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About the Book
Eye of Obscurance
Fate of Wizardoms Book One
by Jeffrey L. Kohanek
Published 18 May 2021
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery
Page Count: 300
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
In a realm where wizards rule, magic reigns supreme.
Power. The ambitious thirst for it.
In a realm where wizards rule, those able to claim a throne are granted the power of a god.
How can one defeat a god?
A clever thief, a determined acrobat, and a troubled dwarf are joined by an old storyteller as they attempt the impossible: Assassinate a wizard lord.
Their slim hope lies in the power of an enchanted amulet, the Eye of Obscurance.
These unwitting pawns are trapped in a contest of wizards. The stakes: The fate of the world.
From bestselling author Jeffrey L. Kohanek comes the first novel in an epic fantasy saga where magic reigns, wizards thirst for power, and the world teeters on the edge of breaking, perfect for readers who enjoy Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, or Robert Jordan.
Six Years Ago
“Pucker your lips,” Hedra said, pursing her own. “Like this.”
Jerrell did as instructed, sticking his lips out so the woman could rub a glossy substance on them. She stood back and tilted her head, her eyes narrowed in thought.
“You make a surprisingly attractive girl, Jerrell. I could get you a job here. We some of our patrons request pretty boys.”
“No, thank you. I really wouldn’t enjoy that type of thing.” He held his hands up in apology. “No offense.”
The woman shrugged. Dressed in a thin shift, the simple motion oozed sensuality and heated his blood. “I am not offended. I have a job I do well, and it earns me a good living. Sometimes I even enjoy it.”
He shifted closer and placed his hand on her hip. “You seemed to enjoy yourself last night.”
She raised an eyebrow. “All my partners believe the same. Sometimes it is a performance. Sometimes it is the truth. How do you know which applied to you?”
He chuckled. “Fair enough. Just to prevent any unnecessary wounds to my pride, I’ll believe your affection was earned.”
Hedra turned and pulled a dress from the wardrobe, handing it to him. “Put this on. It will be a bit snug at the waist, but it should fit.”
Jerrell ran his hands down the corset he wore, the chest filled out with a pair of grapefruit. “Are you calling me fat?” he said in a high-pitched voice as he held his hand to his cheek in dramatic fashion.
She laughed. “Not at all. In fact, you are one of the fittest men who has ever visited my room. However, even a thin young man such as yourself is wider at the waist than a fit woman.”
He slid his legs into the dress and noticed the smooth skin on his shins. It felt odd to have his arms and legs shaved, but Hedra had insisted. He pulled the dress up and slid his arms through. The half-sleeves were tight on his upper arms and ended at his shoulders, leaving his upper chest exposed. That had also been shaved.
He spun around. “Will you button me up?”
“Can’t do it yourself?” Her hands worked the buttons as she spoke. “Perhaps all men should do this once or twice, just to gain a better appreciation for the pains we women go through to look beautiful.”
“I saw how you look in the morning, without the makeup, jewelry, or fancy garments. I doubt you ever look anything less than gorgeous.”
She finished and turned him around, running her hand from his shoulder across his upper chest, before leaning in and kissing him. “You are smooth, Jerrell. I’ll give you that.”
He smiled. “You kissed a girl. How did it feel?”
With an arched brow, she gave him a sideways look. “You think that was the first time?”
“Oh, now I am curious.”
Hedra shook her head. “A story for another time. You paid me to help you, and we are finished. Take a look in the mirror.”
He crossed the room and stared into the oval-shaped mirror. The person staring back at him was unfamiliar, save for the eyes.
His brown hair was now covered by a black wig, piled at the top with curls hanging down his upper back. Rouge on his clean-shaven cheeks made his face appear narrow, the dark lines of kohl about his eyes making them bolder, the red on his lips making them fuller. With his fruit-stuffed corset and the padding strapped to his hips, he filled out the striking red dress in an impressive fashion.
Hedra appeared behind him and reached around, holding the mask before his face so he could see through the eyeholes.
“This is what they wear?” he asked.
“Yes. Masquerade balls are the current trend among the wizards, adding an air of mystery to the event. You must admit, it will be difficult for anyone to know you are a man by appearance alone.” She frowned. “You do know how to walk, right?”
Hedra sashayed across the room with one hand on her hip, her backside shifting from side to side in a fluid, sensual motion. Jerrell had to force himself to pay attention to how she walked rather than merely enjoying the moment. He followed at the same, slow pace, doing his best to emulate her.
Hedra laughed. “That was a bit much, but it will do. Just be sure to keep an easy pace, as if you own the moment and wish to draw everyone’s attention.”
She handed him white gloves and a pair of slippers. “These are Daniella’s. She has the largest hands and feet among the girls here. I just hope they fit.”
Jerrell was short of stature for a man, average height for a woman. Still, he couldn’t do anything about the size of his feet. He sat on her bed and pulled the first slipper on. His foot barely fit, leaving his toes cramped. Sighing in resignation, he forced his foot into the other and glanced toward the window. The sunlight had faded as dusk claimed the streets of Lionne.
“It’s growing dark. I had best be going.”
Hedra walked him to the door, opening it for him. “I wish you well.”
“Thanks, Hedra.” He took her hand. “I know I can trust your discretion.”
She smiled and held a black shawl toward him. “Discretion is the soul of my job. Loose lips shorten a whore’s career. If I shared stories of the men who have come through this door, I would surely be dead by now.”
Jerrell accepted the shawl and draped it across his shoulders as he descended the stairs. He passed through the lounge while slipping the gloves onto his hands. Five women sat in the room, two of whom were occupying male customers. Both men eyed Jerrell as he strolled past, testing his womanly walk. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the men staring at his backside, giving him an odd mixture of discomfort and satisfaction.
Stepping outside the brothel, Jerrell climbed into the waiting carriage. He had paid the driver to pick up a brunette at dusk with instructions on where to bring her. The man was to ask no questions and had been paid extra to do so.
The carriage lurched into motion and eased down the dark streets of Lionne. Jerrell pulled the curtain back and stared out the window, watching the city slide past.
The foot traffic had thinned, and enchanted lanterns lit the intersections with soft, blue light. At the second intersection, the carriage turned, and the driver drove it through the eastern gate. The wagon soon began climbing upward, navigating the switchbacks to the high wizard’s castle. Situated at the top of the bluff, warm light in the windows made the building appear like a giant overlooking the city. The man currently holding the castle undoubtedly believed that was the case. Jerrell dropped the curtain and sat back, considering what he knew of the high wizard as he tied the mask to his head.
Montague had come into the position at a young age, just a year earlier. Wizards took years to study and practice their powers before they could successfully challenge a high wizard. Most did not reach the exalted position until they neared forty or beyond. Montague had challenged and defeated Garue, the previous high wizard, at the young age of twenty-eight.
Stories of the man had helped Jerrell devise his plan. Montague might be skilled with magic, but the power had gone to his head. His own pride and lustful nature were his weaknesses, and Jerrell sought to capitalize on them to get what he needed.
The carriage reached the gate outside the castle and stopped with a lurch. The driver handed the invitation Jerrell had stolen to the waiting guards, who read it and peered inside the window before waving the driver along. Moments later, the carriage stopped, and the door opened.
A man dressed in a dark blue coat over a white doublet bowed. “Good evening, Wizardess.” He held his hand toward Jerrell, who took it gently before climbing out. The man gestured toward the open castle doors. “The party is inside.”
“Thank you,” Jerrell said in a high voice.
Deliberately and with his hips swaying, Jerrell climbed the stairs and entered the castle. He paused inside the doorway to scan the crowd.
A vaulted, mural-covered ceiling capped an entrance hall three stories tall. The massive chandelier hanging over the room held dozens of lit candles. Wizards and wizardesses mingled in the space – the men dressed in robes of various colors, the women in gowns. Masks, decorated with sequins that sparkled when they moved, covered the upper half of the guests’ faces.
Numerous men in the room noticed Jerrell, their gazes sweeping the length of his body. He ignored them. He was only seeking one man. His head on a swivel, he scanned the room, stopping when a man with dark hair descended the stairs at the far end of the hall. Dressed in a silvery robe with shimmering stitching and a dark blue sash, the man was difficult to miss. His squinty eyes and narrow lips detracted from his appearance, but Jerrell was aware of the man’s ego.
Montague reached the floor and shook a wizard’s hand, nodding as he greeted him and the wizardess on the man’s arm. Jerrell began walking across the floor, focused on Montague, drawing the high wizard’s gaze. The man did not flinch but drank in the view as Jerrell advanced with slow, easy steps and swaying hips.
When he reached Montague, he touched the man’s hand as Hedra had taught him. “High Wizard, I thank you for inviting me.” His finger ran up Montague’s arm, as if he could not resist doing so. “Your home is exquisite, nearly holding up to the image of the master of the castle,” Jerrell said in his best sultry voice.
Montague smiled. “Yes. Welcome to Castle Montague.” He tilted his head and narrowed his already squinty eyes. “I didn’t get your name.”
“Oh, sorry,” Jace held his gloved hand to his chest, purposely drawing his attention there. “I am Terissa Wrenthal, from Shear. I have come in my father’s stead.”
The man has fallen ill. Poison has a way of doing that to people.
The smile returned to the man’s face as he took her hand, bent over, and kissed it. “Ah. The eldest of the legendary Wrenthal girls. I am graced by your presence. While it is disappointing your father could not join me, I believe I have come out ahead in the exchange.”
Jerrell smiled coyly, knowing he had the man on the hook. A few drinks, a bit of dancing, and just enough physical contact would reel him in.
* * *
Montague opened the doors with a flourish, revealing his sprawling bedchamber. “Here we are, as promised.” He waved his hand while rubbing his fingers together. Jerrell sensed the tingle of magic as flame bloomed from candles on both nightstands and the table in the sitting area. “This is where the magic happens.” He laughed while escorting Jerrell in, the pair walking arm in arm.
Jerrell giggled in his high voice while playfully hitting the man. “Oh, you nasty man.”
“I can do nasty.” Montague waved his arm, and the door slammed closed.
He gripped Jerrell by the hips and leaned in. Jerrell had not expected the kiss but knew he had no choice but to comply or his ploy would fall apart. Montague’s lips were surprisingly soft, and Jerrell had to admit, the man was adept at kissing. Finally, Jerrell pushed him away, flashing a coy smile.
“Do you mind if I wash up?” Jerrell asked. “A woman must properly prepare herself.”
“Of course, my dear.” Montague gestured past her. “The washroom is through those doors.”
Jerrell walked toward the room, trying not to rush. What remained of the hair on his arms stood on end as the candles in the room ahead of him lit up. Once in the washroom, he closed the door and moved to the counter, where a bowl waited beside a pitcher of clean water and a towel. From between the two grapefruit on his chest, he pulled out a vial and slid it into his left glove, uncapping it, the vial facing upward. The mirror in front of him reflected a woman who was far more nervous than she appeared. Montague’s ease with magic had reminded Jerrell of the risk involved. Any wizard was dangerous, but the man outside the door was a high wizard – one who had defeated and killed his predecessor.
He took a deep breath, gathered his courage, and shifted to the door. When he opened it, he was caught unprepared for what waited for him.
Montague had shed his robes and now stood completely naked, save for a gold bracelet secured around one ankle. The man was even thinner than Jerrell had suspected. Judging by the sight before him, Jerrell wondered what exactly had created the man’s ego, because he was not impressed.
“My, you are quick,” Jerrell said.
“Come, join me.” Montague gestured toward the bed. “I will prove I am far from quick.”
Jerrell noticed a decanter filled with brandy and a pair of glasses on a table beside the wall. “Yes, of course.” He walked to the table. “But first, a drink.”
Jerrell pulled the stopper from the decanter and poured two glasses. He dropped the stopper on the table and fumbled to pick it up with one gloved hand while the other hovered over one of the glasses and tipped up, allowing the liquid in the vial to pour into the brandy. Montague’s hands gripped Jerrell’s hips, and the man began kissing his neck. Jerrell capped the decanter and turned, handing him the tainted glass of brandy.
“A toast,” Jerrell said in his sultry voice. “To High Wizard Montague. May you someday take over for Lord Malvorian.”
Montague smiled. “I can drink to that.” He then slammed back the half-filled glass as if it were water.
Jerrell took a sip and tried to back away, but the man was too aggressive. He pulled Jerrell close with one hand pressed against his lower back, the other groping Jerrell’s chest as his mouth went to his neck.
The man stopped and pulled back, his face twisted in a frown. With both hands, he squeezed the fake breasts, and Jerrell knew it was trouble. Before he could react, weaves of magic wrapped about his wrists and ankles, lifting him off the floor. His dress suddenly tore open down the front, followed by his corset. The grapefruit fell to the floor, along with the clothing, leaving Jerrell in only his smallclothes, slippers, and white gloves.
“I don’t suppose you find this funny?” Jerrell asked in his normal voice.
“You!” Montague roared. “How dare you!”
The man flung his hand open, and Jerrell slammed against the ten-foot-tall ceiling, smacking the back of his head and back. The wig fell to the floor. He blinked at the pain in his head and stars in his eyes, wheezing for air. Suspended, his vision cleared, and he noticed the wizard holding his own head.
“What…” He wobbled and fell to one knee. “What did you do to me?”
When the wizard fell face-first onto the floor, his magic faltered. Jerrell plummeted, unable to right himself. He landed on the man’s back, the impact driving the wind from Jerrell’s lungs. Gasping for air, he rolled off the naked man and held his stomach. As his breath returned, he crawled forward and lifted the man’s foot. He blinked at the bracelet, recalling it from memory.
After stealing the bracelet from an ancient castle a year prior, Jerrell had sold it to Montague’s captain of the guard for ten gold coins. Within a few weeks, Montague had used the power of the bracelet to defeat his predecessor and claim rule of Lionne. By then, Jerrell had left the city, not returning until now, thanks to his latest contract. He was about to yield a second solid profit from the same bracelet in a short span of time.
The irony drew a smile while Jerrell searched for the trigger. It took him a moment to locate it, and when the bracelet unclasped, he slid if off Montague’s ankle. On the inside, he spotted the scrawling silver of the enchantment.
Bracelet in hand, Jerrell ran to Montague’s closet and donned an unassuming dark blue robe. It was too long, so he hiked it up the best he could and used a yellow sash to tie it at the waist. He then went to the washroom and washed the makeup from his face, rubbing the remainder away with a towel.
Once back in the bedroom, he stopped and considered what to do with the man lying face down on the rug. Inspired, he lifted Montague onto the bed and propped him up against the headboard. He then used strips of the ruined dress to tie the man’s wrists to the posters and another to gag him. The entire time, Montague remained unconscious from the sleeping drug Jerrell had slipped him.
Once finished, Jerrell collected the two grapefruit and walked to the doors, peering out before walking into the hallway, pulling the doors closed. The third floor was empty, but he heard the party continuing downstairs. He descended past the second story until he stood a few steps above the crowd.
“The high wizard!” Jerrell shouted. “He has fallen ill. You must hurry!”
Servants and a number of guests rushed up the stairs, pushing past him.
Whistling, Jerrell walked through the crowd and out the door, juggling the two grapefruit, while the enchanted bracelet remained hidden in his robes. From inside came cries of surprise followed by laughter. They have found the high wizard. A big grin split his face as he nodded to the confused carriage driver and climbed inside, knocking four times to signal their departure.
With a snap of the reins, the carriage began the trek back to the city. Jerrell would be gone before morning, returning to Eleighton with his prize. Wizard Gurgan would reward him as agreed, and the legend of Jerrell Landish would grow even more impressive.
“What a wonderful evening,” Jerrell said while staring out the window at the moonlit harbor.
About the Author
Jeffrey L. Kohanek grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his young imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer’s imagination.
Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses that imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire young adults and the child within us all..
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