“Do ye feel the spell? Like a bond stretching invisibly from this scroll?” her master asked.
“Yes, I feel it” she replied, looking at the scroll. It had stopped glowing, and the letters had all settled down, making it look like an ordinary piece of paper.
“So, for some reason, ye believe that Lienmont will be invaded by the sand tribes, who would’ve allied with the demons from the west. Not only that but a dungeon break will happen after years, disrupting the security system right before the invasion. I don’t know about ye, but if I had to lie then I wouldn’t pick something so convoluted. I’d been suspecting a prank by some mind mage, but what ye told me would be a serious violation of all terms that are there, and mind mages are kept on a tighter than normal watch.”
He huffed, sighing once as he rolled up the scroll and went to put it back in the drawer. “I think I believe yer girl, I was hesitant till the last moment. But the scroll says ye believe what ye says. I think you’ve earned enough trust from me for me to believe yer here.”
He opened the trunk again, going through the contents before he took out a small bracelet of metal, clearly magical. “Found the dratted thing. Here, put this on.” she looked at him, confused, but put the bracelet on. Small golden runes lit up before turning off again.
“It’s an appraisal bracelet. I don’t know about ye, but I don’t trust no mark from depths forsaken dungeons.”
She looked wide eyed at the bracelet. “Aren’t these really expensive?”
“That’s why ye better not break it,” her master said, smirking.
“O-okay, got it,” she nodded and blushed slightly when the man started laughing.
“Ah, it’s good to see yer still fine, can still blush like the lass that ye are. What ye’ve described would be enough to break down many people. Yer a strong girl lass, always remember that.”
She looked down, her breath catching in her chest, and she just nodded slightly.
“Good, let’s start then. Ye know the drill, don’t ye? Pour some mana through the thing, think of the result ye want, envision it, and then start the bracelet.”
She did as he asked, pouring her mana through the bracelet. The three blue gems embedded in the bracelet began to glow. She continued to probe further into the spell. Something restricted her, but she tried to push past. The bracelet began to glow, and a system prompt appeared in front of her eyes.
Mark of Time
Made by _______ for the Old Order of Truth. It holds one of the twelve keys needed to restore the Library of Truth. A mark given to the chosen of time, it contains the soul of Alphion. To select the candidate for the role of the Seeker. The Guardian of the _______
"Ack,” she let out a voice as the bracelet started to burn her hand. Jennifer pulled the bracelet away, dropping it. She grabbed her hands, finding a red circle of tender flesh where the bracelet was. She turned to look at the bracelet, smoke coming out of it.
“Sera’s grace. I’ve appraised Relics with this thing and I’ve never seen it behave like this,” her master bent down, casually picking the still smoking bracelet up. “The circuit is still fine, but I’ll need to replace the frame.” he turned to look at her, surprise still covering his face. “What did it say?”
“I don’t know. There were a lot of gaps, but it said something about A Library of Truth? And Twelve Keys to restore it? There was also something about Chronomancy and chosen of time.”
Her master frowned. “Sounds like a legacy thing. Some old artifacts leave things like these at times. Library of truth, I think it’s an old folklore. In the deep downer, we call it the library of the twelve suns. It watches over older textbooks and the Kharumjhor, err, the historians essentially, are the only ones who care for the folklore,” he paused to mutter something in another language. She suspected it was Common Dwarven, but the dwarves had many languages and her master was a half-dwarf, not exactly part of the clan of the deep, as he’d sometimes tell her when drunk enough.
“I might need to look into a true appraisal spell to go deeper into it. No matter. We still haven’t done an important thing. First things first. Are ye aware that most people who awaken an affinity, either have bloodline abilities and or skills, secret tomes, and methods for special classes left for them that give them an affinity? Some work really damn hard to attune their bodies towards an affinity, or are naturally born with them.”
“Good, ye are none of those, I cannot count the mark playing some part in this, but yer case simply looks like a triggered awakening. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes, ye can awaken a really dormant mana affinity in ye when yer close to death, or have had a really distressing experience.”
He paused, letting the words sink in. “I have an affinity for Light, it’s weak, far weaker than what I see in yours, my affinity just helps me make my metal shinier or give stuff a gleam. It also lets me conjure light orbs more easily.” He summoned a butterfly made of light, that shifted through various colors as it flew and sat on her head, before breaking into many motes of lights and fading away.
“It’s not much use outside of party tricks like this,” he said, looking oddly embarrassed.
“If I can ask-”
“Yes ye can, and I already know what ye want to ask. No need to dance around the subject,” he said and sighed.
“I got it when I lost my brother, it’s not a magical tale. When I was a wee lad, me and my brother were still in the deep down, in the earth’s embrace we lived near an outer post, near a human mining town much west of here. In the frontier, well, the story is simple. My mother fell for a human and had us. She was not kicked from her clan, dwarves don’t care much for who yer sleeping with. But we were half-bloods, and the Older Stone Dwellers din care for human blood in their clan, so we were never accepted in. Only tolerated.”
He paused, a complicated emotion on his face. “I won’t bore ye to death, we had been exploring a mine when a murk monster popped up. We ran, but the beast collapsed the mines, and an explosion happened. I managed to crawl out somehow. My brother didn't.”
He looked up, a tired expression on his face. “I left the deep soon after.”
“I’m sorry that happened,” she said, and for a moment both of them were silent.
“Don’t be, it’s an old tale,” he said, taking up the glass as he poured another drink.
“But he was your only brother, wasn’t he?”
“Aye, that’s true lass,” he said, and took a drink. “Alright, now focus. We need to see how much ye can use yer glass and what for. Try to conjure some glass for me.”
“Okay, I’ll try.” She took a deep breath in and closed her eyes. Driving her attention to her mana, she slowly tried to move it a bit above her hands.
‘Feel the world around you through it. There is mana in all things, it’s a sense more than a medium. Feel its flow and then change it.’
She’d been told these words when her father had first taught her the basics. Manifestation. She focused on the world, feeling the mana that radiated from her master, it felt hot, like fire. The room had small currents of mana flowing around as well, but it was mostly still. She created a small clump of mana near her hands and let it expand gradually.
After a while, the strain for maintaining the mana flow started to increase, a pressure began to push against her in her mind, and she released the breath she'd been holding and stopped the mana.
Small glittering shards and pieces covered her hand, and a large chunk of glass, with a blue-ish red hue to it sat cradled within. It slowly started to erode away, back into mana from which it had been formed.
“Unstable, but ye’ve got talent. That is far more than I’d expected from someone who just awakened. A creation ability as well. I’m not sure how to teach you though. Glass is a rare talent, and I’ve never heard of many Glass mages. I think I’ll have to find someone for yer specific needs. If ye want that, that is.”
Jennifer paused for a second to think. Do I really want someone teaching me, with everything going on? The invasion, dungeon break, this whole, trial thing and marks, and stuff. I still need to find Irwys and talk to him. He mentioned someone in the guild.
She looked at her master “I-I don’t know, I want to learn, yes. Normally I’d be really happy with this, affinities are rare and coveted.” Her master nodded at that. “But with everything that’s going on.”
The man paused for a second. “Right, right, I think ye should still get a proper mage to teach ya how to handle yer glass. I’ve heard what’s happening, but that ain’t stuff you need to worry about lass. There’s bigger people holding the sky up for ya. Ye just need to stay safe and keep working. That trial business gives me a bad feel, and this is a weapon ye have. Hone it. Sharpen it into a blade you can wield. Not to cut apart enemies, but to defend yerself and others if need be.”
Jennifer looked at him, a complicated expression on her face, but nodded slightly.
He scratched his head. “I may have gotten a bit passionate, this does remind me of my adventuring days. I don’t really talk about my old days anymore, but there was a time when I traveled across the land, looking for jobs and slaying monsters for a living. Far before, I decided to give up my warrior class and become a smith.”
A knock on the door sounded out. “Is the shop open?”
“Aye, I’ll be there!” her master shouted before he turned back to her. “Ye don’t look like ye've slept much. Go home for today lass, I have much work now, no thanks to you.” He smiled.
She nodded and got up to walk out the back door. Halfway through she turned back “Can you not tell my parents. About any of this?”
“Are ye sure? Alright, I won’t talk, but think carefully if you really wanna hide something like this. For now, I’ll tell them you were a late bloomer and got a new affinity.”
“Thank you” she muttered and closed the door behind her. She made her way quickly through the streets, back to her home. She continued trying to form glass in her hand. The city moved lazily around her, she had forgotten the calm drowsy feel Lienmont could take in the afternoons near the outer districts, away from the dungeon and the movings of adventurers and their like.
She reached her home soon and walked on inside. “Back already?” her mother called out.
“Yeah, I came home early today,” she replied, and stood there, thinking over what she wanted to tell her. Tell any of them.
“I’m gonna go to sleep. Love you, mom.” Her mother hummed something back but she was already climbing the stairs. Walking through her room, she looked at her paper, where she had tried to make sense of her thoughts. It was a messy jumble with names cut out and plans and ideas and half-written sentences.
I need to talk to that person in the guild. They're my only lead to find Irwys.
She turned towards her bed. But for now…
She lay on her bed, the afternoon sun gently pouring through the windows, and soon, for the first time since her reset, she slept.
‘Conditions met [Skill: Enchanted Glass Creation] awarded!’