Meet Daniel Martin and Yllegra, just two of the many characters that
populate J.R. Vikse's newest book: Legends of Tranthaea, in this excerpt from
The Indecisive Apprentice.
Daniel pushed aside his unease and took another quick peek out at the person following him. He took a deep breath and tensed his shoulders. The figure was much closer now and Daniel could make out the shape of a Daevyn girl about the same age as him, or at least somewhere in her mid-to-late teens. Her blond hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail that drifted down to hang between her after-wings, to keep it out of her face as she carefully manoeuvred her way through the loose rocks up the small hill towards Daniel’s position. After a moment, he could hear her talking to herself.
“– an honour, Yllegra. That is what it is. An honour.” The girl’s voice was forceful and loud, as if she was arguing with someone. “To be chosen from among all the others. And by the Flame-Bearer himself. You will distinguish yourself among your peers.” The girl paused. “That is, if you do not extinguish yourself first.” She looked up to the crest of the hill. “Burning blaze! I have lost him!” She darted forward, scrambling up the slope until she slipped on a patch of loose gravel. She fell to her knees just as Daniel stepped out from behind the boulder in what he sincerely hoped was a majestic fashion.
The girl didn’t notice. All of her attention was focused on her bleeding knees. Daniel waited for a moment to see if she would look up. She didn’t, and he found himself shuffling his feet, his grand pose feeling more and more awkwardly forced with each passing second. Unwilling to relinquish the moment, Daniel cleared his throat.
The girl gave a shriek and bounced to her feet. “You!”
Daniel almost took a mirroring step back, but stopped himself. “Yeah, me. Why are you following me?”
The girl gaped at him for a moment as if expecting him to grow a pair of wings or burst into flames on the spot. Thinking about it, Daniel wasn’t surprised. Like most Tranthaeans, the Daevyn lived insular lives. Creatures of this world seldom left their homes, villages, or cities for any length of time, and it was very unusual for a member of one species to interact with another. In fact, Daniel knew that there were some inhabitants of this world that most societies now believed existed only in legend.
So the girl’s reaction was no surprise to him. After all, he was Human, and in training to become the next Sea Keeper of Tranthaea. He was practically a legend himself.
Daniel let a small grin grow across his face. This must be what if feels like to be a real Keeper. To be respected. He almost used his Talent right then, to do something totally tubular that would blow the girl’s mind, but he again heard his master’s voice in his memory: “Do not show off, Daniel Martin. You are not in Canada anymore. It is not 1984. You are in Tranthaea and you need to take your abilities seriously. Focus.”
Daniel grunted and lowered the hand that was almost about to pull water from the air and form it into two large hands to hang ominously over the girl. As if I don’t take them seriously. It would be easier to focus if I knew I was doing something right. Sometimes he wished he were back in his home country on Earth, back in the year he’d been taken from. Free from the responsibility of being a Keeper’s apprentice. Without someone constantly looking over his shoulder telling that he’s doing everything the wrong way. But he knew that the only way he could reach his potential – as Naida always said – was to stay in Tranthaea and become the Sea Keeper.
So, instead of showing the Daevyn girl a bit of his Talent, Daniel grumpily reined himself in and repeated his question. “Why are you following me?”
The girl finally closed her mouth, blinked, and spoke.
“My name is Yllegra. I have been sent by the Flame-Bearer of the Daevyn to investigate the circumstances surrounding the tremors to the north and the illness that has been reported in our farming community there. Who are you?” When Yllegra said the last three words there was an exaggerated upswing in her voice that made Daniel sure she wasn’t telling him everything.
Trying to ignore the impression he had of Naida standing behind him, a judgemental look upon its face, he made the decision to use the girl’s error to his advantage. “You know who I am,” he said, narrowing his eyes. “Duh. You just said that you were looking for me.”
Yllegra’s face turned bright red with embarrassment. “You heard that?”
Daniel nodded, staring down at her from the top of the hill. “And I want to know why.” His voice was as firm as he could make it and it did the trick.
Yllegra folded. “I am a student at the Conservatory in Yshaar.” Daniel nodded in comprehension. The Conservatory was a school for the Daevyn, much like a university back home. It had been founded by the First Flame-Bearer, the great-great-grandfather of the current Flame-Bearer.
Seeing that he understood, Yllegra continued, “I specialise in gru’Esh studies. Yesterday I was chosen to look into the events surrounding the tremor. I was instructed to find Daniel Martin – you – and glean what information I could, then report back.”
Daniel frowned. If it was an oddity in this world to meet a Keeper’s apprentice, it was even stranger to meet a Daevyn who was studying another species. “gru’Esh studies? Why would they need an expert on the gru’Esh to investigate this?”
Yllegra shrugged. “Why would they need a Sea Keeper?”
“I’m not the Keeper yet,” Daniel said automatically, repeating a refrain he often heard from his master. Still, it was a good question. Someone with a Talent for manipulating water and someone with a specialisation in the gru’Esh. Again Daniel wondered why his master hadn’t undertaken this investigation itself, but he didn’t have time to wonder long. Yllegra climbed the rest of the way up the hill to stand beside him.
“Maybe we should work together,” she said, her voice tentative.
Daniel hesitated. Naida always said it was better to work alone. No distractions, no collateral damage. Could this be a test too? He stared at Yllegra, trying to figure out if she was genuine. But there’s more to this tremor than meets the eye, he thought to himself. If the Flame-Bearer of the Daevyn thinks a gru’Esh expert might be useful, who am I to disagree?
Daniel swallowed, making a decision. Naida isn’t here. I have to stop worrying about what it would think. He gritted his teeth. I’m in charge now.
“All right.” Daniel stuck out his hand and Yllegra shook it. Daniel had the uneasy feeling that he had just sealed his fate, one way or another. He pushed it aside and they both turned to stare out towards the north. Far away, Daniel could see a glimmering line that sparkled in the morning air. It was the Sea of Nalani. Even at this distance, he could feel the water in his mind, swirling and stretching as if it were playing between his fingers, inviting him to mould it to his will, tempting him to come to its borders and surrender himself to its vast depths. He smiled slightly at the feeling. It was a dangerous thing, to enjoy power. He knew that. And not only for ethical reasons, but for practical ones as well; if a Keeper drew too much power he could be Consumed by it, destroyed by the very thing that made him feel so alive.
Daniel drove the call of the sea from his mind, looking for a different feeling. It had to be there. There had to be something about the water, or Naida would never have sent him –
There. A niggling feeling at the back of his mind finally caught hold of his attention.
Daniel froze. Just ahead of him, daintily picking her way down the northern slope of the hillside, Yllegra noticed him stop and she turned around.
“What is it?”
Daniel closed his eyes. “There is water here. Deep underground. But it feels… wrong.”
“Wrong?” Yllegra clasped her hands together over her chest. “Wrong how? And how do we get to it?”
Ignoring her questions, Daniel sharpened his senses, following the flow of the underground water to a point far to the north where it broke out of the ground near the seaside.
“Too far,” he muttered.
“What is too far?” Yllegra piped up, her voice annoyed. “The water? An access point? If it is an access point, I think we should make for it immediately.”
Daniel shook his head, focusing his mind. Come on, Daniel. Just do it. Be a leader. “Waste of time. I can get us there now.” He turned his senses beneath him, feeling every drop of dew on each stalk of yellow grain that peppered the rocky hilltop. He gathered that moisture together and – forming it into long lines – wormed it sideways down the hill like a slow-breaking wave. The thin string of liquid split and reformed around stones and vegetation, crept under gravel and filled footprints as it swept the hillside, searching for any opening.
Found you. A length of the water vanished into a small crack in the ground. Daniel quickly pulled more moisture from the air, creating a thin pillar of liquid water that he funnelled into the crack while Yllegra stood by, her mouth gaping at the sight of a Keeper’s apprentice practicing his trade.
The pillar of water filled the crack from base to brim and Daniel smiled, turning to Yllegra.
Yllegra’s eyes widened. “Daniel Martin, you should know that I cannot s–” The words turned into a scream as Daniel suddenly froze the pillar. As the water solidified into ice, it rapidly expanded, shattering the stone around it as it sought for a pressure release. Struggling, Daniel maintained his grip on the water, forcing it to stay within the confines of the crack, which was far too small to contain the new volume. The crack broke wide open, turning into a crevasse under their feet. But even after the ice had finished expanding, the stone around it kept cracking open. Within seconds, the flaws in the stone were beyond Daniel’s control and the entire hillside crumbled beneath them, swallowing them up in a cloud of dust.