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A last thank you to the people of National Novel Writing Month. Without their inspiration, I never would have taken the madcap plunge into their world of complete hubris and exuberant imperfection. I just hope the story doesn’t make anyone vomit. Well, not for the writing, anyway.



Prologue



The spread of the contagion varies greatly in speed and volume based on the circumstances of the surrounding environs. Even so, in a densely packed area a single individual can soon form a mindless mob of surprising size.”

The Journal of Troius



Elder Patrician Merrus, head of the Circle of Magi of the Dreaming Tower, sighed and pressed the fingers of his right hand against the short grey hairs at his temple. This man, who could engulf an entire village in fiery ruin, summon and bind the Demonlords of the Void, or raise a tower of stone from bare dirt at a gesture, could do nothing to quell the rising rage of pain in his own head. He briefly considered turning to Nicoreus for succor, but allowed the notion to disappear. As the first Elder Patrician in five centuries to head a Trial of Expulsion, Merrus could not afford to appear weak. Even if the trial itself was threatening to turn into sham, as Elder Patrician he had the dignity of the last Arcane Academy to uphold.

Through the throbbing counterpoint in his head, Merrus listened to Escalion as he continued to enumerate the charges being leveled against one of their own. Merrus could not help but cringe inwardly as the pompous mage’s voice, so dreaded, detested, and widely imitated by a generation of students, merged and danced with the pounding in his head. The Elder imagined the loud ringing tone winging its way up into the ever-shadowed heights of the huge domed ceiling, awakening old ghosts of Patricians past. Escalion, oiled beard gleaming and short point thrusting out as punctuation, was oblivious to the fact that few in the room were actually listening to a word he said. Merrus’ quick glance confirmed his suspicion, as each of the Patricians of the Circle found means of diversion from the litany and avoided the spectacle of the orator and his presumed target.

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