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A note from kosnik4

If you want to read more, Patron is 18 chapters ahead. That's over 90,000 words, 40% extra yet to be posted on Royal Road and growing.

"Staring at everything isn't going to magically attach them,” master jokes behind me.

 

“I know, I know,” I wave my left arm in dismissal in master’s direction, without taking my eyes off of the individual parts of the arrow in front of me.

 

A beautifully black dellinium arrowhead, the smooth tannish kaglese shaft, and three fechin feathers all lay next to one another.

 

When I woke up this morning, I was excited at the prospect of finishing the arrow, but now that I'm ready to assemble everything, my stomach feels like it's twisted into a dozen different ways.

 

"The forge is almost hot enough. Are you ready?" I hear master ask.

 

I want to shout 'no,' but I can't waste any more time. I still need to weld the arrowhead on to the shaft, attach the fletching, and spend a good deal of time sharpening the arrowhead.

 

No more procrastination!

 

I bring both hands up and slap my cheeks.

 

Too bad, I forgot I've become used to unconsciously adjusting Mana Skin when I need to touch a part of my body, so my 135 points in Strength do more damage to my unguarded face than what I was expecting.

 

The sound of me slapping my face is louder than I could have ever expected. I channel the sensation of pain into a war cry while I tell myself it doesn’t hurt that much. It never helps when you try to lie to yourself.

 

Raising my hands above my head in a victory pose, I turn towards the forge masking the tears in my eyes with a look of excitement.

 

Master just looks at me like I’m an idiot but thankfully doesn’t say anything about my debacle. Embarrassed, I hastily grab the arrowhead and shaft and move next to master, avoiding eye contact with him.

 

Ignoring the looks of concern master is secretly sending me, I move the dellinium arrowhead to the hottest part of the forge. I take the arrow shaft and also place it in the forge, but I put the end I'm going to weld next to the arrowhead in the hottest part of the forge.

 

"Master, can you help me attach the pieces?" I wouldn't need to ask master for help if I was working with ordinary metals, but the dellinium cools too rapidly for me to do this without an extra pair of hands.

 

"Sure, what do you want me to do?" Master, of course, agrees to help me while reminding me I’m in charge.

 

“I need you to pull the arrowhead out on my mark and hold it in place. I’ll line up the arrow shaft and connect them after I match their internal mana structures.”

 

“Ok,” Master Del nods in understanding.

 

It's essential I fuse these two components correctly. I've worked both the arrowhead and the shaft to optimize their internal mana structures best when they're combined. Unlike the arrows I made for the army, which have detachable tips, this arrow will be one solid piece and won't lose as much mana as long as I properly align everything.

 

"Wait until I say pull," I give master a severe look.

 

The two of us take up positions. I only have one chance to get this right.

 

First, I pull the arrow shaft out of the forge. I don’t instruct master to remove the arrowhead yet and instead use Sense Mana on the arrow shaft. I make sure to sear the internal structure into my mind.

 

“Pull!” I tell master.

 

Del expertly removes the small arrowhead from the forge and moves it over to the anvil, moving across the ground like a steady phantom.

 

I focus all my senses on the arrowhead master is holding in his tongs. I take special note of the dellinium's structure around the part I intend to slide the arrow shaft. I twist the tongs in my hand, trying to match everything up.

 

I reach into a small pot nearby and grab a handful of flux. I sprinkle the alchemical composite on the arrow shafts tip to better help the forge weld take. Using Steady Hands, I guide the rod's end into the arrowhead.

 

With master's Strength holding his component in place, I'm able to force the two pieces together with brute strength.

 

“That’s good, release,” I instruct master.

 

He lets go of the arrow, and I shift it back into the forge. Combining the arrowhead to the shaft only took two minutes, but it felt like a lifetime to me.

 

I wait with weighted breath for everything to heat back up. Master has moved back off to the side, content to watch me finish the arrow by myself.

 

Once everything is hot enough, I remove the arrow from the forge and go right into using my skills. Weighted Strike, Precise Strike, Double Strike, all together with Steady Hands, I don't hesitate to use four skills at once to weld the two arrow pieces together correctly.

 

I'm forced to use the skill combination three times before confirming I have a good weld with Sense Mana.

 

Though I want to heat everything and mana quench the arrow now, my low Stamina forces me to take a break first. Master doesn’t say anything as I move over to one of the benches and enter a meditative state.

 

I need to recover quickly, so I focus only on my breathing. It takes maybe twenty or so minutes before my Stamina is recharged enough to continue.

 

I move back over to my work station and place my arrow back in the forge. When the whole thing is glowing hot, I pull it out of the flames. I hold the arrow with a pair of tongs in my left hand and channel a large chunk of my mana into my right hand.

 

I reach out and hover my right hand over the dellinium arrowhead. I take a deep breath and grab the arrowhead with my Mana Skin covered hand. The heat from the arrow immediately starts to eat away at my skills barriers at an astonishing rate, so I start pumping my mana into the material as fast as I can.

 

I force nearly 200 mana into the arrow in a few seconds, and I realize I've underestimated the materials I picked. Both the dellinium and the kaglese are absorbing my mana like a dried sponge.

 

300, 400, 500. Shit, I still need a part of my mana for the next part of the build!

 

Thankfully I purge the last of the fire mana from the arrow when I near 700 mana.

 

The arrow may be quenched but expending almost 70% of my mana pool in a few seconds is an enormous strain on my mana network. If I wasn't used to using large chunks of my mana pool at once, I don’t think I would have been able to quench the arrow.

 

“Are you ok?” Master asks, concerned. “Even I was able to feel the amount of mana you released there.”

 

So even master was able to sense the pulse of mana I released. Considering master told me he could only feel mana in areas where its concentration is high, like the bottom of our mine where all the magicite is, I need to be careful if I try something similar around other people. I might poison someone by accident if I release that much mana around a low leveled person.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I tell master. “It took a lot of mana to quench the arrow properly.”

 

“Do you need some more time to rest?”

 

"No, I should be fine. I only need to use magic for the next part, and then it's all sharpening." I move over to our nearby workbench and prep the tools I'll need to fletch the arrow.

 

Usually, I mold molten chameleon spider carapace to make the fletching for the army's arrows, but this time I'm working with traditional feathers.

 

Well, traditional feathers from a magic beast that is.

 

First, I need to mark where I'll be attaching the feathers on the back end of the arrow. I use a bit of twine to measure the circumference of my arrow. Again, using the string, I can evenly mark where the three feathers will be attached, so their spacing is perfect.

 

I measure the fechin feathers and decide where I'm going to trim them. When using a feather for your fletching, you can't just stick the whole feather up against the arrow and call it complete. A feather has more components than one would think.

 

I start at the quill, the area the feather was plucked from the bird, and start to scrape away the outer part of its structure gently. I need to expose the white pith that makes up the frame of the feather. Usually, I would split the feather in half to create two fins, but I'm only using the best sides of each of the feathers to create my fletching.

 

Using my knife, I start removing the feather's extra vanes, which are the feather's outer parts. I have to move slow and steady because the feathers I'm working with are from an earth attuned magic beast. Even the softest parts of the feathers are hard for me to cut through with my knife.

 

Eventually, I'm left with the part of the vane I'm going to use. Next, I grab a pair of metal shears we use to cut thin sheets of metal and trim the remaining part of the vane to resemble your common fletching.

 

Now I can take the fletching and place them up against the arrow shaft. I mark the length of the fletching on the shaft and grab my engraving pen I brought from home. I could simply attach the fletching as they are, but that would make them stick out of the shaft and produce extra drag.

 

I pour a bit of my mana into the engraving pen and use it to create a small groove in the shaft deep enough so that the fletching is flush with the surface.

 

Finally, I grab the last of the supplies I need and move back over to the forge. I place the back end of the arrow in the flames but don’t keep it there for long. I only need the end of the arrow to be hot enough for the next part.

 

I pull the end of the arrow out of the forge and rub a thin wire of tin across the grooves I carved into the arrow. The tin quickly melts, and I place the fletching on top of the melted metal, soldering the fletching to the arrow. That should hold the fletching in place better than any adhesive we have on hand.

 

I hold the arrow up and marvel at how it looks.

 

Now I need to sharpen the arrowhead, and I'm done.

 

I gather the sharpening stones and move over to a bench to get comfortable. I watch master take up his favorite spot nearby and lay down for the first time in days.

 

I start by sanding away the rough spots where the shaft and arrowhead were melded together. Then I use a finer grit to smooth the arrow shaft to reduce as much drag as possible. Once the arrow is smoother than glass, I focus solely on the arrowhead.

 

Because the dellinium is so hard, the edges are already quite sharp, so I start at an already high grit of sanding stone to work on the edges.

 

I have to go over the arrowhead hundreds of times to sharpen it to the best of my abilities.

 

“I’m finally done,” I say out loud to no one in particular.

 

“Are you now?” Master says from his bench.

 

I turn towards Master Del and give him the biggest smile I can manage. “It’s ready for Kervin.”

 

"How do you know that?" Master's question gives me pause. He's right; how do I know it's ready for the general?

 

“I need someone to test it,” master nods at me. “I’ll be back in a little bit!” I leap to my feet and run towards the village.

 

I know just who I need.

 

Thankfully, I regained most of my Stamina while I was sharpening the arrow. Activating Double Step, I rush towards the headman's house.

 

A few villagers call out to me as I make my way through the village, but everyone leaves me alone when they notice I'm running towards Camden's house like someone is chasing me.

 

When I make it to the headman's front door, I don't bother knocking and let myself in. People are always coming and going from Camden's house, and he told me I'm always welcome.

 

“Hello,” I call out.

 

"Is that Aaliyah, I hear?” I hear Sarette’s voice coming from the drawing-room down the hall.

 

I start walking towards the voice in time to see Sarette herself flinging the drawing-room door open and greeting me with a warm smile. “I thought it was you, I heard! Come in, come in. I was just having afternoon tea with your mother.”

 

I don’t have time to react as Sandra’s mother pulls me through the doorway.

 

“Aaliyah, I thought you were working today?” Mother questions me as I’m guided to an open seat.

 

"I am; that's why I'm here. I'm looking for Ronald, and I didn't want to run all over the village looking for him. I figured Camden would know where he is, so I came here," I explain to my mother and Sarette.

 

“My husband is in his office. I can grab him for you, but I’m curious, why do you need Ronald? Does it have something to do with the arrow you're making?" Sarette asks me with excitement in her eyes.

 

I’m shocked she knows about my work.

 

“Oh, don’t look surprised, sweety,” Sarette gives me a reassuring look. “What do you think your mom and I talk about all day?”

 

I glance at mom, and she smiles, sipping at her tea.

 

Well, if she already knows, "I'm looking for Ronald because I want him to test out my arrow." I tell the two gossiping ladies.

 

Both mother and Sarette look excited at the news.

 

“You’re done?” Mother questions me while setting her teacup down.

 

“Almost; as I said, I want Ronald to test it out,” I once again tell them the reason why I’m here.

 

"This is so exciting!" Mother's friend is practically shaking in enthusiasm. "Let me go grab my husband; I'll be right back." Mother and I watch our host dash out of the room.

 

I look at mom and give her a questionable look.

 

“What?” She shrugs. “We talk about our children. Was I not supposed to tell her why you left the village? Bragging about her daughter is a mother’s job.”

 

I'm about to retort mother when we hear a set of footsteps running down the nearby hall. I catch a quick glimpse of Nicolas as he passes by the open door. He doesn't stop to say hello, and soon I hear the front door opening and closing in quick succession.

 

Mother and I exchange curious looks when we hear more footsteps coming down the hall.

 

Camden walks into the room, followed closely by Sarette. "It's nice to have you in our home again, Aaliyah," Camden smiles at me. "Sarette already told me why you stopped by, and I sent Nicolas to find Ronald for you."

 

“Thanks,” I hesitantly respond. Camden has the same fervent look as his wife.

 

"No problem at all; we can't wait to see the arrow you made," Camden exclaims in a booming voice.

 

“Excuse me?” I deadpan.

 

"It's the only thing the three of us have talked about for weeks; I'm sure you can show us your work." Camden's eyes all but insist that I agree.

 

I narrow my eyes at my mother, but she pretends not to see my look of frustration. I hope Del doesn’t mind a little company, “Sure, I guess.” I say with little enthusiasm.

 

I don’t know if they noticed my lack of excitement or if they just don't care, but both of Sandra's parents continue to prattle on about how excited they are to see my work.

 

"I haven't seen you since you came back to the village. Did you like Drey? You aren't thinking about moving there, are you?" Camden gives me a good-natured smile, but I can see a bit of sweat forming on his face.

 

"I don't plan on leaving... yet," I say the last part so quietly no one notices. I haven't had a chance to talk to my parents about my future goals. I told them about how Mr. Grey asked me about my future, but I didn't tell them the specifics of my answer.

 

I don't plan to move to Drey, but I do want to leave the village in the future. There's a whole world full of magic out there, and I want to see it all.

 

I continue to dodge his questions, and our back and forth chatter stops only when we all hear the front door open again.

 

Nicolas escorts Ronald into the drawing-room, and I watch Braddon follow in after them. I guess that's one more person who wants to see the arrow I made. A part of me is excited to see everyone's reaction to my work, but I know how master detests visitors.

 

“Aaliyah, why don’t you lead everyone.” Mother smoothly directs me to lead everyone to Del’s clearing. I nod my head and make my way out of the headman’s house.

 

A lot of the villagers stare at us as we make our way through the village. Some even come up to Camden and ask if everything is ok, and why the seven of us are walking together. Camden waves them all off, telling them he has business to discuss with Master Del.

 

As we make our way through the forest to Del's clearing, I think about the last time somebody other than master and myself came out here. Dad is the only person who regularly brings us materials, and Ronald stopped by to convey a few messages, but that's all I can think of. As a matter of fact, since master had me take over the villager’s requests, people had always found me before I entered the forest to order whatever they need.

 

When we all make it to master's house, I notice everyone, but Ronald is glancing around at everything in the clearing.

 

Master is still lying on his bench with his eyes closed. The group of people stays close to me as I approach his prone form. I cough loudly into my hand, trying announcing my presence.

 

“Took you long enough to find him,” Master grumbles out loud without opening his eyes.

 

Everyone here knows master can talk normally, so I’m not worried about his speech, but I’m just about to warn master about the other people when mother steps forward. "Is this what you do while my daughter works?" Mother's ominous voice sends a shiver up everyone's spines.

 

Master springs up from his bench, obviously not expecting to hear my mothers' voice. His eyes only widen larger when he notices everyone else.

 

“No, I was just,” Master stumbles over what to say.

 

After an awkward silence, I come to master's rescue. "Master is tired from helping me so much. The only reason I made it home at a decent time the last few days was that he cleaned up everything after sending me home."

 

"Is that so?" Mother doesn't sound entirely convinced, but she backs down anyway.

 

"Sorry, I wasn't aware I had company," master sends me a murderous glare.

 

I walk next to master and whisper, “neither did I,” in his ear. Master lets out a soft sigh before giving his full attention to his guests. Master moves to the side, allowing the woman to take his spot on the bench.

 

“So, where’s the arrow?” It’s Braddon who says what everyone is thinking.

 

I move over to my work station and pick up the completed arrow. Braddon runs up to me to get a better look, but I dodge him and walk over to Ronald. I hold out the finished arrow, and Ronald takes it and holds it like it's a newborn infant.

 

Ronald's usually expressionless face has been transformed into a look of pure amazement. His hands run along the shaft as he brings the fletching up to his eyes. "Heavy" is the only thing he says as he shifts his focus to the arrowhead.

As a fellow archer, Braddon can't wait any longer and moves next to Ronald to get a better look at the arrow.

 

“Can you test it out for me?” Ronald’s head snaps up at my question.

 

Ronald nods his head so quickly and fiercely that you would think you were looking at a bubblehead.

 

Ronald unslings the familiar bow I made for him from his back. With only a single glance, he chases away Braddon, who's complaining about not being the first to test the arrow.

 

Ronald picks a tree in the distance and takes his stance. He nocks the arrow and draws back on his string until his hand rests up against his chin. Ronald makes a few adjustments to his aim, accounting for the soft breeze blowing through the clearing, before releasing the arrow.

 

The sound of Ronald releasing his bowstring reverberates through my chest, and my heart almost explodes when I hear the loud *thunk* of the arrow piercing the tree Ronald was aiming for, or at least I think that was the tree he was aiming for.

 

A round of clapping from the spectators reminds me I can breathe now. I have to keep myself from activating Flash Step as I run towards the tree the arrow struck.

 

When I get close to the arrow sticking out of the tree, every negative thought rushes through my mind at once.

 

What if something broke?

 

What if the arrow didn't perform like it was supposed to?

 

I carefully twist the arrow until the arrowhead lines up with its wound-tract, pulling it free from the tree. I look over every inch of the arrow for any cracks or dings and only relax when Sense Mana confirms nothing has changed since Ronald fired it. Not even the arrowhead itself has even the slightest bit of wear and tear on it; the arrowhead looks precisely as it did when I finished sharpening it.

 

When I make it back to the group of onlookers, I'm assaulted with questions that slowly fade away as every one notices me grinning at the arrow like an idiot.

 

It takes me a minute to remember I need Ronald’s input. “What did you think?” I ask the best archer in our village.

 

"Good first shot, now with skills," Ronald holds his hand out to me, and my excitement disappears.

 

“That wasn’t with your skills?” I try to confirm the sinking feeling in my gut.

 

“No, first shot without skills,” He tells me like it isn’t a big deal. I don’t know if my heart can take another shot.

 

I hesitantly hand the arrow back to Ronald; it's supposed to be used by someone over double his level; there's no way he can damage it… is there?

 

Everyone watches Ronald take up his stance again, and I feel the need to clarify something with him. "This is supposed to be used by someone over level 100. Can you use as many of your skills as you can at once?" It kills me inside to ask Ronald to use every skill in his arsenal, but this is the only way to test the arrow correctly.

 

"Ok," Ronald agrees to my request, and I can feel his presence change as he starts to activate different skills.

 

I jump back and give him room to fire.

 

If Ronald's first shot were a gun, it would be a little .22; when Ronald releases his bow the second time, it was like he fired an RPG. A physical shockwave passes through us as Ronald’s bow launches my arrow at speeds I can’t even imagine.

 

There's no clapping after Ronald's second shot, only a dead silence that hangs over each of us.

 

This time I don't hesitate to use Flash Step to run towards the tree Ronald was aiming for.

 

When I arrive at the tree I previously pulled the arrow from, I only find a three-inch hole through the entirety of the tree trunk.

 

My heart beats like crazy as I look behind the tree, trying to find where the arrow went.

 

The tree a few feet behind Ronald’s target is sporting a smaller hole than its predecessor. It isn't until I track the arrow's trajectory before I find it halfway embedded into another tree ten feet away.

 

My hands shake as I carefully dislodge the arrow from the tree. When I see the shiny black dellinium arrowhead pulled out of the bark, I feel like I’m about to cry. I sink to my knees and scan every micron of the arrow.

 

My hands tremble as it becomes apparent the arrow is still in perfect condition.

 

Fired from an archer above level 50, using multiple skills…

 

Passed through multiple trees…

 

And it doesn’t have so much as a scratch on it.

 

I can’t help but laugh at the arrow in my hands.

 

I did it!

 

This arrow is by far the best thing I've ever forged in my career! I laugh even harder on the forest floor.

 

And that's how everyone found me, laughing on the floor, hugging my arrow.

 

Of course, Mother was upset when she found me but offered me congratulations like everybody else when I told her the results of the test. Braddon insisted on trying the arrow for himself and even manages to pierce the tree he was aiming for. I found the arrow stuck in the tree behind his target.

 

We all converge around the benches while I answer people’s questions.

 

“What’s it made from?” Camden asks.

 

“The fletching is fechin feathers, which is an earth attuned magic beast. The shaft is kaglese and mithril while the arrowhead is also mixed with mithril and dellinium.” I explain to everybody.

 

"Dellinium?" Mother asks me before looking at Master Del. All eyes turn to master, and I can see him starting to blush as he takes a step back.

 

"It's an unnamed metal pulled from a high magic region. It was annoying to call it 'that black rock,' so I named it Dellinium," I explain to everyone, which quickly turns into everyone laughing other than master.

 

“How much?” Ronald asks me while holding the arrow to his chest, refusing to put it down.

 

“Yeah, how much for you to make me one too?” Braddon also pressures me for a price.

 

I cough into my hand, trying to do some quick math in my head. "We're selling the first arrow to the army for ten gold coins." Everyone here is almost like family, so I decide to tell them the price.

 

Both Ronald and Braddon pale at the fist number I tell them; too bad I'm not finished. "But that is only to get their attention, all the ones we sell after the first one costs more."

 

“How much did you spend on the arrow?” Mother knows most of the specifics of the arrow but asks for the crowd’s sake.

 

"Let's see," I raise my finger to my chin and start listing the prices I paid. "The feathers were 15 silver, the kaglese was 7 gold, the mithril I used cost around 50 silver, and the dellinium as a whole was valued at over 50 gold coins. If you factor in the time I spent making the thing, I’d say the arrow is worth at least 25 gold coins, probably more.”

 

By the time I finish pricing everything out, everyone is staring at the arrow in Ronald's arms. The poor guy looks like he's about to cry. The only people in the village that could pay that kind of price are the headman's family, and it would equivalate to over a year of income for the entire village.

 

All the arrows I make are already promised to Silver Herd, but I don't mention that out loud.

 

“I can’t make you an arrow like that one, but I might be able to make you a cheaper version in the future,” I sympathize with Ronald.

 

“Really?” The usually unexpressive archer asks me with tears in his eyes.

 

“Sure,” I reassure him. I already planned to try to make kaglese steel arrows in the future, and I'm sure Ronald would appreciate my test samples even if they don't perform like the arrow in his arms.

 

Ronald and Braddon brighten up at the news, and everyone starts talking about what I can make with the new materials I have access to.

 

I look at everybody and see happy smiles all around.

 

Well, all for except one.

 

Master may have a smile on his face, but I can tell he doesn't like being in such a big group. He rarely talks when he visits my house, and his smile right now is only a polite façade. He’s standing just outside the circle that’s naturally formed around me.

 

I should think of a reason to ask everyone to politely leave.

 

But everyone knows the arrow is completed; there's nothing to add to it.

 

Wait! There is one thing I can add to the arrow.

 

I politely cough into my hand to gather everybody's attention. "I want to thank everyone for coming and showing their support," I offer some lip service before I kick them out of master's clearing. "But, I just remembered I need to add one final thing to my arrow."

 

“What is that?” Camden asks for the group.

 

"I need to put my makers mark on it," I tell everyone. "I normally don't put it on the arrows I make, but I remembered I should probably do it for this one. And then we need to clean up the clearing.” I try to sound upset that everybody needs to leave.

 

"That's disappointing," Sarette pouts. "I know! You'll just have to come over and have tea with your mother and me so we can talk some more."

 

The intensity in her eyes leads me to believe I have no choice but to agree. “I was planning to take a few days off after Kervin picks up the delivery tomorrow, so I’m sure I can find some time to stop by your house soon.”

 

“Perfect!” Sarette claps her hands together in excitement. “We’ll make a whole day of it. We’ll leave you to finish your work.” Sarette ushers her boys and husband to follow her out of master’s clearing.

 

I walk over to mom and give her a quick hug. “I’ll finish up here and come home early today,” I tell her.

 

"That sounds wonderful," mother tells me, then looks at Del. "I apologize for coming unannounced; thank you for looking after my daughter."

 

Master nods his head, earning a smile from mother. "See you when you get home," Mother says to me and makes her way over to the path leading back to the village.

 

“Ronald, can you escort my mother back to the village, please?” I ask the hunter who’s still standing close by.

 

“Sure,” Ronald retally agrees and moves to walk mother back home.

 

“Ronald!” I call out to him as he walks away. He turns back to me with a surprised look on his face, not understanding why I called out to him. “I need my arrow back, please,” I hold my hand out in his direction.

 

The usually straight-faced huntsman looks down and realizes he's still hugging my arrow to his chest. He quickly runs over to me and hands me the arrow before turning around to hide his look of embarrassment. Ronald quickly moves in front of mother and starts walking her home. I see mother raise her hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh.

 

Once everyone has left the clearing, I turn to master and give him an apologetic smile. "I only went to Camden's to find out where Ronald was. I didn't think everyone would want to see the arrow I made," I quickly apologize to master.

 

Del waves his hand and shakes his head. "It wasn't your fault; it just caught me off guard, is all. Are you really going to put your maker's mark on the arrow, or did you just say that to get everybody to leave?"

 

“I think I will put it on. My best work deserves my signature,” I give master a toothy smile.

 

“That it does,” Master Del agrees with me.

 

I move over to my work station and pick up my engraving pen. With this, I’ll be able to make a much more detailed maker’s mark. I'll be getting close to my safety limit with my mana, but it should be fine.

 

While I carve a hammer inlaid with beautiful flowers on it near the arrow's fletching, I can't help but think about tomorrow and when Kervin arrives.

 

Once I hand off the arrow to Kervin, I'll be able to finally rest, knowing the job is complete.

 

I might spend a whole day in bed.

 

I laugh to myself, knowing that would never happen.

 

I position the arrow, so my maker's mark shimmers in the sun's rays. "Kervin is going to flip when he sees you," I say out loud to myself.

 


 

Kervin’s Point of View:

 

We’re almost to the village.

 

I move my sleeve across my face to wipe the nervous sweat from my forehead. I pray one of the gods listened to my prayers, and Aaliyah made the arrow on time.

 

"Do you need to take a break? You look like you're about to melt." Reel points and laughs at me from the side. I steer my cart, hoping to hit him with one of the wheels, but he easily dodges. "Someone is grumpy,' Reel only laughs harder after my miss.

 

"And why aren't you not nervous?" I hiss at Reel in displeasure. "What if the bandit attack traumatized her, and she doesn't have the arrow ready yet? We don't have much time before we're supposed to be in Teeburn."

 

“I told you, I handled most of the bandits. Besides, the girl wouldn’t let something small as a few bandits stop her from doing her job.” Reel confidently puts his hands behind his head and walks like he doesn’t have a care in the world.

 

“And suddenly you think you know her better than I do,” I challenge Reel.

 

"Definitely." Reel's playful smile disappears, and he glances at me with a dark look of confidence that causes me to flinch back. "She'll have the arrow ready," he calmly tells me before looking forward. "See what I mean," Reel points ahead of us as we round the bend, giving us a clear view of the village.

 

I look to where Reel is pointing and see a familiar cart parked in our campsite, and sitting next to a warm fire is Aaliyah, waiting for our arrival. Reel was right; she wouldn't be here waiting for us if she wasn't ready.

 

As we near the campsite, I see the young redhead stand up and wave at us. "Took you guys long enough," her confident voice echoes through the nearby trees, and her smile dispels most of my worries.

 

"The road is starting to muddy. We got here as soon as we could. Were you waiting long?" I ask as I pull my cart to a stop.

 

“Na, I woke up early and packed everything with master.” She dismissively points at her cart. “I figured if I was waiting for you, we could get our business over with before the villagers swarm you." She sends me a cheeky grin.

 

"I take it you finished the order," I ask.

 

“Of course, was there any doubt?” She puffs out her chest and raises her chin.

 

A silence falls between us.

 

"Wait! You didn't actually think I would fail, did you!?" Aaliyah's boastful posture falls away, and she squints her eyes accusingly at me.

 

“I would never…”

 

“He sure did,” Reel cuts me off, strutting over to Aaliyah. “You should’ve seen him sweating. Said you might’ve been traumatized by the bandits, were you?” He stops a foot away from Aaliyah and leans forward in an intimidating fashion.

 

We all wait for Aaliyah to take a swing at the cocky ass, but instead, her smile only widens. She opens her arms, trying to catch Reel, but he slips away from her before she can close her arms around him.

 

"Why did you dodge?" Aaliyah asks in a singsong voice. "I missed you and wanted to give you a hug; Reel is my best friend after all.”

 

Reel’s face drops like he just tasted something awful. “I’m going to check the perimeter,” he tells us before vanishing into the trees.

 

Aaliyah raises her hands to her mouth and shouts into the woods, “Hurry back, I’ll be waiting!”

 

Lurte, Ryiba, and I are all dumbfounded by what just happened. What could’ve changed their dynamic so drastically?! I thought she hated him?

 

"He's playing hard to get," Aaliyah laughs at her joke while the rest of us look at her like she's crazy.

 

Aaliyah walks over to me, and I watch as her mirth falls away, revealing her merchant side as she stops in front of me. "Now that the troublesome person is gone, we can do business." Her quick change in personality reminds me of who I’m dealing with.

 

“Can I see the arrow?” I ask.

 

“Sure, one second,” Aaliyah walks over to her cart and reaches in. “Here it is,” she says as she holds up the tannish arrow with a black tip.

 

I want to cry out when I realize she wasn’t keeping it in anything. I catch myself before I raise my voice, but still use an accusing tone, “Why isn’t it in a container?”

 

The young girl looks down at the arrow before answering my question. “Honestly, I didn’t think about that,” she freely admits to me.

 

I reach out, and Aaliyah allows me to take the beautiful piece of work from her hands. "This arrow is worth over 20 gold; you should store it as such. What if you scratched it up against something?"

 

Aaliyah just laughs at my panicked look. “And what’s funny about what I said?” I ask the young blacksmith.

 

“I had Ronald and Braddon, two of our best archers, test it. You see how nice it looks?” She points to the flawless arrowhead and the perfectly straight shaft.

 

“What about it?” I ask, wondering if I’m missing something.

 

"That's what it looks like after going through three trees. I don't think rubbing up against a crate will do anything to it." She proudly boasts.

 

“Through a tree?” I ask slack-jawed.

 

“Yep, three of them.” Aaliyah holds up three fingers as if I wouldn't believe her without the visual cue. "I'm sure you could put it in a box if you wanted to; I bet you have an extra one in your home somewhere." The monster that looks like a girl pokes fun at me.

 

"I'll probably do just that," I tell her. "We can't argue over price, but can you give me an idea of how much it costs for you to make one of these?"

 

Her smile fades slightly. "The materials I used cost around 7.55 gold, but that isn't factoring in the material I used for the arrowhead, and the cost of kaglese will be higher without me picking the samples. If I’d have to guess, the next arrow should be sold for over 25 gold coins.”

 

I have to swallow my saliva after hearing her explanation. “Is there any way to reduce the cost?” I try to ask.

 

“That’s one of the things I needed to talk to you about,” Aaliyah gives me a serious look. “I need more kaglese ore, like a lot more, a cartload," she clarifies. "Can you try to get me a bulk deal from Mr. Grey?"

 

“I’ll stop by and talk to him when we pass by Drey. I’m sure he’ll help you out,” I reassure her.

 

I look at her cart and see a few crates thrown about. If I remember correctly, she mentioned she had already made more arrows for the army before I told her about the general’s order.

 

“Can you tell me again how many arrows you made for the army?” I motion to her cart.

 

“I already made four hundred arrows with detachable tips before you escorted me to Drey.” She says, not really sounding like they interest her anymore.

 

Even if she isn’t as excited as I am, that’s still excellent to hear. We won’t be making much money with the first specialty arrow, and I know how much Aaliyah hates to be in debt. Selling everything should take care of most of what she owes to Mr. Grey and get more kaglese.

 

"Ready to haggle?" I say in an over the top manner, trying to bring her earlier smile back to her face. Dealing with happy Aaliyah is much more profitable than dealing with serious Aaliyah.

 

"No, thanks," her answer causes me to stumble.

 

“But why not?” I question her.

 

Aaliyah scratches one of her cheeks, "There's not much point in us haggling," she tells me. "You're going to try and get the best deal you can from the army and use my share to pay back Mr. Grey. Find out how much my arrows are worth, and then we can have fun haggling. Until then, I trust you to have my best interests in heart.”

 

I’m shocked by how much faith she has in me. To trust me unconditionally with her money shows me how deep our bond has grown. I think I might tear up.

 

“And Kervin,” Aaliyah’s voice reminds me she was still speaking.

 

“Yes,” I answer with hope in my eyes.

 

“If you screw me, I’ll have Mr. Grey replace you,” Aaliyah tells me with a smile.

 

And like that, I'm reminded my fate is tied to this little monster. “Gods forbid,” I answer in a professional tone.

 

“Now that the heavy stuff is out of the way,” Aaliyah seems to brighten up. “Do you have a special gift for me?” Her eyes practically sparkle with anticipation.

 

What does she? Aww, yes. “Silver Herd did manage to find the information you were after, but they only entrusted it to Reel, so you’ll have to wait until he returns.”

 

“Reel has it?” She asks again to clarify.

 

"He does," I inform her. "He should be back soon; until then, we can…"

 

Aaliyah turns towards the forest and shouts, “Hey Reel, stop spying and come out!”

 

A few seconds later, a grumpy Reel appears from the trees, directing his anger at the girl who just summoned him like a trained puppy. Was he watching us the whole time?

 

Reel storms over to Aaliyah, fishes a sealed letter out of his pocket and holds it towards her. Aaliyah grabs the note with a big smile on her face, but Reel refuses to let go just yet. "You never got this from us," Reel says in a menacing tone.

 

"I'll burn it after I memorize the contents," Aaliyah responds, holding his gaze. It's incredible how she can stand in front of him when he's intimidating like that.

 

“See that you do,” Reel lets go of the letter and walks past Aaliyah, taking a seat next to the fire.

 

“Lurte, Ryiba, can the two of you move the arrows into the cart." Both nod their heads in my direction and move to transfer the goods from Aaliyah's cart to ours. I send Reel a dissatisfied grimace, "You should help too."

 

"Sorry, I'm on lookout, protecting, and stuff." Again, Reel refuses to follow my orders unless we're in front of someone important.

 

“That’s right,” Aaliyah chimes in. She walks over to the log Reel is on and sits really close to him. “Reel is an important person. Brave, strong, always on the lookout for danger.”

 

“Fine, I’ll help!” Reel jumps up and practically runs away from Aaliyah.

 

“You have to tell me how you do that.” I watch Reel start helping to move the boxes with the others.

 

"Trade secret," Aaliyah remains tight-lipped. "Are you heading to Teeburn as soon as you're finished here?" She asks.

 

"We'll stop briefly in Drey to order your ore, but then we'll head straight for Teeburn. Is there something else you need?"

 

“I need some information from you,” she leans forward.

 

I’m curious what she could possibly need now, “If it’s within my ability, I’ll get you any information you need.” I proudly proclaim.

 

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” Aaliyah looks excited. “I need you to find out whether the general is right or left-handed and what her draw length is.”

 

“Her what?” I ask.

 

“It’s how far back she pulls her bowstring. Knowing that, I can make the next arrows even better.” I can’t help but smile at the passion she shows when she talks about blacksmithing.

 

“I’ll ask for the general’s specifications when I make it to Teeburn, and I'll try to return with more kaglese as fast as possible," I reassure Aaliyah.

 

“Thanks, Kervin,” Aaliyah stands up and stretches her arms.

 

“No problem, but if I may ask, what are you going to do until I arrive with more kaglese?”

 

"I'm taking the next few days off, and after that, I plan on looking for any more chameleon spiders in the area. Their carapace is needed to forge the arrows, and I'm starting to run out," She tells me with a downtrodden expression.

 

“I’m sure Silver Herd can get you an alchemical solution to help with your problem,” I offer.

 

"If we can't find any more spiders that that might be my only choice. I still have enough materials to work with for now, but I'll let you know next time you're back if that changes. Now, if you don't mind, I need to talk to my family now that I have some free time. I'll see you in a few weeks," Aaliyah stands up and offers me her hand.

 

“I’ll be back with materials and information before you know it,” I firmly shake her hand.

 

“Ok, have fun with the villagers,” Aaliyah tells me as she walks over to her now empty cart. I look over my shoulder and see the first of many villagers coming over to greet me.

 

It’s a good thing I stocked up on more dried goods before I left Drey.

 

I watch as Aaliyah pushes her cart past the oncoming villagers and take note of how almost all of them greet her as she passes.

 

I’m reminded of how innocent she was when we first started doing business, asking the price of each of my goods and arguing over every copper coin.

 

Now I’m helping her sell an arrow worth dozens of gold coins.

 

Will I remember this day in the future as fondly as I remember the past now?

 

I shake my head and put on my merchant smile as the first group of villagers comes up to me. “No need to push,” I tell them. “I have plenty of food. Biscuits 2 copper apiece and a quarter pound of jerky for 1 large copper."

 

I wonder if I’ll still be selling biscuits and jerky in the future as well?

 

I hope not.

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A note from kosnik4

7,950 words, a big one this time.

 

I hope you enjoyed the chapter, and as always, stay safe.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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