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I vaguely remember a story (novel or series, sorry, I don't know) that I read in German in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The book was translated from English, though.

It was about a thief who could use magic to exercise his "profession". He was an orphan (not sure about that, maybe he just ran away from home) who was adopted as a kid by an older and rather unfriendly thief who taught him the trade.

The story took place in a medieval world. Thieves weren't the only ones with magic skills. A pecular thing of that world was that you needed an individual trigger to cast magic. In the case of the protagonist, the trigger was physical pain. I remember a scene where his teacher hurt him on purpose (on his hand? with fire?) for the first time to awake in him the ability to control magic.

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    I came here thinking this would be the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser books/stories by Fritz Leiber, but the rest of the details aren't even close.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 28, 2023 at 15:32

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I believe you're recalling The Longing Ring (1993) by Christopher Kubasik. It did indeed have a German translation, Der magische Ring (1994). It was the first book of a series associated with the Earthdawn RPG.

Cover of "Der magische Ring" with a statue with green glowing eyes below the "Earthdawn" logo

J'role is a mute seventeen-year-old who lives with his drunk father, shunned by his village since his mother died (was killed by the rest of the village, actually) nine years previously. When the ork Garlthik arrives in his village one day, J'role leaves the people who don't want him and his father who doesn't care, and follows Garlthik to become an apprentice thief.

Thief magic is indeed linked to pain, as J'role finds out the first time Garlthik sends him out to steal something. After burning J'role's arm, Garlthik tells him:

"What? Is that an excuse? I had my arm broken, boy, and I made my way out of a series of good knots. Do you think pain is an excuse? Pain is what feeds you. Without pain, there is no thief magic." He relaxed his grip on J'role's neck. "Now, think of the pain, think of what I said on the road. The magic will support you."

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    Yes, that's it. Many thanks! There was the background setting about daemons and the sealed underground towns. In my head, I had separated the two plots and was convinced that they were two different series.
    – trunklop
    Mar 29, 2023 at 16:18

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