The Sage's Reign
The Final Lesson Book 2
by Shakyra Dunn
Genre: YA Fantasy
Eternal night looms over Adrylis.
After her Grimoire is lost to the Order of Helix, Leilana is left to prepare herself in a newfound way before her return to the crown city of Linmus to help reclaim Prince Remiel's throne. One by one, countries lay burning at their feet. Magic is on its last legs, but the Orb of Concord is within their reach.
From the opposite spectrum, the mastermind awaits, playing puppet-master as they march to their doom. Time is against them as the final moonless night looms above. The final test from the Warlords of Old has finally come into play.
Goodreads * Amazon * Amazon UK
Six moonless nights passed, and time etched away like a pen to paper. Six
months in the dark. One by one, regions fell at the hands of the Order of Helix,
and all that Prince Remiel’s party could do to quell the ordeal was train
themselves further and prepare for the war at their doorstep, all the while
keeping updated through Leilana’s radio and occasional travel.
Rem pushed open the slightly ajar door, tucking away his neck-length
scruffy dark hair. “Leilana?”
Leilana was planted in the center of her room with shut eyes, mumbling
charms in the Minsuran tongue, incense illuminating the room in place of
lanterns. Uh oh, she was in one of her zones, which meant that his timing was all
wrong. Filling any free space around her were open notebooks, every page filled,
and Rem didn’t want to overstep his bounds to approach her. One solid misstep,
or even a word out of context, and she was sure to chew him out. The last thing
that he wanted was to aggravate her. Solus was always better at handling these
She remained perfectly still, her lips continuing to move at a timed pace,
her voice hushed and hollow beneath the crackling wood of the incense. She
wasn’t going to hear him if he called her name again, so he would have to rouse
her the hard way. He stepped off of his right heel and planted a single toe rather
than his foot over one of the nearby books, bringing his left leg over to bypass
the remaining paper-bounds. He attempted to keep his footsteps as slow and
purposeful as possible, not wanting to risk her snapping out of her fixated stupor.
“You don’t have to sneak, you know.” Rem flinched at the address in fluent
Sentience, cutting through her unwavering concentration. She didn’t open her
eyes, but she did lower her head as if drifting between slumber and waking from
a long dream. “Is something wrong?”
“Not wrong at all. I think it’s something you can use to your advantage.” He
held up his index finger. “Two things, matter of fact. Gale got wind of where we
can find Lunious through his-” Leilana’s eyes snapped open, a guttural snarl
rushing past her once pursed lips. Rem nearly fell on his back out of fear alone.
Her vengeance was festering for months, but now it was in full bloom. “P-Please
don’t shoot the messenger.”
Leilana cleared her throat, tucking some loose strands of her lengthening
wavy hair behind her ear. “Sorry. What else is going on?”
“You remember that little hint you told us? Solus and I started putting
pieces together about places in Adrylis that fit the mold. It has to be someplace
recently impacted by magic, particularly fire. Maybe the ash from the flames
causes it to rain down.”
“But that wouldn’t be a permanent occurrence.”
“I wasn’t done explaining.” Leilana nearly scoffed but decided to withhold
her disdain. “Solus had another idea—what if we overlooked something on your
map? The only places remaining that could involve smoke would be towns that
have a lot of mining. It would explain the idea of ash always falling, and maybe
those people get covered in the flakes when they’re working or whenever ash
from the mines spread, which would add up ‘cloaked in shadow,’ since it’s the
Leilana’s lips parted. Mining. How had she not considered that? There were
farming towns and shrines, and even reserves scattered all over the landscape,
and yet mining towns never came up anywhere in her mind. Maybe it was her
overanalytical thinking that everything in scriptures had to be sentimental. It
made perfect sense. The fates sure did love toying with her head, it seemed.
“We’re going to find my grimoire, scout out as many places as we can with
that description, then we’re going to find our Orb of Concord, end the war, get
on with our lives.”
“Good plan! Great plan!” He collided his fist with hers, and she giggled at
the enthusiasm. “Got in all of your meditation for the day? Solus wants to get
things rolling while it’s still early out, and Gale’s got our breakfast all packed.”
“I think I’m prepared enough,” she replied. Resting on her bed was a long
metallic staff, freshly polished, basking under the morning glow. She could see
dust on the nightstand and assortment of books drifting about, but now that the
time to move on had come at long last, there was little left that she wanted to
accomplish in terms of cleaning up after herself.
With a sweep of her hand, the flames burning the wood-scented incense
promptly ceased to exist, a puffy haze of smoke left to fester in the room. Rem
inhaled the aroma, far used to the sensation. She stepped towards the nightstand,
clasping her hands around the staff. The bearings were rough on her hands,
tearing into her skin the harder that she grasped the weapon, but she was well
trained—the pain had gradually minimized to a dull ache rather than outright
“Are you sure you don’t want one more lesson before we get back out
there?” Rem’s face was reflecting into the metal, his confident expression
carrying her mind into a comforting place. Leilana couldn’t help but smile. He
always did get antsy when change was coming.
“I’m in the middle of one,” she replied. “I don’t want to tack on too many
side-missions knowing that. I’m one step closer to becoming a Warlord, and this
task will prove worthy in showing me how much loss has affected my skills.”
“Well, that loss is going to strengthen you, and all of us as well.” He
glanced back when he heard his name and he rested a hand on her shoulder
before gesturing towards the door. “I’m going first. Sol’s calling me. Try not to
slow me down, yeah?”
“I don’t plan to.”
As Rem departed, she allowed her gaze to waver over the surroundings she
had familiarized herself with for the last six months. Six grueling months of
working to the bone, coming to understand that magic and power can only be
formed with her own two hands, ending in the place where they began. The staff
in her hands was a symbolism of growth. She could be of better use with two
forms of attack, even after she retrieved her grimoire. Her time had come.
She decided to change clothes after going through the wardrobe in the
corner, settling with her white uniform blouse underneath a black vest, dusting
off a knee-length tan skirt. She wiggled her toes around her tanned flats, satisfied
with the feel. Afterward, she stepped into the hall, where Sien, Solus, and Rem
were awaiting her. All three of them stood near the door.
“Took you long enough!” Sien stated. On her back was a bow and a quiver
filled with arrows, her long red hair braided in two pigtails hanging past her
shoulders. She was dressed in an ankle-length tanned dress, her boots concealing
her legs. “We were worried that you were thinking of backing out!”
“There’s no way that I’d turn down this kind of opportunity.”
Solus chuckled, his tied shoulder-length hair practically bouncing with him.
“Happy to hear it.” He rested a hand on his dark brown pants, the sleeves of his
baggy shirt slightly overlapping his arms. “I was hoping that you would keep the
faith.” Rem was bouncing in his spot, a big grin plaguing his face. “All in good
faith and all that, can we go now? Please? Pretty please?”
“All right, all right,” Solus laughed, patting the boy’s head. “We’re going.
Gale and Luna have given us their regards in advance. All that we need to do is
set off. We will return here, someday. For now, we finish what we have begun.”
“Rula!” Rem called, “We’re leaving! Are you coming?” From the kitchen,
Rula came running, his tail swishing back and forth.
“Actually, I’ve decided to stay here with Lulu and Gale,” he explained.
Rem raised an eyebrow. “What? Seriously?”
Rula lowered himself into a position where it appeared that he would
pounce, and when he did, Sien caught him in her arms. “Luna says that when
Lancett is done taking care of the initial work in Linarus, she wants to go back to
help gather people to the city. Once everything is in order, I’ll be able to return
home to the mountains. I don’t want to be too far away.”
“Well, I guess if you’re sure, we won’t stop you.” Sien rubbed the young
Dirionus behind his elongated ears, and Rula graciously tilted his head to the
“You were a big help to us,” Solus stated. “We are grateful to you,
Rulakinja. Best of luck to you. Your master would be proud of you.” Rula was
gazing at each one of them as the words reached his ears before he covered his
eyes with the fuzzy limbs. Sien giggled at the embarrassment he was showing
“You guys are too much!” Rula proclaimed. “Stop picking on me!”
“Aw, no one’s picking on you,” Rem replied, patting Rula’s head. “We just
want you to know that you’re loved, no matter what.”
“Then you don’t think I’m just some monster?” Rula whimpered, staring up
“If anything, I’m a monster too.” Rem bore his teeth, holding up both arms
before chomping his teeth down. “A big scary Bloodlinch with spooky powers!
Grr!” Rula pounced forward, hitting his face with his tail, causing Rem to falter.
Leilana and Sien couldn’t help but laugh. “Rude! Very rude!”
“Monsters aren’t all bad if you’re one then!”
“All right, all right, enough of the fun. We’ve got to get moving,” Solus
Sien nocked an arrow carefully, her weapon still grasped in her hand as she
trekked down the corridor furthest left from the entrance. Her mouth and tongue
were dry, her breaths shallow. Being inside of this stronghold made her feel
uneasy enough already, and the foul stench of the medicine filling the are did
nothing to help alleviate her nerves. The creak of a nearby door alerted her,
causing her to turn her back with her weapon ready to fire, only to find that there
was nothing in her path. Maybe it was the wind from an open window. She
lowered her bow again, sighing in relief.
The idea of being so close to terrorists that destroyed her home was
overwhelming. They were willing to stop at nothing to have Rem’s power, likely
to hold him for ransom and have his lineage act as a catalyst for the Orb of
Concord. If his untapped power was used for malice, there would be no country
left to defend, let alone no war to draw out the end.
“Playing adventure, are we?”
Sien jumped at the new voice. It was real, no doubt about it. They were
hidden, beyond well for what skills she possessed. She squinted her eyes, and
every half second, a silhouette swept through the halls before meeting head-on.
Centimeters from her face, touching her nose, grazing Sien’s parted lips to close
them shut again, stood a girl with long blonde hair tied with red bows into two
ponytails cascading down her back. She was clothed in a black cloak, red
rosaries on either side.
“We’ve never had strange visitors in Megalina before.” The girl’s voice was
rather seductive, and Sien felt more confused than aroused. “Hi, I’m Faris!
You’re a real cutie.”
“Megalina?” Sien cut in, deciding not to acknowledge her obvious
advances in favor of answers. “Is that the name of this place?”
“Right!” Faris beamed, not seeming to mind the cold shoulder. “It’s a name
with many meanings—sanctuary, understanding, resolve. But we call it ‘home.’
It’s torn and desolate, much like the rest of us. We have no place in this world as
isolated magic-users.” The girl ran her fingers along Sien’s exposed shoulder,
her scarlet locks becoming entangled in her aquamarine-coated nails. Sien
swallowed, her head spinning from her overwhelming anxiety in tandem with
the antiseptic odor, but she didn’t allow herself to drop her guard. “But you…
you’re different. You’re a drifter, I can tell. You don’t act like the others.”
“I use my gift to help others,” Sien retorted, prying herself free from the
girl, pointing an arrow at her. “I don’t kill without reason.” The girl folded her
arms behind her back, cocking her head to the left, a soft grin on her delicate
features. Not a single line on her face went out of place; there was no fear
resonating in her. That made her dangerous.
“That makes you brave. Not a lot of people can keep their cool.” Sien eyed
the girl’s movements closely. Her fingers were twitching, but hardly enough to
peak Sien’s attention. Still, something about her calm demeanor was unnerving.
“Why don’t you stay a while longer? We can play together!”
Faris swept her hand out, a stream of needles conjuring from her fingertips.
Sien barely gasped when the needles pierced through every fragment of skin,
pinning her to a wall. Her bow and arrow fell in front of her, blood seeping from
the miniscule cuts on her body. They were multiplying each passing second, and
the pain erupted all at once. She couldn’t close every wound no matter how fast
she could channel her energy. There would be more to take its place.
“Your aura interests me. It’s rare to find people blessed with the art of
healing, and those that possess it lose themselves along the way because people
become so ungrateful. But the way that you carry yourself is dull.” Sien’s heart
skipped a beat, and her struggle to escape her prickly prison had ceased. Faris sat
on top of a nearby pillar, kicking her feet, her hands resting under her chin. “You
don’t provide much entertainment. It’s going to be hard to remember you if all
that you can do is act serious.”
Sien lowered her head, ignoring her budding tears. This girl was a
mastermind at manipulation, and she knew it well, but the words still cut to the
core. There was little that she had to offer besides some laughs now and again,
bottling her pain in favor of spreading more joy to others. If she could make one
person smile, it was worth a little more pain, but for what? Compared to such
magnificent people in her group like a wayward prince, a future Warlord, and a
jack-of-all-trades servant, where did she stand? She wasn’t strong and could
fight at a distance. Her magic was minimal, good for healing wounds. She was
nothing but a walking burden.
All she could do was laugh now to mask her agony.
Faris raised an eyebrow. “Did I say something funny, darling?”
As much as Sien wanted to scream at her for annulled criticism, or even
curl up in a corner to resolve the issue right away, she couldn’t help laughing at
herself. Her face probably looked so horrible. She always scrunched up her nose
when she was fighting tears, and her eyes always got puffy and red even when
she wasn’t letting it all out. Crying was the most terrible feeling in the world.
Letting go of the burdens and weeping made it seem like all hope was lost the
moment they started to fall.
Faris scoffed, stomping her foot, the sound of her heel clanking against the
metal floor echoing. “Stop laughing! For a cute girl, you’re really not dignified
“I-I’m sorry,” she responded, continuing to laugh. “It’s just, you’re judging
someone that you don’t even know. I mean, not that I don’t think I’m boring too,
but you can’t go around saying things like that. It makes you look as undignified
Faris’s mouth fell open. “I-I-” Her lips curved into a scowl, and she flung a
finger forward, pointing at the girl. The action sent a few needles flying, grazing
the side of Sien’s face before sticking into the wall next to her. “You are
unbelievable! How dare you say something so outlandish!”
“I’m not too wise, but idiocy is easy to read,” Sien pointed out. “I get
nothing but backlash from Solus every time that I try to come up with ideas.
Leilana can be so focused on her goals sometimes that I fear breaking her from
her thoughts. Rem is so conflicted that it’s hard to tell when his head shifts from
left to right. Even my little sister criticizes me. You wanna tear me down, you’ve
got to do better than that. I’ve gotten a lot better at getting my head out of my ass
when it counts.” Faris’s shoulders were trembling. “So, what’s your insecurity?
Do you go the typical route of tearing people down because you’re lonely and
unaccepted, or do you just like causing mayhem for no reason at all?”
“Don’t belittle me!” Faris plunged needles into the girl’s stomach, and Sien
The Final Lesson
The Final Lesson Book 1
"Trust none but yourself."
Leilana Erovina's got a bid for power as she takes the final test to become one of her realm's Warlords. As such, she sets out to travel the lands of Adrylis and log magical totems from respectful folk with only one hitch—no ancestral help. The quest is a pilgrimage to learn the basics of human nature. Some would call concepts like gentleness and passion fables of the heart.
In another perspective, war brews in the kingdom of Linmus, throwing Adrylis into chaos. Prince Remiel Vesarus finds himself in exile, vengeance on his mind for those who tore his life asunder. His attendant Solus Brenner at his side, they plan on restoring their kingdom against all odds.
Fate has drawn these two parties together. Conjoined at the hip, the traveler, prince and right-hand will learn the old saying of magic: "It always comes with a price."
Goodreads * Amazon
The cinders crackled over the singed wood, rising through midnight’s earthy air. Gusts of wind drifted through the dry oak trees, the shades of early autumn teeming from the branches in the form of cracked leaves. The stars were absent from the sky, yet a faint glimmer hovered above.
The still night of a new moon; such times were hard to fall upon. That made things even more brilliant for such an announcement.
“You feel it, don’t you?” A gravelly voice cut through the silence, catching the attention of the group that surrounded him. “This air is thick. The stigma of the wind such as this besieges any and every lost soul, carrying them beyond the boundaries of time.”
“Master Hinju, you always make things more dramatic.”
Any means of a rebuttal were replaced by extended humming in a straight tone before finally, “Now is not the time for remarks.” Copper eyes opened to the sound of distant laughter caught in the indistinct gales, and a single glance at the source drew bitter silence. A stern expression coated his features as he gazed upon the group of fourteen seated around the open fire; no disturbances occurred, and he once more cleared his throat, running his fingers through the curly brown mop on his head.
“I have summoned you here today for your final examination.” For a moment, chatter progressed among the group, some questioning what he meant by a ‘final examination,’ and after a second glance, silence took over again. “Moving on… The fourteen of you have advanced through your courses with ease, rising through the ranks of your respective classes. You were hand-chosen by your mentors to reach this stage in your lives.”
“Master Hinju, what is this final examination?” One student piped up, a stalwart expression coating her pale features. “We’ve had plenty of tests, but this is the first that I’ve heard of this…”
“Curious as always, Leilana,” Hinju replied with a nod. “That is correct—you have had many of these examinations, using your time to study magic and overcome obstacles placed before you.” The man cocked his head to the right and smirked. “But how often have you been sought out by the Headmaster himself for one of them?” Leilana grew silent, tucking a loose strand of her shoulder-length dark hair behind her ear.
“He’s not wrong…” one of the students mumbled.
“I guess this is the first time we’ve had someone like Master Hinju try to teach us…”
“Your examination on the night of emptiness will be a test of your overall skill level and valor.” Hinju rose to a stand, extending his hand up towards the evening sky. “As Maesters and Arcana, under the blessing of an innovative and invisible moon, you will be guided by none other than yourself. I chose this night specifically for you to give your all.” The students turned to one another in silence before continuing to listen to their Headmaster’s words. “Two by two, you will duel one another. The winners of each respective battle will progress towards the title that you each so crave—a chance to grow closer to becoming a Warlord.”
Leilana’s eyes widened at the statement, and she clutched the golden-encrusted grimoire in her arms closer to her chest, the metal vines lining the book pricking her fingers. So, that was the prize for winning a duel. Seemed simple enough.
“Would anyone like to volunteer for the first battle?”
The kingdom of Linmus was abound in buildings and bustling crowds. The market was packed to the brim, and from his extended tower, he could see the forests stretch for miles on end. Further right was a cascading waterfall, his hidden passage into Adrylis. One day, he would walk through the water, watch the ripples disappear behind him. He could escape, if only for a little while.
“There’s so much to see,” Rem told Solus. “There’s a world beyond this kingdom. And someday, I want to meet all my subjects. I want to learn from them and see how they live.”
“The world is vast,” Solus agreed. He wanted to sigh rather than tip the boundaries of their conversation, for the truth was far out of reach from his young master.
Rem laid his hands on the windowsill and watched the mid-spring chill graze the trees from afar. How he wished that he could kiss the leaves himself. “My father got to experience a life like that at my age, and so did my mother. Why shouldn’t I have the same treatment? Why should I remain a prisoner in this castle for the rest of my life just because I was born differently?”
“Why don’t we take a trip to our favorite spot?” Solus responded, to which Rem smiled softly. It was best to consider the little details in their plans, and they always shared their best thoughts until the waterfall. Preferably with cream puffs, which added a moment’s bliss into any derails.
“How are we getting there without running into people? Surely we can’t just walk out the front door.”
Solus playfully smirked. “You know every nook and cranny; you tell me.” Rem gestured towards an open door, Solus trailing behind him. Rem shut the door once they were inside, running to a window and prying the latch open.
“Ever noticed that the castle walls are full of vines?” Solus shrugged, keeping an open mind on the subject. “My father used to tell me stories about how my mother would climb up to him. It was like he was playing the role of the princess, and she was the knight coming to rescue him. This is how they would meet before they were able to marry.”
“So, your suggestion is for us to climb down the vines,” Solus said flatly. “Isn’t that dangerous? What if you slip and break your neck? Or better yet, you have magic to secure you. Will you be catching me if I were to fall?”
“Only if you’re not careful, princess.” Solus shot Rem a glare, but the young prince was already taking his climb onto the windowsill and blatantly ignored him. Rem turned around, holding out a hand towards Solus, his free hand behind his back. “Come on, what’s the harm?” Solus stepped closer, wary of the distance between them.
“Please get down, Remiel,” he warned.
“Oh, I think my feet are slipping,” Rem egged on, his toes bouncing on the rim of the windowsill.
“I mean it,” Solus snarled, holding up a hand in attempts to stall his prince’s cruel intentions. This wasn’t uncommon for either of them. Remiel was full of tricks, but Solus could dispel them just as easily. “Come down from there.”
“You are not my father or mother,” Rem replied, both hands firmly placed over each side of the condensed space filling the window.
“This isn’t the time to show off!” Solus tried to reason, noticing that the situation was becoming dire. “You’ll hurt yourself-” Rem winked at him before jumping. Solus shrieked in surprise, racing for the window without a second thought, reaching out for Rem despite the increasing distance between them.
Rem hit the ground, but not in the form of a pancake like Solus anticipated. Instead, he charmed a barrier to manifest underneath his body, cushioning his fall. He was laughing the whole way down, loving the rush of wind across his face, kicking his feet like a toddler upon reaching the courtyard’s cut grass. Solus’s eyes narrowed, his knuckles going white from how tight his fists were clenched. So that was why he’d made such a risky jump.
“Come on down, Solus Brenner!” Rem called, though he was cautious about his volume in case someone else was around. “I’ll catch you like you wanted.”
Solus was reluctant for mere seconds before obliging, diving into the barrier that Rem placed at his side, patting his hand on the grass. Solus dusted off his clothes as Rem stood up, trailing over to him with his arms behind his back.
“You had nothing to worry about,” Rem told him. Solus snarled a second time, pushing Rem hard, knocking him back to the ground. “Hey!” he whined. “That hurt!”
“Oh, you’ll live,” he hissed. “Though, you almost didn’t. And for that, you can deal with a push. Now on your toes. We’re leaving.”
Leilana must have read through the notes that Hinju provided half a dozen times now, and she still couldn’t comprehend melding human emotions with magic. There was so much about the concept that seemed off-putting. The radio on her desk was blaring, the discussion heavy on news of the kingdom of Linmus. The details were nearly lost before she decided to acknowledge the static-filled device.
“It has been five days since the kingdom of Linmus was struck. No one is certain of the circumstances, and there appear to be no survivors from the castle grounds, with few having fled the city limits. Among the fallen are King Somano Vesarus and Queen Rira Lurin-Vesarus. The only remaining heir to the throne, Prince Remiel, has been declared missing-”
Leilana reached for the dial of her pocket radio and turned it down to a lower setting, continuing to look over her notes. She was stumped on the field of laughter. There were so many interpretations that Hinju could have specified for his notions, and instead, he stuck to the most literal statement.
Laughter is the expression of true happiness. Encountering someone that may possess the totem of laughter is most evident in how they carry themselves—they walk in the present, ignoring the past and looking to the future with open arms.
Come on, seriously? How many people still had reasons to laugh and be merry with war at their doorstep? How could they live a life where the future wasn’t even guaranteed?
Closing the spiral-bound notebook, she turned the radio up to listen to the news about Linmus again to find infomercials about ‘the land of sunny springs, Kinsley’ playing. They were holding a formal to shed some light in the world of chaos. It wasn’t the first time she had heard of Kinsley, but from acquired knowledge, it wasn’t her ideal vacation spot. Too much sun was bad for the skin.
She laid her head on her desk, giving a passing glance to the open window, where the school’s pride stood gallantly in the form of a mahogany tree. The skyline reflected a melodious blend of ginger, rose and amber, the premature light hovering over Adrylis promising a bright start to this pilgrimage she was granted. She turned to look over her room. It was minuscule but fit for one due to its custom options. Her floor was scattered in paperwork here and there, the wall space taken up with quotes she had written down from her professors:
‘Inspiration is everywhere.’
‘Magic stems from the comprehension of others.’
‘Happiness is not one note.’
Every moment spent in determination, every step in any direction held meaning. That was something she had come to learn through her time cooped up in this room, bound to her elements, spending each day diligently reviewing magical spells and the mystic word of Lasette. This would be her last time in this room as a student. When she set foot in this tiny space she called home again, she would be either a Warlord or a failure. She didn’t want to consider being trapped as a lowly Arcana for all eternity. Such a fate seemed too cruel with so much possibility at her doorstep.
Shakyra Dunn can't stray away from the impression that there is always an adventure around every corner! When she isn't playing the role of the Creator, she is marching through the worlds of her favorite video game characters or taking drives around her city to see the sights. Born in Chicago, Illinois, she currently resides in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, striving to experience more than the little town.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!