Preview: The Kaedin Secret

Prologue

Dear brother,

  How are you doing in Kaedin Hall? I wish we were there together, you and me, and you didn’t have to secretly teach me through these letters. But you was always the smarter one. Them thick books would have confuddled me no end. Still, I am making progress, thanks to you. Bet we’ll surprise them stuck-up kaedine when two lowly peasants show them that the poor can be kaedine too. Mind no one sees you send these lessons to me, I don’t want you getting into no trouble.

  The last time you were home, you and I discussed if it were possible to tune and shape fire. There’s a reason why Firas is named the Forbidden, aye? I been thinking about it ever since you returned to Kaedin Hall. We use fire every day. How much better life would be, if we had heat and light whenever we need it.

  The past winter was hard on the village. Mam Gemba Mul and her toddling babe Reddis frozed after we was all snowed in. When Reddon came home after the snow and ice broke, I thought he would fair lose his mind, he was that stricken. Least Ma and Pa saw to the cremating of Gemba and Reddis. It would been too cruel to Reddon if he had to do it hisself. He spends his days sozzled in linnis brandy, but half-dead ain’t no way for an honest man to live. Dara’s a good lass and she makes sure he gets food in him two times a day. She says she wishes you was home, and that she’s right keen on being the wife of a kaedin when you come back. Don’t you disappoint her.

  A journeying master kaedin came by for the season to help with the watering. Says he’s Master Darram. He was right curious about you, little brother, and I told him how proud we was that we could pay to send you to Kaedin Hall. Them lords in town won’t pay for you but the village did, aye, and right proud of you we are too. Little Pond’s own kaedin!

  He says he’ d look out for you when he goes back. I asked him about kae resonance and whatnot, discreet-like, after I gave him enough beer to be well in his cups. He said more about your training and such. I might have some ideas about tuning into fire and the shaping and pushing. When you come home for summer break, little brother, maybe I can teach you some things. I bet I can be the first fire kaedin in the world. You’d be right proud of your older brother then!

  Ma and Pa send their love, and Dara is pining for you like I said she would. She’ ll be happy when you returns with a kaedin badge and all. Get her something pretty, aye? She’d like that. Don’t worry about the siller or gilt, the new linnis brandy will bring in a good sum. It’s the best we ever made. Pa says we can even buy up our bit of land with it.

  Your brother,

  Velben

***

  The young man crumpled the letter in his fist and let it fall onto the ruins of his home. Everything had burned to its bones. There was still a lit ember somewhere; a corner of the letter began curling up into ash.

  Picking up the smoking letter, the young man stared unseeing at the words. He smoothed the paper out as best as he could and folded it up before slipping it into his pocket. With his hands in thin woven gloves, he fell to digging. He was not sure what he was looking for until he saw it after heaving aside one particularly heavy beam. Two blackened skulls stared up at him. Which had been his mother and which his father? In death, all looked alike. Water—tears, perhaps, or sweat—dripped onto the burned skulls.

  He pulled the gloves off. Reverently, he removed his parents’ remains from the ruined cottage with his bare hands. One set on the left, one on the right. The pile of bones on the right was Ma. Her wedding cuff was on her elbow, and she still had part of her plain green dress left intact. Pa had protected her as best as he could, he noticed; the larger skeleton was wrapped about the smaller one, and it had been his motions that dislodged them.

  He left the gloves off as he scavenged through the cottage, shifting what debris he could. When the adepts came by to offer help, he refused them. It took another hour of moving and sifting before he found Velben, coiled on his side, one hand open and the other clutched in a fist. His bones were charred black, still smoking lightly even though it must have been days since. Days. Velben was still burning.

  Drops fell on the blackened bones and sizzled into steam. He sank slowly to his knees and took the closed fist, heedless of the searing pain on his skin as he pried his dead brother’s hand open. He had been holding a flat metal disk, which was slightly warped. He rubbed away the soot covering it, revealing a simple design: a square set in a circle.

  The young man covered his mouth and tried to rein in the scream perched under his throat.

  All he had to keep of his family was this little bit of metal and a letter.

  The entire village of Little Pond had been decimated; the fire had raged so wildly beyond control that the one new master kaedin had burned himself out trying to save what he could. Now Master Darram lay unconscious by the river, the heart of his palms shot through with charred skin and flesh. He would never be able to tune, shape, or push kae again. The silence of his resonance with his element would taunt him to the end of his days. It would surprise no one if Master Darram chose to end his life rather than live silenced.

  You took away everyone I loved, the young man swore. I will master you. And when I do, there will be a reckoning.

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