Tamora Pierce's 'Tempests Of Slaughter' Is The Origin Story Of One Of Her Most Beloved Characters — EXCERPT

Brace yourselves, Tamora Pierce fans, because the legendary fantasy author is back with a brand new adventure about the beloved world of Tortall. Tempests and Slaughter, the first installment of The Numair Chronicles, a new YA series that reveals the origins of the realm's most powerful mage, isn't out Feb. 6 from Random House Books for Young Readers, but Bustle is proud to share an exclusive excerpt from the exciting new novel below!

Before he became the all-powerful mage Numair Salmalín, Arram Draper was just a young student at the Imperial University of Carthak. It is there that he meets the two people — Varice, a talented and beautiful young girl, and Ozorne, the bitter "leftover prince" — who will change the course of not only his destiny, but the destiny of Tortall. As he struggles to make friends, fend of enemies, and stay out of trouble, Arram only just begins to understand the unlimited power of his remarkable Gift.

The perfect book for die-hard Pierce fans and newcomers alike, Tempests and Slaughter is a fun fantasy adventure that will leave readers wondering one thing: when does the next installment come out?

Can't wait to get your hands on Tempests and Slaughter? For more information about Tamora Pierce's new series, visit Underlined for book news and updates, and enjoy the exclusive excerpt, below:

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce, $13, Amazon

September 2–October 14, 435

The Imperial University of Carthak, The School for Mages

On that hot day, Arram Draper was bored. He had taken his turn at the table in front of the class. There he was the first to be successful in raising a five-inch-tall spout of water from the broad, shallow dish. He also raised scowls from his older classmates. Carefully ignoring them, he lowered the spout into the remaining water. Master Girisunika nodded, marked her slate, and beckoned to the next student without so much as a word of congratulations.

Arram watched the others work the same spell, except that it wasn’t the same. So far they had all made mistakes or failed completely. Finally he gazed at a nearby window. Its sturdy wooden shutters were closed, the spells on it shimmering in his gaze. They were there to keep any accidental magics from escaping the room. Still, Arram didn’t need to see outside to let his imagination go free.

Arram watched the others work the same spell, except that it wasn’t the same. So far they had all made mistakes or failed completely.

He wished he’d had more time to fiddle with this spell. It wasn’t hard, no matter how much his classmates struggled with it. They only had to lift out a touch of their magical Gifts, a fingertip’s worth, set it on the water’s center, then lift it up. Imagining it, his eyes half closed, Arram saw how he could raise the water into the air, higher even than Girisunika had done. With three finger-touches, he could create a pretty three-armed fountain. He had an image in his head of a dish ringed by spouts of water when Girisunika tapped his shoulder with her long pointer.

“Do we bore you”—she consulted her list of students—“Arram Draper? I know that you did the problem already, but it is possible to learn from others.”

Arram stared up at her, begging her silently to leave him alone. He was getting that panicky knot in his throat. He had tried not to get her attention this term. She didn’t know his unhappy way of getting into trouble, particularly when he was rattled.

Arram stared up at her, begging her silently to leave him alone. He was getting that panicky knot in his throat.

“Answer me, boy.”

Mithros help him, he had forgotten her question in his distress. “Excuse me?”

“I was told you need special handling, but I had no idea it meant you were deficient in mind,” she snapped. “Who helped you to do this spell before? Speak up!”

“N-nobody, Master. Lady. Instructor,” he stammered.

None of the titles he’d tried made her happy. “I am a master,” she snapped. “Not a master of water, but sufficiently educated in it to teach this class.”

They were surrounded by giggles now. Master Girisunika jerked from side to side, trying to spot the offenders, but the students wouldn’t let her catch them. They’d had plenty of practice since Arram entered their lives.

Thwarted, she turned back to him. “We’ll see,” she said, and tapped the worktable with her pointer. “Do it again.” As the students murmured, Girisunika swung around to glare at them. “If you helped him before, you will not help him now,” she told them. Once Arram stood behind the table, she took a place at his shoulder. “All of you, hands on desks. Should anyone move a finger, they will get punishment work for the rest of the term.”

He was as nervous as he’d ever been in a class, but he had to defend himself. “No one aided me.”

She slapped his head with her palm. “I did not ask for a debate, boy. I gave you an order. Now do the spell.”

He raised his hands. They shook. “I can’t concentrate,” he said hopelessly.

“A mage in the field must concentrate at all times,” she snapped. “Report to me after your other lessons for three weeks. Do the spell!

The giggles that filled the air stopped when she glared at his classmates.

With her attention locked on the others, Arram closed his eyes, sucked in a deep breath, and held it. Sometimes that helped. His magical Gift boiled in his chest, like the River Zekoi in flood season. He called the sparkling black magical fire up and let some of it stream through one shaking finger. Over the wide dish on the table, he wrote the spell-signs, using his power for ink.

With her attention locked on the others, Arram closed his eyes, sucked in a deep breath, and held it. Sometimes that helped.

It worked just as it did the first time. A vine of liquid rose into the air. This time he let it stretch as high as the master’s nose instead of the five inches she had required. His fellow students hissed; they always did when he succeeded where they failed.

Arram glared at the water as it dropped into the bowl. It wasn’t fair. Just because they couldn’t work a bit of magic, they expected him to drag his feet.

He faced the master. “I did it all alone,” he insisted. “I could do more.”

She folded her arms over her chest, looking as if she’d gulped sour milk. “Oh, truly? What more could you do, pray?”

He turned back to the dish. Placing drops of his Gift on his forefingers, he touched each to a different spot on his slender column of water. It split. Now three ropes of water flowed up and over, then back into the dish, like his favorite garden fountain. Feeling bolder, he turned his hand and called the spouts. They went two feet higher. At that height, the water splashed onto the dish, the table, Arram, Girisunika, and the students in the first two rows.

“Too messy,” he said, frowning in concentration. All of his focus and power were locked on his creation. It was a bad habit of his, paying attention only to his spell.

Carefully he reached into the dish and spun the water sunwise once. It twirled, winding the three spouts like thread on a spindle until they shaped a twist in the center. The twist became a miniature cyclone, swaying to and fro.

Arram frowned. There wasn’t enough water for people to see the glass-like twists in his miniature cyclone. The bowl was nearly dry. He sent his Gift into the jar by the table, only to find less than a palmful of water inside.

He yanked it up and threw it into the bowl. Some of the students in the front began to snicker. Girisunika took a deep breath and announced with heavy meaning, “If you are finished, Draper . . .”

He was not finished. He could make it even more interesting. He scowled at the bowl and the cyclone, clenching his unsteady hand. Strength ran through him, coming from the floor—no, from beneath the floor. It soared up through his Gift almost as it had at the harbor six weeks ago. The feel of it was different, heavier.

He was not finished. He could make it even more interesting. He scowled at the bowl and the cyclone, clenching his unsteady hand.

It lanced through his hand and into the thin water cyclone. Without warning, the liquid shot into the air and sprayed throughout the room. Arram yelped and his fellow students howled as everyone was drenched.

“Calm yourselves!” Girisunika shouted. Raising a hand that shone with orange-red fire, she drew the water away from the students and back to the front of the room. It climbed until it formed a foot-deep pool-like block that enclosed Arram, the master, and the worktable. On the table, in the dish and above it, water continued to spout.

“Draper,” the master said, “where is the water coming from?”

Arram glanced at her face. She was sweating. “Where?” he asked blankly.

“Yes, dolt,” she snapped. “Where did you get the water? There is far more here than before. Stop it at once!”

He had no more idea of the water’s source than he did of the wind that thrust his relatives’ ship out of the harbor. He scratched his head. He’d used no water signs other than those he’d placed at the spell’s start. The strength of it must have come from that strange shove of power that had gripped him.

His imagination built a picture of his cyclone’s thin tail passing through the dish, the table, and down through the marble floor. He bent and squinted at the table. The deepening pond of water had sprouted a rope of itself. Somehow it passed through the wood to feed his creation above.

Arram ducked underwater to find the source. A moment later a rough hand grabbed his collar and dragged him into the air. He struggled and spat. One of the bigger students had a strong grip on him.

“What are you doing?” Master Girisunika roared. “Do you want to drown? No one else can undo your mess!” She motioned for his captor to release Arram. The youth obeyed.

“Draper, what have you created?” she demanded.

Arram held his head in his hands, but it was useless. Another surge ran through him, through his Gift. He lost control.

The spout exploded against the ceiling. The entire workroom was waist-high in water. The students were pounding on the doors. As was the rule when magic was being worked in class, the doors were closed and sealed to prevent outsiders from entering and causing just the kind of mess they presently had.

Arram held his head in his hands, but it was useless. Another surge ran through him, through his Gift. He lost control.

“Undo this gods-cursed spell, boy!” Girisunika yelled.

Arram shook from top to toe. They would send him home; he would never learn proper magic. Worse, they would lock him in one of those special cells the other boys talked about once the candles were doused. The cells where no one could use their Gift. He would be cut off forever from the thing he loved most, all because this instructor wouldn’t leave him alone!

One of the doors slammed open, knocking aside the students standing there. Water flooded into the hall. An elderly black woman and a snowy-haired white man, both in the red robes of master mages, stepped into the classroom once the depth was down to ankle-level.

Flood or no, the drenched students knew that everyone was supposed to keep their heads and follow the rules in any emergency. They hurried to stand beside their desks as required when masters entered the room. They did not know the old woman, but Arram recognized the man. He was Cosmas Sunyat, head of the School for Mages.

Master Cosmas made glowing signs with his hands; the old woman made different ones with hers. Slowly every trace of water, even of dampness, vanished. The dish where Arram’s troubles had begun was empty even of a drop. It fell to the worktable with a clatter.

Arram picked it up and turned it over in his hands. Despite the bother, he was sad that his spell was gone. The surge of excitement had faded, too, leaving him no idea of how to call it back.

Girisunika was furious. “Who helped him?” she demanded, glaring at Arram’s classmates. She was so angry she ignored the newly arrived masters. “He’s a child—he couldn’t do it himself! Which of you vile parasites connived at this?”

Master Cosmas thumped his ebony walking stick on the floor. “Master Girisunika, control yourself!” he commanded. He surveyed the room. “Youngsters, report to Hulak in the kitchen gardens. Let us see if you remember the difference between cilantro and weeds.” As Arram’s fellows gathered their things and filed out of the classroom, Master Cosmas added, “Girisunika, Arram Draper, come with us.”

Girisunika was furious. “Who helped him?” she demanded...

Masters Cosmas and Girisunika drew ahead as they walked through the marble halls. Arram, who had been raised to be polite, kept pace with the slower old woman. They had not gone far before she asked, “Did you have help from the others?”

Arram looked at her. “No, Master,” he said. “They couldn’t have done it anyway. They aren’t very good.”

The old woman snorted. “They are perfectly suited to those studies for their age, young man—as you should be. I am Master Sebo Orimiri. Who are you?”

Arram bowed as he’d been taught. “I’m Arram Draper.”

“So you are the Draper lad. That explains a great deal.” She walked on, making him trot to catch up.

“It explains something?” It was accepted in the Lower Academy that nothing explained the strange events that happened around Arram. “Whatever it explains, I probably didn’t do it on purpose,” the boy added.

“Tell me, what is your favorite place in the university?”

Arram looked at the master, sensing a trap but unable to figure out what manner of danger it could possibly hold. In the end he decided honesty would probably get him in the least amount of trouble. “The river. Or, or the gardens. But usually the library, Master Sebo.”

“Only the Lower Academy library?” She glanced at him and smiled. “The truth, lad. I’ll know if you lie.”

Something about her convinced him that she meant what she said. “No, Master. The mages’ library for the Upper Academy.”

“Indeed!” He seemed to have surprised her. “Not the Upper Academy? Aren’t the mages’ books too difficult?”

“Most of them,” he admitted. “Usually I read encyclopedias and books like that. They aren’t too hard, and I can look up the parts I don’t understand.”

“I see. And how do you get past the librarians?”

“There is this one book. . . . The spells make me seem like part of the background.” Arram smiled.

“But surely, when you move, they notice.”

“There was a note that you shouldn’t move when people look at you,” Arram said.

“Very practical. And this spell is useful, I take it? Not just for reading?” Master Sebo asked drily.

He liked the look in her old, watery eyes very much. “I’m tired of doing the same things over and over,” he explained. “With the not-seeing spell I can watch the masters and seniors experiment after the library is . . .” He realized that he watched them when he was supposed to be in bed, after the masters and seniors had locked the doors. He sighed and dug his hands into his breeches pockets. Now he was truly in deep muck.

“I’m tired of doing the same things over and over,” he explained.

“Surely the masters inspect the library to ensure they have no witnesses?” If Master Sebo was angry, her voice did not give it away. “I would like to think they are properly cautious.”

“The, um, the spell I used works on masters as well as seniors,” Arram mumbled.

Sebo halted, forcing Arram to do the same. “Where did you get it?”

Arram looked at her crinkled face. Could he get in any more trouble? “I found a little book on the upper level, mashed between . . . Bladwyn’s Book. It’s called Bladwyn’s Book. It has all kinds of spells for fighting and concealment. I learned that spell from it. Most of the rest only made my head hurt.”

“I should think so,” the old woman replied. “Bladwyn was a black robe mage who lived in the early three hundreds.” She tugged on one of the ropes of beads that hung around her neck. “You were trying to work a black robe’s spells, Arram Draper. And here you are, alive and in trouble. How old are you?”

His breath hitched in his throat, but he managed to say, “Eleven, Master.”

“Liar,” she told him cheerfully. She didn’t seem to take offense.

The four of them entered the receiving room to the headmaster’s offices. The youth who sat reading there put aside his book and jumped to his feet. Cosmas beckoned to him and murmured instructions in his ear. The young man nodded and trotted out of the chamber. Cosmas ushered Master Girisunika and Master Sebo through the door to the inner office. Then the older man looked at Arram.

“Liar,” she told him cheerfully. She didn’t seem to take offense.

“Remain here until you are summoned, young Arram,” he said. “I suggest you work on a ten-page essay for me. It will be upon the virtues of maintaining one’s concentration, no matter what distractions may present themselves. In a while we shall summon you, understand?”

Arram understood. He understood that he was about to be very bored. He bowed to the head of the School for Mages. “Yes, Master Cosmas.”

“Very good.” The older man walked into his office and closed the door.

Now he had truly made a mess of things. Surely Master Girisunika worked out that Arram’s magic had somehow fetched water through the earth, and the tiles themselves, and the table, and the dish, without leaving a mark. He wondered if that had ever happened to Master Bladwyn, back in the old days. If it had, it wasn’t in the little book. Bladwyn never made mistakes.

While he’d been thinking these gloomy thoughts, his instructors and other masters he did not know passed through the waiting room. They entered Master Cosmas’s inner office, all demanding to know why they had been summoned. Arram put his face in his hands and wished he were on that ship with his father, bound for some far place beyond Carthak and Tyra.

He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting there, listening to muffled voices and wishing more than anything he could eavesdrop, when the most beautiful girl he had ever seen walked into the room. She wore her bright golden hair in a long braid down her back. When she smiled at him, her blue eyes shone like gems. She wore a light blue gown in the Northern style—coming from a family that dealt in cloth, Arram still looked at what people wore. And her smile was very, very sweet.

“Hello, there!” she said, her voice as sweet as her smile. “Is Master Cosmas in?”

Reminded of his fate, Arram fell back into the glooms. He nodded. “But he’s having a meeting with other masters.”

The beautiful girl sighed. “Well, I’ll just have to wait. The master cook told me to hand this directly to Master Cosmas.” She raised the small package she held, then flopped into the chair next to Arram, her legs splayed before her. “Cook believes that every message she sends is of utmost importance. Cook is very serious.” She pulled an overly serious face, startling a laugh out of Arram. “I’m Varice Kingsford. What dreadful crime did you commit?”

“I’m Arram.” He smiled despite his gloom. “I lost control of my Gift.”

To his surprise, she laughed. “I’m sorry, you look so glum, like they’re going to take you out and shoot you at dawn. With poisoned arrows, no less. Everyone loses control around here. That’s why all the workrooms are magicked to the rafters! That’s why we’re in the Lower Academy!”

You lose control?” He couldn’t believe it.

“I’m Arram.” He smiled despite his gloom. “I lost control of my Gift.”

“Two months ago I knotted everyone’s hair in the room, including the master’s. They had to get three other masters in to figure out what I’d done,” she confided. “I was just trying to make a net to catch stray magics, but . . .”

“It went awry,” Arram said. He was all too familiar with that problem.

“They expect our Gifts to tangle early on,” Varice told him. “How will we learn to manage them if they don’t?” She looked him over. “Oh, come on. You look like you murdered someone. What happened?”

It took a little more encouragement and teasing from her, but soon he was telling the story of his morning. Instead of shocking her with his tale of runaway fountains, he saw her collapse into giggles. “Oh, I wish I could have seen it!” she cried.

Then and there Arram promised himself that he would marry her one day.

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce, $13, Amazon