The next few years of my life in Dalaran continued as they had since I arrived as an orphaned five-year old. The only difference was with the passing of each month I found myself reading more and adventuring less. When I was craving adventure Appoleon and I might head into the Dalaran sewers or dream about breaking into the violet citadel, but I had performed real magic and that had changed everything for me.
Lady Sonea even had young Evanor begin to teach me the basics of magical energy and the concepts of how our universe was all bound together by a powerful force known as the twisting nether. It would be some time before I would be able to teleport on my own, but my understanding of the elements, herbs, the art of alchemy… it was all birthed in these years of renaissance. All the while I knew what Sonea was doing to me. I was being prepared. The admission age for the Kirin Tor was thirteen if you had a mage in your family tree. It was eighteen if you could demonstrate a magical talent on your own. My grandfather, though I knew almost nothing about him, had been a mage.
That meant I was up for admission very soon.
The winter came and went and came and went once more.
No one actually knew my real birthday, so Sonea had chosen the first day of spring to celebrate as my special day. When the first day rolled around on my thirteenth birthday I knew big things were coming my way.
I woke on that morning without any residual sleepiness that generally kept me in bed for a good half hour or so after waking. Birthdays were generally exciting days for young ones, but this day was far more important to me. I had made my first level potions and I knew how to craft a quick bandage to help with burn wounds. I just knew in my mind that I would become a mage of the Kirin Tor. I was more excited than anyone might imagine.
I hit the bar of the inn and was surprised to find that Appoleon was already waiting for me. The sun had barely started to come up over the horizon.
“Hey there!” he shouted when he saw me. “Happy Birthday Sionis!”
“Hi,” I replied with a grin. “What brings you here this early? I thought you would wait for the sun to come out before you did any birthday wishing.”
“Well today is a big day for us,” Appoleon said very sternly.
“How so?” I asked. “Are you planning to go for admission into the Kirin Tor as well?”
Appoleon laughed. He laughed harder than I would have liked.
“No,” he said through the chuckles. “I get a horse today.”
“Oh, that’s cool.”
Appoleon rolled his eyes. “You get one too, you dummy! Happy Birthday!”
Feeling overjoyed, I nearly bounced my way out of the inn and down the street to the stables. There were all sorts of horses in the famous stables of Dalaran, but I didn’t care if they gave me an old plow horse with a broken face. It would be my horse.
We headed inside and Appoleon made his way down the stalls until he found the number he was looking for and pulled the doorway open. The smell of dried grass and fresh manure poured into the stable hallway. Appoleon gave a quick tug on a lead and a beautiful chestnut mare stepped out of the stall and into the hallway. It followed Appoleon’s lead without question and I could tell that he’d already been training with the animal.
“This is Butternut,” he said proudly. “She’s a champion breed.”
“That’s your horse?” I asked.
“That’s right. Isn’t she beautiful? Come here and pet her.”
I did as I was told, stepping over and gently raising a hand toward the animal. The horse stepped over to me and rested its nose against my palm. It let out a deep breath and the warm air made the hairs on my arm stand up.
It was amazing.
“The stable master is going to help you pick out your horse,” Appoleon added, gently pulling Butternut back. “I’m excited to see who you get!”
By now, I was at the limits of how much excitement a boy could handle. I had barely been awake for an hour and already I was gifted with a horse. I didn’t know anything about riding the creatures, but I knew that I wanted to learn.
Appoleon let me ride Butternut so that I could learn the basics, as taught by a fellow child. It wasn’t overly-complicated, but I knew I’d have to let the stable master run me through the ropes so that I could learn the things that Appoleon had forgotten.
Meanwhile, I was already scouting the stalls for the horse I might get to claim as my own. The older the animals got the cheaper they were. I assumed that I would be getting an old beast that could barely trot, but I didn’t care. I’d be more than happy to call it my own.
When the stable master finally appeared, he went straight to the stalls and found a young black stallion. I rushed over with all my boyish glee, but the master saw me coming and stepped between me and the animal.
“Oh no,” he said firmly. “This one isn’t suitable for riding.”
“It’s not?” I asked.
“No, it has a bad leg. We’ll probably have to put it down if we can’t do anything to fix it. It is such a shame too. He would be a beautiful stallion.”
I couldn’t have agreed more. The horse didn’t look sick or crazy, but the stable master tossed him some oats and then moved down to where a gray and white mare was poking her head over the wall.
“I call her Ghost,” the stable master said as he opened the stall and let her come out. “She’s mighty kind and easy to ride. You and she should get along just fine.”
He was absolutely right.
Ghost was a beautiful animal, and she trotted right over to me. Within three minutes I had completely forgotten about the little black stallion. It was me and Ghost, all the way.