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Excerpt from Barrowlands

Hesk felt an urgent, stupid impulse to join them in their heedless foray. The urge whispered to him, fierce and persuasive. It called to that eager lad first drawn to the Syraeic League Citadel by tales of adventure. Gems! Bracelets of gold! Ancient Djao charms worth a duke’s ransom! Lying here before you, for the taking! Be sure to get your share of the loot! He looked at the stranger, who appraised him with the eye of a preceptor. The look summoned a memory of a lictor at the Citadel named Pallas Rae. She had seemed impossibly old then, white haired and wrinkled, punctuating her rebuke with raps of a walking staff.

“Impulse, Hesk Atterley! Impulse is the enemy of a Syraeic agent. You must learn to master its siren song, lest it lead you to an early grave. Do we need to visit the vaults again? Should I have you count funerary urns of agents who couldn’t master the urgent voice that calls to come running? I’ve interred so many young men and women there. We have room for your urn, too, should you fail to discipline yourself.”


Hesk felt his face burning anew with shame. It was Lictor Rae who had turned him out of the Citadel a few months later. He recalled her parting words, highlighted with a disappointed grandmother’s frown: “If you wish to run headlong for your coffin, young man, do it without my approval. We need those capable of learning virtues they didn’t possess when they arrived on our doorstep. Patience, caution, wisdom. Acquire those virtues or join the brave and reckless in the grave.”

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