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The Phoenix Ring

By:Alexander Brockman

embered the power with which the sorcerers had waged war against each other, decimating entire platoons with a flick of their wrists. Magic was something that a person was born with, beyond that Aidan knew little. Most of the sorcerers had confined themselves to a secret fort sometime after the war, and had not yet emerged.

Whatever was in the cart must have been valuable indeed to require a wizard’s protection.

“Griffin eggs.” The wizard said.

“What?” Aidan asked.

“I’m transporting Griffin eggs to Allenna. You were wondering what was under that tarp. And no, I can’t read your mind, but the look on your face speaks volumes about you.”

Aidan shut his mouth and stared straight ahead.

It was about a half hour of listening to the wizard mutter under his breath before the trees broke, and Aidan saw the gate of the city. It was guarded by two soldiers in metal armor, each carrying a spear and sword.

“Amilech!” One of them said, approaching the cart. “Is it that time already? How’s the fort? And did you finally get an apprentice?”

“Just let me in,” the wizard said.

The soldier chuckled and procured a piece of paper from somewhere on his person. “You know the rules. No sorcerer enters the city without proving their magic ability, unless you actually want to fill out the paperwork this time.”

The wizard swore, first a word that Aidan knew, and then one he didn’t. Immediately, the papers in the guard’s hands burst into flame.

Aidan felt the familiar anger build in his chest, but said nothing. He doubted the wizard would care what he said anyways.

“Fine, Amilech. It was pleasant to see you, as usual. Just try to be nice to that boy of yours.”

Aidan smiled. His mother had no magic ability, and his father was a barfly. He would never be a wizard’s boy.

The two guards stepped aside and let the cart through the gate. For so long, Aidan had wanted to see the inside of this city. He had heard so many stories from the other boys, but nothing would have prepared him for what he saw. The moment the cart entered the city, Aidan was overwhelmed by the sheer number of sensations. The city was almost alive with the sound of merchants calling out in the streets, next to their carts that slowly released the smells of delicious sausages, soups, and foods that Aidan had never heard of. The chimneys bled black smoke, and dozens of people roamed the streets in various levels of haste. Aidan even spotted a dwarf among them, recognizable by his short stature and long beard.

Most dwarves lived on the western continent of Sortiledge, while most elves lived on the eastern continent. Humans lived in the center continent, Gurvinite. The other races normally only came to Gurvinite to trade, but some dwarves settled in the large cities, and there were rumors of elves living in the forests.

They stopped at a strange sort of barn that rested a little while away from the main road, with a huge hole in the roof. Aidan had never seen a griffin stable before, nor had he ever seen a griffin up close. He was hoping that his companion would go inside, but instead the wizard drove the cart to the back of the building, where a short man, also toting a wand and robes, greeted them with a smile.

“Amilech, how did the eggs travel?”

“More comfortably than I did. The boy will put the eggs wherever you need them.”

Within a few minutes, the boy was regretting his decision to ride with the sorcerer. The eggs were the size of watermelons, but much heavier, and had to go into some sort of heated chamber. The short man and Amilech stood to the side, talking, while Aidan moved all thirty eggs.

“That’s all, boy,” the sorcerer said. “Have a coin for your trouble. Now get. I have business to attend to.”

Aidan gratefully took the coin and walked away from the odd man.

“Did you feel what I felt?” The breeder asked Amilech as the boy walked away.

The wizard nodded. “It’s why I picked him up on the side of the road. Perhaps it was only one of the eggs. It would be rare, but not as rare as what I’m thinking. Should we follow him?”

The other man slowly nodded. “I will check the eggs, to be sure that we aren’t confused. You stay with the boy. I’ll have a griffin ready to take you both to the fort if necessary. Try to be gentle, Amilech.”

“I’m always gentle!” Amilech snapped. “Have that bird ready. I hope to be seeing you soon.”

Aidan bought a sausage with the coin as soon as he came back to the main street. He was fairly certain that the coin was worth far more than the sausage, but had never had the chance to learn about currencies, and the merchant had been helpful in directing Aidan to the Ranger’s consignment office. Aidan was beginning to feel nervous has he took the side road that would take him to his future, whatever it might be. He could no longer count on his father’s reputation to help him succeed, and his own skills with a bow were certainly not first class. He was a fairly decent shot and could normally take down a deer, but Rangers were said to be able to knock a man off his horse from four hundred feet away with ease. His stealth skills were certainly lacking, and while he was good at fist fighting, he had learned very little about the use of knives, key components of a Ranger’s fighting style. And to make matters worse for Aidan, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched.

The office was just a little building, tucked away in the back corner of the city and painted green and brown. There was no door, just a deerskin curtain, which Aidan pushed aside as he stepped inside. The room was sparsely furnished, with a desk and two chairs in the middle and a mounted head of some giant beast on the back wall directly over another door. In the chair behind the desk sat a man who appeared to be in his fifties, though he still appeared strong and fast. He was clothed in a green hood and cloak, with an unstrung bow at his side. He was focusing inte