"So, now that I have an empty pen, what do I fill it with?" I ask Master Del while I clean up our work station.
Master turns his head to the side, watching me clean up. He took up his usual position on his favorite bench after finishing my engraving pen. "Magic stuff." I'm amazed he can say that with a straight face.
"I guessed that much already. I mean, what is the ink I'm supposed to use made of?" I might have been angrier at his evasiveness towards my question if I still wasn't glowing with joy now that I can start practicing enchanting.
"Herbs, magic crystals, metals, I'm not sure exactly what enchanters use for their engraving pens. We aren't taught the secrets of enchanting unless we show a particularly special talent for it. The function of different runes, how to draw said runes properly, and especially the composition of their engraving ink are all secrets passed down from master to student. The only thing I can tell you is that the ink used for engraving pens is supposed to be magically conductive. That's the extent of my knowledge on the subject." Master closes his eyes and pretends to fall asleep.
I told myself I wouldn't get my hopes up, but hearing that from here on out, I'll have to figure everything out by myself is a little daunting. "That's ok, master. You've already helped me a lot. Though if it's not too much to ask, would you answer any questions I have in the future?"
"Of course, I will. I am your master, after all." Master huffs after his response but smiles with his eyes closed.
Master continues to lay on his bench while I quickly straighten everything up.
"You going home already?" Master finally sits up once I finish with the cleaning.
"Yeah, I want to check up on mother and father. Make sure they're ok, you know?" I try to downplay it, but a part of me is still worried about my father. When I think back on yesterday morning and how I found dad, I can't help but imagine what could've happened if I was a little bit slower reaching him.
"He's doing better, isn't he?" Master frowns when I try giving him a reassuring smile.
I have to drop my fake smile while facing master's gaze. "He says he's feeling better, but I'm not sure if he's really ok or just pretending to be fine, so mother and I don't worry about him. As long as mother and I are home, we can at least make sure he rests longer than he normally would."
"Would you like to take some time off?" I can see master is being serious towards me about taking time off and not just trying to get another rest day.
"Thanks for the offer, but I can't afford to stop working right now. I have magic tools coming from Kervin next month, and I'll need more coin along with his help to get materials I can turn into engraving ink. We make a lot from the chameleon spiders, but who knows how long it will last? I'll be back tomorrow ready to forge more arrows and spears."
Master doesn't tease me and instead nods his head in understanding. "Does that mean you'll wait until that merchant returns to practice with your new pen?"
"I sort of have to. I can't study magic tools I don't have yet." I raise a questionable eyebrow at Del.
"Wait there." Master stands up and walks over to his house.
He only vanishes into his house for a few minutes before he walks back out with one of his 'light' hats in hand. "Use this." Master tosses the semi-magical hardhat at me.
I catch the magical tool with both my hands. I look down at the hardhat until master coughs into his hand, grabbing my attention. "If you break it, you'll have to buy me a new one!" Master exclaims.
"Thank you, Master Del. I'll make sure to buy you a new one once I'm able." I smile at master. I have no intention of returning it in one piece.
"Cheeky brat." Master narrows his eyes and tries to look like a disappointed teacher, but I can see him hiding his smile.
"See you tomorrow morning." I give master a final wave goodbye and make my way down the forest trail and back to my house.
As I leave the forest and enter the village, I consider stopping by Kervin's cart one more time to ask him if he can get his hands on some engraving pen ink. If I can see the finished product, then maybe I can then figure out a way to synthesize my own formula.
Using my movement skills, I quickly arrive at Kervin's campsite only to find it empty. After he dropped off the food for the village and our transaction completed, I can understand why he would want to head back early. Hovering around the edges of our village isn't the wisest move for a merchant these days. I'll just have to ask him for help with my problem once he returns. We are 'friends' after all.
Without the need for sidetracking, I run home to my parents.
When I make it home and open the front door, I'm surprised not to find mother in her chair sewing.
While I'm still in our entryway, I clean myself with magic. "Ahyt ls weem appiss!"
I absorb the mana from Mana Skin and let the filth trapped against my barrier fall to the floor. I slip my house slippers on and set the 'light' helmet on our dinner table. I then make my way towards my parent's bedroom.
Sense Mana lets me see two distinct masses of mana close together on their bed. I don't see them moving, but I make sure to take extra loud steps to give them a warning that I'm home.
"You guys better be decent!" I shout through their door, giving the wood a few knocks to cover all my bases.
I open the door and walk inside my parent's room. Cuddled together, mother and father look like they both just woke up from a nap. Mother is still in her clothes from this morning, and dad only has bandages around one of his arms and his chest.
"You’re home, Aaliyah?" Mother wipes at her eyes and suddenly jumps like she just realized something. "What time is it? I need to get dinner started!"
Mother flings her covers to the side before I can say anything. She's already rising to her feet by the time I get a word in.
"You don't have to worry, mom. I came home early today. You don't need to make dinner for a few more hours. You can rest a little longer with dad." I hold my hands up in a placating gesture and get her to sit back down on the edge of her bed.
"It's not dinner time?" She asks me one more time to make sure.
"Nope, just home early," I confirm.
"That's not like you." Dad sends me a look like he knows why I'm back so soon.
Instead of trying to hide it, I decide to acknowledge it. "Is it wrong that I wanted to check up on you? I was terrified when I saw you charging that chameleon spider. I wanted to see if you're doing better." I fold my arms in front of me.
"I'm feeling much better. Your mother only let me leave the bed to use the outhouse. I'll be fine tomorrow morning."
"I'll be the judge of that." Mother doesn't seem like she'll let dad have a say in it. Mother tries scowling at father, but it melts away to a more concerned look. Mom shimmies back under her covers and gently moves up against dad.
It looks like they're going to take up my offer to return to their naps, so I move to leave their room. "I'll wake you closer to dinner time, sweet dreams." I blow the two of them each a kiss and close their door behind me.
I stash my sword in my room and then walk back to our dinner table to examine the magic tool master gave me… lent me, I mean.
I pull out my chair and place my new engraving pen off to the side. I pick up the helmet and examine it for the first time in years. Ever since master helped me learn the simple light spell, we haven't had to use them in the mine.
I open the metal container on the top of the helmet and examine the intricate lines running throughout the compartment you're supposed to place magicite. The lines running everywhere make discerning any actual runes from squiggles impossible with the naked eye. Sense Mana allows me to see that each line has the same mana composition but nothing else.
Am I going to have to tear the helmet apart to examine it easier? Tracing the engraving lines is impossible as it is with the material used in the enchanting process. The dark silvery substance used in the runes blends in with the steel. If only it glowed like master's pickaxe.
A lightbulb goes off above my head. What if I inject some of my mana into the runes? The Magicite is supposed to fill up the area to power the helmet, but directly injecting my mana should have the same effect.
I slowly use Inject Mana on the runes inside the helmet. The runes light up almost simultaneously, producing an orb of light on top of the helmet just like I remember. With my superb mana sense, I was able to track the path my mana took as the runes absorbed it. Even if all the runes appeared to activate together, I could see my mana being consumed by four runes on each side of the box.
Each of the runes absorbed the mana in the same way, but each has a different structure of engraving lines. Once absorbed by the first four runes, I noticed my mana is channeled to the rune at the bottom of the box. Tracing some of the lines, I see each of the four runes that absorbed my mana are all connected to a single rune but not each other.
I send another pulse of mana into the runes and follow the mana as it is directed to this bottom rune. Once the mana reaches the bottom rune, it's converted into a slightly different mana signature and then sent to the rune at the top of the box.
It's hard to see with the light the helmet is producing in the way, but I can see the third type of rune expelling the mana, making the light obstructing my view.
I stop injecting my mana and watch the mana in the runes run dry.
I didn't have the skills to observe the mana this carefully back when master and I were using the 'light' helmets. Master said the primary rune for engraving is the one used to absorb mana. The semi-magical item isn't considered expensive by magical item standards, so the four rues engraved on the boxes sides must be the beginner magic absorbing runes.
Master taught me that most tier 1 magic has long since spread around the lands. The basic tier 1 mana absorbing rune should be the same no matter who is engraving it. Then why are all four of the runes different?
I try injecting my mana again, but this time I only focus on one rune at a time. It happens incredibly fast, but I notice the mana I insert into the first rune all starts at a single point. The mana follows the lines in a swirling pattern and branches off into certain connecting lines but avoids the others. "That's weird," I mumble to myself.
I move on to the next rune and again find a single point my mana enters the rune. I carefully follow my mana and am shocked when I realize the same pattern emerges when I pretend the deadlines don't exist.
The other two runes reveal the same thing after a few more tests!
I move over to a drawer next to mothers sewing equipment and grab the writing supplies she keeps there. I uncork the small bottle of ink and start sketching the design I found hidden in the engraving. I continue to inject my mana into the rune with the least dead ends and copy the rune onto the paper.
When finished transcribing the rune, it looks like a small circle with a whirlpool connected to it and two triangles around its outermost line. The two lines off of the triangles connect to the rune at the bottom of the cube.
I examine the lines that appear to do nothing and notice they only serve to gather a small amount of extra mana from the steel the runes are engraved on. The lines are so close to the rune it looks like they're connected, but in reality, they aren't.
I question why they're placed where they are when I remember what master told me about people trying to prevent others from deciphering their magic. Without my higher leveled skills, I would've never been able to tell the added lines weren't a part of the rune in the first place.
After sketching the best that I can and removing the unneeded lines, I came up with this.
I'll have to test what happens to a wrongly drawn rune when I get my hands on some engraving ink. Until then, I'll have to clean up the other two runes I have access to.
The rune at the bottom of the cube is much harder to analyze. It has eight connections to the four mana absorbing runes and has a much more detailed structure. Tracking the mana inside the bottom rune was more difficult due to the constant conversion of the mana flowing through it. The structure resembles multiple rectangles overlapping one another. The top of the rune sends mana up to the rune, producing light.
After struggling for thirty minutes, I managed to sketch its design correctly.
To think I can copy runes this easy. I know it's easy for my high-level mana skills to observe the working runes, but master, Kervin, and even mother made it sound like it was a lot harder to learn enchanting.
Putting my doubts aside, I study the last rune. It has different shapes mixed into the design, but it's still not as complicated as the last rune.
Now that I have the three runes sketched out, I can examine the lines connecting them. The gathering runes run their two lines from their two triangles to the smaller triangles on the sides of the rectangle rune.
The large triangle on top of the rectangle rune has a single line that leads to the bottom of the light rune. Blinding myself a few times, I managed to watch the light rune activate. The arrow juxtaposed with the triangle body produces the light ball at the tip of the rune.
I can't help but see some similarities to computer hardware when I stare at the mass of lines and runes in the cube. Mana acts as the power supply and fed into a processor and finally expelled in a light show. I'll need to see more complex runes and enchantments to understand everything better.
Now that I have the runes sketched out on paper, I need to practice using my engraving pen. I get up from my seat and walk over to where we store the firewood. I might not be able to make working runes without engraving ink, but I can still practice carving the runes I have onto some wood.
I grab the pieces of firewood that father had cut earlier, which have the evenest surfaces.
I sit back down with a small stack of firewood next to my chair. I place a piece of wood on the table in front of me and grab my enchanting pen. The large metal pen feels as light as a feather in my hands.
I first try to use Expel Mana to see how my pen reacts. I stop channeling my mana when I notice the pen isn't absorbing 40% of the mana I'm expelling. I can't imagine enchanters would waste that much of their mana. Maybe the engraving pen is supposed to have its own enchantment? That would explain their ridiculous prices and the need to have professionals make them.
Good thing, I have the skills to disregard the need for an enchantment on my pen. I inject mana directly into my new pen.
I marvel at its structure. Master can't use a single speck of magic, and yet he was able to make this pen without any microfractures or kinks in the metals mana structure. It's an even more impressive feat when you consider this was the first engraving pen master has ever made.
The mithril steel alloy hungrily devours the mana I inject into it and starts glowing with a soft blue light. A steady stream of my mana enters the magic gem, and I watch in fascination as the gem forms a barrier of mana around its edge.
With a little bit of pressure, I point the tip of my pen up against the wood. There is a little resistance from the wood, but the quartz digs easily into the surface. Master said the more mana I use, the stronger the magic gem will become.
I pump even more of my mana into the pen, making sure to keep an eye on the material. It would be tragic if the alloy disintegrated after the work master put into making it.
The greedy pen doesn't start reacting to my mana until I use nearly 550 of my mana to charge the pen. I try poking a hole in the wood again to see how sharp the engraving pen is while charged with this much mana.
The tip of the pen touches the surface of the wood, but I don't feel any resistance as I push the pen further in. The pen sinks two inches into the log before I pull it back. The magic gem is amazing. Imagine if I could make a chisel with a large enough magical stone or even a knife might be possible. How would a blade made from a magic gem stack up against a tier 5 weapon?
I stop daydreaming about crystal weapons and focus back on the log in front of me. Let's see if my Drawing skill helps me engraving the runes on the wooden surface.
My hands feel awkward with such a big pen. I start off trying to copy the swirling design of the mana absorbing rune. It should be the easiest one to start with, but quickly I find myself making the lines uneven in depth.
I copy the rune five times on the first piece of firewood and another seven times a little smaller on a second piece. I try injecting some of my mana into the runes I carved, but the wood just stores my mana like it usually does. The empty runes do not affect the wood's ability to absorb mana.
It seems like I'll need to find something to fill the runes in with to test them out properly.
"I thought you were going to wake us up?" Mother's voice startles me. I look up from my work and see mother and father walking down the hall.
"I would've woken you up closer to…." I stop when I see the color of the sky outside the window. I was too absorbed in my work to notice the diminishing light.
Mother walks up to my side and looks at the two logs I have sitting on the table. She runs her fingers over my trial runes. "Are these runes?" Mother asks, as her attention shifts to my three drawings.
"They sure are." I proudly say. "I managed to copy them from master's 'light' helmet. I was practicing drawing them on the firewood before I try it on something more important."
"I can't believe you made it this far already. You got your engraving pen today, didn't you?" Mother gives me a skeptical look.
"I didn't think I could copy the runes this quickly either."
"I shouldn't be surprised by you anymore. Can you please clear off the table and help me with dinner?" Mother starts cutting up the vegetables for tonight's stew. Now that we have a working grill, I don't hate having the stew as much as I used to.
I carefully move my sketches of the runes off to the side along with my engraving pen. I carry my wood carvings over to the fireplace and use the wood as kindling.
"Why are you burning them, sweety?" Dad asks as he watches me throw my work into the growing fire.
"They're just copies of the runes I carved for practice. They won't do anything, so why waste the firewood?" I explain to my father.
Once the fire is strong enough to leave unattended, I move next to mom to help her prepare dinner.
While cutting up some of the meat that Kervin brought for the village, dad questions why my runes won't work as they are.
"I was able to use some of my special skills to copy the runes' shapes, but I don't have the ink required for my engraving pen to make working runes. Until I figure something out, I'll have to make do with practicing carving skills. I'll ask Kervin about getting me some ink when he returns." Father nods his head in understanding.
While adding ingredients into our stew pot, mother joins our conversation. "I don't think that will work, honey."
I give mom a questioning look. "You don't think Kervin can find me some engraving ink? Or is it too expensive?"
"It's not that it's expensive, more like that it's not sold on the open market. You would need to contact a black-market merchant, and it would almost certainly be a trap set by the kingdom." Mother drops some incredible information without changing her neutral expression.
Dad and I look at mother like she grew another head. She doesn't take any notice of us and focuses on preparing dinner.
"How do you know so much about it?" I curiously ask mother.
"I told you before; my family was a prominent merchant household in Aurorast. One of my father's best clients was an enchanter whose workshop was close to our house. Father helped arrange everything he needed for his work. My siblings and I were schooled in which materials we needed to keep an eye open for. Everything to do with enchanting is silver and gold, so we were expected to know our stuff."
Mother finally looks my way and smiles when she sees my look of shock. She giggles into one of her hands and continues talking about her experience as a child.
"Dealing with such expensive goods, there's a lot of secrecy that comes with the territory. Enchanters… real enchanters… are an exclusive lot in Olebert and other kingdoms. You may have people producing the cheaper magical items, but enchanters like my father's acquaintance are all monitored by the kingdom. They're able to enchant weapons with horrifying power that can kill dozens of people in the right hands. The ink they use for their enchantments is considered just as important as the runes themselves. More than once, my father was approached by those in the underworld trying to get him to sell them either a list of the materials he was selling or the outright finished product if possible."
"Did he take the bribe?" I enthusiastically ask. This sounds like a crime show I would have watched in my past life.
"He did." Mother gives me a toothy grin and pauses for effect. "He took their money and arranged a drop-off. Of course, at the drop off point, the buyers wouldn't find what they were looking for, only a platoon of the lord's soldiers waiting for them." This is the most I've heard mother talk about her family.
"You see, trading engraving ink is banned thanks to the pressure the mage community put on the royal family long ago. The materials to make it are fine to trade, but exchanging engraving ink itself is outlawed. That way, other mages and other kingdoms are less likely to steal an enchanter's secrets." Mother reaches over to my side and dumps the ingredients I cut into the pot. I was so entranced in her explanation I barely helped her prep anything.
Mother moves over to our fireplace and places the stew close to the crackling flames. "Does that mean you know how they make enchanting ink?" I hopefully ask mother.
"Sorry I don't." Mother laughs again when my hopeful smile falls into a frown. "I do, however, know the four most common ingredients enchanters use. That should be enough to get you started."
"Yes!" I shout out loud. "I mean… yes, please." I correct my self and blush at my outburst.
"Don't thank me yet, sweety. The cheapest of the ingredients cost half a gold coin. The four ingredients we were taught to keep an eye out for and get at the lowest price possible were magicite, mithril, eathrosse, and devil's poke made up 70% of our business with the local enchanters."
"I know about the first two, but what are eathrosse and devil's poke?"
"I know those, they're rare plants found near higher mana zones," Father says from his seat at the table.
"Your father's right. Both eathrosse and devil's poke are plants with high magical components. I don't know how they're used in enchanting, but every enchanter in Aurorast was trying to buy more. Special high leveled farmers mostly grow them, but magic beast hunters call them green gold. I don't know the local prices, but eathrosse sold for 98 silver for a half-pound bag. Devil's poke sells for even more at 1.2 gold for half a bag."
And I thought mithril was expensive. "Are either of them found near our village?" I hopefully ask father.
"Every so often a magical plant is found by the hunters, but it isn't common. The only magical plant I've found was the arc tree. There might be some closer to the higher mana zone part of the forest, but I don't think you would want to go there right now." Father gives me a warning look.
"What's with that look? You think I would try to go there right as winter started?" I turn my head away from dad, not wanting him to see that he hit the nail on the head with his warning.
Mother steps in front of my gaze and gives me a look much fiercer than fathers. "Don't even think about it." She says with a cold voice that.
"I wasn't." I totally was; I need to change the subject. "If they're that rare, will Kervin be able to get me some samples?"
Mother's face says that she knows what I'm trying to do, but she answers me anyway. "He'll need to go through his company's superiors, but he should be able to get you what you need. But are you sure that's what you want?"
"What do you mean, mom?"
"Kervin may be able to get you the ingredients that you need, but in doing so, the Silver Herd Trading Company will learn about you and Del. Eathrosse and devil's poke are particular herbs. They're only used in higher forms of alchemy, for the most part, enchanting. Even someone who can make basic enchantments are highly sought after by merchants. And it won't be long before the local lord sends an envoy to investigate as well." Mother gives me a somber look.
It's a good thing mother knew so much about this. If I had talked to Kervin before he left, he probably would've invariably blown my cover looking for the ingredients I need.
"Don't worry about all at once." Mother moves over to me and hugs me. "You have a month before Kervin comes back to decide how you want to handle it. No matter what you choose, your father and I will support you."
"She's right. And don't you worry, your father here can knock around anyone who comes to cause trouble." Dad boldly claims and flexes his arms.
I decide not to point out that I saved him a few days ago.
"Yes, we know how strong you are, Darrius. We can talk about this more later. The stew is ready now. Aaliyah, can you get the utensils?" Mother moves the pot of stew over to the table while I grab our bowls and silverware.
Dinner with my family is always a great way to finish the day.
While we're all eating, I pull up my status page.
LV: 62 Experience: 177,680/ 481,032
Status Points: 0
Meditation (LV77), Running (LV72), Blacksmithing (LV59), Axe Skills (LV55), Cleaning (LV50), Hammer Skills (LV50), Chanting (LV46), Mining (LV46), Drawing (LV39), Cooking (LV37), Trading (LV37), Dagger Skills (LV31), Acting (LV30), Sewing (LV24), Sword Skills(LV24), Wood Carving (LV23), Pugilist Skills (LV4), Spear Skills (LV2)
Sense Mana (LV78), Double Step (LV57), Charm (LV50), Measurement (LV41), Axe Arts (LV36), Hammer Arts (LV36), Writing (LV32), Intimidating Shout (LV31), Mathematics (LV30), Increase price (LV16), Lower Price (LV15), Dagger Arts (LV12), Sword Arts (LV8), Marching (LV5), Gourmet (LV2), Shout of Valor (LV1)
Expel Mana (LV57), Mana Manipulation (LV51), Double Strike (LV31), Precise Strike (LV30), Weighted Strike (LV20), Flash Step (LV15)
Inject mana (LV45), Mana Skin (LV45), Mental Resistance (LV40), Extract Mana (LV22), Magic Blacksmithing (LV16)
Sense Soul (LV30)
Increased Skill Levels
Drawing (LV38-39) 3,850exp
Cooking (LV37) 1,850exp
Trading (LV33-37) 8,750exp
Wood Carving (LV22-23) 2,250exp
Sword Skills (LV22-24) 3,450exp
Double Step (LV57) 5,700exp
Increase price (LV14-16) 4,500exp
Lower Price (LV13-15) 4,200exp
Sword Arts (LV8) 800exp
Expel Mana (LV57) 8,550exp
Mana Manipulation (LV51) 7,650exp
Weighted Strike (LV20) 3,000exp
Flash Step (LV14-15) 4,350exp
Inject mana (LV45) 11,250exp
Mana Skin (LV45) 11,250exp
Extract Mana (LV22) 5,500exp
Skill Experience: 86,900exp
Crafting Experience: 2,443exp
Fighting Experience: 7,264exp
Total experience Gained: 96,607exp
Most of my gains this time were from fighting that spider by myself for so long and trading with Kervin. I earned nearly 2,000 more experience from the chameleon spider than I usually do, and I didn't even participate in the final strike. And all my merchant skills went up after striking that deal with Kervin.
I didn't earn an enchanting skill, but my Drawing and Wood Carving both leveled, which should be a big help in the coming months when I practice drawing runes.
As I shovel a spoonful of stew into my mouth, I think about everything I have to do in the coming month.
I need to practice the three runes I can draw. I need to set time aside for my sword practice. I also need to figure out a way to level Sense Soul. If that wasn't enough, I need to make more spears for Kervin and arrows for the hunters. All that work while also hunting down any chameleon spiders that get too close to the village.
I wish I can complain about my work schedule, but I need to do everything and continue to grow stronger. If mother is right, some influential people might take notice if I continue to practice enchanting. I need to be strong enough that I won't be intimidated by whoever shows up to our village.
I have around four months before Richard and Sandra return to the village, and if the lord keeps to his promise, a subjugation squad won't be far behind them.
The future should be getting more interesting from here on out.