If you have not read the prequel to this book, this is what you should know before you begin:
There are five main characters in the story, as follows:
Jania, princess of Syntrea
At the beginning of Plights, Jania is fourteen, and one year away from adulthood. As she begins her fifth year at Arcanum, she is an adept spellcaster and has adjusted well in the mage’s college. She is close with all her five classmates, although her friendship with Ben is shaky at times. Fated to be the first known spellcasting monarch ever, Jania is aware of the responsibility involved and works hard to become worthy of the role. Luckily, her private tutor, Animis, has helped her immensely.
Ben, Jania’s classmate
Ben is an orphaned villager with spellcasting abilities. One of two survivors of the razing that annihilated his home, Ben’s plan to attend Gladia was derailed when his spellcasting ability was discovered. His first day at Arcanum placed him sharing a desk with the Princess of Syntrea. Intimidated by her status and assertiveness, Ben finds it difficult to connect with his deskmate and remains aloof, something that often bothers Jania. As can be deduced from being in the same class as Jania, Ben is the same age as the princess, and is also about to begin his fifth year at Arcanum.
Galen, Ben’s sister
Galen is Ben’s younger sister and the other survivor of the razing that destroyed Ben’s village. Details of how they escaped the carnage are mostly a mystery, as is the reason why the Eastern army inexplicably retreated soon afterwards. Many rumors and stories credit Galen for routing the invaders, even though it seems impossible that a tiny girl of seven could turn back an entire army. Still, she possessed the talent to become the first girl to attend Espies. Her first year at the Scout’s college was turbulent, but with the help of Rohen and her troop leader, she overcame the obstacles before her and completed her first year at the top of the rankings. Her prodigal scouting skills have earned her enemies as well as friends, but also deep respect from most of the Espies student body. The eleven-year-old will be attending her second year at Espies.
Megan, Galen’s ‘foster’ sister
Megan is the daughter of two druids. She grew up in a druidic commune with her mother, the commune physician, and a secret friend who helps her deal with her strange powers and unusual talents. When she is nine, her secrets were divulged by her mother, kicking off an unexpected chain of events that left Megan feeling betrayed and shunned. Her father Bilin, a Somatica instructor, takes her from the commune to live with him and prepare her for the Healer’s college. Rohen joins them during their trek back to the Academy, and Bilin takes Galen in to live with them a few years after. Megan will be in her fourth year at Somatica and is thirteen years old. At the moment, she is secretly teaching one of Galen’s troopmates how to handle spiritual magic.
Rohen, Megan and Galen’s ‘foster’ brother
Hailing from the group of islands far to the north, Rohen ends up attending the Academy through a series of tragic events. After living with a druid and her husband for about a year, he joins the druid’s brother and his daughter Megan on their way back to the Academy. Rohen and Megan are raised as siblings, and act very much this way. At the Academy, he befriends Ben and Jania, and Ben introduces him to Galen a few years later. His charisma and cheerful nature tends to draw people to him, but he also tends to suffer bouts of depression every once in a while due to his traumatic past. Presently, Rohen is about to begin his fifth year at Espies. He is also fourteen.
The characters all attend the quad-college institution called The Academy. The four colleges are Arcanum, the mage’s college, Somatica, the Healer’s college, Espies, the Scout’s college, and Gladia, the warrior’s college. As noted, Ben and Jania attend the mage’s college Arcanum, Rohen and Galen attend Espies, and Megan attends Somatica. They have friends at Gladia, but none of the major characters attend the warrior’s college. As magic-based schools, Arcanum and Somatica terms are seven years as opposed to the six-year education that Espies and Gladia provide. However, Gladia and Espies both require a one-year mandatory assignment after graduation, which essentially extends the total training time to seven years.
Avre could not take his eyes off of the beautiful white-haired girl sleeping in his bed. He had found her unconscious and alone in the middle of his favorite grove where he would often set traps for beavers and mink. He had not been able to wake her, so he had carried her to his single room cabin to rest and warm up. It was a treat to watch her sleep, sprawled out upon his bed wearing only a light white sundress.
She was a tiny little thing, maybe one third of his twenty-stoneweight frame, with her smooth milky face. She was no child, though. Avre reached over to touch her hair, but stopped when he noticed her stir slightly. He wondered why her hair was white. She couldn’t possibly have been born that way. The young woman’s head turned, and Avre almost gasped as her eyes opened. Her eyes were as white as her hair!
“Where am I?” she whispered.
He had to be careful. No mistakes. Her strange eyes did nothing to detract from her allure. With a little charm and a little luck… “Ya’ar somewhere safe,” he said.
She sat up and looked around. “Did you bring me here?” She sounded like she was from one of the coastal countries.
“I sure did. Found ya half-dead not too far from here. What happened t’ ya? Ya’ar eyes and hair, they’re all white! Who did that t’ ya?”
She touched her hair. “You should not have helped me,” she said.
Avre wanted to laugh. As if he could pass up an opportunity to have a female guest in his lonely home. Now all he had to do was make sure she stayed for a while. “The Creator would strike me down if I allowed a beautiful young lady such as ya’arself t’ die. I’ll get ya some tea.” He stood up.
“No, thank you. I am fine.”
“I find that hard t’ believe.” He headed over to the stove.
The cabin door crashed open just as Avre picked up the kettle. He dropped it back on the stove and spun around. “What the…” he gasped at the sight of the man intruding into his home. His white hair and eyes were identical to his lovely guest, but he looked considerably older.
“There you are, Poli,” the intruder said, stepping inside the cabin. “I am shocked you made it this far. How you escaped the spirit barrier eludes me, but no matter. Your flight ends here.” He did not even acknowledge Avre.
Were these two part of some spiritual cult? “Oh, sir! I know ya must’ve been worried, but ya’ar daughter is well and safe. I’m about t’ give her some tea. Would ya like some ya’arself, sir?” Avre picked up the kettle once again and poured water into the teapot. He was not going to chance angering this man.
“He is no father of mine,” the girl said. “And I am not going anywhere with him.”
The white-eyed man turned to Avre. “Who are you, man? Well, Poli, have you finally found your ward?” He threw his head back and laughed.
Avre set the kettle down with a bang. The girl had spoken. Whoever he was, the man had no claim on her. And he dared make fun of Avre right in his own home! It mattered nothing that Avre had no inkling of what he was laughing about.
“Now see here! Ya better get out of here, before ya get hurt!” Avre marched over to stand beside the bed. The sight of Poli’s soft skin as she swung her legs over the side of the bed strengthened his resolve. He was not letting this opportunity slip away without a fight.
The white man only laughed harder. “Poli, please come on, before this poor silly man gets himself hurt,” he choked out between peals of laughter.
The girl gave Avre a worried look. “Don’t ya worry none, girl. I’ll take care of this lout.” Avre reached under the bed and pulled out his prized axe. “We’ll see who gets hurt, old man,” he growled.
The man stopped laughing. “Poli, I know that breaching that barrier has weakened you terribly. All I have to do is pick you up and carry you back. You would be stubborn enough to let this human die?” he asked the girl, walking slowly toward them.
“Remember the Pact,” the girl replied. Her warning did not stop the older man from approaching, though.
“Killing him does not break the Pact. Neither does gathering you up into my arms.” The strange man stopped right before Avre. He reached for the axe and pulled it out of Avre’s hands as if Avre had offered it to him.
“Obitus, stop it!” the girl cried out.
Before Avre could get over his shock, a pale hand latched onto his neck and lifted his stocky frame effortlessly up into the air. The man’s white eyes gleamed, and an evil chuckle rumbled out of his lips. Shocked to his core, Avre struggled to get air into his lungs. The girl jumped out of the bed and ran to the door.
As he stared into those achromic eyes, his energy drained away, along with his courage. He could see in those eyes the true power the being before him possessed. Avre whimpered as he realized that his neck was an eyeblink from being snapped. The hand holding him in the air did not belong to a human being. The monster smirked as humiliating tears fell from Avre’s eyes and nose.
“Let the human go, Obitus.”
Avre looked up. A lanky man stood behind Avre’s heroine, red eyes glaring. Avre supposed he should have been taken aback by those unnatural eyes, but all he felt was relief that help had arrived. His captor glanced back and actually growled at the newcomer.
“I’m taking Poli. You can try to stop me if you wish,” the red-eyed man said.
“Leave now or the human dies,” the white-eyed man roared back.
“Very well.” The red-eyed man took the girl’s hand, and they both vanished into thin air.
“No! That hibrida!” Avre tumbled to the floor as the monster-man released him. He started to rise, but an iron-hard leg slammed into his soft spot. Avre crumpled back down, and darkness overcame him.
Poli clasped her hands together in relief as the pudgy trapper materialized on the ground before her. “You saved him from Obitus. Oh, thank you, Semino.”
Semino shrugged. “He would have been no big loss. Why did you involve this man, Poli?”
“I didn’t. Breaching that sphere Obitus had me trapped in was draining. I’m still too weak to even change form. I stopped to rest and fell asleep. He found me and took me to his home. He thought he had rescued me.”
Semino snorted. “Right. And I know exactly what kind of reward he was looking to receive. It’s amazing how these humans remain in perpetual heat.”
Poli smiled. “You sound jealous.”
“As if I wish to spend my life bumbling about in an estral fog. How humans evolved this far with such ingrained libido is beyond my comprehension.” Semino crouched beside the man and touched his neck. “I suppose Obitus agrees with me. He gave the man’s unmentionables a nice pounding.”
“Can you make him forget?” Poli asked.
“Yes. But he will be wondering why his nether parts are so sore. Hopefully he can still walk. He has a two-day trek back to his home.” Semino moved his hand to the man’s head. He laughed.
“What are you laughing about?” Poli asked Semino as he stood up.
Semino looked at her, and his shape began to change. Poli waited calmly as his long limbs stretched and blood red scales sprouted out of his skin. Soon, a winged four-legged serpent stood before her. The serpent extended a claw, and she stepped forward and held on to a talon. Semino picked her up and set her gently down on his back.
“Why were you laughing?” Poli asked again as Semino spread his wings and launched himself into the air.
“I did not think it fair for the poor man to completely forget about his misadventure.” Semino’s raspy voice was markedly different from his human vocal tones. “He shall have fond memories of you, Poli.”
“Semino! You are so very crude!” Poli pounded on his chitinous back as Semino roared gleefully.
“They are the wards?” Poli asked, studying the image of the farseeing spell Terra had cast on Semino’s wall.
“You see before you five of the six we have found,” Terra replied, pushing her ebony hair away from her pretty human face. “They are growing up together as close friends. Isn’t it amazing?”
Three boys and three girls were talking and having fun in a clearing before a quaint little cottage. Poli watched them carry on. She could tell by their demeanor who they were. The wards were all supposed to have a marked contrast to their draconian familiars.
“The small girl with the bow, that’s my little one,” Semino said proudly, pointing with his claw.
“Of course. The one with the boyish haircut and the sweet laugh,” Poli replied. “Not like you at all, Semino.”
“Don’t be fooled, Poli. Galen seethes with power.”
Poli turned her gaze on the tall blond boy. His golden eyes matched those of Semino’s tiny ward. “Galen’s brother. Reserved and slightly moody. He holds much inside himself. He must be yours, Terra.”
“Ben is the most powerful student at the Arcanum College, and his potential has not even been tapped. When he is ready to accept the deeper levels of spellcasting, he will be a force to be reckoned with.” Terra’s soft voice dripped with as much pride as Semino’s booming boast.
Poli scrutinized his face. “He is troubled.”
“Normal adolescent angst. He wants revenge for the razing of his home. He also has feelings for the Princess of Syntrea. Love and anger will create conflict in the wisest of beings. His turmoil is understandable, and hopefully temporary.”
Poli nodded and pointed to the dark-haired girl sitting next to Ben, laughing at the wrestling match before her. “Princess Jania. She is as regal as Animis is pragmatic. He has done a wonderful job with her.”
“More than you know,” Terra replied. “One short talk with her and you will be forever impressed. She will be the perfect Queen.”
“If she lives that long,” Semino muttered. The huge dragon shied back when he noticed the heated looks the two women gave him.
Poli looked back at the wall and smiled. “And that rambunctious youngster wrestling with the tall redheaded girl has to be the famous Rohen.” Semino’s disgruntled snort confirmed her statement.
“That is him,” Terra said.
“He is amazingly good-natured, considering all he has been through,” Poli noted.
“The druid who took him in has done much to help heal his soul, and he has found a new sister in Megan and a kindred spirit in Galen. Those three are very close.”
“Rohen and Galen are a dangerous pair. No world should have more than one necare alive at a time,” Semino said.
Poli ignored Semino and watched Rohen for some time. “Sanguis must not get her claws on him. We cannot take for granted that his familiar will keep him safe, either. The fact that Vitalia marked him means nothing.”
Terra nodded in agreement. Semino did not say anything.
“And the redhead is the child druid Megan. Blunt and precocious. She definitely belongs to Caeles.”
“He refuses to admit this,” Semino said.
“That is no surprise. But it is a fact. Caeles pulled a remarkable feat by removing Megan from the druidic community. They follow Obitus blindly, revering him as their sacred White Angel. Now Obitus wants Megan back under his control. He is urging the druids to get her back to the commune.”
“So she will need protection as well,” Terra said.
“That will be delicate. The drui are only misguided humans. To confront them in order to protect Megan would be against our tenets of defending all sentient life.” Poli sighed. “The wards will have to deal with that threat without our intervention.” She noticed the last one of the group, a boy with light brown skin and blond hair. “Is that boy Surian? He has light hair and blue eyes. That is unusual. Wait!” She watched him for a moment. “He is…?”
“He is,” Terra said. “Animis confirmed it not too long ago, during a trip the Princess took to Massea. Jamu saved the Princess and her party from an ambush. He is a close friend of the five, despite his origins.”
“Incredible,” Poli said. “What legends shall spawn from these we watch?”
“The sixth ward is safe and thriving with Silx. Two remain to be found, your ward and Rigare’s,” Terra remarked.
“Rigare is searching hard,” Semino said. “But she will not disclose her progress.”
“She does not wish to alert the Debellos. Senui also searches.” Poli sighed. “My imprisonment was worthwhile. I have learned much about Obitus and his plans. But it is good to be free once more.”
“It is good to have you back,” Terra said.
“Your freedom brings relief to us all,” Semino agreed.
“Thank you,” Poli replied. “Now I shall rest, and once I have recovered I shall search for my ward.”
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