Ryder stared at the sword enshrined in the glass case. The blue shimmer of its blade lit the room. Named Koldis, a single ruby crowned its hilt.
It was well past midnight. The halls of the library—famous throughout the Enchanted World and the purpose of the Order of the Idonnai’s existence—stood silent.
The young priest’s ragged breathing filled the room.
The first time Anton had brought him here as a seven-year-old boy, Ryder had wanted the sword. When he’d asked if he could have it, his mentor had boxed his ears and said, ‘Idonnic priests do not fight.’
It had been the first and last time he’d kicked Anton in the shin. His pious mentor hadn’t administered the whipping that had left three thin white lines across his back, but he’d watched until the young boy had stopped calling out for Garrick.
Ryder had been abandoned at the priesthood’s gates as an infant. Garrick, the baker who supplied the order with loaves of bread every morning before the sun rose, had been the one to find him. In the emotionally remote world of the priesthood, Garrick, and his wife, Shilda, were Ryder’s only source of affection.
Now, Anton was the head of the order. He’d never forbidden his protege’s visits to Garrick and Shilda’s home, but he’d made it clear he didn’t approve of Ryder’s fondness for them. He’d also contracted with another baker for his services, as soon as it had been in his power to do so.
Ryder tightened his grip around the large rock in his hand. He’d scoured Idonne’s rocky seashore for months searching for the perfect stone. The first rock he’d brought back to his austere quarters had had a single sharp plane. He’d traded it out with four more before he’d settled on the one he held tonight. One of the rock’s edges sharpened into a jagged point. For weeks, night after night, lying awake on his pallet, he’d practiced shifting it into the right position. He didn’t need to look down now to know the stone’s point was centered.
Garrick and Shilda would be disappointed with his decision to become a common thief. As far as he could see, that was the only flaw in his plan. But there was no way around it.
For twelve long years, Ryder, now nineteen, had been trained in the rigors of Idonnic research and documentation. Despite his lack of passion for the work, he had a talent. As Anton’s favorite, he’d been assigned to a closely guarded branch of Idonnic knowledge: The study of Umbra.
He'd read and reread every scrap of information the priests had collected about the mass of psychic ash accumulating in the Void. A product of mortal impotence, frustration, and failure, Umbra had formed a discrete identity and become self-aware over the eons. He intended to enter the realm of the material plane. He had discovered a means to do so. He meant to destroy the Whole.
The priesthood was wrong to do nothing, and the Oath of Non-Interference Anton had tricked Ryder into taking a year ago—to the day—choked him. Vowing to chronicle and observe, never to act, violated every fiber of his being.
There was also the ill-defined thing the young priest could not name that called him. It radiated from deep within his heart, and of late, it left him sleepless most nights. As the summons grew more insistent, the need to leave Idonne dominated his thoughts. But he couldn’t leave without the sword.
He understood the consequences. If he took one step closer to the case, if he raised his left arm to shatter the glass with the rock, if he took the sword and fled Idonne, he’d be a fugitive throughout the Enchanted World for the rest of his life.
He looked around the room. There were no guards, no spells of enchanted protection. Only the library’s labyrinth of marble halls hid Koldis from the rest of the Enchanted World. The sword wasn’t safe. Rumors had already reached his ears. Sorcerers and witches from Kyrakkos sought the blade and its counterpart, the bejeweled basin Ormrun.
The magical sword and basin opened a portal in the veils between the worlds. Plunged into Ormrun, Koldis became the key to unlock the ancient door. Umbra could leave the Void and travel through the Parallel of Shadows. He could incarnate his consciousness into a vessel of his choosing.
Last week a war captain from Huros had dined with Anton. He’d asked about Koldis. His tone had been casual, but Ryder was convinced the pretense for the visit had been a charade. The captain sought the sword.
He raised his left arm. No one who wanted Umbra’s power for themselves was going to get it.
He would sail to Faerie with Koldis.
Although there had been no sightings of Ormrun in more than a hundred years, there was no evidence the bowl had ever left the Realm of Faerie’s shores. The dwarves, Haff and Gweff, had forged the sword and the basin in the bowels of the Ruadain Mountains for the water elemental, Isolt. But Umbra had appropriated the basin’s power.
Ryder believed he could find Ormrun and take it, with Koldis, to the Grey Council on the Isle of Minnanon. The grey faeries who sat on the council were the only creatures in the Whole immune to the siren call of Umbra’s power. They were the ones to safeguard the sword and the basin.
Yes, his heart said, sailing to Faerie is the right thing to do.
He brought his arm down with all the force he could summon.