For this next story, I’ll be using the Reformed Church of Adamanrion’s version of events, but I will highlight the portion that is considered heretical by the Orthodox Church of Adamanrion.
Adamanrion laid there unmoving… broken, torn apart, and scattered like refuse as their remaining eye was forced to view the night sky.
Everything… it was all gone… the cities… the creations… their pride… and their followers. They cursed the first two once again, wishing that they would show the decency to finally end their miserable life.
An armor-clad figure with a pair of living tree branches on their back came into view, holding a small sapling.
“Did you know that your blood has caused the nearby plants to mutate? The high concentrations of metals in the soil have made some of these pine trees as strong as iron. I think I’ll call then ironbark trees. Unless you got a better name?”
“Have you come here to gloat like the others?”
Apheros looked around puzzled, then back down, “No, I came to help you out.”
Adamanrion scowled with what remained of their face, “Why would I want your help?”
“Umm, perhaps you haven’t seen your reflection lately, but—”
The broken god screamed a cry of agony, then began to whimper once the rage had subsided, “Why do you torment me with your presence?”
“Well, I’ve learned some new things, and have been thinking about going on a journey to learn more but didn’t want to just leave you lying here.” Apheros leaned into whisper, “Also, I was hoping you could make me a few tools. The mortals crafted me a few things, and… well… they tried, but…”
Adamanrion glared at the nature god, “Do I look like I’m capable of creation?”
“Well, not currently, but—"
“Listen you fool! Everything I created has been destroyed… including me… Why? Why should I?”
Apheros sat down in the ground and looked up, “If they wanted you dead, they would have done so.” He turned to look back at Adamanrion, “I know how painful it can be to watch your creations die, but I also know how beautiful it can be to watch something new take its place.” He placed a hand on one of Adamanrion’s exposed ribs, “I can sew you back together, but… you’ll need to do the rest.”
The broken god laid there, unresponsive for a time, but finally spoke once more.
“These mortals… they tried to make tools for you?”
Apheros tried his best not to smile too enthusiastically, “Nothing fancy, just sticks with rocks tied to them.”
Adamanrion groaned, “Alright, pull me together.”
Apheros channeled his mana, drawing in as many fragments as he could, but with Adamanrion’s pieces scattered so wide…
“Sorry, that’s all I could find.”
Adamanrion grunted, “It’ll do.” They then focused on their Domain of Metal, how it represented both change and rigidity, then focused their thoughts towards reforging the broken pieces of themself into something new. Metal Mana gathered around their body, and soon the bones of the god grew molten, catching the nearby plants and nature god on fire.
After finally patting himself down, Apheros looked up to see Adamanrion staring at the rising sun, their new armor reflecting the orange light, and tears rolling down their face as they clutched their new helmet.
(“Looking good! Though if I were you, I’d just shave off what’s left of your beard. It’s not like you don’t have the chin for it.”
The reborn god touched their face, “Hmm… I’ll consider it.”)
I leaned back in my saddle, squeezing my legs against 5751054 to keep balance, and basked in the hot summer sun. Jethro was right, I needed to sit outside more. My only outdoor activity nowadays was morning drill, and I couldn’t exactly take a few minutes to sunbathe.
Jethro continued our conversation from earlier, regaling me with the history of textiles in the kingdom, and how it influenced even our school uniform. The guy was a walking encyclopedia, too bad it only covered clothing.
“And that’s why the arming jackets for Knights are brown.”
I couldn’t help but shudder, and hope that I would never do something so embarrassing that it would cause the kingdom to adopt a new law. Jethro took a big swing of water, then followed my earlier example of enjoying the morning sun, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
Arc’s unintentional confession about how Adamanrion asked for a favor should have angered me, after all, it was yet another secret that Arc (my best friend) was keeping from me. But at the time, all I could focus on was how disconnected I felt from the whole ordeal. While my friends and I were having snacks at the spell range, Arc apparently was making deals with gods? It was just so hard to grasp. Especially the part about getting called a paladin. Was it because Apheros gave me a blessing? I still have questions about that. Why does it only allow Arc to feel my touch? What purpose does that serve?
I let out a big exhale, oddly wishing that Arc did keep his secrets. It would certainly reduce the stress I was under. It’s not like I have any personal agency in the matter anyways.
Or wait… maybe I do?
Arc said that “Addy” called me his paladin… does that mean something? Paladin’s pledge their lives and service towards a god, but… wait, no. Arc was adamant that he wasn’t one…
Getting lost in thought, I didn’t even register that Jethro had spoken until he tapped my shoulder. Startled, I turned my head, “Sorry, was pondering something. What did you say?”
Jethro smiled, “I was commenting on how quiet it was today.”
I looked around, amazed that I somehow missed that we’d entered the church district, “What happened to the protestors?”
“Not sure. Maybe the Queen finally got fed up with the disruptions?”
I shrugged; it was as good an explanation as any. Looking around, I could finally make out the other churches in the district, including one that had a bronze statue of a nearly naked man wearing a horned helmet.
“Is that Torbolt’s church?”
“Yes, but it’s not the main branch of the capital, unlike the others in this district. They have a much bigger one nestled between the army’s and Spartan’s rings.”
Not surprised, I nodded along, then remembered that I had an “uncompleted quest” to take care of, “That reminds me, I was thinking about skipping church next week so I could stop by Adamanrion’s church.”
Jethro grinned, “You sure about that? You might upset your favorite paladin.”
“You mean your favorite paladin? You’re the one who insists on visiting the Protection altar every week.”
“But he’s always so happy to see us.” Jethro teased, “I think he’s even been letting us cut in line for guided prayers.”
I let out an annoyed groan. Just once I would like to have a normal interaction with a paladin. The first one I met, Percy’s brother, went on some nonsensical rant about Lancel. Then, the next paladin immediately after, acted as if we had already agreed on me joining their order or something. And now, there’s the one I’ve been meeting every week, who acts like he’s always got a spear at his back and keeps going out of their way to please me for some reason. At this point, I’d settle for the one Drozuk said his dad worked with. Sure, he spent more time in the brothels or starting drunken tavern songs instead of dutifully going out hunting monsters, but at least he’d probably be fun to be around in small doses.
Jethro adjusted our path, taking us for a loop to check out the different churches. The two dedicated to the elven gods were easy to spot, one being half-submerged in a lake and the other a series of circular towers connected by bridges, but a few weren’t so easy to identify.
“What’s that one?” I pointed to a tiny church that wasn’t much bigger than the one in my village.
Jethro bobbed his head from side to side in thought, “That’s umm… rot. What’s the name of the Earth god?”
Jethro gave me a double point, “That’s the one. Always forget him. Don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually worships him.”
Looking at the dull looking building that had more in common with a toolshed in this district instead of a place of worship, I could see why.
“Hey, which one is the Reformed Church of Adamanrion? I don’t want to accidentally walk into the wrong one next week.”
Jethro grinned, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s easy to tell them apart.”
Our loop turned a corner, and a pair of statues lined the road on both sides, both in front of a pair of nearly identical looking buildings style-wise. They were clearly dwarven architecture, being completely made of carved granite and stained glass, not to mention being covered with dwarven runes. I kept comparing the two, but I couldn’t figure out if I was missing something obvious, or if Jethro was pulling a prank on me.
“Ok, I give up. Both churches practically look identical.”
Jethro, being playfully dramatic, gestured for me to keep quiet, “Careful now, you don’t want to get accused of heresy.”
I glowered at my friend, until he finally acquiesced and pointed at the statues, “Just make sure you visit the Beardless’ place of worship next week.”
“And let the tenets of your divine Domain of Protection provide a supporting trunk for their skills in combat, always branching out, and always reaching to extend their shade.”
The broad-shouldered paladin finished the guided prayer, allowing us to rise and see his fatherly smile.
Jethro, of course, had to ruin the moment. “Thanks again for the prayer, I think that one is my favorite so far.”
Fighting the urge to drive my elbow into Jethro’s side, I could only helplessly watch as the tiny praise made the paladin’s eyes gleam with passion filled fervor.
“You honor me greatly with your words.” The aged Lakelander attempted a bow, but between his heavy set of full plate mail and almost musclebound physique, his movements were restricted, and he visibly chastised himself internally for not being able to bow lower.
Clenching my teeth to help relieve the stress of my annoyance, I gave myself a mental pep talk to continue the interaction. After all, if anyone from the church was going to be willing to answer my numerous questions, it was going to be this guy.
“If you don’t mind, can I ask you a few questions?”
He bolted back upright, and despite not stepping closer, somehow seemed to barge right into my personal space, “Of course, ask me anything.”
Deciding to start with a slightly unrelated one to hopefully calm down the old man, I spoke in a casual tone, “What made you decide to become a paladin?”
Bracing myself for a tirade of a sermon, going on about how he “felt the call” to do Apheros’ bidding, I was left in complete shock at the sight of his pride quickly deflating, looking more ashamed than anything.
“I… I didn’t have a noble reason for joining the order.” He paused, making me consider taking back my question, but before I could stop him, he barked himself and began to tell his tale.
“I was a complete idiot as a teen, and to be honest, stayed one for far too long after. After I turned 15, I began apprenticing over at a bakery not too far from the noble rings. Back then, I didn’t have a single inclination to join one of the military preparatory academies or even the logistics corps since my father died fighting during a Spring Flood. That all changed however when I fell head over heels for this noble girl.”
“She’d stop by practically every day to buy a croissant and sit on one of the tables out front writing in her notebooks. One day, I finally mustered up enough courage to ask her out on a date, but she turned me down, saying that unless I was a knight, her family would forbid her from doing so. I, being a swamp-headed fool, took her at her word and signed up to be a soldier the next day.”
Jethro winced, then leaned in to whisper some extra context for me, “For noble-born, that’s considered the ‘polite’ way of telling a commoner you’re not interested.”
The paladin let out a light chuckle, “Wish someone would have told me that before I spent the next ten years either killing monsters, lifting weights so I could kill them with a single blow, or stuffing my face with food.” He let out a sigh, “My hull finally ruptured one day when I was on leave and decided to visit the bakery. She was still there, only now she had a pair of boys with her eating sweets. She… didn’t even remember me…”
He paused to wipe his face, and maybe hide some of his embarrassment, “I… didn’t make the cut for knighthood, and was too out of my head to even read my discharge papers before a recruiter from the church came to serenade me.” He shook his head, “Free room and board at every brothel suddenly looked very appealing for a boy who hadn’t even touched a woman before. So, I fully submerged myself in the lifestyle, spending my days raising money for the church by hunting monsters, and my nights either sharing a bed with night maidens or—" He cut off, looking not only embarrassed, but deeply ashamed.
Feeling guilty for making the old man pour out his soul, I gave his beefy shoulder my best pat, “Thank you for telling me, I know that wasn’t easy for you.”
He closed his eyes, not bothering to hide the fact he was crying, and only opened them after hearing Jethro ask him a question.
“Do you regret becoming a paladin?”
He looked towards Jethro, then at me, and finally replied, “I do. It took a long time for me to swim back up from that dark place in my mind and see just how miserable and awful I was. The thing that finally made me surface was when one of my party members announced he was quitting the group to go raise his son.” His massive frame began to shudder, “I’m sorry, but… I don’t deserve your kindness. I even tried to leave the order at one point.”
Jethro and I exchanged glances as the man began to sob, not sure what to do. I racked my brain to think of something to say and hoped that paraphrasing some of Reidar’s advice would be enough.
I gave the big man another shoulder pat, “The fact that you’ve learned from your mistakes speaks volumes to your character. I’d rather know a paladin who recognizes their flaws than some arrogant asshole.” Crouching so he could see my smiling face, I gave him a mild shake to hopefully drag him out of his rut, “Just remember, even gods aren’t infallible, and I highly doubt that Apheros expects you to be.”
Still raw from his outburst, but now showing signs of recovery, the paladin reasserted his stance and stood proud once again.
“Thank you. If there’s ever anything that you need, do not hesitate to ask.”
Feeling that familiar return of awkwardness, I suddenly remembered that we were in a very public place. The urge to leave was strong, but I wanted to at least part with one more word of encouragement.
“Thanks, umm… same here, if you ever want someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to ask.” I gave him a nod, and was about to turn away, mentally chastising myself again for not thinking of something better to say but was startled when an armored gauntlet gripped tightly to my arm.
“I’m sorry,” the intensity was relit in the paladin’s eyes, “but I have to know. Why did you not join us?”
“Oh, uh… well, back in my village, the local priest had a journal from a paladin who lamented over how they were never able to spend time with his family or allowed to start one of his own. That, plus the fact that the church only has a fraction of the magical knowledge Mages have access to.” I took a breath, feeling the paladin’s grip tremble and weaken, “I… wish things were different, and that the church could come to some agreement with the three kingdoms.”
The paladin released his hand, then leaned forward in a bow, “I understand now. I will take no more of your time.” He then turned around, and briskly left the altar’s hall.
Jethro stepped up next to me, looking puzzled, “Are clergy members really not allowed to get married?”
I nodded, “It’s illegal in our kingdom for a church to collect offerings. That’s part of why they provide services to the kingdom, such as marriage counseling, medical services, or even the use of their buildings in the event of an emergency. Paladins and Clerics are often tasked with hunting monsters to help provide extra funding as a result, only keeping a small portion of their share for living expenses.”
“All that just so they can learn some secondhand spellcraft? No wonder they need to recruit so hard. I’m surprised anyone ever joins.”
“Well, the alternative for civilians is to dedicate twelve years of your life to the army with no guarantee that you’ll ever even learn to use mana reinforcement or pay some sketchy Witch at the nearby fortress to teach you.”
Jethro let out a breath, “Wow, I… uh… never realized just how privileged I am until now.”
I gave my friend’s shoulder a pat, “C’mon, we should get back. I don’t want to miss lunch.”
1-3 Artifice 1
“Next week you’ll be given supplies for your first wand, which will include enough mana dust for a dozen single-point inscriptions of each basic element that you are currently majoring in and a single one for each of the elements you aren’t.” The professor gave an intimidating stare to snuff out everyone’s excitement, “These may be the most basic of materials, but they still are costly for the kingdom. Any loss or replacement of materials will be billed to your families.”
“Ooh, I can’t wait. They might not be as iconic as a staff, but nothing screams spellcaster quite like a wand.”
I tapped my fingers on my notebook, thinking about today’s lesson. Estimating the pulse rate of mana is extremely difficult without tools, meaning that I will probably need to use a wand in battle if I want to cast as efficiently as possible, but something about using one in combat was irritating me.
“Something bothering you?”
Leaning forward on my desk, and using my hand to cover my mouth, I explained what I think my gripe was, “I guess I always envisioned myself using my poleaxe in combat, not some tiny wood or metal rod.”
“Well, you still can. Senior students don’t seem to carry them. I assume they trade them in for their weapon of choice at some point after inscribing them.”
I tapped my chin, going over Arc’s words, then was suddenly struck with an epiphany. Why can’t I just inscribe my poleaxe now?
Anxiously waiting for class to end, I was overjoyed when I managed to get an early spot in line to talk to the professor after class.
“Travis, I already know what you’re going to ask, and yes, as an Elementalist Mage you will receive a full supply for all four basic elements.”
“Oh, umm… that wasn’t what I was going to ask, but thanks for the confirmation. I was wondering if I would be allowed to create something other than a wand?”
“Depends, what do you have in mind?”
“Well, my poleaxe currently has a magnetism inscription riveted in with the langets, instead of the wood of the shaft being inscribed, and was hoping I could do something similar.”
My professor nodded along, giving their beard a stroke, “Hmm, I’ll need to see a blueprint first for approval, and agreement from a teacher’s assistant to supervise your lab work, but I’ll allow you to modify the assignment if you meet those requirements.”
I grinned, knowing exactly who I was going to ask for help.
Woodsday, the 14th of Seventhmonth
Travis waved goodbye to Jethro as we split off towards Adamanrion’s church. Despite not having a stomach, I still felt queasy about what we were about to do. Addy didn’t immediately start a crusade to have me eradicated, but who knows, maybe they’re just biding their time, or couldn’t make a move with church officials being banned on campus.
Travis was describing the buildings to me, occasionally closing his eyes to activate his mana sight and see the world the same as me, but I couldn’t really focus too much on what he was saying. That is, until he asked me a very good question.
“So… how exactly is this going to work? I’m just going to talk to a clergy member while you’re off conversing with a god?”
“Well, the conversing part might be tricky… I’m not exactly sure how to talk back, I had to bob my focus around to answer them last time.”
Travis raised an eyebrow, “They could see your focus?”
“Yeah, completely freaked me out, but in retrospect, it makes sense that gods can see things others can’t.”
Travis nodded along before getting off his nameless horse, giving the stallion a pat before it walked off to join the others in front of a shrine with a statue of a horse on it. I mentally shuddered. The entire thing was creepy, but like usual, no one seemed to think anything was odd.
We entered the church, a ridiculously reinforced structure that had endless rows of thick columns, domed arches holding up the roof, and was so dense with Earth, Metal, and Order Mana, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the place could effortlessly shrug off a nuke. I could see the numerous dwarven runes decorating the place but given how Travis was walking around completely slack-jawed, I had a hunch that there was quite a bit I couldn’t see.
“I take it this place is beautiful?”
Travis grasped my pommel with a pained expression, “This place is covered in paintings…” His eyes began to scan the entire building, making me both painfully jealous and oddly nostalgic. I could still remember the first time my friends and I took a tour of European churches and were blown away by the sight of the beautiful frescos.
I mentally chuckled as Travis forgot our reason for coming here and began to appreciate the art instead. I couldn’t really blame him. After being trapped in his tiny village for so long, the poor kid was starved for culture. He suddenly stopped mid-step, then grasped my pommel tightly, causing a flood of foreign emotions to invade my soul. Along with a vision.
The creature was massive, and despite being a painting, emanated an aura of superiority, demanding all before it to quake with fear. It’s lizard-like body was covered in metallic scales that reflected the nearby lava, including a row that stood vertically along its spine, tail, and even legs. Its face was wide and flat like a shovel’s, eyes glowing a fiery orange, had a chest and limbs packed with thick muscles, and the impressive claws I could see seemed to effortlessly chisel into the stone beneath. The other claws… well, this thing didn’t seem to care in the slightest that it was half-standing in a pool of lava.
Before it stood an armor-clad figure, and despite the clear exaggeration in their strength, looked absolutely tiny compared to the monster before them, not even coming up to the creature’s elbow. They looked ready to throw down however, with orange runes glowing across their armor, and holding an impractically large hammer that looked like it was made by welding a dozen smaller hammers together. The entire scene was incredulous. Lava waterfalls decorated the background, heat lines were distorting the image slightly, and the two opponents were locking eyes, preparing to strike.
My vision ended when both me and Travis were startled by an approaching person, “Quite the sight isn’t it?
Whoa. Did Travis just use his blessing to share his vision with me? I looked down with my focus to see that Travis had yelped in surprise, causing the armor-clad man to chuckle while the teen regained his composure enough to reply.
“The illustration in the monster field guide doesn’t do it justice.”
The armored man resumed their laughter, “No… it certainly doesn’t. I know some will even argue that the name doesn’t either, but I personally find it quite fitting. This monster vibrates its metal scales to brutally cleave through its prey and swim through the earth like water. Calling it something else would only insult the identity this dragon crafted.”
“Do scale dragons really get that big?” Travis whispered, only mildly able to hide his terror.
“No, this one’s a bit of an exception. This artwork depicts a battle that took place shortly after the founding of our kingdom. Unlike the western mountains, the eastern ones are so extensive that it used to be quicker to transport goods to the elven kingdoms, then sail them all the way around the continent to reach the Dwarven Coast. To fix that, an expedition was called, and numerous Mages and Artificers were tasked with creating a tunnel underneath the mountains to facilitate trade.”
He gestured to the painting, “Inside one of the mountains though, they discovered a caldera, home to a very old scale dragon. The scouting party was wiped out, and after only being fed an appetizer, the dragon made its move to eliminate the rest of the expedition.”
The storyteller looked towards the armored figure in the painting, “That’s when a miracle occurred. One of the members of the scouting party appeared, armor still molten from the field modification, and carrying the fused weapons of their fallen comrades. They fought valiantly, treating the lava beneath their feet as if it was merely a puddle of water, and eventually killed the dragon before collapsing in exhaustion.”
“The surviving expedition forces tried to aid their savior, but by the time they opened up the breastplate, the person inside had already succumbed to their wounds.” He turned to look directly at Travis, “The miracle that day was not the battle, but what happened to the person. By all means, they should have been long dead before even facing off with the dragon. Both arms were burned away, along with their flesh and face, and everything below their ribs was torn off. The armor depicted in this painting is nothing but a walking coffin.”
Travis kept his dumbstruck look, one I would have shared (had I a face), but he managed to voice some of his thoughts, “How…? How is that even…?”
“The Chosen of the gods can do some impressive feats. We still don’t know this day who it was, but perhaps that’s for the best.” They gave Travis a friendly pat on the back, “Now, before I leave you to appreciate the Ignitious blessed artists that have graced us with their work, was there anything I could help you with?”
“Oh, right, completely forgot…” Travis reached to unclip me from his belt, “I was told to come have my sword registered here, and that someone might be able to tell me more about its history.”
The man leaned in to give me a thorough look, “Ah, not every day I get to see one of these… hmm, I should probably get Uminstronlir, the beardless is the true expert, and will throw a fit if I update the registry without them getting to see your sword.”
Travis returned me to his side, then gave me a friendly scratch before returning his attention to the clergy member, “Oh, umm… could you show me where the altar of Rebirth is? I was hoping to offer a prayer while I was here.”
Altar? Why would… oh, Travis, you genius! A prayer from him might be enough to reach out and contact Adamanrion.
The man nodded and led Travis to a secluded part of the church and into a small room containing only a single bench. The shrine was simple, a giant helmet surrounded by other smaller helmets, but the symbolism was quite evident once you noticed how there were empty spaces on the shelf. Also, the large sign saying, “Free to take, for those who wish to start anew” spelled it out plainly for anyone else.
Travis took a seat, and once we were alone, gave my pommel another scratch, “So, what now?”
“I’ll need your help for this. Last time, I think Adamanrion showed up to see Durinn’s spell launcher, since that falls under their Domain of Invention. I think we can use a prayer to contact Adamanrion, but it’ll need to be relevant to one of their domains.”
“Anything in particular I should pray for?”
“Well, this is a shrine of Rebirth… there’s a lot of ways to interpret what that means. For some it probably means being allowed a second chance at life, for others… maybe a chance to live the life that they always wanted?”
Travis stopped scratching me, then looked up towards the large helmet, “Adamanrion, had I not met Arc, I would have been forced to live an unfulfilling life as a farmer, never venturing far from my home, and never being able to see the wonders that this world contains. My life changed drastically that day almost eight years ago, and I haven’t regretted it once since. My best friend though, needs your guidance. He too has been reborn but carries many worries regarding what he can share about his old life. Please help—”
The large helmet in the middle of the shrine lit up with an increasing density of Metal Mana, and after bringing in my focus closer, I was able to see the familiar erratic pulsing.
Sword Guy? What are you doing here?
“Travis! It worked! Look at the helmet! It’s pulsing weird, just like I told you.”
Travis looked up, squinted his eyes at the shrine, then closed his eyes to activate his mana sight.
Oh no, is this about Durinnsognir? I know it was a big favor to ask for, but they’re working very hard, and have improved so much already, and…
Travis kept staring at the shrine, no doubt captivated by the presence of the god, but his body language began to look more uncomfortable before he finally reached down to set a hand on my pommel, “Arc… I… I don’t see anything.”
“What? Look at the big helmet, even if you can’t make out the variation in pulsing, you should at least be able to see the huge disparity in Metal Mana compared to everything else in the room.”
Travis gripped me hard, as if I was in denial, then looked directly at me, “It… has the same amount of Metal Mana that the other helmets in here have.”
What… no… that can’t…
Oh no no no no…
Have I? Oh, dear gods and God no, don’t tell me I finally…
Panic filled my soul, was I hallucinating? Travis held me in his warm grasp, looking very worried.
Hey dummy! Did you forget? Mortals can’t see us.
Can’t see us? But I’m a sword. Unless Addy is referring to my soul, or…. Oh!
I slowly spun my focus around, only relying on my 360-degree vision to see the altar, but as soon as the shrine leaves my focus’ field of view, the extra mana that appeared in the helmet disappeared. Looking the exact same as it did when we originally walked in.
Well, that’s a relief. Either my madness is doing a bang-up job rationalizing everything, or there’s more to my focus than it being invisible to mana sight.
“Travis, I know I probably sound like a madman right now, but I need you to trust me. Adamanrion does have a presence here, but it’s not visible to mortals. Could you please repeat my words for me? I don’t think they can hear me.”
Travis shifted uncomfortably, but after taking a breath, spoke in a reverent tone, “Divine god of Metal, my friend Arcane requests your counsel. What knowledge is he allowed to share with the mortal plane?”
Arcane? Ooh, I like that name, sounds ominous, and foreboding, like I could get into trouble for saying it out loud…
I waggled my focus to get Addy’s attention.
Oh, sorry, umm… basically just be cautious before you drop any of the big chunks of ore into the furnace. I especially don’t recommend going into too much detail about the afterlife, Chosen tend to become heroically suicidal otherwise, and then you got to start that long arduous process of finding a new one all over again. Rust, it took me nearly two dozen years to find my current one, though I guess you probably already know all about that, given how much effort you must have put into finding yours.
Ok, that’s… good to know. Also, note to self, do not let the gods know that I picked Travis at random while borderline insane from the lack of human contact. Now, what should I ask next?
“Apologies for disturbing your prayers, but I’m told you have a sword for me to come look at?” A deep voice echoed into the chamber, startling Travis.
“Oh, umm… yes, I do. One second…” Travis whispered quietly, “Arc?”
Uh oh, looks like we’ve run out of time. Again, I would really appreciate you helping out Durinnsognir. I promise to help you out with whatever you need in return.
With those parting words, the influx of Metal Mana in the altar’s helmet dissipated. Leaving me still with far too many questions and worries.
“They’re gone now… we can leave.” I made the sound of a sigh, “I… I wish you could have saw them.”
Travis gave my pommel a comforting rub, allowing me to easily feel his sincerity, “I know I’ve been upset with you keeping secrets with me, but… I do trust you.” He took a big breath to recenter himself, then stood to greet the armored dwarf before him.
“Sorry for making you wait, are you the expert I was told about?”
“Indeed.” The dwarf held out their free hand, “Uminstronlir, though you can just call me Umin. Sorry for taking so long, but I wanted to stop by the reliquary first.” They held up a sword they were carrying, “Look familiar?”
Travis took the sword, giving it a thorough examination, “It looks just like mine… well, externally at least.” He pulled me from my scabbard, then offered it to the dwarf.
“Ah, I see… I’m impressed, all the other swords from this batch have either been destroyed or have turned into regular steel by now.”
“Yep, these are two of the prototypes that Solveig crafted before creating The Fang of Voffer. She used an unusual process for these swords compared to the standard blades at the time which used human remains as a catalyst.”
“Are you implying these don’t?”
“Hmm, yours might be an exception, given how long it’s lasted, but according to her notes, she used the bones of different monsters to emulate what might happen when using the remains of a sentient beast capable of blotting out the sun with its howl or freezing everything underfoot. Nearly all of them ended in failure, the sword in your hand one of the few minor successes.”
Travis nodded along, “That explains the lack of decoration. How long did this sword last?”
“Only about a dozen years before it began to chip, instead of the usual two to three for regular mana infused human steel.” They paused, giving me another thorough scan with their mana sight, “Your sword’s quite lively, must be seeing a lot of action.”
Travis, somehow keeping his cool, cocked his head, “Huh, what do you mean?”
“Well, there’s a lot we don’t know about adamantium. Unlike human steel, the mana inside adamantium will draw in the charge from higher intensity mana, allowing it to keep a hold on its infused mana and last entire calendar cycles. This trait is considered why the infused mana resists being wrestled out when piercing a dragon.”
“Oh, right. Completely forgot I read about that.” Travis chuckled, “I usually just ignore it, not like I can attune to the mana inside anyways.
I let out a big imaginary sigh, by the gods and God, as if I haven’t already had enough scares today. At least it doesn’t sound like Travis intentionally hid that from me.
The dwarf joined in on the laughter, “I personally think that’s how those tales about these weapons driving men insane started. If the mana inside gets amped up enough, it could draw in enough ambient mana to make some strange things happen. Lighting things on fire, getting stuck in stones, or perhaps making unfamiliar noises that sound like whispers...”
Travis grinned, “Good thing I don’t intend to use it much in combat. I’ve got a poleaxe for that.”
I mentally groaned. Could this day get any worse?
“Poleaxe? Hang on, are you by chance Travis?”
Travis nodded, then twisted to show off his shoulder patch.
“You are! I’ve been hearing so much about your weapon, did you by chance bring it?”
I like the idea of using a haft as basically a wand. After all, a spear is just a staff with a really fancy cap that happens to be pointy, right? Which means a polearm is just a staff that's gone HAM on accessorizing!
divine dragon slaying blade vrs pointy axe who would win