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The Thirteenth Magician
cover design © 2003 Ardy M. Scott.

 

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The Thirteenth Magician

Patrick Welch

 

CHAPTER ONE

The Seventh Magician

 

          Daasek swirled the gritty wine in his goblet and stared darkly into it. If he divined his future in the dross his expression gave no telling. His had been a hard three days' journey, and he was grateful just to have a roof overhead and a wall behind. He fingered the solitary gold coin in his purse and sighed. It was all the satchel allowed this evening, sufficient for a room, a meal and little else. No wench to keep him company, and not enough to get him drunk. If such were possible.
        He was in Ta'Bel, a small port that offered little more than several taverns and brothels. He was here for the same reason he had previously visited Oio, Byrnhea, Phrion and several he would not remember. He was here to kill someone. Who, or why, he did not know. He knew only that the urge had set upon him ten days previous, an urge he could not ignore or control. So he was drawn to Ta'Bel. The answers he needed, or at least was permitted, he prayed would come in time. That was a hope Daasek clung to desperately. Because it was the only hope he had.
        It was the silence that attracted him. As in any tavern, there was a constant undertow of conversation, clinking goblets, the coarse laughter of the men and the feigned outrage of the women. Although Daasek took no part in the festivities, it was comforting to observe them. But suddenly nearly everyone stopped. He turned from his glass to discover why.
        A tall, very thin man had entered. He was clad in a velvet jerkin and breeches, both the color of blood. The man's skin was gray, more from dust perhaps than a lack of sunlight. Gray and stretched taut across protruding cheekbones and forehead. The urge, sometimes irritating like a stone in a shoe, others a force that struck with fire, squirmed within Daasek as he gazed upon the newcomer's face. There was no doubt. This was the man he was being driven to kill.
        The latter approached the bar, where a space was quickly made. He spoke briefly to the innkeeper, who returned immediately with a mug of wine. Daasek noted the man made no effort to pay. Instead he leaned against the bar with an unhappy smile and studied the room.
        The stranger's attention was drawn to a game of dice at a far corner, where the participants, concentrating on the action, had ignored his entrance. Daasek had noted it earlier and regretted his forced austerity. Not that he would have won. He was a terrible gambler, but the camaraderie, even paid for, would have been enjoyable. What interested the stranger interested Daasek, so he decided to pay more attention to the game.
        Until then, the game had been reasonably friendly, with curses and threats immediately followed by laughter and calls for more wine. Within moments of the stranger's attention the atmosphere changed. One player suddenly began enjoying a phenomenal run of luck. Four times in succession he threw triple fives with the three dice. The first time he was greeted with cheers and congratulations, the second mere wonderment. By the fourth time the competitors were no longer supportive.
        Daasek glanced over at the velvet man. His eyes were closed and he was crooning softly to himself. All the while he caressed the solitary black stone within the single ring he wore.
        Another winning roll and one loser had had enough. A short, burly man in leather jerkin seized the dice and hurled them against the wall. Three fives came up again. Before the winner could protest, his arms were pinned by two of the gamblers. The short man drew his knife and calmly, expertly slashed the winner's throat. His comrades held the victim until there was no more movement, then they dropped him face down into his growing pool of blood. They divided the victim's purse among themselves, then stalked out of the bar. On the way one glared at Daasek, but Daasek offered no protest.
        While the innkeeper and his help hastened to clear away the damage, Daasek returned his attention to the stranger. The stranger was smiling sincerely now, and drinking deeply from his glass. It was clear he had an erection. From the fresh stain on the front of his breeches it appeared that he had also had an orgasm.
        Daasek understood what had happened. The man, clearly a magician, had controlled the dice- not the victim. Other patrons suspected the same, but no one would challenge him. Except himself, and the time was not right. He would know when that time was. The urge, and his dreams, would assure that.
        Unbidden, a goblet of wine was set before him. He looked up, startled. The man in velvet was standing next to him. "I do not wish to stand," he said in a sandy voice. "The wine is payment for sharing your table."
        Daasek nodded and pushed a chair forward with his foot.
        The man sat with some difficulty, as if physical movement was foreign. There was a dusky odor about him, but one due to time, not carelessness. "I must apologize for my people. As a stranger here, I would not want you to get the wrong impression about the hospitality of Ta'Bel."
        Daasek shrugged. "A man who cheats at dice deserves such rewards."
        "A harsh code of behavior you proffer. One, I gather, you have learned in the wilderness?"
        "Many places."
        "Tell me."
        Daasek stared at him through half-closed eyes. The closeness of the man made his nerves quiver. He had been this close to magicians before. How many times he knew not, but he suspected the result. "The glass of wine bought you a seat. Nothing more."
        "On the contrary. It bought me your life." The man finished his glass, then stared at Daasek. "You are fortunate. I'm going to give you a choice. With most men, believe me, my offer is not as generous. The soldiers will be here soon. If you remain, you will be blamed for the murder. Everyone here saw you switch the dice with your partner, clumsy fool. Or you can come with me and share my hospitality."
        Daasek sipped the wine slowly. It tasted much better than the vintage he had been enduring. It was unfortunate he could not enjoy the physical benefits of alcohol as well. But he had ceased wondering why he was impervious to poisons, including the most benign. He had ceased wondering about most of his life, because the answers never came. It was the urge that mattered now, and the urge was to kill this man. "A most convincing argument," he replied. "Please lead the way."

        "You will find this superior to the sewage we were accosted with at that inn." His host handed Daasek a silver goblet filled with amber liquid. Daasek had finished his bath - the magician had insisted upon it and Daasek saw no reason to refuse - and was now clad in the same red velvet as his host. This room, as the others he had seen, featured red curtains and carpet, furnishings of exotic woods, objects d'art of marble and gold. Yet there was no sense of comfort or hospitality, and the fireplace offered light, not warmth. Daasek made himself as comfortable as the tight clothing would allow and waited for the man to continue.
        The man lit a silver pipe, exhaled extravagantly. "Travelers are either seeking or fleeing. Which are you, whoever you are?"
        "You are my host, not my brother. Information should be shared, not demanded."
        "Please do not tire me. If you did not know who I was, you would not be here to kill me."
        The cool of the wine did not quell the fire in Daasek's heart. "I was not aware I wanted to kill you," he lied.
        The man fondled the ring he wore. In the light Daasek noted the single black stone in a silver setting inlaid with arcane symbols. The stone was familiar. It had something to do with the power of the magicians. He knew not why, but he would have to destroy the stone as well as the magician.
        "Perhaps you are right. My name is Krujj. Now you shall tell me yours."
        "Daasek."
        "Your birthplace."
        "I must claim ignorance."
        "Of your birthright?"
        "Yes." Daasek casually let his hand fall to his side. His dagger nestled snugly in the too-tight jerkin. It could be in his hand at the speed of a thought. Meanwhile the urge throbbed, but it was not yet overwhelming. He could parley with the magician if that was what the latter wanted. And enjoy the wine. There was plenty of time to kill him. So Daasek pondered the question, and decided to respond further. "There are areas in my past that are lost to me. If I am truly seeking something, then that is my goal. If you can help me, then, yes, you are the one I seek."
        Krujj laughed. "Yes, I can help you. If I care to. You look like a barbarian, fresh from the wastelands of the west. Yet you lack their poor manners or tongue. Noble breeding must lurk in your background."
        "A pleasant thought if true. Perhaps I am claimant to a usurper's throne. Or heir to a merchant's fortune." Even as he said it casually, Daasek wondered, hoped that perhaps it was true. "If that is the case, I will reward you handsomely for your assistance."
        "Give assistance?" he roared. "I give nothing! From you I will only take...everything."
        "Such as that unfortunate's life in the tavern?"
        Krujj gestured grandly. "Amusing, was it not? It was for your benefit, of course. And his."
        "His?" Daasek started. The conversation was taking a direction he had not anticipated, but one he wanted to follow.
        Krujj laughed cruelly. "I pity you, Daasek. Truly. You have no life, you have nothing. You can only do what you are told. Tell me, where were you last?"
        "Panot."
        "Previous?"
        "BaniFel."
        "Two lies. Before that?"
        "I don't know." This time he told the truth.
        Krujj nodded. "You shouldn't try to mislead me, Daasek. You can't deceive a man with my talents. Not here."
        "If you think you can control me as easily as a set of dice, you are mistaken."
        "That is true. You I cannot control. Because you are already controlled. But I control everything and everyone in Ta'Bel. That is why you shall fail."
        Daasek poured himself more wine. He couldn't be poisoned, he couldn't become inebriated. One of the boons of being controlled, he was sure Krujj would say. The mage was right, terrifyingly so. Of that he was sure. If he could learn more, perhaps he could escape, perhaps he could regain possession of himself. If the magician would tell him. He had to prolong the conversation, at least until the urge became overwhelming. Already he felt it rising inside him like bile, ready to spew forth. He took a deep breath to regain some control. "If you are so secure, why did you seek me out? Why bring me here to tell me this?"
        Krujj took a seat closer to the fire. He fed the flames for a moment, his regal manner gone. "My master told me you would come. My spies informed me of your arrival. I could have had them kill you instantly, but I doubt it would have accomplished much, not that way." When he turned to Daasek, the regal mien was gone, replaced by one approaching civility. "You see, I cannot divine the future, Daasek. I have paid enough for what power I have. I will not pay more. If I kill you, he will send someone else. If I can convince him, through you, that I cannot be harmed and I will not harm him, perhaps he will leave me in peace."
        "And if I kill you?"
        He glared at Daasek, all humanity gone from his face. "You are beginning to tire me. But I will tell you this. There are spheres of power that control this world, spheres of power in conflict with one another. Each of these spheres or gods or demons - whichever you can comprehend - has agents in this world. Each has tools as well. I am an agent. You are a tool." His voice darkened. "It is much easier to destroy a tool, Daasek, than an agent."
        "Why do you tell me this, if I am in truth a helpless, hopeless pawn?" He dropped his hand near his dagger once again.
        The magician flicked his hand as if a gnat had bothered him. "For now that is true. But the time may come when you can free yourself. The odds are against it, but dear Karmela has smiled upon you much longer than any could have anticipated. If that happens, I wish you to remember everything he has done to you, everything he has made you do. I believe you will feel very strongly about revenge."
        "Since you know, tell me who he is and where I can find him."
        "It matters not presently. Frankly, I doubt you will have the opportunity." He yawned exaggeratedly. "If you'll excuse me, I'm rather tired. I hope you realize it is not my lack of hospitality, but my common sense that makes me bid you leave. I have made arrangements for your transportation." He looked at Daasek coldly. "You will not return to Ta'Bel."
        Daasek suddenly found himself rising to his feet. He tried to reach his dagger, but he could not move his arms even the few inches necessary. Instead they were caught in a steel grip from his shoulders to his hands, and for all his strength he could not control them.
        He tried to trip over a chair, walk into a wall, but his feet marched unbidden. But Krujj can't control me, he thought as he was walked towards the door, then outside and into the night-covered street. He said so.
        It was only when he was in the cool evening air and sitting on the back of a galloping mount, that he finally understood. It was not his body Krujj controlled, but the clothing Daasek had been maneuvered into wearing.

        Daasek's flight into the night was a dream born in Hys. He had no control over his body, his mount, his destination. The entire journey was at full gait down winding stone streets, over tree-lined roads and rock-strewn paths. Limbs slashed across his face, his horse nearly fell a dozen times, yet he could only sit straight and rock still in the saddle and curse Krujj.
        Near dawn the ride ended abruptly. The tension of the velvet disappeared without warning and Daasek almost fell before grabbing hold of the reins. Then his mount collapsed below him. As he picked himself off the ground, he finally realized how his steed had maintained the rapid pace for so long. Daasek had been riding a corpse.
        He slept in the open until sunrise. It was only after wakening, when he attempted to bathe the dried blood and dirt and pain away, that he understood the full horror of Krujj's plans. For he could not remove the clothing at all. And it was slowly beginning to compress.
        Daasek caught and cooked a rabbit for lunch and planned. He must get the clothing removed. Somehow. He must get back to Ta'Bel. Somehow. He must slay Krujj. Somehow. When he awoke from a brief nap, he knew the answers. Somehow.

        "I don't think I can do it."
        "I've paid you sufficiently, have I not?"
        "You may die."
        "I will die if you don't. Every day they grow tighter. They will soon crush my very breath from me."
        The healer looked at the array of knives, potions, and amulets at his disposal. None seemed adequate. "Some I can cut, some I will have to burn. Are you sure you cannot take my herbs?"
        "They have no effect on me. You have tied me securely?"
        "Yes." Daasek was suspended from two beams. His hands, ankles and head were fastened by leather straps and metal chains. Once the pain began, neither knew if they would hold him immobile. Or for how long. Only his head was uncovered.
"You may begin," said Daasek.
        The healer put a strap in his patient's mouth to cover his screams, taking care to compress the tongue so it could not be bitten through. Then he turned to the table where his instruments lay. He sharpened and heated his knives while he studied his patient. Magician's work, to be sure. A man as muscular as Daasek should be able to burst through the velvet just through his own strength. He hoped the man was indeed as strong as he appeared. He would need it all if he were to recover.
        He approached and rubbed his hand along one of Daasek's arms. The cloth was stretched so taut that he could actually feel the pulse beneath. His patient was speaking truly. The man would die if he could not be freed. He took a deep breath and slowly slit across the clothing. It parted reluctantly, and blood quickly filled the gap. He pulled at the cloth. It pealed back slowly, as if it were part of Daasek, and took hair and skin with it. The doctor looked up and saw his patient gazing fixedly at him. There was pain in the eyes, but something else as well. He turned his gaze quickly. "Wait." He placed a blindfold over his patient. "You needn't see this." And I dare not look again at those eyes, he added mentally.

        During brief periods of consciousness, Daasek remembered the powerful and evil man in blue who had come from a dying forest in another land. Who had imprisoned his village, then captured him unawares. Who had stolen his soul. An old, evil man who commanded him by dreams and other powers to slay for unknown reasons. A man who's name Daasek was not allowed to remember.
        In those moments he vowed revenge on Krujj, on his master, most of all on the beings who watched from somewhere and laughed. But when Daasek awoke two weeks later, after his body had become a mass of bandages and blood, he recalled nothing.

        "It will require a year."
        "Six months."
        The healer shook his head. His patient lay before him, covered in poultices and magic herbs and a few well-placed leeches. Daasek's face, hands and feet remained unscathed. The rest of him would become scar tissue. If he survived. "A year. You need at least that long to heal."
        "Six months. Krujj must not forget. I want to see fear in his eyes when he recognizes me."
        "You will never stand the pain."
        Daasek laughed. "Yes I will. You've given me plenty of practice."

        The bearded man ignored the stares and whispers of the townspeople. They in turn couldn't ignore the squat barbarian whose half-naked body was so pitifully, totally scarred. Even the innkeeper, accustomed to strangers from many climes, caught his breath when the man approached. "I desire a room."
        After a long insulting silence, the man nodded. "Three gold crous for the night."
        "Your rates have gone up."
        The innkeeper looked at him thoughtfully. He could not forget a man like this. "You have never been here," he stated after a pause.
        "Perhaps. That will do. One night." Coins were exchanged.
        The man checked them carefully, then nodded. "Up the stairs, take..."
        "No, something on the ground floor."
        "Only slaves live there."
        "Let one stay in my room. I paid for it."
        The innkeeper acquiesced. It would be better for his guests' dispositions if the stranger was kept from them anyway. He gestured at a wrinkled bent man. "Follow him," he said after a whispered conversation with his property.
        Daasek was led down a narrow hallway to an equally narrow room. Light from a small window revealed a tiny pile of filthy straw, nothing else. He ushered the slave from the room and quickly shut the door.
        Daasek had noted during his first visit to Ta'Bel that inns lacked windows beyond the first floor, presumably to discourage early exits. The stench of the room didn't trouble him because he had no intention of remaining. Instead he removed his false beard and donned more revealing clothing. Soldiers broke into the room less than ten minutes later, but by then he had fled.

        "You want it this dark?"
        "Please."
        The whore shrugged and closed the shutters. He had been very quiet, this man, almost shy perhaps, but richly dressed. He had needed little persuasion to accompany her. Now she had doubts. But he had paid without debate and in advance. "Do you want any help?" she asked coyly and reached for him.
        "No," and she was startled by his intensity. "I want you to wear this." He handed her a strip of cloth.
        She forced a laugh. "Where?"
        "Across your eyes. I don't want you to see me."
        She pondered. A rich merchant or traveling royalty, fearing reprisal from this peccadillo? Or someone with darker intent? But he had paid well, and she had help--and eyes--in the tavern next to her. And a sharp knife she always kept nearby. She had used both in the past.
        He noted her hesitancy. "I am not going to hurt you. It's just that...I had an accident. I am afraid you will not find me attractive."
        "I'm sure that won't happen," she smiled invitingly and reached for him again. But he quickly pulled away. Prolonging the inevitable would just prevent her from earning more that day, she decided. So she put on the blindfold and settled on the bed.
        He was on her in seeming seconds, hungry and scared and naive and caring all at once, and she forgot her concern in the mad union of their bodies. It was only after his orgasm that she realized he was crying.

        There were no moons that evening, which suited Daasek. The sport with the whore had been an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, but more importantly, it had kept him hidden from Krujj's spies. Now he stood outside the magician's home and fingered the hilt of his sword. Surely Krujj knew he was here, or at least some enemy was. The only question was how he would attack.
        Daasek found the answer when he turned into the alley. He was studying the balustrade, judging the height, when he heard footsteps. He turned and saw three armed men appear at the passage.
        "The coward sends slaves this time," Daasek laughed. "Which one of you wishes to die first?"
        They made no answer. The alley was narrow, only two could enter at once. Daasek noted carefully the one who held back. He would be the better fighter, Daasek decided. The other two advanced. He pulled his dagger almost carelessly from its sheath and casually flicked it underhand at the stocky man on his right.
        It was a casual flip, but deadly accurate. The blade was not of metal, and thinner, stronger - and sharper - than any forged by man. The attacker gasped, then collapsed unmoving as the weapon buried itself into his chest.
        The second man didn't hesitate, yet the third continued to hold back. Daasek was faintly surprised as he parried the first blow. Caution, cowardice, or a sense of honor? he wondered. He leaped as the blade flashed towards his knees, then brought his own flat on the man's left arm. The man grunted and spun back.
        Daasek only smiled. "I could have taken your arm," he said reasonably. "Is Krujj paying you enough to die?"
        The man swore and lunged again, forcing Daasek back further into the alley. It was no cleaner than any city street, and garbage underfoot threatened his balance. He ducked as a thrust went over his head and into the wall, then brought his sword up hilt-first into the man's stomach. The man doubled over and almost dropped his weapon. Daasek grabbed him by the hair and drove his face into the wall once, twice, three times. When he let go, the man dropped to the alley, dark red blood streaming from his mouth and ears.
        Daasek turned to the final man and saluted. "Now we can enjoy ourselves."
        The latter made a mocking bow and drew his own blade. "Thank you. Now I won't have to share my reward for slaying you."
        "You will earn no reward this evening."
        "On the contrary. I will earn two. Money for me and your soul for Hys. I admit you fought my fellows well. But I am much better than they were. Besides," he added as he feinted, "you're too ugly to live."
        Even as Daasek moved to block, the blade flicked as fast as a fly down and away, and a ribbon of red suddenly appeared on his side.
        "I have plenty of time," the man continued as he moved his sword in ever tightening circles. "I was ordered to make your death painful. And I do what I'm told."
        Daasek sidled away as the blade flashed towards him again. He was no match for the latter's skill, and, unfortunately, they both knew it. He cursed as he stumbled and the sword slid across his right arm. If only he still had his dagger.
        But his knife was in a dead man at the far end of the alley and his opponent wasn't letting him by. Instead he pressed forward, forcing Daasek towards the far wall. If swords wouldn't do, there had to be something else, Daasek decided.
        He needed the opportunity. As long as the man thrust straight or at his legs, he was nearly helpless. He was already bleeding from a dozen new cuts and slashes, and if he let the battle continue, he would be unable to face Krujj even if he survived. It had to end soon.
        The other man smiled as Daasek gasped for breath. "You will get your rest soon enough. The eternal rest of the damned." He swung at Daasek's head.
        It was what Daasek had waited for. He deflected the blow slightly, then dropped his own sword. With both hands he grabbed the other's arm. The man shrieked as Daasek turned back his wrist, shattering it within seconds. Daasek retrieved the weapon while the last attacker lay nearly in shock in the alley. He approached the man slowly. "Krujj will be disappointed in you."
        "Even if you kill me," the man taunted between clenched teeth, "it only prolongs the inevitable. You will soon join me."
        Daasek shrugged. "Perhaps, but I still outlived you," He buried the sword in his foeman's heart.
        He extracted his dagger, then wiped both blades clean. Krujj would be curious now, he knew. Krujj would want to face him.
        He leapt and grabbed the ornate balustrade. He felt muscle and skin tear, and blood appeared from a hundred new wounds. The first rush of fire nearly caused him to scream, but he remained silent as he hoisted himself to the small porch above. He would have time to recover later. Right now Krujj was waiting.
        He broke the window with his sword, then walked inside. From the single candle resting on a small table he could see he was in a library. "Down the hall and to your left," a strange voice called out softly. Daasek looked. On the far wall a stag's head stared down sightlessly at him. It's dead eyes glowed.
        "Thank you," he bowed.
        "Down the hall and to your left," the stag continued. Daasek went down the hall and to his left.

        He recalled the room instantly. The mage was standing next to the fireplace, goblet in hand, just as he had so many months before. He smiled as Daasek entered, sword at ready. "The door was open. The window was unnecessary."
        "So were your guards. I hope they left no widows."
        "Meaningless lives. Just as meaningless as yours."
        "Perhaps you can still give meaning to mine. As you suggested once before."
        A frown touched the gray man briefly. "The last time?"
        "This may help." Daasek reached inside his belt and threw a shred of red velvet to Krujj. "I regret your suit is much the worse for wear."
        Krujj examined the cloth and the bits of skin and hair adhering to it. Then he laughed. "You did survive. My compliments. I apologize for not recognizing you earlier, but your appearance has changed much since we last met. I do prefer you this way."
        Daasek forced his voice to remain even. "You have information I need. Give it to me now."
        Krujj drank deeply. "I told you before, barbarian. You have everything you need to know within you. I cannot make it reappear. I will only make it unnecessary."
        "I ask only once."
        "And I say this," Krujj responded and hurled his goblet.
        Daasek ducked easily, but the magician's real attack came from below. The rug at his feet suddenly surged, and he was swept off-balance. It was then he realized why everything in the room seemed made of red velvet. Every piece of cloth was under Krujj's control.
        Krujj remained at the fireside, rubbing his ring and crooning softly. Curtains flailed out at Daasek, striking him across the face and wrapping around his sword. He tried to hold it with both hands, but they were wrapped too tightly as they easily ripped the weapon from him. He reached down and pulled out his dagger just as another curtain launched itself at him. It encircled his chest like a constrictor and Daasek remembered horribly the suit of velvet that had so dearly cost him as it began to tighten.
        He had only one chance now. Fortunately his right arm, his throwing arm, was still free. He allowed himself to fall so he would not be distracted by the bucking carpet. Krujj stood still, eyes closed as he worked his magic. Daasek would get only one chance. Without reason, without question, he knew what his target must be.
        He had always been good with a dagger. The weapon caught Krujj in the right hand, the unringed hand, pinning it to the wall. Krujj roared in pain and instantly the curtains ceased their pressure.
        Daasek fought out of the velvet cocoon in seconds. The magician was stunned and struggling to free the knife deeply embedded into the wall when Daasek reached him. Without thought, Daasek seized the man's free hand. There was only one object he needed. He nearly broke the magician's finger off as he ripped the arcane ring free. He stepped back. "Now we can talk."
        Greenish ochre streamed from Krujj's wound but he ignored it. Instead he focused on the ring Daasek brandished before him. "You must give it to me. You don't understand."
        "This?" He held the ring lightly. "Tell me what you know."
        The magician clenched his teeth. He tried to pull his hand free but the knife was embedded too firmly and he could not hold the haft with his other. "It will do you no good. I need my ring!"
        "You were such a gracious host, I can only repay in kind." He approached and with a swift pull removed his dagger from the wall and the magician. The man dropped to his knees, cradling his wounded hand. "You want this ring? Then take it," and he turned and threw it into the fire.
        "No!" The magician lunged after it. He stuck in his hands, shrieked, pulled them back, stuck them in again. Flames shot up his arm and quickly engulfed him.
        Now that the ring and stone had been destroyed by the fire, one final task remained. Daasek retrieved his sword and approached slowly. He brought his weapon down, decapitating Krujj.
        But as he did so Krujj reached out and grabbed his left arm. Daasek yelped at the burning touch and quickly shook himself free. He stepped back. The carpet was already beginning to burn. The rest of the house would soon follow. As he left he looked at his left arm. The burns from Krujj's touch left an oddly familiar design on his scarred skin. But, as usual, just a flash of recognition was all he was permitted.

        He spent the evening in a tavern by the bay. From the doorway he could see the lights of the flames engulfing the magician's home. But he didn't feel avenged, or satisfied, or even relieved. As he drank his wine he could already feel the emptiness changing to the cursed urge, the urge to travel and to kill. He was sure that by morning it would be full upon him. And he could only obey.

 

 

  Author's comments

I would like to say the idea for The Thirteenth Magician came in a dream, like Robert Louis Stevenson, or that I wrote it in a fit of fiery passion, like Herman Melville. Neither is close to the truth.

I came up with the story when I was still getting my degree at Bowling Green State University, even writing an earlier version of the first chapter. But I did nothing more with it for nearly twenty years while I concentrated on music and trying to make a living as an advertising writer. When I did finally decide to write it, I spent about six months doing the first draft and another eight years trying to sell it.

Which is why I see real validity in e-publishing, especially for beginning writers. From what I have heard in workshops and such, publishers won't even look at a novel less than 80,000 words, and this one is about 60,000. I could have padded it I suppose, but I don't think that would have been fair to the reader. Furthermore, as my agent at the time lamented, publishers seem to want something different...until they get it. Then they change their mind.

I approached writing the book much the same way I approach writing short fiction. I don't plot out every detail beforehand, write detailed backgrounds of the characters and so forth. I know where I'm starting and know where I'm going, but I have no idea how to get from point A to Z. This, for me, is where the fun and discovery of writing occurs. This is where the characters start dictating what they can do and say, where plot twists and surprises arise. It's probably more time-consuming to approach writing this way, but for me it's much more enjoyable....

Peace.

Patrick Welch

 

"The Thirteenth Magician" Copyright © 2001. Patrick Welch. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

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Author Bio

Patrick Welch Patrick Welch received a B.A. and M.A. in English from Bowling Green State University. Proving the value of a liberal education, he has worked variously as a musician, dock worker, insurance salesman, full-time and substitute teacher, free-lance writer and assistant store manager.

He has published more than forty stories in e-zines and the small press. Currently, Patrick also has another book available from Double Dragon E-Books, Westchester Station and Brendell; Apprentice Thief will be available February 2002.

More information on his writing can be found at his web site.

 

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  Reviews

Enjoyed the read -- Highly recommended

Daasek has come to the port of Ta’bel for the purpose of killing someone. Daasek is not sure who exactly that it is that he will kill. He knows only that he must kill someone. He has been on the road many days. And Daasek has been to many such little villages and has killed. Before long someone has died and Daasek may well be blamed for this murder he did not commit. Krujj a magician controls everyone in Ta’bel. It was Krujj who controlled the death of the one who died as Daasek watch. Krujj may control those who live in Ta’bel, he does not control Daasek.

Daasek will learn during his quest that the ones he kills are part of The Thirteen. Zorell the Pasheur of Avania controls metal, Krujj cloth, Roaine is a healer, and Ensten controls the shape of living things. Nyxx the mage of Horea wants The Thirteen dead and it is Nyxx who controls Daasek.

Writer Welch has crafted a fast paced, absorbing fantasy set in a harsh land filled with savageness, inexorable inhabitants and near hopeless situations. At times Welch’s characters and situations are very out of the ordinary. This does not at all distract from the work. This is not the first of this writers works that I have read and enjoyed for review. The Thirteenth Magician gives the reader a peek into evil presented as the norm. Writer Welch presents an epic fantasy filled with gritty dialogue, tumult and lots of conniving. The reader is not given a clear reason why Daasek a guild fisherman/slave assassin of Nyxx must kill the magicians. We know only that he must and follow him on his quest. The Thirteenth Magician is not the usual little formula novel. Rather it is a perfect read for a cold stormy afternoon as the reader sits before a roaring fire sipping something hot and soothing. A large cat sitting nearby, ears at the ready, eyes aglow with hidden secrets will only add to the enjoyment of the moment.

Excellent read.
Reviewed by
Molly Martin for Word Weaving
 



This is an exceptional story. It is enjoyable, it is exciting, and it is also interesting. The characters and actions may be bizarre, but they shadow forth realities that haunt our everyday world hidden in ordinary forms. This novel attempts what few modern works do: it attempts to account for evil in a sane way and operates in a universe not yet bankrupt of rational, ethical discourse. If offered a choice between a Stephen King work and this one by Patrick Welch, unhesitantingly and with alacrity, I would choose Welch's The Thirteenth Magician....

Reader comment from Pat Fredeman
 



The Thirteenth Magician, by Patrick Welch ... is an epic fantasy, drawing the reader into the world inhabited by Daasek, a Guild Fisherman and slave-assassin of the Magician Nyxx. For reasons known only to Nyxx and his god (demon?) patron, all of the other magicians in Daasek's world must be destroyed...

Welch's characterization and story are well crafted and a (comparatively) fast read. Very few of his characters are two dimensional throw-aways. There is enough background to provide a backdrop without being oppressive and there is very little (or none - take your pick) excess wordage.

Reviewed by Fred Nowek for Ibn Qirtaiba.
 



An explosive debut onto the fantasy scene, Patrick Welch's The Thirteenth Magician departs from the linear novel in form and structure. But this departure never detracts from the book's readability or the excitement to be found within its electronic pages. Multi-layered, diverse in its message, this book should be read, pondered, remembered, then read again...I tried and tried -- and failed -- to think of a fantasy author whose work could be compared to Welch's. The Thirteenth Magician displays elements of C.S. Lewis's trilogy, a bit of Robin Hobb's Assassin Series, and possibly some of Roger Zelazny's Amber series. But nothing quite captures the scope of Welch's vision.

Reviewed by Patricia White for Crescent Blues.
 



If all e-books are of this high quality, then I foresee that area of publishing gaining more acceptance soon. I hope that one day The Thirteenth Magician will also be in print, but don't wait for that day to read it.

Reviewed by Jonathan Fesmire for SF Site.

 

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