The Phoenix Ring(10)

By: Alexander Brockman

"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 what the crystal's called. Do you remember, when you tried to use magic, how you had to get really emotional before it would work?"

Aidan nodded his head.

"Magic is like a living thing, you have to connect with it and make it understand you before you can use it. A Soulrock is a type of crystal that was grown in a special cave north of the Nefarious Lands. Through a Soulrock, magic can understand you."

"Why wouldn’t that girl let me touch hers?" Aidan asked.

"A Soulrock bonds with a person." Timothy answered “It becomes one with their Arror, an Elven word that roughly means 'life force.' If you take a Soulrock that is bonded to another person, then there will be a test of wills. If the owner of the crystal is stronger, then the intruder will die. If the intruder is stronger, then the owner and the crystal will become his slave. That crystal you are holding is dead, which is why you aren’t."

Aidan looked at his fingers and saw that they were shaking.

Funny how now is the time my body picks to get scared.

"But how did I do magic the first time, with a wand?" Aidan asked.

"Ah, now we get to the fun part." Timothy said, pulling a piece of wood out of the bag. "This is rowan wood, which also has a connection to magic, the forest out there has plenty of rowan trees. Unfortunately, rowan magic is uncontrollable and, as you found, very flammable.

"For some reason, you have a special connection to the magic. Whenever you get angry, it seems to respond to you, but only in the same way as rowan, the magic is uncut and completely unsuitable for casting complicated spells. You should bond really well to a Soulrock, you're more powerful than any other two mages combined.”

“Why haven’t I ever had this happen before?” Aidan asked. “I just set a chair on fire, but I’ve been angry plenty of times and never done anything like that.”

“Your Magic had to be activated.” Timothy said. “Amilech was probably the first magic you had ever encountered. Good luck trying to turn it off now.”

"How do I get a Soulrock, do I have to pay for it? ‘Cus I'm pretty much broke." Aidan said, beginning to wish more and more for the farm where he had grown up.

"There is a special ceremony where you get to "call" a Soulrock, which will take place in a vault specially designed for them. If the Soulrock is weaker than your will, you will become its master. If not, then the mage…"

"What," said Aidan, "does the mage die?"

Timothy closed his eyes.

"But what if I don't want to go through that, what if I just want to go home?" Aidan asked, feeling some more of the anger build inside him.

"Mate, I wish you could," Timothy said, "I think all of us have wanted that at some point or another. But even if they make this place out to be a camp, or a nice little barracks, it's really a prison. And some of us are gonna die."


The rest of the day went by quickly for Aidan. Timothy tried to tell Aidan as much as he could about life at Fort Phoenix, which seemed to be all right except for the whole "Some of us are gonna die." thing. For the first month after arriving young mages could roam freely throughout the camp to get used to the way it was run. After that, there would be an evaluation with a rowan staff that would help the older wizards gauge how powerful the new arrivals were.

Timothy was the only other "First Month" in the camp, he had arrived two weeks before Aidan. Malachi managed to pull some strings so that he and Aidan could do their evaluation on the same day.

The night that Aidan arrived the two boys sat alone in the mess hall. It was a huge structure with more than thirty large tables that were sectioned off based on age and ability. Aidan had a good view of the adult tables from where they sat, and Timothy pointed out the warlocks to Aidan.

"That one at the head of the table," Timothy said, pointing to a very fat man that was starting to lose his fhair, "That is Master Edwin, he is the camp councilor, you know about the council right? The people that rule the entire known world, yeah, he's one of them."

Malachi was sitting on his left.

"So tell me," Aidan said, "How did you get a warlock as your master so quickly?"

"My father is a wealthy merchant," Timothy answered, "And my mother was a powerful sorcerer. She was friends with Malachi when they were young, and she taught me everything I know about magic. Malachi took me on as a tribute to her. Oh, that warlock with the dragon on his forehead sitting on Master Edwin's right is Bartemus. He's never taken an apprentice, most people think he lost his mind when Marcus Thunderheart died in the Great Wars."