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Dark Winter [MultiFormat]
eBook by Jennifer Schwabach

eBook Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
eBook Description: When humans first came to Saril, they had only one goal--to create a new paradise to rival their lost homeland. But as the centuries passed, they realized there was something else on their new world. Some thing strange and wonderful. Their decedents wielded powers the original settlers had never dreamed of. They could raise cities with their minds... heal with a touch... But every silver lining has a cloud, and Saril's was no different. There were some who twisted those gifts, perverted them to destruction. They were the necromancers, and few could stand against them. One necromancer rose to such power that even his own death could not stop him. His name was Srinklock, and none dared speak it aloud. A generation ago, he defeated an army which had been raised from childhood to fight him. Now, rumors are stirring that Srinklock again is on the march, with his army of undead. Now there's no one left to fight him. Well, almost no one. But Josh never thought of himself as a hero. He would rather perform tricks in market squares, or pick pockets in back alleys. He never planned to fight an army. He never wanted to save the world. Besides, he's short....

eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, Published: Double Dragon Publishing, Inc., 2006
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2006

42 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter One

Joshua crouched in the scant shade offered by the wagon. A dust devil danced across the scorching plain. Low over the horizon, the gas giant Loris was dimly visible. Eclipse was coming, but not soon enough to interfere with this year's crops. Like any Child of Saril, he knew in his bones that the now-constant presence didn't present a threat yet. For most of seven thousand years, the Children had huddled in the safety of the Citadel waiting for Saril to be livable, but for the last three thousand, people had been spreading out across the world and things like predicting the periodic, month-long eclipses were life and death.

He tore his attention from the sky and squinted across the open meadow at the group of men and women purposefully picking their way towards the single tree under which Yakov had set up.

"Tough-looking crowd," he offered. He didn't like these lands they'd recently come to. They seemed emotionally dead, conservative.

"Very," Yakov agreed.

"Should I do a rope walk? That went over well in Krell." He much preferred the forests of the elves. The elves were friendly and open, and less likely to comment on his diminutive stature for all that they themselves tended to be tall.

"Not here." Yakov followed his gaze.

"Should I work the crowd?" Joshua asked doubtfully. In the last seven towns, pickings had been slim and Yakov's always fragile savings were down to practically nothing, as were the food stores.

"Too small. You should know that. A crowd this small is dangerous, and in these parts, you'll hang for it."

Joshua shrugged. All his conscious life, he'd supplemented their income by picking pockets. He knew, because Yakov had told him, that there'd been a time before show, before pocket-picking, even before Yakov, but he didn't remember it.

"I like to eat," was all he said.

"You'll do fine on what we have. It's not as if you're still growing."

No, Joshua thought wryly, at twenty, it was unlikely that he would top four feet ten. "No acrobatics, no pocket picking, what do you want me to do?"

"Pathetic orphan boy, I think."

Joshua sighed and crawled into the wagon, reaching for the tight pants and knee-length shirt Yakov had bought him in Krell. The clothes, while more in the local style than that of the elves, accentuated his small size, making it easier to pass for twelve. He felt his face. No time to shave. He reached into the charcoal bin, pulled out a piece and smudged it across his chin and one cheek, rubbing his begrimed hands down his shirt-front for good measure.

Hearing Yakov start his spiel, he tumbled out the far side of the wagon, sticking low to the ground until he reached the tree. He shinnied up it to sit on a branch with a good, but not perfect, view of Yakov. He needed to see the crowd, too.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, today you will witness such wonders as you could never dream of. I, Yakov the Enchanter, command the forces of Magic. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, Magic! Not your simple household spells ... I do not mean spells for croup or fertility in cows ... no, I am talking about Deep Magic, the strongest known on Saril!"

Joshua snorted. This was his cue. "You know no more of magic than I do, charlatan!"

Yakov did a credible job of looking around for the source of the heckling. When he spied Josh, he drew himself up, looking fierce enough to draw a gasp from the audience.

"You? A mere boy? And you dare to suggest that your magics are greater than mine?" Yakov raised his arms and began muttering ominously. It was actually the language of the Northlands spoken backward, but it provided sufficient cover for Joshua to concentrate enough for the light draw on the magicsphere the trick would require. Yakov pointed at him and commanded, "Rise into the air!"

Another gasp rippled through the audience as Joshua floated gently from his perch. He did his best to look terrified.

"Invert!" Yakov commanded with a gesture in his direction.

Obediently, Joshua turned himself upside-down. Looking down at the ground twenty feet below, he screamed.

"Let him down this instant!" a woman in the crowd demanded.

Yakov looked at her lazily. "If I care to, my lady, I shall."

Joshua added another terrified scream.

"You must. This is an abuse of the power the Captain gave you. He's just a boy!"

"As you wish, Milady. But only for you."

He waved a hand again. "Descend."

Joshua lowered himself, careful to cut his connection to the magicsphere in time to drop just enough to make a painful-sounding thump.

Copyright © 2006 Jennifer Schwabach.

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