An apprentice with a hidden power. A master wizard. An impossible quest.  

Alrion has a secret power. Without a clue he lives out his blacksmith life. Always longing for something more. He finally gets his chance when a mysterious robed man arrives bearing incredible news: Alrion is a wizard.

But not just any wizard; Alrion is destined for greater things. He must venture out into the world and discover the fabled Pool of Knowledge, a special source of all known spells and knowledge. Within it lies the secrets to cleansing the Blight for good.

Twisted creatures, transformed by the Blight, are out to stop Alrion and end his quest. The young wizard must learn how to use his powers to protect himself against the rising tide of evil monsters. If Alrion is lost, then so is the world’s last chance to be free of the Blight and its cursed taint.

The first three chapters are available as a sample.

Otherwise start reading below:

PROLOGUE

Granthion awoke with a start. His heart was pumping, and he knew that something was very wrong. He rose from his bed, cursing the aches and pains he felt in his lower back. He could overcome many things, but not age.

After a moment, he identified the feeling. It was danger, which could only mean one thing. He retrieved the sapphire ring from his bedside table and slipped it onto his finger. He chanted a few words under his breath, concentrating on visualising his target: the matching ring.

He cleared his mind and let the spell do its work. He started to see images, and with an icy rush found himself looking into a room. He saw his son, surrounded by dark shapes. He strained to look further, to see more details but he could not. The tightness in his chest and physical reaction were now confirmed in his vision. His son had been taken and was in terrible danger.

“Fool,” Granthion said, including both his son and himself in the comment. His own pride and arrogance had driven his son away. But also, it was his son’s foolishness and lack of care that had landed him in this predicament. The trouble was, there was no time to save him. Granthion ran his hands through his white hair, trying to think of a solution. If he didn’t act fast, his son would cease to be his son. They would transform him into something else, something similar but not the same. The essence would be there, but people were never the same after the turning. He could not allow that to happen.

There were many spells at his disposal, but his mind kept going back to one. One he was saving for his final hurrah, his final gift to the world. But it came at a cost, and there was no going back.

No matter how he approached the problem, this was the only solution. It was his life’s work, but it looked like fate was forcing his hand ahead of schedule.

“Oh well, now is as good a time as ever,” he said. But before he left, there were preparations to be made. Granthion shuffled over to his desk and retrieved paper and a quill. He wrote swiftly but legibly, two letters. One addressed to his new successor and one to his son. After he was done, he donned his travelling robe, packed a satchel with two crystal orbs and took one last look around the room. It was his home, and he would never see it again. Relics from his many journeys littered the room: magical artifacts, books, treasures, and keepsakes. Each one told a different story. But now he had to leave, and forge one last tale. He left the room and closed the door behind him.

The tower was still and quiet, as the other elder wizards were all asleep. But he didn’t want to take any chances and quickly cast an invisibility spell with a secret inverted hook that would hide him from the other wizards. He would now be completely invisible and not even a trace of magic would be detectable by standard methods. He crossed the large chamber and headed towards the stairs. He never enjoyed them, they were entirely too small, and he always felt unsteady on the long walk down. But this time they were like friends, speeding him on his way. He had a new purpose, and it would be fulfilled soon.

Once he had descended from the tower he looked out across the courtyard. It was empty as expected, but he could still see images of many of his triumphs and those of his students played out before him in his mind’s eye.

“Nostalgic old fool,” he told himself and kept walking. He headed straight for the stables, to retrieve his trusty horse, Whitemane. They had been on many journeys together, and it was fitting that they would go on one last quest. As he entered the stables Whitemane was awake and waiting, quietly.

“You always seem to know something before I do,” Granthion muttered to the horse. He led Whitemane out and prepared him for travel. Granthion walked out the main gates beside Whitemane and looked back at the Wizard Academy. His legacy.

“May you stand the test of time, and solve that which I could not,” Granthion said, then mounted Whitemane and rode off into the forest.

Once he was out of sight of the academy, Granthion let the invisibility spell lapse, now that the immediate danger of being spotted by other wizards was over. Next, he needed to travel somewhere elevated to perform the spell. He knew of a smaller mountain nearby, more of a lofty hill if he were honest. But time was against him, so he decided that it would have to do. It was also centrally located within the country of Avaria, and he knew that his son was also somewhere in the vicinity. But he could not track him further.

Whitemane ran with incredible speed as if he understood the urgency. Granthion was glad; he didn’t want to push the horse too hard. There were other means of speeding this up, but he needed to preserve his strength. He would need every ounce for the spell.

He thought over his plan as he rode. By casting the spell from a height and drawing the right kind of power he could cover the entire country of Avaria. Not knowing where to target the spell wouldn’t be a problem, and he would help many other people at the same time. But the cost was so great. Doing the spell would take everything he had, and most likely his life. That was the price for him doing it this way. But it would save his son and countless others.

There would be repercussions of course, not just for him. Doing this would create an imbalance in the world. If he succeeded, then Avaria would be the only country free of the Blight: something that would cause conflict and jealousy.

Not my problem now, Granthion thought. He had spent a lifetime carrying all the problems of the world on his shoulders. Today would be the last day for that.

He looked up as they were emerging from the forest. He saw the mountain peak in the distance. It didn’t look that big from where he was, but he knew it would be enough.

I must make it in time.

He felt Whitemane increase his speed in response and patted his old friend in thanks. The morning sun was starting to emerge, as Granthion arrived at the mountain path. He dismounted from Whitemane and stroked the horse on his head.

“You have done well, my friend, thank you,” Granthion said. Whitemane neighed in response and waited patiently. Granthion gave him one last pat on the white mane that had earned him that name and continued on foot.

The path was rough and steep, it was not meant for a lot of traffic; especially not an old man like himself. He imagined all the ways he could cheat his way up but restrained himself. It kept his mind busy, but he couldn’t waste the energy. Physical exertion was one thing, but exertion of his Spark was another. He had to save up every last scrap that he had to pull this off.

Slowly, he trudged up the mountain leaning heavily on his staff. It felt like every two steps he took, he would slide back one, but he persevered. He had an important task, one that he could not fail to do. He took a moment to examine his thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t out of love that he was doing this, but regret. Regret in the way he and his son had fallen out, regret at what could have been.

I set him on this path. I must set him on a new one.

He pushed harder, winding higher. Finally, he saw signs that he was reaching the top, and made one last effort to make it. As he rounded the last wind of the path he emerged at the top of the mountain. The peak was flat and cleared. There were only a few rocks strewn about.

“This will do,” Granthion said, surveying the view and what he could see. The sun had risen now, and filled the sky with amazing orange colours.

The start of a new day, and a new beginning, he thought. He slowly walked over to the middle of the mountaintop and set down his satchel and staff. He retrieved the two crystal orbs. One was snow white, the other jet black: two components of the spell, two aspects. The white one was the source of the cleansing spirit, the black one the conduit and connection to the Blight. By using the two in tandem, he could accomplish the impossible. He could cleanse the taint of the Blight. But the cost was high; his life force was the currency. It was an imperfect and incomplete spell, but it should work.

Granthion took a deep breath and pictured his son.

“I love you, and I’m sorry,” he said. He held the orbs in his hands, the black one in his left and the white one in his right. He prepared his mind and started to visualise the spell.

He pictured the country of Avaria, and a white silky net covering it. All those within the net would be affected. Next, he supplied his own Spark, powering up the white orb. He funnelled more and more into it and created a link between himself and the orb. Only the smallest amount remained in his body.

He sent out his purified Spark, resulting in columns of white light streaking down from the sky, each one targeting a person in the country. The light touched each person, and if they were not tainted by the blight, it dissipated immediately. But those who were couldn’t shake the strange column of light that hovered over their heads.

With this done, he started the final push. By using the black orb, he drew out the Blight from each person, through the orb and into himself. Each time another person was drained of the Blight, he saw a quick flash of their face and soul. Tirelessly he continued, hoping to see the face of his son. When he least expected, it came and went, like all the rest. A feeling of peace washed over Granthion.

It came in two parts. Firstly, he was relieved that he had found and saved his son. The other more pragmatic part was that it had worked; this whole effort was not for nothing. Hopefully, he had acted before the full transition had completed. As grand a gesture as it was, this act wasn’t the proper solution he had been working towards. But he was glad that at least his final act would be a successful one.

However, he didn’t stop there; it was too risky, and he had a job to finish. He continued pushing until he had touched every person tainted by the Blight. Then he switched the link between him and the orbs, trapping the entirety of the Blight within himself. He felt the taint, corruption, and filth like black sludge on his soul. A monumental amount that no single person should ever have to endure. He understood what those afflicted must have felt, and the effect it had on them. It was terrible, and left unchecked it would turn him into something else entirely.

With the spell in full effect and the taint of a nation within him, he did the only thing left to do. He used the small amount of his Spark left within to call down one more ray of light from the sky. But this one was not to heal, it was to destroy.

He felt the white-hot heat searing him, and with it peace. As he was burned away, so was the sludgy taint from his soul. His final gift was to himself, a fitting end to an incredible life.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

A WIZARD ARRIVES

Vincent unlocked the workshop and ushered his son inside. The lanky young man hurried in, used to the routine. Vincent opened the doors all the way and let the light flood in.

He looked around, making sure everything was as it should be. The workbenches were clear, the anvil was clear, and the forge was ready. There was a clean version of the workshop smell filling his lungs.

Good, Vincent thought.

“Alrion, how does the workshop look?”

“Everything is fine. What did you expect?” Alrion said, some annoyance creeping into his voice.

“It’s a good habit to always assess the situation. Otherwise, you can get yourself into trouble.” Vincent walked around the room, passing his eyes and hands over each of the workbenches.

“Well, a locked building is usually a safe bet.” Alrion stood rooted to the spot, watching his father’s routine.

“You can’t always be so sure,” Vincent said, with a chuckle. He had seen many strange occurrences over the years, some random accidents, some not so random. He finished his inspection after giving everything a proper look over. He was not usually so careful, but he had a strange feeling.

“It’s going to be an interesting day,” Vincent said.

“If you say so.” Alrion looked bored already. That wasn’t a good sign for the beginning of the day. Vincent decided to spice things up a little.

“Let’s try and finish all the outstanding orders.” Vincent watched his son’s reaction closely.

“I don’t think we can.” Alrion looked unsure of his answer, however.

“Well, let’s try,” Vincent said. He walked over to the wall and grabbed some charcoal. He wrote up all the orders for the day. There were simple knives, tools, horseshoes, and other assorted implements to be done.

“Looks doable,” Vincent said, stepping back. Alrion didn’t comment.

“So, do you think you can go buy me the required materials to knock these off?” Vincent said to his apprentice. Alrion looked up at the board and ran his hands through his dark hair.

“Not sure.”

“C’mon son, you’ve done this a while. Just think carefully and break it down.” Vincent wanted to break through, he knew Alrion was capable. The lad just needed the right push.

“No, you’ve done this for a while. I just help out. You never actually let me do the work. I’m a grown man now, you know. Everyone else in the village is actually doing something with their life, not just acting as a hands-off apprentice.” Alrion paused, looking a little surprised himself at the outburst. Vincent shook his head slowly.

“Well, I do admit I’ve been a little strict in my teaching. But there’s a good reason why you haven’t been doing the bulk of the work. You’re just not interested in being a blacksmith. You’ve no focus and no desire.”

“Then why keep me here? Why keep going through the motions?” Alrion looked ready to just walk out. His eyes were daring Vincent to give him a reason. But Vincent wasn’t going to let his son off the hook that easily.

“I don’t know exactly what the world has in store for you. I had hoped that you would follow in my footsteps. But I do know that I can teach you all you need to know through blacksmithing. It was my lifeline when I was drifting around, looking for a purpose. And also, how I met your mother,” Vincent said, walking over to Alrion. He still found it difficult looking up at his taller son.

Why are kids always bigger than you?

“Seriously? I can learn all I need to know in the world from blacksmithing?” Alrion said. Vincent smiled. He had his son’s curiosity aroused now.

“Sure you can. To be a successful blacksmith you need three things: the knowledge of how to work the metal, an iron will to bend it to your purpose, and a passionate heart to bring out the best in it. Those three things are the building blocks for success in any field.”

“Sure, maybe,” Alrion said. He turned back to look at the list of jobs. Vincent watched with interest.

“Sorry, I don’t know what you need,” Alrion finally said. Vincent’s hopes sank. Something was still missing, he hadn’t quite gotten through to Alrion.

“You do, but you don’t trust yourself. Fair enough, it’s probably my fault. It’s often easier to learn through doing. I’ll write you up a list,” Vincent said. He scribbled the list on a piece of leather and handed it to Alrion. He delighted in watching his son’s face as he read through, the realisation coming together that whatever he had been thinking was not far off what Vincent had written down.

“Show off,” Alrion muttered, then left the room. Vincent smiled as he watched his son leave.

Some things get through, as much as he doesn’t like to admit it, Vincent thought.

 

* * *

 

Alrion walked quickly through the town. He was annoyed by the way his father handled things, especially when his father was right. He couldn’t fault the man’s approach too, which made it all the more irritating. But it still didn’t help his frustration at being stuck in the same loop. He needed to move on to something else. But for now, he would complete his errands.

The first stop was the tanner. He knew intimately where the shop was, but his nose could have guided him blindfolded. The smell was strong, even from this distance. He expected to see Bruce, the tanner when he arrived. But instead, he saw Gavin. The blonde-haired apprentice was lounging around.

“Hey, Gavin,” Alrion said. Gavin looked up and smiled.

“Hey, Alrion, you running errands?”

“Yes, we’re doing a big push today. Are you minding the shop?” Alrion kept looking around, but saw no sign of Bruce.

“Actually, my old man is out today so I’m running the show.”

“That’s great.” Alrion tried to hide his annoyance. Either he did a good job at masking it or his friend didn’t notice.

“What do you need?”

“Just these,” Alrion said, handing the list to Gavin. The young tanner glanced over the list.

“Yeah, that’s no problem, I have everything here. Although you just made more work for me. If I fulfil this whole order, I’ll have to push hard to finish it.” Gavin was frowning.

“Oh well,” Alrion said, not worried about Gavin having to do actual work. At least it seemed like meaningful work, rather than buying materials. He watched Gavin go and collect and trim all the hides he needed and let his eyes wander over the rest of the town. It seemed so slow and sleepy, that he couldn’t imagine what would keep him here.

“Hey, are you coming out stargazing tonight?” Gavin called out as he worked.

“Maybe. What’s the plan?” Alrion had forgotten all about it. Suddenly his day didn’t seem so bad after all. There was nothing more freeing than seeing the clear night sky full of stars. They offered more than Hamley ever would to Alrion.

“We’re going to Pyrin’s Peak and we have a good group going. Looks to be pretty clear, no clouds at all.”

“Sure, why not?”

“Great. Meet us at the town gates after dinner and we’ll hike over.”

Soon Gavin returned with a pile of hides, all perfectly cured and ready for use. He dumped the pile in Alrion’s arms.

“This should do it,” Gavin said, taking enjoyment in Alrion’s awkward handling of the hides. He was trying to carry them all without dropping them.

“Thanks. My father will come around later and pay.”

“No problem, we know where you live,” Gavin said with a laugh and Alrion quickly joined him. He left a bit happier than he had arrived and rushed back to the workshop, so he could drop off the hides. Alrion peeked inside and saw his father staring into space.

There he is, off in his own world again, he thought. But he didn’t disturb his father and went off to find the carpenter.

Allan the carpenter was inside his own workshop. Alrion could tell that from the consistent sawing noises he heard as he approached. He walked in and watched Allan work, knowing that he wouldn’t be heard until there was a natural break. Allan had several large logs lined up on his workbench, and he was methodically cutting them down into more standard sizes that he could use.

“Hi,” Alrion said when Allan had finished sawing one of the logs. The older man turned to see who had addressed him.

“Oh, Alrion, how are you doing?” Allan beamed a full smile as he always did.

“I’m fine.”

“Good to hear. Say, I still need an apprentice. I know you’ve been helping your dad, but would you be interested in trying your hand here?” It wasn’t the first time Allan had asked, but there was a real earnestness to the man that made Alrion almost consider it.

“Sorry, it’s not for me.”

“No problem. You know me, I have to ask. Would you believe I had to ask my wife out eight times before she said yes?”

“Yes, actually I would.” He really could picture Allan going back again and again with that enormous smile until she finally relented.

“Ha-ha yes she’s a tough customer. But it was well worth the effort. So, what brings you in today?”

“I need a few materials, so we can complete our current orders.” Alrion showed Allan the list. The carpenter nodded his head slightly as he read each item.

“Hmm, that’s fairly easy. Most of it I can give you straight away. I’ll need to make a few cuts first.” Allan moved with purpose through the workshop, picking up planks that seemed to be placed at random. After he had a small pile assembled on one of the workbenches he set about cutting some logs to fulfil some of the other sizes that Alrion had requested.

As Allan was working, Alrion could see what his dad meant about passion. There couldn’t be anything less exciting than cutting logs to a specific size. Yet Allan was some forty years into it, and cutting away with the enthusiasm of an apprentice. Alrion hoped that one day he would find himself a similar role, something to hold his passion and excitement the same way.

“There we go, all done. You need a hand hauling this back?” Allan said. He looked eager to help.

“No, it’s not far I’ll be fine. Thanks again.” Alrion didn’t want to take advantage of the man’s good nature.

“No problem, I’ll sort the details out with your father. Don’t forget my offer.”

“I won’t,” Alrion said, meaning that he wouldn’t forget but also wouldn’t take the man up on it. He struggled with all the planks, but didn’t want to go back and ask for help after he had already refused it. He kept going despite almost losing his grip multiple times, dropping them in a loud heap at the entrance of his father’s workshop. Vincent ran out immediately.

“What’s all this? Is there a battle out here?” he said before looking over the pile of lumber and hides.

“Job’s done.” Alrion gestured at the rather messy piles.

“I can see that, maybe a little more care next time. Help me bring them in, and try not to drop anything.” Vincent sighed and started collecting materials. They carefully brought everything inside and stacked them up according to Vincent’s instructions. Alrion let out a sigh of frustration.

“There’s a method to this. I’ve set up a workflow to quickly churn through all the jobs to be done. You’ll be impressed,” Vincent said. Alrion looked over the stacked benches and just felt tired.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” he said.

“And now we start,” Vincent said with a big smile. Alrion just looked at him.

“You having fun yet?” Vincent asked, reaching for the first piece of iron.

* * *

Falric pulled his brown cloak tighter around him as he approached the outskirts of the town. It was a very small town, more like a village.

This has to be it, he thought, although it did seem odd. He hadn’t expected to arrive at such a place. But he had done several magical pulses and the location had been confirmed every time without fail.

His cloak was too warm for the conditions, but it was more to avoid any unwanted attention. Now he just looked like a normal traveller. It was very important that he pass through the town unnoticed until he had completed his task. A small sign on the side of the path announced the town of Hamley.

I’m about to put Hamley on the map, Falric thought with a chuckle. Well, his actions here would do so, but it would take a while for the world to take notice. Such was the fate of wizards.

The town looked to be well-maintained and bustling, although from the clothing of those he saw that they were not rich. The houses had well-thatched roofs that showed signs of proper care. The people he saw looked happy and content, but busy.

A nice place to grow up I think.

Perhaps the perfect environment. There weren’t many places like this left in the world. He let his horse determine the pace, only gently guiding him in the right direction. He received a few looks, but nobody paid him much attention. An old man in a dusty cloak riding a horse didn’t look that out of place after all.

He passed several workshops, men and women alike working hard. There was a tanner, a blacksmith, and a carpenter servicing the town. Probably more trades as well, but those were the most obvious. He thought back to his task, a strange one. He had enjoyed the trip over, a good distraction from his otherwise administrative duties. Heading up the Wizard Academy was a busy job, and not as exciting as many would think. He enjoyed it but longed for trips such as this. Precious opportunities to explore the world.

He gently pulled on the reins, bringing his horse to a stop. It was a normal looking house, white with a red door. He dismounted and hitched his horse to a wooden post out the front. He stepped up to the front door and knocked soundly twice. At first, nothing happened. He focused more and could hear movement and footsteps within the house. Finally, the door opened, and a young woman with bronze skin and long bright blonde hair opened the door.

“Hello. Can I help you?” the woman said. She was dressed as the other villagers, in simple clothes, but Falric noticed something else about her. She seemed much more refined and was looking at him critically, trying to size him up.

“I very much hope so. My name is Falric, may I come inside?”

“You’re not from around here. Care to explain why you are here?” The woman was polite but firm.

“Well, I had hoped to broach the topic inside, but why not. I am the head of the Wizard Academy, and I am here to locate the grandson of the great wizard Granthion. I know that he lives here,” Falric said. He took amusement from the stunned look on the woman’s face and hoped that she wouldn’t leave him outside.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

FAMILY HISTORY

Alrion moved the last knife into its proper place on the workbench and took a step back. They had completed all the work and placed each of the items together with the name of the requester.

“This was a good day’s work. I think we’re ahead,” Vincent said.

“Yes, you did well.”

“We did well. You played your part, son.” Vincent clapped Alrion on the back.

“Thanks.” Alrion had to admit that it was satisfying seeing all the raw materials converted into useful items for their customers. From experience in his home, he knew that the items lasted well. His father built things properly and they could be used for years with only minimal maintenance. While he didn’t make particularly exciting things, they were definitely built to last.

“Well, let’s head home then. I’ve worked up a fair appetite, how about you?” Vincent said.

“I’m starving.” Alrion thought that perhaps his stomach was trying to gnaw its way out and find someone else to properly feed it.

“That’s the reward for a good day’s work. And your mother’s cooking is also its own reward. Step outside and I’ll lock up the shop,” Vincent said. Alrion left and turned back to watch his father. Vincent was initially just staring at Alrion, and then nodded to himself and resumed closing the workshop.

I wonder what he‘s thinking.

The two of them set off to walk home. The town wasn’t particularly large, so after a few minutes they had already arrived. No conversation was required. After a long day working together they usually had nothing else to say. Vincent stopped suddenly and pointed to the horse tied up outside the house.

“You expecting visitors?” he said to Alrion.

“No.” Alrion was surprised. Their friends and neighbours all lived close and didn’t need to ride over.

“Maybe your mother is,” Vincent said. But his tone of voice suggested he wasn’t confident. The two of them walked up to the door, Vincent entering first and Alrion rushed in just behind him.

Alrion saw his mother sitting in the lounge, an old man in robes sitting across from her. On the wooden table between them was a pot of tea and two cups.

“Welcome home, dear,” Celes said to Vincent. Her voice sounded strange. Alrion darted his eyes between his two parents, trying to figure out what was going on.

Something is wrong, I‘ve never heard her call my father dear.

“Thank you, my dear wife. Who may I ask is our guest today?”

“I thought you might be able to answer that,” Celes said. The old man rose quickly and approached them.

“Hello, sorry to impose. My name is Falric,” he said looking at Vincent and Alrion. A look of recognition passed over his face.

“Ah, now the mystery is solved. Good to see you again, Andar,” Falric said. Alrion was shocked and could see the surprise in his mother’s face as well.

“I’m afraid you are mistaken. The name is Vincent.”

“Really? My facts are correct, but perhaps more has happened that I am not aware of.” Falric had a cautious look on his face, but still seemed quite confident.

“Who is Andar?” Celes asked, her voice rising in pitch. Alrion didn’t know where to look, but settled his gaze on Falric.

“Andar … sorry Vincent here, is the son of Granthion. That means you must be his grandson,” Falric said, nodding at Alrion.

“Who is Granthion?” Alrion asked finally. There was something going on here, and he seemed to know the least about it.

“Why Granthion was the saviour of Avaria, and the great wizard who founded the Wizard Academy,” Falric said.

“Let’s all just sit down,” Vincent said. He gave Alrion a look that made him swallow what he was about to say next and sit down on the couches provided. Celes was similarly quiet.

“I see I have caused a bit of a commotion. I’m very sorry about that. I should start again from the beginning. I am the head of the Wizard Academy, and I came here to find the grandson of our founding wizard, Granthion. I recognise Vincent here from when he was younger. And you, young man, have your grandfather’s look about you. There’s no mistaking it.”

“My name is Alrion. I’ve never heard about my grandfather.” Alrion looked at his father, who avoided eye contact.

“Oh, well I’m surprised your father never mentioned him. He’s the most famous wizard that ever lived. He died over twenty years ago, sacrificing himself to cleanse our country of Avaria from the Blight.”

“Wow, I had no idea. This is all so strange. Why are you looking for me?” Alrion felt like something was off. His stomach churned away.

“It will become much stranger soon, I’m sure. But I came here to find you because you must be tested and trained to be a wizard.”

“I see,” Vincent said. Alrion felt something shift. That nervous energy became a mix of curiosity and fear.

“Because my grandfather was a wizard?” he said.

“Of course. Magic is accessible by all, in various strengths and means. But the talent of a true wizard is passed through the family,” Falric said.

“Shouldn’t that make my father a wizard too?” Alrion looked over but again, his father avoided eye contact.

“It should,” Falric said, looking at Vincent.

“Sometimes it skips a generation,” Vincent said, offering no additional details. Celes gave him a questioning look.

“Well regardless, Granthion left specific instructions to search for his successor when the time was right. And here I am.”

“How did you find me?” Alrion said.

“Magic. With the right spell and the right focus, you can find just about anything.”

“I still don’t understand, though. My grandfather was a famous wizard but until now nobody has ever talked about it. It doesn’t make sense.” Alrion just wanted some sort of explanation.

“It doesn’t make sense, does it?” Celes said, giving Vincent a pointed look. Alrion felt better that his mother also seemed to be in the dark. It wasn’t just something kept from him.

“Well, that’s a fair question. To put it simply, having such a famous father is the kind of thing that follows you around and gives people the wrong impression. So, I changed my name and left it behind me. There was nothing good to come of it for me.”

“But you don’t deny your son the opportunity?” Falric said.

“If he’s got the gift and he has the desire he can be a wizard. If it is his true calling I won’t stop him.” Vincent had a resigned reluctance to his voice. Alrion had never heard him sound so defeated.

“I can’t believe you are the son of Granthion,” Celes said, looking at Vincent with new eyes.

“I am, but that doesn’t change anything,” Vincent said.

“Yes, it does, a wizard has come for my son.” Celes was raising her voice again.

“Are you saying that he cannot go?” Vincent said. Celes looked at him, exasperated.

“No, I just need time to adjust to this. If he does go, you must join him and make sure he is safe.”

“Sure, I can accompany him. It might even be fun,” Vincent said. Celes did not look impressed.

“Falric, can you tell me more about wizards and my grandfather?” Alrion said. He needed to know more about what they were talking about. Nobody in the village discussed wizards at all. Only in stories were they referenced, and rarely.

“Certainly. Wizards have been around for a while. They are the masters of magic and can do wondrous things. But for the longest time, it was a master to apprentice relationship. The skill of a wizard was very much dependent on the quality of his master. It developed a strong bond between the two wizards, but kept out other wizards and bred secrecy and competition. There were some other drawbacks too, but they were the key ones,” Falric said.

“What was the answer?”

“Your grandfather realised that there was a better way to do things. A way to share the knowledge evenly to make every wizard better, and at the same time have stronger bonds with his fellow wizards. He conceived of an academy where all wizards could go to train, and absorb the knowledge from other skilled wizards.”

“That sounds pretty good.” Alrion liked the idea of such a place. It just seemed more open and exciting than the constraints of Hamley.

“Yes, it’s a fantastic thing. Knowledge is such a key component of being a wizard; it’s largely what sets us apart from others. Building a place to gather and distribute knowledge to all wizards was a fantastic idea. And now the academy is thriving and becoming bigger and bigger.” Falric’s excitement was obvious. He gestured with his hands to show the growth of the academy. Alrion saw in him the same passion that his father had invested in blacksmithing. Maybe this would be the answer he was looking for. But there was more to it than that. This was a whole side of his family that had never existed until now.

“What was my grandfather like?” he said.

“He was a kind soul, but a little abrasive at times. He was very abrupt and to the point. He didn’t tolerate silliness at all. But he was fascinated with the world, and even without his final gift he contributed more to wizards than any other.”

“You mean when he sacrificed himself?”

“Yes. He devised a means of cleansing the Blight from people. And he used it to great effect to save Avaria. Our peace and prosperity are largely due to him. But I believe he was working on something bigger, a way to cleanse the Blight for good,” Falric said.

“So, are we in agreement then, that Alrion will undergo wizard training at the academy and see if it is the life for him?” Vincent said, standing quickly.

“Yes, provided you accompany him,” Celes said.

“Yes, I want to try it out. This could be what I’ve been looking for,” Alrion said. It was an unbelievable opportunity. And he could always return here and help his father if it didn’t work out. That wasn’t going anywhere.

“I’m not particularly comfortable with going to the academy. But I won’t deny him the opportunity,” Vincent said.

“There is still a matter to discuss before we proceed. The test,” Falric said.

“The test?” Alrion said. The nervousness came back.

“Yes, it’s a simple matter that won’t take long. As I discussed, many people can use magic to some degree, but wizards have a special talent. We have a test that proves whether you have the gift, even if it is untrained. Given your lineage I don’t foresee any problems, however, you must pass to undergo the training,” Falric said.

“What does this test consist of?” Alrion was fine with the idea of being a wizard, as a new concept. But this whole idea of a test made it more of a reality, one he wasn’t quite ready for.

“That I will explain in due course. Is there somewhere safe to perform the test?” Falric looked at Vincent.

“Let’s use the workshop,” Vincent said after a short pause.

“Very good. If you don’t mind, I’d like to administer the test straight away.” Falric rose and stretched his legs.

“Fine by me, let’s head over now,” Vincent said.

“I have to see this so I’m coming as well,” Celes said. Alrion looked at them both. He was trying to hide his concern, but he wasn’t sure he was doing it well. He wasn’t ready for a test. Not when they just announced he was a wizard.

“Don’t worry, lad, you’ll do fine,” Falric said. Vincent strode towards the door, opened it, and waited for the rest to leave. Alrion was last.

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