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Korin sat in his room, studying several new anatomy pamphlets he’d found at the Balance’s library. There was nothing particularly ground-breaking, but the illustrations were beautifully done, and it was never a bad idea to study and remind himself how everything fit together.

He was focused in, tracing the lines of the nervous system with his finger, when he noticed the sound at his window.

Korin had closed the shutters this morning when a sudden rainstorm had blown up, and he hadn’t gotten around to opening them back up now the sun was out. The wood of the shutters was thick—they did a fair job of blocking out noise from the alley—but this sounded like someone was standing outside his second story window and tapping on it with a hammer.

Or throwing rocks. Like Ádan had been known to do.

Korin jumped up. Threw open the shutters…

And startled a little green bird that fluttered away into the sky.

With a sigh, Korin returned to his work, leaving the shutters open.

The bird returned. It was a tiny thing, no bigger than Korin’s hand. It flew in the open window, shimmering emerald feathers gleaming in the sunlight. It landed on the little table Korin used as a desk.

Korin shooed it away with his hand. The bird fluttered up to the ceiling, then landed back on the table.

This was not a problem Korin had in the south. Probably because it was usually too cold there for open windows.

Waving his arms wildly, Korin managed to chase the bird back out of his room. He closed the shutters again. He’d miss the breeze, but until the wildlife had decided to move on, better to just lock it out.

This time, when the tapping started back up, it was a multi-part harmony of light and heavy, fast and slow. Like a whole flock had gathered outside Korin’s window. Korin peeked through the crack at the shutters edge and, yes, there it was. A wild fluttering hurricane of feathers.

This was no accident of nature. This was magic.

He needed to see what was going on. Rather than opening his window again and risk a whole flock in his room, Korin went outside.

As soon as Korin stepped into the alley, the flock dove out of the sky and surrounded him. Korin froze in the cloud of fluttering birds the color of jewels. Wings batted against him, claws and beaks scraped dangerously close to his skin. He coughed against the overwhelming musty smell of feathers. What in the Prophet’s name was this?

The little green bird that had started all this landed on Korin’s shoulder and in a quick, sharp motion pecked against his cheek. It stung, but didn’t draw blood. “You have my attention,” Korin said, unsure what else to do.

The flock lifted into the air. Moving as one, it set off down the street, drawing pointing hands and exclamations of delight from people it passed.

Korin watched it go, and after a few seconds, the little green bird—which was still on his shoulder—pecked him again. Harder this time.

“Am I supposed to follow?” There was no response. Korin wasn’t sure what he had expected. But when he set off down the street in the direction the rest of the birds had gone, he didn’t get pecked again.

The birds led Korin through the city, away from the harbor, towards the bluffs that housed the wealthiest nobles in Triome—possibly in the whole of Ritalle. Korin had been up there once, had sat in a little park with Ádan and looked out across the beautiful city. Light only knew what waited for him this time.

Magic—this had to be magic. And enchanted flocks of birds were pretty much a tool employed by wizards of only one order. There was plenty of overlap in magic techniques among the nine orders, but only one order taught its wizards to work with animals of any sort—the Order of the Wing.

Korin crossed the river and followed the birds up the steep walking paths that led to the top of the cliffs. What sort of wizard was going to be waiting for Korin at the top? Someone pissed off because Korin had been offering for free the healing services the local wing wizards made fortunes off of? That was the only thing Korin could imagine. Why else would one of them have any interesting in Korin? Enough interest to use this dramatically elaborate spell to draw him?

At the top of the cliff, Korin stopped again as he saw the road the flock now hovered over. It took another peck at his neck to get him moving again.

The birds were taking him to the royal palace.

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