Wizard of the North is the second book in the Soul Forge trilogy by Richard H Stephens. It picks up right where Soul Forge leaves off.
The new Emperor, Karvus, is shown the power of the Serpent’s Eye by Helleden, the sorcerer:
Karvus made a meaty fist and held the ring before Helleden’s face—oh, how easy it would be to smash the sorcerer’s teeth in. Swallowing the idea, he said, “I hold it this close to you and nothing. What good is it that? I’ll pretty well have to make love to the wizard if I’m to make use of this.”
“What you do with the wizard after you kill him is up to you.” Helleden’s dark eyes glowered. “That ring was forged during the onset of the wizard crusades to detect spellcasters. More importantly, it was used to locate the strongest wizards. It’s my understanding the Serpent’s Eye is triggered by the proximity of a notable wizard’s energy. The more adept the wizard, the easier it is for the Eye to locate them. Your ancestors used this ring to track down and eliminate the entire guild at Arcanium.”
“Except one,” Karvus corrected him.
“Then why doesn’t it react to your presence?”
Helleden smirked. “Come now. You don’t honestly think I would allow a simple trinket to detect my presence.”
The sorcerer did something with his fingers and lips so quickly that Karvus wasn’t sure he had done anything at all. The Serpent’s Eye flared to life, staring straight at Helleden.
Pain shot through Karvus’ finger. He flailed the affected hand around to no avail. Clutching the ring, he pulled it off and threw it to the ground, its touch burning his fingertips. “For the love of hell!”
The ring bounced and came to rest near Karvus’ feet. The eye stared up at Helleden.
“You see? You will know when the wizard draws nigh. The closer you become, the stronger the sensation.”
Karvus cupped his burning hand, afraid to see what the ring had done to his skin, but when he opened it and examined his finger, there were no signs that he had worn the talisman at all.
Helleden plucked the ring from the ground. The eye had gone dormant. He wiped off the dirt it had gathered and handed it back to the reluctant emperor. “I suggest you wear it around your neck once the ring detects the wizard.”
Karvus gaped. The sorcerer was mad if he thought he would entertain placing something as dangerous as the Serpent’s Eye around his neck.
“Oh, not to worry, my emperor,” Helleden said, as if he had read Karvus’ thoughts.
Karvus wasn’t certain the sorcerer hadn’t.
“As I said, the ring’s reaction is proportionate to how adept the magic user is. I can assure you that you will not find one who is even remotely as powerful as I.”
Karvus held the ring in his fist. The eye flared to life, for but a moment, its surface stinging his hand. He opened his fingers and jerked his hand away. The ring fell, the eye lifeless before it hit the ground.
Helleden’s smug face spoke of mischief. “Do not forget, my emperor. Bring me back the wizard’s staff. It is the only thing that will prove you have completed your task.”
A Bite of... Richard H Stephens
Q1: How much of you is in your hero/villain?
I would say my hero is very much like how I would envision myself were I to live in his world. Silurian Mintaka is a quiet person when it comes to meeting new people but he opens up and likes to joke around with those he knows well.
Silurian sticks up for the innocent and wronged people in society. Although never wishing to come to blows, when the gloves are dropped, Silurian is more than adept at opening a can of medieval whoop-ass.
Q2: Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?
I read almost strictly, but not entirely, fantasy, so this answer is slanted with that proviso in mind.
Is it important to include them all? No. If the story calls for any shade, that is perfectly fine. To purposely include as many shades as one can jam into a story is wrong, in my humble opinion, and actually belittles the causes the writer is trying to support. Writing about these shades without advancing the story serves two negative purposes.
One, it creates a disjointed storyline that does nothing but pull the reader from the story they are trying to enjoy.
Two is a little more complex. To point out a shade just for the sake of championing one’s belief comes across to me as preaching. If I’m reading a fictional story, especially fantasy or science fiction, the last thing I want is for someone to stuff their beliefs down my throat, even if I agree 100% with their point of view. I read to escape the pressures, anxiety, and craziness that real life throws at me in the real world, I don’t need to be reminded of every single one of humanity’s shortcomings.
If it is critical to the story, then have at it. Every story has some kind of underlying dilemma that people face—there has to be a conflict. If a writer wants to make a point, then pick one controversial subject and run with it. Show how the main character is affected by it and write an ending that profoundly demonstrates that the shade, at the end of the day, is just part of being human. Some people have black hair, some people have green eyes. We’re all unique. That’s what’s so special about each and every one of us.
Q3: Have you ever invented a language?
A language per se, not really, but I do have great fun writing characters like Olmar the giant who bastardizes the English language. Many experts say that a writer shouldn’t try to write, ‘dialect.’ I say, pfft. I believe when a reader reads Olmar’s speech, they will be endeared to him. Here is an example of how Olmar talks as a female archer gets impatient with his slow movement:
“Can’t you move any faster, Lunkhead? Sadyra’s probably dining with the king by now.”
“Bah,” Olmar snorted. “That’s ‘er just up ahead. Don’t ye knot yer knickers, lassie. Ye’ll be movin’ quick like, soon enough.”
Richard H Stephens in his own words
Born in Simcoe, Ontario, in 1965, I began writing circa 1974, a bored child looking for something to while away the long, summertime days. My penchant for reading The Hardy Boys led to an inspiration one sweltering summer afternoon when my best friend and I thought, “Hey, we could write one of those.” And so, I did.
As my reading horizons broadened, so did my writing. Star Wars inspired me to write a 600-page novel about outer space that caught the attention of a special teacher, Mr. Woodley, who encouraged me to keep writing.
A trip to a local bookstore saw the proprietor introduce me to Stephen R. Donaldson and Terry Brooks. My writing life was forever changed.
At 17, I left high school to join the working world to support my first son. For the next twenty-two years I worked as a shipper at a local bakery. At the age of 36, I went back to high school to complete my education. After graduating with honours at the age of thirty-nine, I became a member of our local Police Service, and worked for 12 years in the provincial court system.
In early 2017, I resigned from the Police Service to pursue my love of writing full-time. With the help and support of my lovely wife Caroline and our five children, I have now realized my boyhood dream.
You can find Richard H Stephens on Twitter and his website.