A note from Rhaegar

Hey all. New chapter up. I'll be on vacation next week until the 14th or so of August. I'll schedule posts on RoyalRoad but they might be a little less frequent.

Chapter 243 Metal Gear

“There is.” Goliath said in the usual whisper and moved over to the water tank. Its hand raised up and aimed at the stone wall next to it before energy gathered in a dark orb, shooting out a second later. The blast completely obliterated the wall. A rune glowed near the wall and the fresh air was cut off immediately, likely because the airflow was not to be disturbed.

Ilea nodded and spread her wings, looking down into the abyss. They were situated somewhere near the waist of the massive stone statue on whose shoulders and decapitated neck the town of Hallowfort had been built. It was still a couple hundred meters down to the water. Two of her ashen limbs moved over to the container and unhooked it from the metal piece it hung from. Goliath’s golden eyes were focused on her during the whole process, Ilea just looking back and winking at the smith before she flew out, the container dragged by the ash’s strength alone.

Letting herself fall, she took in the crystal light that illuminated the world below the wasteland. Stone and water mostly, little vegetation likely because the suns didn’t reach down here at all. The water reached further than her eyes could see, more an underground sea than just a lake. The crystals reflected on the water surface when she reached it, glistening in their unending brilliance. Holding onto the massive bucket with all her ashen limbs, she flew it sideways and dunked it into the water, slowly lowering it afterwards.

It filled up quickly, Ilea noticing some dark shapes in the water deep below. Fishies coming to play? But the bucket was full and she didn’t want to damage Goliath’s tools just because of her curiosity. Later, much later if I’m honest. My water trauma is too recent. Using all the strength in her ash and wings, she pulled the container up. The statue reached high towards the ceiling of the cave, a person with two arms and legs, hands held together as if praying or meditating.

Heaving the huge bucket back inside, she carefully hung it back where she had taken it from, noticing the change in temperature immediately upon entering. Some of the water already started to steam. “It’s already going, shouldn’t I hang it outside where it’s cooler?” She asked when the smith turned, again focused on her.

It didn’t speak for a whole thirty seconds, “I must ask young human. Are you a child of ash?”

She was a little confused, especially because more of the water was already evaporating, “I’m an ash creator if that is what you mean. Your water?”

“Do not mind the water. I thank thee for bringing it. Truly, one touched by ash. I was not sure when I saw but now. It is an honor.” It said and bowed a little.

Ilea nodded and looked at the water tank again. “The runes do not use liquid water alone, simply the element around it. Be it in the air or in the tank. Once there are insufficient resources available the ice machines will stop working.” The smith explained and she nodded. “You would not be able to summon ash at all without first burning wood or something else. An enigma, to write runes with the capability to create. A mystery for another life perhaps, another time.”

“Why do you think it’s that special, ash creation I mean. I would assume many elves as well as humans can create elements through magic, ash as well.” Ilea suggested.

The smith moved to pour her second set of armor, activating the ice runes exactly three minutes later to rapidly cool it down again. “Ash…,” It started, separating the mold and putting each piece into new containers with the liquid from before. Not water but something that looked more sluggish. “… it is connected with death. Unattainable for those not close to it. Those who have experienced the dreads of magic, suffered and prevailed. It is said that they are the ones chosen by ash. Or the ones understanding the natural element, depending on philosophy and theory applied. You will find that many like myself will come to acknowledge your mana and its ability to create.”

Its explanation made sense, Ilea remembering some of the requirements that had let her class evolve into Ash Wielder initially. Come to think of it there must be religions based around certain elements or schools of magic as well. The healing orders are one thing but maybe the magic domains Elfie mentioned? Maybe there’s an ash thing too with dark ones like Goliath.

Fishing out the pieces that had been finished first, the smith put them on a work bench and dried them off the strange liquid with a towel. Taking a massive two handed hammer, the smith swung down, magic dancing around the hammer head before it impacted hard on the chest plate. A ring resounded and the hammer was rebounded a little, the force traveling through the smith as it held the more weapon than tool steady in its two massive arms. “Test it if you like but purely physically it holds up.”

Ilea nodded before she took the breast plate and put it on the ground. “Damaging the floor ok?” She asked, looking up at the smith.

“Please do.” It replied, eyes dancing in the darkness.

Ilea smiled and crouched down with a punch, her skills flaring up and five hundred health vanishing to activate her state’s third tier. Her fist hit, a small shock wave sending the air around her away as the steel armor cracked into the stone below. Neither her arm nor the armor showed any damage, the stone floor losing out as the weakest link. “Seems usable, wonderful work.” Ilea said, grabbing the piece and ripping it out of the ground, cracks visible where it had entered. She quickly identified the pieces.

[Rose Hunter Armor Helm – Rare Quality]
[Rose Hunter Armor Chest Piece – Rare Quality]
[Rose Hunter Armor BracersRare Quality]
Rose Hunter Armor Gauntlets – Rare Quality]
[Rose Hunter Armor Legs – Rare Quality]
[Rose Hunter Armor Boots – Rare Quality]

“Very nice. Any idea about enchantments? My previous stuff had lightening and durability on it.”

Checking one of the pieces the smith made a noise, “Rare, perhaps with better metal and your mold I might be able to forge you a set of ancient quality. There is no enchanter here worthy of mention. That dwarf who brought you here might be able to help but I suggest you look for someone more dedicated to the craft.”

Ilea nodded, “I doubt these sets will hold up very long so maybe quick and dirty is enough right now. Do you know if he is a bad enchanter or why would you not recommend his work?”

The smith put the third set into the forge, “I do not know if he has any talent at all. They like to use their war machines, enchanting is always necessary. Yet those actually using their machines are rarely the ones best at enchanting itself.”

She nodded and thought about it, “I’ll go ask him then. Maybe he can recommend someone as well.”

“Do that young one. I will be done in three hours, the coating will take another two.” It said before continuing its work.

Ilea nodded, “I’ll be back then.” Taking back her Ashen Hunter armor, she switched to it and blinked out of the room, back into the corridor. Walking up, a feline looking humanoid with a tail nearly ran into her, vanishing before her eyes. Did he steal anything? Wait, that’s racist. Nothing was amiss and she walked back up to find Terok’s house again.

Finding the dwarf inside, tinkering on his machine Ilea knocked on the door and waited. “Who is it?”

“Your new friend.” Ilea said and smiled behind her helmet when he opened the door.

The dwarf motioned her to sit on a worn chair in what looked like his kitchen. She had to duck a little to have space. Only the entryway was big enough for what was essentially his mech suit. “I’ll be with ya in a minute.” He grumbled, putting on a goggle on his non mechanical eye before sparks shot outwards. “Fucking shit. Dreaded cursed limp son of a bitch.” He grumbled before chucking his tool at the opposite wall.

Ilea folded her legs and took of her battered helmet, smiling at the dwarf, “Anything amiss?”

“Oh not particularly.” He said and walked over to a box, taking out a bottle of something. She could tell there was a cooling rune on the crate. “Want one too? I don’t have anything more fancy than the ale from down the street. Not the worst I’ve had.”

“Gladly.” Ilea replied. He laughed and threw her a bottle.

“Didn’t strike me as no lady. Back so soon, did the old mystery blob work with ye?”

The question made her smile as she looked at the label on her bottle, the thing nearly coming off already. Bleaker’s ale’ She removed the cork and took a sip. “He did, or she? Whatever. My armor’s pretty battered so I was thinking of getting it reforged. Problem is, the old smith isn’t exactly an enchanter. Heard you lot do that with your machines. Any experience in the trade?”

The dwarf nodded and sat down, taking a swig from his bottle of ale too. “Some, I would suggest someone better but there hardly is anybody here. Enchanters aren’t usually the best fighters and you need to be good or sneaky to survive here.” He pointed at her, “The smith is an exception. Fucker’s been here for longer than the very statue you’re standing on I wager.”

“Can you do lightening and durability enchantments or something similar?” She asked.

Setting down his bottle, he looked at her, “Aye. Neither above level two but it’s better than nothing.”

Ilea nodded, smiling at his answer, “Do you take gold for your work?”

“I do. Would rather have some good metal if you have any to spare. Maybe you can get some from the smith. My suit is breathing its last breaths.” He sighed.

Ilea thought about it for a moment and then tapped on her helmet, “How does Niameer steel sound?” Goliath had suggested it would be better suited for sneaking than taking damage, not something she excelled at anyway.

The dwarf nearly choked and then laughed, “I would enchant whatever you like for a lifetime at a chance of Niameer.”

“Is it really that good? God pretty fucked up from the monsters I’ve fought.”

The dwarf nodded with a smile, “It’s exceptionally durable for the flexibility it provides. You’ve seen my rig, it’s not a simple breast plate. There’s a lot of moving parts, small enchantments and runes placed in small intervals. Niameer is great for that. Elven gold I’ve heard it called. Don’t think they use it much anymore, not flashy enough I suppose.”

Ilea thought about it for a while. Terok seemed honest, not downplaying how much the metal was worth but he had offered her a drink and she liked the guy. Her Rose Hunter sets would be even better against direct damage and she had little use for the intricate designs he was in need of. Perhaps at some point in the future but the armor used up a ton of space in her necklace. Maybe not molten down.

“How much would you need for your machine?” Ilea asked, looking over at the thing.

The dwarf considered and then held up a finger, going over to his rig. His hands were nearly shaking when he took some measurements with a tool, his mechanical eye sounding like a lens zooming in before he jotted down some numbers on a notepad that was hanging from the wall right next to the rig. “Your whole set isn’t enough to replace everything with it. Two legs worth might cover all the smaller parts, gears and the important enchantments I would have to put on. Even if it would be better than my current rig I won’t waste Niameer on plating… no offense.”

“None taken.” Ilea chuckled and smiled, “I didn’t even know it was such a special metal. Just that it took more abuse than anything else I had before.”

The dwarf visibly winced at that and shook his head, “Humans. You lot.” It sounded like he was trying to bite down some of the curses coming to his lips but she wouldn’t have minded.

“Two legs worth, if you give me the plans I can ask the smith to finish them for you too. Lifelong enchantments from you, any information you can provide, connections here and beyond if necessary and you show me the thing when it’s done. Deal?” He shook her hand faster than she could blink, a big smile on his face.

“You are… a blessing. First you save the rookie and now this.” He laughed loudly before finishing his ale. “I’ll get the plans, wait a moment.” He added and walked to one of the back rooms, murmuring to himself. “… must use all this luck as long as it lasts… Niameer…,”

Smith, check. Enchanter, half check. Dwarf, elf, dark one?, check. Cat person - ???, Ilea mentally noted down before he came back, his beard and hair looking even more disheveled than before, a big grin on his face as he put a stack of papers down.

“Those I need. Measurements and proportions are noted as well as everything else needed. If the smith doesn’t want to make it I’ll take the steel like that. Maybe someone else will be able to melt it down at least.” Terok said, “Oh and if you need a machine designed or something I can help with that too of course. I’m more an engineer than an enchanter but I’ve picked some things up in my years.”

Ilea took the papers and made them vanish, surprising him. “I’ll see what I can do.” She said and got up, “Thanks for the ale. It was… alright.”

Walter would be appalled, She thought but didn’t mention that. It was impressive that they had a brewery down in this cave at all. With time whoever produced it might get better at it too.

“Thank you Ilea. Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me.” The dwarf said and grabbed her hand with both of his when she left, a big smile on his face.

She just nodded, a little overwhelmed with the treatment. She was just giving him a little of her old armor. Being able to help people out that she liked was certainly a good feeling but she didn’t like being in the spotlight. Quickly making her way back to the smith, she found that he had finished another set and was working on the fourth one. She switched back to leather armor and placed the old battered set on the work bench.

“Ah, you have returned human. Have you found an enchanter.”

Ilea nodded, checking the pieces of her old armor, “I have. The dwarf, he also confirmed there are few better at it here but I don’t need the best at the moment. Best I can get is enough. He agreed to do as many enchantments as I need forever if I give him some of the Niameer steel.”

“Oho… a deal in his favor to be sure. Yet I suppose he does not know the number of armors you will want to enchant.” Its eyes danced with joy. Ilea replied with a grin.

“I wanted to ask you if you could forge the two leg pieces into the things he needs.” Ilea said and summoned the plans, handing them to the smith. It floated a little away from the forge not to set the paper on fire accidentally.

Looking through them he answered, “The Stonehammer steel deal I consider repaid with the forging and coating of your armors. I am willing to melt down your Niameer to ingots but… this…,” Goliath stopped talking, switching to the next page before he held two of them up against the light of the forge. Ilea saw some bits overlapping but didn’t understand the designs. “He was a dwarf was he not?”

Ilea didn’t understand what he meant, “I mean, short stature, big beard, uses a big machine suit to fight. Looks like the other dwarves I’ve seen around here.”

“This might look like what a dwarf would make but the detail is… astounding. In my age only those calling themselves Taleen have reached such boldness. Such… ingenuity. Marvelous. I will forge his pieces.”

Ilea smiled at that, “Make the rest into ingots, I’ll hold on to them for now. You knew Taleen? They were dwarves too right?”

The smith carefully pinned the papers on a wall and activated a rune, a thin shimmer coming to life before them. Protection of some sort. “Once, they chose to find and destroy me. Perhaps jealous of my work or simply annoyed at the competition. Even though I did not charge gold for my work and chose to serve every and all kinds of creatures.”

“That’s exactly why someone would want you dead.” Ilea said and couldn’t help but chuckle.

The smith looked at her, confusion somehow apparent in those two golden eyes. “Is that so. Even after all those years it is saddening to see the strife between beings born of life and death, of fire and blood. Is it not our mortal duty to create?”

The smith was not looking for an answer, merely stating how he thought. “Not all life is your equal Goliath, smith of the north. I would call myself on the side of destruction. As much as I would like to share your philosophy.”

It is the nature of the world. These are merely musings of an old spirit. Even in the forge, to create you must strike, bend and destroy. For steel to be reborn. The same is true for all beings, all creation. A fact I cannot change. Now come. Let us finish your armors.”


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