hope that use of his clean room come at a much lower price.”
It felt so strange and took Cirvel a moment to come to terms with the fact that there was this whole other sub-culture that he had no knowledge of, even with his connection to the Humline. It made him feel blind. No, correction, it made him feel normal.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, sensing his thoughts.
“There’s just so much that I don’t know and I’m not sure how I feel about what we’re walking into.” He despised that the conversation had moved to his fears. “Do you want to tell me why you were crying?”
“Not really.” Her head tilted slightly toward him as she glanced down. It put her almost looking at her left foot like that was the furthest point away from him that she could glare. “I trained as a soulcolist.”
“Don’t all ninjas start off as soulcolists?” He wanted to keep her talking, anything to keep from having an awkward silence as they headed to T’kiel’s shop.
“Most, but not all.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what being trained as a soulcolist has to do with why you were crying.”
Treshauna kept her gaze down. “Training to be a soul collector is a lonely life. Let’s face it, most people don’t accept death very well as it is. When the Masters came to inform my parents that I had the potential to be a soulcolist, they merely handed me over to them. I wish I didn’t remember my parents. It would make it so much easier, handling the thought of their abandonment that is. I wanted to be friends with all the acolytes I trained with, but it was strictly forbidden. They teach you to be an outcast and how to handle that.”
Now the conversation was making Cirvel more uncomfortable than silence would have been. It’s not like anyone welcomed a novihomidrak, but most acted like normal people and could fit into society. Many people didn’t even realize he wasn’t human, or that he had powers. Some had even invited him to dinner with their families. But he knew that soulcolists were only called when death approached and some still refused to have their souls collected, believing it to be a false practice.
She continued, “When I became a Black Night, I promised myself that I wouldn’t be an outcast, that I would have many friends. And lovers.” She looked pointedly at him. “I would never again lack human companionship.”
“You thought I had just pushed you out of my life, that I didn’t want you around at all,” he hazarded a guess.
“Yes. Drelin ghosted on our relationship years ago. I never knew why he ended it. One day, he was just gone. Even when he contacted me about this mission, he didn’t give a reason. It’s dumb, but when you told me to get out, it felt the same. I was being abandoned again. No matter how hard I try, I guess I don’t make friends easily. I can’t say I have very many, not many I trust at least.”
“Then let me apologize for hurting you was never my intent.”
“You didn’t do it. It was my own renegade thoughts.”
He stopped her and pulled her close, embracing her tightly. “Which you would not have had if I didn’t instigate your fears. I am sorry for that. I am not use to having others around, or to worry about considering their feelings. I take care of my mission, then I get back to my books. I certainly don’t have beautiful women longing to be in my presence.”
She stepped back, with him releasing her from his hold, and she stepped back to smile at him. Her hand lingered on his chest. “I find that hard to believe. You are wild and powerful, damn downright dangerous. I think you’ve just had your nose stuck in a book so much that you don’t notice all them around you, watching, tingling.”
She chuckled, bring her body right back against his, stroking just right against him. “Let me know when I’ve got you on the same dimension I’m on.”
“Tingling? I’m there.”
“Good. Now keep wanting me while we go do this. As much as I’d like to abandon Drelin as he did me, I can’t leave him to that fate. But, the first moment we have available, I want to see just how powerful you are, the dragon and genie aspects, and I want to experience it all.”
He fought not to smile. “I think we can make that happen, when the time is appropriate.”
Treshauna led the way to a building the same color as the desert sand in which it sat. It seemed very ancient, possibly older than many of the others on this street. Whereas most of the buildings had slim, wooden doors, this one was dark, polished, and carved with curves reminding him of smoke. He blinked down his dragon lids. With the enhanced vision, he saw the symbols that he knew he’d find there, but were hidden by the attempts of sanding away. He doubted the desert was responsible for it.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Archaic superstitions,” he growled, blinking away the lids. “We shall see how good he is at erasing magic. Either I will be able to enter, or I will be left standing here in the street.”
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Palladium – copyright © 2019 Dawn Blair Published by Morning Sky Studios
Cover and layout copyright © 2019 by Morning Sky Studios
Cover design by Dawn Blair/Morning Sky Studios
Cover art copyright © Rodjulian | Dreamstime.com, ©
This excerpt is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.