The final installment in The Wizard Time trilogy comes out next week on July 1st.
For those who would like a little taste of what happens to Gabriel and Teresa and the Chimera team next, here is the first chapter:
Chapter One of The Edge of Eternity (The Wizard of Time Book 3)
A cloud of black arrows arced through the sky, reaching their apex before falling like a storm of slender hail, driving toward the earth below.
Gabriel ducked, arrows flashing past his head and clattering against stone, bouncing off armor, and sinking deep into human flesh.
Screams of pain and anger and military orders filled the air.
Gabriel glanced around and wondered, as he had nearly every second for the last half-hour, if coming to this place had been such a good idea.
It had been his idea.
“Are you certain they can’t see us?” Marcus asked as he rubbed his bald head, where a ricocheting arrow had grazed him.
“There are thousands of them.” Sema crouched beside Marcus, her face a mask of concentration and fear. “I am doing the best I can.”
“Are you sure this is the place?” Teresa clamped her hand on Gabriel’s forearm as she looked around at the chaos surrounding them.
A phalanx of Chinese soldiers in hardened leather armor ran past. Nearby, a battery of archers returned fire, loosing a wall of arrows at their enemies below.
“This is the place.” Ohin knelt beside Gabriel and Teresa. “The anchor point is close.”
“Yes,” Gabriel said, reaching out again with his space-time sense, searching for the mysterious point that had brought them to the top of the Great Wall of China on the 27th of May, 1644 — in the midst of the Battle of Shanghai Pass.
Gabriel still found it confusing that the battle and the wall were nowhere near Shanghai but actually in Shanhaiguan, some 870 miles to the north on the western edge of the Bohai Sea. The battle being fought around them would determine the course of Chinese history for the next several hundred years, resulting in the definitive end of the Ming Dynasty and the founding of the Qing Dynasty. Troops loyal to Qing Prince Regent Dorgon and General Wu Sangui, formally of the Ming Dynasty, now defended the wall against the rebel, self-proclaimed emperor Li Zicheng, who had taken control of Beijing only days before. Zicheng would eventually lose the Battle of Shanghai Pass and return to Beijing, fleeing in advance of Wu Sangui’s army. Nearly six months later, on November 8th, Prince Regent Dorgon would help install a six-year-old Qing Prince Shunzhi as Emperor. The Qing Dynasty would continue to rule China until 1912.
A volley of cannon fire sounded below, the stones of the Great Wall shuddering with the impact of the metal balls. Gabriel tried to blot out the battle around him and focus his mind on the faint distortion of space-time nearby. It felt very close — in time as well as space. They would not need to wait long, but they would need to wait somewhere else.
“It’s this way, I think.” Gabriel pointed to the east, past a line of archers, to an open space in the wide stone bricks lining the top of the wall.
“I’ll shield us.” Ling took a quick look over the parapet of the wall and turned back to the rest of the team. “Now!”
Gabriel and the Chimera team leapt to their feet and dashed along the top of the Great Wall, dodging the running soldiers of General Wu Sangui’s army and their fallen comrades. Sema’s Soul Magic rendered them largely unseen, the magical amulets at their necks camouflaging their appearance to make them indistinguishable from the soldiers around them if her magic wavered.
As Gabriel ran, the sound of intermittent gunfire echoed along the stone ledges of the Great Wall. The Chinese armies of the seventeenth century possessed matchlock rifles, reverse engineered from the muskets of the Portuguese sailors who arrived in the mid-sixteenth century. Gabriel flinched as a musket ball froze in midair beside him. He glanced back at Ling as he ran.
“What kind Wind Mage would I be if couldn’t stop a few bullets?” Ling smiled as the team reached the unmanned section of the wall and once more ducked down to safety behind the parapet.
“I feel like a canary in a shooting gallery.” Rajan crouched down beside Ling.
“It’s a duck in a shooting gallery.” Teresa laughed at Rajan. “Canaries are for coal mines.”
“Dead birds either way.” Rajan frowned as an arrow pierced the air beside his head and shattered on the far parapet atop the wall.
“Not long now.” Ohin closed his eyes in concentration.
“This is definitely the spot.” Gabriel sensed it clearly now — an event in space-time that would flower into being at any moment. An event that could not be a natural occurrence. An event linked to one they had witnessed a little over a week ago.
An anchor point.
That was the name Council Woman Elizabeth had given the phenomenon in her coded notebook. It had taken most of a year for Gabriel and Teresa to decode the notebook. Doing so had involved repeated trips to the Indus Valley civilization. While the text of the actual Rosetta Stone, written on the first page of the notebook, had allowed them to decode Elizabeth’s secret script, it had only revealed phonetically written text in the ancient Indus language. They had needed to learn the language to decipher the decoded text.
While Teresa’s facility with languages proved to be every bit impressive as she had boasted, the vagaries of dialect throughout the Indus civilization, over time and between geographical regions, made translating the notebook a more complicated affair than either she or Gabriel had anticipated. That, of course, had been Elizabeth’s intention — to make it as difficult as possible for the notebook to be read by the wrong people.
In the end, it had required seven separate excursions to the Indus Valley at various places and times between 2600 and 1900 BCE. The entire Chimera team had accompanied Gabriel and Teresa on their educational missions. Between expeditions they would return to help construct new forts in the far past to house the Grace Mages who had survived the attacks of the Apollyons and Kumaradevi during the destruction of the Council’s Windsor Castle.
As a measure of security, they had agreed never to write down a direct translation of the notebook’s contents. If Elizabeth had gone to such trouble to protect its revelations, it would be foolish to render it readable to anyone but themselves. There were members of the Council who had been upset with this decision, but unless they were willing to learn ancient Indus, there was little they could do about it. In the end, Gabriel became nearly as fluent in Indus, and as adept at reading and writing Elizabeth’s code, as Teresa.
His findings so far were few, but what they had gleaned from the translated notebook proved to be invaluable. While they were aware from their spying on the Apollyons that the Great Barrier of Probability had apparently been constructed through the use of both Grace and Malignancy Magic, Elizabeth had investigated this discovery and unveiled another revelation even more surprising. By closely examining the Great Barrier, the magical wall that made time travel into the future beyond the year 2012 impossible, she had discerned that the magic holding it in place possessed a negative aspect. As a Grace Mage, she sensed only half of the magic she knew must be in use to exert its existence. She had also sensed something else — that the Barrier did not simply exist at all possible places in space at the specific moment in time on October 28, 2012 at 4:45 p.m. Greenwich Standard Time. Aspects of it seemed to link to other places and times. However, while able to sense the linkage, she had not been able to sense a location. She described it in the notebook as similar to trying to find a specific tree in the midst of a mist-shrouded forest.
Fortunately, the experience reminded her of a strange phenomenon she had witnessed nearly a hundred years prior. In the middle of a mission to sever the connections between one of Kumaradevi’s concatenate crystals at the Battle of Ceresole in 1544, she had stumbled across a strange inversion of the space-time continuum. For exactly thirty-seven seconds, a sphere of space-time the size of a small house became a vortex of impossibly stable probability. It wasn’t that time did not flow correctly in that space for those thirty-seven seconds, but that the very nature of space-time seemed upended. For those thirty-seven seconds, unlike the rest of the Primary Continuum, the course of time in that short, bizarre bubble of space-time could never be altered.
Only upon learning that the Great Barrier of Probability seemed to be linked to other points in space-time did it dawn on Elizabeth that what she had assumed to be a unique, but naturally occurring abnormality was, in fact, part of a purposefully created series of disturbances. When she returned to investigate the phenomenon more closely, she uncovered a vital clue to the Great Barrier’s construction. A tendril of nearly imperceptible magic connected the first disturbance to two others, one nearly a century further in the future and another even further into the past.
Elizabeth named these phenomena anchor points and believed there were more of them, stretching from the moment of the Great Barrier at intervals back through time into the far past, binding them all to something, somewhere, that made the Great Barrier possible. Unfortunately, she had only been able to uncover three anchor points before the attack on the castle, and the Apollyons dark curse upon her mind had left her trapped in the unshakable sleep of a deep coma.
The anchor point at the top of the Great Wall of China in the middle of the Battle of the Shanghai Pass in 1644 was the second of the two that Elizabeth had discovered. Gabriel and the team hoped to be able to sense another anchor point further into the future, closer to the Great Barrier, with the eventual goal of charting all the anchor points. The more they understood about the creation of the Barrier the better they would be able to defend it against the intended destruction by the army of duplicate Apollyons.
A stray arrow shattered into bits of black wood on the parapet wall across from Gabriel. He blinked to clear his mind of the distraction and focused on extending his space-time sense as far as possible while sliding his grandfather’s pocket watch into his hand.
“It’s close.” Gabriel closed his eyes, trying to shut out the sounds of warfare echoing along the ancient stone wall beneath him.
“You keep saying that, and they keep shooting at us.” Teresa ducked as another volley of arrows coursed through the air above their heads.
“Shush.” Ohin shot Teresa a stern look before he, too, closed his eyes.
Gabriel’s space-time sense began to vibrate in his mind like a plucked string oscillating at high frequency. Any moment now. Any second. The vibrations reached a crescendo as a sphere of space-time seemed to solidify around him. Gabriel opened his eyes to look down at the pocket watch, tracking the second hand even as his space-time sense observed the bubble of non-probability surrounding him. The anchor point existed in a perfect sphere a hundred feet in diameter — this one a little larger than the one linked to it in the past. Gabriel narrowed his concentration until he perceived that tenuous connection to the anchor point several decades previous. As he did so, he discerned another connection, a twin of the first, a wispy, vaporous trail of slightly twisted space-time proceeding onto the future.
“I feel it, but I can’t see the terminus.” Gabriel glanced down at the pocket watch again. “Only fifteen seconds left.”
“We’ll find it.” Ohin placed his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. “Calm your mind.”
Gabriel exhaled slowly and pushed the anxiety and annoyance from his thoughts. As he breathed in, he saw an image of the future anchor point in his mind.
Another battlefield. Several warring armies. Their uniforms looked familiar. So did the landscape behind them. He tried to bring the mental image into greater focus. Just as he thought he saw a flag, the images winked out and the space-time distortion of the anchor point ceased.
“Did you see?” Ohin opened his eyes to stare at Gabriel.
“Yes.” Gabriel let out a long breath. “Another battlefield. I couldn’t figure out which one though.”
“The Siege of Namur in 1695.” Ohin’s mouth curled in a rare smile. “Nearly sixty years from now.”
“I think the anchor points may be getting closer together as they get nearer the Great Barrier.” Teresa seemed almost as excited by the successful location of the next anchor point as Gabriel.
“Yes, all very fascinating.” Marcus glanced over his shoulder to a squad of Chinese archers running along the wall toward them. “However, I can be fascinated somewhere a bit less congested.”
“I thought you liked a good battle,” Ling teased.
“When I’m on the winning side, not when I’m stuck in the middle of it,” Marcus said.
“You know I rarely agree with Marcus, but I really am at the limit of my ability to hide our presence for much longer.” Sema glared as a passing soldier nearly crushed her foot beneath his boot.
“Yes.” Ohin flinched as the wall of the parapet near him exploded in a hail of stone fragments under the impact of a stray bullet. “Someplace quiet is a very good idea.”
Space-time bent around Gabriel as the blackness of time travel descended and Ohin took them away from the Battle of Shanghai Pass.