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BVC Announces The Wizard’s Nemesis by Dave Smeds

The Wizard's Nemesis by Dave Smeds
The Wizard’s Nemesis
by Dave Smeds

The war against the dragon must be fought on many fronts. Some of them are hidden.

The true nature of the war has been revealed. It has, from the start, always involved more than one dragon.

Alemar’s mission to his ancestral realm has left him stranded in the dragon’s capital. His healing powers are crippled. His sword means little against the number of enemies surrounding him. Hope is hard to cling to.

Elenya is left to lead the defense back home. But the great forest is no refuge — not when she and her small band of warriors are pursued by a sorcerer intent not only in eliminating her at the dragon’s directive, but for his own, personal hatred of her.

At long last, the never-before-published conclusion of The War of the Dragons trilogy.

Book 3 of the War of the Dragons series

About the Author: A Nebula Award finalist, Dave is the author of novels, short fiction, comic book scripts, and screenplays. His writing spans several sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy including sword-and-sorcery, hard sf, contemporary fantasy, martial arts, and horror. He is best known for his epic fantasy trilogy, The War of the Dragons.

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Darel’s hut stood at the very edge of the Dragon Sea, along a strand where only hardy tufts of sea oats could prosper. The old sailor sat on a makeshift stool of driftwood near the door flap, casting weatherwise glances at the clouds over the waves to the north. Cured and seasoned over the years by the wind and water and salt, he resembled the desiccated husks of the sea creatures that dotted the beach along the high tide mark.

As he repaired a net, Darel carefully marked the progress of the three people approaching along the shore from the west. Behind them in the haze, the city of T’jet was strewn across the hills, near enough that on days when the wind poured off the continent, the reek of open sewers and crowded humanity would settle over his shack, and Darel would take to his boat for relief. As a young man, he had vowed that when his fortune was made, he would move to a better place—perhaps across the gulf to Anrahou, where the sand was stark and clean, and the shoals full of fish.

The strangers’ clothing gleamed. The fabric was unmistakably fine quarn silk. Embroidery decorated cuffs, lapels, collars. Nobles. Why here? Why no guards or retainers?

The newcomers stopped a few paces away. Darel kept his eyes on his work.

“Is this how you greet your betters?”

It was the youngest of the group who spoke, a stripling who had yet to fill out in girth or beard. Beside him stood another man and a woman, more mature than the lad — a dusting of grey in the man’s beard, a few nascent wrinkles at the corners of the woman’s eyes — but still unfaded by Darel’s standard. Dark-maned and brown-eyed, the pair had obviously sprung from the same sire and dam.

Darel cinched a last knot and stood. “Beg pardon, young lord. A man of my station has to keep to his work or he goes hungry.”

Darel straightened fully, and the youth’s eyes widened as he saw how the fisherman towered over him.

The older man stepped forward. “Are you Darel?”

He was short and slight. The fairness of his skin demonstrated how seldom he ventured outdoors. Yet he exuded an aura that said Darel did not have the means to intimidate him.

“At your service,” Darel replied.

“My name is Alemar, Consul of Moin. This is my sister, Dame Miranda. Perhaps you have heard of us.”

The sound of the man’s voice overcame the crash of the breakers in a manner Darel could only call eldritch. At close range, Alemar still appeared as relatively young as he had seemed at a distance, but Darel now knew that was an illusion. Darel was an infant by comparison.

“I know of you, yes.” Darel’s voice gave out before the sentence was fully spoken. The moisture in his mouth had fled.

“I need a man familiar with the Dragon Sea, to sail with me, to be my pilot,” Alemar stated.

Darel dug out a flask from his mending basket and fortified his courage. He could tell he was not going to be told anything he wished to hear. “Ackusso the Cripple has served as pilot of the Moin consulate these past twelve years.”

“Indeed. But he declined to take us where we must go.”

“And where is that?”

“The Lost Isles.”

A sudden, mewling cry came from within the shack. A woman’s voice overlaid it, uttering words of comfort in low, soothing tones, as if she were speaking to an infant. Darel stopped short of throwing aside the door flap and rushing inside. He faced the consul, forcing himself to keep a respectful tone.

“I beg of you, do not speak of that place here!”

“I take it you do not wish to come?”

Darel laughed, but the lack of air in his lungs made it a nearly soundless thing. “Since you ask, no.”

Darel braced himself. When a man of Alemar’s station and power desired service, he was indulged. It could not have gone well with Ackusso when he had chosen as he had; at the least, it must have cost the peg-legged navigator a position he had worked toward for twenty years, a job that had given him the wherewithal to buy four of his children houses as they came of age.

All Alemar said was, “I think I can convince you that it is in your interest to accept the commission.” Spoken without threat.

Darel sighed. “What did you have in mind?”

“Let me see your son,” Alemar said.

Darel swayed. “No. No, I don’t want that.”

“Let me see him,” Alemar repeated.

Because the sorcerer’s voice was paternal, even gentle, Darel yielded. Wearily he beckoned the others to the shack. The noises from within had faded to whimpers. A small mercy.

Darel entered first and held up the flap. On the far side of the low, dim, single room, Darel’s wife Neena combed her fingers desperately through her stringy hair, attempting without hope of success to look presentable. She moved behind the chair in which sat her son Vonni, eyes vacant, drool staining the front of his shirt.

As strangers always did, the visitors winced as they caught sight of Vonni.

Darel coughed. “Here you see what happens to a man who ventures into dragon country.”

At the mention of “dragon,” Vonni emitted another strangled outburst, and shuddered so violently it seemed certain he would splinter his frail bones. His mother rushed to pour tea into an earthenware cup. The aroma of dreamcress and honey wafted up, tempering the hut’s pervasive atmosphere of soiled clothes.

Vonni let the tea be poured into his mouth. He swallowed automatically. The act seemed to engross him, cutting short his panic.

“He remembers how to drink and eat, if we fill his mouth.” Darel found it difficult to speak loud enough to be heard. “Sometimes he will sleep if we lay him on his mat. He is capable of little else.”

The young stranger grimaced, but the two magicians simply nodded. “Let me approach him,” Alemar requested.

Neena shook her head, silently begging. Darel made her let go of Vonni’s shoulders. She allowed her husband to move her back, but she kept her arms extended, reaching for her boy.

Alemar knelt and lifted Vonni’s head gently by the chin. He whispered a few words too low for Darel to hear. Vonni’s glance ceased wandering. The longer the young man studied the wizard, the more his mouth and cheeks and brows lost their wax-figure stillness. His expression began to hint of coherent emotions, evolving from fear to calm to curiosity. Finally Vonni turned to his father. He whispered three hoarse, but clear, words.

“Go with him.”

Darel’s eyes widened. Neena gasped. Alemar rose and turned to the sailor.

“You toy with us. You put the words in his mouth,” Darel claimed.

“The words were his. I cannot promise to make him capable of sustained speech, but I can make him more whole than he is now. Come with me and I will do what I can to heal him. That will be your reward. Along with this, of course.” Alemar tossed Darel a sack purse. “I am paying you in full in advance.”

Darel poured several large-denomination coins into his palm. He had only to heft them to calculate that he had been paid an amount at least triple the usual sum to hire a pilot for the season. As for receiving it in advance, Darel took it as an acknowledgment the wizard was aware the voyage would probably end in all their deaths. It was a widow’s legacy.

“What will you do about the dragons?” Darel asked.

“I will kill them,” Alemar replied.

Darel nodded slowly. “You will have to.”

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