I have to say, it's so much fun joining Marcus, Kyja, Riph Raph, and all the other Farworld characters. They're like old friends I have't seen for too long. And I am having such a great time expanding their worlds. The best thing about fantasy is making up stories that totally blow away people's expectations.
Anyway, I promised you another chapter, and here it is. In case you are new to the blog or haven't been here for a while, Shadow Mountain, the publisher of Farworld agreed to publish the last three books in the series, beginning in late February of 2013. Since it's been some time since book two, Land Keep, came out, we've agreed to post one new chapter a month until Air Keep ships.
The first two chapters can be found here:
Chapter 2 A Change of Plans
Marcus slammed his book to the patio stones in frustration. It made a bang that sounded thunderous in the quiet of the Arizona morning. A monk, startled from his work digging in a nearby flower garden, looked up quickly.
“Sorry,” Marcus said, feeling his face growing hot. “Where is that scroll?” he whispered to himself, reshuffling the small stack of books and papers in his lap. He’d been looking at it just a few minutes before, and now he couldn’t find it anywhere. It wasn’t like he could have misplaced it. He was sitting in his wheelchair in the middle of an open stone courtyard. And because he was in a monastery surrounded by monks, the odds of someone taking it were fairly slim.
But that didn’t change the fact that the scroll was gone.
This seemed to be the way everything had gone over the past few weeks. His land and water spells, ones he’d been getting really good at, were suddenly either so weak as to be useless, or not working at all. His body felt like a wet washcloth someone had begun wringing every night. He’d gone months without a word from Kyja or Master Therapass. And now, every day seemed to have at least one instance of him losing or misplacing something.
The only good news at all was that things couldn’t get any worse.
“You dropped this?” Father Shaun picked up the book and handed it to Marcus with an uneasy frown.
“Um, thanks,” Marcus said, taking the volume and turning it over so the cover faced down. He hadn’t heard the monk’s approach and wasn’t thrilled to see him there. Most of the fathers either seemed to enjoy Marcus’s company or at least tolerated his presence in their monastery. Of all of them, only Father Shaun appeared actively uncomfortable with their long-term guest.
Although the monk had never said so, Marcus suspected Father Shaun’s discomfort was due to the books and papers Master Therapass had sent with him to study. Marcus tried not to do magic in the presence of anyone at the monastery, but more than once he’d been in the middle of an incantation when a father showed up unexpectedly. With Father Shaun’s habit of routinely arriving with cat-like stealth, he was often the one who witnessed the spells.
“How are your studies progressing?” the monk asked.
“Good.” Marcus patted his stack of papers. “Just working on my, uh . . . algebra. Then some U.S. history. Gotta love the Industrial Revolution.”
Father Shaun tugged at the sleeve of his raso, the long, black garment worn by all of the monks there. “I have some news that should make your studies go even better.”
Marcus waited silently, seriously doubting that whatever news Father Shaun had would be good.
When Father Shaun realized Marcus wasn’t going to say anything, he coughed into his fist and said, “We’ve received notification from the state. They have requested that we return you to the custody of Principal Teagarden at the Philo T. Justice School for Boys.”
“Terrible Teagarden?” Marcus’s throat tightened. Had he just been thinking things couldn’t get any worse? “You can’t do that. Elder Benson said I was welcome to stay at the monastery as long as I wanted.”
If the monk was disturbed by the outburst, he didn’t show it. Instead he smiled sadly. “We will miss you. But we have no choice. The state says this is not the proper place for a young boy. The monastery is not an orphanage.”
Marcus couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Master Therapass had told him he could stay with the monks. He’d said the monastery was a place of safety, protected somehow from the reach of the Dark Circle. Then again, Master Therapass had also said it would only be a few weeks before Marcus could return to Farworld, and look how that had worked out—six months without a word of what was going on. “How did they even find out I was here?”
The monk looked quickly away before raising his hands. “I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to that.”
It wasn’t like Marcus had been able to talk to anyone outside the monastery. No phone. No internet. Not even a TV. He’d been completely out of touch. Every day for the first few weeks, he’d waited for a message. Better yet, for the disorienting tug in the pit of his stomach that meant Kyja was starting to pull him to Farworld. But the tug never came. He was beginning to wonder if it ever would.
What if Kyja and Master Therapass had decided to find the other elementals without him? He couldn’t imagine Kyja going along with something like that. But he couldn’t have imagined her leavening him here so long either. Maybe she’d forgotten about him completely.
Or . . . what if something had happened to Kyja? The thought made Marcus sick to his stomach. He slammed his fist on his lap and immediately regretted it when a bolt of pain lanced through his bad leg. “If Elder Ephraim were alive, he would never allow this. I won’t go.”
Elder Ephraim, founder of the monastery, was the one who had found Marcus as a baby. The one who had raised him and stayed in contact with Marcus until the old man’s death.
Father Shaun straightened his raso again. “You’ll need to hurry and get your things packed,” he said in the same calm voice. “A van will be here soon to pick you up. The school would like you to be ready to go with them when they arrive.”
The heavy book Marcus had thrown earlier slipped out of his withered left hand and dropped to the stones again, flipping open to a complex diagram showing how to combine the flows of air and land magic. Marcus barely noticed it. “They’re coming today?”
Father Shaun glanced briefly at the pages of the book before averting his eyes. Is that why this was happening? Had the monk contacted the state because of Marcus’s magic?
“Principal Teagarden said to expect him and a few of the boys from your school by lunchtime,” the monk said.
Lunchtime! That was only a few hours away. “Please,” Marcus begged. “You can’t do this. Tell them to wait. Just a day or two.” He wanted to tell the father how dangerous it was for him outside the monastery, about the Dark Circle waiting for him. But if the monk had a problem with Marcus studying magic, he could just imagine how Father Shaun would respond to the idea of dark wizards who could change into huge black snakes anytime they wanted.
“I’m sorry,” Father Shaun said. “We really don’t have any choice.”
As Marcus watched the monk turn and walk away, drops of sweat trickled down his back—ice cold despite the harsh Arizona heat. He could deal with Principal Teagarden. Even the boys’ school held no fear for him now that he’d discovered his magic. The Dark Circle was another matter, though. With six months to plan, there was no doubt in his mind that they were just waiting for him to get back within their reach.
He had to get out of here—now. But how? And where would he go? Kyja had all of their money. And even if he had money, what could he do with it? The monastery was located on a few acres along the edge of the Sonoran Desert. Miles of sandy emptiness stood between him and the nearest city.
He could wheel himself out to the road. And then what, head into the desert? Try to hitch a ride on a remote road that might see two or three cars pass by in a day, if that? Even if he did get a ride, with no money, no food, and no place to stay, the Dark Circle would have no problem catching up with him.
He spun his wheelchair around and headed back to his room, passing a group of monks walking sedately into the chapel. A few of them glanced in his direction. Did they know he was being thrown out? That it was putting his life in danger? If so, none of them did anything about it. No more than Kyja was doing, or Master Therapass.
Fine. He was on his own then. He’d been on his own most of his life anyway, before there was Kyja, and Therapass, and all of the other people he’d met over the last year. He’d managed to survive before. He’d have to do it again now.
He raced down the hallway leading to his room, rubber wheels whirring against the polished floor.
It wouldn’t take him long to gather his things. He didn’t have much in the way of possessions, and his room was so barren it looked more like a jail cell. He tucked his staff into a Velcro strap on the back of his chair, hung his leather pack on the back of a handle, and began gathering Master Therapass’s scrolls and books, along with his clothes and personal items.
At least there was one thing he had going for him: The motorcycle he and Kyja had driven across the country was still here. He didn’t know how much gas it had in the tank, and managing to start it and drive it the few miles to the monastery after his last jump from Farworld had been an ordeal to say the least. But it was his only chance. He couldn’t stay here and wait to be taken away.
Marcus turned to put his things into his backpack, but it was gone. He looked under his chair, assuming it must have slipped off the handle. It wasn’t there. He looked on his bed, thinking he might have put it there. But he distinctly remembered hanging it on the back of his wheelchair.
He wheeled his chair in a circle, already knowing what he would find. As impossible as it seemed, his backpack was gone. He looked at the door. Could Father Shaun have slipped in and silently taken the pack to keep Marcus from leaving?
Marcus wheeled himself to the door and whipped it open, ready to confront the monk. But there was no one in the entire fifty-foot length of the hall. But something was lying on the floor at the far end. Marcus wheeled down the corridor to the intersection of the guest quarters and the wing of the monastery with the monks’ rooms. There, lying neatly on the stone floor, was his pack.
He glanced down the hallway leading into the monks’ quarters and craned his neck to check the way he’d just come. Was this a trick? A joke? If so, who was playing it, and why?
With his pack on his lap, he returned to his room. Whatever kind of trick the monk was playing on him, Marcus would not let it throw off his plans. As soon as he packed his things, he would locate the motorcycle keys, check for gas, and . . .
When Marcus opened the door to his room, all of his books and papers were gone. His mouth dropped open. This was impossible. No way could anyone have come into his room without him seeing. He stretched to look under his bed, but the floor was as bare as the rest of the room.
Cautiously he turned back to the open door and wheeled out. Something fluttered across the far end of the hall where his pack had been, flipping end over end despite the fact that the air in the hallway was still.
But he hadn’t felt anything, hadn’t sensed the flows of magic required to ask an elemental for its help. Biting the inside of his cheek, Marcus wheeled to the end of the hall and picked up one of the scrolls the wizard had given him.
He looked down the hall leading into the monk’s quarters and saw a neat line of his books and papers spread evenly down the corridor. There was something very odd going on here and the only explanation Marcus could think of was magic. But as far as he knew, he was the only one on Earth who could use magic—because he was the only person on Earth who was from Farworld.
Except for members of the Dark Circle.
Were they here? Had they somehow breached the monastery’s security?
A cold chill ran across his skull and down his back as he hurried along the hall, gathering his books and papers. If the Dark Circle was here, the Thrathkin S’Bae could be hiding anywhere. But why would the dark wizards resort to silly tricks? Why not attack him?
After reaching the end of the corridor, he picked up the last of his papers and saw something in front of the final door. Something that could not possibly be there. He shifted the papers on his lap, looking for the backpack he’d piled them on top of, but it was no longer there.Instead, somehow, it was lying on the floor in front of the one door in the entire monastery he was forbidden from entering. The door that was always kept locked. The door to the room Elder Ephraim had stayed in until his death.