There were nine suns that circled the many worlds, bathing them in energy known as weiyld. Those who were trained as attunweiyld could use that energy, enhancing their own abilities or shaping the world around them. Kal was an attunweiyld and had been so trained.

      Control your breathing, order your thoughts. The mantra was the first thing he had been taught about attunement. He repeated the phrase in his mind before taking a slow steady breath. Exhaling, he recalled specific memories to mind, remembering the emotions and sensations surrounding them. He evoked the wonder he had felt the first time he had sailed into the Sea of Clouds, the satisfaction upon at last understanding Orleth Qualion’s notoriously difficult asynchronous weiyld equations, the tantalizing anticipation seconds before tasting delightfully sour kuri fruit for the first time. As he did, he felt the weiyld of Syrithis, the fifth sun, flowing around him. It darted and swirled into every nook of the alley, exploring and examining everything including Kal himself. The weiyld had always been there, of course, however without training it was imperceptible, flowing unnoticed by most people. His thoughts and feelings were like a beacon, inviting Syrithis's weiyld to rush through him. As the attunement deepened, he felt as though he was standing in a raging river, water buffeting him. He embraced the current, allowing his mind to be carried by the flow of weiyld. Turbulence became a smooth steady cascade. The attunement was complete.

      Kal's senses exploded with information. He could read an abandoned scroll lying on a crate one hundred paces in front of him. He could make out the individual aromas of spices and herbs wafting from inside barrels that lined the alley. He could feel each individual speck of rain falling on him and judge its size and temperature. He allowed himself a little smile. Years had passed since his first attunement. Even so, the act had never lost its wonder.

      He focused on his hearing, certain his pursuer had already entered the alley behind them. Kal's enhanced perception confirmed his suspicions. He could hear the pursuer's footsteps. He had the light step of a man used to stealthy movement and had chosen soft soled shoes despite the weather. He heard a slight rustle as the man reached into his pocket, followed by a metallic rasping noise.

      The pursuer was walking quickly. Kal estimated he would catch up with them soon. He forced his body language to remain casual and listened for the signal that would tell him when the strike was coming. Just as he and Drogan were about to exit the alley, the pursuer took in a sharp breath and his heartbeat quickened.

      That was the signal. Kal pushed off his heel, moving into the attacker's path. In the same motion he raised his elbow and slammed it into the man's nose, using the pursuer's own momentum against him. Kal's arm went numb to the fingers with the force of the blow, but a gurgled cry told him the hooded man had suffered worse. He didn't give him a chance to recover. Spinning, he landed a heavy kick to the man's stomach, knocking the breath from him. The assailant stumbled and Kal moved in, raining down a series of blows to the pursuer's short ribs and face. Finally he stepped on the man's foot and pushed, sending him tumbling backwards and crashing through a pile of empty crates.

      The man was young with a shaggy crop of blonde hair and heavy eyebrows. He opened his eyes. His pained groan turned into a gasp as he realized Kal's pistol was pointing at his face. The lightning hurling-weapon hummed menacingly.

      "Open your cloak and turn out your pockets," Kal said in a level tone. He refused to take his eyes off the would-be assailant though he listened carefully for signs of any other attackers. The man complied, opening his coat and then emptying his pockets with one hand, holding his bleeding nose with the other. Kal examined the objects: lock picks, bump key and a small sharp pair of shears used to cut coin chains, undoubtedly the metallic item he had heard in the man's pocket. A fine collection of thieving tools, but not a single weapon. He felt a twinge of guilt. The man was no assassin, just a simple pickpocket. Reaching for his own coin chain, he pulled off a small handful of selvens and tossed them to the bleeding thief.

      "Go find a healer."

      The man stared blankly.

      Kal flicked his pistol towards the alley exit. "Get lost!"

      The thief leapt up and scrambled out of the alley, though Kal waited until he was lost from sight before returning his pistol to its holster and releasing Syrithis. He conjured up a mental image of himself reading a book, then tossing it aside, disinterested in its unfinished pages. The weiyld flowing through him retreated before the antithetical thoughts, grew turbulent, then disappeared altogether. He let out a disappointed sigh. Releasing the weiyld felt like releasing a piece of himself, but attunement took effort, and he couldn't afford to tire too soon. He still needed to ensure that Drogan survived his meeting with Ayget Rulfin, a man Kal suspected was more dangerous than a simple cutpurse.

                                                                   END CHAPTER 1

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