By David Gore

Long ago when magic still ruled the world, the most powerful of men were the magicians, and Aldebaran was the greatest of them all.  No one knew from whence he had come, but he appeared one day in the town of Tyrie during a long drought and incanted spells which drew the clouds and brought on a downpour.  His help in relieving the drought and his kindly manner endeared him to the townsfolk, and though they viewed him with more than a little awe, they made him welcome in their homes.
  No one was surprised when, after a few days, Aldebaran declared his intention to make his home in the forest near Tyrie.  Later he married a village girl who bore him twin sons, Belsor and Javor. Several years after that while Aldebaran was away, his wife died in the plague of the Black Death.  But Aldebaran's sons survived the plague and grew into fine young men.
Although his bringing the rain showed the power of Aldebaran's sorcery, Aldebaran normally used his magic for little things.  When the miller's back began to trouble him, Aldebaran eased the pain.  When a peasant woman's son was lost in the forest, Aldebaran led her to him.
The villagers sometimes speculated over why Aldebaran seemed so little interested in using his power to amass great wealth, or to win a position at the side of the king.  Only his children understood that Aldebaran's passion was not wealth or power, but knowledge.  When he wasn't with his sons, he was in his alchemists workshop or his private library.
It was generally believed that Aldebaran's magic was due to the ring he wore, which glowed with a pure white light.  On his sons' eighteenth birthday, Aldebaran took off his ring and used his magic to fission it into two identical blue rings.  These he put into separate jewelry cases.  He then called his sons to him.
"My sons, you are men now and have no great need of me," he said.  "The past five years I have waited for this day, for I must go to another place, never to return."
"Where will you go?" asked Javor. "Can we come with you?"
Aldebaran smiled at his son.  "No, I must go alone.  Where I go isn't even of this world."
Belsor noticed that his father was not wearing his magic ring. "Father, where is your ring? Have you lost it?"
"No," replied Aldebaran. "I no longer need it.  The ring was a useful tool, but not the essence of magic.  I have split the ring to make gifts for the two of you."  As he said this, he handed the small boxes to his sons.  They opened the boxes to see two identical rings, each shining with a blue inner light.
"These are indeed wonderful gifts," said Belsor, "but why are they blue instead of white?"
"The white ring possessed a more powerful magic," replied Aldebaran, "Doubling the ring has divided the power.  A blue ring is still rich in magic.  As the power is depleted, the color of such a ring changes from white, to blue, to green, to yellow, to red, and finally to black.  A black ring is exhausted, and cannot be called upon to work magic."
"But your ring always stayed white!" objected Belsor.
"For a ring to retain its power," replied his father, "two conditions must be met.  First of all, it must not be used for evil purposes, to harm others.  The second condition is more difficult.  The power of the ring must not be wasted; it must be effectively used.  The ring listens to not only the wish, but the purpose behind the wish.  If carrying out the wish does not accomplish that purpose, the power of the ring is diminished.  It is not easy to use the ring effectively."
"We thank you for the rings, father," said Javor.
"And now," said Aldebaran, "it is time for me to go.  I wish you both well."  He hugged his sons, then stepped to one side, clapped his hands over his head three times, and disappeared.
Javor was reluctant to use his ring.  He wanted to think first about what his wishes might be.  After all, if he wished for gold and then used it unwisely, wouldn't that be a waste?  What if he cured a crippled beggar, and then the beggar starved because no one would give it alms?  Javor decided to spend a few years in thought and study before using the ring.  He put it back in its box and hid the box in his room, and never spoke to anyone of his father's gift. 
Belsor had no such qualms about using his ring.  He built a large castle and staffed it with servants.  The townspeople of Tyrie saw his ring and assumed he alone had inherited his father's magic.  They came to him when they needed help, and he granted their wishes.  Yet Belsor was not content. One problem was that his purpose in granting their wishes was not to help them but rather to bolster his own sense of power.  But the praises of the people he helped never quite satisfied his boundless need.  Then too, quite often his magic led to complications he had not anticipated.  If he gave a cow to one peasant, the other peasants would become envious.  If he made all the peasants rich, they would stop farming and other townsfolk would complain about the lack of food. 
This unhappy state of affairs took its toll on the ring.  Its color shifted first to aquamarine, then successively to green, chartreuse, yellow, orange, and finally red.  Belsor became increasingly unhappy as the color of the ring changed.  His larger wishes went unfulfilled, and that in itself weakened the ring further.  Even when his wishes were granted, he was unhappy that he could not have wished for more.  The purpose of his wishes, limitless power, could not be satisfied by the decreasing power of the ring.

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