The Awakening (Paperback)
The Awakening (Paperback)
Book 2 in The Aegis of Merlin Series
Nothing has gone right for Conryu Koda since learning he’s a wizard.
On his first day at The North American Alliance’s Arcane Academy he’s greeted by protestors and pelted with tomatoes.
It’s all downhill from there.
With enemies around every corner, not to mention a crazy professor, will Conryu even make it to winter break?
Conryu threw his last clean shirt into his suitcase and clicked the lid shut. Summer vacation had ended yesterday and after the attack on the apartment building no one else had bothered him. Even the press kept their distance for the most part, and thank goodness for that. If they continued pestering him he was going to lose his temper and flatten one of them. Of course they kept sending lady reporters so that made it harder. Maybe the producers thought a pretty face would overwhelm his distaste for their profession.
When a full month had passed without an attempt on his life he’d managed to convince Mom to let him out of the building. It may have helped that being inside didn’t keep the lunatics from coming after him anyway. That was the argument he’d made at least.
They let him go to the dojo to train and the shop to work on his bike. It wasn’t much, but after a month cooped up an all-expenses-paid world tour wouldn’t have made him any happier.
The hours he spent out of the apartment were also hours he didn’t have to study some stupid magic book or listen to a lecture from Maria.
He loved Maria, but if he’d had to sit through one more lesson on some esoteric point of magic he would have screamed. At least the crazy professor hadn’t returned. That alone was a gift on par with his hours of freedom. Conryu felt he should send a thank you note to the cultists. That near-death experience had really shaken Angus. Conryu doubted it would last, but you had to take what the universe gave you.
He took one last look at his phone and set it on his nightstand. The information packet the school sent over covered all the rules, and there were a ton of them. The most strictly enforced was a ban on most forms of technology. The teachers considered it a distraction from their magical focus. Conryu thought that was stupid, but no one asked his opinion. Apparently there were only six computers in the school office and a handful of phones, landlines no less. Talk about medieval.
“Conryu!” his mother called. “Let’s get a move on. You don’t want to miss the train.”
“God forbid I miss the train to magic land,” Conryu muttered as he grabbed his suitcase.
His parents were waiting by the door, his mother’s foot tapping like a mad woodpecker. “Come on, come on!”
“Easy, dear.” Dad rubbed her shoulders, prompting a deep sigh.
They rushed down to the parking garage, thankfully encountering no reporters. During his daily jaunt to the dojo he’d run into one of them now and again, usually Kat Gabel, the woman he’d met the day after the press conference. His cold silence combined with the world’s shortest attention spans had sent most of them off to find a chattier subject. Poor bastard.
Conryu paused to adjust the cover on his bike. It had pained him when he had to remove her battery and put the tarp over her. It felt like pulling a shroud over a loved one. Riding his bike topped the list of things he’d miss.
“Hurry up, Conryu,” his mother said.
He sighed and climbed into the family SUV. The ride to the train station took half an hour, and when they arrived a veritable forest of satellite dishes greeted them. Networks from all over the Alliance packed the parking lot. A throng of reporters and cameramen had gathered by the main entrance. Ten policemen kept the entrance clear and the reporters under control, more or less. It looked a bit like herding cats, only more chaotic.
Conryu grimaced. Now he knew why they weren’t waiting in the garage. Everyone in the world knew where to find him today. He wasn’t looking forward to running that gauntlet. Or worse, running into another would-be killer.
Mom’s phone rang. She glanced at it and hit connect. “Hello, Orin. Yes, we’re looking for a spot now. Side entrance? That’s probably a good idea. We’ll drop him off there. Thanks.”
She hung up and turned to Dad. “Orin says we should go to the side entrance. Go up a street and you’ll find an alley that leads to the service door. He’s waiting there.”
Dad made no comment, simply pulling back out of the parking lot and following Mom’s directions until they reached an open area at the rear of the station, the only occupants of which were a pair of overloaded dumpsters and the flies that lived in them. A single door marked “employees only” was situated in the center of the station wall.
“The glamorous life of a wizard.” Conryu climbed out of the car and pulled his suitcase from the trunk. The stink from whatever was rotting in the dumpsters almost knocked him over.
Mom was on the phone again and a moment after she hung up Mr. Kane opened the door for them. “Best say your goodbyes here. The platform’s going to be awfully crowded.”
Mom grabbed him in a bear hug and kissed his forehead. “Be careful and do your best. This is a great honor even if it’s one you didn’t seek. Write me every week.”
Conryu hugged her back and grinned. “How? We don’t have access to email.”
“With actual pen and paper.” She sniffed back tears.
Conryu sent a pleading look at his father. He knew Mom was going to start crying, but he still wasn’t comfortable with it.
Dad gently guided Mom to one side and hugged Conryu. “Be sure to keep up your training. We’ll see you at winter break. Good luck.”
“Thanks, Dad. Love you guys.” He hustled through the door, ignoring the tightness in his throat. This was his first time away from his parents for an extended period and while part of him was looking forward to it, another part was anxious. The fact that he was going to a completely unfamiliar environment didn’t help.
Mr. Kane spoke to his parents for a minute then joined him in a damp, gloomy hallway. Water dripped from heavy iron pipes overhead and spiderwebs crowded the corners above the door. All they needed was a guy in a rubber monster suit to complete the effect.
“Ready to begin your adventure, my boy?” Mr. Kane patted him on the back and they started up the passage.
“If I say no can I go to vocational school instead?”
“No, sorry.” He didn’t sound sorry, but Conryu didn’t comment. “I have some news about the people responsible for the attempts on your life.”
“Good news, I hope.”
Mr. Kane looked away.
Bad news, of course. Why did he even allow himself the illusion of something positive? Ever since that test his life had been a series of catastrophes, why should today be any different?
“Don’t keep me in suspense.”
The distant murmur of voices prompted Mr. Kane to stop. “We’re pretty certain the Le Fay Society is behind the shadow beast attack. Mercia is most likely a member. It’s doubtful she could have managed everything on her own. It’s also a dead certainty they have something bigger in mind. I have people working on it. You should know that the Society has a sorority branch at the academy. I don’t believe they’d be so brazen as to actually attempt to murder you, but keep your eyes open for dirty tricks and pranks, some of which may be dangerous. And frankly, just because I think it’s unlikely they’ll try something lethal, doesn’t mean I’m right.”
Conryu shook his head, trying to process what Mr. Kane had said. “So I’m walking into a situation where I’ll have to be on the look out for pranks and potential murderers? This is the worst college ever. Not only do I have to study a subject I have no interest in, I also have to watch for assassins. Any other good news?”
“Really? There’s more?”
“Angus put in a request to serve as your advisor. He argued that as a man you’d need another man to talk to now and then. Since he’s the world’s foremost expert on male wizards and no one else spoke up they agreed to let him make a weekly visit to the campus.”
“Seriously? I have to talk to the professor once a week too? I think I’d prefer to take my chances with the assassins. And how can someone be an expert on a subject that up until two months ago the whole world believed was a fantasy?”
Mr. Kane shrugged. “You don’t have to talk to him if you don’t want to, but one reason I didn’t overrule Angus’s request was because I thought he’d serve as a useful courier should I need to pass you information or vice versa. Anything written could potentially be compromised, so I’d appreciate it if you just poked your head in when he makes his visit.”
“Fine, but I can’t imagine a less likely spy. I doubt he could keep a secret if his life depended on it.”
“Depending how serious the Society is,” Mr. Kane said. “It just might.”
With that cheery thought they continued on out of the hall and up onto the main boarding platform. Several scores of families were gathered in little clumps, saying their goodbyes. There was a lot of crying and hugging which Conryu did his best to ignore.
“How many passed the test citywide?” Conryu asked as they worked their way through the throng.
“Forty-three. It was actually a little below average this year. Sentinel had fifty going last year. Even so, we had the biggest contingent in the Alliance. Central City only had thirty-five.”
“What’s the total class size?”
“Four hundred and something, I can’t remember the exact number.”
“So there’s going to be around sixteen hundred students, all girls, except me? Maybe this college won’t be so bad after all.”