Kenneth and Thorn have become Enforcers, those who keep the peace, monitor major societal changes, and if necessary, hunt down criminals. Luckily, their first mission seems easy. They must explore a new alchemy school, meet with the governor of the local village, and determine if the school’s presence has upset the local population of people who cannot use magic at all. As a talentless himself, Thorn especially is concerned. He knows the inequality the talentless face in a world ruled by mages, and he is anxious to see how he will fare as an Enforcer.
When they arrive, the governor is friendly enough. But as Kenneth and Thorn begin to explore the school and surrounding village, they find signs of something far more serious than simple friction between the talentless and the magi. Students at the alchemy school displays feats of magical strength far beyond what Kenneth has seen before, and Thorn finds out that talentless people are disappearing. They set out to figure out what is going on—but run into problems when they meet an old enemy.
Thorn stood in the corner of the dueling arena, his arms crossed over his chest.
“This is the final spell you must learn,” Liliana said, her voice echoing across the space. “A spell that will rob a mage of their magic for a short time. The duration lasts a period of time dependent on the power you put into the spell. Are you ready?”
Thorn’s blond lover, Kenneth, nodded, his ruby earring glinting in the mage lights that ringed the practice area. Tomas, a member of the mage council who Thorn did not particularly like, stood ready to receive the effects of the spell.
For the past three weeks, Kenneth had been training with Liliana, learning spell after spell that were unique to Enforcers. And during the day, they both had been in training, learning the basics of statecraft, diplomacy, and law. Thorn hoped he would remember half of what Liliana had tried to pound into his head for the last three weeks. Even now, details of the different noble families and the names of their heirs floated around in his mind. Kenneth had had it even worse, because he also had to memorize the deactivating key words for each and every ward system that was put in place in different cities and towns.
Liliana began to mumble something, the usual gibberish mages spoke when they were using their magic to control the aether. Thorn often wondered what the aether was, but it was beyond him. Only magi could affect it, harnessing it with their magic and performing feats no talentless could match.
Talentless like him.
Kenneth copied Liliana, his deep baritone drowning her out. It almost sounded like…Thorn lost it after a second. It was words, he knew it was words, but it was nothing that made sense, like water burbling in a stream.
Tomas stiffened, and his face drained of color. He nodded.
“Good.” Liliana clapped her hands, and Thorn raised an eyebrow. “Now tell me. How long will his magic be gone?”
Kenneth narrowed his eyes. “I can sense it…about…half an hour. A bit more. The control will last a bit longer than half an hour,” he finished with more certainty. “He won’t be able to use his magic.”
“That is an Enforcer’s most powerful spell—it requires a lifemate to make it work. Tell me,” Liliana turned to Thorn. “Did you feel anything? Anything at all?”
Thorn blinked. “Well…” he wanted to say yes, but he would be lying if he did. “No. Not really.”
“Typically, when the spell is cast the aether will seal the opposing mage’s magic by channeling it to a resonant magic, which is always the lifemate.” Thorn’s head spun. This was a lot to take in, especially after the lessons today. At least Kenneth was nodding as though it made sense. “But because Thorn is talentless, he feels no benefit.” She nodded in apology.
Thorn nodded back, shrugging his shoulders. “As long as the enemy can’t use it, right?”
“Yes. It is the most effective way to incapacitate a mage enemy. And believe me, you will be doing it a lot.” Kenneth and Thorn exchanged glances as the mage crossed the room, standing near his lover.
“So, I may as well tell you. Are you both ready for your first assignment? There is only so much you can learn without actually taking the field.”
Kenneth took Thorn’s hand. “Yes,” Thorn answered. “Tell us what it is.”
As much as he was happy that they were safe in Kenneth’s parents’ home, he was ready to get out of here. It was time to start pursuing his own goal—equality for talentless and magi alike.
“Very well. Tomas, follow us. You will help brief them.”
Sunbeams that shone through glass windows warmed Thorn as they left the dueling room and headed toward the great hall. Thorn smiled as he remembered shooting out those windows during the Enforcer’s exam. It had only been about two months, but it felt like longer. Weeks and weeks of lessons and dinner with magi who either hated him or wanted to ignore him had a habit of feeling like years.
At least he had Kenneth. His lover gave him a worried smile as they took seats at the table. The extensions for feasts had been removed, so it was more intimate than usual. Liliana and Tomas sat on the other end, a sheaf of papers in front of them. Clearly she had been prepared to send them off, trusting that Kenneth would learn his new spell. Kenneth never failed when it came to magic.
“First, let me tell you—typically, Enforcers report to the council. If, for whatever reason, they cannot, they report to the triumvirate. If they cannot, the Enforcer will act as the highest authority. I do not need to explain why that might be the case, do I?”
Thorn smirked. Kenneth just shook his head.
“For this assignment, you will be expected to report to the council,” Liliana said. “However, I find that unlikely. The council is only brought in in cases requiring potentially severe punishment. We are concerned in this case, but do not think it will go that far.”
Thorn and Kenneth exchanged glances. “What is the assignment?” Thorn asked.