77 The Student seeking a Master*
Cordon was not what it had been when Aegin has once glimpsed it from the outside. There seemed to be some form of relief amongst the people there. A sense that they had moved on and forgotten what had happened. While this was no doubt good for those there, it did nothing to help Aegin. Nothing but tell him that Rassa's father, Phillip, had long since left.
To put it mildly, Aegin had been stumped on where to go next. After all, there was only so much that Aegin could ascertain by staring at the little village. Eventually, and seeing no other leads presented to him, Aegin decided to return to the spot where he'd first seen Rassa.
He'd surveyed the city itself, the Guild, the Knight's Barracks, the taverns. He'd turned up empty on all accounts. Phillip was nowhere to be found. But surely he'd known his son would be taken here? That Magician had been the one to take Rassa from Cordon, so surely Phillip had been aware of that. No other logical step was presented, so, against his better judgement to stay in the shadows, Aegin sought out the Magician.
That was the greeting he'd gotten when he'd shown up unannounced at the Magician's lab on the outskirts of the city. It was rude, but Aegin couldn't really bring himself to care.
"Was there a man that came by here looking for his son?" asked Aegin, "The son that was no longer...human?"
The Magician crossed her arms, "Who's asking?"
Aegin hesitated. It wasn't like he could prove the relationship, but it was better than nothing, "A friend".
"He didn't have many friends from what I could ascertain," the Magician replied.
"Not of Phillip, of the boy," Aegin replied.
The Magician paused, looking over Aegin again, "You've seen Rassa?"
Aegin sighed and awkwardly stepped back, "I was kind of part of the people who took him from you".
There was a pause, then the Magican opened her hand and a light appeared that was so bright it momentarily blinded Aegin. He stepped back in shock, covering his eyes.
"Argh! What the-"
Aegin felt a hard kick to his stomach and he fell to the ground, disoriented.
"What did you do with that, boy? He better still be alive!"
"He's alive!" Aegin shouted desperately, holding out his hands to show he was unarmed, though he was severely tempted to fight back as he gradually regained his sight, "He's alive".
The Magician paused, "Where is he?"
"Knowing won't help you," said Aegin, "Because you can't help him. But...his father might be able to. I need to find Phillip, can you tell me where he went?"
Stars danced in Aegin's vision as it slowly returned, showing the blurry, cautious expression of the Magician as she weighed her options. Finally, she sighed and stepped back, "I don't know where Phillip went. He showed up about a year ago looking for Rassa. I told him that he was taken and that the Guild and I could find no leads as to where. Once I mentioned the shadow-like disappearance, he said he knew who had taken Rassa, and that he just needed to find out where".
Aegin sighed. Phillip would undoubtably know about the methods of the Ridge Men. But his family had several installations across the continent, there was no way to know for sure where Rassa had been taken. Phillip was likely going off the assumption that Cornelius actually wanted to get to know his grandson and convince him of his rightful lineage, and therefore would not lock him up too far away...Or was it the complete opposite because of the curse?
Aegin didn't like being stuck with that fifty-fifty chance. Jerrica or Fountain Ridge?
Finally, after a few moments of thought, Aegin stood and turned away.
"Where are you going?" asked the Magician.
"Hopefully, after Phillip," Aegin replied, then went on his way once more.
In truth, both options had their pros and cons. But if Phillip had gone to Jerrica, he would have been spotted more easily, and likely not made it into the mines without an appropriate cover. If that cover had passed, Phillip would still have a hard time getting Rassa out of the mines, and then there was the fact that it had been a year.
At Fountain Ridge, Phillip was likely to be recognised. It had been 2 decades since he'd last set foot in his home city, but nobody forgot the face of a Kildare. The Ridge Men especially. Phillip would have a hard time navigating the city without alerting them to his presence, let alone the Duke's estate. Phillip needed to get information on his son's whereabouts, and still be free to do something about it, so the stupidest thing he could do was actually walk up to the estate and demand it. From the stories, Phillip hadn't seemed stupid. Stubborn and determined, but not stupid.
In the end, it had been a year, and Aegin had visited Jerrica multiple times during that year. With its small and routinely based operation, he hadn't seen even a whisper of Phillip, so, Aegin turned his attention to Fountain Ridge.
The problem with that? Aegin was supposedly dead. Going back would only serve to alert the Ridge Men of his father's betrayal. Still, Phillip was the only ally Aegin knew he could count on. The only one who would be in this to protect Rassa rather than take advantage of him. So Aegin took the chance.
Nearly three months after his father had supposedly 'killed' him, Aegin returned to Fountain Ridge. Following his instincts, something that he tended to do more often now that he had nothing else to fall back on, Aegin headed to the slums, the less travelled section of the city. He figured that Phillip would survey from the one area no one would think to catch him dead in. Where no Kildare would dare to set foot in lest their reputation go up in flames.
So, Aegin went from inn to inn, tavern to tavern, asking after a man of Phillip's description. It was harder than he thought. After all, a man of Phillip's description would look like a Kildare, and nobody would dare speak ill of a Kildare in their own city.
Finally, when it was well after sunset and Aegin determined that he should look for a place to spend the night, he turned down an alley and instantly felt a blade at his throat. A dagger to be precise.
"What's a boy like you doing asking after a Kildare?"