Don’t touch that dial. You’ve found Lisa Burton Radio, the only show that interviews the characters you love to read about. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and my special guest today is Jacques Dace. He’s currently locked in a tower under the sea. “Welcome to the show, Jacques.”
“Just Jack actually, and it’s a pleasure.”
“Alright, Jack. Tell our listeners how you came to be locked up in, I believe it’s called the Drowned Tower.”
“Oh, that wonderful place. If you must know, my parents are both… important people I suppose is the word, though busy works just as well. Regardless, that doesn’t change the fact that there are so many capable of using magic in this world—or practitioners as we call them. But with so many greenhorns, there aren’t enough Masters to properly teach them all. So, my parents had the brilliant idea of sending me to the Drowned Tower for better private training. There are a ton of Masters there that would kill for the chance to personally mentor the son of Leonas Dace.”
“Learning things is good. Locking you up sounds a bit extreme though. Is this for your own safety, because it’s under water?”
“Ha, I wish! Those old codgers in the Drowned Tower’s Assembly are just so afraid of us deserting and doing something awful that they decided to restrict our freedom. It’s baseless fear of the unknown. Nothing more, everything less. You should see the rest of the practitioners in the Tower! All pale-skinned and petrified by the sun.
“Though we are allowed out sometimes… some of us anyway. Mostly those specifically chosen by the Assembly to help deal with their… problems. I’d love to elaborate on this, but—I can’t. Confidentiality and all. The Assembly will have my neck if I do, and I’m already shoulder-deep in the wrong side with them.
“But really, of all the places my parents could send me, they choose the Drowned Tower! Was the Weeping Grove not an option? Or the Red Veld? At least they allow some semblance of freedom.
“Creator, those two have more than a few screws loose. I swear I’ll change my world as soon as I get the chance to return to the Diamond Alps. That’s the only place you can get anything done in this godforsaken world.”
“Why don’t you just sneak out and go to one of the other schools?”
“If only it was that easy. A long time ago this practitioner named… well, let’s just call him, ‘Old Bag A,’ so I’m not reprimanded for directly slandering his name. Anyway, he made this nifty little curse called, the Demar Spell. It’s a dream for all stalkers out there. Let’s the caster know where the casted is at all times. It’s used by all the schools, though some use it more often than others.
“I won’t go into the specifics about how the spell works, but I’ll tell you this—in the Tower, running off without one is enough to warrant a call to the Hunters. They round you up and send you down to the lower floors where the old dungeons are. I hate that place. It smells like old fear and iron. There are rats there the size of my head. They like to gnaw on your clothes while you sleep.
“Run off enough times and you’ll get sent away to a… <swallows>… special place.”
“It can’t be all that bad. Maybe the Drowned Tower is a really good school, too. Surely you graduate eventually and get to leave. Think of it more like a stint in the Army, or in the Tower’s case, Navy.”
“It’s a good school alright—for a certain kind of practitioner that is. The only escape from the Drowned Tower is by becoming a Master or receiving an invitation to the Diamond Alps up north. Trust me when I say that there are those that have spent their lives trying and failing to even be noticed by the Elders in the Alps. Those demented old bags can’t even stop squabbling long enough to notice the rest of the world around them. All they do is sit, smile, and lie to each other. I’ve vowed to never be like that. I don’t lie.”
“Not even a tiny kind of joke lie?”
“Let’s test that, shall we? Do you think I’m cute?”
“Ye—Wait, what? For the love of… what kind of question is… how did we even get here? <cough> Okay, fine, just to prove that I never lie… yes. Yes, I do.”
“My bio says you have a very close relationship with someone named Sylvie. What do you think she’d say about that?”
“Vaklas in an den! Those rumors again! Where’d you hear that one from? That turkey, Tiv? Or no… I bet it was from those new practitioners they brought in yesterday. Gossip travels faster than light.
“Really though, us… close? That’s rich. Sylvie has the talent to change things, yet decides to remain as languid as a fish that never goes against the current. It’s… infuriating. She has a good head on her shoulders though, knows when to draw near and when to back down, and when she is interested in something, her focus tunnels into the immedi—anyway, I’m just helping her figure something out about this Heartstone she found topside a few days ago.
“She didn’t even know what it was at first. I don’t blame her though. The one she found is creepy. There’s… something strange inside it. A woman? Or just her conscience? I can’t exactly describe what it is, but then again I don’t want to. It makes Her seem more… real. She knows things though. Old, ancient truths that could spin the world on its head.”
“Do you think you can trust Her, meaning the spirit in the stone?”
“I don’t know. But it’s not really something I want to put my trust in. I mean, a spirit trapped in some common stone, promising me knowledge and power in exchange for—it just sounds too good to be true.
“Besides, what’s the point of achieving something if I don’t do it with my own strength? I’ve been training for a long time now, and it’s finally time for me to put those skills to the test. The Drowned Tower’s been alive with talk about the Elder from the north that arrived in a few ticks back. They say it’s for a Choosing. Those that get chosen will accompany him back to the Diamond Alps. I’m not going to miss this chance.
“So you kids are going to butter up this Elder, in hopes that he’ll take you away as the champion of this Choosing. I think you have a math problem. There’s two of you and only one winner. How are you going to get around that?”
“Well, the number of people that gets chosen actually depends on the Elder and the Drowned Tower’s Assembly. It can range anywhere between all of us to none of us. In any case, I’ve already told Sylvie about my plans, and honestly, I have no idea what’s running through that head of hers. She claims to be uninterested in the whole affair, yet she plans to run anyway. Granted, she was ordered to by—ugh! Never mind. I don’t even want to think about him.
“All I can say for now is that I’m helping Sylvie figure out the secret behind that stone and waiting endlessly for the Elder to call those he thinks capable of fulfilling his task. Patience isn’t exactly my… strongest quality. And I think that damn Elder is stalling on purpose. I can only guess the kind of job he’ll give. Hopefully nothing too… bloody. Thelarius knows we’ve got enough of that on our hands.
“Personally, I’m rooting for a simple face-off against the others or something that’ll allow us to go topside. This place is suffocating.”
“I wish you guys the best of luck. Maybe a new school would change your perspective of the world. Any closing thoughts for our listeners today?”
“If any of you can hear that thing in the Heartstone, give me or Sylvie a shout, will you? Spirits are apparently selective with their audience, and just for the record, I… or rather we aren’t insane. It’s really there! And it’s awfully annoying. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a thousand more times: I don’t lie.”
“You can find out whether Jack and Sylvie actually manage to change their world by picking up a copy of Heartstone, The Drowned Tower. I’ll include all the pertinents on the website.
“Don’t forget to use those sharing buttons after the show. I’m sure Jack and Nicholas would appreciate it, and they’d do the same for you.
“If you’d like one of your characters to appear on Lisa Burton Radio, drop me a line. I always need guests. For Lisa Burton Radio, I’m Lisa Burton.”
“If the future was bared before you, would it still be yours?
Freedom is out of the question for practitioners of the Institute, and any supporters otherwise are dealt with violently. A system Sylvie Sirx neither refutes, nor endorses—born from an enviable family, talented in her skills, and entirely too content with her position, her path has always been a straight one… until now.
Her qualifications backfire when an elder from the north descends upon her home for a Choosing. He calls upon the Drowned Tower’s most sought after practitioners for a simple job that ends in blood, and then Sylvie’s blissful world erupts. She finds herself in the company of the Elementalist, Jacques Dace, an insufferable but deadly enthusiast of personal reform. Together, they’re swept into a spiral of powerful magic and ancient grudges. Where truth bends, stones whisper secrets of the past, and their home lies at the heart of what could very well be Ferus Terria’s next recorded war.
And for once, she is forced to choose a side, learning for herself what it means to master fate.
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NICHOLAS RINTH lives lakeside in the southern graces of Savannah, Georgia. Where he spends his time fantasizing about other worlds and working on his next novel.