The Stone Mage Wars, Vol. 1: Journey to the Fringe (Hardcover)
Long ago, Stone Mages were revered in Lyria. They were men and women who could use powerful tradestones to harness their unique gifts of wind, rain, and earth to help those around them. But war with the Southern realm has threatened the mages with extinction. The truth about the tradestones has been lost, and the remaining magic is dwindling.
When Princess Ivy, the beloved daughter of the king, is abducted, it seems that all hope for Lyria is lost as well. But when an unlikely group of loyal subjects embarks on a dangerous journey to the far-distant Fringe, the hope of restoring crown and kingdom is renewed. Among the group is Simon, a fool with wisdom beyond his years; Gilda, a nonmagical witch; Burr, a young thief; and Merrick, a jaded sea captain. Their quest will test their courage, their strength, and their friendship.
But at the Fringe, they encounter a truth that will change everything they thought they knew about themselves, and this small band of heroes must embrace the power that is their birthright and stand together as Stone Mages of Lyria.
- Size: 6 x 9
- Pages: 368
- Published: 05/2012
- Book on CD: Unabridged
- Number of Discs: 8
- Run Time: Approx. 10.5 hrs.
About the Author
Kelli Swofford Nielsen graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree in teaching English. She and her husband, Jeff, live in Chicago, Illinois, with their two sons. Journey to the Fringe is Kelli’s debut novel.
Simon Adler was a fool. At least that was his profession, a profession at which, lately, he had found very little success.
He now sat at the bar of Wentley Tavern shaking his head at the motley group of villagers for whom he had just performed. He had turned out his usual routine, but the audience had seemed less than impressed with his array of sword tricks, jokes, and balancing acts.
“Worked up a thirst, then, boy?” Karl asked from behind the bar.
“Yes,” Simon replied, “for water.” He looked once again at the drunken men surrounding him. He felt saddened by the state of his fellow villagers, brought down by their fears of Southern invasion, their displacement from their lands, and their daily struggle to coax crops from the unforgiving rocky soil. “They don’t seem to be taking to me much these days, do they?”
Karl handed him a tall mug of water. “True,” he said, “but then, you aren’t exactly givin’ them what they want, are you?”
Simon shrugged. “My routine hasn’t changed much—same old tricks.”
“The problem is you make the tricks look good. You are a brilliant acrobat, and a witty comedian. You are skillful. People want a fool to be foolish—trip on banana peels and grin and spout nonsense. These men want fools to make them feel better about themselves, not to remind them of what they lack.”
Simon sighed. The tricks of his trade had always come strangely easy to him. He wanted to make good use of his talent; but on a deeper level, a fool’s humor was based in truth, and today’s truths were not well-received. “They didn’t used to be like this.”
“No, they didn’t,” Karl replied as he moved down the bar to help another customer. “But that has very little to do with you, or even them, as you well know.”
Simon nodded. He did know. He mentally turned back time four years to when his people had been forced to abandon their farmlands and homes to move into the hills. With the increasingly eminent threat of Southern invasion, King Than had opted to forfeit Lyria and move the people back to the relative safety of the mountains and the ancient castle that still stood at the mountainside. This choice made some sense, considering the Lyrians had almost no army, and the nobles who might have possessed any bargaining power had mostly sold off their lands and property and bought ship passage to safer territory.
Those remaining either moved to the mountain valley for safety or stayed behind to face the Southern warriors. Simon’s brother and father had been among the latter. Simon, at the age of fourteen, had been trusted to bring his mother and younger siblings to safety in the mountains. The men who stayed behind were inevitably defeated. His father, Marcus, was wounded and his elder brother, Roger, killed. The early winter was likely the only thing that kept the Southerners from advancing through the mountain pass to face the weakened Lyrians. The Southern warriors, unaccustomed to the severe cold of Lyrian winters, had fled south once more. The only mystery was why they hadn’t returned after the frost ended.
Simon looked around the tavern once more. He knew many of these men had experienced losses similar to his. He felt sympathy for them, able farmers, barely subsisting in their new mountain homes. Some had been sailors and merchants whose fine vessels were either abandoned to the South or transformed into smelly fishing boats.
Furthermore, three years later, there was still the feeling of unease that came from knowing the Southerners might return any day. The unrest and fear had only intensified since the disappearance of the younger princess. People seemed more suspicious and likely to whisper and look over their shoulders. Simon found that his own dreams had become nightmarish and fraught with worry. Recently, he had even taken to dreaming about the princess repeatedly. In these dreams was always the overwhelming taste of her despair and the unmistakable urge to aid her.
Simon had never met the Princess Ivy, but he felt the unrest of her absence, as he was sure many Lyrians did. Three months had passed since her disappearance, with no word as to her whereabouts. The king had become more withdrawn than ever, and no one ever saw the elder princess, Mara, anymore. After the death of Queen Achlys, a beautiful but somewhat weak and distant woman, King Than had chosen for his wife a commoner, Cora. She was not the dark beauty Achlys was, but she was wise, strong, and lighthearted. Her subjects knew her and loved her. When she died, the people placed their hope and faith in her daughter, Ivy—who was now gone, or even dead.
He fingered the dark bronze tradestone that hung about his neck, the fool’s tradestone. He smiled as he considered the irony of his task—to entertain, to make laugh those whose fears and disappointed hopes made them the toughest crowd imaginable. He thought of his Uncle Miles, who had passed his stone to Simon when it became clear he would have no sons of his own. Simon knew tradestones were more ornamental than anything, and only some still chose to wear the inherited pieces, but he had been flattered to accept this stone from his uncle.
“You have to know your audience, Simon,” he had said. “You can’t make fun of nobles when you perform in the palace, and a crowd in the town square is not going to have an appreciation for court humor.” Simon had listened carefully to the advice, nodding his fair head with pretended understanding. “Learn to read the faces in the crowd. Take their mood and use it to your advantage. Decide whether or not they are interested in a spectacle, or just someone to make them think. If you must feed them truth, first coat it with whatever sugar will make it sweetest to them. Give them what they want to see.”
Simon considered this advice in light of his current crowd. He was overwhelmed by the impossibility of giving them what they were looking for by a mere act. He wished his uncle were here now to advise him. But Miles had been like many fools, wandering and without family of his own. He had gone away from Lyria to try his craft in an outlying kingdom before the displacement and had never returned. Now Simon could only imagine what he might say if he were present.
The cold air of an open door moved him from his reverie, and he turned to discover the cause of the draft. A weary looking man in the king’s uniform entered. He took a seat at the bar just down from where Simon was sitting and brushed snow from his shoulders and hair.
Karl passed him a mug and leaned on the bar near him. “What news, friend?”
“No news,” he gulped his drink. “There lies the problem.”
“Ah,” Karl responded. “You seek the princess.”
The man nodded his assent. “A useless task. We are asked to search high and low, in all the places except those where we know she has some chance of being.”
“Yes, the South . . .”
“That’s what we assumed, but we have found witnesses who swear she was taken away to the harbor, not back through the pass.”
Karl raised an eyebrow, “Why the harbor? Where would they take her?”
The man looked around the room, catching Simon’s eye before Simon pretended newfound interest in his water. The soldier lowered his voice. “We think they have taken her to the Fringe.”
Karl was not convinced. “Impossible. No point in doin’ that. They can’t use her as a bargaining piece if she’s dead. Even if they did decide to kill her, why go to the trouble of takin’ her out there to do it?”
“Don’t think they took her to bargain. Besides,” he lowered his voice more, making it necessary for Simon to lean forward in order to hear him, “her mother died at sea, and you know the old stories of that place. People were dropped there, banished, with nothing but the dinghy under them, the oar in their hand, and their hopes against all the bad luck of the place and the ones who had been left there before. The Southerners aren’t negotiators, they’re monsters. They meant her abduction as a slap in the face, a call to come out and fight, before they come in. They’re just playing with us.”
“She could have survived, even the Fringe. Why doesn’t the king send soldiers after her, then? Why the useless searching?”
“The chances are slim. People have gotten close enough to the shoal to see it, but none who tried to approach the island has ever returned. Besides, the king must know that he’d just be sacrificing his men to send them—that might have been another of the South’s motives in taking her there. I know I wouldn’t go. The place is nothing more than a dead end, a death trap. I think he just keeps us looking to maintain the appearance of hope, so that even if he feels the slap on the face and the inevitable threat the South poses, he doesn’t want his people to feel it. If the kingdom knows Princess Ivy is dead, they will have lost not only their hope but what they see as their tie to the crown and their willingness to fight. As Lyrians, we connect with Ivy, like we did with her mother. The Southerners knew what they were doing when they took her.”
Across the room a brawl broke out between some of the men. Karl rushed away to calm them. Simon sat where he was, heart pounding against the stone at his chest. The feeling of his dreams was once again in his mind, the taste of despair in his mouth. Mostly, he felt again the unexplainable but undeniable urge to find Princess Ivy and bring her back. It was all he could see. He wondered why the rest of the kingdom did not seem to feel as he did.
Simon could understand King Than’s wish to maintain morale in the kingdom and safeguard his soldiers, but he felt that to do nothing to save the princess was wrong. He knew how his father felt about King Than’s passive leadership. He considered the price his father and Roger had paid to do something about it. He thought about his good mother and younger siblings at home, and what would happen to them if the South invaded. He thought of his own skill, the ease with which he could wield a sword. Finally, he looked around him once more at the brawling, drinking, depressed men of his village and wished that he could give this crowd just what they needed.
A Great Read for Teens and Adults!
by Sheila - reviewed on September 17, 2012
Journey to the Fringe is a fantasy with a very interesting world. Though it took me a few chapters to get into the story, after I became acquainted with all of the characters, the story took off for me. A unique aspect of this book is how many different POV's (points of view) are used in this novel. I felt that this allowed more story to be told. If this book had only been told by one point of view, I don't think it would have been as rich and bold. I loved many of the characters such as Princess Ivy, Simon, Laith, Captain Merrick, Gilda and of course the old seer Medwin. All of these characters have a gift that makes them a Stone Mage. All of their individual gifts are Earth elementals harnessed to the wind, rain and earth. Princess Ivy can control "space" and open up portal doors and Simon can control the gift of time. I loved the scenes where they used their unique gifts. The characters are in a battle for their homeland, Lyria. It has been taken over by the evil Abaddon, who with his strong, Southern warriors want to annihilate the Lyrian people. There is a lot of action and great battles in this book. The characters are so well written that you care about them quickly. They each have their own personal battles and reasons to be journeying to the Fringe. I can't wait to read more in this series. The first book can actually stand on it's own, without any other books to come. This book is written for the Young Adult Fantasy reader, but with the many great adult characters, adult readers will also connect with this book. To read more of my reviews go to: http://www.whynotbecauseisaidso.blogspot.com