Ignore the pain.
It's morning, three days after I woke up in Anastasia's clinic. My body is healed, but my mana flow remains separated.
Over the last two days, with mom insisting I stay in bed, I’ve been completely focusing on Sense Mana and Meditation.
When anyone would come into my room and ask me what I was doing, I would respond with “Meditation.” They of course laughed at the notion. Is becoming a mage really that hard, everyone shoots down the idea without consideration.
With mothers shout, I roll out of bed. I change out of the clothes I’ve been wearing all day and brush my hair. The comb looks pretty ugly but I carved it myself so I’m proud of it. After getting most of the tangles out of my hair, I tie it up just how I like it.
Walking towards the table, a strong smell of beef stew floats around our house. The smell isn’t beef though it's karhu. The mutant bear tastes like beef from my past life, only way more flavorful. We only got the left-over cuts from the karhu because dad claimed the pelt and used it to pay for our treatment.
The meat may be the leftovers of the karhu but it tastes the same as prime beef; even with Richard preparing it, it still tastes amazing. Dad said it’s because karhu are semi-magical beasts. Apparently, the more mana a beast has in its body the more delicious it is.
Mom told us she once had a fillet of an aquatic magic beast when she was little. The fish was the size of a goat and was the best tasting thing she ever had to this day.
Makes me want to try something like that. Too bad the best cuts were sold to the village headman.
Sitting down at the table all four of us offer our prayers:
“We give our thanks to the gods and spirits of the forest. We thank you for the food we received and the continued health of our family, may your blessings hold true.”
Glancing over at dad, I can’t believe how quickly he healed. I know he received more care than me while I slept but he looks the same… almost the same.
When he changed his shirt for dinner, I saw the new scar across his chest. Anastasia can only use basic healing with her gloves and mom says that just increases the body’s natural healing properties. You need stronger magic to remove a scar like that.
“What’s wrong Aaliyah?” He noticed me looking at him, I stare down at my food.
The last few days we’ve barely talked. I can’t stop thinking about how he almost died because of me. If I don’t apologize now, I never will.
“I’m sorry for getting you hurt.” Almost whispering my apology, the family stops eating.
“You didn’t get…”
“Let her finish Darrius.” Mother stops dad, nodding at me to continue.
“Because I didn't run away like you said, you got hurt! I didn’t listen and you almost died! If I wasn’t there, you would have been able to avoid the karhu. I’m so sorry, dad.” Every night I repeat these words in my head, no matter how much I meditate, I can’t clear them from my mind.
After finally saying it, my heart feels lighter. With tears in my eyes, I look at dad’s face. So many emotions are crossing his face, he doesn’t know what to say.
“Now tell her how you feel Darrius.” Mothers words push father to continue.
Getting up from the table, father walks next to me, and before I can say another word he scoops me out of my chair. Holding me close, he starts telling me how proud he is of me.
“You did just fine sweety. I would’ve run into that karhu with or without you. It was bad luck we got so close without noticing it. Seeing a karhu for the first time and having it attack, anyone would freeze like that. I was so worried you were going to be stuck on that hill with me, and the thought of you getting hurt terrified me more than the karhu. Even after you left, knowing you were nearby gave me the strength to fight the hardest I’ve ever fought before.”
Listening to dads’ words replaced my tears of sadness with tears of joy. Knowing he doesn’t hate me for my failure let me truly relax in his arms, for the first time in days.
“Good, now that that’s over both of you sit down and eat before it gets cold.” Looking over I see mother and Richard are both almost finished eating, watching us like a soap opera.
Separating, dad walks back to his chair. I feel so much better and looking at father I can tell he’s the same. Mother still has this look, like everything went according to her plan. My face reddens realizing how easily she played me and dad.
“Now that you’re feeling better, what do you want to do, forest rabbit?” Richard changed my nickname? Better than little, I guess.
Wait that reminds me!
“Did you already deliver the wood to the stone kin?” I ask a little too quickly.
“You still want to meet Del that much?” Father looks surprised I even remembered about the dwarf.
I can’t explain to him that I just want to meet Del because he’s a dwarf like a classic fantasy movie.
Quickly thinking I answer; “Maybe I can get an apprenticeship from him? Forging stuff sounds fun.”
Father has a complicated look on his face. “I don’t think he’ll take you as an apprentice. Del… tolerates, other people; but never likes company.”
I give him the look that says I can go all night.
“Ok, you win! But you’re still not well enough to go back to the forest. I need to make two more trips tomorrow, so I’ll grab half of the wood and come back home for you. You’ll have till I get back with the last stack to convince Dell to take you on as an apprentice.”
Poor dad, he thinks this is a negotiation.
I purposely don’t answer and start to clean the table.
“I mean it, by the end of the day!”
I look back at the table smiling at father, throwing in a little Charm skill.
The wind brings a slight chill in the air. We’re entering fall, the moons changed to blue so the rain should start soon. I was finally allowed to start running again, it feels good again after 7 days despite the weather.
Focusing inside myself, I’d say my mana has recovered to the 350 mark. As my mana fills up again the gaps close and my mana stream is only broken in a handful of places now. It's still too painful too try and release any mana but Mana Manipulation doesn’t hurt as much anymore. It will probably take another two or three days for it to completely repair itself.
The best thing I learned with the karhu experience didn’t involve skills but my mana limit. I would always feel tired when I went below 20% but now, I know what happens when you reach zero. Actually, I passed out before I could check my mana pool, maybe I just got close to zero. Either way, the lower I drain my mana the longer I’ll pass out for.
20% should continue to be my soft limit and 10% if my life is in danger. If Anastasia wasn’t healing me, I could have been knocked out for who knows how long, not to mention the eight days my mana pool takes to recover.
“Haaaa”, I’m glad dad isn’t back yet. If he makes a round trip too quick, I won’t have any time at Del’s house. That said, waiting sucks!
Maybe I should run a few more laps to kill time. I used to be so lazy in my past life, look at me now.
Hands at my side feeling proud of myself, I stare in the direction of the blacksmith. Its been so long since I thought about blacksmithing. I wonder if Stanley is doing well. He’d be in his 30’s now, I wonder if he has a new family like I do?
“Ready to go?”
I stumble over my legs, trying to jump forward and look behind me at the same time.
Dad’s standing there, smiling, carrying another 800 pounds of silver firewood.
“Gods dad, you almost made me fall over!” Complaining doesn’t do anything for me.
“Pay attention more, even if you’re in the village, you can’t space out like that. Ready to go?”
Not caring for a response, he starts walking again towards the village blacksmith.
Dwarves here I come.
The trip through the village and small stretch of forest was both short and too long.
“Bang… Bang… Bang”
I can hear the sound of clashing metal. Visions of the short time I spent with Stanley and his uncle come to mind. I remember how much fun I had creating my first knife; I mean arrowhead.
“Bang… Bang… Bang”
I was just joking about being a blacksmiths apprentice, but now. The thought of crafting swords fills my head. I can do that.
“Bang… Bang… Bang”
Each ring strikes a chord in my heart. Entering the clearing ahead, I think I know what job I want to do, and who else should I learn metallurgy from if not a dwarf.
“Bang… Bang… Bang”
In front of us, in the middle of the clearing lies a shack and workshop. Everything is made from grey stone, carved perfectly, with each stone interlocking perfectly forming foundations, walls, and even benches.
“Bang… Bang… Bang”
At the forge stands a bulky man only slightly shorter than me, maybe 5’ 1’’. Surprisingly, he has no beard… or any hair; no eyebrows, no arm hair, he’s even bald. His skin is the same color as coal with muscles larger than dads on a smaller frame. His face is sharp, with a strong chin and small nose. His ears are triangle shaped but pointed downwards. He stops for a moment and looks up at us. His purple eyes carry a strength that reminds me of the karhu.
He only spares us a quick glance and continues to hammer the, pan?
“Bang… Bang… Bang”
Well, fantasy broken. He’s not that short, doesn’t have a beard, and he’s not even making a sword. Father walks past me and drops his wood next to one of the sheds scattered around.
A few good hits and a red glowing pan is formed. Inching closer, I see he’s not wearing any gloves! He’s holding the hot metal with his bare hands!
He turns around and shoves the pan into a bucket of water. The water hisses with steam billowing out.
Pulling the pan out the water he inspects it with only a quick once over. Shrugging his shoulders, he tosses the pan on the ground a few feet away and turns to father.
“Ta last off it? Took yer long nuf.” (That the last of it? Took you long enough.) Salty dwarf, nice.
“I got another load left for you. I’ll be back with the last of it in a few hours.” Dad doesn’t seem to care about his words.
“Yer been help’nn to?” (You helping him?) Del asks me with a look of dissatisfaction.
Before I can answer dad cuts in. “That’s Aaliyah, my daughter. I told you yesterday why I was late. She helped me with the wood before the karhu attacked. She’s still not completely healed so I’m leaving her here with you while I grab the last of the wood.”
“Waahtt, I’s no sitter. Shez go halme!” (What, I’m no babysitter. She should go home!)
“She’s been wanting to meet you for days. Just watch her for a few hours, put her to work if you want.”
With that dad disappears from the clearing, leaving Del and me staring at the forest.
Turning to the stone kin I decide to bow my head and introduce myself. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, my name is Aaliyah.” I try to use my Charm as much as possible.
“Del-Razen, sheet N ther.” (Del-Razen, sit over there.) He nods his head to a stone bench furthest from him.
Is this Dwarf drunk? He’s really hard to understand. If I wasn’t used to deciphering what people are saying to me, I’d have no idea what’s going on.
He appears to understand everyone else fine though. They say Dwarfs like straightforwardness, let’s try that.
Instead of walking to the bench, I move right in front of him. “Master Del-Razen, teach me to be a blacksmith!”
We stare at each other for a second, he looks dazed.
“What, no way!” He yells at me.
We continue to stare at each other.
“So… you can speak like a normal person?”