Home > A Quest of Heroes (The Sorcerer's Ring #1)(12)

A Quest of Heroes (The Sorcerer's Ring #1)(12)
Author: Morgan Rice

“You act as if this is your first time in King’s Court. Have you no idea how big it is?”

Thor reddened as the other women laughed, then finally stormed off. He did not like being made fun of.

He saw before him a dozen roads, twisting and turning every which way through King’s Court. Spaced out in the stone walls were at least a dozen entrances. The size and scope of this place was overwhelming. He had a sinking feeling he could search for days and still not find it.

An idea struck him: surely, a soldier would know where the others train. He was nervous to approach an actual king’s soldier, but realized he had to.

He turned and hurried to the wall, to the soldier standing guard at the closest entrance, hoping he would not throw him out. The soldier stood erect, looking straight ahead.

“I’m looking for the King’s Legion,” Thor said, summoning his bravest voice.

The soldier continued to stare straight ahead, ignoring him.

“I said I’m looking for the King’s Legion!” Thor insisted, louder, determined to be recognized.

After several seconds, the soldier glanced down, sneering.

“Can you tell me where it is?” Thor pressed.

“And what business have you with them?”

“Very important business,” Thor urged, hoping the soldier would not press him.

The soldier turned back to looking straight ahead, ignoring him again. Thor felt his heart sinking, afraid he would never receive an answer.

But after what felt like an eternity, he replied: “Take the eastern gate, then head north as far as you can. Take the third gate to the left, then fork right, and fork right again. Pass through the second stone arch, and their ground is beyond the gate. But I tell you you waste your time: they do not entertain visitors.”

It was all Thor needed to hear. Without missing another beat, he turned and ran across the field, following the directions, repeating them in his head, trying to memorize them. He noticed the sun higher in the sky, and only prayed that when he arrived, it would not already be too late.

*

Thor sprinted down the immaculate, shell-lined paths, twisting and turning his way through King’s Court. He tried his best to follow the directions, hoping he was not being led astray. As he reached the far end of the courtyard, he saw all the gates, and chose the third one on the left. He ran through it and then followed the forks, turning down path after path. He ran against traffic, thousands of people pouring into the city, the crowd growing thicker by the minute. He brushed shoulders with lute players, jugglers, clowns, and all sorts of entertainers, everyone dressed in fineries.

Thor could not stand the thought of the selection process beginning without him, and he tried his best to concentrate as he turned down path after path, looking for any sign of the training ground. He passed through an arch, turned down another road, and then, far off, he spotted what could only be his destination: a mini colosseum, built of stone, in a perfect circle. It had a huge gate in its center, guarded by soldiers. Thor heard a muted cheering from behind its walls and his heart quickened. This was the place.

He sprinted, lungs bursting. As he reached the gate, two guards stepped forward and lowered their lances, barring the way. A third guard stepped forward and held out a palm.

“Stop there,” he commanded.

Thor stopped short, gasping for breath, barely able to contain his excitement.

“You…don’t…understand,” he heaved, words tumbling out between breaths, “I have to be inside. I’m late.”

“Late for what?”

“The selection.”

The guard, a short, heavy man with pockmarked skin, turned and looked at the others, who looked back cynically. He turned and surveyed Thor with a disparaging look.

“The recruits were taken in hours ago, in the royal transport. If you were not invited, you cannot enter.”

“But you don’t understand. I must—”

The guard reached out and grabbed Thor by the shirt.

“You don’t understand, you insolent little boy. How dare you come here and try to force your way in? Now go—before I shackle you.”

He shoved Thor, who stumbled back several feet.

Thor felt a sting in his chest where the guard’s hand had touched him—but more than that, he felt the sting of rejection. He was indignant. He had not come all this way to be turned away by a guard, without even being seen. He was determined to make it inside.

The guard turned back to his men, and Thor slowly walked away, heading clockwise, around the circular building. He had a plan. He waited until he was out of sight, then broke into a jog, creeping his way alongside the walls. He turned to make sure they weren’t watching, then picked up speed, sprinting. He kept running until he was halfway around the building and spotted another opening into the arena: high up were arched openings in the stone, blocked by iron bars. One of them, he noticed, was missing its bars. He heard another roar, and lifted himself up onto the ledge and looked.

His heart quickened. There, spread out inside the huge, circular training ground, were dozens of recruits—including his brothers. Lined up, they all faced a dozen of the Silver. The king’s men walked amidst them, summing them up.

Another group of recruits stood off to the side, under the watchful eyes of a soldier, hurling spears at a distant target. One of them missed.

Thor’s veins burned with indignation. He could have hit those marks; he was just as good as any of them. Just because he was younger, a bit smaller, it wasn’t fair that he was being left out.

Suddenly, Thor felt a hand on his back as he was yanked backwards, flying through the air. He landed hard on the ground below, winded.

He looked up and saw the guard from the gate, sneering down.

“What did I tell you, boy?”

Before he could react, the guard leaned back and kicked Thor hard. Thor felt a sharp thump in his ribs, as the guard wound up to kick him again.

This time, Thor caught the guard’s foot in mid-air; he yanked it, knocking him off balance and making him fall.

He quickly gained his feet. At the same time, the guard gained his. Thor stood there, staring back, shocked by what he had just done. Across from him, the guard glowered.

“Not only will I shackle you,” the guard hissed, “but I will make you pay. No one touches a king’s guard! Forget about joining the Legion—now, you will wallow away in the dungeon! You’ll be lucky if you’re ever seen again!”

   
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