The Phoenix Ring

By: Alexander Brockman

 (The Thunderheart Chronicles Book 1)



For Mom and Shortstop.





Prologue





Marcus Thunderheart, the most powerful warlock to ever live, stood on the small island, staring at the expanse of water before him. Normally, it was calm, the ocean lapping the shore in small waves, an occasional jellyfish in the water.

Not today though.

Marcus’s best friend in the world stood next to him, a beautiful red bird taller than him, with white streaks going down its sides, starting at the eyes. Normally they would enjoy a day on the beach like this, feel the magic around them, revel in it.

Not today though.

Today, they stood staring at death, unavoidable, terrifying death. It was in the form of a long dark line on the horizon, the black sails of countless armies. If you looked closely, you could see that the line edged above the water further than sails could. There were more ways for death to travel than in boats.

Marcus felt blood run from a gash in in his forehead into his eye, but he didn’t care anymore. The only thing that mattered was the enemy on the horizon, drawing closer even as he watched.

What do we do? Marcus asked his phoenix telepathically, he had no strength left for words.

You know, young one. You have always known. Answered the phoenix.

I’m scared, old friend.

You don’t have to be, you know there is another way for you.

And leave you alone to your fate?

You have much left to give to the world, my time is drawing short. You knew this day would come. Escape now, while you can

Marcus took off his ring and stared at it. It was a good ring, one of the best a sorcerer could hope for. It had been given to him by the phoenix, and it was his most prized possession.

Go little one. I will one day see you in paradise.

Goodbye, old friend.

Marcus clutched the ring and pushed his power into it. His life, his thoughts, his very soul, they all went into the ring. He looked up just in time to see the phoenix, his phoenix, glowing with power. On the horizon, the black line faltered, then broke, jagged peaks rose, breaking through it. The deaths in the army hit Marcus like a physical blow. Then the tops of the mountains exploded, and a great glowing orange column rose into the air, blocking out everything.

There was heat, and then there was nothing.



A young wizard with a wand tucked in his belt ran through the smoldering ashes of the island, his griffin pawing the ground nervously behind him. Everything was covered in dried lava, the entire island was dead. Except for one spot.

It was a small hole, too perfect to be natural, a handbreadth wide, on the edge of the shore. The young man desperately thrust his arm into the hole, reaching down as far as he could. He found something and pulled it up into the light to see.

It was a warlock’s ring, the image of a phoenix emblazoned on the front.





1





Sixty Three Years Later





Aidan trudged along the dusty path, a bow on his back and a knife at his side. It had been three days since the boy left the only home he had ever known. He had run out of food on the second day, and was feeling the familiar ache of hunger in his stomach. He had no idea how far Allenna was from his village, too small to have a name, but he knew that he would reach it if he kept following the road.

Allenna was the huge city that served as the meeting place for the council, who ruled all three continents of Sortiledge. Aidan knew very little about the council or city, as few travelers passed through his village and fewer still stayed long enough to share stories. There was no tavern, no hall, and no governor, just a group of farmers, a horse breeder, and a small blacksmith.

Allenna, however, was said to boast several taverns, a group of dwarven smithies, and even a palace. Most importantly of all for the young traveler, the city held a consignment office for the king’s border patrol, who were more commonly called the king’s Rangers. It had been over sixty years since the three races of Sortiledge had gone to war with the nations of the Nefarious Lands, but the council still hadn’t removed the Rangers from the southern edge of their enemy’s territory. It was an extremely dangerous job, as the peoples of the Nefarious Lands had no love for any inhabitant of Sortiledge, and the Rangers were isolated from their homeland by the northern ocean.

Yet Aidan was determined to join the Rangers, no matter how dangerous his path might be. As he had grown up, he had thrived on stories of his father, the greatest Ranger of all. Aidan’s father had slain ogres, trolls, goblins, even dragons, before he was slain himself by a treacherous spy. At least, that is what the boy’s mother had told him.

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