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Chapter 13 Transition

 

Jakyra left herself sprawled in the hollow of her gloomy cavern, glancing at the one colorful thing inside it (she technically didn’t count): an icosahedron gemstone with bright red facets and relatively dull pink ones.

Funny, she expected life as a mercenary to be more fast-paced. Instead, four days had passed since the stakes with the Dragon Crown were set, and she was still living life as if she and Ismat never met. It’ll probably be less of this once Sauda gets our team registered, she thought.

A pout formed on her lips. This may as well be the end of her time harassing the Crown — not that she saw it as harassment, although her means bordered on it. Maybe without Ismat and his demanding challenge, if it had just been her and Sauda in this adventurous partnership, she would have time to squeeze in a couple of jabs.

Then again, good chances to do so were few and far between. Eight and a half months of rule proved there wasn’t much to critique about Brimir‘s rule, the dragon actually paid close attention to other people’s sentiments. And sure, he didn’t always act on them, but he was definitely an improvement over that coot King Garius.

A little timid though, Jakyra thought, scratching her wing.

Point being, her original reason for causing trouble with the Crown was long fulfilled: getting her voice heard. Under Brimir’s rule Jakyra no longer had any real need to give her opinion away in the farfetched way she did, she could settle for a petition or something. Probably for the best to end her charades now anyway, the law was getting more troublesome to sidestep and Wynn’s crowd wasn’t too supportive of her these days.

“Today’s a day to call it a day, a day to bid adieu to the good old days, and to go gentle into that good night,” Jakyra said to herself. The darkness around her seemed to warp in an otherworldly agreement.

If her parents were around, would they be pleased or grieved at Jakyra choosing to pester the Dragon Crown no more? Definitely the former for her golem caretakers, the latter for a dear hermit troll she had looked up to. How they would respond to her new profession was another question — she ought to visit soon.

The sound of gemstone grating against stone turned Jakyra’s attention to Ismat’s rocking back and forth. Her claws moved from underneath her, bringing her beside the construct’s heart as dust rose in alarm and latched to her already discolored scales. A quick fumble followed as she felt for the chiseled jewel of revered magic, shaking the dirty particles off.

“You rang?” Jakyra said.

Ah, my bellhop, Ismat said, his deep voice flowing into the unamused coairse’s head. Such a good employee, to deploy yourself with all due haste at my signal, awaiting further instructions in our ploy to prove our mettle to the Dragon Crown.

“Big words and jokes aplenty,” Jakyra said, putting a wing to her forehead. “Whatever happened to the grumpy Ismat-in-a-gemstone I first met, the condescending one who couldn’t even identify my gender?”

Ismat’s snort, funnily enough, came off as condescending. You’re taking that out of context. I do not feel nor hear — let alone see — like you living things when I am in my encased state, which I was in for about a hundred years. Do you know how unfamiliar I am to these sensations I otherwise would be adjusted to?

Well, he had her there.

Jakyra diverted her attention to outside the cave mouth, particularly the stump of a tree she could make out from the other side of the mountain pass. Never did she think she’d be in some mercenary group with a weird construct like Ismat. For him to be strong in body, mind, and will, his bursts of silliness and fascination in random things felt off-putting.

But enough, I called you for a reason. What do you think of the world around me?

And this sudden question was proof. The way this pseudo-dragon sometimes acted threw away any concerns Jakyra had of him being dangerous. How was she supposed to answer?

“I can’t speak for the whole of Fantasmyth,” she said, “but from what I’ve seen, it’s nice. Pretty landscape, whole bunch of cryptids running about—”

I know of the world’s beauty. What I mean is, what of the myiths inhabiting it?

Oh, Ismat was asking if people were generally nice? “If you want my opinion, it’s a mixed bag of apples. Some are sweet as Galas, some sour as Granny Smiths, but the only ones I’d say not to care for are the few gone rotten.”

Jakyra had the vague feeling Ismat would twist his head had he been in his dragon form. The Dragon Crown?

“No, not them,” Jakyra dismissed. “I might have my differences with them and I may only trust Ulm to take a strike to the neck for me, but they’re not horrid people. Brimir’s father, well, he was pretty unpopular for a good reason, but he doesn’t deserve to get his eyes gouged out. Iye, though—”

Ismat’s grumble interrupted her. My keen eye, no pun intended, sees through your horrid wordplay. You will stop here and now.

“Aye aye, captain.”

The long silence that followed made Jakyra’s day. Her body kneeled as a wheezing fit overtook her, one claw covering her maw and the other still glued to Ismat’s unresponsive gem. The construct would forever hate her for this, and yet she kept going, laughing like it was the only thing she knew how to do. The dripping of water falling to the floor was her only hint to the fact that tears were flowing from, of all organs, her eyes.

When Ismat did speak, it only made her double down in giggles. I deduce you are a bittersweet apple.

“Someone’s sour,” Jakyra said, wincing as a guttural roar slammed her mind. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry! But seriously, Iye gives me the impression of a messed up dragon and he’s an outcast too. If an apple would really keep doctors away, it’d be one as rotten as him.”

Hmph. I’d wonder how ‘mushroom’ he left in his heart for malicious spores to take root, and why he left them to stalk and worm their way into his will.

The malice put in the puns Ismat used in that sentence almost made Jakyra sorry for the torment she was putting him through. “You want to know his history?” She interpreted.

Everyone has a hatred stemming from somewhere. I notice you have a relationship problem with that other coairse in the Dragon Crown.

Fumnaya? “She’s the ex-chief of my hometown. Our feuds are…” Jakyra spun a circle in the air, ruminating on her word choice. “Personal. Coairse to coairse.”

To better describe it, their clash was a clash of mentalities. Fumnaya was this law-abiding person who had suckered up to whoever was ruling, obviously putting her in conflict with a law-bending and brash like herself. Combined with the way coairses treated each other as like family, hence Fumnaya irritating habit of calling her a child, and that she disapproved of how little the old dragon did for a subspecies of dragons suffering the least representation in the kingdom, horns were bound to be locked.

Maybe Ismat realized this, what with his uncanny ability to figure out what she was thinking, but either way he chose not to ask further. As I was saying, we all have our reasons to show distaste for something. My loathing for the Crown and the rule of governments comes from being neglected, for one. It will interest me to learn what exactly makes Iye tick and if we can use it to bring him to justice. Same with the ethereals and the— well, it seemed clear enough the Blodoggs take interest in powerful magic.

“I’ll hope we can get that slimy dragon under control,” Jakyra said, her motivation to avenge her unfair loss against the crook in mind.

Reassuring to see you still haven’t chickened out.

Jakyra rolled her eyes. Chicken out, her? When she already roped Sauda and a reluctant Gunnar into this wild mess? Not happening. She agreed to this and she was sticking around, and if not out of genuine interest and the thrill of it, then at least out of a sense of commitment. And to kick Iye’s tail too — was she getting too attached to that?

I sense determination on you, Ismat commented, bugging her out with his mind-reading skill. Extra reassuring. Whether that little dwarf will show the same feeling, I would like to know.

So did Jakyra. How was that dwarf faring right now?

 


 

“Say you wish to enchant a sword with the aspect of ‘brand,’” Mentor Magnus said from across his desk. “Which standard element of mana is best suited?”

“Fire,” Gunnar said with a still face, inattentive to his surroundings.

“Obvious enough. Which would you say works least?”

“Plant. It doesn’t seem sensible.”

“I might beg to differ, but I won’t cherry-pick.” The old dwarf coughed, thinking up a new question for Gunnar’s quiz. “Say I am making a wand that can cast explosions, and I want those explosions to fragment and spread out. I know we’ve yet to discuss complex raised magic, but name an aspect you think would achieve this.”

“‘Split.’”

“Explain.”

Gunnar thought about it. “A split aspect should divide up the explosions into pieces, right?”

Magnus stared for a moment before giving a sorry smile. “I will take your answer, but I feel it may instead cause the explosions to split apart whatever it hits. Double meanings can be dangerous like that. You really must keep that in mind, young Gunnar.”

Gunnar hummed in response, waiting for his mentor to continue. The image of a revered magic construct in the form of a huge, red-pinkish dragon haunted his mind, and he shook himself. Why did he feel so hot and yet so cold?

“Okay, back to the sword with the brand aspect. Say that aspect was given using ice mana, what would you think the effect might be? Assuming it doesn’t dissolve into chaos.”

“Frostburn, I guess. Something that brands the opponent, but it feels so cold that it burns.”

Magnus nodded, opening a drawer on his desk for seemingly no reason. “That’s enough. Decently done overall for a set of open-ended questions like those. I will be frank, there is no set answer for these kinds of things, and it often comes down to experimentation. As I have said before—” the dwarf paused, the tappings of an awaiting foot sounding out.

“Magic is wonderful, but all wonders have some science to them,” Gunnar finished. Mentor Magnus gave a muddled-sounding approval, though the dwarf suspected it was just himself not listening to the words. It was hard to stay engaged when his mind was this scattered.

The draconic construct named Ismat had spoken to him. Of all people, it had to speak to him!

And not only that, but it complimented his courage and fearlessness in the battle with that wicked Iye. Asking him about who he was and his life, Gunnar found himself saying something, anything, with the hope it would keep that not-dragon from bothering him. Thank goodness Bills was there, being aware of his feelings and telling the construct to leave his brother alone. The construct wouldn’t budge, however, insisting he speak.

Thank goodness too that the construct’s assistant Jakyra showed him sympathy. Stepping in, she had Ismat back away and kindly explained the magic artifact’s interest in recruiting him for a team that would fight evil or something. Kind of like a mercenary team, one that promotes peace? he had thought at the time, a little interested. That sounded nice.

Okay, more than nice. And he was more than a little interested.

His brother wasn’t having it, however, mentioning that he had seen the intense situation between the construct and the Dragon Crown itself and, while not knowing what happened, wouldn’t allow his little brother to be swindled by some rebellious piece of sorcery. Jakyra tried to explain it was concerning a task the construct had to complete in making this team and stated Gunnar could leave later on if he chose, but to no avail.

Not able to handle the pressure from both sides, he gave an “I’ll think about it” statement in the end. And now here I am regretting it, he thought, wishing he had outright rejected the proposal.

The uproar it caused from his family! His parents and brothers repeatedly warned him to dump any notion he had to accept and not to be intimidated by this Ismat-construct, but he just couldn’t get himself to do it. The proposal and its giver kept cycling in his head, enticing him with both the fear of saying no to such a powerful construct and the appeal of being part of what sounded like a team of peace bringers. A team he probably was too much a rookie for, but still!

Gunnar turned his head up and found Mentor Magnus’s nose just inches from brushing his. A yelp followed, though at least it was a manly one.

“Gunnar, you’ve not been with me today,” Magnus commented as he rose from his hunched position, walking back to his chair but choosing not to sit. “If it were otherwise, your answers wouldn’t have come off so bland. Out with it, what bothers you?”

Well, this was especially awkward.

I may as well say it, he decided, letting his mentor know everything.

His story seemed to freeze Magnus in place. His expression clouded, a hand clutching the armrest of his chair. When Gunnar got to explaining his choice and its consequences, the older dwarf seemed to space out, eyes static and haggard. Only at the very end did he lose his statue-like pose.

“So that was the construct everyone spoke about,” he commented. “Interesting challenge the Crown gave him. Apparently he’s conducting a team of vigilantes and asked if you were interested? Have you told anyone else?”

“Yes,” said Gunnar. “And only my family knows.”

“Are you interested?”

Gunnar hesitated. The simple answer was yes, he’d love to be on something like this, but his family wouldn’t accept him being in danger. Besides, he already was a junior blacksmith and a student in magic manipulation, and—

“Gunnar.” Magnus’s tone became stiffer. “Yes or no. What does your heart tell you?”

With a sigh, the young dwarf made himself nod. “I see,” said Magnus. “And to be honest, I would approve.”

“Come again, Mentor?”

A sheepish smile crossed Magnus’s face. “Come now, don’t you see? You’ve crossed paths with a revered construct of magic creating what counts as a mercenary team, who can gain authorizations to make, keep, and use magic items, and that construct gave you a chance to work with him! The chance of a lifetime, Gunnar, you’re getting the chance of a lifetime! How many rookies in this field get to interact with revered magic, especially one of this Ismat’s caliber?”

Magnus leaned forward. “If you really fancy the idea of taking up this offer, do it. There’s good pay, you can hone your skills in magic for the group with most restrictions lifted, and you get a construct to possibly learn from. Don’t worry about him troubling you or the possibility of dying either, it sounds like that Jakyra has your back. If you want, you could arrange to work with them temporarily, like a trial run, or just serve as a non-combatant in their ranks.”

At times like this, Gunnar wanted to hug his mentor. The idea of fully committing still put him on edge, and Magnus’s suggestions were what he needed to know he didn’t have to go in so deep. If he wanted, he could just assist by creating enchanted tools for Ismat’s corps. Then again, actively serving to keep the peace did give him this warm, tingly feeling, like he was truly being helpful to the rest of the world.

“I’ll have to haggle with your parents after class,” Magnus said with a wink. “Now where were we?”

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About the author

SaadTheConjurer

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Bio: Peace be upon you.

You've met a madman with a fondness for ducks, striving to write high-quality stories.

Currently writing a Pokemon Mystery Dungeon fanfic on fanfiction.net and AO3 (not posting it on Royal Road just yet). Needs to write more original work sooner or later.

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