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Chapter 11: In Which Marning Makes a Mess In Auran City

Burgen Winterstarch had eyes the colour of forget-me-nots and hair so blond it brought the sun to shame. His cheeks were as round and pink as a baby's bottom; his complexion glowing like moonlight. His teeth, which he constantly flashed about in a confident grin, were as white as pearls. His robes had more frills and colours than a peacock's tail, made of the finest fabrics and fashioned according to the highest court fashions. He stepped into the room with light steps, a bounce in his easy stride and with flourishing movements overflowing with youth, he sat down before the Grand Master Marning.

"You called! Grand Master!" he chimed. The boy tended to exclaim whatever he said.

Burgen Winterstarch seemed like an overgrown clown, and even though Marning knew that this was mostly an act, whenever he had to have an audience with the boy his skin crawled.

Marning would have to learn to live with it.

Burgen was the third son of a minor noble who had a few small holdings somewhere in the poverty-stricken west of Auranora. If he had not been born a Wielder, Burgen would have most likely ended up as one of the dregs of nobility, so poor he could barely buy his bread, but still proud to call himself nobility

Despite his meagre means, Burgen had been one of those fortunate boys who discovered his abilities at a tender age and, vibrant with youth, had managed to make the most of them. In truth, his head was not filled with rocks as he led many to believe. He was exceptionally gifted, and that was why he was sitting before Marning.

But, gifted or not, he was just another magician overshadowed by Cooper. Another who could struggle and strive all his life, and never reach the greatness of the deceased King's Magician.

Even if Marning had chosen this youth to fill the much sought after position that had been Cooper's, this boy was nowhere near being the next Harlock Cooper.

"I ask that you get rid of that tone," Marning said tersely. How could he hide his bitter disappointment? Cooper had been unique, his existence had been a miracle in history, and now he was gone, leaving behind a dry and colourless world. A world filled with magicians and Wielders, but devoid of the real essence of magic. "You needn't exaggerate in my presence, boy, it will make me hurry to regret my decision."

Burgen straightened in his chair, his expression changing to attentive seriousness; he said nothing, which was exactly the right thing to say.

"As you are most likely familiar with the process, you will be made the King's Magician if I recommend it after two years of apprenticeship under my hand." Marning lowered his voice, "but to be fair with you, Winterstarch, I feel obligated to explain to you in what position you stand."

"I believe I know," Burgen said with a hint of arrogance in his confident smile.

"Oh?"

"I am to be the most unfortunate King's Magician candidate in the history of Auranora, for I stand to fill shoes larger than any magician could fill. I will never amount to anything like my predecessor, I am only sufficient for what a world lacking Harlcok Cooper could offer."

Marning grunted in agreement, at least Burgen's ability to comprehend was comforting."Yes, that is vaguely the matter I wished to illustrate."

"Then I trust we understand one another, Grand Master!" Once again Burgen's smile flashed, and he crossed his legs theatrically "I cannot aspire higher than my abilities will allow. I am content to accept this position even if I am the most tragic person to receive it in all of history."

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