The War With Audin (Paperback)
The War With Audin (Paperback)
A Portal Wars Saga Story
The combined military forces of five city states have arrived outside of Audin.
They’ve come to punish the arrogant Lord Governor and restore the land’s precious balance.
Despite their combined power, Audin has a secret weapon. Built by Ilsa Wright, the greatest magical engineer since Lord Colt himself, the Mark V magical armor is a nearly unstoppable force on the battlefield.
But will it be enough to turn the tide and save Audin?
The people better hope so, because there’s no mercy for those that upset the balance.
Joran Den Cade held up the little alcohol burner he’d been using to heat an alembic and blew the flame out. The wick smoked and the acrid stink curled his nose. He set the burner back on his granite workbench to cool and studied the ounce of clear, odorless liquid that had collected in a glass flask under the alembic’s beak. The lack of scent indicated that the first process had succeeded.
He held the flask up to the nearest alchemical light dangling from the ceiling. The golden liquid—contained in a special glass sphere nearly as hard as steel—emitted a steady glow devoid of heat. Far safer than a lantern given the flammability of some of the reagents he kept in the lab.
Three tiny black specks floated in the clear liquid. Joran ground his teeth and snarled. Another failure. He’d been so certain this time. When he prepared the flask to receive the liquid he’d taken extra care to be sure no contaminants lingered either inside or outside. No, the failure must be with the precursor. He’d filtered it three times before beginning the distillation. Maybe four would be the charm.
Considering how much money he’d spent on this experiment over the past week, it had better be.
Speaking of money, it had to be close to dinner time. During the long summer days he always lost track of how long he’d been working. Joran smiled to himself and set his most recent failure on the workbench. In truth, he frequently lost track of time year round.
He couldn’t afford that today. He had to have dinner with his family tonight, a twice-monthly ritual his mother insisted on. Not that Joran minded eating at his parent’s estate. Despite his father’s constant nagging about adventure, seeing the world, and not wasting his youth trapped in a lab at the imperial college, Joran generally got along with his family. With Mother anyway. Even better, their current chef might be the finest she had ever hired.
In the corner of the lab sat a steel bucket with a tight-fitting lid. Joran opened it and poured his failure into the fine sand inside. One of the first-year students would arrive later to empty the bin and clean up the equipment.
One of the best things about working at the college lab instead of a private business was the free cleaning service. In any other setting, he’d have to do it himself. Given some of the volatile substances he worked with, you couldn’t just bring in some halfwit to dust and wash, not unless you wanted your lab and employee blown to bits.
The students all had enough training to handle the materials without being a danger to themselves or the building. They grumbled about the menial work, but they did it just the same. Joran had learned a great deal by paying attention to how the professors had set up their labs during his own cleaning days. Everyone had their preferences even though the students were all taught the same basic setup to start with.
Happily, his cleaning days were long past. He’d graduated two years ago and received the title of Grandmaster of Alchemy a year after that, at twenty-one, making him the youngest to earn the prestigious title. And despite what some of his detractors said, it wasn’t a title you could buy. Only someone who devised a unique alchemical substance or process received it. Joran was one of only seventeen living.
You’d think that would be enough to satisfy his father, but you’d be wrong. He shook his head and started for the wooden double doors. Jorik Cade had still been a commoner at twenty-one, traveling right behind the imperial army, eager to trade with newly conquered people and reap the rewards from sales of exotic new items. He’d made his first fortune that way and Father believed his sons should follow in his footsteps.
For his part, Joran had no desire to thrash through jungles, fight off hostile natives and hungry beasts, or generally live the life of a frontier trader. He much preferred the controlled environment of his lab and the college. Pity Father refused to just agree to disagree.
Outside the lab, Joran took a deep breath of warm, humid summer air. The sweet perfume of thousands of blooming flowers brought a smile to his face. He’d processed all the local flowers in his first two years of study, extracting everything of value. Now he worked exclusively with items brought in from the farthest corners of the empire.
He turned left and made his way to the college’s main campus. The shaded walkways, their roofs held up by massive white stone columns, kept the evening heat at bay. He walked alone, only the sound of his sandals slapping on the smooth stone path breaking the silence. The quiet gave him a chance to think, and today all that came to mind was how best to fend off his father’s no doubt well-reasoned arguments for adventure.
He turned to find the familiar figure of his best and perhaps only real friend, running toward him. Julian Mallus came from a common household and worked as an assistant librarian at the imperial library. A few inches shorter than Joran’s modest five feet ten inches, Julian appeared younger than his true age of twenty-four. His short blond hair and blue eyes marked him as provincial rather than a true imperial. Mother wouldn’t have approved of him hanging around with a provincial, which was one of the reasons Joran had never introduced his friend to the family.
Joran stopped to let the shorter man catch up. “Julian, library closed already?”
“Half an hour ago. Didn’t you hear the temple ring five bells?”
Joran grimaced. In fact, he hadn’t heard the huge bells at The One God’s temple ringing out the hour. He’d been so focused he blocked everything else out.
“I hurried to catch you,” Julian said. “There’s going to be a vivisection at the arena tonight, do you want to go?”
“Who’s performing it?” Joran asked.
“Primus Lucius from the Inquisition. They’re using a prisoner from Oceanus, one of the ones that looks like a crab. When it’s over I hear they might boil the body and give out samples.”
Joran shivered at the mention of the Inquisition. Anyone, imperial or provincial, did well to fear those zealots. “Lucius is a butcher and just because you call performance torture vivisection doesn’t make it science. No doubt he’ll ‘accidentally’ use too little anesthetic just to hear the unlucky person’s scream.”
Julian looked left and right, the little muscle above his left eye twitching. “You shouldn’t say that. What if someone heard you talking poorly about an inquisitor?”
“Then I’d point out one of the key articles of The One God’s faith, ‘Speak always the truth.’”
“Some truths are better spoken silently. I take it you don’t want to join me?”
“No, thank you for the invitation. Even if a performance more appealing than Lucius carving some poor rebel into hors d’oeuvre was on offer, I’d have to pass. Tonight is my regular dinner with the family. Why don’t you ask that girl you’re always mooning over, the one that works in the kitchens?”
Julian reddened to his ears. “She’s so pretty, I can’t just walk up to her and ask. Can I?”
“Of course you can. Worst-case scenario, she says no and you watch the slaughter alone. If you keep hesitating, someone else will steal her out from under you.”
His friend’s face looked as red as Lucius’s victim would after an hour in boiling water. Julian drew himself up. “Maybe I will. Yes! Tonight’s the night. Thanks, Joran. Good luck with your father.”
“I’ll take all the luck I can get.”