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The Wizard's Love

THE WIZARD'S LOVE
A Fantasy Romance

By Cate Duncan




















A little more than a thousand years after a Cataclysm that destroyed Earth's civilization, Hagar, the witch utter a Prophesy. It foretold that Carra, widow of Cantille would carry the Hope of Terrabien to Chivalray, the capital of the land. The king's heir, would know peace and prosperity. Carra heralded a New Age for Terrabien.



Carra of Cantille could not believe that she would have anything to do with renown, glory or power in the realm. All she wanted was a chance to study books and write in peace. But as a widow and the member of a Family, she had little choice, she knew. The Prophesy no doubt ended her quiet sojourn as an instructor at the Martyness School of Ladies.



The Wizard Dantag had awaited the pronounce-ment of the prophesy his entire life, for he had always believed he would
be instrumental in its execution. When his friend, Walker, Captain of the King's Guard, told him it had been pronounced, he hardly knew where to begin: go to King Mikal, question Hagar, or visit this Lady Carra? For destiny had already begun its course, and he had to scramble to catch up.



Mikal of Chivalry, stunned when he heard of the Prophesy, struggled to regain control of his kingdom. First the Suhans attacking from the north, and the barbarians from the south. Now insurgents struck from within and he faced a civil war. Did he just ignore the soothsaying of Witches of Restside, or did he use the Prophesy to his own advantage. Afterall, this Carra of Cantille was a widow, and he had need of a wife...



Find out how a king discovers the power of love and democracy in this post-apocalytic romance.

THE WIZARD'S LOVE

is BOOK FOUR

in

THE TERRABIEN SERIES


About a Post-Cataclysmic World

 

If you are a publisher or agent interested in

A WIZARD'S LOVE

please contact Catherine at

montdawn@msn.com

[excerpt]

CHAPTER ONE

THE PROPHESY

 

"It is your destiny to carry the Hope of Terrabien to Chivalray. The king's heir will see a land that knows peace and prosperity for its people. You herald a New Age for Terrabien!" The old woman's voice rang with a strength belied by her frail frame. Two of Carra's companions choked back twitters, and Darcia laughed aloud. The ladies were much too gay to take seriously the portents of a straggle-haired soothsayer predicting that Carra would be the instrument of the king's glory.

"Come, Carra. The woman has drained her powers on the rest of us, and she had to'fabricate something for you. I should have let you go ahead of me. I have no need of a tall, dark, handsome stranger to fall deeply in love with me!" Darcia blushed a moment later, believing she may have inadvertently insulted the still-mourning widow. The comment went unheard by Carra. The other ladies began to wander away into the crowd, admiring flowers and silk ribbons at the stalls nearby.

Carra looked again at the old woman. The dim blue eyes regarded her closely, still grasping her palm in the thin, bony hands. "This is no lie, Lady. Lovers and pretty trinkets 1 portend for the young ladies. It takes no true witch to know their futures. Ladies will have suitors, babies, and riches long before they come to have my looks. But I tell you truly that your life will have more sorrow, more passion, and more glory than all of them together, and their children's children will speak your name with respect."

Carra lifted her chin, still regarding the woman with ambivalence.

"Do not mock me, woman," she spoke steadily. "I have no great ambitions and no talisman of power to give a king. Why try to inspire dreams of glory in one who would have naught but solace and a chance to study?"

"Carra! We want to see the acrobats. Hurry!" Darcie called from the tail end of the bevy of ladies.

"I’ll meet you there." She turned back to the withered crone in her red turban and star-covered black robe, as she finally succeeded in extracting her hand from the sinewy grasp. Carra gathered her skirts to leave, but the knobby claw caught her elbow.

"The glory and renown is what you’ll find, whether you seek it or not. I do not waste my few remaining powers on those who have no great destiny. I see it in your eyes, not your palm. You are the one who is foretold. You will possess great power, but not without great cost. You will know great sorrow, but it will never be without joy. I promise you great passion, but it will not come without sorrow. You, Carra of Cantille, will herald the New Age for Terrabien. It is my glory that I saw it first."

Leaning heavily on a bent cane, the crone then turned away and hobbled into the tent behind her. Carra stood watching the faded rug flap across the opening in the warm summer breeze. At length, she shook her shoulders, gathered the skirts, and strode across the fairground. She did not see the dark, uniformed figure that stepped from behind a cart to follow her.

 

Carra shoved the old woman from her mind until she was finally alone in her own suite of rooms at Martyness. As a lady instructor she was entitled to a lavish apartment at the top of the garret and had come to value its privacy. Only occasionally did she envy the companionship that the other young women shared in their spacious communal quarters. Her quiet, austere room with its two large windows, one facing east across the campus and the other west towards the mountains, was a perfect place for thinking. And think she did.

The kindest action any person ever took on her behalf was when her father persuaded the Dean at Martyness to let her return as a teacher during her mourning period. Her mother, aunts, and in-laws were shocked. They believed sending her back to her studies doomed her to a life of boredom. They repeatedly told Hargood that they did not understand her need to be away from the Families. It only made sense that Carra should stay in the city to attend social gatherings and to be seen by prestigious men.

Hargood knew her much better than her well-meaning women-kin. He understood the joy she found in her books. Somehow, he comprehended that the learning had great power to make her happy. He had seen how hard it was for her to please Phillip, and how little happiness the man had brought her during her marriage. It was little wonder he left no fertile seed in her womb before he died. The four miscarriages had soured her on her matrimonial duties, and she had found no use for a lover. It would be soon enough that she must remarry. Her father had thought she deserved some time to herself at one of the better institutions of learning in the realm.

When she got to Martyness, Carra devoured the books, as if to make up for the ten years she spent at Cantille. She had forgotten the intensity of the hold the books had on her. There was always more to learn, more to discover between the musty pages. She knew that she was the first to read the words for centureis, and there came a day when she understood that she saw the way the world fit together through their collective pages in way that was different than those who would discuss such things with her. It was not long before the reading became the writing, when the printed words were not enough to satisfy her passion for understanding. The reading and the thinking turned to words of her own. She began to taste the power of knowledge.

How could her words be true? Carra thought from her cot in the darkness. Reknown? Ladies gained reknown by bearing famous sons. That was not her desire. Glory? Glory came from the pockets of men who taxed merchants and paid soldiers to die for them. What could she want of glory? But power, true power, to shape, to change, to make the world better – this was her dream and her great sorrow. No lady had ever exercised such power. It was self-deception to believe an old hag could give substance to such a dream. It was cruelty to tempt her,  to aspire to something beyond her reach. Her true destiny, at best, was to teach the young lords and ladies at Martyness, and hope one of the youngsters would find inspiration in her visions. Glories, renown, power – they had nothing to do with ladies who wished to be scholars. Ladies did not desire such things.

Yet Carra went to sleep with the witch's words in her head.


                    CHAPTER TWO

                      THE WIZARD

 

Walker pulled his horse to a stand before the open gates of Martyness and watched the last of the ladies disappear in a whirl of bright skirts through the large wooden doors of the ladies' hall. She’s too old to be a student, he mused. Perhaps she’s an instructor. It was not unknown, especially in a university the like of Martyness where the nobles often sent their daughters. A father who could boast of an educated daughter told his peers that he had wealth of no little means, was a man to be respected. A husband who could afford such a wife bought the prestige with the high bride price he paid. Educated wives taught sons well and were of no little assistance in managing the large estates. It had become fashionable to have a literate wife.

This one must be widowed, he speculated. She carries herself like a lady, not a merchant’s daughter. Ladies of her age were usually deeply involved with Family business and responsibilities. For the most part, only nobles could afford the tuition at Martyness, and nobles did not have unmarried daughters as old as she. The only answer was a widow awaiting another arrangement. It should not be difficult to discover the identity of the widow that teaches at Martyness.

As Walker turned his mount back towards the city, he thought, I’ill go to Dantag tomorrow.

 

The wizard looked up from the paper-strewn table when he heard the sound of the boot heels on the gravel outside his open door. He knew only one man who walked in such a manner. The worried frown of concentration on his features disappeared into a warm smile before Walker had climbed half of the dozen wooden steps on the east-facing porch. Dantag met his old friend at the threshold. When the two men locked eyes, the wizard started at what he saw there. The moment passed as they grasped each other's forearms in the greeting of friends separated far too long.

"I’ve awaited your coming anxiously, Walker, thinking only to enjoy your companionship over beer and stories." He waved the tall, handsome man to a large upholstered chair by the hearth that occupied a corner of the spacious room. "But I see you bring me more than tales of battles and feminine conquests."

"Am I so transparent to you, Dantag?” He unclasped the belt at his hip and leaned his sheathed sword against the chair before easing his muscular frame down onto its cushions. "No, the coffee is fine. It is too early for wine, and we have much to discuss."

The wizard set down the bottle and recorked it with mock chagrin. "You’ve the look of a man with news. But you’ve ridden hard today, and it’s not like you turn down the Valley's finest vintage." As he pulled two large earthen mugs from a shelf, his light eyebrows asked the question that he did not voice.

“I was in Martyn yesterday. I learned a thing of interest to you and came as soon as I’d found the answers to the questions you’ll ask." He took the proffered cup in his left hand, leaving his right on the hilt of the sword in the unconscious gesture of a warrior.

Dantag smiled. The elastic skin of his face never stayed in one expression long, as if the wide mouth and brilliant green eyes were too much for any one countenance to hold in one place. "You taunt me, my friend," he chided. "You ride twenty-five miles after drinking half the night as you wormed information from gossipy innkeepers, then only hint at the thing that has brought you to my door." Dantag placed half a loaf of brown bread and a section of cheese on the stool at Walker's left hand, then settled his own lean body onto the wooden chair he had dragged from the table.

Walker returned the grin, enjoying the game they played. Thus it always was after a long absence. Walker cued the wizard, who guessed the story as it progressed. Dantag's magic did not include clairvoyance, but his deductive powers were impressive.

He and Dantag had come from the same village and had played as boys together. Always their roles had been the same. Dantag's strength was in his intellect. He invented the games and created the play. In contrast, Walker's power lay in his body, honed to physical perfection and edged with a mind that Dantag had never let grow idle. He commanded the action of the play. The boys had not been separated until the magic came to Dantag, and the young wizard had to leave for the Academy. It was then that Walker joined the King's regiment, seeking companionship among other men, using the hard work, the training, and the discipline to ease his loneliness. He extended his service throughout Dantag's apprenticeship. By the time the wizard was released from the Academy, Walker was captain of his own guard.

The King had been inspecting the border fortifications at Fastness when they were attacked by a Suhan raiding party. Walker's guard was on duty that evening and fought valiantly to protect their liege, losing only one lineman and sustaining few other injuries. The King, trapped in his own guardhouse with frightened advisors and courtiers, had watched the entire foray. He was impressed with Walker’s command. The order sending Captain Walker and his company to the capital, Chivalray, came the next week. He became commander of the King's personal guard.

Dantag left the Academy soon after, seeking his boyhood friend among the soldiers in Chivalray. The two spent Walker's free time together, roaming the city and surrounding countryside courting young townswomen, tasting the local brews, sometimes just exploring. King Mikal, a shrewd, visionary man, inquired of his captain's friend, and so Dantag met the King. The wizard, entitled to wander freely according to the privileges of his profession, chose instead to stay in Chivalray.

To the dismay of the advisors and the court, Mikal grew to like the eccentric, garrulous young man. The King knew how difficult it was to woo a wizard to fealty. No court had ever commanded such power. Mikal knew instinctively that only friendship could win such loyalty, for wizards heeded only the oaths they took at the Academy. Perhaps because only good had ever come to Dantag from his boyhood friend, he found friendship an easy constraint. Without hesitation, he accepted the proffered hand of the King, and became his liege's co-confidant with the Captain of the King's Guard.

Walker tore off a fistful of bread before beginning his story. "Mikal sent me to the northern border to quell the latest rash of Suhan attacks. You know they often become more active this time of year. We barely managed to unnerve them, and I doubt they will give us much more trouble until next summer. I was on my way back to Chivalray with a small guard when I heard that there was a fair at Martyn. I sent the guard on and went to see if any witches were plying their trades.”

"This time of year, no doubt some ladies from Martyness were there as well." Dantag grinned again, teasing a man who made no secret of his admiration of feminine beauty. Martyness was known to have a ladies' hall.

"There were indeed. But I was not the only one who watched them." Walker cut a slice of cheese with a sober expression. He turned abruptly to Dantag, a gleam in his black, almond-shaped eye. "You guess too closely, wizard. Why should I continue, when you know the story already?"

"It was but luck, I swear," Dantag laughed. "Come. Tell the tale, and I will desist."

"Hadar was there. I was surprised to see her, as she seldom leaves Restside these days. I came upon her reading palms." Dantag pushed back the chair and chuckled at the vision, but did not interrupt. "A half-dozen ladies were at her tent when I came upon them. Thinking to approach her when they had gone, I waited some distance away." Walker deliberately took a large mouthful of breed so that he could not immediately continue, baiting the wizard. Dantag said nothing, but arched his brows in mock impatience. Hot coffee followed the bread.

"The last woman was reluctant to be read, but Hadar was strangely persistent, so much so that I drew closer to hear her words. I have not your intuition, Dantag, but Hadar's attitude was so unlike the feeble­minded crone that she plays at being, that I knew this was no game to her." He paused again, this time using no props to prolong the game.

The Guard took a deep breath before continuing. "My friend, she spoke the Prophecy for which you have waited."

Dantag was rarely without words. This time, however, the silence between them stretched longer than Walker had imagined could be possible for the talkative man. He noticed the fire on the hearth for the first time, not for its warmth, but from the sound of the wood pitch cracking.

The wizard finally took a deep breath. All mirth had left him, and he seemed much older as he stared into the flames.

"So. It has begun."

He looked around the room, as if suddenly his entire world had changed. Then Dantag's eyes met those of his friend. "What were her exact words?"

The Guard repeated the Prophecy as he had heard it from Hadar's lips. He then leaned back into the depths of the chair, both hands now clasped about the mug, sipping the still steaming brew thoughtfully. "You knew its words already, yet you tell me often enough that you are not clairvoyant. Why have you asked me to listen for them?"

"I was not (that) sure they’d be said. Most wizards put little faith in the words of Prophesy. It is the main reason that the Mage Hall and the witches at Restside hold little trust for one another. Prophesies are self-fulfilling, or so I was taught at the Academy. But this particular one, as you know, has been heralded for generations. It was the one single Prophesy that all witches agreed would be spoken by one of their order. It has the status of a Tenet to them." Dantag rubbed his eyes with his knuckles and rose to pace around the room.

"What does it mean? What is the Hope of Terrabien?"

"The witches claim they do not know. It is for the Bearer to decide. As to what it means, I hesitate to say. Prophesy has a strange way of becoming manifest in ways different then expected. Yet, other than the Hope of Terrabien and the meaning of the New Age, the rest seems pretty clear." The wizard stopped before the wide, tall window at the opposite end of the room, and gazed out at the bright, early summer morning.

"You say she is a lady? A student at Martyness?" Dantag turned to face Walker, as the soldier finished the last of the loaf.

"Her name is Carra, an instructor at the school. She is Cantille's widow." He rose to approach the table, with its wooden bowl of fruit.

"Cantille's widow," the wizard repeated thoughtfully as he absently stroked the books in the case below the window sill. "Yes, that does makes some sense. She must have some considerable intelligence to teach at Martyness." Again he looked through the window, as if seeking an answer to his unaccountable sense that events had been set in motion that were beyond his ability to control.

"It is odd. I have thought about this moment for some time, but never made plans for what to do when it came. You know that I’ve long felt that the Prophesy was in some way inextricably intertwined with my own life, since I first knew of its existence. You bring news of some historic import, yet I feel at a loss how to proceed next." Dantag smiled wryly at his friend. "Have you ever seen me so befuddled?"

Walker laughed, the half-eaten apple in his hand. "Only the time that barmaid sat in your lap and put your hand on her breast. I suspect you will recover this shock as quickly as you did that one. You will probably make as good an end to the occasion, too." The Guard then added, almost off -handedly, "I hear there is a new boy-wizard at the Academy who comes from her village."

Dantag pretended to be unaffected by the news, although he was secretly glad to hear it. The levity resulted in a visible relaxation to his long frame. "Perhaps you are right. Well, first things first." He strode to the cupboard and retrieved the wine bottle. "I am not nursing a hangover, so shall indulge even this early for such an occasion. Then we decide who to see first: Mikal, Hadar or Lady Cantille."


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