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The Order of Merlin

The Order of Merlin

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Book One of the Order of Merlin Trilogy

Destiny calls when you least expect.

After five harrowing years in the Hundred Halls surviving dangerous supernatural threats, our group of young mages have each taken their own paths away from the university.  But the recently returned Head Patron, Invictus, has need of their skills. Brought together under the banner of The Order of Merlin, these mages must survive everything their teacher throws at them—and each other—to become the team the world needs.  Otherwise they don't stand a chance against the imminent demonic invasion.

Synopsis

A group of young mages, having faced supernatural threats at the Hundred Halls, reunite under the Order of Merlin to tackle an imminent demonic invasion. Led by the newly returned Head Patron, Invictus, they must overcome internal and external challenges to save the world.

Chapter One Look Inside

Chapter One

The tower was a symbol of her former slavery. A symbol hidden by the tricks of the eye-screens. Gabby kept her arm up to block the sunlight, while she stared at the tower, willing it to reveal its secrets.
There were hundreds, maybe thousands, like it scattered up and down the GSA, and no one but the Coders and the higher echelon even knew they existed. Gabby had probably lived her whole life next to one and never knew it.
The sounds of battle raged ahead. Not her battle, but one she was responsible for, but she couldn't pay attention. Didn't want to pay attention. Since the cloud layer had parted, her gaze had been locked on the tower.
It was a small tower. Not as large as the main broadcast spire to the north. And one made of steel and wire and lies. The big one was made of lies too, but also of brick and concrete. The powerful central station communicated with the repeaters to keep LifeGame synced. To keep the truth hidden.
Gabby glanced to her left, the familiar score waiting to piss her off. But since she'd come back to the GSA and joined the Coders, it hadn't the same effect. Sure, she was judged like everyone else. Scores given for jobs completed or extra tasks done, well after work hours. But Gabby didn’t care so much about keeping score anymore. The only score she had to settle was getting Zaela back.
The weather conspired to hide the tower, much as the GSA had conspired to hide the truth of her reality with LifeGame, so Gabby resumed her focus on the battle. Her arm dropped through the projection of a transport vehicle, long since removed from the battle by a missile or grenade. Gabby didn't know which but it didn't take much to pull up the statistics and find out. If she cared.
Gabby walked through this world in the same way Damon had walked through her Final Raid. She saw the holographic static that sparkled over the transport vehicle and the other projected false realities much in the same way Damon had probably seen her tunnels and giants and wraiths.
The holographic static reminded Gabby of radioactive snow. Memories of her snow - the one with Michael at the farmhouse - tried to bubble up, but she pushed it back down. Fantasies of the Frags or Michael would only distract her.
The static provided a useful visual, highlighting what she and her fellow Coders had created: an illusionary battlefield complete with exploded corpses and screaming kids. Gabby let her frustrations about the usefulness of the screaming kids out on a clump of dirt.
Unlike the static transport vehicle, the kids were real, experiencing the full effects of the sense-web, courtesy of Unthar, who strolled ahead through the carnage like the god of war admiring his handiwork. He wanted them to experience the horror of battle in their training so when the real war came, the one with the overwhelming hordes of Southlanders, they wouldn't flinch.
Cassius had agreed, and in Gabby's two months with the Coders, Cassius always agreed when Unthar was involved. And since Cassius was the Southern Front Commander, there was nothing Gabby could say otherwise.
Gabby shook her head. She'd joined the Coders so she could go after Zaela in the Southlands, but instead, she'd been stuck on training duty while the days grew closer to war. When the Southlands attacked, her Coder units proximity to the border would practically ensure her death defending the GSA. Gabby gripped the stock of her automatic weapon, desperately trying to shed the adrenaline coursing through her body.
A fire fight broke out beyond the cafeteria. Blue team had flanked a loose group of reds and Unthar was drawn to the skirmish like the false flies that hovered over the bodies. Unthar ran right through a burning tank that shimmered in static.
Gabby wished she could coat the light post at the corner in glitter so Unthar would run right into it, thinking it holographic.
"I'd kick him square between the legs if I didn't think it'd get me in trouble with Cassius," said Avony, strolling up from behind.
Gabby's former best friend had her blond hair pulled back in a tight braid. Instead of the doll-like joints she'd sported when they were schoolers in the midst of LifeGame, her skin glistened with ice crystals. Hoarfrost formed at each step while her breath puffed out in white plumes even though it was late spring.
"And I'd kick Cassius if he complained," spat Gabby.
Avony glanced upward as if someone was waiting above. "Watch it, Gabs. If he's not listening, he's probably got sniffers listening for his name. He may be loose with some of the rules." Avony waved her hand over her body, indicating the frost skin. "But he's downright ruthless when it comes to insubordination."
Gabby nodded, avoiding a kid lying in the ditch grabbing his leg. Static sparkled over his leg where it'd been blown off in the simulation. Even though the kid couldn't see her, they were hidden by the world painted over their eye-screens, she avoided eye contact. His whimpers went right into her clenched jaw.
"Let's hurry up and get this game analyzed so we can let these poor kids out of their misery," said Gabby.
Avony nodded grimly. They conferred away from the carnage, bringing up a mutual display between them.
After reviewing it for only a few seconds, Avony shook her head. "It's no good. Both red and blue teams are wasteful. Look at these firing percentages. Even with auto-targeting and squad infomatics they were atrocious. Our game didn't buff them at all."
"They're only twelve," countered Gabby.
Avony met her gaze across the hologram. "You know the same numbers that I do. The Southlanders outnumber us ten to one. We need every soldier and they must perform perfectly, or we're totally fragged."
"Which is why I wish they'd let me go into the Southlands as a spy." Gabby closed her eyes when she heard the kid in the ditch, crying again. She'd put her hands over her ears, but it wouldn't work, the cochlea implants let it straight in.
"Mario! Why isn't Unthar ending this game? We've got the information we need. It didn't work. I don't know why he keeps putting these kids through this."
"You know, Gabs." Avony walked through the hologram and consoled Gabby with a touch on her arm. "He doesn't care about these kids and he'll just delay the end game if you bring it up."
Pacing didn't relieve the pent up energy coursing through her body. "I hate to say it, but I wish Damon was here."
Avony adjusted her braid. Frost crackled across her shoulder. "The brass didn't like that he'd hidden his real purpose to taking that retrieval squad into the Freelands. Who knows if he'll ever be back?"
Gabby kept her lips sealed. They hadn't found out that information from her. Damon and his daughter Mouse were Gabby's ticket back to her friends. If he didn't trust her then all bets were off, but if he was sent to another squad, it wouldn't matter anyway.
A lone wail pierced the silence. The boy in the ditch was crying again.
"This is so debuffed," said Gabby. "The game is over. He's dragging this out because he's a sick bastard. I'm putting an end to this."
Gabby marched off in the direction that Unthar had gone. Avony ran to keep up. "I know that look, Gabs. This is a bad idea. I'm with you in theory, but confronting him isn't going to solve it and it might even make it worse."
Avony was running backwards to keep her gaze level with Gabby.
"You'll make him mad and he'll just punish the kids," said Avony. "He still holds a grudge for what you did to him at Final Raid. He blames you for getting passed over for Special Forces and getting him stuck in Coders."
Gabby paused. She hadn't thought of it like that. Even she wasn't so rash as to punish the kids just to serve her ego.
"Fine," she said. "But I'm still ending this game."
Avony wrinkled her forehead. "Unthar has lead on this one. Only he can give the release command and he's not going to until every last member of red team has been fragged."
"Exactly." Gabby grinned and brought up the Coder interface.
Avony watched with interest as Gabby flew through the options, adjusting settings and modifying the rules on the fly. After a few moments, Avony nodded in appreciation.
"Setting all buildings to transparency, red team weapons to negligible impact and blue team accuracy to maximum. Going to make it so blue team wins sooner, I see."
Gabby activated the changes and crossed her arms. "Yep."
Avony pursed her lips. "But why not make the changes more subtle. Couldn't you just..." The words trailed off her lips as she looked up from the shared hologram to Gabby's face.
"Well, then," said Avony and she took three steps back from where Gabby stood.
The roar of rage could be heard from around the building as the red team count went to zero only a minute after Gabby changed the rules. Unthar controlled the ending of the game, but the other Coders in their squad could make adjustments to the settings to observe the effects. Usually, individual Coders only adjusted local settings so the other Coders wouldn't be interfered with, but Gabby had changed the whole battlefield.
His eyes bulged as he stormed around the corner, arms tensed like pistons at his side, flecks of metal gleaming from his jaw. The skin Unthar wore made him into a cyborg. Instead of slowing, Unthar raised an arm like a hammer and charged.
Gabby shifted to the balls of her feet, waiting until the last moment. His fist came down like a missile. She spun to the left, deflecting his strike with an upthrust arm. The maneuver was reminiscent of Cat and Cut.
As Unthar passed, she caught his heel with her toe, tangling his legs. He slammed into the ground, sending up bits of dirt.
Gabby shuffled forward to deliver a devastating roundhouse when Cassius' projection appeared. Gabby struggled to snap into attention while Unthar climbed to his feet with murder in his eyes.
"Are you two completely debuffed?" he said.
Gabby opened her mouth to defend herself when he said, "I didn't give you permission to speak."
Her arm still throbbed from the impact of Unthar's attack, but she ignored it and tightened up her ready stance. The Coders weren't really part of the GSA military, but since they were designing the training realities, they'd been drafted.
The achievements plastered on Cassius' chest reminded her of Administrator Bracket from Neversoft High. Except Cassius' seemed more real. Part of her had never really believed Bracket was a military guy and maybe that's why he'd been sent to lead the school.
Cassius, however, regarded Gabby as if she was a speck of dirt on his cuff. His glance toward Unthar wasn't much better.
"What happened?" he asked Avony and before she could open her mouth, he added, "And don't forget I can review this whole scene for myself. I just want to hear it from you."
After a thoughtful breath, Avony spoke, "Coder Unthar was dragging out the game despite the collection of critical data being complete."
Gabby wished she had the OOC program so she could tell Avony 'thank you' but it would have to wait until later.
"So Coder DeCorte aggroed Unthar by adjusting the game mechanics to allow red team an easy final victory and inciting him to charge her."
When Gabby furrowed her eyebrows at Avony, she just shrugged.
"Unthar's brutish attack was easily defended by a simple counter from Coder DeCorte. Since it appeared he was not going to discontinue his attack, she was moving in for a finishing strike when you appeared."
Cassius paused. The muscles in his jaw line rippled with thought. He appeared to be conflicted about some decision. His distaste was so overwhelming, even Avony dialed down her frosty skin when he glanced in her direction.
Finally, he shook his head. "Personally, I'd rather be punishing you both for this nonsense, but we have a situation and you're the closest team."
Gabby raised an eyebrow at Avony, who just shrugged again.
"We have reports of a potential infiltration by Southlander spies at an industrial complex about thirty miles south of here," explained Cassius. "I'm sending your whole squad to investigate."
Gabby let out a soft groan when Unthar puffed up.
"You'll meet your squad leader when you arrive—" Unthar deflated, clearly bothered by his sudden loss of prestige, giving him another reason to hate Gabby— "I'll be monitoring the situation, which includes you two hotheads. So if I even catch a whiff of dissent or a shortage of teamwork, I'll shut down your sense-webs and let the enemy have you."
Gabby gave a deferral nod while Unthar did the same. Commander Cassius flicked them each a mission card which downloaded the details to their systems when they caught it. As Gabby ran by Avony's side toward the waiting truck, she caught Unthar's deadly glance. He wouldn't be forgetting their encounter any time soon.

Main Tropes

  • Urban Fantasy
  • Magical Academy
  • Found Family
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Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
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D
D.
Chaos!

Set some time aside to enjoy reading this trilogy with great world building. Your favorite wonderful characters from The Halls come together to face a crazy demonic invasion to save their world. Sacrifices will be made. There are multiple storylines to keep track of. There is a bonus short story and an interesting History of the Halls.

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lana turner
So many previous characters pooling in on this series!

Readers, who like myself, have been reading the Hundred Halls series and their follow ups will love this latest series from Thomas Carpenter as he manages to bring together some of our very favourite characters from the various halls and disciplines of magic into one story-line. This book is about the thinning of the barrier between the human world and the demonic one and we see Aurie and Pi, working for Invictus who wants to stop the invasion by demons. The siblings are part of the Order of Merlin, but they are sent from one job to another working flat out following orders by Invictus and risking their lives without further help. They are sent to all kinds of dangerous places including the realm of the fae, and Montanhas where the Charmer family had come across a demonic incursion before they abandoned ship so to speak, leaving a mess behind. Andromeda gets kidnapped and the siblings do their best to get her back, however they need to get the rest of the Charmer family on board with this, which is easier said than done. Elosian the Prince of Whispers is said to be behind all of their troubles, and in the end no one knows who to trust as he has a way of influencing ones thoughts and actions. Even Invictus credibility seems to be doubted in the end! Can our group of allies thwart this greater demon or will they all fall apart from lack of trust in one another? I love this new story-line and cannot wait to read book 2 especially after the desperate ending of this book!

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Erica Williams
Hundred Halls Reunion

I loved reading this next chapter in the Hundred Halls Universe. It was so good for my heart to have some of my favorite characters finally come together on the pages. To see how their dynamics and how they all interacted was very intriguing. As always, Tom writes a story that keeps you wanting more.

E
Erica Williams
Hundred Halls Reunion

I loved reading this next chapter in the Hundred Halls Universe. It was so good for my heart to have some of my favorite characters finally come together on the pages. To see how their dynamics and how they all interacted was very intriguing. As always, Tom writes a story that keeps you wanting more.

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Elaine Stoker
A trilogy I loved, packed with chaos, darkness, and nonstop action

The Hundred Halls is a magnificent magical world. This trilogy has truly shocking revelations. I was surprised at every turn, never guessing what would happen. So many of the main characters from each hall came together, putting aside their differences to form a cohesive army to fight and outthink an advanced otherworldly army of creatures converging on the city of Invictus.