The Tower

Warning: May contain spoilers if you haven't read the previous book.

Prisoners of Sorcery is finished. This one picks up right after the end of the last, and sees the Five face their greatest challenge: Ciel Aria. But standing between them is the sorcerer Rajan and constant attempts by the Beloved and Njaladin to stand in their way.

Aiden also doesn't take it well to learn of the Sword of Nalin, and that his allies are convinced it doesn't exist; it's a myth. They're on their own.

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Chapter 1

"So what's your story?" Trevor asked.

Delilah half turned on her horse to look at him. "Me?"

"Well, yeah," Trevor said, nudging his horse ahead a bit. "I know everyone else, 'cept your guard guys and they aren't much for conversation."

She smiled. Trevor was a little surprised by how pretty her smile actually was. "There is a reason for that, Trevor. When I was younger, things were different here. Aria had visited before, but saw no use in controlling us. Then around the time I was fourteen, the army overthrew the royalty," She adjusted in her saddle. "They promised to bring people up, confiscating the lands of the nobles and declaring that everyone was equal now. Things were great, for about five years."

Delilah shook her head. "The new government grew paranoid because the church stood with the king. Not much had changed for the people, really, the nobles and royalty just got left in the street. Everything else went on. So they outlawed our church – not religion totally, Darius himself believes in the gods. Just the current form, because they opposed the government. Again, not much changed for most people. They just found themselves with new priests."

"Not everyone went along with this, though. Certainly not the old priests, even though some were allowed to keep their jobs, and most definitely not those of us who were nobles. There were insurrections, wars. Strife within the army, even. Darius stomped down on our necks with an iron boot at this point." Delilah paused. "I was in my young twenties, our family struggling to adjust. My father was executed for treason as a lesson to the people of Saamyr, even though he had not actually taken part in any treason. It had the opposite effect, because not all nobles were disliked or unpopular. More people opposed him. So he squeezed harder."

"Because that works," Trevor said.

"Darius commands the military, and Aria came to his aid around ten years ago. He couldn't look weak when people opposed him, so he struck hard, and rewarded those loyal to him. Suddenly, it was a choice between living on the run, and living in luxury. Rather than have the army own everything, Darius allowed people to own their property and businesses, but pay hefty taxes, taxes that got less hefty for people loyal to him." Delilah sighed. "Serving in the army entitles people to quite a bit, and the army is the law. Men like Oscar – the man that Aiden stood up to – thrive there. Bullies, rapists."

"So you and yours are a minority."

"Yes," Delilah said. "And so my men don't have a lot to say because they're afraid of saying too much or identifying themselves. There is no real organized resistance. Just enough people to keep ourselves alive. But we have allies. My father was distantly related to Princess Oriana, in the north. Her capital is just inside the border, where you were staying before. Darius has been rumbling about old border disputes. She's not pleased with that, and has given much support to us."

"You want to kill Darius and place someone else in control," Trevor said.

"No, we want to remove Darius and his henchmen, and see what we can do about a better government, something not so easily corrupted by a single person."

Trevor nodded. He wasn't sure about promoting democracy here. The people had already shown themselves to be lazy for the most part, and ready to turn on their own for an extra nickel or a pat on the head. In addition to the innate problems with cheating – something Delilah's people would apparently consider an art – he could tell that they would just vote for whoever threw them the most gold, regardless of what else he offered. Even still, that wouldn't guarantee the government couldn't be overthrown by another Darius.

"I'd suggest taking some power from the military. Decentralize them somehow," Trevor said.

"That has been discussed. As it stands, due to past conflicts, we are not supposed to have the navy Darius has built, nor are we allowed to have one centralized army. But none of our neighbors are interested in forcing the treaty for fear of open war."

That hit a memory. "This has happened on my planet," Trevor whispered. "Not even that long before I was born. A man rose to power, broke treaties, and made claims about the borders. No one stopped him, and he kept going. Eventually someone did stand up to him, Delilah, and the war stretched over most of the world."

"What happened to him?"

"He killed himself when his forces were losing," Trevor said. "Someone needs to stop Darius before he spreads."

"Magnus has offered to help, once Aria is defeated. Without her support, Darius will lose one of his many advantages."

Trevor sighed and looked around. They had crossed the border, and had less than an hour until they reached Blomst, where he knew Aiden would be waiting. Would they stay after defeating Aria, and bring justice to this world? Could they? He narrowed his eyes. Then what, save another world? It wasn't their job, but Trevor didn't know if he could just look the other way. He had been traveling with Delilah for almost a week now, and she was real to him. He couldn't just leave her world in chaos. He couldn't let the same thing that happened on Earth happen here, and Trevor felt reasonably sure that Aiden would feel the same way. Scratching his ear, he looked over to Ryan. Ryan would agree, too, once he calmed down over what happened to Tara.

"I'll help, too," Trevor said.


He looked deep into Delilah's eyes. "Once we stop Ciel Aria, I will come back here and fight along side you for as long as it takes."

Surprise spread over her face, followed closely by a smile. "Thank you."

"Well, now I think I should tell you my story," Trevor said. "I guess I'll begin where it starts getting relevant. Aiden, Ryan and I have been friends for a very long time. We have a lot in common – we want to be superheroes, knights, go into space, see the universe. I've said this before, but you people – you, Zern, all of you – have no idea how much of a dream this was to the three of us, to see another world, to speak to people..." He trailed off. "The implications this has for the world of physics is just..." He stopped. "I majored in hardware engineering. I make hardware. Aiden makes software. Ryan does physics and lots of math. The three of us got out of high school at sixteen."

"Am I supposed to know what that means?" Delilah asked.

"No, I guess not. We're smarter than a lot of people. Not the smartest, but we got out of school two years early, and we worked our asses off through college, each of us getting a Master's Degree in four years, in our respective areas of study. We had a dream – a machine that could transport something from one spot to another instantaneously," Trevor said. He smiled, remembering when it started. "While we continued our education, we hooked up with people in the college who knew what they were doing. We showed some professors our ideas. A few agreed that it would be a good experiment."

"One of them had some friends in the Army, and they really liked our idea. To be able to move troops anywhere on the planet in the blink of an eye? That would revolutionize warfare and if only they had it, then they could win against all enemies," Trevor paused, then sighed. "People from our country vote for their leader, every four years. It just so happened that both of the major candidates one year were women – one group wouldn't nominate a man and lose an advantage with women voters. Aiden, Ryan, Tara and I all supported one of them, President Norman. She spoke of going to the stars, and we figured our machine would play a nice role there."

Trevor just shook his head. "That didn't happen. She canceled all military research as a gesture of good will toward other nations. She took a very mothering approach to foreign policy. We didn't mind that, but her administration didn't see any use to our idea – especially since it hadn't shown any results. So we lost funding, and the college pulled the plug, too."

"But it worked," Delilah said. "It sent you here."

"No," Trevor smiled, shaking his head. "Zern's magic did. It only picked us because of the machine. But yes, it did work. After a year on our own, Ryan and Aiden found the magic fix with physics and I made the hardware work and three tries later, boom. We moved a rock across the room."

"We've spent our entire lives working on it. And that night, it worked. We never had steady girlfriends because we were all driven. We'd date a girl and then things would pick up with the machine and she'd get sick of it. Tara was the only one who stuck around for any length of time, and that was because she and Aiden very nearly got married – at least, in her eyes. She figured he was the one. So our stories... our lives, have been our abilities. Fighting to make that machine work."

"And now it does," Delilah said. "So you found something else to fight for just in time. I know what you mean, though. I was married, when I was younger. Never had any children, one or both of us couldn't, but we were happy. He left when I was nineteen. He supported Darius. I did not. Since him... there have been men, but nothing 'steady' as you said."

"Kind of hurts, doesn't it?" Trevor asked.

Delilah got very quiet. "More than I can say."

They rode on in silence, and Trevor turned his thoughts to the machine again. If the hardware they retrieved still worked, it would be simply a matter of rebuilding the rest, and then they would be finished. President Norman would have her results, and Army or NASA, Navy or IBM, someone would want it. It would simply be a matter of selling the technology and living it up on royalties. He smiled at that. There was something to go home for – no worries, no late bills and reconnect fees. If they survived.

The city of Blomst stood tall in the middle of the grassy fields, and grew taller still as they approached. It was just as beautiful as it had been all those... Trevor blinked. It had been over two months now since he first saw this place, which meant they had been on this world for nearly four months. Keeping busy training, then the traveling, and not having a calender, computer, a television or even a radio to check by, he hadn't been thinking about the days.

Delilah led them through the streets. When they crossed the street that the opera house was on, Trevor recognized it. They had fought near this place. Delilah turned into an alley, and memories rushed through him. Magnus carried Zern through this same alley, with the rest of them running behind him. Then he saw the remains of the inn they stayed at. Two partial walls, holding up slumped pieces of ceiling like the dessicated corpse of an elephant on the desert floor. The gate that protected them while they practiced hung, tilted out, only one of the hinges still connected to the wall. Iron had twisted and deformed in the heat.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw that Ryan's jaw hung open. Hearing about it was one thing, but seeing it struck them both hard.

Movement caught his eyes further up the street. Red hair, blowing in the wind, sitting at a table. He pointed to Zern. She sat across from her father, with Aiden and Eilis flanking her at the small round table. Ryan nodded that he had seen her. Trevor guided his horse toward that table. What would he say? What could he say?

"Trevor!" Aiden said, standing and setting the cards he was holding down. "Ryan! You're back!" Aiden was smiling. Well, Trevor thought, he's taking it pretty well. A gold wolf's head hanging from Aiden's chest caught his attention.

"What's with the necklace?" Trevor asked. "Was it on sale at the fairy store?"

"I'm wearing it in honor of your mom," Aiden said. "She's a howlin' bitch, just like the wolf."

Trevor laughed and dismounted, extending his hand to Aiden. They clasped hands and hugged. "We found the machine. Well, some of it. We brought back all the chips we could find, and the hard drive."

"Great. Anything else interesting ha- Delilah!"

"Aiden," She said, dismounting.

"Yes, a lot interesting happened," Trevor said. He explained the two fights with Darius' men, and his and Ryan's powers. Aiden nodded as Trevor explained. When he finished, he returned Aiden's question.

"I went to Nalin, I saw Nalin, I cut a man's throat and kicked him out the top of a castle," Aiden said. "It was pretty cool." Then Aiden went into detail about being named, fighting Sullivan, and then naming Zern. Trevor snickered at how he did it. "And we have a weird emotional bond to save her from bad dreams about your breath," Aiden finished.

"Right. So you're picking heroes huh? How about me?" Trevor asked. He reached over his horse to the other side of the saddle and pulled the rifle out of the modified sword-sheath he had stuck it in. "I'm the guy with the gun."

"My car is here? Why didn't you just drive it?"

"It was in a tree," Ryan said.

"My car... in a tree. Like, off the ground?" Trevor nodded, putting the rifle back in its sheath. Aiden turned back to Zern. "You see what you did? You killed Daisy."

"I'm sorry."

He laughed. "Never mind. Okay. So, yes, naming. Ryan, your power makes you a good candidate for the Strength of the Five, so if you would be so kind as to get off the horse..."

Ryan swung down off of the horse and stepped over to Aiden. Aiden held his hand out to Magnus. Magnus placed a necklace with a gold coin on it in his hand. "I name you, Ryan Winters, the Strength of the Five." Aiden handed the necklace to Ryan, who promptly put it on. A gold coin with a circle of sapphires on it. Ryan made a face and leaned back against his horse.

"And you, Trevor Speirs, I name you the Sorcerer of the Five," Aiden again reached back to Magnus, and Magnus handed him another necklace. Aiden gave it to Trevor. Trevor smiled and looked at it. A ruby suspended in place by gold. He slipped it around his neck. Something odd happened. Scenes of battles, images of books, wizards fighting, lightning and fire flying from people's fingers. Memories flooded his thoughts. He felt dizzy and took a step into the street, grabbing onto the side of his saddle, losing the strength in his knees. As quickly as it started the rush stopped, and he stood up straight.

"Why is Zern's a ring and not a medallion like ours?" Ryan asked. Trevor blinked; he'd never noticed that before. Magnus sighed and launched into an explanation about how there used to be additional rings, long before Nalin found the set he used for the first Five.

"Five," Ryan said. "Me, Aiden, Trevor, and Zern. That's four."

"So he can count," Duncan said.

"Well, the last role is Weapon Master. Now, were Tara here, that really isn't a role fitting of her," Aiden said. "Unless mascara and tampons are weapons."

"Under the right conditions," Trevor said.

Aiden shook his head. "Magnus won't let me name him, and I'm sure Duncan has the same objection. It seems geriatrics don't want to be heroes. We don't know many people, and that leaves Eilis, Kyenna... and Delilah."

"Not me," Delilah said. She raised her hands defensively, palms out. "I'm not a master of any weapon other than a fork."

"So Eilis and Kyenna. Kyenna fits the role a wee bit more than Eilis," Aiden said, "But Zern won't explain the weird lesbian tension between herself and Kyenna. So I'm just not going to name a fifth until I get all the facts."

"That's not fair," Zern said.

"Life isn't fair, Thorn," Aiden said. "Just so all of you are clear, Aria is a walking dead bitch, if it takes my last breath to see to it."

"I'm going to see to some food," Duncan said, walking into the inn. "Ryan is an awful cook."

"He's right, I am, and I'm starving," Ryan said.

Trevor laughed and shook his head. "He's not that bad... okay yeah he is."

Magnus stood and walked in. "He's such a bad cook I'm hungry and I've been here all this time."

Delilah looked around. "You people are all crazy. Death is at your door step and you're joking around."

"Got to, darlin'," Aiden said. "I'm going in as well."

Kyenna sat next to Zern and Eilis. Trevor motioned for Delilah to sit in the last chair, and she did, smiling her thanks. He stood beside Zern and started to speak, but Kyenna spoke first. "Just tell them already," Kyenna said. Her voice was pleading, more submissive than he ever expected from her. "Get it over with so Aiden can pick a fifth because without one I don't know how we can beat Ciel Aria. I barely understand how we will with the Five."

Trevor studied Zern's face. She heaved a mighty sigh and shook her head. "No. It is not my place, Kyenna, and it is not yours, nor is it any of their business. I no longer hate you for what you represent, Kyenna. I do not blame you for the death of my mother, because I know you did not do it. I appreciate your help. But it is not my place nor yours."

"It isn't my fault, Zern, none of it. If I could change it I would in a heart beat," Kyenna said.

Zern straightened her back. "Of that I have no doubt Kyenna. But as it stands your very presence here throws what happened all those years ago into my face, and I wish to the gods you were not here." Zern stood and walked inside. Kyenna watched her go, then shook her head.

"Maybe I shouldn't be," Kyenna whispered. She stood and started walking down the street. Eilis stood and followed.

"Kyenna, wait," Eilis said.

Trevor was shocked when Kyenna turned around with tears in her eyes. "Eilis, you have no idea. Please, let me go."

Eilis stopped following her and watched as Kyenna ran off. Trevor walked up behind Eilis. "Can you please tell me what's going on? Maybe I can help."

"No," Eilis said. "If it isn't Zern's place is certainly isn't mine. I'm sorry, Trevor."

He nodded. "Well, we have to go after her. This fight is more important than her feelings."

"I agree. But what do we say to her?" Eilis asked. "'We're sorry about your entire life being a miserable hell, no matter how successful you are. Please help us'?"

Trevor shrugged. "Didn't you tell us that you spent most of your life hiding who your father was? Kyenna has a big secret, too. She feels dejected because of it. You two have that in common. You should be able to help more than any of us."

"Wait here," Eilis said.