Just beside the door of a dull building a billboard hung with an image of a rampant horse. The board mentioned you have arrived at ‘The Black Horse’. The air was pregnant with a kind of energy that radiated on the visitors of this settlement. It was a sort of inn for wizards and other folks who were somewhat familiar with them.
The interior was completely out of oak as a precaution to keep the clenched magic inside. Metal was a too strong conductor for the many spells that floated in the air inside and the cement layer and the bricks would lose their coherence and collapse due to the multiple charms which emanated out of the heads of the wizards.
The force of the outspoken or the in their minds invented word was no match for the firm wooden construction of the building. The wood they have used for this structure was adjured with a spell of protection.
This was necessary. It would be foolhardy, even dangerous if one of the charms escaped and by coincidence would glue to a passer-by. Here in this included space everybody could practice magic to test each other or to gain experience.
Nobody could say there were no rules. The ‘Kra Duras’ or the Brotherhood of the Black Wizard had a long list of requirements. Things they should take into account before and during the speaking or the inventing of a magic formula. The older ones haven’t even had to speak the words to obtain something in a magical way. They had so much experience that only thinking about the formula was enough to shape the order of things. Young wizards or apprentice wizards tried all sorts of exercises on each other. Once in a while things went wrong. One of these students had turned one of his friends into a fly. Given the fact there were a lot of this flying little animals on the spot, no one could the right one to undo the spell. It was a hard lesson to learn. The apprentice wizard had been punished with the heaviest punishment. The confiscation of their magical talent.
Today Joeri Marten stared through the window of The Black Horse. He had an appointment with an important person. Joeri took a deep breath. It had been a difficult forenoon. Young Marten was apprentice wizard and he had just received a few lessons of Magister Darius Felten. Joeri had done wrong on different occasions when Magister Felton questioned him about a chapter they had to learn yesterday. Transformations and relate subjects. These were all things he had a hard time to familiarize with in spite of his knowledge of many other facets of magic.
He looked and saw many passers-by through the window of The Black Horse. It was a multi-colored gang and considering it was market day, the street swarmed with foreigners. Joeri noticed the colorful people of his department Westerend. In contradiction to the dark dressing code of the Brotherhood of Black Wizards, the Westerend inhabitants dressed in bright blue, flaming red or sometimes canary yellow garbs. On their head, some men wore a turban in the same colors as their pants. Their coats were decorated at the end of the arms with brocade, certainly with the richer fellow-citizens.
Nonetheless, the similarities between the departments of Upperland in clothing, the colorful fabrics they picked for their garbs were slightly different. Those from Kondor in contrast to the people of Westerend – who chose for one color for their dresses – where favorite of mingled colors. Their pants were in a blue and red hound’s tooth motive while their vests had no brocade. The inhabitants of Speloek chose for a yellow and red motive, didn’t wear a turban and put their hair in a bun or a ponytail. Their skin was also darker than the people of Westerend or Kondor. The women of the Upperland departments dressed as their masculine opponents.
Not only Upperlanders passed by. Many of Downland had made a voyage of days to be able to participate in the market happening in Carpagio, the capital of Westerend. Joeri saw people out of Spira who with their coats with short leaves had tattoo drawings on their forearms. You could read their prestige and wealth of the drawings upon their body parts.
Joeri saw at a certain moment a merchandiser with both forearms richly printed with all kinds of signs. It should be a prosperous vendor. When he counted the rings on his fingers and noticed the four bodyguards he had around him, it had to be one of the richest merchants of Spira. The residents of Konteki and Mandregon were also painted on the forearms with strange writings. Men of Konteki were recognizable at their black turbans. On the other hand, grown-up men of Mandregon have all been shaving bald.
The women of the three Downland departments, however, were less to distinguish between each other. On their girdle or belt, they were wearing semi-long ribbons that showed from which department they came. Red and white were the colors of Mandregon, blue and red for Konteki and the women of Spira chose for black and yellow.
Finally, Joeri noticed the person for whom he had visited The Black Horse. A young man, black hair and dressed immaculately in the royal colors, brown and green. Charles Stone tried not to stand out. Of course, this was as difficult as to accept the presence of a fox in a hen-house. Given that his face was known to everybody of the brotherhood, this was an impossible task. Nonetheless, most of the visitors of The Black Horse knew him, they didn’t show. A short glance when he entered the establishment and then the conversations continued normally as usual.
The young heir to the throne wiped with an arrogant gesture through his hair and looked around till his eyes met those of Joeri. He sat in front of Joeri on a wooden chair and made a sign to the innkeeper. As if he waited for this signal the keeper brought him a mug of his finest beer from which Charles took a big gulp before he addressed Joeri.
‘Mm, I really was thirsty… And, my good friend Joeri, you have talked to someone of the Kra Duras about my assignment?’ Charles looked at the young man over his mug with an impatient glance.
Joeri seemed nervous. It wasn’t a habit to be at a table with the prince royal. Charles Stone would be the successor of the deceased King Conrad, everybody knew this. His presence in the inn, The Black Horse, wasn’t weird, considered he often drunk here a few glasses of beer. However, the difference of status showed in the fact nobody would address him spontaneously.
‘It’s a problem, Monsignor,’ Joeri started, ‘as we had concluded in our former conversation, there has to be a Kings ring for the successor of King Conrad. Without this sign of the Crown, there is no successor. My bosses have confirmed it… is it sure that it has been lost. Have you searched everywhere?’
‘Everywhere,’ Charles affirmed. ‘We have the crown and the sword, but the ring wasn’t on his finger, nor in one of his pockets of his clothes. My servants have searched all his rooms, they have put the castle upside down to find this bloody thing. But alas! Can’t you turn to your powers and invent a searching spell or something like that to trace the jewel? A wizard possesses still different possibilities to solve such a problem, I suppose?
Joeri looked frightened for a moment. Scared because his answer wouldn’t be appreciated by the choleric Charles Stone.
‘If we should have the box, Monsignor, where he kept the ring or some scrapings from the setting of the ring, we can perform this. But other than this… I think the ring is lost.
Charles Stone hit the table with his fist in all his angry. Everybody in the inn was silent for some seconds, but when the prince looked in their eyes, the conversations continued as if nothing had happened. Nobody would risk the rage of the heir to the throne to come over him.
‘I have to obtain this ring or otherwise heads will fall. Even if I have to… Suddenly Charles Stone thought of something. ‘What if you had his ring finger, could you work with that?’
Joeri swallowed for a moment. What would he answer to such a question?
‘Maybe. The skin doesn’t keep the traces of objects for a long time. It’s more an impression of the flesh, in this case, but it could give an indication of the direction we have to take for our search. It’s worth trying, but how will you get this ring finger?
The young prince laughed. ‘Leave this to me. The tomb where the sarcophagus is situated isn’t closed yet and as a royal member I can freely walk there. Nobody will discover this. I will bring you this finger and you will do the rest, all right?
‘All right.’ Joeri shivered. He had seen very bad people, but such a cool cucumber he had never met.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere 20/12/2014