Xanthor was not just any old hedge-wizard with cantrips and palmistry. No, he was a real war mage who had seen fire and death with the Imperial and Royal Magic Corps, and in his retirement was content to live simply in his hometown of Edelschloss. Keeping to himself and his experiments, he occasionally deigned to do some service at the request of the burgermeister but usually just strolled around town.

Everywhere he went, though, Xanthor had his bird on his shoulder. A large pigeon or dove, pure white, it was forever perched on the shoulder of the old army dress robes Xanthor wore. And as much excitement and speculation occasionally swirled around the old mage, it was as nothing compared to the gossip about his bird.

The butcher insisted it was an infernal familiar, a demon in animal form like the one that had been unleashed upon the czarists at the Battle of Mumnifia Pass. Any time he wanted, the claim went, Xanthor could unleash a wave of destruction from the beast that could level Edelschloss to the ground.

On the other hand, the baker and his good friend the miller held that the dove was Xanthor’s wife, transfigured for some transgression and kept close at hand. It was true he had mentioned a wife from time to time, and no one had seen her, wasn’t it?

Siskel, the railway guard and auxiliary constable, spoke for many others when he described the bird as an enchanted weapon of war, an ordinary messenger pigeon that had been ensorsceled to be able to speak and cast spells. If ever the need arose, it could serve as Xanthor’s personal Imperial and Royal Flying Corps, bombarding enemies with spells from the safety of the sky.

No one, from the washerwoman who occasionally handled Xanthor’s toughest stains to the burgermeister himself, suspected the truth.

The bird, Katarina, was a simple pet whose company amused the old man.

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