As a side note, I’ll be away from home next weekend, and can’t thus write. I might manage a chapter before then, but that depends. For example, I had some trouble imagining this chapter, for reason that become obvious when you read it.
Elluin spent the next few hours studying the instructions her daughter had left him. This would definitely be a challenge. Most of the work he was supposed to do would stretch his skills to the limit and especially the enchantments were theoretical at best. How had Neleh figured out some of these enchantments? And there was at least one enchantment that was something he had no idea how to make, but he guessed this was one of the parts where Neleh had anticipated her help to be required. The biggest problem was that the materials she had provided needed stupendously high temperatures to smelt. There was absolutely no way for his forge to produce the kind of temperatures mentioned in the instructions. He doubted even the breath of a dragon would have trouble reaching appropriate temperatures.
On the other hand, if they did manage to make the two weapons according to the specifications, they would be without a doubt his finest works. The girl was clearly insane with her demands, but Elluin couldn’t help but get excited at the prospect of the finished work. They would be the most monstrous weapons ever created by the elves, and since the elves were the best craftsmen of the different races it would mean the most monstrous weapons in the world. These two weapons would make sure his name would be remembered in the future. Even if his legacy also included the secrets being passed outside the House, that would be a minor footnote when compared to this achievement.
Elluin saw Neleh return to the workshop. The girl had gone to get herself and Asheara settled before they started working, but according to the look on her face she had gotten some bad news.
“Is everything alright?” Elluin asked a little worried. He hoped it wasn’t anything that would prevent them from starting the work. He was anxious about getting his place in history.
“No, not really. It’s not something that you should worry about, and there’s nothing I can do about it at the moment.” Neleh replied in a serious tone.
“Something happened.” It wasn’t really a question. Elluin had not spent much time with his daughter, but even he could glean this much from her expression.
“Something with consequences that will be felt for a long time. But like I said, it’s not something you need to worry about. It has more to do with my role as a Chosen, and just makes our work here more important. Did you get a good look at the plans?” Neleh said trying to change the subject.
Elluin could take a hint, and knew Neleh would not want to talk about whatever was bothering her. Her words made him worried. Chosen business that increased the importance of weapons usually meant at least battles, but more likely meant war. Especially when you consider the long reaching consequences that she mentioned.
“I did. There are some problematic parts, but I assume you knew that and have prepared accordingly. The biggest problem is smelting this material you provided, and keeping it heated enough to be malleable. You spent enough time in my workshop, before you went gallivanting in the capital, to know my forge can’t produce heat like this. You still haven’t told me what this is or where you found it.” Elluin said somewhat impatiently.
“The material is called Heart of Winter and I found it buried near the borders of my new duchy. It’s a wonder how many different new and weird materials you can find, when you have a spell that can search inside the earth over a hundred kilometers deep. With the enchantments I have planned the material will become, for all intents and purposes, indestructible.” Neleh said with a small smile.
“Wait, your new duchy? And about those enchantments, I hope you were planning on helping me with the last one, because I have no idea how to achieve that effect. Also, your new duchy? What?” Elluin asked confused.
“Yes, the new empress in her infinite annoyance decided to make me the new duchess of Jao’e’Tinukai. The last duke met with a rather unfortunate end. My official appointment has been deferred until I graduate from the academy. As a matter of fact, I have some plans including you and the new duchy. There are some changes that I’m planning on implementing, and you are a part of one of them.” Neleh replied calmly.
“Jao’e’Tinukai? Isn’t that one of the biggest and most important duchies? How did this happen? And what do you mean plans for me?” Elluin was getting even more confused.
“Aah, how to explain? Ok, did you hear about the changes to the way the current and future emperors are decided?” Neleh asked, getting a nod in reply. “Well what you might not be aware of, is that the whole system was my idea, and that I’m one of the electors due to my position as the Chosen of Elune. Also, you might not have heard that I basically forced the current empress into her position against her will. Part of her retaliation was to make me the new duchess of Jao’e’Tinukai.”
Elluin sat down heavily feeling a little dizzy. “Do excuse me while I try to deal with my youngest daughter becoming one of the most powerful people in the empire at the age of fifteen. I already had a faint idea when I heard about you becoming the Chosen, but it didn’t quite sink in until now.”
“You’ll get used to it.” Neleh replied with a grin.
“I’m assuming this means that your hair-brained plan about becoming my replacement is now impossible? You wouldn’t have time for it what with being a Chosen and a duchess.” Elluin asked feebly, still trying to absorb what he had been told.
“That’s partially correct, but that plan wouldn’t have worked anyway, for several reasons. For one, it appears you managed to raise a group of daughters that all seem to be more interested in girls, so it would’ve been a bit difficult for me to pass on anything to their children. It seems Selvaria was the only one that had inclinations in that direction, and unfortunately she met her end as you know. For second, the time of having only one master crafter per clan is over anyway.” Neleh said half lost in thought, with a finger tapping her chin.
“Ok, now I definitely need a better explanation.” Elluin said finally trying to get a proper grip on the conversation. The news about all her daughters preferring girls had sobered him up somewhat, and the other point had gotten his full attention.
“Which part?” Neleh asked raising an eye-brow. “The first part seems pretty self-explanatory. We like girls better than boys. You know how babies are made, and how that would complicate the process, right? As for the second point, it was fine to pass the knowledge along from one person to another in a long period of peace and quiet. Unfortunately those times are over, and the craftsmen of our empire in general and not just you master crafters are woefully unprepared to face the coming turmoil. It’s one thing to keep the supply low, when the only demand is mostly as a novelty or status symbol, but soon the demand for your services will increase exponentially and there’s no way for you to meet it. And this time the demand will be based on dire need.”
“You’re saying that there will be war? That’s the only thing that I can figure that would meet the description you outlined.” Elluin might be confused, but he wasn’t’ stupid.
“There will be a war the likes of which you haven’t even heard about. Some of the changes I have planned will make sure we won’t be caught completely unprepared.” Neleh replied with certainty.
Elluin thought for a while. “Alright, I can see some of what you mean. If we were to face one of those great wars of old, I would not be able to produce enough items to outfit enough people. What do have planned though? I doubt taking a couple of apprentices will solve the problem. On the other hand, if I try to teach too many, then sooner or later one of them will leak the methods to the enemy.”
“You are correct. Couple of apprentices won’t do. I was planning on getting some groundwork laid down before I tried to rope you in, but I might as well explain the basics to you now. That way you will have time to plan, and give your input.” Neleh was quiet for a moment and gathered her thoughts.
“Firstly we need to define the problem. The craftsmen are all in direct competition with each other, and have almost no cooperation. At best a merchant house might have a couple of blacksmiths in their service, and that’s it. If I need ten thousand spears, my best bet is to hope some merchant has them in stock for some odd reason, because it will take years for me to go from one blacksmith to another negotiating a different price with each one, hoping they have spare materials and time.
What I have planned is to have all the craftsmen in the duchy organize under large guilds, and streamline the process. Using the same example, instead of going to the blacksmiths, I’d approach the guild and place the order there. The guild would distribute the work to the thousand blacksmiths working for the guild based on their skill. Instead of competing with each other, if you prove you skill to the guild the guild will assign you work based on that skill. There would be no need to worry about materials, because instead of each smith purchasing their own materials, the guild would buy the materials in bulk from the miner’s guild, and reduce the material cost from the payment made to the smith. As a bonus, the miners don’t need to go to each individual smith to peddle their materials for varying haggled prices; instead they can just sell it to the guild for a fair and even price.
If a customer wants a new pot or a kitchen knife, they can still simply go to the closest smith, but if they need something more complex, they won’t have to worry about individual smith’s skills, and can just place their order with the guild. The whole system removes wasted time and money, removes the probability of being scammed, helps even out the economy of the duchy and allows flexibility in fulfilling large orders. As an added bonus, it’s too expensive for lone smiths to purchase certain magical tools to use in their work, but the guild as a whole will be able to buy some from the mage’s guild, while the mage’s guild can create those tools easier because they have access to more mages.” Neleh finished with a smile.
Elluin thought for a while. He could see the advantages after having struggled with some of the issues mentioned, and could see many other benefits that Neleh hadn’t even mentioned yet. He did have a couple of questions. “Wouldn’t this system focus too much power to the smiths? And how about someone like me? You know I do a lot more than just smithing.”
“Yes and no. It could be a problem if not monitored, but it is kept in check by the fact that everyone is part of a similar guild. For example, the smiths can’t really screw over miners because the miner’s guild is their only source of materials. Similarly for the miners, the craftsmen guild is their sole buyer, so they can’t up their prices on a whim. In the end though, the duchess and her forces need to monitor the guilds to prevent corruption and misuse of power, as well as to ensure equitable treatment of different parties. As for you, although I focused on smiths, I did mention the guild for craftsmen as a whole, not separate guilds for smiths and enchanters and jewel crafters.” Neleh explained.
“So who would you have me teach then?” Elluin asked, starting to understand the basis of the plan.
“I would have you teach everyone willing to learn among the guild. However, those that want to learn from you will be magically bound to be unable to teach those skills to anyone outside the guild. I already have a suitable spell planned. Anyone who tries to reveal the secrets under the spell or remove the spell will quite literally die before they are able to do it.” Neleh finished coldly.
Elluin thought for a while. “Alright, I think I have a pretty good idea on how this would work. We would need to hone some details, but the basic premise is sound. Good job daughter. I’m proud. Give me until we have finished crafting these weapons, and I’ll give my answer then. I think it will be much easier to get over some of my hang-ups, once I’ve managed to leave my mark in the history by crafting the best weapons ever made.”
Neleh was surprised how easily she had managed to convince her father, considering how much his identity had been tied to the position of master crafter. He had even cheated on her mother to pass on his knowledge and continue his legacy. The lure of the weapons they had planned had worked. The prospect of releasing his burden, and simply becoming a respected teacher might have appealed to him also. She suspected her father had never been completely satisfied with the idea of passing the knowledge on to her.
After the lengthy discussion, they finally got back to the main topic. “So you never did explain to me how you intend to smelt that damn white stuff.” Elluin brought up the previous topic.
“Before I explain, I need you to swear to me that nothing that happens next will leave this room. I haven’t shown the next part to anyone, and I would be very disappointed if I heard about it next week from some random noble, because you couldn’t keep a secret.” Neleh replied, giving Elluin a stern look.
Elluin gave a wry grimace. “You know I’m pretty good with secrets.”
Neleh gave a small sigh. This was the part she had been worried about. She had felt some of her old power coming back. She still wasn’t sure why this was happening, but assumed the blessing from Satai had something to do with her powers returning. Earlier she had gained back the form of the Flame Seraph, which was a form of a higher end on the power scale of a medium class fire elemental spirit. Not long ago she had felt the possibility of taking another of her old forms, a form that was that of a high end of the power scale of a high class spirit. It had been another of her favorites, and would serve them well in smelting the Heart of Winter. It was also a good form to use in battle if that became necessary. She hadn’t tried to take that form before this though.
She cast a quick spell that transferred them and the contents of Elluin’s workshop to a dimensional pocket similar to the storage rings she used. She had spent most of the time on the trip to their old home to form the dimensional pocket. The entrance to the pocket remained in the workshop, while the pocket itself was empty. Later on she would create something proper inside the pocket dimension, but for now she just needed space. Elluin of course looked bewildered, but by now he was almost expecting surprises like this, so he held himself together.
A large white flame surrounded Neleh, and soon the elf was gone, and a creature made of that white flame stood in her place. Elluin could only describe the creature as a dragon, but this was not any dragon he had seen before. The pure white being looked more like a hundred meters long serpent with four powerful legs. Instead of muscle and war, this dragon seemed to embody grace and magic.
Neleh noticed her father’s wondering look. “There’s more than one basic type of dragon. I think I once heard someone describe this form as an eastern dragon, but I still don’t’ know what the cardinal direction has to do with it.” She gave a small laugh, which sounded odd coming from the large being. “We should get to it; I can only maintain this form for a short time. Once we manage to smelt the materials, I can use my fire magic to keep it soft enough to forge.”
It took them a week to form the pair of weapons, most of the time spent forming the enchantments. While Elluin supplied his power, experience and life force, Neleh added her own to the mix and actually controlled the power to form most of the enchantments, simply because Elluin didn’t have the required precision control. A surprising result was that Neleh ended up learning most of the secrets of Elluin’s trade, and with time could extrapolate the rest from what she had learned already. She would not have too many chances to use the skills, but at least she would have them if necessary.
The end result of their efforts was a pair of pure white swords with silvery lines of enchantment running along the curved blade and the white handguard and hilt. Neleh had never explained to Elluin where she got the white sheaths that looked like some shiny lacquered wood. The end result was simple and elegant. Both the sheaths and the swords carried small silver insignia of both the House Khalidor and the flaming phoenix that Neleh was taking as her symbol. One of the swords was a very long no-dachi, while the other was a rather short katana more suited for use in narrow spaces. Although they had planned on making only those two weapons, they had ended up making Neleh a small dagger from the leftover materials, small enough to hide in a sleeve, although it was currently behind her back, hidden by her long hair.
Neleh would give a more precise explanation about the weapon’s abilities to Asheara when she got used to them, and once she was able to utilize them properly. But she did mention two of the main features they had worked so hard on. Firstly there was no power besides Neleh’s powers as a Destroyer that could damage the weapons. Some extreme phenomenon like a black hole or a supernova might be able to do the trick, but at that point the condition of the weapons would not really matter anymore.
The second feature and one of the main reasons for the weapons durable nature was that the weapons treated magic as if it didn’t exist. This was the most complex enchantment that Elluin had not been able to create. If striking a mage’s protective shield, the blade would go through like the shield didn’t exist, and the blade treated magical armor as if the armor was made of normal metal. Combine that with enchantments that improved the cutting power of the weapons, and there was no armor capable of standing against the weapons. Of course, you would still need a lot of Ki to cut through something extreme like the scales of a dragon, but even then the scales would be less effective, since dragons were magical beings as well. Now to make sure the silly woman didn’t cut her own foot with the swords…
Neleh, Azrael and Asheara set their sights on Jao’e’Tinukai next. Before they returned to the academy, Neleh had to visit her future duchy. Her plans required a lot of resources and money. It was all well and good to detect some chunks of metal all the way from Rhi’a’non, but she would need to actually go to the duchy to do a proper survey. Her magic didn’t come with a convenience like infinite range after all. Besides, there were other riches besides metals and gems that could be found with a proper use of spells. She was hoping to find some plants that were otherwise rarely used, but which her alchemical skills from other worlds could put to good use.
She would also have good use for the boring lessons at the academy, because she had plans to make and ideas to hone and she might as well do it during those lessons. There were plenty of other fields she planned of changing drastically with her knowledge, like farming, banking and administration, smelting metals and creating fabrics and much more. There wasn’t even a proper printing press on this world, because much of the books were copied with magic. So much to plan, so little time…