Troy Ailel left his farm behind upon his parents’ deaths, answering the call for Armsmen to protect the galaxy from an unknown evil. He expected to fight, but not the enemy he got, nor for the cause he sought.
A glance at the early afternoon sky. Troy Aielel shaded his eyes and stared eastward, laying aside his hoe. A dust devil on the horizon appeared innocuous, but he shivered in the warm, early spring air. Looking at the neat rows of cabbages, beans, and squash just sprouting, he wondered if he would ever see them ripen. Visitors in the middle of the day and midweek, stranger occurrences had surely occurred in his lifetime, yet he remembered none. He trudged toward his house. Nearing the door, he looked around for his parents. They would want to greet the visitors. Emptiness swept over him again. Six months ago yesterday, his parents had fallen ill and wasted away. To this day, rumors persisted as to what had taken them. As a result, Troy avoided the local village and most of his neighbors.
He trudged to where the farm edged the main route between Bendel Village and the local farms. A hovercart swerved toward him. Troy jumped aside. The hovercart skidded to a stop. His closest friends Ang Serra and Lou Borran tumbled out.
“Come on, Troy,” they shouted. “It’s happened. War! We’ve been called to duty.”
The Evans family has always been the Protector of the Phoenix. The heavy mantle has passed from father to oldest son for hundreds of years—until an accident in the breederies changes everything.
Trank’s dreams are of Wizard Camp and teaching about his wonderful world to young wizards and witches around the world. He has plans, none of which include working at the family’s legacy. After an accident in two of the breederies, he finds himself with the heavy mantle of Protector shoved on his shoulders, a mere day after his fourteenth birthday.
Not only is he thrust into the drudgery of protecting the Phoenixes, he has to continually fight to prove that he can do the job when the father of his best friend attempts to wrest the position of Protector from the Evans family. Can Trank do what is needed and prevent a reoccurrence of the accident that took so many of his family? Will he succumb to the intense work and quit to escape what he views as something that is making him so unhappy?
Southern pines rose well above the two boys hidden in the wooded area behind the small farmhouse. A gentle breeze blew across the tops of the trees bending them and swaying the upper trunks. Neither boy paid much attention after watching the action for a few moments. Both held sticks about two feet long and grinned at each other. Dust clouds rose from where they stood. At one end of the clearing, rocks lay scattered.
The taller boy’s skin resembled a rich cup of espresso. His companion’s complexion appeared so pale as to redden in the early spring sunshine breaking through the trees surrounding them. Shouts and laughter filled the air.
“I’ve got it,” the fair-skinned one called. “It’s not fair, Gordon. Your last three landed without a problem. You’ve been practicing.”
His companion bowed. “I’m not a Protector, young Trank. I’ve got more time.”
Trank Evans, youngest son of the current Protector of the Phoenix, grimaced. Dad and his five older brothers worked in the Phoenix Breederies, Trank worked on the farm—vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and farm animals required his attention every day. While he did get help from his baby sister, Marni, Trank hated life on a farm.
There lies in all of us darkness, an evil core which may hinder our decisions. How we deal with that darkness is what defines us as human—or not.
Herm has been the protector of the forest for many years. He now has the duty to choose his successor—and his three candidates all personify the statement he greets them with. A braggart, a self-proclaimed coward, and a woman who seems unable to understand her position. How can Herm select a new protector with such a terrible collection of individuals?
“It is your time, Herm. Your moment to choose a successor. You may not waver, nor may you consider our decision a mere suggestion.”
The voice came from within and without the forest. Herm bowed to the decision of the elders that had been presented to him. Granted, he’d brought up this issue himself and had been overseeing the cycle of replacement for many weeks on end. But there truly was no qualified male that he’d yet to see capable of doing as he’d done for these many years.
“You must look upon all the candidates with equal consideration,” a female voice commanded him. “It’s time to stop thinking that women aren’t capable of doing the duty you’ve shouldered all this time. Didn’t I do well in my tenure in your position?”
Shame flushed him. The greatest of the Elders was a woman. She’d picked him for his duty, yet he still felt it was a man’s job, one too difficult for nearly all women on Earth.
“Do you understand?” a third voice asked.
“I do.” Herm nodded. “And I shall obey.”