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“Can we talk?”

Master Del looks nervous. Gone is the image of the murderous Stone Kin, or the wounded angry man. The man before me is slouched over, scanning the room, looking for anything that can raise his confidence in what’s to come.

Mother and father look confused at the man standing in our doorway. The last time father confronted Del, he was beaten severely. My always confident mother looks worried about our guest, this is the first time I’ve seen her so feeble.

We can’t all stand here all day, waiting for someone to talk.

Taking a few steps further into the room, the staring match between Del and my parents ends. The three of them look to me as I move in front of the table, and I pull out one of our chairs.

“We really should talk. We should all take a seat.”

“Del,” As I gesture to the seat, Del finally straightens his back and starts walking over to the table.

Before he can take his second step; “Del, your shoes.” I remind him of his footwear.

His newly gained confidence falters as he stares down at his filthy shoes.

Mother and father take the distraction and pull the other three chairs towards the opposite end of the table.

Del sits on our bench by the door and slowly pries off his first boot. Before he can finish removing his first boot, the three of us are sitting and waiting at the table. As Del starts taking off his second boot, the smell of fertilizer starts wafting around us. The air smells of rotting earth mixed with charcoal. Looking at his boots, I’m reminded of the few times I woke Del up. Del would always be dressed, including his shoes, every time I woke him up.

Watching father and mother both frown at the smell, I think mom won’t mind a change this one time.

“On second thought, Del. You can keep those on.” With a hint of red crossing his dark features, Del slips his shoes back on.

Sulking, Del walks over to the chair I pulled out for him.

With the four of us sitting, silence once again blankets our house. With the passing of time, mother’s nerviness slowly fades away. Her confident smile creeps back across her face, making me feel a lot better. Being sandwiched between my confident mother and my sturdy father, alleviates most of my stress.

As the three of us are starting to relax, Del only looks more worried. Finally, after what seems like an eternity of silence, Del finally starts to speak.

“I came to apologize.”

“He-he.”

“I’m sorry I attacked you, Darrius.”

“He-he.”

“I hurt your family, and I didn’t stop to consider my actions.”

“He-he.”

“You have always been nice to me and...

“He-he.”

“Why are you laughing! I’m trying to apologize here!”

“He-he.”
“He-he.”
“He-he.”

I can’t stop laughing! Del was talking to his hands so he couldn’t see their faces! He still hasn’t noticed because he’s looking angrily at me. With my head in my hands, I can barely tell him what’s wrong.

“He-he! It’s the look on their faces! He-he, they’re too stunned by your accent now! He-he!”

Looking from me to my parents, Del finally notices their open-mouthed expressions. Mother has interacted with Del only a few times so her expression is one of only slightly troubled. Father on the other hand, has been talking to Del for years and this new side has caused the biggest look of disbelief on his face I’ve ever seen.

Coughing into his hand Del tries to restart his apology.

“Yes, I know. I’m sorry about faking my accent all these years. I started talking like that to keep people away from me. I should have told you a while ago, Darrius.”

With his speechcraft explained, mother and father harden their expressions.

“Do you think you can just come and apologize for what you did to Darrius and Aaliyah! Just because Aaliyah can use magic, you attack her and almost killed my husband!”

Shocked at mothers’ explosive comments, Del once again turns to me with a complicated look.

“Did you not tell them about me?”

Looking into his eyes, I explain myself.

“I told them it was because of me lying about my magic abilities. I didn’t tell them about your childhood or why you moved here. Those are your secrets to tell, not mine.”

Del looks like he’s both happy and sad at the same time, while my parents are trying to keep their curiosity from their serious expressions.

“I… felt betrayed by Aaliyah. I was ostracized in Truset, my birthplace, because I was born without any talent with magic. I moved here so I could forget about my troubles, and to escape the demands of humans that I could never fulfill. When I caught Aaliyah practicing magic, I lost myself to my anger and self-loathing. I convinced myself that your family had been targeting me since you arrived years ago.”

The strongest man I’ve met can’t stop shivering. We both share regrets from that day.

“I’m so sorry Darrius. I attacked you for no reason. And I’m sorry to you too Aaliyah. I almost did something unspeakable in my blind rage, I hope you can forgive me.”

“We both need to forgive each other. Got to say though, I didn’t think you would take this long to reach out.”

My little joke stops Del’s trembling, and his frown lessens slightly.

“I came by last night. I heard you talking to your new magic teacher, and thought I should come back later. Even if you don’t want to be my apprentice anymore, I still felt I needed to apologize to your family.”

“Sandra’s not my new teacher, she’s my brother’s sweetheart. She’s leaving for the city soon, and the only people I can tell about my magic skills are my family… and you. I don’t want to brag but I’m pretty talented. If someone of even Sandra’s dad’s status learns about my skills it could cause a lot of problems for my family.”

“Are you sure you don’t want that? I can only teach you blacksmithing, if your talent in magic is as high as you say, you’re giving up a great future.”

Looking at Del and my parents, I can tell they’re both thinking the same thing.

“I’m doing just fine by myself. I never wanted you to teach me magic, maybe answer a few questions I might have, but I never wanted to make my whole life about magic. Sandra told me about starred mages in the cities, it sounds like they expect total devotion to themselves before they teach you any useful knowledge, and even then, it’s the kingdom which holds the real knowledge. I would have to join the kingdom’s military if I wanted to pursue a major career in magic. Even without a teacher, I’ve already managed to cast two spells I made myself. They may be small and take up most of my mana, but basic lifestyle magic is mostly what I’m looking for anyway.”

“You managed a spell already!” Mom looks shocked, maybe she was listening to us last night.

“Yep, all by myself.” Grinning broadly, I show mother my newly scrubbed teeth. “I made a spell to clean my teeth better than I ever could with my toothbrush.”

Before mother or father can congratulate me, Del exclaims angrily: “You shouldn’t do that!”

The tone of his voice causes both mother and father to scowl at him again.

“Why are you saying that! Aaliyah should be congratulated!”

Ignoring mother’s furious look, Del fixes his gaze on me. “Did you hurt yourself?”

His question causes both of my parents to look worriedly at me. I lower my face trying to avoid their gazes.

“That’s what I thought! We Stone Kin only use maybe ten different spoken spells. I may not be able to cast my own magic, but like all younglings the dangers have been drilled into me. Just because you can make any basic spell you want, doesn’t mean there’s no danger. There is a reason celestial spells are considered the only true form of spoken magic! It’s because those words are the only way to precisely cast spells. No matter how well you word your spells, you can never achieve the image in your head. The larger the difference between your chanted words and your mental image, the larger the chance your spell will go wrong. Not only could you seriously hurt yourself by draining too much of your magic, but you should never test a new spell on yourself. The only way to customize magic precisely is to master pure manipulation. You could have killed yourself even with only trying out a basic spell for the first time!”

I can feel the life drain from my face. I know my spell this morning caused me a lot of discomfort but I didn’t know it could have been a lot worse.

Seeing Del berate and educate me, mother looks at Del with a whole new look of understanding.

“If Aaliyah resumes her apprenticeship with you, will you teach her the dangers of magic as well?

“If she wants to return to learning blacksmithing with me, of course I would answer any questions I could, be they blacksmithing or otherwise.”

With mother nodding to Del, everyone looks at father. Dad hasn’t said much of anything like usual. His straight face would unnerve anybody. I can’t in good conscience return to working with Del unless both my parents agree.

Straightening his shoulders, dad finally speaks his mind.

“I can’t forgive you, Del.” Fathers even voice pierces Del’s heart. Mother and I can feel the pain in fathers’ words. “I could forgive our fight if that was it, but seeing you standing over my daughter with that look in your eye. I could never feel comfortable knowing she’s with you again.”

Del and I both lower our heads. I thought I was going to have to convince mother to let me rejoin Del, not father.

“However!”

My head pops up, wide-eyed, as I listen to father continue.

“I know how much Aaliyah wants to learn blacksmithing. I don’t want to stand in the way of her dreams, but I can’t trust you. I’ll be dropping her off in the mornings, picking her up before dinner, and checking on her randomly. If you can agree to that, I’ll consent to her restarting her apprenticeship. But I’ll warn you, if anything happens again no matter how small, I’ll make you regret it.”

“That’s understandable. I’m truly sorry for the pain I’ve caused each of you. I’ll ask one last time, Aaliyah would you like to be my apprentice?”

This isn’t the happy ending to a Disney film that I was hoping for. I can tell mother is still wary of Del, and father, who is usually the nicest person in the room, openly said he could never reconcile with him. I still think Master Del deserves another chance. He needs an apprentice as much as I need a teacher, maybe even more than that.

“I would appreciate my apprenticeship back. I want to learn how to be a successful blacksmith. I’ll try my hardest to learn everything you can teach me.”

“Thank you for giving me a second chance, Aaliyah.”

“And thank you, Master Del. I’m sorry for keeping my magic a secret from you.”

With my touching reunion over, I turn to look at mother with her reluctant smile greeting me, paired with dad’s worried gaze. They both don’t want me to return to Del, yet they support me the best they can. I really lucked out with this family.

Rising from my chair, I give both of my parents the hugs they deserve. Each of their arms wrap around me pulling me closer, as we assure each other that we will always support one another.

Separating from my parents, I walk around our table and stand in front of Del.

“Are you ready to learn how to be a blacksmith?”

“Yes… but tomorrow.”

“What? We still have the rest of the day. Do you need to take care of something?”

“No… we do.”

“We need to take care of your clothes and shoes first, also maybe burn those hides you use as sheets.”

“Very funny. I guess we could take care of that first.”

“Still not joking with you, grandpa. I really want to try and make a fire spell, and I’m sure your sheets would make a great target.”

As we’re leaving and the door closes behind us, I sneak one last look inside our house. Mom and dad still have their worried looks. I was hoping some banter might settle them. I try to erase my frown before Del sees it. I’m happy I can finally learn about blacksmithing, but I need to make sure I take some time off for my family.

“Master Del, every few days I’ll need some time off for my family. Is that ok?”

“Of course.”

With us both in agreement, we walk back silently to Del's hut for hopefully the last day of cleaning. Tomorrow the real fun begins.

 


 

Walking through the forest with dad, I no longer see any more slush. The soil is still damp but with the weather heating up the spring sun should take care of that real quick.

Today I resume my smithing training with Del. Yesterday we finished our cleaning, and I made it clear to Del that he needs to put effort into himself.

Depression is a scary thing, and after realizing how much he shut himself inside when things went wrong, I need to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Even if he’s a high-leveled person he needs to establish a cleaning schedule for his house and more importantly himself. I’ll make sure to give him the kick in the pants he needs.

All it takes sometimes is for someone to care and listen to your problems.

We also talked about my training schedule. We decided on four days of work and then a day off. Del wanted to jump right to teaching me how to make a knife, before I reminded him, that I still needed to learn how to turn ore into metal.

We have a whole cart full of iron ore to work with, so we decide to start with that today.

Almost at Del's house, I wonder if I will have to wake him up again?

As I enter the clearing, I’m shocked to see Del moving equipment around. With tools, ore, and wood scattered about, I can tell he must have woken up before the sun even rose. Turning to dad, I give him a hug as goodbye, and watch him continue into the forest looking back at me till he completely vanishes from view.

As I enter the clearing, I shout “Good morning Master Del!” There, I see my master drop the wood he has been carrying into a large pile.

Looking up at me, I’m greeted with a half-smile. It must be still awkward after yesterday. Walking to the pile of wood he’s been stacking, I notice the pile is next to the weird metal furnace thing and while wondering what it’s used for, I feel excited. The idea of turning rocks into metal, gets me excited to forge my first real dagger. I need an iron ingot and some leather strips.

“Good morning, Aaliyah. Are you ready to get messy?”

“Yes, I can’t wait to forge some metal!”

“Let’s hope your excitement doesn’t fade by the end of the day. Grab that rock crusher and we can get started.”

Looking at the different tools thrown about, I can pick out some of the differences between the tongs and hammers. He didn’t want a hammer or he would have said so. I think it’s this, I grab a five foot long wooden handle that has a metal cylinder at the bottom. Dang, this thing weighs at least 30 pounds. I bring it over to the cart, where Del is waiting for me.

“Good, I thought you wouldn’t be able to figure out what I meant, but don’t forget the base.”

Running back to the tools, I find the only thing that looks like you could crush rocks in it. The stone bowl is two square feet, with a divot in the middle where the rocks are supposed to go. Thinking about the previous tool, it’s just a big mortar and pestle. There appear to be handles on the side of this square pestle. Bending my legs, I try and lift the square piece of stone.

Hugggggg…..

Hhhuuuuugggggggg

This thing has to weigh over 400 pounds, how does he want me to bring this to him?

The sound of laughter rings in my ears. Master Del is standing next to the cart of ore clearly laughing at me.

Still laughing, Del comes over and picks up the block with the ease of someone picking up a cardboard box.

“Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I had to make most of these tools myself and I never had to worry about the weight.”

Setting the block next to the cart, Master Del grabs a chunk of “Lovers” iron.

“Ok, listen carefully. Take the ore and place it in the base. Grab the rock crusher and pound it to a paste. The “Lovers” iron sand will stick to the bottom of the crusher. Scrape off the iron dust into bucket. Take out the waste material as you go. Got all that?”

“Yeah, sounds real difficult.” I hope my sarcasm cracks his hard skull.

Grabbing some ore and the rock crusher I start pounding away.

5 minutes later.

I’m sweating up a storm! Waving this crusher around is hard!

25 minutes later.

I can’t go on. Looking at the small amounts of iron sand I’ve gathered hurts my pride. Even with my stats, this is too hard!

“You lasted longer than I thought. Sit and take a rest, let me know when you want to try again.”

Moving out of the way, Del takes over. He starts by pre-crushing the iron ore in his hands, that’s cheating!

After he places the smaller chunks in the mortar, with only a single hand, he strikes with the pestle in three quick motions. Pulling the pestle up he scrapes the iron sand off with his bare hands and pours it into the bucket.

Watching Del, I can imagine a machine would be only slightly faster. He’s not even sweating!

“It’s ok. In a few years, when you reach fifteen you can place your points into strength and be able to do the same thing.”

“Why should I wait? I already decided this is what I want to do.”

Continuing to crush the ore, Del explains why it’s better to wait.

“You hold off, not because you might decide on another job, but because it’s good to have a better understanding of your work. Right now, you might think Strength is all you need, but later you’ll need Dexterity, Endurance, Senses. You need to have a firm understanding of what exactly a blacksmith needs. Also, humans don’t usually talk about it, but the harder you work to make something, the more experience you get.”

“My mom already explained that to me.”

“I bet she did. Do you think someone crafting a good dagger with 100 Dexterity will get the same experience as someone doing the same with only 50? When you know what you're doing, speed is important, however you need to challenge yourself more when you’re learning the basics. That’s why I want you to wait till you reach fifteen before you distribute your points.”

He makes a great point. I never thought about my status like that.

“Master, can I tell you my full Status page?”

Pausing his rhythmic crushing, Del looks seriously at me.

“You don’t need to do that.”

“I want to, Status Page:”

LV: 41 Experience: 9,216/ 69,380
Health: 1100/1100 Stamina: 154/700 Mana: 409/530
Vitality: 110
Endurance: 50
Strength: 50
Dexterity: 50
Senses: 50
Mind: 50
Magic: 53
Clarity: 51
Status Points: 126
Skills: Sense Mana (LV51), Acting (LV26), Meditation (LV52), Expel mana (LV32), Charm (LV35), Running (LV38), Cleaning (LV25), Mathematics (LV26), Writing (LV15), Mana Manipulation (LV15), Wood Carving (LV10), Drawing (LV13), Axe Skills (LV15), Inject mana (LV10), Mining (LV4), Cooking (LV14), Sewing (LV6), Chanting (LV3)

“You passed two tests already.”

“Last night I finally broke through.”

“That’s the most impressive thing I’ve heard in a long time. You sure you want to continue down this path?”

“Stop trying to get rid of me and crush those rocks, master grandpa!”

 


 

On the next day, while dad escorts me to Del's clearing, I can't help but go over everything I learned yesterday.

I underestimated how hard it is to smelt metals.

Games disillusioned me to the hard work blacksmithing requires. Del told me it would be dirty, but he didn’t tell me it would take more than a day.

After hours of us taking turns crushing the ore, our cart of iron turned into only seven buckets of iron sand.

Just because we crushed the rocks didn’t mean we completely separated the waste material. Once we had our buckets of sand ready, we put the sand in a ceramic container and lit a fire under it. That was done to remove the moisture from the rock to let us better process it.

Once  the sand was dried, we moved over to Del’s bloomery. The bloomery is the weird metal furnace thing Del stacked the wood up against.

But before using the bloomery we had to turn the pile of wood into charcoal. Well, magic charcoal at least. In my old-world charcoal was made from burning wood and other materials in an airless furnace. I tried asking Del how the green charcoal was made from just burning some logs out in the open, but his answer was that this type of wood turns into charcoal with heat naturally. The reddish wood looked familiar, I think it was from one of the trees father showed me during our forest trips.

When we lit the wood on fire it burned for an hour before it started to crumble into green chunks. Once the wood had crumbled to a decent size Del covered the burning embers with dirt.

After sifting through the pile, we had barrels of charcoal ready for the bloomery.

Del explained to me the bloomery is used to remove the air magic from the ore. I think he meant it’s used to strip the oxygen from the ore turning it into concentrated iron.

After igniting a base layer of charcoal in the bloomery, Del showed me how to layer the iron sand with alternating levels of charcoal. We spent most of the day pumping the bellows supplying the air into the bloomery. Del spent the whole time explaining to me how to watch the fire to see if it’s too hot or too cold. Apparently, you also need to watch to make sure everything is burning evenly, I didn’t know that was a thing.

After we spent most of the day watching the bloomery, we finally got the chance to open the bottom and collect some blooms. Blooms are chunks of metallic iron left from the burning process. Because of the charcoal Del said it’s considered a low-grade steel. I remember from my talks with Stanley that charcoal leaves a little carbon while smelting to make steel. Depending on the carbon content, you could get cast iron or many other forms of iron. Del told me he works with Steel mostly and only uses cast iron for pots and pans.

We took all day to harvest the blooms we needed, and I walked home with dad, sore all over.

When we reach the clearing, I see Del already preparing for our second day of smithing.

Walking over to his forge, I don’t have the energy to greet him today.

“Glad you decided to come back! I was worried you might have wanted to quit after yesterday.”

Master Del doesn’t look tired one bit.

“What are we doing now?”

“Next were going to turn these blooms into steel.”

That makes me wake up a little. I see master already has a fire going in his forge. He’s using the leftover charcoal from yesterday.

“I’m going to pump the bellows every so often so I can keep the coals hot. I’m going to walk you through exactly how we turn the blooms into proper steel.”

“Great! Let’s do this, I’m ready!”

 


 

I’m on my ass again, sweating from the heat coming out of the forge. Watching how Del manipulates the fire, I could almost fall asleep right now. Doing this for so long is really hypnotic!

The first thing Del had me do was crush the blooms we made yesterday into smaller chunks of iron. With the chunks of iron poured into a crucible, a ceramic container that can handle extremely high temperatures, Del had me gather something I wasn’t expecting, fresh leaves. The green leaves he had me gather from a low hanging tree were placed on top of the crushed iron. Del explained to me that the leaves actually lower the melting point of the iron.

That’s the main point of this step. We’re melting the iron into a liquid state. The blooms could have been forged into iron products by themselves, but you need to melt them fully to create a strong metal.

Next, he had me grab some crushed crystal powder from his hut. He told me it’s a cheap waste glass. Pouring the glass into the container, Del told me how it would melt around the iron first. Then, when the iron melts because it’s heavier than the glass, the glass will float to the top, creating a seal so that the air mana can’t ruin the metal.

With a few pieces of charcoal placed on top to help deal with any air mana still in the container, he had me seal the crucible and help prepare the fire.

With the crucible in place, we needed to heat the forge till the iron could melt properly.

I finally got to see how “Blacksmith” logs are used. The logs are supposed to be placed on the coals and you have to wait for them to catch, but Del informed me I could drastically shorten the time with my mana.

According to Del, injecting my mana into the wood actually lowers the ignition point. The magical wood only produces the heat we need after it’s been dried, and with fresh mana it ignites a lot easier.

Because of this, I injected three logs with 100 mana each and watched Del place them in the forge. Like he promised, they ignited quickly into beautiful purple flames. The heat radiating from the logs required me to take a step back. With the first three logs ignited the others didn’t take much longer to follow.

By now, it has been over three hours since we first fired the crucible and Del promises we’re close to finishing.

“Alright, I think it’s about finished.”

“Really! Now we turn it into bars?”

“No, now we clean up the bloomery, and then you go home and come back tomorrow.”

“What?!”

“How hot do you think that metal is right now? We have to let it cool overnight.”

“It takes three days to turn ore into an ingot?”

“Well you slowed me down quite a bit. I usually do the bloomery and crucible steps on the same day and finish the metal the next morning. Not what you were expecting, ha.”

No wonder it was considered two jobs back in my old world. Just making ingots is a full-time job, and we still need to forge it into something else later.

I’ve gained a new respect for blacksmiths. Despite my grumbling, learning how to smelt metal has been just as fun as learning magic.

Maybe I’ll be able to eventually combine them one day.

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A note from kosnik4

Sorry for the late release, I did a lot of studying to try and express accurate smithing. As Aaliyah stated above, I have a whole new respect for the blacksmith profession. Its amazing people used these techniques thousands of years ago to forge weapons, with no thermometers or computers to help them. I hope you guys enjoyed it, I tried to mix some magic elements in to speed up the process, but I learned techniques like the ones above take days to accomplish. If you’re interested check this documentary: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=the+secret+of+whots+demascus+steel&docid=608029272692297047&mid=940E79030A534D68F440940E79030A534D68F440&view=detail&FORM=VIRE  

The documentary is amazing, I watched it three times to help me write this chapter.

I want to thank everyone for reading my work and continuing to rate it. I entered the top 300 and it’s all thanks to you guys.

Thank you again. And as always, stay safe. 


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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