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The Phoenix Ring

By:Alexander Brockman

far more impressive than any building Aidan had been in. Also, the walls appeared to be impervious to anything. Even when a rock that could have come from a catapult slammed against it, it showed no sign of stress.

Suddenly, Aidan felt a breeze above his head, and looked up in time to see another, prettier girl flying haphazardly astride a staff. As Aidan watched, something fell from her neck and she fell to the ground.

Aidan looked at his feet and saw the thing that she had dropped. It was a crystal of some sort, sky blue and attached to a cheaply made necklace. It was a beautiful thing, almost as nice as its owner, and Aidan slowly reached down to pick it up.

Right before his finger touched it, something collided with his face.

He was thrown onto his back and looked up to see the girl that had dropped the necklace.

"Are you mad!?" she yelled

Aidan leapt up to his feet, nose dripping blood.

"Listen, I'm sorry, I didn’t know that you were so protective over your stupid-"

"You idiot, it isn't just a necklace! What kind of sorcerer are you?"

By now the rest of the mages had stopped what they were doing and were forming a circle around the two. Aidan began to feel the anger bubble over inside him.

"Really, all I know is that you dropped the necklace, and where I come from if someone drops something then you pick it up and-"

He was stopped short as he had to dodge her fist. She didn't look so pretty when she was trying to murder him.

Next she tried to hit him with a surprise uppercut, but he caught her fist. Years of brawling at the orphanage with boys older than himself had shown made Aidan a far better fighter than any of the mages in the room.

He threw her arm away and the rest of her followed. She jumped back to her feet, this time with a scepter in hand, when Aidan felt someone pulling him away. At the same time, another girl was pulling his opponent out of the impromptu fighting ring.

"I had that covered, you know," Aidan said to Timothy.

"Yeah, you did great beating up one of the weakest mages here. Oh, and she's a girl. Now shut up and follow me."

Aidan had a tart reply planned, but he closed his mouth and fumed silently. His mother would have given him a thorough lashing if she knew he had ever touched a girl, let alone gotten into a fight with one.

Everyone was staring at Aidan as Timothy pushed him out the door. They kept walking at a furious pace until they got into the boys' quarters, where Timothy opened the door to number thirty-seven and shoved Aidan inside.

"Stay here. Don't touch anything!"

He slammed the door, and Aidan was left alone.

Great, he thought, two hours and I already managed to break every rule in this stupid place.

He sat down on the bed he had woken on, and stared at the fire again, which was still blazing.

What am I doing here? I'm a farm bratt, maybe a Ranger, not a wizard! Where did I even get my magic from?

But he knew where he got his magic from. Not his mother, that was for sure. That left his father.

My father…

He had left a bag of fifty silver coins in the room where he had spent one night with Aidan's mother. She had used it to buy the farm where up to twenty boys could stay at once.

Aidan wondered what she was doing now. She probably thought her son had been accepted into the Ranger’s corps, and was learning to fight trolls in the Nefarious Lands. She would be so disappointed when he went back to the orphanage with the sign of a criminal burned onto his hand.

Aidan stared at the table that Malachi had created. It was made of fairly flimsy wood, and was highly flammable. Aidan still remembered the word that had made the fireplace light so quickly.

Why not, I'm already in as much trouble as I'm going to get in. He thought.

"Ingo!" he said.

Nothing.

Aidan stared at the table.

"Ingo! Ingo!" he yelled, getting more and more angry.

"By the dragon's breath, ingo!" he finally screamed, and jumped back as flames engulfed the table and chairs in a roaring inferno.

"Whoa, mate, what part of don’t touch anything do you not get?" Timothy was standing in the door with a leather bag slung over his shoulder.

"Ok, I never touched it, it just kind of…"

"Uh, yeah. Take this." Timothy said, handing him the leather bag.

The younger boy pulled a wand out of his belt and pointed it at the flame.

"Eslang!" he said, and the fire went out, leaving the room hot and smoky and the chair in ashes.

"Just for future reference, that means Be not. Incredibly useful spell. Now, I have some stuff that I should have explained to you before taking you to the mage training area. You'll have to sit down on the floor since someone had to burn the chair."

Aidan sat down on the stone floor, feeling more than a little stupid.

"My master believes in learning on the job, but that obviously is not going to work very well with you. He told you the story "How Magic Came To Sortiledge", which I personally think is a bunch of… well, let's just say I don't think it's true."

"Uh, your master," Aidan said "Is he, I don’t know…"

"Insane?" Timothy finished, looking up from the bag. "Yes, probably. Ok, so I have here a few objects that you are going to look at, if you can promise not to set anything on fire."

Aidan bit back another reply and nodded his head.

Timothy reached his hand into the bag and pulled out a large, strange silver ring. In the front of the ring, where a jewel would normally be held in place, was a type of glass bubble with a strange symbol on the front. Inside the bubble was a crystal, not unlike the one that the young girl had dropped.

"Go ahead, you can put it on, it won't kill you." Timothy said, looking at his fingernails.

Aidan slipped the ring on. There was a hole in the back, it was placed so that the crystal inside was always touching the wearer's skin.

"What is this?" Aidan asked.

"It's what we generally call a Soulrock. Well, that’s

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