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Children of Amarid

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Children of Amarid

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Author: David B. Coe
Publisher: Tor, 1997
Series: LonTobyn Chronicle: Book 1

1. Children of Amarid
2. The Outlanders
3. Eagle-Sage

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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For a millenium, the Children of Amarid have served the people of Tobyn-Ser. Drawing upon the Mage-Craft, which flows from the psychic bond they forge with their avian familiars, the Mages of the Order have fulfilled their oaths by healing the injured and ill, repelling invasions by the land's enemies, and caring for the people in times of crisis. They are governed by laws handed down by Amarid, the first of their kind, who committed the Mage-Craft to the people's protection. Only once in a thousand years has a mage defied those laws. Theron, a contemporary of Amarid, sought to use his powers to gain wealth and glory. For that he was punished, though not before he brought down a terrible curse on his fellow mages and all who would come after them.

Recently, dark rumors have spread across Tobyn-Ser. Children of Amarid have been seen destroying crops, vandalizing homes, massacring men, women, and children. Have the mages forsaken their oaths? Has Theron returned from beyond death to take his vengeance? Or does Tobyn-Ser face a new threat, one it is ill-prepared and ill-equipped to face?

With the land in turmoil and faith in the Mage-Craft badly shaken, it falls to Jaryd, a young mage with extraordinary potential, but little knowledge of the power he wields, to find and destroy Tobyn-Ser's enemies before they destroy all he holds dear.



Gerek awoke with first light, rose, and dressed quietly. He kissed his wife, who stirred slightly before turning over and going back to sleep. Then he stepped noiselessly to the next room, where his son slept. Gerek smiled when he saw the boy, still asleep, sprawled ridiculously in his bed. Kori's small feet rested on the pillow and his head leaned against the wall. Gerek sat down on the bed by his son and shook the boy gently.

"Kori. Kori," he called softly. "I'm going to the island to pick some shan leaf. Do you want to come along? Or do you want to sleep some more?"

The boy turned over and yawned, his eyes still closed. "I want to go with you," he replied sleepily.

"All right," Gerek continued in the same hushed tone. "Then you have to get up now."

"All right," Kori answered, although his eyes remained closed.

His father laughed quietly.

A moment later, the boy opened his eyes and yawned again. His father helped him out of bed, dressed him, and led him by the hand out to the common room.

"Do you want something to eat now, or do you want to wait until we get back?" Gerek whispered.

The boy considered the question for a moment, his face, still puffy from sleep, wearing a thoughtful expression. "I think I'm hungry now," he said at last. His father held a finger to his lips indicating that he should speak quietly. "Can I have a piece of sweet bread?" Kori continued in a whisper.

Gerek nodded and stepped lightly into the pantry. He returned with two pieces of the soft bread, giving one to his son and biting into the other himself. When they finished eating, both man and boy donned heavy brown overshirts and silently left the house.

The early morning air felt cool and damp, and the briny scent of the nearby harbor lay heavy over the village. The sky was azure, and the first rays of sunlight cast elongated shadows in front of them as they crossed through the village and down to the shore. When they reached the waterfront they walked among the small, wooden boats that sat on the sandy beach until they reached the dugout Gerek had fashioned the previous spring. In the boat lay three wooden paddles, two of them full sized, and one of them, clearly intended for Kori, half the size of the others. Kori removed his paddle and one of the larger ones, struggling slightly with the latter, and his father pushed the dugout along the sand until it glided onto the glasslike surface of the harbor. There, he held it still, allowing Kori to climb in and move to the front. Then Gerek took his place at the stern and began to paddle away from the shore.

A fine mist, rising slowly from the water's surface, parted and swirled past the sides of the dugout as the small boat glided toward a large, wooded island half a mile from the shore. The island's trees were mottled with numerous shades of green, their leaves still young with the spring. Thin strands of steam curled over the wooded island like fingers on some ghostly hand. Beyond the island, in the distance, a thick fog lay like a blanket over the pale, green rise of the Lower Horn.

In the prow of the little boat, Kori paddled, smoothly shifting the oar from side to side the way his father had taught him. Gerek smiled and shook his head. It's not possible, he thought to himself, watching the boy, that he can already be five years old. Where do the years go?

"You're paddling well, Kori," he called. "We'll have you sitting back here and steering soon."

Kori turned to look at his father, a proud smile on his young, sunlit face. Then the boy faced forward again and began to paddle with even more determination than before. Again, Gerek smiled.

When they reached the island, the man steered the boat around to a small beach at the south end, hopped out of the dugout, and pushed it up onto the shore. Kori climbed out of the boat and, together, he and his father moved into the forest.

A narrow, worn path, one the man and boy had taken before, wound among the maples, oaks, elms, and aspens, climbing steeply away from the beach before leveling off several hundred feet into the woods. Sunlight slanted through the trees, casting shafts of alternating light and shadow through the smokelike mist that permeated the forest. The drumming of a woodpecker echoed through the woods, and a thrush sang from a hidden perch.

Gerek and Kori began searching along the lush floor of the wood for the tiny, velvet-blue shan leaves for which they had come. One usually smelled shan before seeing it. It grew low to the ground, snaking inconspicuously among the leaf litter and other shrubs. But it had a distinctive sweet, cool fragrance that only hinted at its full flavor. Many in western Tobyn-Ser used the dried leaves as a seasoning, and some even chewed the leaves as they found them. In higher concentrations, steamed shan had medicinal value, and, in all forms, it was a popular and precious market item. Gerek planned to trade most of what they found this morning with an Abboriji trader who had promised in return to deliver several yards of a fabric that Shayla had admired. They could never have afforded such material simply on what they earned from Gerek's fishing and Shayla's basketry. Gerek had told Shayla as much. But, with this shan...Gerek smiled to himself; he couldn't wait to see the expression on Shayla's face.

He and Kori moved slowly through the forest, filling their sacks with leaves, the boy covering the area to the right of the path, Gerek harvesting the leaves to the left. After nearly an hour, Gerek returned to the trail and called to his son.

"How are you doing, Kori?"

"Fine," the boy called back. A moment later he stood breathlessly in front of his father. "Look how much I got!" Kori opened his sack, which was nearly filled with blue leaves. Their aroma seemed to permeate the forest.

"That's great," Gerek said, "but let's leave a few for next time, all right?"

"All right. I'm hungry anyway."

"Again?" the man asked with mock amazement.

The boy nodded and laughed, and the two of them began to make their way back through the forest toward the boat. They had only taken a few steps, however, when Gerek heard something moving in the woods behind them. He turned and saw, through the branches and the mist, a distant figure approaching slowly. The stranger was tall and lean, and he moved among the trees with an easy grace. He wore a hooded cloak of deep forest green, and carried a long staff on top of which was mounted a glowing, crimson stone. And on his shoulder sat a great, dark bird.

Gerek grinned, feeling his pulse quicken as it always did when he saw one of Amarid's Children. It seemed funny in a way that, even now, even though he was a father with a five-year-old son, the sight of a mage could affect him so.

"What is it, Papa?"

It took Gerek a moment to respond. "It's a Child of Amarid," he said at last, still gazing at the approaching figure. He did not recognize the man, and he had never seen a hawk or owl as large or as dark as the one this mage carried.

"Is it Master Niall?" Kori asked excitedly. "I can't see him!"

Gerek picked up his son and pointed. "See? There he is, although I don't think it's Niall, not unless he's gotten a new bird."

"You mean it's another one?" Kori asked, his voice rising and his eyes growing wide. "Is this one a Hawk-Mage or an Owl-Mage?"

"Hawk-Mage or Owl-Master," Gerek corrected, and then, looking back at the mage, who was drawing closer, he shrugged. "I'm not sure," he told the boy, still unable to recognize the strange bird on the figure's shoulder. In truth, Gerek knew little about the hawks or owls to which the Children of Amarid bound themselves, and from which, it was said, they drew their powers and healing abilities. He knew Amarid's Hawk, as most did, and he could distinguish a hawk from an owl. But beyond that, he couldn't tell one bird from another. He did know, however, how unusual it was to see a mage other than the one who served this portion of the land. There were only a few dozen mages in all of Tobyn-Ser, most of them serving specific areas. Niall, who served the Lower Horn and the shore of South Shelter, visited Sera and the other coastal villages twice a year--more often if the people had need. He had been doing so for as long as Gerek remembered, first as a Hawk-Mage, and, in more recent years, as an Owl-Master. The mage had been a close friend of Shayla's father, and he had come to Gerek and Shayla's wedding. He was a familiar figure in Gerek's life, but still, every time Gerek saw the beautiful bird Niall carried, and the long green cloak that betokened the mage's membership in the Order, Gerek could not suppress the excitement bordering on giddiness that overcame him. And this was not Niall. Gerek could not remember the last time he had seen a mage other than the silver-haired Owl-Master; Kori, he knew, had never seen one.

"Greetings, Child of Amarid," Gerek called out formally. "We are honored by this meeting."

Gerek's salutation brought no response, and, he noticed, even as the figure came closer, the hood of the cloak continued to conceal the mage's face. Slowly, not understanding why it happened, Gerek felt his excitement begin to give way to something else.

Amarid's Children were, along with the Keepers of Ar-ick's Temples, the most honored men and women in Tobyn-Ser. They roamed the land serving and protecting its people, healing them when they were ill or wounded, and guiding them in times of trouble. In the absence of a centralized government binding together the land's cities, towns, and villages, the Order, in an uneasy alliance with the Sons and Daughters of the Gods, functioned as Tobyn-Ser's leadership, guarding the people from outside threats and settling disputes among different communities.

They were as much a part of the land as the Seaside Mountains, which rose majestically from the coastline just to the east of Sern; they were nearly as important to Tobyn-Ser's people as Arick, Duclea, and the other gods. The feathers the mages left as tokens of their service were prizes to be cherished; indeed, even finding a feath...

Copyright © 1997 by David B. Coe


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