Clash of the Sorcerers, Chapter 1

by Joan Marie Verba

Secrets of the Sorcerers cover

Chapter 1

Once Marlys released the time-binding spell, her former colleagues started to come to life again. She noticed Serena casting a spell, but needed to keep her concentration on her predecessor, Thorne, who was in front of her. When Thorne began to look around, noticing a difference in her surroundings, Marlys knew it was time to speak.

Drawing herself to her full height and throwing her shoulders back, Marlys began her rehearsed speech.

“Some of you are noticing that this audience room contains more people than it did a second ago. I will explain.” She turned to the two couples whose wedding had been interrupted first. “Bronwen, Fern, Skye, and Isador: Celestine will tell you what happened.”

She lifted her chin. “To the rest of you, I am Marlys. I probably look different to you than when you last glanced at me. I cast a time-binding spell on you. You have been suspended in time for the past twelve years.” She paused briefly, listening to the gasps and exclamations. Her attention, however, remained on Thorne.

Thorne glared at her sternly with keen hazel eyes. Her short gray hair framed her face, which had few wrinkles despite her age. “Why would you do such a thing?”

“That will become clear eventually,” Marlys said. “Right now, I think it best that all of you who were time-bound become accustomed to your new environment. I am currently the High Sorcerer of Goldenvalley.”

“You are not!” Thorne insisted.

Marlys kept Thorne in her line of sight, but continued to address the assembly at large. “There are sorcerers and apprentices near you who can escort you to your rooms and answer your questions.”

“You did this to usurp my power,” Thorne said. “You will not succeed.” Thorne moved as if to cast a spell.

Marlys moved to counter, but a spell never landed.

Serena spoke up. “I cast a spell inhibiting the use of magic. No one here will be able to cast a spell here until I release mine.”

Thorne turned her head. She glared at Serena. “You? A sorcerer? You’re as thin as a reed! Look at your hands; your fingers are barely the width of a quill pen. A strong wind would blow you away.”

The room erupted in laughter, though only among Marlys’s assembly.

Tir took a step toward Thorne. “I think you’ll find that Serena is the strongest sorcerer in this room, except for Marlys. Stronger than me, definitely.”

Thorne scoffed. “You’re a man.”

“Correct!” Tir affirmed, pointing an index finger at the ceiling.

“You can’t be a sorcerer!”

“Incorrect!” Tir responded, again, pointing a finger upwards.

Thorne swung around to face Marlys, who returned her stare evenly. “And you are not the most powerful sorcerer in this room.”

Again, Marlys’s assembly chuckled.

Undaunted by Thorne’s attitude, Tir moved closer to her. “By now you must have noticed the aura around Marlys, and Serena, and me, as well as three others in this room. We’ve been to the Library of Sorcery. We are the most powerful sorcerers in this room.”

Thorne glanced at Tir before turning back to Marlys. “The Library of Sorcery doesn’t exist. It’s a child’s tale.”

“No, Aunt Thorne,” Nessa said, speaking for the first time. “There is a Library of Sorcery. We’ve been there.”

Thorne turned to Nessa, eyeing her curiously.

Nessa ran up to Thorne and threw her arms around her. “I’m so glad you’re back! I missed you so much!”

When Nessa released her, Thorne said, “Nessa?”

“Yes! I’m a sorcerer now. I’m not six years old anymore.”

Zaria, Nessa’s best friend, stepped forward. “You have Nessa to thank for your release. She and I went all the way to the Library of Sorcery to learn how to bring you back.”

Marlys heard grumbling from her assembly, and raised a hand for silence. Now was not the time to remind everyone that Marlys had in mind to release Thorne and the rest of the time-bound sorcerers herself.

Serena walked up to Marlys. “I suggest that everyone in this room take an oath not to time-bind anyone else in this room, or we’ll have a cascade of retaliating spells.”

Thorne turned to Serena. “You suppressed the use of magic in this room, as I recall.”

Serena lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll release it to create a binding oath among us, and I’ll not restore the magic-suppressing spell after that.”

Thorne lifted her head and looked around the room. The audience room shone with the light streaming through stained glass windows. The polished floor reflected the light, and the high ceiling gave the room an airy feeling.

“Yes,” Thorne called out, “let’s have an end to this nonsense. We can all pledge not to time-bind each other.”

Marlys saw the members of her assembly turn to her. She nodded.

Serena turned and faced the assembly. “Everyone raise a hand.”

They all did.

Marlys felt Serena release her magic-suppressing spell.

“Repeat after me,” Serena continued. “I will not cast a time-binding spell on anyone in this room.”

All sorcerers and apprentices in the room repeated the oath.

Serena sealed the oath with sorcery, nodded to Marlys and Thorne, and moved back to where she had been standing earlier.

Thorne faced Marlys. The older woman stood a bit shorter than Marlys, but nonetheless managed to give the impression of filling the room. “Let me be clear: I am the High Sorcerer of Goldenvalley.”

Marlys gestured at the sorcerers facing them. “Half of the sorcerers here are pledged to you, yes.”

“As are you,” Thorne retorted.

“Am I?” Marlys said. “By tradition, a vacancy occurs when a High Sorcerer is unable to fulfill that role, and all pledges are void at that time.”

“A vacancy that you created, ungrateful wretch.” Thorne waved a hand toward the listeners. “We all came here to celebrate your ascendancy as a sorcerer, and this is how you repay us?”

“About that,” Marlys said. “I seem to recall your stabbing me with a knife.”

Thorne nodded. “A wound you instantly healed, proving your powers.”

“Unnecessary,” Marlys said. “I had more than demonstrated my abilities before that. Once I had healed myself, you bound me with an oath never to harm another sorcerer. Didn’t you take such an oath yourself?”

Thorne lifted her chin. “I took a different oath. I was bound not to harm another sorcerer oath-bound not to harm me. This was done so that I would be free to oppose a rogue sorcerer who never took that oath.”

“Therefore you are now bound not to do me harm,” Marlys said.


“Good. Because we not going to start another sorcerous war over this.”

Before Thorne could answer, Elspeth, the senior sorcerer at the training center where Marlys had entered as an apprentice, walked up and touched Thorne’s arm.

“Thorne,” Elspeth said in a low voice, “I have been your friend ever since we were apprentices together. I have proved my loyalty to you. But we cannot erase what has happened. Marlys has taken the mantle of High Sorcerer here and half of the sorcerers here are pledged to her only. By their expressions, I can tell they aren’t willing to transfer that loyalty to you, at least not now. What Marlys says is true: we cannot start another sorcerous war.” She turned to Marlys for a moment and looked meaningfully at her before facing Thorne again. “Marlys shows no inclination to cast us out and has asked her assembly to treat us with courtesy. Let us relax in her hospitality, accustom ourselves to this time, and then there can be discussions.”

Thorne scanned the room, and apparently noticing all the expectant faces, turned back to Elspeth. “Yes. We cannot take any meaningful actions until we know what we are facing.” She turned to Marlys and added in a low voice, “This isn’t the end of this.”

Marlys raised her eyebrows. “I didn’t expect that it was.”

Thorne turned to the sorcerers and apprentices and raised her voice. “Those of you pledged to me, go with your fellow sorcerers here and refresh yourselves. I will give further instructions later.”

Marlys felt relieved to see her former colleagues start to leave with her current ones.

Nessa tugged at Thorne’s arm. “Come, Aunt Thorne, I’ll catch you up.”

Marlys turned her back on them and walked down the steps of the dais to where the two couples she had been about to marry stood.

“I am sorry that your expected wedding has been delayed. We will hold the ceremony as soon as we can.”

Skye turned to her. “I guess we missed quite a lot.”

Celestine smiled and extended an arm. “If you’ll come with me, I’ll tell you everything.”

The wedding party nodded to Marlys and followed Celestine.

“Wedding? Here?”

Marlys turned to see Thorne standing two steps behind her. Nessa held her arm.

“Yes,” Marlys said. “Wedding. Granted, not many sorcerers have that wish, but when they do, I accommodate them. I don’t force celibacy as you did.”

Thorne scoffed. “Naïve girl. Never experienced the pain of a broken relationship, thanks to me. Sorcerers can’t concentrate on their duties and attend to a spouse at the same time.”

“I haven’t noticed any problems among those already married,” Marlys said. “Not every relationship ends in strife.”

“So I thought when I was young,” Thorne said. “I was so smitten I didn’t even notice how I was being manipulated until it was almost too late. Just in time I realized that the man I thought was the love of my life only wanted me as a place to satisfy his rutting urges. I made sure that the rest of you would be spared that. You should thank me.”

“I knew from a young age that any kind of coupling was not for me,” Marlys said. “Most apprentices and sorcerers feel the same. So I can’t see that what you did made any difference at all.”

“Better to be sure now than have regrets afterward,” Thorne said.

Marlys gestured at Nessa. “Your niece, who loves you, spared no effort to reunite with you. Why not sit with her for a while and find out what has happened in your absence?”

“Why did you time-bind me? Me, and everyone else in our assembly?”

Marlys lowered her eyebrows, drew herself up to full height, stood toe-to-toe with Thorne, and looked her straight in the eye. “Cruelty. I did it to stop your cruelty. Yours and all the other sorcerers in this region who felt cruelty was the way. I am happy to say I succeeded.”

Thorne returned Marlys’s gaze evenly. “You understand nothing.” She turned and walked away with Nessa.

Marlys relaxed her shoulders. Serena, Tir, and Rochelle gathered around her.

Rochelle nodded toward Thorne’s retreating back. “Yours is not an easy task.”

Marlys shrugged. “I never expected it to be.”

Serena stepped next to Marlys. “We will help in any way we can.”

Marlys turned and smiled at them. “I know. But the main responsibility, and focus of her anger, needs to fall on me.”

“We’ll do our best to soften the blow,” Tir said.

Marlys touched his arm. “Thank you. I appreciate your help.”

Serena watched as Thorne turned a corner. “She will be surprised when she finds out what it means that we have been to the Library of Sorcery.”

Tir folded his arms in front of him and grinned. “Didn’t you hear? There’s no such place.”

“Didn’t notice our auras?” Rochelle said.

“Oh, she noticed,” Marlys said. “She’s too strong a sorcerer not to have noticed. But like her niece, Thorne is too set in her ways to allow that to affect her.”

“And like Nessa, she’s going to run face-first into a hard, cold reality,” Rochelle said.

Marlys nodded. “Then she will have to find a way to cope. I only hope that is sooner rather than later.”

Clash of the Sorcerers copyright © 2024 by Joan Marie Verba. All rights reserved.

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