Koteph, Bashra and I were three men, nearing twenty years of age, who had just been ejected from the world's premiere center of magical learning. This presented a very different problem for each of us.
Bashra was poor, and had nowhere to go and nobody to pay for him. He could go to some minor town and set himself up as the village sorcerer. He could try to become court magician to a very decrepit king. Or he could starve.
Koteph had some family money to fall back on, but his outlook was just as bleak. His was the scion of a dying noble house that had been stripped of its lands and titles by the dying royal house it had served for centuries. It was hoped that if a member of the family became a powerful sorcerer, the whole clan might manage a resurgence. That seemed a lot less probable now.
Meanwhile, I was heir to the White Tower. For centuries, my family had inhabited one the most venerable and prestigious of magical locations. And now, their only son had been booted out of the University before he could complete his training. Would I be able to maintain my residence their upon my father's death? Would the king of Irin still accept me as a vassal if I didn't carry a Sorcerer's staff?
Now, my problems were much smaller than those of Bashra and Koteph. For instance, I still had two parents, both of whom were wealthy and powerful. I had a place to live and things to do.
"Would you like to come live with me," I asked Bashra.
"Do you have somewhere better to go?"
"Then why not come with me? My family can put you up until you find somewhere to go."
"I will be fine on my own."
"That is debatable. You got into this fight thanks to me. You can at least accept my help."
Bashra had a taste for the finer things in life. But he didn't want to be dependent on others. I thought I could see those instincts at war inside him before he agreed to spend time at the White Tower. "This does beg another question."
"Will Koteph be staying with you as well?"
"Well," I said, "I suppose he is also in this situation on account of me."
Bashra grinned. "I'll tell him the good news."
"Do you want to do it?"
I did not enjoy spending time with Koteph. "No."
A few hours later, Bashra and Koteph came by to ask when we would be leaving. I can't say I was thrilled. I did not enjoy spending time with Koteph.
My parents had mixed feelings about me returning home. They were glad to see their son after his years studying magic half a continent away. But they wished I had stayed long enough to get my staff.
"It shouldn't be a problem," my father said. "Everyone knows you are a competent sorcerer. Our family was great long before the University rose to prominence. It will continue to be great." But still, did I have to be suspended from the University for such an asinine reason?
"I'm sure they'll let him go back," my mother said. "He is a good student, and plenty of young sorcerers get into fights like this." Just not the smart ones.
My parents seemed to like the charming Bashra, and they tolerated the distinctly non-charming Koteph. My father even took Koteph to see some of the research he was doing into the spirit world.
There was one member of the White Tower household, who was not happy with the three half-baked sorcerers who had taken up residence.
The day that we arrived, Cassinder was in the stables. She knew to be there, in order to wait for us. She was unaccompanied. She had only recently come into her powers, and my parents did not yet realize the amount of trouble she could get into on her own.
She noticed me first. "Amniel."
"Cassinder! Great to see you. You've grown."
"And what's this I hear about your new magical powers?"
"I see the future."
"That's amazing. Only a few people in history have had that ability." I should know. After I received my father's gleeful letter, I consulted the University library on the subject. I could only find four credible reports of people who could see the future. None of them predicted happy endings. But I knew my sister could be different.
"He's a monster!" It took me a moment to see that my sister was pointing behind me. Koteph and Bashra stared at each other.
Cassinder ran off without explaining her outburst.
I asked my mother about it. "She's been doing that lately. Talking about a monster who would come. Something about a Destroyer."
"Have you tried to find out anything more specific?"
"I assume it didn't work." Based on my reading, Seers were not into times and dates and useful geographic instructions. Just vague and terrifying predictions that were spot on, with the benefit of hindsight.
"Anything at all? Any hints about what form this Destroyer might take?"
"If I knew anything useful, I would tell you."
We should have tried harder. We should have demanded that Cassinder explain herself. It wasn't that she was being deliberately obscure. She just had trouble communicating with us. With the people trapped in the past and present.
The last time she saw her father, she grabbed his hand. "Why are you doing this?"
"I developed a new spell that would actually allow me to summon and study a spirit. Koteph will help me. The boy has some of the best raw sorcerous talent I've ever seen."
"He moves stones."
"I know. He has already learned the True Name of stone."
"Why are you doing this? I don't want you to go!"
"Don't worry. I'll be back in a few hours."
He wasn't. A day or so later, we found his body. A small stone was driven through his skull. All of his notes were gone. So was Koteph.