A note from kosnik4

Small update: A couple of chapters ago I said Grey and his bodyguard stole 3,000 gold coins worth of items. It was pointed out to me that that sounded a little small and I agreed after thinking it over, so I updated it to 5,000. I thought about making it higher, but I remembered Silver Herd is still considered a smaller trading company and they wouldn't have access to that quality of items. Plus, Giovanni wouldn't have left that much money in Grey's hands.


Not too big of a change. Enjoy the chapter. 

"After that, I went back home to write down my notes," I explain to Sandra how I spent my first day off. While talking to Sandra, I removing the kaglese arrow shaft from the forge, moving over to my anvil to use my smaller hammer to straighten it out better. Just looking at the arrow shaft, you could see the slight bend on the one end that needs to be fixed.


“What’d you do next?” Sandra eagerly asks me.


Delicate work such as this doesn’t require a lot of force and produces a lot less noise, so Sandra and I can talk while I’m working without needing to shout at one another. "Well, I wanted to continue experimenting, but after I made it home and recorded my findings, I decided it just wasn't practical."


“Oh?” Sandra gives me a curious look, expecting me to explain my decision.


“I used up more mana than I thought I had,” I clarify. “Drawing all those runes and testing them took up a good chunk of my mana. Even if I went to Master’s clearing to get some blacksmithing logs to experiment with, I’d at most have enough mana to do one or two more experiments. It just didn’t seem worth it to bother Master for such a small reason.”


"I appreciate that," Master comments from his bench, only this time he's sitting up and watching me work instead of pretending to nap. It's actually Tabitha who's lying on her bench this time, looking like she's bored to death. Master has been ignoring her all day, choosing to focus on my work instead of entertaining the battle-hungry monster.


I look up from my anvil and offer Master Del a quick smile before turning back on my work. "Plus, by the time I made it home, Mom had already finished most of my armor and needed me to stand still to tailor it properly. Mom made me stand in place for an hour before she was happy with her work," I chuckle, recalling my day to Sandra.


"The same armor Tabitha destroyed yesterday?" Sandra's question makes me pause mid-swing. "Your mom must have loved that," Sandra giggles to herself in sadistic glee.


I turn my head and narrow my eyes at my friend, causing her to stop laughing immediately. "Sorry," Sandra holds up her palms in a placating gesture and retreats a half step back.


Letting out a sigh of frustration, I move the kaglese arrow shaft back into the forge. “Needless to say, Mother was not happy when I returned home last night.”


"You can't blame your mom for being mad," Sandra tells me, casting a glance at Tabitha, who's staring up at the sky blankly.


"I know; I just felt bad after trying so hard to defend myself."


“If you can call what you did yesterday defending yourself,” Sandra pokes fun at me again, sounding a bit too happy at my situation. Is it just me or does Sandra have a bit more bite to her these days?


“Maybe you should just spend my sparring days with Richard,” I snap back.


“And miss watching you get your butt kicked, no way,” Sandra smiles at me. "I spent the last five years in Drey studying; watching the two of you fight is the most interesting thing I've ever seen in years.”


“Didn’t your magic teacher take you out of the city to hunt goblins?” I point out to Sandra.


Sandra snorts and waves off my question. "We were a group of mages escorted by a handful of mercenaries. We were more in danger inside the city than we were outside hunting goblins. Now watching you and Tabitha fight, that's action! Even if you can't do anything against her," Sandra can't help but throw in that last little quip.


"I'm getting better," I defend myself while pulling the kaglese arrow shaft out of the forge and moving it back to the anvil. I got the bend out, and now I need to do my best to round it out perfectly.


"Well, it is getting harder to follow the two of you," Sandra admits with a crestfallen look. "But what was up with yesterday? It looked like she was meaner than usual, and that's saying something."


“You missed it,” I tell Sandra. “The day you left to hang out with Richard, I scored my first hit on Tabitha, and apparently, that means she doesn't have to go easy on me anymore."


“Gods!” Sandra hisses through her teeth. “No wonder you were trying to dodge so much.”


“Yeah, yesterday I was trying hard not to ruin my chest piece, but that just backfired on me. I was trying too hard to dodge and block Tabitha when I should’ve been looking for an opening. If I swung at her more, my armor might have lasted longer than it did,” I admit in a downcast voice.


"Alright," Sandra claps her hands, drawing my full attention for a quick moment. "As much fun as it is making fun of the golden girl, this conversation is getting a little too depressing for me. Forget about yesterday and tell me what you did on your second day off. I want to hear everything before you show me what you learned tomorrow."


I can't help but smile at Sandra's excitement. Sure, I was too concerned with my gear yesterday, but I won't make that mistake again. Mom was mad at me when I showed her my armor, but she quickly got over it and was just happy it did its job. Though, Mom did say she wouldn’t be putting as much effort into my armor if I’m going to destroy it twice a week, which is understandable.


“That’s right, tomorrow will be our first official day practicing enchanting,” I comment like it’s no big deal.


"Well, you'll be practicing," Sandra crosses her arms over her baby bump. "I have to watch until I can get my hands on my own engraving pen, and who knows how long that will take."


“Kervin should be here in another week or two,” I remind Sandra.


"I know, but I doubt he'll just happen to be carrying everything I need," Sandra pouts. "I probably won't get what I need until after the new year festival."


Shoot, she's right. And with all the chaos in Drey at the moment, there's no guarantee Kervin will be able to get his hands on the right mana gem for Sandra. Grey's dead, and yet he's still making life difficult for people.


I should contact Giovanni and ask him if he can help me out. Now that I think about it, there are a few more things I should ask for as well. My mithril supply is starting to run low now that I'm using it in more things, and it wouldn't hurt to get my hands on some more eathrosse and devil's poke.


I have enough herbs to make three more batches of engraving ink, but I doubt that will last long once I really start enchanting. And we'll go through our supply even quicker once Sandra starts practicing with me.


“I think I might be able to help,” I reassure Sandra.


“Really?” I see Sandra brighten up out of the corner of my eye as I hold up my arrow shaft and examine it for any flaws. I’ll still have to make a few more adjustments after the arrow is completed, but the shaft is good enough for now as it is.


“I can try,” I tell Sandra as I place the completed arrow shaft on my workbench. "That's two down," I remark out loud more for myself than anything. I don't know what it is, but announcing your progress just gives you a sense of accomplishment.


Sandra watches me grab the next ingot of kaglese and move it into the forge. “Are you sure I’m not distracting you?”


“You ask me that now?” I smirk at Sandra.


“I know these arrows are supposed to be important, and I don’t want to mess you up.”


"It's fine. To be honest, these arrows have lost most of their meaning since Pacore captured general Pitz."


“Then why are you making them?” Sandra gives me a confused look.


"Money, mostly," I tell her. "I was given most of my materials on credit, and I need to pay Silver Herd back."


"They just gave you all of your supplies!?" Sandra stares at me with her mouth hanging open in shock. "Merchant companies seldom do that."


I chuckle at Sandra's astonished look. "It wasn't all through credit," I elaborate. "I used my profits from my last delivery to buy my magic obscuring magic tool. And it also helped that Grey, Drey's Silver Herd branch manager, was trying hard to get me to sign a contract with him."


"I remember you told me about him. Didn't you mention something about solving your problem with him earlier in the week?"


"Did I?" I scratch my head. I tell Mom and Sandra almost everything, and sometimes I mix up who I've informed about something.


I shrug my shoulders, less I have to explain. “Anyways, yeah, I’m honoring the terms of my contract, even if it isn’t with the person I signed it with.”


“I get that, but why are you making arrows? Why not try a sword?” Sandra suggests to me.


"I admit, it crossed my mind." Removing the kaglese ingot from the forge, I move over to the anvil and start drawing it out, paying particular attention to the metal's internal mana structure. "It would be fun to try and make something new, but I don't want to risk the coin."


“You’re worried that much about money? How much gold do you owe Silver Herd?”


“About 450 gold coins." If Sandra was drinking something at the moment, she certainly would've done a spit take. Hearing how much I owe Silver Herd immediately sends my friend into a coughing fit.


“That much for some ore!?” Sandra exclaims once she finally catches her breath.


I nod, understanding her surprise. For a small village like this, 450 gold coins is practically a fortune. “Kaglese, the stuff I’m working with now,” I hold up the glowing ingot that is slowly taking shape, “Is a magic metal. I probably won’t try to enchant any of them myself, but the weapons I’ve made from this material are perfect for doing so, or so I was told. If I have to guess, each of the swords and spears I've made are worth between 3 and 5 gold coins apiece. At 70% market value, I would get between 168 and 280 gold coins for what I’ve already made.”


Sandra’s eyes widen the more I explain. “Then there are the arrows I'm making; I'm confident they'll sell for at least 50 gold coins apiece, maybe even more. I could make a sword with what I have, it may even be the best thing I've ever made, but it isn't what was asked of me.”


“Hey, Tabitha!” I turn and call out, grabbing the bored warrior’s attention.


In a split-second, Tabitha swings her feet off to the side of her bench and snaps up with an excited look on her face. “Do you have time for a quick match?”


I ignore Tabitha’s sparring invitation and instead ask for her opinion. “You know a bit about weapons, right? Which are more important, a good arrow or a good sword?”


Most of Tabitha’s excitement fades away when she realizes I have no intention of fighting her. But because I’m asking her questions about weapons, Tabitha doesn’t entirely revert to her expressionless self. "That's tricky," Tabitha thinks out loud. "Good weapons are always in demand, but I'd say quality arrows are always desired the most."


Sandra doesn't seem to get what Tabitha is getting at, so I explain it to her. "Swords can last a long time if you take care of them; arrows are the same, but which are you more likely to lose in a battle, an arrow or a sword? Archers are always looking for replacements, and it will be much easier for Silver Herd to sell a handful of quality arrows than it is for them to sell one amazing sword.”


“I get what you’re saying,” Sandra nods along in understanding.


Tabitha lets out a small laugh, drawing both Sandra's and my attention. "You make it sound like Silver Herd will have a hard time selling your weapons. I'm sure our Master has already worked out a deal in which your weapons will be immediately shipped to the front lines as soon as you pass them off.”


“Really?” I ask, honestly a little surprised by this news. Pacore seemed interested in my work, sure, but I figured he would simply ask me to make more weapons once I was finished with my order. To think Pacore is willing to pay retail price for my work, that’s honestly a little flattering.


“Your crafting abilities are far beyond your combat skills," Tabitha remarks with just a hint of dissatisfaction. "Master Pacore was looking for you even before the two of you ever met."


“He was?”


“Yes, during the battle in which we took Fort North Ridge, General Pitz managed to injure Master with a surprising arrow we were sure she shouldn’t have had.”


Ah yeah, I remember now, was it General Pitz or Pacore who mentioned that my arrow harmed him? "And that's a good thing?" I nervously ask. Knowing Tabitha, she wouldn't be mad at me for selling an arrow to the General, but I did indirectly put Pacore in danger, and she cares about her Master above all else.


"It is," Tabitha starts smiling like she does when we're sparring. "Thanks to your arrow, Master Pacore was able to relish in his fight with General Pitz. Without it, I fear Master wouldn't have had a single challenge this whole campaign."


Does she mean everything other than taking the fort was easy? “Glad I could help,” I off-handily remark as I turn my attention back to my work and Sandra.


“Maybe once you finish your arrows, you could try them out on me,” Tabitha giggles sitting back down on her bench.


Nothing would make me happier, but I don’t have the skills to use arrows this good. I doubt I could even hit the broad side of a barn with a bow, let alone someone like Tabitha.


“The point is, I’d rather take the money rather than chance it,” I tell Sandra.


"Don't take this the wrong way, Aaliyah, but what do you need money for? Technically, you're a student under someone as powerful as Pacore; I'm sure you can ask him for anything you need," Sandra reminds me of my wealthy new Master.


I scoff at Sandra as I move the arrow shaft that's slowly taking shape back into the forge. Sandra glares at me while I work the bellows, challenging me to prove her wrong.


"Putting aside the fact that everything I ask from Pacore will put me further in his debt; the money isn't even for me. Eventually I'll be leaving the village, and I have no idea when I might be back. In case something goes wrong, I want my family to have enough money they can flee if they have to and still live comfortably someplace else."


“In case something goes wrong?” Sandra repeats.


I nod my head. “Tabitha has been alluding to it that I’ll have to prove myself once I’m brought back to Scholl. I don’t know what that exactly means, but if everyone in Scholl is like Pacore and Tabitha, I doubt they'll be challenging me to a dance-off."


“You're right; I don't think people will enjoy dancing with you as much as Tabitha does.” Sandra misunderstands my earthly reference, but she gets the point I’m trying to make. Still, her misinterpretation makes me smile.


"I plan on leaving a couple hundred gold coins for my family. That's why I want to get this order over with and focus more on enchanting before Kervin returns. Even if I can only enchant a few basic runes, I'll be able to make a lot more money quickly."


“Simple, I like it,” Sandra remarks. “But is enchanting really that easy? You still haven’t told me what you did during your second day off.”


“Mostly more tests,” I smile coyly at Sandra.


“Nice try, but we both know you want to talk about what you found out.” Sandra knows me well.


“Well, after my morning workout routine with Mother, I had to stop by here and grab the blacksmithing logs I mentioned earlier.”


“Naturally, go on,” Sandra eagerly pushes for me to get to the good stuff.


“Fine, I’ll skip over all the boring details of my family life,” I say exaggeratingly. When I don’t get that big of a reaction from Sandra, I let out a soft sigh and start explaining my second round of rune experiments, all while continuing to work on my arrow shafts.


"Even though I went to get the blacksmithing logs, I didn't actually use them in my first few experiments. You see, the night before, I thought of a really important test that I didn't consider during my first round of testing."


“Well, don’t leave me in suspense,” Sandra smiles at my theatrics and plays along.


“Do you think the size of a rune matters?” I pose Sandra the same question I had, and when her eyes widen, I can tell immediately she understands where I’m going with this.


"It's a simple question, but it has a big impact," I explain to my friend. "I took four regular planks of wood and engraved a basic tier 1 mana absorbing rune onto each of them, each a different size. The largest I stretched from one side of the board to the other while keeping the rune’s dimensions right. The smallest rune was about the same size as the runes I copied from the magic items. And the last two tests were in between those.”


“So, what’d you find out?” Sandra enthusiastically asks.


“Size does affect the runes performance, but only to a certain degree,” I explain my findings. “I measured how quickly all four of my tests could absorb enough mana to reach their breaking point, and it was surprisingly close. I expected the largest rune to absorb mana quicker than the smaller ones, and it did, but only by a little bit. In the end, the largest rune only absorbed mana 13% faster than the smallest one."


"Did the larger rune put any extra strain on the material?" Sandra quickly hits me with a question that reminds me how great it is to have someone discuss these things with me; I didn't even consider how a larger rune might put more force on the base material.


For a moment, I stop swinging my hammer and consider Sandra's question. "I don't think it did," I reply. "But the larger rune definitely took up more room, and I would've had a harder time engraving anything else."


“Then I wonder if the runes used to enchant buildings are different?” Sandra ponders out loud.


That's a good question; now I want to kick myself for not studying the enchanted buildings back when I was in Drey. "I guess we'll have to do some further testing down the line." All the same, I don't exactly have any enchantments you'd want cast on a building. I might be able to replicate a lightbulb, but that would eat up a lot of mana for something both Sandra and I could do with a basic spell.


“Looks like it,” Sandra agrees with me. “What was your next test?”


"The next few tests were a little boring," I tell Sandra. "I finally switched to using planks made from the blacksmithing logs and started checking to see if the runes worked differently on different materials. Basically, I retested my first few experiments from yesterday."


“Anything of note?” Sandra asks me.


"Not really," I reply. "My earlier hypothesis was proven correct in that the blacksmithing logs were just better at holding the runes. The stronger wood was able to hold a lot more mana than your run-of-the-mill timber and lasted nearly fourteen times longer than my experiments from the day before. It really does boil down to the materials you use."


Sandra nods along but doesn't interrupt me as I continue talking about my experiments. "After finishing my more basic tests, I moved on to the more fun stuff. My tests proved the blacksmithing logs could hold out longer than the regular wood, so I jumped straight into trying to engrave a full enchantment to see how it would work on a plank of wood.”


“What enchantment did you go with?” Sandra can’t hold herself back from asking.


"Nothing crazy," I tell her. "I only know a handful of complete enchantments, and most wouldn't exactly work well on a plank of wood. No matter what I do, a plank of wood can't purify water after all," I joke.


"I kept it simple and copied the enchantment found in Master's mining helmet. My thinking was a small ball of light shouldn't be too dangerous. But it was either that, or I enchant the plank to produce a small flame, and I think you can guess what the results of that would look like,” I glance meaningfully at the forge where the same logs are burning now.


“Did it work?” Sandra pushes for me to continue.


"It actually did," I smile in triumphant, remembering my success. "The enchantment worked like it was supposed to and produced a ball of light on the wood's surface where the light rune was inscribed. The enchantment even held for two minutes before the wood started to disintegrate."


Sandra looks a little disappointed that the wood didn't survive the test. "Even before the wood failed, the light rune was singeing the wood around it," I explain what I saw.


“But light spells don’t produce that much heat,” Sandra scrunches her face in confusion.


“The ball of light didn’t produce much heat, but the rune itself did,” I clarify. “Channeling magic didn’t exactly help the wood either. Though I did get something good out of the test."


“And what was that?” Sandra asks me.


“After channeling my magic for a few seconds through the completed enchantment, I finally unlocked the Enchanting skill. It’s official now,” I boast.


“Then I’ll need to complete a full enchantment if I want the skill as well,” Sandra ponders out loud. “Can I borrow your notes on the runes you’ve deciphered? I’ll make my own copies and start practicing drawing them.”


“Sure, no problem,” I tell my friend.


“Thanks,” Sandra brightly smiles at me. “So, what’d you do after you unlocked the skill?”


“I took a nap,” I chuckle.


“You did not.”


"I had to," I tell her. "Well, I didn't exactly take a nap, but I did stop to meditate for a bit. As I explained, enchanting eats through your mana quicker than you would expect. If I wanted to do more experiments, I had to pace myself.”


"How long did you meditate for?"


“An hour or so,” I tell Sandra as I move on to my next arrow shaft.


I'm surprised by how efficiently I'm working. I know I told Sandra she wasn't hindering me, but I didn't think either of us believed that little fib. Yet, here I am swinging my hammer as good as any other day, all while having a pleasant conversation with my friend. Swinging my hammer feels natural, the glowing metal moving as I want it with each swing; it almost feels effortless.


As soon as that thought crosses my mind, I feel one of my skills leveling up. I don't even have to pull up my status page to know Blacksmithing gained another level. I'm only one level away from reaching the level 75 test. Master said reaching level 75 in Blacksmithing means you're on the cusp of being considered a true blacksmith, or at least that's how Stone kin see things.


I want to reach that level! I want to push my skills to their limits and see what Blacksmithing does once I pass that test. I have plenty of skills that have passed two tests, and each has grown significantly more versatile; it's only fitting my blacksmithing skills finally join them.


“Then what’d you do?” Sandra’s question brings my focus back to our conversation, but my hands never stop working.


“After I regained some of my mana, I did the next sensible thing,” I wryly smile.


“And that is?” Sandra asks, bracing for the punchline she knows is coming.


“I engraved a flame enchantment to see what would happen.”


Sandra shakes her head from side to side with a smile on her face. "Didn't you always tell me not to waste resources when we were experimenting with engraving ink? And didn’t you say you didn’t want to test the flame enchantment?”


“I wouldn’t call it wasting resources,” I defend my actions, knowing that’s exactly what I did. “And I said I didn't want to use the flame rune on my first test with blacksmithing logs; I didn't say I didn't try it later. Plus, I wanted to see how a rune of the exact opposite nature of the material it's engraved on reacts with one another." I'm happy I was able to come up with that excuse on the fly.


“Sureeee you did,” Sandra looks at me like she can read what my true intentions were.


“I might have wanted to see if it would explode,” I admit to my friend. But in my defense, I was picturing magic grenades when I thought of the idea.


“So, how’d it turn out?”


“Well, it didn’t explode as I wanted it to," I tell her in a dejected manner. "The wood just caught on fire after a few seconds and sort of popped after the runes structure’s failed.”


“That sounds like an explosion to me,” Sandra remarks.


"Please," I scoff at the idea of that little pop being called an explosion. I've seen an explosion; hell, I've been inside one. "Even someone with your physical stats would've only gotten a few light burns, nothing more."


“Then did you learn anything?” Sandra asks with her best mom look. You know the look where your parents catch you doing something stupid and asking what you learned from your mistake, that’s the look Sandra has on her face. I bet Mom or Sarette are secretly teaching her how to get her face to look like that; I'd put money on it.


“I figured out the most expensive way to start a fire,” I joke, earning me a small gasp from Sandra. "No, but in all honesty, the test with the fire rune did help me out. I didn't notice it at first, but after I tested my third completed enchantment, I noticed something I missed with my two prior experiments."


“What was your third test?” Sandra asks for clarification.


“I copied the sharpening enchantment.”


“You tried to sharpen a piece of wood?” Sandra asks more than a little judgingly. “And how was this also not a waste of resources?”


“Have you never heard of a wooden sword before?” I counter much to Sandra’s amusement. “And, shut up, it was a good thing I tested it.”


"Oh?" Sandra's mocking smile fades, and she eagerly listens to my explanation.


“The enchantment didn’t do much to the plank of wood, but that isn't the point. While the enchantment was activated, I noticed a difference in the sharpening rune compared to the light or flame rune. It might have been because there wasn't anything for the sharpening rune to do, considering I didn't exactly specify an edge for the rune to sharpen. But even without a specified target, the sharpening rune held up remarkably well, and the mana inside the rune was flowing more naturally than the light and flame runes."


I give Sandra a minute to digest the information, and she quickly gets a look of inspiration. "The sharpening rune worked better with the earth mana in the engraving ink."


I can't help but smile and nod; Sandra came up with the same conclusion I had. The engraving ink we made is mostly earth mana, and even the ambient mana the ink absorbs to cure is processed into the stuff naturally. I think wind mana would work better for the sharpening rune, but it explains why the other two runes had a harder time working. I didn’t have the ink specific for the job.


“This could be a problem,” Sandra bites her lip.


"We shouldn't worry just yet," I tell my friend. "We have some half-finished knives in storage, and I'll try enchanting them tomorrow. Maybe it won't be that big of a deal that we only have one type of ink; the other enchantments still did did work after all."


“But they also eventually failed,” Sandra reminds me.


"Yeah, but the sharpening enchantment did the same thing. That's why I'm going to use steel tomorrow; I don't think wood is exactly the best material to hold enchantments. We can worry about tweaking our engraving ink formula after we see how the enchantments fair on steel. Remember, we already knew our ink isn’t the best out there, and we were always going to have to figure out how to improve it. This is just a reminder that we still need to devote some of our time to the subject.”


“I don’t suppose you were given instructions on how to adjust the engraving ink?” Sandra sarcastically asks me, knowing full well how little information I was given on the subject.


“Sorry,” I burst Sandra’s nonexistent bubble. The both of us let out a collective sigh. No one said teaching yourself enchanting would be easy; in fact, I think people considered it impossible.


But if Sandra and I can come this far, I’m sure we’ll continue to figure things out as we go.


I don't want to get Sandra's hopes up, but I already know how we can try and change our engraving ink formula. Magicite isn't the only form of crystalized mana. Considering how much is used in the recipe, I’m guessing we’ll need to switch out the magicite for other magical crystals if we want to change the elemental affinity. There might be other herbs we’ll need, but we can at least try changing up the magicite first.


Then again, I might be jumping the gun here. I need to go back and reexamine the magic items I bought, but I don’t remember there being that big a difference in the makeup of the runes I examined. I already determined the items came from different makers, and if the ink wasn't that special, it stands to reason we can still enchant the various runes with the ink we already have.


The next couple of weeks will be busy, and yet, I can't help but feel excited. I already earned the skill I was after, and I'm confident I'll only improve from here on out. I've never shied away from hard work, and I'm not going to start now.

A note from kosnik4

5,200 words.


I hope everyone is having a great Saturday, see you tomorrow. 

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