Read ARC: The Wizard's Promise Online

Authors: Cassandra Rose Clarke

Tags: #Hannah Euli, #witchcraft, #apprentice, #fisherfolk, #ocean adventures, #YA, #young adult fiction, #fantasy

ARC: The Wizard's Promise

BOOK: ARC: The Wizard's Promise
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CASSANDRA ROSE CLARKE

The Wizard’s Promise

Please Note!

This is an Advanced Reading Copy of the book and may not have been through the final editorial and proof-reading process prior to publication. Please do not quote from the text in reviews, or critique the text on the basis of perceived errors, without double-checking with Strange Chemistry to see if the final version has been amended.

Thank you.

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

I was picking ice berries for Mama’s start-of-spring cake when a spark of magic smacked me in the side of the head. My basket hit the ground and berries rolled out over the mud, and I scowled at the little trail of amber lights darting back and forth through the air.

“Larus!” I shouted. “What do you want?”

The light flickered and coiled in on itself. For a moment I thought it was going to extinguish, since Larus doesn’t exactly have the most reliable magic in Kjora. But instead it just zipped off to tell him where I was.

I cursed under my breath and knelt down in the soft, cool earth to gather up the escaped berries. A trail of light from Larus meant one thing – somebody had a message for me. Larus, untalented wizard though he may be, was still the only person in the village who had trained at the academy in the southerly seas and officially been named a wizard by the capital, and thus the only one people ever hired to do tracking spells. He took that job seriously, too, the prig. Like carting weather reports around the village made him important. It wasn’t as if he had even trained someplace renowned, like the Undim Citadels.

So someone was looking for me. I knew it wasn’t Mama or Papa or my brother Henrik, since they all knew this little road leading away from the sea was the best place to pick late-season ice berries. My friend Bryn never hired Larus for anything after he ruined one of her best dresses with a love charm. And nobody else in the village had any reason to send for me.

Except Kolur, of course. I’d bet my entire basket of berries Kolur was the one looking for me.

I cursed again.

The wind, still sharp-edged with winter’s cold, blew through the bushes. I stuck my hand in the brambles and pulled out another handful of berries. This would probably be the last time I’d get to harvest them before next winter, and I wanted to collect as many as I could before Kolur’s message ruined my day. That you could still pick the berries this late in the season was why Mama used them in her start-of-spring cakes, since she always said spring was as much a goodbye to winter as it was a hello to summer. Mama liked winter, for some reason. Papa always said it’s because she grew up in the south, where heat is dangerous. I could never imagine it.

Larus took a long time following his tracking spell back to me. I’d managed to clear out most of the remaining berries by the time I spotted his tall, gangly figure up on the road. He raised one hand in greeting, the embroidered sleeve of his red wizard’s cloak billowing out behind him.

“Hanna Euli!” he called out, as formal as if he were a wizard from the capital. “I have a message for you.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” I sighed and hooked my basket in the crook of my arm and hiked through the mud to the edge of the road. Larus watched me, his eyes big and blue and round. He wasn’t much older than me, although I was still expected to treat him like an adult, given that he was an official wizard. I didn’t, though.

“Is it Kolur?” I said. “It’s Kolur, isn’t it? Couldn’t he have let me have a few
days of spring?”

Larus cleared his throat and made a big show of pulling a scroll out of the cavernous depths of his sleeves. I sighed and shifted the basket of berries to my other arm. Larus unwound the scroll. It was a short one.

“Get on with it,” I muttered.

Larus drew back his shoulders and held his head high. Delivering messages was pretty much the only wizardly thing there was for him to do around the village, so he always took it too seriously. “Kolur Icebreak wishes you to meet him at the village dock at the start of longshadow. He wishes to set sail for the Bathest Chain, as he–”

“What?” I tossed my basket to the side and stalked up to Larus, reaching to grab his scroll. He jerked it away from me and sparks of magic flew out between us, stinging my hand.

“Don’t touch the scrolls,” he said.

I glared at him and rubbed at my knuckles. I called on the wind, too, stirring it up from the south, but Larus just rolled his eyes like it didn’t impress him.

“Tell Kolur I’ll sail with him next week,” I said. “I’ve got to help Mama with chores today.”

“Let me finish, Hanna.” Larus struck his messenger pose again. “For the Bathest Chain, as he’s thrown the fortune for the coming weeks and found that the fishing will be excellent for the next few days. He’s already spoken with your mother and knows that she can spare you.”

I glowered at Larus. He coughed and looked down at his feet. I made the south wind stir his robes, tangling them up around his legs.

“Stop that,” Larus said. “You know some child’s trick doesn’t make you a real wizard.”

“Is there anything else?”

“No.” Larus pulled a quill out of his sleeve. “Would you like to send a reply?”

“Do I have to pay for it?”

“All messages cost one common coin.” He glared at me. “You know that.”

“No thanks, then.” I picked up my basket. Sometimes you can wheedle a free message out of Larus if he’s in the right mood, but I should have known better than to try after teasing him with the wind. He doesn’t like being reminded that I’m a better wizard than him, even if I am a girl.

Not that I needed to send a message. Kolur knew I would show up whether I wanted to or not, because I was his apprentice and he was friends with Mama, and between the two of them there was no way I could ever slack off work. I mostly just wanted to send him something rude so it would annoy him.

“Has the message been received?” Larus asked, back to playing the village wizard.

“Yeah, yeah.” I ran my fingers over the ice berries, relishing the feel of their cool, hard skins against my fingers. The last crop and I probably wouldn’t even get a slice of Mama’s cake, since Henrik would eat every crumb by the time I got back. It was always that way, fishing with Kolur. He didn’t go out for just one day – no, he had to go out for three or four at a time. Only way he could get a decent haul.

“Well, if there’s nothing else,” Larus said.

“There’s not. Thanks for nothing.”

He made a face at me. I didn’t bother trying to retaliate, just left him there, making my way down to the road, toward the little stone house where I lived with my family.

 

When I walked up the muddy path, Mama was out in the garden, tending to the early-season seedlings she’d finished putting in the ground a few days ago. She waved, her hands streaked with dirt. I figured she’d been out here waiting for me, seeing as how she received word from Kolur before I did.

“Did you get the message?” She sat back on her heels. Mama’s accent was different from mine and Papa’s and everyone else’s in the village, since she’d grown up speaking Empire her whole life. Normally I liked it, because it gave her voice this pretty melody like a song, but today even that wasn’t enough to sway my annoyance.

“You knew!” I tossed the basket at her and she caught it, one-handed, not spilling a single berry. “Why didn’t you just come tell me yourself?”

She smiled. “Oh, I don’t like stepping in between your arrangements.”

“Larus said he checked with you first!”

“You know what I mean.” She stood up and tried to shake the mud from her trousers, although it didn’t do much good. “It looks like you have a good crop of berries here.”

I scowled.

“Oh, don’t be like that.” She came over to me and draped one arm over my shoulder. “You know you’d be bored if he hadn’t sent for you.”

“It’s only just starting to get warm! The sun’s out–” I gestured up at the sky “–and the south wind’s blowing. I was going to practice my magic.”

Mama gave me one of her long sideways looks. “You can practice aboard the
Penelope
.” She paused. “You know, when I served aboard the
Nadir
, there were no days off, warm sun or not.”

I’d heard this story before, and a million like it besides. “That’s because the
Nadir
was a pirate ship. Fishing boats have rules. He can’t just run me like a slave driver.”

“And he’s not,” Mama said sharply. She lifted up the berries. “Come, let’s go make the start-of-spring cake so you can have a piece before you leave this evening.”

She strode out of the garden, and I shuffled along behind her, my hands shoved in the big pockets sewn into my dress. It was nice to be back inside, since for all my protestations about the warmth, the spring cold had been starting to get to me, and our house was always warm and cozy from the fire Mama kept burning at all times. Henrik was sprawled out in front of the hearth, pushing his little wooden soldiers around. He ignored both of us, and Mama stepped right over him to get to the tall table where she did all her hearth work.

“Are you going to help me, or you going to sulk?” she asked over her shoulder.

I crossed my arms over my chest and didn’t answer. Mama took that as a yes to helping her, the way she always did, and handed me the berries. “Clean those off for me while I mix up the batter.”

The basket dangled between us, and she was already pulling the little ceramic jar of flour toward herself with her free hand. She’d hold the basket there all day if she had to. I knew I’d lost. No fisherman’s ever gone up against a pirate and won, that’s what Papa’s always saying. Although in his case, she just looted his heart.

I sat down on the floor next to the fire and started separating the stems and leaves from the berries. Henrik kept on ignoring me, he was so involved in his toy soldiers. Mama hummed to herself as she worked, an old pirate song about stringing up the sails. She’d sailed under one of the greatest pirates of the Pirate’s Confederation, Ananna of the
Nadir
, and when she was my age, she was living on board Ananna’s ship and sailing to all ends of the earth, fighting monsters and stealing treasure and basically having a far more interesting life than I could ever hope for. Sometimes I tried to imagine what it would be like to sail the seas in search of adventure instead of fish. I wondered about the sort of people I’d meet outside of Kjora, if they’d be as strange and different as all the elders in the village claimed, with antlers growing from their foreheads and cloven feet tucked inside their boots. Mama told me once that was a silly northern story, but I wanted to see for myself.

Mama met Papa when the
Nadir
blew off course and wound up in the waters off Kjora, where she and some of her crew hijacked Papa’s fishing boat. Apparently, Papa had been so handsome back then that she’d taken one look at him and decided to stay on the islands – at least, that’s how she told it. Papa said the story was a bit more complicated than that, but he never gave me any details.

At any rate, when Mama decided to stay, part of the deal to convince Ananna to let her go was that Mama’d name her firstborn daughter after her. And that turned out to be me. Of course, no one in the village could say “Ananna” right, so the name got distorted to Hanna. I didn’t mind. I liked having two names, a fisherman’s name and a pirate’s name. I took it as a sign that someday I’d do something more with my life than work for Kolur, that I’d sail beyond the waters of Kjora and see the rest of the world and all the excitement it held.

I finished stripping the berries and then carted the basket over to the ice melt we kept next to the stove so I could rinse off the dirt. By the time I’d finished that, Mama had the cake batter all whipped together in a bowl, and she let me stir the berries in before dumping the whole thing in the long, low pan she used for start-of-spring cakes. Henrik was still occupying the space in front of the hearth, and Mama had to shoo him aside like a fly so she could stick the cake into the heat.

“Did I ever tell you about the time Ananna and I stole a cake from the Emperor’s own bakery?” Mama asked me. She turned to Henrik. “Sweetling, why don’t you dry off the bowls?” He sighed and tossed his soldiers aside and did as she asked. I was already stacking the mixing and measuring bowls for cleaning myself.

“Yeah, all the time,” I said.

Mama smiled and went on like I hadn’t answered. “It wasn’t an ordinary cake, of course. It had been enchanted. Anyone who ate even single bite could be controlled by the person who had served it to him. A dangerous thing.” She lugged over the bucket of ice melt and set it on the table, and together we set to cleaning. “And worth a fair price, too, on the black market, which is what Ananna wanted with it. Of course, as a cake, we only had a few days to steal and sell it – there was no use trying to go after the Emperor’s magicians to try and learn the spell, they’re too highly protected. So we had a few of the crew disguise themselves as guardsmen, and Ananna and I dressed up like noble ladies, and we walked right into the Emperor’s palace.” Mama laughed, plunging a mixing bowl into the ice melt. “We were able to get ahold of the cake easily enough – it was in the kitchen, and the kitchen crew ran scared when they realized we were pirates – but carrying it while being chased through the streets of Lisirra, that was no easy task. The cake wound up falling and melting in the sand.” Mama and I lined up the mixing bowls to dry, and I waited for the usual final line. “I supposed it was all for the best. No good could come of magic like that existing in the world.”

I nodded in agreement, my expected response. I thought it sounded fantastically exciting, running through Empire streets in a lady’s dress, trying not to drop an enchanted cake, but I knew my life didn’t have anything like that in store for me.

Mama settled down in her favorite chair to wait for the cake to be finished. “I remember learning how to make start-of-spring cake. Your grandmother had to teach me.”

I’d heard this story, too, but I didn’t say anything. I liked listening to her stories.

“I gave up on the second try and stomped out of the kitchen, cussing and shouting, just as your father was coming from his fishing. He hadn’t caught much that day, either.” She smiled again, and the hearth light made her brown skin glow, and I wondered if that was how Papa had seen her that day as he walked in from the gray, cold sea. She must have been a shard of Empire sunlight here in the north. “And he told me it didn’t matter to him one whit if I could bake a cake or not, that he had married me for me, and if it was such a problem, then he’d bake all our cakes himself.”

I gave the expected titter. Henrik wiped off the wet mixing bowl with a scowl.

“Would you ever make a cake for your wife?” I asked him.

“Wives are stupid.” He set the bowl aside.

“Spoken like a man of the Confederation,” Mama said gravely. “As it happened, your father was the one who finally taught me how to make a start-of-spring cake, the next year. It was quite the scandal for a few days, a man teaching a woman how to cook.” She winked at me. “But I taught him some tricks myself.”

I’d heard all those stories, too, about how Mama’d gone aboard Papa’s fishing boat and showed his crew a better way to string up the sails so that they could move more quickly through the water. That had generated a scandal for more than a few days, from what I gathered.

We finished cleaning up the bowls. Henrik went back to his toy soldiers, Mama went back to her garden and I went into my bedroom to pack up my things for the fishing run with Kolur. The sweet berry scent of the start-of-spring cake filled the house, and I told myself it’d only be two or three days’ time before I’d be back home, ready to practice calling down the wind and finally welcoming spring to Kjora.

 

BOOK: ARC: The Wizard's Promise
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