Born in Ankara, Erbuğ Kaya spent a childhood around the country as the son of a naval officer, came to Istanbul in 1992 to start university – and never left. After six years of studying civil engineering, he decided to leave without completing his degree and went into IT design, where his talent was recognised by Microsoft: he won the prestigious Most Valuable Professional prize four times between 2008 and 2012.
He has always written, and his first novel Giddar published in 2009 was followed by the Age of the Five in 2012 and Maderzad Palace in 2017.
Erbuğ Kaya lives with his wife Funda, the love of his life, at Kadıköy, İstanbul.
The Summons of the League (Giddar Book 1) | Prereading
Chapter 1: Darkness
At long last Nozdo reached the palace of spirits in this darkness devoid of time. Nothing stirred on the icy mountains reaching out to a non-existent sky, or on the frozen plain spreading before him as far as the eye could see. He was praying to his god that Elbaiim wouldn’t hear the noises his claws made at each grip.
Elbaiim lifted off, the spirits he was carrying to Giddar on his back. As soon as he heard the noisy flapping of wings, carrying, Nozdo snuck into the palace.
He moved down a dark corridor, one of countless leading to infinity where tales told the waiting spirits echoed. He knew how to locate the corridor leading to the pen of harmful spirits. He carried on walking, murmuring a memorised incantation. Now made visible where he stood at the entrance to another corridor, the flame-shaped Silent blocked Nozdo’s progress. This is where Nozdo would put to use his new knowledge about how to get past Abu Nazzar.
‘I have come by the bidding of my God. I bring Benefse’s greetings.’
Abu Nazzar drew aside. Taking one step into the corridor, Nozdo stopped to sprinkle a little gold dust from his pouch; the trail that he followed opened to a plain of red soil. Nozdo stepped in and was immediately surrounded by spirits held here for thousands of years. His quest was for someone else though, and he proceeded – albeit with that entourage. The plain came to an end that was terrifying even for a Silent like him. He stopped at the edge of the precipice where the abandoned were thrown.
There they were. Imprisoned on a wall hanging in the void, imprisoned by the gods and goddesses. Drocan and Levityan had been hanging side by side over the bottomless drop for three thousand years, held fast by hundreds of hands that left only their eyes visible. Nozdo was here to release them on the bidding of his god. Extreme caution had been advised: the hands emerging from the wall were very dangerous.
His dispersal incantations made the spirits around him scuttle away and hide.
He then murmured the phrase that would open the pass to Giddar. A curtain radiating green light appeared at the end. He held his claws out towards the male to send him hundreds of yellow beams – power granted by his god for this purpose alone. The beams of light shot into the darkness, wrapped the male, and extracted him from the clutching hands. Drocan floated slowly and landed. Next, Nozdo released the female. As soon as the light beams placed Levityan on the red soil, Nozdo went over to the male staring blankly. Wondering why the deities had despatched them here, Nozdo decided he wouldn’t send them through the pass just yet – even though he knew he had to do it, and without delay.
Just as he was about to pull away the light beams over Drocan’s mouth, he heard a voice behind him call, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you.’ He swung round, astonished at hearing any sound at all here: a female Silent in a waistcoat and leather trousers stood at the mouth of the pass.
She asked, ‘Hasn’t your god warned you?’
He didn’t bother asking how or why she’d got here; he just sent her mind one of the nightmares he possessed. She opened her wings, lifted off backwards, and cracked her whip in his direction. Caught by the ankle, he was dragged on the ground even as he kept sending her the flames in his mind.
The Silents were still fighting when two spirits came out of hiding, gently lay Drocan and Levityan on the ground, and freed them from the beams of light.
As soon as he was liberated, Drocan undulated up to his feet and yelled, a pent up anger of thousands of years. His voice reverberated in the corridors of the palace, on the ice plains and the mountains. He turned to the woman:
She, too, yelled at the top of her voice in celebration. She, too, got to her feet:
They gazed at each other, longing to touch each other’s non-existent skin…
Drocan turned to the spirits that had helped them:
‘Thank you Askar. Thank you Saint. Thank you for your voices that safeguarded our spirits all this time. Go now.’
Askar and Saint went through the pass.
Levityan raised both hands to fix the fighting Silents to the spot.
Looking down the bottomless drop, Drocan said:
‘Esilda-i kaldanese solgamis urda belie,’ and caught in mid air the blue stone necklace that floated up from the bottomless gloom. With a, ’Find us!’ he flung it into the pass.
He turned to Levityan, who was standing in front of the Silents:
‘And the Silents?’
’Vril-ja,’ she said as she complied, paused, eyes shut, then turned to Drocan:
‘Nozdo and Sasha; that’s who they were.’
They stood by the pass, love evident in their gaze. Levityan went through. Exclaiming, ‘Humans! Come out from hiding! This could well be your last chance. They’ll come and block the pass soon,’ Drocan followed.
Chapter 2: Siox Dia Mont
It was well past midnight. A peaceful autumn night, like any other for the residents of Filavorn. Siox got out of bed where he’d been tossing and turning and opened the window, hoping that the sound of rain would calm his troubled soul. It was cool. He considered taking a blanket, a thought all too quickly forgotten in the brief time he settled into an armchair. His mind was in turmoil.
Siox had been attending the Venior Royal Academy since the age of sixteen. This, the most prestigious education establishment in the land was the alma mater of all the warriors, philosophers, civil servants, clergymen and guards entrusted with the protection of the indestructible order throughout the kingdom and the provision of a trouble-free existence for its subjects. Every sixteen-year-old Veniorian who fulfilled the necessary criteria would undertake four years of basic education, followed by two more in a specialist branch, such choice being granted to students of a certain level. All others would be assigned a branch by their teachers.
What kept Siox awake in the middle of the night was the decision he had to make on the following morning at the new academic year ceremony. He was twenty now, no longer a child. Four years had passed with no trouble. But the decision he would make now had the power to change his life completely.
The most coveted branch was guards, open only to the top students. As the foot soldiers of Sedon – the giver of law and order throughout the cities of Venior – guards had the potential to rise to commander and ultimately legislator. No other branch commanded as much respect. Guards, commanders and legislators were universally revered in Venior.
Once – in the war years, a very long time ago – warriors were venerated by the public and known as Veniorian knights. Yet the war was all but forgotten now, and the number of knights could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Peacetime offered no room for new epics that would promote a warrior into a knight. Graduate warriors would serve on the borders of Venior, specifically on the Wall of Freedom. No student wanted to become a warrior.
As the student with the second highest marks, Siox had the privilege to name the branch of his choice, a fact that openly made him the envy of so many who would eagerly sacrifice much to swap places with him. He had every right to stand before the other students, teachers, priests, legislators, Filavornians, King Fanil Guranuh and most importantly, his own father in the morning to announce guard. He had prayed to his god Sedon over and over again, asking for guidance. He might have already earned the right to a comfortable, peaceful and prestigious existence, but a voice inside kept telling him to choose the total opposite. To become a warrior.
Lost as he was in contemplation, Siox failed to notice that the rain had stopped. A soft knock on the door dragged him back to the present.
‘Come in,’ whispered Siox.
A tall shadow glided in. It was his brother Luca.
‘What’s the matter, Luca? Can’t sleep?’
‘Not a wink,’ replied Luca as he walked slowly and sat down facing Siox.
Luca was stark naked, one hand holding a sheet wrapped around his waist. No wonder a girl followed him back to Filavorn if that’s how he’d been swanning around in Jakerd.
Two years younger than Siox, Luca was as tall and well built as his two big brothers and his father. Unlike all three, however, he was dark. The street lamp on the left threw his distinctive features into sharper focus: the aquiline nose, huge dark brown eyes and shoulder-length straight black hair all came from his mother.
‘Why are you awake?’ asked Luca.
‘I’m thinking,’ replied a tired looking Siox.
Luca peered, trying to understand his big brother:
‘Thinking about what?’
‘I’m at two minds about my choice for tomorrow.’
Luca’s expression hardened:
‘That’s just what I was afraid of. You want to become a priest, right?’
‘No,’ replied Siox, stealing his gaze away, ‘It’s an even harder decision.’
‘Don’t tell me you’re thinking of becoming a warrior?’
Siox was staring at the floor. Luca knew his brother only too well not to recognise the signs: Siox felt trapped.
‘You’re serious!’ said a worried Luca.
‘I think so.’
‘You couldn’t hurt yourself more even as a priest. What are you after?’
‘I’m not entirely sure. There’s a voice inside telling me that’s the way it should be.’
Luca stared at him quizzically:
‘Can that voice talk to me?’
Siox paused briefly before answering.
‘Everything’s perfect in this kingdom. Everyone’s happy. But other things are happening elsewhere. If I’m trying to help or protect people on the streets, I can’t pretend to possess knowledge when I don’t. I’ll have no idea when I tell them what’s right why it should be so; I’ll just be repeating what I’m told. What is it that the warriors are guarding – all along the borders of Venior? I want to know. I keep thinking it’s thanks to the warriors that we can talk in peace here.’
Luca looked serious:
‘You sound as if you expect something more.’
Running his right hand through his hair, Siox said, ‘I don’t know Luca. It’s giving me a headache though.’
The door opened softly. A girl put her head through and asked:
‘Can I come in too?’
‘Come in Melish,’ replied Luca.
Stepping in noiselessly, she sat on Luca’s knee.
For the past two years, Luca had been away at the Jakerd Art Academy in the Republic of Soron, not even coming home on holidays. In fact, until his return a couple of days ago, his only contact with the family had been through letters to Siox. It was the Venior Royal Academy ceremony that had finally beckoned him: his eldest Shalorn was due to graduate, and his middle brother Siox was going to announce his choice.
Except he wasn’t alone: his hand on the shoulder of a girl with curly blonde hair, he’d simply said:
‘Allow me to introduce Melish.’
She was wearing a multi-coloured knitted shawl revealing her navel and left shoulder, slim-fitting male style trousers and sandals. Luca was dressed in a similar manner: a white shirt unbuttoned at the chest, slim black trousers and leather sandals.
Their father was the first to pull himself together. Proffering his hand, he said:
‘Welcome to the Mont mansion, young lady; my name is Inarde Jucre Mont. I’m the father of all these men.’ Then, turning to his son, he added, ‘You’ve changed, Luca. Welcome home. Don’t take too long over the greetings; dinner’s ready. Let’s avoid boring Mrs Elri to sleep whilst she waits for us.’ He then left for the kitchen.
Pointing to Siox, his other hand still on the girl’s shoulder, Luca said:
‘Look my lovely, this is Dia. Siox Dia. He answers to either. My second favourite person in the world, after you, that is. My two-year older brother.’
After shaking her hand with a, ‘Welcome, young lady,’ and asking for permission from Melish, Siox hugged his brother tight; they had missed each other.
Luca’s next introduction was less warm, however:
‘My brother Shalorn is four years my senior.’
Ice blue eyes looking Luca up and down, Shalorn spoke:
‘You know this is inappropriate.’
Shalorn’s voice rose:
‘Staying under the same roof without wedlock.’
‘Says who? A Veniorian guard, or my dear brother Shalorn?’
Luca’s voice held the same taunting tone.
‘Both,’ came the irritable reply.
‘My apologies, Shalorn. But you’ll just have to put up with it. I’m struggling to conform to the Veniorian aristocratic code. Like you’d once said, your mother’s a noblewoman, whereas mine…’
‘Our father awaits; let’s go in,’ interrupted Siox.
That was Luca’s return two days earlier.
‘Tomorrow’s going to be a tough day for me,’ admitted a troubled Siox.
‘You might regret your choice later; you know that, don’t you, Dia?’
‘That’s what scares me most. I don’t want to.’
Luca gazed at his brother fondly:
‘I’ll always stand by you, no matter what you decide.’
Siox took a deep breath:
‘I know, Luca. I wish everyone be as gracious when I announce my decision tomorrow. Best to try to get some sleep now. Tomorrow will be a long day.’
Once Luca and Melish had left, Siox mused, How time flies! This strapping young man now placing a hand on a lady’s shoulder – is he really my kid brother who used to snuggle up to me at night because he was scared?
He recalled their children’s games, battling evil, running all day long and setting off for far distant imaginary lands like legendary knights of yore. Even Shalorn used to peel himself off his mother’s side to join in once in a while.
Siox remembered how Luca and Shalorn had fallen out once, a huge bust-up over the roles in the adventure of a Blest Knight and his two soldiers.
Shalorn had announced, ‘Only I can be the Blest Knight.’
‘Why?’ challenged Luca, hands akimbo, ‘So can I.’
‘No, you can’t.’
‘Cause you can’t.’
‘Why?’ more insistent this time.
‘Because my mother’s a noble lady, and yours is a common prostitute.’
A gobsmacked Luca swung around to hide his welling eyes and ran away. Siox, who had stayed out of the argument until that point followed, but not before shooting his big brother a murderous look.
Siox cuddled Luca in his room:
‘Don’t cry Luca; it’s not worth it.’
Luca couldn’t reply.
‘It’s just a lie, I’m sure. Made up to shut you up.’
Luca lifted his head off his knees and gave Siox a tearful look:
‘You know what Dia? I’ll never be a knight.’