Magemother: The Complete Series (A Fantasy Adventure Book Series for Kids of All Ages), page 1
Copyright © 2016 by Austin J. Bailey.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below. Please contact by email: email@example.com
Note: This is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Author Website: www.austinjbailey.com
Cover design by James T. Egan
Edited by Crystal Watanabe
Map of Aberdeen by Karl Vesterberg
If you are having trouble viewing the map, click here.
The Mage and the Magpie (Book One)
The Empty Throne (Bonus Novella)
The Paradise Twin (Book Two)
The Bridge to Nowhere (Book Three)
The Mage and the Magpie
by Austin J. Bailey
In which there is a pool of drool
Brinley fell out of a dream onto the floor of her bedroom and the jolt of the cold tiles against her sleep-warmed feet instantly sent her up on tiptoes. Last summer her dad had gotten four truckloads of tile for free. It was free because nobody could sell it, and nobody could sell it because it was so ugly, but that didn’t stop him from ripping out all of the carpet and tiling every last inch of the house. Sure, it was easier to keep clean, but tile was cold. She shivered in her nightgown, which was really just one of her dad’s old work shirts. She was too old to wear her dad’s shirts to bed, she thought vaguely. It was time to get some real pajamas, warm ones. Then again, the shirt had almost no holes in it, and it was so soft. Best of all, it smelled like Dad. And Dad smelled warm.
She got back into bed and then leapt out again when she remembered what had awakened her. The noise! It had been so loud! She dashed down the hall to her father’s room and shook him awake in the middle of a snore.
“Dad, did you hear that?”
He put his palms to his face and rubbed slowly. “Uh…what? What time is it?” he said blearily.
“Did—you—hear—that?” she repeated, more earnestly now that he was actually awake.
“Hear what, Brinley?”
“That noise. It practically shook the house!”
“What noise?” he asked patiently, pushing himself up on one arm and looking around as if to find the source of it. “Are you sure you weren’t dreaming?”
“Yes,” she said fervently. Then, “Well, maybe not…I mean, I guess when you’re dreaming and a giant gong wakes you, you can’t be sure if the gong was in the dream or not…”
“Exactly,” he said, nodding and lying back down. He was asleep again as quickly as he had awakened. He always did that. Now she was going to be awake all by herself for who knew how long, trying to figure it all out. She hopped onto the end of his bed, crossed her legs, and tried to remember what the sound had been like. Gong was how she had described it, but maybe it was more like a boom…like a cannon, maybe? Or was it more like a loud clang? No…
When she woke up the next morning, she was still on her father’s bed. She was half lying down, half sitting up, with an impressive amount of drool pooled beside her face. Evidently she had fallen asleep with her head on her hand, elbow propped against her knee, and then face-planted some time later. Her father was poking her.
“Wake up, drool-face.”
She lifted her head but stayed sprawled, wiping her face with one hand and batting him away with the other.
“Bad Daddy,” she said weakly. He stopped, then burst out laughing. She smiled with her face half-buried in the bed.
Later, as they stuffed their faces with pancakes, he asked what all the fuss had been about last night, and she repeated the story.
“Hmm…” was all he said when she finished.
“Hmm…” she mimicked.
“Well, it’s probably nothing,” he continued. “All the same, you should tell me if it happens again.”
“Really?” This was not at all how she had expected him to react. She’d thought he would simply reassure her that it was just a dream, and by doing so, end the silly idea that she was clinging to: that it may not have been a dream at all.
“Sure,” he said easily, helping himself to another pancake. “Giant nighttime bells are nothing to trifle with.”
“You’re making fun of me!”
“No,” he said, growing serious. “No, I’m really not.” The corner of his mouth twitched. “Well, maybe I am a little.” He gave her a significant look. “Actually, it happened to me once.”
“Really?” she replied. “What do you mean?”
“Hearing bells in the night. A bell,” he corrected himself.
“You never told me that,” she said, excited.
“No,” he said simply. “It was a long time ago…” He trailed off, and they ate in silence for a while.
“Dad,” Brinley said at length, thinking of the question she had meant to ask him, “how did you find me?”
“Hmm? Oh. In a basket, on the steps of the old church at Morley, like I told you,” he said, stirring the leftover syrup on his plate idly.
“No, I mean how. How were you there, at Morley, in the middle of the night?”
“Ah.” He looked up at her with renewed interest, eyes flashing a little in the morning light. “That brings us back to the bell.”
Brinley’s pulse quickened.
“I heard it that night. It brought me right out of bed. It was ringing again and again, so loudly that I couldn’t hear myself think. I got halfway to the church before I realized that no one else seemed to be bothered by it. No lights on, no one looking out their windows. The bell stopped as soon as I got there, and there you were, waiting for me.”
Brinley was quiet for a moment, reflecting on this new piece of the puzzle. “I don’t understand,” she said finally.
“What about it?”
“Well,” she said slowly, “Morley Church doesn’t have a bell.”
He blinked. “It doesn’t?”
“I don’t think so,” she said, shaking her head. She went there all the time, and she could have sworn it didn’t, but now she was doubting herself. “I’ll have to check, I guess.”
He shrugged. “Well, there was on the night that I found you. I know I heard one.”
“Do you think that’s what I heard last night?”
“I don’t know, Brin. Maybe.” He glanced at the clock. He took her plate and moved to the sink, where he began to wash the dishes.
“Dad,” she said, “what did it sound like?”
His hand made a slow, silent circle around the plate in the dishwater.
“I don’t know,” he said quietly. “It was…I don’t know.”
“What?” she prompted.
He turned to her, cocked an eyebrow. “Well, I was going to say that it felt like it was from somewhere else.”
Brinley felt a twinge
His eyebrows went up. “I don’t know what that even means,” he said, smiling sheepishly. “I’m probably being silly.”
“Yeah,” she said hastily. “Right, me too.”
They looked at each other awkwardly, then he shrugged and said, “Maybe we can go down there and take a look around together this Saturday.”
She brightened. “Really?”
He smiled. “I’ll be home late tonight. Don’t wait up.”
She watched him go. She thought about her father being drawn out of the house in the middle of the night by a bell that no one else could hear. It had led him to her when she was a baby. Could it have something to do with where she came from? Saturday, he had said. They would go to Morley on Saturday and check it out.
She glanced around the empty house and tried to imagine waiting until Saturday. She sighed. There was no way she could wait that long. She had to know now. There was something strange about that sound. It was as if it were calling to her. Something deep inside her had recognized that bell. It was ringing for her.
In which someone is very nearly eaten
Brinley was not wrong. The sound had indeed come from a place far from her world. In that place, several days before Brinley was awakened by the sound of the bell, the oldest of all the mages fingered his long beard and curled his age-worn body into a wisp of night mist, vanishing in the wind. He was the Wind Mage, after all, and the wind was his business.
The devil-child whom he had been following screamed and raised a fist in protest, but there was nothing to be done. Animus was too smart to be taken in by its tricks, too clever, too old, perhaps, to wander into a trap so obvious. He had followed the child across the night as it beckoned to him, followed it silently past the guards over the ancient bridge, followed it disbelieving over the section of the bridge that should not have been passable, moving through walls and wards of magic that should have barred their way; nobody should have been able to cross this bridge. The mages had taken precautions long ago to keep this from happening.
He had followed the creature through the mist at the top of the high, arched bridge and down the other side into a dark and tangled forest which bears a name so old and evil that it cannot be written. He had followed it long enough. He would go alone to investigate the creature’s claim. He would do it carefully, quietly; he would be nothing more than breath-mist on the wind, hiding his name and power from the darkness that lived within.
It didn’t take long before he found her.
She was unconscious—dead, he thought at first—but no, that was not possible. She lay there with her straw-colored hair fanned out across the mud like tarnished gold. Gold that should never tarnish. It was too much for him, seeing her like that, the best person in the world discarded like a dirty rag in a dark corner. Without thinking, he changed back into himself and moved to help her.
He regretted it immediately.
A mass of fur and feathers and claws tore from the shadows behind him and pinned him to the floor of the little clearing. It would have killed him too, mage though he was, if it had not recognized him in the split second that it took its teeth to reach his throat.
“Peridot!” Animus exclaimed. It was clear now, who had caught him. Pinned beneath her side, he was staring up at the place where wings connected to the rest of her body. There was only one such creature in the world: Peridot the Magemother’s herald. She was the last of her race—a winged lion, a “Laurel,” as they were called in the old days, and she was sworn to protect the Magemother.
“Animus!” she cried in alarm. She released him, rolling him onto his side with a big paw.
He rose unsteadily to his feet, catching his breath, and eyed the beast that had nearly killed him. He noticed there was blood pouring from her breast where a wing joined her body. “What happened?” Before she could answer, he remembered the woman and turned back to where she still lay on the ground.
“There’s no time now,” Peridot said, ushering him toward the woman in the mud. “You must take her, Animus, take her away from this place. He will be back soon.”
As soon as she said it, something dark slipped from the trees. Peridot whirled and Animus craned around her to see it. It was a man, hooded and cloaked. He looked familiar, but Animus couldn’t tell for sure who it was. The figure raised a hand and Animus felt his heart grow cold. Dark thoughts crowded in on him like a tangible force; his worst nightmares were being realized.
“Go!” Peridot howled. With a snarl, she crossed the clearing and pounced upon the dark man. Animus scooped the woman up in his arms in a way that would have surprised people to see, looking as old as he did.
The woman’s eyes opened slightly.
“Animus?” she said weakly.
“I have you,” he said, his voice low and comforting. “I shall take you to the king.”
“No,” she whispered, struggling with the effort to speak. “To Calypsis.”
“Go!” Peridot roared.
Animus leapt with the wind and flew skyward, faster than he ever had before, not thinking of what might be following him. He rose from the earth faster than any bird, fast enough to leave all shapes behind him, turning into the wind itself and cradling the woman in arms of air as they soared toward the glittering moon.
In which Hugo spies, sneezes, and walks through secret passageways
On the other side of the kingdom, there was a day with no wind. Then there were two. Then there were more—days upon days. The air was stale; clouds struggled to form up and make rain, and the farmers suffered. Then the food suffered, and when the food suffered, everyone suffered. Eventually, when it became so bad that people began to worry, the High King of Aberdeen sent a messenger to the Wind Mage to ask what the problem was.
Archibald, who was the king’s oldest friend and most trusted servant, was the first person to speak with the messenger when he returned.
Prince Hugo was watching from a high window above the inner courtyard as the messenger handed Archibald a scroll. A look of worry crossed Archibald’s face as he read it, but he put himself back together quickly and disappeared into the castle. Hugo moved to follow him. No doubt Archibald would be going straight to the king. Hugo’s father would want to know what the message said right away. Hugo turned from the window and ducked behind a life-size painting of a long-dead relative, turning down a steep stairway into the belly of the castle. He would have to be quick if was going to get there in time to overhear Archibald’s report.
He emerged from a broom closet into the kitchens, dodged a portly man carrying a tureen of chowder, then hastily turned a blind corner and nearly barreled into Lux. He cringed and closed his eyes at the last second, but the moment of collision never came. He looked around and saw the mage standing behind him instead.
“Sorry, sir,” Hugo said hastily to the shining man. His golden hair and beard were bright and pure, and his whole body shone with a faint light that seemed crisp and clean against the dancing orange of the kitchen fires. “How did you—” Hugo stopped himself. It really wasn’t polite to question mages. “I mean, I was going to run into you and then…I didn’t,” he finished lamely.
Lux raised an eyebrow in response, and Hugo felt even more foolish. Despite the mage’s shining appearance, his eyes were bloodshot, and his face was strained, as if he was struggling with something on the inside. Hugo thought about asking the mage if he was feeling all right, but decided against it. His father wouldn’t be pleased to find out that he was pestering Lux. He had always been attracted to the mages, and the king didn’t like it. He didn’t want him learning from the mages. He likely wouldn’t approve of him talking to one in the kitchens. “Sorry,” he said again, “I must be going.” He left Lux standing there and made for the stairs, praying that th
Hoping that he hadn’t wasted too much time, Hugo climbed up through the maze of servant’s passages that led to the library. He entered the massive room and climbed a ladder to the very top floor. Taking the narrow stairway from there to the stacks, he opened a small door softly and ducked in. He lit a small hand lamp and held it out to reveal a maze of books leading away into the darkness. The ceiling was low, and though he was several years from reaching his full height, he had to duck slightly. Few people ever came here. Fewer still realized that the king’s private study lay directly above it.
Hugo knew more about the ancient castle than anyone alive, except perhaps Archibald. He spent many of his days alone, discovering its secrets. More than anything he wanted to go to the wizard’s school, the Magisterium, and learn to be a mage. Alas, his mother had died before giving birth to other sons, making Hugo the only heir to the throne, and his father insisted that he be raised in the castle and receive a “royal” education, whatever that was. He spent most days trying not to find out. He would often just fail to show up for his lessons. That worked for some of his tutors. Others required a more delicate touch. He would sometimes feign extreme interest in a subject and ask for leave to do his own research. Then he would study whatever he wanted in the library, and then disappear when he got bored. This type of tactic seemed to work the longest before he was discovered, but eventually his father would get wind of it and lose his patience. Today he was supposed to be studying with Kemp, the king’s stableman. His riding lessons were one of the few classes that Hugo never wanted to skip, but when he had caught sight of Archibald hurrying to the courtyard earlier, he couldn’t resist investigating.
He wound his way through the rows of books quietly, lamplight drawing more books out of the darkness at every turn, dust lifting silently from where his feet brushed the floor. He heard a door close above him and stifled a sneeze. He dashed ahead, then came to a stop beside an upturned crate of old ledgers where he knew he would be able to hear everything that went on above.