New Release Giveaway!
The Mage on the Hill (The Web of Arcana Book 1) By Angel Martinez
1 Lucky Winner will receive a $25.00 Dreamspinner gift card!
**Giveaway Eligible in US Only**
A young magic user who wants desperately to live. A jaded recluse who has forgotten what living means. They’re each other’s only chance.
Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.
The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance. For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.
Toby drifted from gray misery to scarlet agony, the voices floating to him in fits and starts. His instructors, the director—they were talking about him and they sounded done with him, just like the previous six guilds that had tossed him to the curb. Wild magic. Unplaceable on the web of Arcana. Unsustainable and eventually deadly. The only remaining bets anyone could make now were how many people he took with him when he went out with a catastrophic bang.
Hands lifted him. The familiar sensations of stretcher and rolling followed him down into the dark.
“WHAT’S THIS?” Toby peered at the papers on the rolling tray, not quite up to focusing through his pounding headache.
The director pulled a chair close and cleared his throat uncomfortably. “We discussed that this might be a possibility someday, Tobias.”
“We’ve talked about a bunch of stuff.”
Director Whittaker let out a sharp sigh.
“Not saying it to be a smartass, sir. I can’t get my eyes to read this just yet.” Toby shifted on the infirmary bed. His fifth stay in this wing of the guildhall and the mattresses hadn’t managed to grow any more comfortable. “Couple hours I should be able to.”
“Ah. My apologies.” The director returned to a concerned parental pose, hands clasped between his knees as he leaned forward. “These are your separation papers from the Montchanin Guildhall.”
Toby swallowed hard. “You’re giving up on me? Already?”
“I’m so sorry, Tobias.” Director Whittaker patted his arm. “The Kovar method is nearly infallible—”
“Nearly. You said nearly.” Despite his pounding head, Toby sat up, hanging on to the director’s hand as hard as he could. “Please don’t do this. You said you’d help me.”
“We said we would do the best we could. Wild magic…. It’s unusual, certainly, but cases of unplaceable wild magic like yours aren’t unheard of. We should have seen some sign of channeling by now. Some directed trickle that would have let us help you find your place in the web.”
Toby let go to fall back against the pillows, hurting, nauseated, and dizzy. His uncontrolled magical explosions, each one harder on him than the time before, had only been getting more volatile and unpredictable. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Can’t I stay here? Until, well, until….”
“It’s too dangerous for the other students. For the staff and other guild members.” Director Whittaker took his hand again. “Tobias, you blew a hole in the guidance room’s wall today.”
Ten feet of weapons-grade Kevlar and steel—that shouldn’t have been possible. Holy crap. “Did I hurt anyone?”
“Not today. But I can’t risk lives any further. It’s reached that point where we’ve tried everything we could. When you feel up to it, read the packet. There are several wonderful hospice options nearby. Beautiful places where you’ll be cared for and made comfortable. The guild will take care of you and cover any expenses.”
Drugged to the eyeballs so I won’t do any more damage. Allowed to starve to death in the nicest possible surroundings. Toby closed his eyes, his exhausted brain banging up against walls of possibility, trying to find him a way out. All this time he’d been sure one of the guilds would find a way. They were the experts. Now? Now he was terrified. The experts were telling him he needed to accept his impending death. No, no, no, fuck that. “Sir, who’s Darius?”
“Ah, you heard that, did you?” The director sat back and pulled out a microfiber cloth to give his glasses a meticulous cleaning before he went on. “Darius Valstad caused one of the greatest magical disasters in recent memory. He nearly destroyed Pittsburgh. He pulled magic too far from his channelings, the result much like a wild magic accident. The catastrophe was narrowly averted.”
“Oh. That sounds about as bad as it gets. What happened to him?”
“He nearly died. His guild status was revoked, his teaching of any more students forbidden.”
Toby turned that over a few times, his brain fumbling and dropping concepts along the way. “So, but he’s still alive?”
“As far as I know. He lives in isolation, oh, not far from here, with the promise that he will no longer attempt anything beyond personal magic.”
“But he was once like me? And he lived?” Toby knew it was conclusion jumping, but he was desperate enough to reach for anything.
The director’s sigh was slower this time, more melancholy. “Tobias, he found his channels long ago, both his major and minor Arcana. Yes, he lives because as long as he respects the web, his magic won’t tear him apart. He had some early success with teaching unplaceables, but Pittsburgh was the ultimate result of his unorthodox methods.”
“Yes, sir. Of course.”
Director Whittaker rose with one last pat to Toby’s shoulder. “Get some rest. We’ll talk again in the morning. Please keep in mind we’re not simply turning you out onto the street. We want to be certain you’re looked after properly.”
Toby nodded, no longer trusting his voice. He didn’t turn his head to watch the director leave, staring at the white ceiling tiles instead. Ugly ceiling tiles. Places where you have to lie in bed like hospitals and infirmaries should have nice ceilings with meadows and bunnies painted on them. I don’t want to die. Oh gods… I don’t want to die.
When he finally felt like he could parse written words without his head exploding, he skimmed through the packet. He would have to face it eventually. Not looking at the papers wouldn’t change the guild’s mind. Not looking wouldn’t mean he was in any way preventing the inevitable, which wasn’t going to happen because he was going to find a way, dammit.
The first two pages contained the separation agreement. He’d certainly signed those before. Tobias Kingston Freelander Jones agrees blah-blah-blah never to practice magic within the guild’s district blah-blah agrees that access to guild facilities and resources have been revoked except for provision stipulated in Appendix D. His hands shook as he turned the papers. The appendices were on the third page, D being the one providing for his hospice funding.
Unless they had this packet ready as a standard document, just in case, the guild officers had been considering all this for some time. Maybe since the day he first wrote to the Montchanin Guildhall asking for help.
The rest of the packet contained information on three hospice facilities. If he’d wanted an end-of-life option, they all would have been wonderful choices—quarters that resembled apartments more than hospital rooms, with gardens and solariums. The one where the rooms all had views into a central courtyard garden would have been his first choice.
If he was willing to sit around waiting to die.
A seed of an idea germinated in his tired brain, insisting on pushing up through the dark mental soil. It was a stupid idea, probably, and one he had little hope of bringing about, but it persisted with its little green shoot emerging, waving its cotyledons around shamelessly.
About the Author:
Angel Martinez writes fantasy and science fiction with queer heroes. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author’s head) Angel has one husband, one son, two cats, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.
Angel’s books currently reside at Pride Publishing, Dreamspinner, Mischief Corner Books, and MLR.
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