This novella is a prequel to my Wolves of Vimar series. It tells how Carthinal, the protagonist in that series, rose from being an orphaned street kid to a mage.
Here’s some blurb.
Carthinal is alone in the world. His parents and grandparents have died. Without money and a place to live, he faces an uncertain future.
After joining a street gang, Carthinal begins a life of crime. Soon after, he sees a performing magician, and decides he wants to learn the art of magic.
But can he break away from his past and find the path to his true destiny?
And a short excerpt to tempt you.
Carthinal, accompanied by his nanny, Blendin, dragged his feet as he entered the house.
They were on their way home from his grandfather’s funeral. The old man had passed away from a heart attack the previous week, yet he had seemed full of life up until then. Carthinal could not understand what had happened. His grandfather was the only relative he had in Bluehaven, his parents and his grandmother having died. Now he was all alone in the world.
His father had been an elf, and although sixteen and nominally of age, Carthinal’s progress was slower than true humans. He appeared—in both physical and mental development—to be a young boy of eleven.
He wandered around the house, his steps echoing in empty rooms. His grandfather’s study looked, to the young boy, to be darker than usual, in spite of the sun streaming in through the windows. Silence filled rooms where he had enjoyed conversations with his grandparents. All life had gone from the house with the death of his grandfather. Now it was just a building where it had once been a home.
Carthinal went into the garden. He sat on his swing and swung idly backward and forward. What would happen to him now? Would they send him to his father’s people in Rindisillaron? It was a long way away, and he had no recollection of his paternal grandparents, although they had been in Bluehaven when he had been born.
He looked at the house. He heard the laughter of his grandmother and his grandfather’s deep voice. He even thought he heard his mother calling to him, although both his parents had been dead for the past eight years. He jumped off the swing and picked up a stick.
Clenching his jaw so tightly that it hurt, he slashed at the plants as he spat words out through his gritted teeth. “Why did they all die and leave me?” But ruining the garden gave him little satisfaction.
Blendin came out and found him still destroying the plants. “Come, Master Carthinal. This won’t help. You need to come in and have something to eat.”
“Shan’t! I’m not hungry.” He slashed at a tulip.
“What have those poor flowers done to you? You know you’ll be sorry once you’ve calmed down.”
“I don’t want to go back into the house.” He stamped his foot. “There’s no one there. It’s dead. Just like Mother and Father, Grandmother and Grandfather.”
Blendin sat down on a bench and pulled the boy towards her, holding him tight.
He kicked out at her and tried to bite, but she held him close. “This is now your house, Carthinal.” She ignored his struggles. “Your grandfather left it to you in his will. You’re a rich young man. If you no longer want to live here, you can sell it and buy somewhere else.”
Looking into the boy’s deep blue, almost indigo eyes, Blendin saw the hurt he felt. She brushed his auburn hair from his face and led him back inside.
The servants worked as usual. Carthinal’s grandfather had arranged that money should be sent to Promin, the butler, who then paid the other servants. Carthinal had his meals in the nursery with Blendin, although Promin had said that, as the master of the house, he should eat in the dining room. Carthinal could not bring himself to eat alone in that large room.
The days passed. Gromblo Grimnor, the lawyer who dealt with his grandfather’s affairs, often appeared at the house. Carthinal found him in his grandfather’s study one day.
“What are you doing?” the boy asked, frowning. “Why are you here? You’ve been coming a lot recently.”
Gromblo Grimnor smiled with his mouth, but it did not reach his eyes. He looked Carthinal up and down. “There are a lot of loose ends to tidy up, child. I need to come here to find things out.”
“What sort of things?”
“Things you wouldn’t understand, boy. Lawyer things.”
Although sixteen, Carthinal had always been treated as a child, and so he turned and left the lawyer to do what he needed to do. The law did not know what to do about a boy whose chronological age said he was an adult, but whose development said he was a child.
Every day he walked around the town. Being in the house had become too painful. Sometimes he stayed out all day. There was no one at the house for him to talk to now. He considered going back to the school where his grandfather had sent him, but they, like everyone else, did not want a sixteen-year-old who looked and behaved as if he were eleven. His grandfather’s money and influence had kept him there, but now, they didn’t want him.
Visits by Gromblo Grimnor increased. Carthinal asked Promin why the lawyer was there so often. The butler shrugged and shook his head.
Blendin had no idea either. “I don’t know the workings of the law. Perhaps it’s because your grandfather died so suddenly, or because he was well off. Or it might even be because of you. You are an adult in Grosmer law, but still a child, in reality. That’s a bit confusing for the lawyers.”
One day, when Carthinal had been out for hours, he returned to find the door locked against him. Gromblo Grimnor appeared when he knocked.
“Go away,” the lawyer said. “There’s nothing for you here. We don’t want beggars at the door.”
The boy crossed the road and stood looking at the house he had once called home. Some men came and erected a sign saying it was for sale. How could they sell his house without his permission? His grandfather left it to him in his will.
Carthinal sat on a wall. As he watched, the staff, who had served his grandparents, left one by one. Some carried bags, others nothing. All turned to look back at the house as they trudged away. None saw the small auburn-haired lad sitting on the wall.
When he had seen everyone leave except the lawyer, Carthinal turned away. Where should he go? He had no living relatives. Not here in Bluehaven, anyway. He had relatives in the elven homeland of Rindisillaron, but he had no idea how to get there, nor how to find his paternal grandparents if he did manage it.
He ambled away, constantly turning to look toward the house. He had no idea where he was going, but staying there was pointless. His stomach rumbled. By now, the cook would have given him some honey cakes to assuage his hunger until it was time for the evening meal. His mouth felt dry, too.
He had a little money in his pocket and he wended his way toward the market place where there would be stalls selling food. He did not know what his small amount would buy him.
Sixteen was the legal age of majority in Grosmer, but Carthinal did not feel grown-up. No one knew when he would be able to take on the responsibilities of an adult. Elves were twenty-five before they became officially adults, but a half-elf—well, no one knew. Many people found his slow development odd and thought he was mentally deficient. A sixteen-year-old should not look and behave as if he were only eleven.
Carthinal arrived at the market. Taking a few coins from his pocket, he wandered past the stalls looking for something he could afford.
He stopped by a stall. “How much are your small pies?”
“The very small ones are one royal,” the stallholder replied, citing one of the copper coins.
“Please may I have one?”
The man smiled and passed a pie to the child. “Don’t spoil your evening meal with it, though, or your parents will be annoyed with me.”
Carthinal’s indigo blue eyes filled with tears, and he turned away so the man would not see. He strolled to the park gates, munching on the pie. Where would he sleep tonight? Would it be safe to sleep outdoors? All these questions passed through his mind as he finished the pie and brushed the crumbs off his tunic.
As the grandson of a prominent guild member in the town of Bluehaven, Carthinal had always been well dressed. Today was no exception. He wore a dark green tunic over a lighter green shirt and brown trousers. The cut and the cloth marked him out as the child of a wealthy family. He had never known hardship in his entire life.
As he passed a fountain, he cupped his hands and picked up some of the water. After slaking his thirst, he entered the park gates. Fortunately, it was summer, and so the night would not be cold. Carthinal sat down on the grass.
What would happen to him now? He had no home. How would he survive?
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