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“What do you mean? I’m supposed to die?” asked Cinis, eyes widening.

“I mean exactly that,” Dyrius said, voice hushed, “I’ve seen your death. Many in the guild have, in fact. But it is the guild’s rule not to interfere without great consideration of the consequences. So they shall debate and debate until the time to act has already passed.”

“What do you mean you’ve seen it, though?” he asked, looking toward Rearden for reassurance. “How do you know it is certain? How can you be certain of seeing anything if you are blind?”

“It is my second sight that has caused me to go blind,” said Dyrius, as sweat crawled down Cinis’ back. “We seers rely so heavily upon our second sight that we lose functionality in our physical one. Outside the wall, you would find no greater guide than I. But here, in the city, I am reduced to using a cane to find my way, because of the thickness of the vrael in the air.”

Cinis had heard of seers before at the tavern. Men spoke of them in hushed, revered voices. One had even claimed that a seer had predicted his future, and that he would one day become a lord. The same man had been caught stealing horses a year later, and was still imprisoned in the dungeons for the crime.

“What’s vrael?” Cinis asked.

Dyrius turned to Rearden, eyes ablaze. “Even this you kept from the boy? Have you kept him ignorant in even the most basic ways of magic?”

“For his own safety,” replied Rearden. “He has been in my care for years, and it is my right to raise him as I see fit. He knows the ways of inside the Wall and little more.”

Dyrius sighed, raising his hand to his forehead.

“This is going to be more difficult than I had imagined. Cinis, my sight is a magical gift. In this city, which lies on one of the few passes between Corpia and Cryson, magic is banned. Not by law alone, but by vrael, a silvery substance which dulls all magical powers. At the end of the great wars, vrael was plowed into the land itself. And after the blood dried, the vrael remained. It exists to preserve the boundary between Corpia and Cryson by acting as a deterrent for the magically inclined. Even the strongest of beings are reduced here to near the power of a common man, sometimes, as in the case of myself, to even less. It protects the city from invasion, and allows neither side the advantage of a stronghold in the pass.

“When I entered the city, my strengths weakened. My vision has deserted me because of vrael, except for a few glances at atriel, vrael’s golden cousin, which sharpens magic and shines to my eyes like stars in the night do to yours.

“Regardless, when I found out about your fate, I knew I had to find you. The seers of my guild have peered into the waters and seen into their depths. Dark times for all of Corpia lay ahead. Long forgotten secrets are stirring and emerging into the light of day. Sleeping beings are awakening, shaking off dust after centuries of sleep. The time has come for you, Cinis, to awaken. In spite of the wishes of the guild, and without their knowledge, I am here to show you the way.”

From within a coat pocket, Dyrius withdrew a small, felt-lined, wooden box and placed it on the table. A design was engraved in its surface, depicting a swirling sun surrounded by a circlet of seven intertwined hands. With a click, Dyrius opened the box to reveal a ring studded with a single yellow gemstone, glowing softly against the box’s white, velvet interior. He removed it from the box, placed it in Cinis’ hand, and set the box on the table.

“This belonged to your mother, Cinis, and now it belongs to you. Because of my friendship with your mother, and my respect for your father, I cannot allow your predicted future to happen.” Cinis’ eyes widened as he inspected the ring. He knew little about jewelry, but it looked expensive, and the light from the stone reminded him of the light from the tunnels.

“My mother and father?” mumbled Cinis. “So they left this for me?”

Rearden had never spoken much to him of his parents except to mention that they had been killed by rogue Cryson raiders who had once inhabited the nearby mountains. According to Rearden, Cinis was the son of a lowly lord, who had owned a small estate that had been destroyed, and the lands there had since grown wild. He had promised to take Cinis to his inheritance one day, though he warned that there was little to see, and anything of value had been looted long ago. Even the shell of his burned house had been swept away by the same storms that had flushed the raiders from the mountains a year later.

“For years I have kept it safe,” continued Dyrius, ”waiting for the day I would be called to meet you. Now it is yours. Bear it safely, for it bears the sign of your house. Now—“

Dyrius stopped speaking abruptly, his ear twitching as he turned to face the door.

“Who’s there?” he called. Only the silent night answered, interrupted only by the intermittent chirping of crickets outside the window.

Rearden stood, standing in front of the table. “If it’s a matter of payment, I’ll be out in a moment. Fetch yourself another beer, it’s on the house. I am entertaining guests now.”

He turned to sit back down, but behind him the brass doorknob began to slowly turn.

“Hey!” shouted out Rearden, just as the door exploded open and a snarling city guard stepped in with an arrow nocked into a bow, ready to shoot. The guard fired immediately—the arrow streaked toward Rearden’s exposed chest and its barbed, crimson tip ripped through the back of his tunic. Rearden’s eyes widened as blood began to exit the wound, then he slumped against his chair, his face surprised as the chair tipped him onto the floor. The guard sneered, exposing a row of teeth that looked like they belonged more to a cat than to a man, and quickly nocked another arrow.

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