The Magic Engineer

The Magic Engineer

by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

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In L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s The Magic Engineer, Dorrin, a young scion of Order magicians, is interested in forbidden knowledge—the working of machines.

He is the Leonardo da Vinci of his age, but his insights violate the rules of the Order magic of Recluce, and in order to pursue his invention he must go into exile—in the lands of Chaos.

Tortured by the knowledge that to preserve Order he must create new devices for war, Dorrin stands between Recluce and the forces of the Chaos that seek to destroy it.

"An intriguing fantasy in a fascinating world."—Robert Jordan, New York Times bestselling author of The Wheel of Time
® series

Saga of Recluce

#1 The Magic of Recluce / #2 The Towers of Sunset / #3 The Magic Engineer / #4 The Order War / #5 The Death of Chaos / #6 Fall of Angels / #7 The Chaos Balance / #8 The White Order / #9 Colors of Chaos / #10 Magi’i of Cyador / #11 Scion of Cyador / #12 Wellspring of Chaos / #13 Ordermaster / #14 Natural Order Mage / #15 Mage-Guard of Hamor / #16 Arms-Commander / #17 Cyador’s Heirs / #18 Heritage of Cyador /#19 The Mongrel Mage / #20 Outcasts of Order / #21 The Mage-Fire War (forthcoming)

Story Collection: Recluce Tales

Other Series by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Imager Portfolio
The Corean Chronicles
The Spellsong Cycle
The Ghost Books
The Ecolitan Matter

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250197979
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Series: Recluce Series , #3
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 103,115
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.

Read an Excerpt

The Magic Engineer

By L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1994 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9538-2


The boy looks at the iron, cherry-red in the tongs.

The wiry man—small and compact, unlike the traditional smith—holds the tongs higher as he glances toward the boy. "That's hot enough to bind storms and wizards, boy. Strong enough to hold giants, just like Nylan bound the demons of light for Ryba ..." Sweat pours from his forehead despite the breezes channeled through the smithy by the very nature of the building. "Iron ... iron runs through the center of Recluce. That's what makes Recluce a refuge of order."

"That story about Nylan isn't true. The demons of light were gone by then," states the child in a clear, but low voice. His narrow solemn face remains unsmiling. "And there aren't any giants."

"So there aren't," agrees the smith. "If'n there were, though, iron's the stuff to hold 'em." He returns to his work. "And black iron—that'll hold the worst of the White Wizards. Been true since the time of Nylan."

"The strongest of the White Wizards? They weren't as strong as the founder."

"No," says the smith. "But that was back then. They're a-breedin' new demons in Fairhaven these days. You wait and see." He lifts the hammer. "Then the Black Brothers'll need black steel ...even if I need an order-master to help me forge it ..."

Clung ... clung. The hammer falls upon the metal that the tongs have positioned on the anvil, and the ringing impacts drown out the last of his words.

The solemn-faced boy, his hair redder than the cooling metal, nods, frowns.

"Dorrin, I'm done. Where are you?" A girl's voice, strong and firm, perhaps even a shout outside the smithy, barely penetrates between the hammer blows rippling through the heat and faint mist of worked metal.

"Good day, ser," says the redhead politely, before dashing from the smithy into the sunlight.

... clung ...

The smith shakes his head, but his hands are sure upon the hammer and the metal.


The red-headed youth leafs through the pages of the heavy book, his eyes flicking from line to line, from page to page, oblivious to the scrutiny from beyond the archway.

"What are you reading?"

"Nothing." His thoughts burn at the evasion. "Just one of the natural philosophies," he adds quickly.

"It wouldn't be the one on mechanical devices, would it?" asks the tall man.

"Yes, father," Dorrin responds with a sigh, waiting for the lecture.

Instead, his father responds with a deep breath. "Put it back on the shelf. Let's get on with your studies."

As he reshelves the heavy book and turns toward the tall, thin man, Dorrin asks, "Why don't we build some of the machines in the books?"

"Such as?" The tall man in black steps around his son and proceeds toward the covered porch beyond the library.

Dorrin turns and follows. "What about the heated water engine?"

"Heated water is steam." The Black wizard shakes his head. "What would happen if chaos energy were loosed in the cold water?" The wizard sits down on the high stool with the short back.

"It wouldn't work. But—"

"That's enough, Dorrin. There are reasons why we don't use those machines. Some can be easily disrupted by chaos. Some actually require the constant attention of a chaos wizard, and you can understand why that's not practical here on Recluce, I trust?"

Dorrin nods quietly, as he sits on the backless stool across from his father. He has heard the lecture before.

"We work with nature, Dorrin, not against it. That is the basis of order, and the foundation of Recluce." The wizard pauses. "Now, tell me what the winds are like off Land's End."

Dorrin closes his eyes and concentrates for a time. Finally, he speaks. "They're light, like a cold mist seeping from the north."

"What about the higher winds, the ones that direct the weather?"

Dorrin closes his eyes again.

"You should have felt them all. You have to be able to feel the air, Dorrin, feel it at all levels, not just the low easy parts," explains the tall man in black. He looks from the sky above the Eastern Ocean back to the redheaded youngster.

"What good is feeling something if you can't do anything with it?" The boy's voice is both solemn and curious.

"Just knowing what the air and the weather are doing is important." Despite his tall, thin build, the man's voice is resonant and authoritative. "I have told you before. The farmers and the sailors need to know."

"Yes, ser," acknowledges the redhead. "But I can't help the plants, and I cannot even call the slightest of breezes."

"I'm sure that will come, Dorrin. In time, and with more work." The man in black sighs softly, turning his eyes from the black stone railing to the other covered porch where a shaded table set for four awaits. "Think about it."

"I have thought about it, father. I would rather be a smith or a woodworker. They make real things. Even a healer helps people. You can see what happens. I don't want to spend my life watching things. I want to do things and to create things."

"Sometimes, watching things saves many lives. Remember the big storm last year ..."

"Father ...? The legends say that Creslin could direct the storms. Why can't—"

"We've talked about that before, Dorrin. If we direct the storms, it will change the weather all over the world, and Recluce could become a desert once again. Even more people would die. When the Founders changed the world, thousands upon thousands died, and they almost died as well. Now, it would be worse. Much worse. Even if a Black as great as Creslin appeared, and that is not likely. Not with the Balance."

"But why?"

"I told you why. Because there are more people. Because everything relates to everything else. And because there is more order in the world today."

Dorrin looks at his father's earnest face, purses his lips, and falls silent.

"I'm going to help your mother with dinner. Do you know where Kyl is?"

"Down on the beach."

"Would you get him, please?"

"Yes, ser." Dorrin inclines his head and stands. As he crosses the close-grown lawn, his steps are deliberate, carrying him along the knife-edged stone walk with the precision that characterizes his speech and dress.

After a last look at his son, the wizard turns to wend his way through the library and toward the kitchen.


"Until you can prove you are the man with the white sword—that's how long before you could count on being the High Wizard, Jeslek."

"I suppose I would have to raise mountains along the Analerian highlands? Is that what you're saying, Sterol?"

"It wouldn't hurt," quips the man in white with the amulet around his neck.

"It could be done, you know. Especially with all the increased order created over the past generations by Recluce." The sun in Jeslek's eyes bathes the room.

"The day you do that, I'll hand you the amulet." Sterol laughs, and the sound is colder than the wind that swirls across the winter skies above Fairhaven.

"I mean it. It's not a question of pure force, you know. It's a question of releasing order bounds deep within the earth."

"There is one condition, however."


"You must preserve the great road, and stand amidst your mountains as you raise them."

Jeslek chuckles. "Getting more cautious, I see."

"Merely prudent. One would not wish a High Wizard who could not control the chaos he released. That was the example of Jenred."

"Spare me that lecture."

"Of course. You young ones do not need the ancient tales and parables because they do not apply in a changing world."

Jeslek frowns, but bows. "By your leave?"

"Of course, dear Jeslek. Do let me know when you plan to raise mountains."

"I certainly will. I would not wish you to miss anything."


"Damn it, Dorrin!" The smith takes the short length of metal, already bearing a blackish sheen, even while it retains a straw brown color, and uses the tongs to set it on the brick hearth beside the anvil.

The youth flushes, the red from the forge combining with the red of chagrin climbing up from his neck. "I'm sorry, Hegl."

"Bein' sorry don't count a whole lot. Now, I got a chunk of black-ordered steel that's useless. Don't fit nothing, and nothing but a wizard's hearth gets hot enough to melt that. Darkness, you dump so much order in things, Nylan himself couldn't have forged it." Hegl snorts. "Not much call for black steel, anyway, but you don't order it until it's finished. What were you thinking of?"

"How it would look when you were done."

The smith shakes his head. "Go on. Let me finish. I'll send Kadara for you when it's time."

Dorrin swallows and turns, walking toward the open double doors designed to funnel the cool air through the smithy. Behind him, the smith extracts another rod of iron from the bin and lifts it toward the furnace.

The redhead holds his narrow lips so tightly they almost turn white. He has persuaded his father to let him spend time with Hegl, and if Hegl will not have him ...

He steps through the open doors and out toward the washstones, where he pauses and splashes his face with the cool water, letting it carry away the heat of the smithy and the embarrassment. After pumping a drink from the spout, he leans toward the garden fed by the runoff from the washstones. Neatly edged in fitted gray stone, the different colored leaves of the herbs, and the few purple-flowered brinn plants, have formed almost mathematically precise rectangles.

Dorrin lets his senses touch the herbs, feeling the beginning of root rot in the winterspice, always a problem, according to his mother, because Recluce was far warmer than the climes of Nordla. With the practice borne of training, his senses enfold the winterspice, adding the strength the bluish-green-leaved spice needs to resist the dark fungal growths.

Out of habit, he checks the others, even the rosemary in the drier upper stone garden. With a shake of his head that displaces not a strand of his tight-curled and wiry red hair, he straightens.

"I wondered why my spices have grown so true this year." A gray-haired and stocky woman stands by the washstones.

"Your pardon," offers Dorrin.

"My gain, you mean, if you have even a fraction of the skill of your mother." She smiles. "Why are you out here?"

"Wandering thoughts," confesses the youth. "I thought about the wrong thing and turned an unfinished ingot into black steel. Hegl was less than pleased."

"He would not be," affirms the smith's wife. "But he will find some use for it, if only to demonstrate the strength of his work."

Dorrin shakes his head.

"Kadara will not be back from the Temple until later ... she has afternoon classes."

"I know. I'm going home until Hegl needs me." The red-haired youth turns and walks down the flagged path toward the stone paved street.

Behind him, the smith's wife shakes her head for an instant before looking at the herb garden. She smiles as she studies the plants.

Dorrin's steps carry him past two of the stone-walled and split-stone shingled homes of Extina before he turns and walks up the stone drive slightly wider than the drives of the neighboring dwellings. A set of prints in the faint dust that has settled on the short wiry grass indicates where his mother's light steps have trod as she has inspected her own garden and trees.


The man in black looks up, preoccupied, almost as if he does not see the youth on the covered terrace as he walks slowly up the stone walk.

Looking out beyond his father, Dorrin can see the Black Holding, where the Council on which his father serves meets. No one has lived there in the three centuries since the deaths of the Founders. Slightly to the left of the Black Holding begins the High Road, which stretches to the southeastern tip of Recluce. Much of the southern part of the isle remains forested and uninhabited, except for the few crafthalls and the rich Feyn River plains, where most of the isle's grains are grown.

As his eyes flick back to the black buildings on the highest point of the cliffs, Dorrin frowns, absently wondering how true the tales are about Creslin and Megaera. How could they have died at the same exact instant—just as the sun rose? Or is that just another bit of superstition he is supposed to swallow? At least his models do not rely on belief. He frowns. Or do they?

"Dorrin ..." calls the thin-faced man. "We need to talk. Get your brother. The kitchen is fine."

"Yes, ser." He turns and walks down the rear steps from the terrace. Kyl is weeding his own private herb garden, as result of their mother's threat to withhold sweets until both youths' gardens are presentable and orderly. Dorrin smiles. The order of Dorrin's garden has never been a problem. On the other hand, Kyl—his dark-haired younger brother—prefers fishing or crabbing or just staring at the Eastern Ocean to any sort of gardening.

The stocky boy is not weeding. Instead, he sits disconsolately beside a small pile of wilted weeds. "I hate gardening. Why can't I go off with Brice, like I wanted?"

"I suppose," begins Dorrin, kneeling down beside Kyl and immediately removing small unwanted sprouts as he talks, "because father is a black wizard of the air and mother is a healer. If they were fisherfolk, like Brice's parents, then they wouldn't want us to be wizards or healers ..."

"I hate gardening."

Dorrin continues to weed, his hands quick and precise among the plants. As he weeds, his fingers stroke the herbs, infusing them with order. "I know."

"You don't like learning about the air, do you?"

Dorrin shrugs. "I don't mind learning anything. I like to know about things. I want to make things—not like Hegl, but machines that do things and help people. I'll never shift the winds or control the storms."

"Father can only do little things with the winds. He said so himself."

Dorrin shakes his head. "He only does little things, because he fears the effect on the Balance. What good is it to have a power you can't use? I'd rather do something useful."

"Fishing is useful," Kyl observes. His eyes stray to Dorrin's hands. "You make weeding look so easy."

Dorrin shakes dirt off his fingers and stands, brushing off his gray trousers before straightening up. "Father sent me after you. He has some news."

"About what?"

Dorrin shrugs again before he turns back toward the house. "I don't think it's good. He was walking slowly and thinking about something."

"Like the time when you ruined Hegl's iron?"

Dorrin flushes, but does not turn to let his younger brother see the reaction. "Come on."

"I didn't mean that ..."

Dorrin keeps walking.

"... and thanks for the help with the weeding."

"That's all right."

The weather wizard stands by the kitchen table that seats but four. Both youths incline their heads slightly as they step into the room from the covered porch where they all dine together in weather better than the raw overcast outside. Their mother is sitting in the chair by the window.

"Sit down," suggests their father.

They sit, one on each side of Rebekah. Sitting on the remaining chair, the tall wizard clears his throat.

"... not another lecture ..." mumbles Kyl under his breath.

"Yes ... another lecture," affirms their father. "This is a lecture that you have heard and forgotten. And it's very important, because a time of change is upon us." The wizard sips from the cup he has carried to the table. "Among the White Wizards of Fairhaven there is a chaos wizard whose like has not been seen for centuries. They call him Jeslek. He has even begun to raise mountains in the high plains between Gallos and Kyphros."

Rebekah shivers. "Not even the Founders ..."

Oran takes another sip from his cup before speaking. "Something is going to happen, and we have to be prepared. Chaos could crop up just about anywhere."

"Anywhere? That's silly," comments Kyl.

"You think that Recluce is immune to chaos?" snorts the tall man. "You think that the order with which we live just happened?"

"No," answers Dorrin heavily, wishing his father would get to the point. "This has something to do with me, doesn't it?"

His mother looks out the window. Kyl looks at the tile of the floor, then at his brother.

"Dorrin, now is not the time for your games with machines and models." Oran draws out the words.

"Now, Oran," temporizes the red-haired woman. "He's still young."

"Young he may be, but order doesn't flow right when he's around. Have you talked to Hegl? Poor man's afraid to work iron when Dorrin's nearby. I can't sense the storms when he gets worried. Crellor—Never mind! And with the Fairhaven wizards talking about fleets and pressuring the Nordlans to stop trading with us, things are getting too serious to have order disrupted." The air wizard frowns, then coughs. "Too serious," he repeats.

"What do you want me to do? Disappear?"

Oran shakes his head, pulls at his chin, then purses his lips. "Nothing is ever that simple. Never that simple."

Dorrin picks up the heavy tumbler and sips the lukewarm redberry.

Kyl winks at his older brother, and Rebekah glares at her younger son. Kyl shrugs when her glance shifts to Oran.

Finally, Oran looks at Dorrin. "We've talked about this all before, about how you insist on making your models and thinking about machines. And I asked you to think about it." The tall wizard pauses. "It's clear that you haven't taken my words seriously enough."

"I have thought about it," Dorrin says slowly. "I would rather be a smith or a woodworker. They make real things. Even a healer helps people. You can see what happens. I don't want to spend my life watching things. I want to do things and to create things."

"Sometimes, watching things saves many lives. Remember the big storm last year ..."


Excerpted from The Magic Engineer by L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 1994 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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