The Unspeller and the Book of Days
Aesa's visits with Laeron made going to school bearable. The other children enjoyed testing their
magic on him when they could get away with it. Cai simply ignored him.
This morning the road to school was muddy with spring rains. He let Gesta and Tandrick ride ahead
of him. He was in no hurry. As they passed the Arkenian territory he peered into the tangle of stark trees.
The naked branches closed around the black trunks, like a fence guarding the forest's secrets. He wondered if
there were any Arkenians born without magic and what would happen to the unlucky Arkenian child.
It took him until they reached the village for him to completely dismiss his self-pity. After he stabled
the horses at the inn he followed the twins at a leisurely pace. They disappeared around the corner of the
lane, racing each other. He crossed the road, nodding to a mother and her two little daughters. He smiled at
them, thinking of Tannon.
The little girls smiled back but the mother drew her daughters in close to her and stepped across the
street, giving him a tight smile.
Aesa felt his own mouth stiffen into a wooden smile that matched hers. The coldness from school
had spread to the rest of Turnstone. He wasn't welcome anywhere but home, it seemed.
As he turned the corner to the school lane he stopped. Books lay scattered on the cobblestoned lane,
the pages fluttering in the cold spring breeze. Tandrick was on the ground, two of the Dan'th brothers
holding him down. Geoffry, a tall and lanky boy who usually tripped over his own feet, held Gesta's arms
behind her back.
Harlan, Cai's older brother, blocked the lane. His mouth was pulled into a straight line resembling a
smile, but there was no curve of mirth to it. Everyone knew about Harlan's cruelty. The only thing he had in
common with his younger brother was the straight black hair of the royal Wexler family line.
Aesa caught the twins' furious, lit eyes.
“Let them go!” he said to Harlan, his voice surprisingly loud and strong.
“We would,” Geoffry explained, grinding his foot down into Tandrick's back, “but they refused to
“They'll go, I promise,” Aesa said, casting a warning look at Tandrick.
“Aesa run!” Tandrick yelled.
This brought a spasm of laughter from the two boys holding Gesta. One of them mimicked
Tandrick, using a girl's voice. “Run, Aesa!”
Even Harlan's mouth twitched.
“What do you want with me?” Aesa asked, his heart pounding.
“If you could disappear it would help, but I doubt you could manage even that much,” Harlan
answered, his face never changing from his calm indifference. “Perhaps my father's request to exile you will
help you to leave sooner.”
Anger and humiliation rushed through Aesa, the heat trembling through his hands. The word “exile”
had not been said to him before—it was his secret fear until now.
Geoffrey cried out as Gesta bit his hand. “Your father has no right!” she spat at Harlan. “Only King
Exinder can exile!”
Harlan's face remained perfectly still and then his hand whipped across her face. Her face blanched
and a red mark rose on her cheek, her eyes watering. Rage jumped in Aesa's blood.
“Don't touch her!” Tandrick screamed, and his eyes lit brighter, full and hot. His long features had
turned feral, his teeth bared.