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Iggie, "Small Sorcerer"

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Iggie, “Small Sorcerer”
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Chapter 5

"C"autiously Iggie approached the tattered gash. He was nearly upon it before he could see into the black icy world beyond. Not that there was anything to see. And the moment his gaze met that yawning light-starved interior its deep chill touched himas though death, reaching for him with unseen but almost tangible teeth, exhaled its foul breath over him.

     But Iggie was imagining it. Rahti had said he was alone in there. And he probably had been, at least as far as Rahti was concerned. Whatever Iggie could sense certainly didn’t come from Rahti. Rahti wasn’t given to playing senseless tricks.

    Iggie probed the other world gently with his mind. Icy, crushing despair gripped hima nameless dread that seemed determined to freeze his body enough for it to still feel the torment of intense, eternal cold. How had Rahti managed to stay sane under such torture? And surely he hadn’t been alone? Surely, apart from that nameless evil, Iggie could feel the presence of many anguished souls within the dark frozen void?

      But where was Rahti?

      With every fibre of his being revolting against such a move, he pushed his face nearer the gap. “Rahti?”

      To Iggie’s alarm he couldn’t hear his own voice. He moved closer, spoke louder. “Rahti?” All he produced was a stifled, indistinct whisper. It was as though a blanket of smothering fog surrounded him. “Rahti?” Even a shout sounded no clearer or louder.

      However, to Iggie’s astonishment an answer came throughthough clearly not from Rahti. The voice was a barely audible whisper. “Who else seeks Rahti? Is he here too?”

      Iggie jumped back. “Who’s that?”

      “Who wants to know? Where are you? Are you … alive?”

      Iggie’s scalp prickled. Whoeverwhateverwas on the other side of the fracture didn’t feel at all friendly. Was there something hungrysomething perhaps neither human nor animal, and not necessarily hungry for fleshlurking in there? “Who are you?”

      The voice didn’t answer. Instead it asked another question: “You’re … a sorcerer?”

      The prickling in Iggie’s scalp increased. “No. No. Of course not.”

      “You are a sorcerer!” The hiss was like an accusation. “Which means you can get me out of here!” Iggie gulped and stepped back a pace. The voice pursued him. “Where’s Rahti? Tell me where Rahti is!”

      “Can’t. Don’t know.”

      “Where do you come from? You can’t be from Earth: Earth has no sorcerers. Judging from your voice, you’re certainly not of the Piksenvolk. And you can’t possibly be one of those four silly women in the castle. They wouldn’t dare open the void between Lazaronia and a place like this. Only one other sorcerer fits the vibes coming from you. Are you … Iggie, Son of Ignarius?”

      His heart leaping in thuds that made him sick with terror, Iggie merely shook his head and tried to retreat again. But found he couldn’t move. What had he done? Oh, what had he done!

      “Speak! Keep talking so I can trace you!” the hissing voice commanded.

      So whatever it was could track him only through sound.

      Iggie pressed his tremulous lips togetheronly to have his teeth start chattering with a mixture of terror and cold. He clamped them over his fingers. “Was that your teeth?” the voice asked in disbelief. “Ignarius’s son wouldn’t allow his teeth to chatter with fright like a cowardly peasant.”

      “It’s the c-cold.”

      “Ah! That’s better. Now at least I’ve some idea what direction you’re in.”

      Iggie mentally cursed himself for rising to the bait. He shoved his fingers back between his teeth. But his resolve to remain silent shattered in a yelp as a shadow loomed up beside him.

      “Ah! There you are,” a voice said into his ear.

      He whirled, sensible of the fact he could move againto find himself face-to-face with the fallen god.

      “Where has Rahti been?” he demanded in a mixture of anger and relief.

      Large dark eyes twinkled impishly from within the fallen god’s hood. “Exploring the tower. It’s quite something. I think it could be most useful to usif we can find out how to use it.”

      Iggie ignored this. “Why didn’t Rahti wait for Iggie? And look what Rahti’s done. Iggie can’t possibly repair such a huge hole.”

      Fallanein made no attempt to view the damage he had done. “Did I hear you talking to someone?”

      Iggie shook his head. “No. Of course not.”

      “Come now, you’re lying. You’re a good liar, Iggie, and you can fool most people. But not me. I’m a god, remember. Who were you talking to?”

      Iggie shook his head again. “Iggie doesn’t know. Somethingor someoneunspeakably terrible. It knows who Iggie is. And Iggie couldn’t move away until Rahti came along. It was … tracking Iggie by sound.”

      The former god scowled past Iggie trying see the opening. “Where is it?” he asked, lowering his voice to a whisper.

      Iggie pointed wordlessly and Fallanein swayed this way and that until the light allowed him to see it. Keeping his eyes turned in the direction of the breach, Fallanein pulled Iggie right to the opposite edge of the marble platform. “What did … it say to make you keep talking?”

      Iggie turned his own eyes towards the rent. “Well, it seems to know Rahti. It asked who was seeking Rahti and demanded to know where Rahti was. It seemed familiar with Lazaronia, and the Piksenvolkreferred to Ilsamere and the three queens as four silly women. It also told Iggie he could get it out of there.”

      Rahti’s eyes glittered. “Bella! It must have been my Bella! Who else would know those things?”

      “Iggie’s mother?” Incredulity made Iggie’s voice rise a few semitones. “But it felt so evilinhuman.”

      Fallanein nodded. “She liked to pretend to be that way inclined sometimes. It amused her, and she was very good at it. Unfortunately everybody took her little jokes seriously. They all ganged up on her and murdered her. But you know that. You were there.”

      Iggie shook his head. “So rumour says. But Iggie was barely six. He can’t remember.”

      Fallanein was only too eager to remind him. “It was on the Far Isles of Raldyss, where they’d cruelly driven her as they might a wild, savage beast

      Iggie’s mind filled with an image of the Far Isles of Raldyss, particularly the looming black fortress with its legendary unspeakable guardians. He’d always found the place fascinating, having studied every drawing or painting of it he’d been able to find, though none of those illustrations had included clear likenesses of the creatures said to guard it. For a moment he saw a yellow, glaring eye that for some reason he knew belonged to one of the guardians. The eye blinked at him. Then to Iggie’s surprise it filled with sympathyan expression that stirred up a vague memory, a memory that had haunted him before. Only it couldn’t be. Surely his experiences on the Far Isles of Raldyss, where his mother was killedor so it was saidhad been all bad ones?

      But that eye held sympathy for Iggie. He was sure of it. All at once the guardians decreed by legend to be evil didn’t seem so fearsome. When Iggie was Duke of Mirakklon he could surely make use of that place and its guardians. The fact that a huge and treacherous stretch of the Great Albinsea separated it from the mainland, while something resembling a permanent fog around the isles made them completely invisible to all but a sorcerer, would be a bonus. Then there were those two semicircles of sharp rocks surrounding the only real island. They looked like the jawbone of some ancient, unimaginably gigantic marine predator that had been opened out and implanted in the sea bed.

      Iggie was jerked back to the present as terrifying images of a violent white whirling like a tornado cut off the sympathetic yellow eye. Inside it something thrashed, its screams of fury, terror and agony lifting every hair on his head. The imagesimages that had tormented his dreams until three years agoremained, as then, only half-formed. However, Rahti could make them fully formed. If Iggie let him. Except full knowledge would not only bring back Iggie’s nightmares but also intensify the terrors of those nightmares.

      He rammed his fingers into his ears. “Iggie won’t listendoesn’t want to know.”

      Rahti shrugged. “As you wish. I just thought complete understanding of the vicious way they killed your mother would be an added incentive for revenge.”

      “Iggie doesn’t need such incentives. It’s enough that they murdered his parents.”

      Rahti accepted this passionate statement with vigorous nods of approval. “Good, good.”

      Iggie frowned at where the rent between the worlds wasthough he could no longer see it. “Can Rahti help Iggie repair it?”

      “We must get your mother out first.”

      “But how can Rahti be sure it’s her? And why didn’t Rahti find her there if it is her? Rahti said he was alone. Besides”and he swung his gaze back to Fallanein as a sudden thought occurred to him“everyone says Iggie’s parents don’t exist any longer, even as spiritsthat the Voice of Judgement condemned them to eternal non-existence.”

      “Oh, no doubt,” Fallanein agreed. “I wouldn’t put it past the evil fish-eyed one who dares call herself The Goddessas though she’s the only oneto influence the Voice of Judgement through some evil spell. The likes of her wouldn’t care that such interference is against the laws of even the gods. But on Earth Bella was bound to me in marriage by legal church-sanctioned ties that she insisted on. These ties made us subject to Earth’s barbaric spiritual rules as well as those of Lazaronia. I’ve little doubt the earthling religious lawmakers would have condemned her to the place they call Hell if they’d had the power. But she would have resisted. And sorcery is unknown to earthlings. Their wizards, to whom they give various titlespriests, vicars, curates, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and other stranger nameswouldn’t have been able to withstand her magic spells because they’re without power of their own. Only how she landed up in Limbo instead of the place earthlings call Heaven is quite beyond me. Unless, with Heaven and Hell being eternal while Limbo is supposed to be temporary, she was seeking me and chose to go there. I’ve no idea how in my own search for her I landed up in such a ghastly place.”

      Impatiently Iggie broke in. “Iggie’s got to close that gap. Quickly. Can Rahti help?”

      “Well, I can try. But first we must find out if Bella

      Iggie interrupted again. “There’s no time. If Iggie’s late for dinner Ilsamere will start looking for him. And if she comes up here …”

      Fallanein looked undecided. “Will you be able to open it again though?”

      But Iggie hardly heard him. Was that a door closing somewhere? He listened, his concentration centred on the tower door far below them. No, there was definitely no one coming.

      Before he could work out what the sound was, someone started shaking him by the shoulder. He turned to lookbut no one was there. He went hot and cold all over in turn with terror as he realised what was happening. “Iggie must go!”

      “No! No! Wait!”

      “Iggie must go! Iggie must go!” How was he supposed to concentrate on getting himself back with invisible hands shaking him? “Let me go! Let me go! Leave me alone!”

      To his surprise the shaking stopped. Only he still wasn’t going to get the peace he needed for concentration. “Iggie, wake up! Wake up! You’re having a nightmare.” The voice was frantic with anxiety. And it was definitely Ilsamere’s. “It’s only a nightmare, Iggie, a nightmare! Please wake up!”

      Swirling darkness closed over him. Helpless to stop himself, he plunged into it. It was like a huge black centrifuge, spinning him round and round and pinning him to invisible walls until he was sure the force would flatten him. Then, as though the centrifuge threw him out, he landed with a sickening thudto find Ilsamere had started shaking him again. “Wake up, Iggie! Wake up!”

      He opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was the terror on Ilsamere’s faceterror that turned her grey eyes black. The second was that he was back in his bedroom, lying on his bed. Relief overlaid the waves of sickness washing over him.

      “Oh, Ilsamere!” Curse her! Had she brought him back or merely forced him to return with too much haste? Well, best try to persuade her she’d only woken him from a nightmare. He drew his forearm over his damp forehead, acutely aware of hands that shook. “Oh, thank you, Ilsamere. Iggie’s been having the most horrible dreams.”

      “What about?” The words were clipped rather than sympathetic. Clearly she wasn’t convinced.

      Iggie shook his head. “Don’t know. All Iggie can remember is-is something dark and hugeand shapeless.”

      “It took me ages to wake you. Dreamseven nightmaresdon’t normally accompany such deep sleep. What have you been up to?”

      “Nothing, Ilsamere. Is it possible for … something to get at Iggie while he sleeps?”

      Ilsamere pursed her lips. “If you mean is it possible for someone to send you nightmares, then the answer is only a sorcerer can do so. Sorcerers with that type of skill aren’t exactly thick on the ground, and they’re all known to us. Why would one of them want to torment you like that?”

      Iggie shook his head and repeated a previous assertion he knew to be ridiculous. “The tower doesn’t like Iggie.”

      “The tower’s not a sentient being, Iggie. It can’t possibly have any feelings towards youor anyone else.” Well, at least she sounded more sympathetic now.

      He sat up and gave a wan smile. “Perhaps Iggie’s just got too much imagination.”

      Ilsamere made no comment on this. Instead she asked, “Do you want to come down to dinner or would you rather I ask Cook to send a tray?”

      Iggie tried not to look relieved. “A tray, please, Ilsamere. Iggie’s too tired to be very hungry.” As Ilsamere turned to leave he added quickly, “Tell whoever brings it up not to disturb Iggie if he’s gone back to sleep, please, Ilsamere.”

      From the door Ilsamere looked back, frowning. “What about the nightmares?”

      “Iggie will be all rightseldom has nightmares these days and never seems to have the same one twice.”

      To his vast relief she apparently accepted this lie and left. Iggie was clearly getting better at fooling her!

      He was sure which servant would be sent with his traya relatively new maid too much in awe of those she served to be anything but extra quiet if she found him apparently sleeping. So the moment he was certain Ilsamere was safely out of range he lay down, his mind fixed on a vision of the gap he had to seal. Even thinking about it made him feel cold. He pulled the duvet right over himself, cuddling it around him as he did in winter. He might need all the warmth he could get. He started breathing deeply and regularly as though asleep, willing himself back into that strange twilight trancea trance in which no one who was not also a sorcerer would be able to reach him.

      Because he was so tiredin that he certainly hadn’t lied to IlsamereIggie found the separation of his astral being from his physical one more difficult this time. He arrived on top of the Tower of Kaleidoscopic Light feeling exhausted.

      There was no sign of Fallanein. Despite Iggie’s exhaustion his senses were sharp enough to know the fallen god wasn’t inside the tower either.

      And then, as the fading light hit it, Iggie saw the rent in the air …

      Just as it exploded soundlessly outwards.

      The fallen god rushed through. In his wake came a huge, noiselessly thrashing creature so tall and so wide Iggie had no chance of making out what it might be. For one moment he imagined he saw eight snake-like heads.

      As the fallen god and his pursuer lunged towards him, Iggie leapt aside to avoid being swept off the marble platform.

      The apparition and the fallen god went silently over the edge and disappeared.

Excerpt from Rahti of Lazaronia

Well, this is how this chapter will probably appear in the final manuscript. But you never know. Writers have a habit of changing their minds. Just keep watching this space! My illustration is really more appropriate for Chapter 6 than Chapter 5. If anyone cares to complain and send a more appropriate illustration, I’ll be very happy to have a look at it!

I’m sorry to say that we don’t find out if Iggie becomes King at the end of the book, but readers can make up their own minds about the outcomethat is, if I manage to get it published!

To send your comments or questions, please email me.