A note from kosnik4

Sorry for the late post. I just got home from work and doublechecked any grammar mistakes posted in Patron. If you want to read more Patron is three chapters ahead, hopefully four soon.

“You sure you don’t want me to push the cart back to my hut?” Shaking my head not only shows my reluctance to relinquish the cart to Del but has the bonus effect of removing the sweat dripping across my face. Master Del pushed the cart out of the mine and up the quarry’s ramp, the least I can do is push it back to the forge.

We usually only go mining twice a month. Leaving the rest of the time to the forest, allowing it time to reclaim the path between Del’s hut and the quarry. The forest grasses and tree roots provide just enough friction to slow the cart to a crawl.

Even with a 100 Strength, pushing a cart that has a literal ton of ore in it, is difficult.

“I… can do it… your hut…... isn’t that far away.” Breathing heavily, I give a forceful push, helping the cart’s wheel vault a tricky root.

Seeing the clearing, some ten odd feet in front of me, renews my stamina just enough to rush the rest of the way. With the windfall of Stamina, I activate Double Step. Pushing such a weight causes the skill to burn much more stamina than usual but gives me enough speed that the cart pretty much drags me into the clearing.

Guiding the cart close to our crushing station, I flop to the ground, waiting for my overtaxed Stamina to slowly recharge.

Taking deep even breaths, I recover in time to watch Del approach my prone form. “Want me to start crushing the rock?” Master knows I insist on starting every part of smelting process myself, yet he offers each time I’m too tired to move.

“Give me a minute and I’ll start crushing the rock.”

“You know you don’t lose that much experience with me helping.”

Breath stabilizing, I sit up facing Del. “I lose 2% if I don’t start every step. I lose another 7% if you step in and help during the ore refining process. Then I lose another 4% when you guide my forging. Even if you barely help me, my experience drops around 19% to 27% depending on your contribution.”

“So, you’re saying you don’t want my help at all, is that it?” Del motions like he’s about to leave me for his bench.

“Stop joking around. you know I meant I get more experience for starting everything. After I crush a few containers of Lovers Ore you can take over and I’ll only lose 7% instead of 9% of my crafting experience.”

“It’s weird how you care so much for a few extra experience points. Usually when someone reaches your level, they focus more on the end product rather than the tedious steps like gathering materials.”

“So, you’re saying I should take an apprentice to do the dirty work for me. An apprentice to do the work you don’t want to do; I wonder where I’ve heard that before?”

“Funny. Did you know you get snippier when you’re tired?”

“I just don’t want to waste experience. The overall experience varies depending on what I make. But even including your help crushing the ore, I gain roughly 24% more experience if I prep the metal myself. Without a proper supplier, we have to do this work anyways. Why would I give up extra experience, just to save a small amount of time by letting you crush some rocks?”

“You should’ve been a scholar or a mage. Maybe you could have been a great merchant with your love of math.”

“Do they not teach you things like this in Truset? I can understand my parent’s ignorance due to their commoner backgrounds, but I thought Stone Kin shared knowledge and I would consider experience knowledge something important to share.”

Del just shakes his head. “It’s not that I don’t already know what you’re talking about. It’s just not important in Truset or any Stone Kin cities. Knowing every step and being good at every step are two different challenges. I’m teaching you mining, ore refining, blacksmithing, sharpening, and you stated you want to know the basics of enchanting. In a Stone Kin city each one of those jobs are separated. You may think knowing everything is a good thing right now, but to create something half as good as Truset, you need to work 5 times harder. Stone Kin separate each job, and though we have a choice in which field to enter, we only focus on one. This method produces Miners that can dig a tunnel the size of my quarry in weeks instead of years. You have people that can melt and mold metal with their bare hands, producing metal many times purer than anything we can make. With metal in hand, blacksmiths shape metals worth more than this whole village. Once an item is forged it is either sharpened or enchanted, sometimes both. Each person creates a masterpiece in their field, generating plenty of experience. I do everything myself because I have to, not by choice.”

So Stone Kin have mastered assembly lines with levels instead of machines. No wonder they can create consistently good gear. From what I’ve heard about human culture, it’s everybody for themselves.

“It’s good that you’re excited about improving all aspects of forging, but you can let me handle the tedious steps with my superior strength. Just start the fire for me, and let me finish the rock crushing so we have enough time to make the steel tomorrow. By the same logic you used, if you help me, you will still earn more experience when you forge tomorrow.”

“You’re right Master Del. I’m wasting time, probably reducing my overall experience in the long run.” Standing up I start moving towards the bloomery. Stopping after a few steps, smiling I look over my shoulder at Del. “Thanks for helping.”

Continuing my short walk to the bloomery, I hear Del mumble behind me. “Hope she doesn’t think I’ll be crushing rocks for her forever. My old teacher would be rolling on the ground laughing if she saw me now.”

I really lucked out with my teacher.

Grabbing a shovel, I start moving charcoal into the bloomery. I helped Del build a small wooden gazebo next to the bloomery. Instead of making charcoal each time we need to fire up the bloomery or forge, we spend a few days creating a huge pile of charcoal and keep it in the gazebo where the weather won’t affect it.

Once I have a good pile of charcoal ready in the bloomery, I turn and watch Del easily pulverize rocks like someone would crush ice.

I have to wait for him to pause his strikes before I can get his attention. It’s amazing watching him work. The magnetic rock crusher we use is wielded in one of his hands while he constantly adds more ore with his free hand. Once the magnetite is covered in iron flakes, the banging stops, as master removes the valuable iron with his bare hands. He can process the entire supply of ore we brought back in only two hours. If I tried to help it would take us at least three hours. With the small window of silence, I shout to Del. “Master. Your flask.”

Master looks over to me with a frown. “Fine, but if you use all of it like last time, you’re making my next batch.”

Despite the threat, he tosses the flask hanging at his side over to me. Catching it as it arcs perfectly through the air, I uncork the stopper, recoiling at the smell that wafts out of the container. I know I joked about master drinking lighter fluid but after trying to use it once to start a fire, I think I’m not far from the truth.

Pouring a few splashes on the coals closest to the open side of the bloomery, I chant the third spell master taught me.

“Llaif gamfr ol e nnamse!”

The spell is longer than the other two and not as versatile, but watching the small ball of red fire shoot out of my index finger is extremely satisfying. I’ve practiced using the spell to light the bloomery and forge many times, so the flame lands exactly where I wanted it, igniting master’s alcohol. I have to watch the fire carefully. The spell is only tier 1 and even if I cast the spell at another person it would at most singe their hair.

Before I started using master’s drink to start the coals, I would have to cast the spell three or sometimes even four times before the fire would catch the coals properly.

Maybe when Sandra gets back, she can teach me a tier 2 fire spell if she knows any.

Looking up at the sky, we have maybe nine hours of daylight left. We will probably have to start the ingots tomorrow morning but I should have enough time to forge what I want by the end of the day tomorrow.

A few hours later, fire roaring, we’re ready to process the first step of the ore. I’m used to this process by now and don’t need Del to help me at all. Alternating levels of ore and coal I fill the bloomery and pump the bellows.

“Now that we have some time, can you explain enchanting with runes to me?” I’m curious about what Del will teach me. If I ever ask something too personal relating to certain Stone Kin knowledge, master just says, “Can’t tell ya that.”

He already said he could teach me the basics but that just means he’s going to give me an overview of the subject with very little detailed information. I’ll have to use my imagination to fill in the gaps and experiment myself.

“Well… it’s carving runes on top of and into items. Tier 1 and most of tier 2 runes only need to be carved on the surface of whatever you’re enchanting. I’ve heard Tier 3 and 4 have three dimensional runes, but without being able to sense magic, I could never study them.”

“Wait, does that mean you can teach me basic runes!?”

“Do I look like an enchanter? I can’t even tell you how to carve the two runes on my pickaxe, let alone any others. As I told you, I only know the basic process. Stone Kin who show exceptional magical abilities are the only ones who take the time to learn runes. And carving the symbols is a lot harder than you think. You need special tools to carve the surfaces precisely Even knowing the rune and having the equipment to carve it, you still need to change the overall size of the rune to match the item you’re enchanting. Assuming you can manage all that, you need to fill the lines with a magical alchemical solution that complements the enchantment.”

Holly crap! How am I supposed to do any of that?

“Starting to realize the difficulty yet? Don’t forget to work the bellows properly.”

I forgot to work the bellows! Checking the fire, I’m lucky Master Del reminded me. I got so absorbed in masters enchanting lesson I almost ruined the metal. The mixture inside the bloomery has settled so I can add more layers of charcoal and ore.

“So, you’re telling me to give up?” I can’t help but look a little defeated, every blacksmith dreams of creating an enchanted blade at some point.

“Normally I would tell someone in your position to give up. If you were a normal child there would be no hope for you in learning enchanting. You however, are a monster in human form, if I’ve ever seen one. The rate you pick up skills is heaven defying, and your magic skills are ridiculous for someone self-taught. Even if I found another person who had magic talent, they wouldn’t be able to learn how to cast a celestial spell, even if I taught them the words.”

Del’s proud look is infectious and I can’t help but cheer up at his praise.

“If you want to learn enchanting, I can help by forging you some tools if you can buy the materials from your merchant friend. How much money do you have saved up?”

“I usually buy ore from Cristopher, but I’ve managed to save up almost 71 silver.” Puffing out my chest, I gloat at the small fortune I’ve saved up these past few years.

“That’s it?” With two words, master crushes my pride. “That boy must be robing you blind if you could only save that much coin. The materials I need for crafting basic enchanting tools cost 50 silver and that’s if you manage to haggle the price down. If you want to try and copy some runes, you’ll need to buy semi magical items or the cheapest magical items you can get, each will cost anywhere between a single silver and 4 large silver coins.”

“That much!” It’ll cost everything I have saved just to try learning basic engraving.

“There’s a saying in Truset, ‘You only need two things to master engraving, magic and a fortune you’re willing to throw away.’ Enchanters in Truset brag not about what they could enchant but how much money they wasted doing so. It’s rumored the best enchanter in Truset managed to learn the basics of engraving in only two months. People thought that was amazing, until he drunkenly admitted he wasted 58 gold coins doing so.”

“I don’t suppose you have a bag of gold stashed under you’re your house, right?” Pumping the bellows a few times, I make sure the fire stays strong.

“Sorry, no gold under my house. You shouldn’t worry about the money just yet. If you work hard and sell everything you make, you should be able to slowly practice enchanting. Speaking of your forging, I’m curious, what were you so excited to make tomorrow?”

“I was going to try making a style of sword I thought of, if you haven’t seen anything like it before I was going to call it a katana.” In my past life I bought a cheap knockoff katana on the internet, and since then I always wanted a real one. I know the basic method to forge a Japanese sword but I can always ask for Del’s help with the first one. Hopefully challenging myself with something new will let me break through the Blacksmithing test.

“I hate to criticize something you seem so passionate about, but unless it’s something ridiculous and complicated, it’s most likely been forged before. Anything else you wanted to try?”

“Well… there is one thing I really want to make. It should be relatively easy.”

“Well don’t keep me in suspense, what do you want to make tomorrow?”

“I want to make a grill.” I look seriously at Del. The decades of eating only stew need to end.

“What’s a grill?” My mouth opens a little at Del’s comment.

“You’re confident I can’t make an original sword, but you don’t know what a grill is?”

“Explain the design and I’ll tell you what it’s called.” Del probably thinks I’m saying the name wrong.

“It’s basically an open box with a wall removed. You put charcoal in the bottom of the box and cook on top of a grate that you can adjust depending on how close you need to be to the fire. You usually cook meat on a grill but blood maize would probably gill nicely.”

Master Del looks contemplative. “That just sounds like a complicated campfire. Why are you so excited about making something so simple?”

“Because I’m tired of stew. Every day it’s stewed meat and veggies. This ‘grill’, lets a person cook a meal over a controlled fire. Cleanup is easy and it shouldn’t be that hard to make.” I’m trying not to sound like an infomercial.

“If that’s what you want to make, we’ll give it a try. Now that you mention it, I eat mostly stew as well. You’re making me miss the food in Truset or even the food in human cities.”

“What’s so different about the food in cities?”

“Magic tools and semi-magic tools in cities are much more common. Using magicite, humans can power magic stoves, letting people cook much more complicated dishes. Maybe your grill will be useful after all. If it turns out good, I’ll have to make a second one for myself.”

Del and I spent the next couple of hours discussing different foods and how they’re made, leaving us both hungry. The sun is setting fast and I probably won’t be able to see the metal until tomorrow.

“Are you going to open the bloomery later?” I organize my workspace before I leave the day.

“I’ll open it in a few hours. We should have enough time tomorrow to forge your grill if we start early in the morning.”

“Great, so the two of us need to get up early? What could go wrong with that?”

Sharing a laugh, I’m about to turn to leave the clearing when Del stopes me with a hand on my shoulder.

Del whispers in my ear, “Someone’s coming.”

Scanning the tree line, I hope dad didn’t come to pick me up again.

I flinch as a different silhouette appears amongst the trees. Striding into the clearing, bow in hand, Ronald calmly walks up to us.

Ronald is the best hunter in our village. He’s 5’ 10’’ and has a slender build. His dirty blond hair has a few tangled leaf’s sticking in it. His light blue eyes look grey in the fading sunlight. His gaze is sharp and powerful. He might not be as powerful as one of Cristopher’s guards but he spends his time hunting every day in the woods. Everyone knows his level is probably in the higher forties, maybe even over fifty. For someone who looks like they’re in their early thirties like my parents, his level is considered impressive for our small village.

He seems much more impressive than the time I saw him helping dad carry the farkus out of the woods, for Richards awakening celebration.

“Del, Aaliyah, village meeting. Attendance is mandatory.” His straight expression gives nothing away.

I look to Del, expecting him to scowl and chase Ronald away using his fake voice. Instead, he simply nods at Ronald and starts walking towards the village with him. I’m stunned and can only run after their disappearing backs, as they enter the tree line.

Instead of taking the normal path to the village from Del’s clearing, which would have us walk in a weird v path, we silently cut through the forest. Master doesn’t say a word as we walk through the woods and Ronald doesn’t appear to care about the silence either.

I can only recall Sandra’s father calling two village meetings in my lifetime and neither were mandatory. It doesn’t take a genius to realize something bad has happened.

Emerging from the woods, we walk past a few houses before we arrive at the headman’s house. His house is the only one in the village with a second story and every villager is crowded around the front of the building looking up at the window where the man is standing.

Sandra’s father looks like an average middle-aged man you could find anywhere. Being neither thin nor fat, I focus on his combover He appears to be in his late thirties, maybe early forties. I’ve noticed him around the village but I’ve never had a reason to talk to the man. He keeps scanning the crowd from above, probably waiting for everyone to gather.

I can see my parents standing together on the opposite side of the crowded villagers. We make eye contact briefly, exchanging smiles. Whatever has the headman spooked, at least it doesn’t involve my family.

I notice a few people join the edges of the crowd. They must have been the last to arrive because headman Camden looks ready to start.

“Please be quiet.” His words reverberate through the crowd. He must have used a few skills because his voice traveled to everyone’s ears without him needing to shout. Once I heard his voice, it felt like I had the idea to close my mouth. Everyone around me stopped talking at once and now everyone has their eyes on Camden.

“I’m sorry I had to use some skills. Now that everyone is here, I have an important matter everyone needs to hear.” If his skills didn’t silence everyone his vague threats would have done the trick.

“It has come to my attention that the hunters have noticed an increase in the goblins roaming the surrounding forest.” A few people like myself have shaken off the skill trying to keep our silence. Slowly more people are murmuring back and forth between each other.

“Last week I asked Ronald to look into the goblins rising numbers… unfortunately he found a hoard.” As soon as he said the word “hoard”, his skill was broken by the crowd’s fears.

“Has Drey been notified?” Granny Geller’s voice rises out a part of the crowd and soon everyone is shouting the same question.

Raising his hand, Camden waits for the crowd to silence naturally. “The reason I’ve gathered you all hear is because I contacted Drey almost five days ago. Sadly, they can’t afford to send a platoon of soldiers to wipe out the hoard.”

This is getting bad. Most of the villagers seem ready to riot. Each time the headman opens his mouth he seems to deliver worse news. It’s hard to pay attention to any one person’s shouting, but again the mob is almost in a consensus. Everyone wants to know why we aren’t receiving aid.

“Quiet!” His skills must have finished their cooldown. He can only use them every seven and a half minutes and I can tell that the affect they have on the crowd this time is much weaker. Even weaker, he uses the pause in the crowds shouting to continue his explanation.

“I received a messenger bird from the city’s lord. Last week Scholl attacked the Scarred Divide. All of the surrounding cities are preparing what warriors they can spare, to be sent to repel Scholl’s forces. They told me if we can wait for winter to pass, they can send us a small group of soldiers in the spring.”

“So, we only have to wait for reinforcements, that’s not too bad.” I can’t tell who shouted that out but while everyone is agreeing with the idea, I notice key people shaking their heads, including my master.

It’s Ronald who finally dashes the crowds hopes. “We can’t wait that long! Goblins breed too fast. In two months, the group I saw could father dozens of baby goblins and they will be old enough to attack us by spring. And that’s assuming the hoard can scavenge enough supplies through winter! We could be attacked anytime between now and whenever Drey can spare us the troops.” Many have gone pale at Ronald’s warning.

“Thank you, Ronald.” Camden draws the crowds focus back towards himself before people start shouting at Ronald. “This is why I called an emergency meeting. Once it became apparent, we wouldn’t receive any aid from Drey, I realized we would have to take care of the hoard ourselves.”

Everyone is losing their shit. I understand why people are scared. When we are attacked by goblins, excluding the large attack almost five years ago, the village hunters kill most of the goblins before stronger villagers like father would help with the stragglers. Even with us surrounded by woods, the average villager has never been in a combat situation let alone a life or death struggle.

The situation is deteriorating fast, people might start hurting each other in their panic. “Cover your ears.” Masters voice quietly warns me. As soon as my hands are on my ears, a thundering sound knocks the villagers surrounding us to the ground. Many are rubbing their ears, but everyone is staring at me. Not at me, through me, at my master. His hand clap was deafening.

Pretending to be ignorant of the stares, master ignores the hostile looks and focuses on Camden. A few people take the hint and focus back up on the window. “I know you are all afraid. I wouldn’t ask this of you if the situation wasn’t so dire. Tomorrow, those capable, need to prepare. Anyone strong enough or brave enough needs to help us fight against the hoard. Midday tomorrow, we will gather again and plan out our attack. We will leave for the hoard the day after tomorrow. I know everyone who is strong enough to participate, and you know who you are. If you don’t contribute, we will drag you against the hoard whether you are prepared or not.”

His gaze passes through me as he eyes everyone in the village. Ever so lightly I feel something inside my chest. Focusing inward, I watch the tiniest flakes of translucent fire slowly merge with my soul! As the flames meld into my own, I try and notice any difference in my body. I can’t look directly at my soul, so I check every inch of my body. Mana, emotions, anything I can think of, I check for any abnormalities. Once half the flames are fully merged, I notice a peculiar thought. In contrast to focusing on my body, the thought of helping the village appears in my head. It’s not an overwhelming urge to take up arms, more like a sense of patriotism. The scary thing is, though I love my village, the idea of defending my home shouldn’t be in my head while I’m focusing so hard on my body. As the last of the flames meld into my soul, the idea of defending the village hasn’t become more pronounced, but the idea won’t leave my head!

Looking up, I notice the headman paling slightly as the villagers disperse.

He’s using a skill! A skill that manipulates the mind! He’s making the villagers more likely to willingly volunteer tomorrow!

While I’m panicking at the loss of control over my mind, I see master slap the side of his head. I can barely hear him mumble, “I hate noble skills.”

I’m about to ask him what’s going on, before a younger Camden approaches us. Nicolas is Sandra’s oldest brother and the villages future headman.

“Del-Razen and miss Aaliyah, my father wishes to speak with the two of you privately. Please follow me.”

He doesn’t even wait for us to voice our opinions before leading us into his house. We’re taken to a side room, obviously meant to accommodate important people. The furniture is made from some of the best wood I’ve seen and covered in Karhu fur.

Nicolas stands by the door, without saying a word. Master takes a seat, seemingly without a care in the world. The rooms silence only lasts a few minutes before Camden Downs strolls through the door.

I’m about to get up and properly great him, only to be stopped with a wave of his hand.

“I hope the two of you are comfortable. I have a lot to discuss with the two highest leveled people in the village.”

What did he say!

A note from kosnik4

Thanks for reading and as always, stay safe.

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