The three brothers safely left the dungeon and went back to the Adventurer's Guild. Though their fur was still mattered with caked blood, Jare and William were injury free as they walked straight into the guild hall, with Anhel right behind them. Their appearance drew quite a many stares, as well as the stench coming from them. Jare laughed heartily at some F ranked adventurers who were wrinkling their noses.
"Don't worry boys; you'll get used to the smell eventually. This world is a harsh place after all, so better to learn all you can now rather than later." With a cheeky wink, he led his two blood brothers to the counter. Bella was waiting for them, her smile not flinching as their scent intruded in on her space.
"I trust your adventures into the dungeon were satisfactory?" She asked the trio.
Jare nodded, "We reached the sixth floor and fought the . . . bug boss right?" The receptionist nodded and Jare continued, "It was a fun challenge, but it seemed too much too difficult for anyone weaker than us.”
Bella frowned, “That shouldn’t be. One of the groups who made it past it was a rank D group; they said it was hard as well, but not very difficult compared to the worgs in the past.”
Jare raised his eyebrow, “What forms did they fight?”
Bella gave him a confused look. “Forms, as in more than one? They reported only fighting the boss as an ant. Did you fight something different?”
“It took on the forms of an ant, a hercules beetle, and a rhino beetle.” Anhel piped up, using his hands to mime the different insects. Bella coughed quickly, almost sounding like she was hiding giggle.
William turned and looked at Jare, “Boss, adapt?”
Jare gave him a helpless look, “I guess so William. The second floor boss must conform to the groups strength. That plays along with the theme of getting stronger slowly.”
Bella nodded her head and passed Jare a form, “If you would write down your experience in the dungeon as a report and turn it in, we would be most greatful.”
Jare nodded and passed the report paper to Anhel, who stowed it in his magic bag.
“We're a bit dirty now from the fight. Can you tell us where the inn we will be staying at is so we can get a hot bath?" Jare asked her kindly.
Bella pulled out a town map and handed it over to Jare, "The inn is marked here for you. Unfortunately, my fellows had to deal with some business today and are unavailable to guide you properly. I am unable to assist as well because I am the only one taking in new requests here at the moment. I took the liberty of marking the bath house as well as some other interesting sites within the two town quarters for you three to explore while you are here.” Bella tapped her finger thoughtfully on her chin, “Oh yes, the bath house is free for the first day you are here."
"This is all we need ma'am, thank you for the assistance." Jare bowed his head and turned around to look at his brothers. “Battle brothers; let's explore this Dungeon Town some."
Jare paused and took a quick whiff of himself, "First, the bathhouse."
Will nodded and Anhel rolled his eyes, but they obediently followed Jare out the door. When the door closed, the adventurers began to talk to each other in exited voices.
"Did you them; those are beast-men! I've never seen a beast-man before!" One lady in archer attire gushed.
The man next to her nodded, "I heard these three were special B-ranked adventurers sent by the guild to investigate for them. I must say, they are a lot friendlier than I thought they would be."
“That’s wrong; I heard the small one is the B-rank while the other two are some special A-rank.” Another man spoke up from the nearby table.”
The archer rolled her eyes, “Why would they send an A-ranked adventurer here? The dungeon isn’t that tough yet.”
A different man flexed his muscles and declared to his friends, "They don't look so tough; I bet I could beat them with one hand behind my back."
His companions rolled their eyes and one scoffed at him, "You run as soon as we reach the second floor boss room; how could you beat them? Didn't you see they were covered in blood; they likely ripped those two monsters in half with their bare hands."
"You mean bear hands?" A thin, comical looking guy said with eager eyes.
"No I didn't Larry; stop trying to be funny."
All of a sudden, the door slammed open and shocked everyone back into silence. Jare ran back in with an embarrassed expression on his face.
"Excuse me, but which way is north, and do you have a beast-man language map? I can't read human."
The silence became all-encompassing within the guild hall.
Anhel groaned as Jare exited the guild hall with an abashed expression, "Seriously brother, didn't I tell you before we got here you needed to learn how to follow directions? Now you've embarrassed us in front of everybody."
Jare coughed awkwardly, "Well, it's not like we beast-men ever had to worry about directions before. We go where the wind takes us."
"Yeah, which is why we always get so terribly lost. The races think we are a wandering group of tribes, but it's because we forgot how to get home." Anhel berated him.
William shook his head, "Plains is home."
Anhel sighed and rubbed his head in exasperation, "I swear, if it wasn't for my master and the other shaman, we would still be searching for the ancestral burial grounds. You warriors are insane, you know that?"
Jare laughed loudly and pounded Anhel on the back, barely moving him, "Of course we are little brother; in the heat of battle, sanity is the least needed thing for us warriors. We leave all the thinking and rational to you and your brethren spirits." Will nodded in agreement.
Anhel rolled his eyes, "Did you at least get a translation guide?"
Jare nodded and threw Anhel a small tome, "This is it right?"
Anhel flipped through a few pages before nodding, "Yup, this is it. Now," He opened the map and pointed to one of the marked dots, "We are here and the bathhouse is over here. The inn is over there and . . ."
"Alright, let's go!" Jare and Will picked up Anhel and began dragging him down the street as Anhel continued to mutter to himself; flipping through the book and the map.
The bathhouse of the iron quarter was a large house separated into two baths; one for men and one for women. The baths were created from the combined effort of earth, water, and fire mages. A pool was dug and filled with water, with a large rock in the middle. The rock was enchanted to heat the water for a period of time before needing to be recharged. There was only a pool after the receptionist area, so everyone washed themselves in the warm, clear water. Every two hours, water and earth mages would purge the bath water of impurities; allowing for fresh water to be present for most of the time. Naturally, the three bathhouses found in each city section were different and had different policies. For instance, the tent quarter bathhouse was unisex, mostly because the lady adventurers were just as deadly as men and bought talismans that covered their bodies in steam while they bathed. It was a unique system borne from years of fighting to the point where no one cared. Any perverts were immediately punished in brutal ways and expelled from the bathhouses for a long period of time.
Jare, William, and Anhel walked into the bathhouse and were immediately welcomed by the staff, who had been expecting them. After stowing away their gear, the three entered the bath area and waded into the pool, relaxing as the warm water eased their bodies.
"Bath, good." William confirmed as he close his eyes.
Jare nodded in agreement, "You said so brother. Magic bathhouses and volcano hot springs really are the way to go. It makes me never want to return to the tribes and their never bathing lifestyle."
"Really?" Anhel asked in curiosity.
"Nope," Jare confirmed, "The wind really is the most comfortable path after all."
Anhel rolled his eyes again, but relaxed as he began to rub the water over his furry tail. Soap was a rare commodity, as it required animal fat or certain plants, so like the majority of people the three brothers had to use the warm water to clean themselves. “At least,” Anhel mused, “We don't have to lick ourselves clean like the feline tribes do. Their aversion to water is legendary.”
William and Jare both chuckled at this as they let themselves close their eyes and sink into the water. A few minutes later, they sputtered in shock as the water entered their noses from falling asleep.
Seeing his two older brothers act so foolishly, Anhel couldn’t help but sigh once again to himself as he began to pour water over his soapy body. “You two, what will I do with you both?”
“Nothing, because we are the older brothers and are in charge.” Jare answered promptly, his coughing attack over.
“I wonder about that.” Anhel muttered.
Jare’s ear twitched as a devilish grin grew over his face, “William, it seems our little brother has forgotten respect for his family.”
William grinned and cracked his knuckles, “Punish.”
As a merchant was donning his bath outfit in the changing room, a loud laughter and cry of pain startled him into dropping his robe. Embarrassed, the man quickly decided that today was perhaps not the best day for a bath. Perhaps tomorrow would be quieter and more peaceful. Another round of giggled made him nod in satisfaction at his decision.
Once they finished ridding themselves of the blood and grime, the three left the baths and wandered around the town. Anhel and William, being rather new to the adventuring business, were very curious and inspected almost every stall and store they passed. Their eyes glittered in wonder as they watched blacksmiths work and enchanters cast magic.
“Big bro, these humans look so weak, but they can create weapons like that.” Anhel pointed at a blacksmith, who did not look impressed by the comment.
Jare coughed awkwardly, “Anhel, humans have their own strengths; it is not fair to compare them to the dwarves and other beast-men who make our weapons.”
Anhel took a moment to look at the man’s face and Jare’s face, then turned red. He turned to the blacksmith and placed his hands over his ears, “I’m so sorry sir, I didn’t mean to offend you. Uhh . . .”
The blacksmith chuckled, “It’s okay young ‘un, looking at your brothers there, it’s no wonder you’d think we are weaker. Come, allow me to teach you.”
Anhel looked at his brothers, but they both gave him a hard look. Slumping, Anhel made his way into the shop and stood next to the blacksmith. Up close, he could see the hard lines drilled into the man’s face and bald head, scars adorning his arms. The man gave Anhel a grin as he crossed his burly arms over his leather apron.
“What’s your name young ‘un?” He asked.
“Anhel.” The beast-man replied.
The blacksmith nodded, “Call me Olaf. I’ve worked the forge since I was about your age . . .”
The blacksmith looked at Anhel and raised his eyebrows in surprise, but recovered quickly, “Since I was a pup by your terms, which you still seem to be. What do you think blacksmithing is?”
Anhel frowned as if the question offended him, but thought carefully, “It’s about making tools from metal and stone using fire.”
“Is that all?” Olaf pressed.
Anhel cocked his head, and nodded.
Olaf smiled, “Here is a lesson young ‘un; crafting is a unique gift. It is about brining into the world things that cannot exist on their own. Using our bodies and souls, craftsmen like meself create wonders designed to help our fellows. With each hammer blow or spell or threading of needle, we impart our lives into our work. This here,” he picked up the sword he was working on, “is a piece of metal. If I continue hammering it, it’ll become a sharp piece of metal. If I add a guard and handle, it’ll be a sword. If I melt it back down, it’ll be a piece of metal again.”
Anhel folded his arms in curiosity, “So, you make a sword here; how is that a lesson on anything? I’m not really interested in learning how to smith.”
Olaf chuckled, “No, I imagine you’re not, specially with dat there book on your side. No, this lesson is about making life.”
He pointed again at the unfinished sword, “See, there are many ways to making a sword. You can hammer metal into one, you can pour metal into a mold, if you had the time you could even shave a piece of metal down into a blade. Point is, there is many ways of doing it, and no way is better than the other. Tell me, if one sword made by man is compared to a sword made by a dwarf, which would be better?”
“The dwarf.” Anhel promptly answered.
Olaf smiled, “Really; but what if the dwarf was a drunk?”
“It would still be better than anything a man could make. Dwarves are known to be the best blacksmiths, and they’re ususally drunk anyway.”
Olaf gave a nod, “That’s true. So, you’re saying a dwarf made weapon will always beat a human made weapon of the same type?”
Anhel nodded his head. Olaf turned his head to look at Jare, “You happen to have a dwarf made blade on ye person? I’ll pay . . .”
Jare reached into his magic bag and threw Olaf a beautiful blade, “No need; this is one I bought back when I worked for a dwarf caravan.”
Olad held the blade up and nodded his head, “Aye, this be a proper dwarf blade. No blunt markings, perfectly smooth and balanced. You agree young’un?”
Anhel held the blade after Olaf passed it to him, “I’m no swordsman, but it feels good to have in my hand.”
Olaf nodded, then threw the sword back to Jare, “Give me a hand with this will ya? Swing at me with that blade as hard as you can.”
The beast-men all gave Olaf an incredulous look. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll kill you old man?” Jare asked.
Olaf held up his unfinished blade and smiled, “Give it a go then.”
Jare grimaced, but held up the sword and took a stance.
“Big bro, that’s dangerous!” Anhel cried out in shock.
Jare took a deep breath, then swung the sword down at Olaf with all his strength. Anhel closed his eyes and covered his face.
After a moment, Anhel didn’t hear any sounds of pain, so he slowly opened his eyes.
Olaf stood proudly with his unfinished blade. Jar was looking down in shock at his now broken dwarven sword.
“How?” He asked simply.
Olaf smiled, “Dwarves like to boost that their skill at metallurgy is the greatest; and to an extent that’s true. However, dwarves prefer axes, hammers, and picks as their weapons of choice. Most smiths do not even bother to learn how to make other weapons, and when they do they are often things of beauty rather than usefulness.”
“You see,” Olaf said as he turned to Anhel, “The quality of weapon, or armor, or magic is determined by the heart the craftsman puts into his craft. A good maker will put everything he has into what he makes, resulting in a thing that serves as a reliable companion to whoever buys it. There must be,” he gestured with his hand toward the sword, “a core of being within the object. I put my heart and soul into everything I create, and thus my swords never break for those who buy them. Think about that, for as a magic user, the same applies to your magic. Pour you feelings in, and your magic will never fail you either.”
Anhel nodded, his face glowing from the lesson he learned. “Thank-you for teaching me Mr. Olaf,” He crossed his arms across his chest and bowed his head, “I shall not forget this lesson.”
Olaf smiled and patted the young beast-man, “I hope so young ‘un. Here, take this sword to replace your broken one.”
Olaf walked back to shop and pulled out a long dagger, passing it Anhel.
The beast-man nodded their thanks and left the shop. Anhel gazed down at his dagger in wonder.
“Big bro, was that man very strong?” He asked softly.
Jare gave his youngest brother a side-ways grin, “Considering that man is considered one of the greatest blacksmiths in the country, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.”
Anhel looked back at the sign of the shop, ‘Masterwork Blades’, and nodded his head. He would never forget what he had learned, he vowed to himself.
After a day of exploring the town and all the shops, the three brothers turned in for bed. Anhel and William fell asleep quickly, exhausted from their journey and adventure.
Before he went to bed, Jare took out a magic scroll and copied his report of the dungeon onto it. The paper shimmered when he was done, and the words disappeared.
"That old geezer should find it in the morning." Jare nodded to himself, "I wonder how long it'll take for him to get here after he reads it." Shrugging to himself, Jare lay down and close his eyes.