Awakening Aidan (eBook) - A Wizard's Quest #1

508 pages | eBook | 6x9"
Date of publication: 03/27/2015
  • ISBN: 978-1-941984-34-5
  • Model: 108116 words

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Heat Rating: 1 Flame

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On the list of things Aidan shouldn't want, Eallair and the freedom he offers are at the very top. Can he overcome his upbringing and find happiness with a mad sorcerer while fighting the very system he's always believed in?

Aidan Collins lives in a world divided. Sorcerers--people who can safely use magic--make up the majority of the population, while wizards--people with dangerous magic banned by the government--are a highly regulated minority. Despite living as a second class citizen, Aidan is more or less content with his life in a San Francisco Wizards' Quarter, helping young, freshly manifested wizards adjust to their new circumstances. He has faith the system is looking out for him; a faith he's never had reason to question.

Until one night when he's rescued from two abusive cops by the mysterious sorcerer, Eallair, who--along with ridiculous hair and an unpronounceable name--brings along dangerous ideas of freedom and choice. It doesn't take long for truths Aidan's known his entire life to be exposed as lies and Aidan finds himself on the run with Eallair, caught up in his desperate, years' long quest to find the resting place of the legendary King Arthur. As Aidan leaves behind the only life he's ever known, he has to find a way to fit into a world where outcasts are hunted down and killed and, just maybe, become an unlikely hero along the way.

CONTENT ADVISORY: This story contains a "to be continued ending".




"Hello, my name is Aidan, and I'm a wizard." Aidan Collins smiled out over the group of fifteen or so people sitting in a circle around him, trying to project a calm he didn't really feel. It took every ounce of willpower he had to keep the agitation he was feeling from showing. Which was sort of embarrassing, because wizards his age should have been made of self-control.

This particular Wizards Anonymous group was mostly filled with teenagers who'd just come into their powers. Scared, lost, and facing a life where all their plans for the future were suddenly and unfairly torn away with the horrifying manifestation of the bad magic, the wild magic that identified them as wizards instead of sorcerers like everybody else. It was exactly the kind of group he usually did so well in, having lived with being a wizard for the past sixteen years and having spoken in front of hundreds of meetings just like this one. He knew how to help people; it was the only part of his life he actually took any real pleasure in. He was usually so good at it, too, and he would have been this time, except...

Except that damn light is still broken. Aidan tried to keep from showing his discomfort.

As if trying to get on his last nerve, the offending tube flickered again, the soft blue witch light briefly darkening to purple as the steady background hum of magic, which permeated everything in modern society, was interrupted by the bzzt-bzzt sound of faulty wiring.

Really, it was a minor thing. Something he should be able to brush off easily enough. But this was the third month the light had been broken, and the Department of Magic and Sorcery still hadn't gotten around to sending someone to fix it; it was starting to grate on him.

And he wasn't the only one. He'd noticed several people eying the light, some glaring at it. They felt the same frustration he did. Anyone else could just fix it with a muttered word or an absent hand gesture, yet they couldn't, because their magic was broken, because they were broken.

"Hi, Aidan," the group chorused.

He swallowed a sigh and clasped his hands behind his back to keep from tugging at his dark blue sweater or running his fingers through his dark hair. It wouldn't do the kids any favors to show how much it got to him.

"It's been sixteen years since I last used magic," he said, both disliking the rote repetition and looking forward to the reaction it usually got from a new group.

Most of the people clapped, looking either impressed or bored, but two of the younger teens didn't. One, a boy who couldn't have been older than fifteen, had his arms crossed and stared moodily at the floor. Aidan made a mental note to talk to him alone after the meeting, if the kid didn't rush out the door first. The other one, a girl who looked a few years younger, stared at him with wide-eyed surprise. He suppressed a grin. Girls always did the math first.

"Sixteen?" she exclaimed. "But that... You're--"

"Still so young and devilishly handsome?" Aidan asked with a self-deprecating smile.

He wasn't anything special--mostly slim, with the beginnings of a small belly from spending most of his days sitting behind a desk binding books, a decent enough face with a straight nose he'd always liked, blue eyes not quite dark enough to be striking, straight hair that was almost pitch black. On good days, he figured he could pass for slightly above average in the looks department, but definitely nothing special. The desolate wasteland known as his dating life could attest to that. He did look younger than he was, though, and that always helped break the ice with a newer group that didn't know him very well yet.

"N-no! I mean--" The girl blushed and looked away.

The sullen boy glanced at her, then snorted and rolled his eyes before going back to glaring a hole in the floor. The girl blushed even harder, and Aidan took pity on her.

"You're right, actually," Aidan said. "Well, maybe not the handsome part, although I appreciate the compliment." There were a few chuckles. That usually boded well for a new group. "But definitely about the young part. I'm actually twenty-six."

The amusement died immediately as everyone did the mental math. Within seconds, everyone except Carl stared at him in varying degrees of shock and disbelief. He waited patiently for someone to bring it up.

"You...manifested when you were ten?" an older boy to Aidan's right asked.

He looked about eighteen, and Aidan heard the jealousy coloring the kid's words that late bloomers had towards people who manifested their magic early.

Aidan frowned slightly. If the boy was in a WA meeting, he'd had to have been classified as a wizard at least a month ago. That he was still jealous so long after being trained by the DMS meant he wasn't adjusting to being a wizard the way he should be. Wizards were a lot of things, but never jealous of other wizards for an early manifestation of powers they could never use. He glanced over at Carl and got a slight nod of acknowledgment. They'd have to keep an eye on him. But for now, Aidan could only go on with the group.

"That's right," Aidan said. "I cast for the first time on my tenth birthday."

"But that's impossible!" the blushing girl--who, to be fair, wasn't really blushing anymore--said. "No one manifests that young! It''s impossible! The youngest magic user, wizard or sorcerer, in recorded history was Henry VIII and he only manifested at twelve!"

Aidan's heart ached for her. She obviously cared a lot about history and magic if she spent the time and energy finding books or scrolls that actually mentioned foreign countries. Even stuff about the homeland of Arthur and Merlin, aside from what everybody knew, was somewhat rare in America. Manifesting the wild magic was always tragic, but kids like her broke his heart the most. She might have made a great sorcerer one day, if she hadn't been born a wizard.

"That's because he's full of shit, Skyler," the sullen boy spoke up suddenly.

"No he's not, Dallin! Shut up," the girl--Skyler--snapped.

"No, I won't shut up," Dallin snapped back. "Why the hell should we believe anything this government shill says? He's just trying to get us to accept being second class citizens for the rest of our lives, and it's bullshit!"

"Mom said--" Skyler started.

"Who gives a shit what mom said?" Dallin shouted. "Mom isn't here! She threw us to the first government agent she could and then forgot about us!"

"That's not true!"

"Then where is she?" Dallin stood up so fast the backs of his knees hit the chair and sent it sliding back a few feet; he threw his arms wide. "I don't see her! She never came to see us when we were getting trained on how not to use our magic and she hasn't even tried to call us since we got out. Face it, Skyler, Mom doesn't give a shit about us, and neither does anybody else. They just wanna keep us away from the real people and pretend we don't exist."

Aidan blinked. They were siblings? Impassioned outbursts weren't anything he hadn't heard before, but for a brother and sister to manifest, not just as wizards but apparently at the same time, was almost unheard of. Unless they were twins. They didn't seem to be the same age, but it didn't really mean anything if they were fraternal. One could easily look older than the other.

If they were twins, then one of them stood a really good chance of being a siphon. Aidan's blood ran cold. He looked over at Carl. The sudden worry on the usually unflappable WA meeting director's face told Aidan Carl thought the same thing.

Siphons were one of the worst kinds of magic users, in some ways worse even than necromancers. At least a necromancer had control over their abilities, had to learn how to use them. Siphons were near-mindless killers. They drained the magic of anyone they got near and used it to fuel their own spells, and as any pre-magic third grader with a month of biology classes knows, the body can't live without magic.

Siphons were bad enough if they were sorcerers, but when a siphon's ability to drain magic was combined with a wizard's inability to cast even the simplest spells without them backfiring, and potentially causing massive amounts of destruction, they became one of the most dangerous people on the planet.

And there's a very good chance there's at least one in the room with me. Suddenly, the broken light didn't seem like much of a big deal.

"Dallin," Aidan said.

He didn't even realize he spoke for a second. Part of him screamed to just run and get the hell out of there. His life might not be anything special, but he didn't want to die in agony as his magic, broken as it was, was violently ripped from his body.

A bigger part of him, though, was filled with images of the kids around him screaming as their lives were drained away, the uncomfortable plastic chairs standing like silent tombstones as they fell to the floor, one by one, any chance of having whatever life they could snuffed out almost before it began. Aidan couldn't let it happen. He cared about his kids too much. Not that caring suddenly gave him any idea of what to do, but he figured keeping the potential mass murderers calm probably wasn't a bad idea.

"Calm down, Dallin." Aidan winced. Really? Calm down? That's the best you can do? It was too late to try anything else though; Dallin had already turned away from his sister.

"Calm down?" he yelled. "Or what? You gonna ship me off to get re-educated, government man? You gonna send me away so you can keep peddling your bullshit stories so everyone will think you're just so special?"

Okay. He's obviously angry about a lot of things. The government, me "lying", and his mom are probably the major ones though. So how does that help me?

It doesn't. Crap. I'm gonna die.

Or maybe not. He didn't even know if Dallin was the potential siphon or if it was Skyler. Or both.

Aidan swallowed. He couldn't just ask, "Hey, by any chance, are either of you in any danger of turning into insane, magic-sucking murder machines?" He barely held back the strangled laughter creeping up his throat. Oh, why in Merlin's name did I say anything?

But he had. And now the kid focused on him. Aidan spared a quick glance over at Carl, but the older man wouldn't interfere. He wouldn't risk provoking the boy as long as his attention was on Aidan and not the kids. It wasn't like he could do anything anyway. Everyone in the room, including Carl, was a wizard. Which meant, even if Dallin was a siphon, they couldn't use magic to try and stop him without possibly killing everybody else in the room as well.

He thought maybe a few would try though, if they figured out this could be more than just a kid venting his frustrations at his unfair life. Thankfully, so far everyone else just seemed bored, nervous, or slightly amused. But it could change in an instant.

Step one. Keep everyone else calm. Okay, how do I do that? Act like you would if Dallin was just another angry kid. Yeah. That could work. Aidan took a deep breath. He could do that. Probably.

"I'm not special, Dallin." Aidan tried to keep his voice as steady as possible. To his great surprise, he actually seemed to be succeeding. "I'm just like you and your sister and everyone else here."

"Bullshit," Dallin spat with all the conviction of a fifteen-year-old boy convinced he was on the wrong side of an injustice.

It actually steadied Aidan's nerves. He'd dealt with boys like Dallin for years.

"You're just a DMS shill who can't even be bothered to make up good lies."

"No, Dallin." Keep saying his name. Make him relate to you. You heard that somewhere, right? "I'm not lying and I don't work for the DMS. I really did manifest when I was ten."

"Oh, yeah?" Dallin crossed his arms. "Prove it."

Aidan held his hostile gaze for a few seconds, then smiled slightly. "Okay."

He reached, slowly, into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. The kid's gaze never left his as Aidan opened it and took out his Wizard's License.

Every wizard had to register as non-practicing each year; otherwise, they'd be taken by the DMS and executed. A wizard wasn't allowed to legally do anything--leave his house, spend money, ride public transportation--without showing an up-to-date license first. It was the one thing every wizard guarded fanatically, and since it was an official piece of DMS identification, it was impossible to forge without access to a magic processing facility. It also held the date when the original license was issued, along with the wizard's date of birth.

He held his license out to Dallin and waited patiently.

Dallin looked at it with suspicion, like he was expecting it to turn into a snake and bite him. Aidan just held it out and waited. As far as he was concerned, they could stay like this forever, since a Dallin who was staring at a slip of laminated paper wasn't a Dallin who was siphoning magic or, potentially worse, trying to cast with wild magic.

Slowly, Dallin reached out and took the license out of Aidan's hand. He looked at it, and for almost a full minute he didn't say anything. Aidan held his breath. Wizards got their licenses the day after they first manifested, so seeing the date should prove to Dallin Aidan was telling the truth. The only problem was teenagers, especially angry ones, didn't always respond well to logic; especially when it proved them wrong. Showing him the license could either defuse the situation, or set him off even more.

After a small eternity, Dallin looked up into Aidan's eyes. The boy opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, Skyler snatched the license out of his hand.

"See?" Skyler said smugly, waving it around. "I told you he wasn't lying!"

Aidan almost had a heart attack. Don't snatch things out of the possible murderer's hands! Unless you're the possible murderer. Or both... You know, this whole thing is giving me a headache. I wish wizards were allowed to drink.

Instead of killing everyone in the room or growing horns and wings and turning into some kind of horrible Arthurian myth monster--because Aidan wasn't going to put anything past the universe in its apparent quest to make this the most stressful hour of his life--Dallin just...flushed. Like a normal teenage boy.

"Give it back," he yelled grabbing it from her. "And what do you know anyway? The DMS could have given him a fake one so we'd all believe his stupid story."

He didn't sound like he believed what he was saying though, more like he wanted to keep from admitting his sister was right.

Skyler rolled her eyes. "Now you sound like Crazy Joe. Are you gonna say he's an alien next?"

"Shut up," Dallin grumbled, turning even redder and pointedly looking away.

Aidan let out a breath. He didn't have much experience with siphons, but he did have a lot of experience with sulky teenagers, and sulky teenagers generally liked to keep sulking. Especially when they were embarrassed. He was going to be optimistic and assume the potential crisis was over. And now that it was, he couldn't stop nervously eying his license.

"Can I have my license back, please?" he asked.

With one last glare at his sister, Dallin wordlessly handed it to Aidan before going back to his seat. Aidan checked for any scratches or creases and tried to hide how much someone else touching his license bothered him. He let out a small, relieved breath; the card was pristine. The barely noticeable shimmer of processed magic embedded in the lettering flickered as he ran his fingers over the laminated surface. He let the visible magic soothe him for a moment longer, then quickly put his licence back in his wallet. He looked up to see Skyler smirking at Dallin. She caught Aidan looking, blushed to the roots of her hair, then shyly smiled up at him.

Aidan fought to keep from groaning. Why were the only people who ever flirted with him teenage and female? Or possible siphons? Or all three?

"So," the jealous boy from earlier, suddenly spoke up, sounding pained, "you really manifested when you were ten?"

Aidan sighed. Suddenly, he just wanted to go home and go to bed. "Yes. I did."

"Oh." The boy frowned and slumped in his seat.

"Any more questions?" Aidan asked. Maybe we can get this back on track now.

A skinny boy, wearing way too much black, timidly raised his hand.

Aidan pointed at him and smiled reassuringly. "Yes?"

"Um," the boy said with a much deeper voice than someone his size had any right to have. "Is that light ever gonna get fixed?"

Aidan closed his eyes.

Sometimes he really couldn't stand teenagers.

A Wizard's Quest
About the series: In an alternate history where the stories of King Arthur are recorded historical fact, all humans can use magic. They are separated into two distinct groups. Sorcerers are able to cast spells with minimal effort, and Wizards are those that cannot control their own magic and are restricted by law from practicing magical arts. All wizards must register with the government and renew their license every year to ensure they do not ever attempt magic use of their own. But what if everything they've been told isn't true? What if nothing is what it seems?


About Dan Wingreen:
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Dan lives in Ohio (as people do) with his boyfriend, parents and two rapidly aging dogs. His favorite thing is Star Wars, and his least favorite thing is pizza. He dreams of one day owning two Netherland Dwarf Bunnies that frolic about his house.

Twitter: @Captain_Cy_kun

Reader eMail: danwritesthings(at)gmail(dot)com

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This book was added to our catalog on Friday 23 January, 2015.

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