Authors: D.W. Jackson
This book is dedicated to my children.
, Edward, Harvey
Copyright © D.W. Jackson
Names, characters, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual event, organizations, or persons, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.
If you would like to be placed on a list to be notified of future works from this author or if you would like to comment on the book you may send an email to [email protected]
Your email address will not be sold or given to any third parties or used outside to promote other works.
Thad groaned as the sun steaming in from the small window in his room pulled him from his peaceful sleep. As he did everyone morning Thad went through a series of stretches, each one pulling at his chest causing small tinges of pain. It was getting better, Thad thought as he ran his fingers over the garish scar that ran diagonally across his chest. It had been a deep wound one that had left him in bed for countless days. He was lucky that the dwarven healers were so skilled otherwise he wouldn’t be here today.
They were good but unlike the stories he had read not even magic could heal a body that was near death overnight, especially when one had been cut with an enchanted blade.
It had been a slow road to recovery, but he had not spent his time idly. No he was learning everything that the dwarves could or would teach him. He still couldn’t speak dwarven very well but there were a few dwarves who could speak the common tongue but they seemed reluctant to answer some of his questions especially when it came to the Brotherhood of the Fox. The elders always told him the same thing when he inquired about them, “all things come in their own good time.” It was irritating to say the least, but he was left with no other choice than to wait until they believed he was ready to know the answers to those questions.
While knowledge of the past was withheld from him, there was still plenty the dwarves had to teach. Thad was fascinated by how they lived, and how they worked metal. Every dwarf had magic flowing through their veins, and if Thad understood them correctly they were born of it. They didn’t use it in a flashy manner for the most part it was subtle and slow. When they worked the metal
they allowed magic to flow into the metal with each hammer stroke, instead of creating the item then enchanting it, like he did. They would spend weeks or years on an item making sure that there were no imperfections.
Slipping on his heavy leather tunic and
britches Thad made his way to the mirror. Looking at himself he was amazed at what he saw. He no longer resembled the youth he had been when his journey had started back in the academy. His face had hardened, and his left eye had been replaced by a blue gem that allowed him to see. His body was marred with scars from different battles. His once long hair had been cut, and his face showed the beginnings of a beard.
No the young child
, Mark, that had dreamed of freedom was gone, long dead on the side of the road. Thad was a different person now. The fantasies of childhood were gone replaced by the harsh facts that the world had left imprinted on his body.
Thad let his hand drift to the brand of two quarter moons facing each other. It was a bittersweet memory that passed through his mind. He had been drugged and tortured in the Farlan dungeon by order of the queen. He had spent months in a cramped cell chained to a wall
, barely able to think, but there had been one person who had cared for him in that time. Mari, the Farlan princess had visited him and done what she could to ease his pain. He missed her and often dreamed of her though his dreams bothered him in that regard. He didn’t see her as he remembered her to be, no she was often dressed in battle leathers wielding a sword. He wasn’t sure what the dreams meant and if truth be told he was more than a little anxious to get back and find out. But there were other things that called to him.
He had learned in the darkness
, that he
was woefully underprepared in the area of magic. The dwarves while magical in nature were of little use in helping him train. He had done some on his own but he had found himself at a wall. He needed help and there was only one person he could think of who might be able to shed some light on the subject, th
Vathari mage Sae-Thae.
Thad knew there would be risks in trying to get to the mage but he felt as if he had little choice in the matter. His dwarven friend Crusher didn’t seem to like the idea at all and protested his staying behind whenever the two met. Thad understood his concern the Vathari had chased them through countless tunnels intent on their deaths
. Now, not only was he planning to walk back in the tunnels but into the very heart of the Vathari territory. He felt as he had little choice in the matter though.
Everything was almost ready for his trip, all he had to do was put the finishing touches on his new sword. He had lost almost everything in the tunnels even his staff though somehow it had found its way back. Unlike the stories the dwarves had been more than happy to lend him a forge and Crusher had begun teaching him dwarven
blacksmithing secrets. He knew he was still years if not centuries away from Crusher’s skill but he believed his sword was still a masterpiece in the making.
ping out of his small house Thad lifted up his head letting the sun’s rays warm his skin. Avalanche quickly made her way to his side. Thad bent down and patted the creature hard on its head. Like most children Thad had dreamed of having a pet. The academy had dogs but they were used for hunting and the students were only allowed to be near them when it was necessary for training. Avalanche might not have been the pet he dreamed of but he loved the creature dearly and could think of no better companion. The dwarves had also taken a liking to Avalanche, though for other reasons than his own.
One of the dwarven elders had told Thad
that Avalanche was the product of wild magic. Where the flow of magical energy had gotten too strong in one area and broke free of its intended path and was absorbed in mass quantity by a gem. That gem changed and took on a consciousness of its own. The elder had said no one knew for sure how a heart stone picked its form or acted the way it did, but one thing was for certain it was as alive as any other creature.
Thad made his way down to the forges. Most
of the dwarves that passed him greeted him with a smile though a few of them looked at him with contempt and open hatred. Thad knew why they felt this way; it had been one of the first things he had talked to the elders about. Some dwarves looked at all humans with contempt ever since the Brotherhood of the Fox had set their mission on killing anything of magical nature including the dwarves. Thad had asked why the dwarves and other magical races didn’t band together and fight back. Surely with such numbers the human race would have been sorely outmatched. The elders had simply told him that it was forbidden but had refused to tell him why. Thad knew they were holding something back, he just didn’t know what it was, or why they felt such a need to keep him in the dark.
Thad found Crusher in his usual spot working on the same thing he had been since they had returned from the world under the earth. Thad had found that all dwarven smiths shaved both their faces and their heads daily. It explained why Crusher face was without a beard but he didn’t understand why until the first time he had worked one of the forges. His long blond hair had lasted two hammer strokes before it caught a stray cinder. It had been a learning experience one that all the dwarves including Crusher let him learn on his own. Thad couldn’t bring himself to shave everything off, honestly he didn’t like the way he looked bald but he had cut it down as short as the members of the Farlan military. Thad learned that if he wrapped a wet sheet around his head it helped save what was left of his hair; that is if he could remember to keep the sheet wet.
Leaving Crusher to his work Thad went to the forge that had been set aside for his use. Thad went straight to the worktable where the blade he had been working on for countless days sat. It was all but finished, with the exception of a few minor details. Thad had tried his best to mimic the dwarven art of allowing his magic to flow into the metal as he worked. Crusher had told him not to give the magic a purpose just let it flow into the metal and it would find its own way. Honestly it was hard for Thad to do; he had always molded the magic and directed it so he had practiced on a few smaller items first before trying it with his current project. There was also the fact that Thad had no idea if the magic took, if the sword had any magical properties as Crusher said, the metal would decide when and if it would show its true self. Thad wasn’t sure if he liked the idea of not knowing what a weapon could do, what if it decided to unleash its hidden power at the wrong time, or if it was something that caused more harm than good. Crusher had simply told him to believe in the metal and himself.
Picking up the unfinished sword
, Thad ran his finger along the blade, testing its edge. With little pressure a small line of blood began to trickle out of his finger and flow down the blade. Sitting down the blade, Thad took a few deep breathes and reminded himself to relax and focus. One thing Thad had to give to the dwarves was their unshakable patience. The stories had always said the dwarves lived for thousands of years but Thad had learned that was not true. While they lived for longer than humans the eldest of the dwarves was only a little over three hundred years of age.
Thad walked over to a large lever and opened it opening the large cover of the forge. It was an ingenious design; all the forges were connected and burned constantly. Apprentices ran night and day feeding the central and side furnaces that allowed one to bring their personal forges up to temperature in a matter of minutes and hot coals were brought through rock ve
nts into the waiting smaller forges below.
Thad placed an assortment of tools into the fire of his forge and waited for them to heat. Sw
eat beaded on his forehead as he studied the hilt he was creating. It was a simple thing and all that was left to finish his sword. As it was it could be fastened to the blade and the sword would be ready for use but Thad wanted something extra. The dwarves had said that one should never mix forge magic with enchantments. Crusher had explained it to him a dozen times over but he didn’t truly understand why, still he was more than smart enough not to go against their word, though he found himself tempted to try it. No the hilt wouldn’t be enchanted, he was doing the same thing to it as he had the blade allowing his magic to flow through it as he worked. He hoped that it wouldn’t cause any trouble but if it did he was willing to take the risk.
Picking up one of the tools, a long thin metal bar with a curved end
, Thad began to scratch at the metal as his magic began to flow. Thad never considered himself much of an artist but he was always partial to hilts with their own flavor, it was nothing fancy, just a simple quarter moon on each side of the hilt to remind him of his goal. He would not stay a slave, he would be free, but Farlan was his home and something was pulling him there. It wasn’t just Maria, and Eloen, something in him wanted to go back. The elder had said that unfinished business will always haunt a person, but Thad wasn’t sure that was the case.
As the tool cool
ed Thad replaced it in the forge to reheat and picked up the next one and continued his work. It was easy work but the constant flow of magic through his body was tiring and after a few hours Thad felt as if he had been running all day. Sitting down the tools he held the two pieces of the hilt in his hand. They were finished, now all that was left was to attach them to the blade and his sword would be finished. He was hesitant, the finishing of the sword was supposed to be the last thing he would do before heading back into the darkness. He knew he had to go but part of him didn’t want to say goodbye to the friends he had made. It was the first time in his life no one looked at him as anything other than himself. Sure there had been the select few who knew him for who he was but most the people around him had viewed him only as they wanted to see him. That wasn’t the case here, everyone, even the ones who hated him because he was human only saw him as Thad; they didn’t see a mage, or a slave, just a person.
Picking up the
blade, Thad sat the hilt pieces on either side of the small thin section at the bottom. Using a pair of pliers he picked up one of the small metal cylinders and placed it in one of the small holes he had left in the hilt pieces and struck it with a hammer. Thad repeated the action with three other pieces, then grabbed a file and began removing the hard edges. Using the etching tools he added a few minor touches then sat the finished sword aside on the worktable.
Plopping down on a chai
r made from black wood Thad let out a heavy sigh, it was finished. Now all that was left was to talk to Grenlor, the dwarven elder who was assigned as his keeper. The old dwarf was a good sort though he enjoyed drinking far too much as far as Thad was concerned. Anything Thad did he first had to get approval from Grenlor, that included when he went below to run with the dwarven fighters against the Vathari. The dwarves had a good selection of weapons and many had been offered to him but Thad had wanted to make his own. He knew that almost any of the dwarven made weapons would be better than anything he could make but it was something he wanted to do on his own partially because it gave him a reason to stay around even if just for a little while longer, or so he thought. Dwarven blacksmithing took far longer than he had anticipated. Two seasons had passed while he worked on the weapon and now fall was fast approaching. Though that meant little to him since he had no clue where he was located or how to get back to Farlan. For all he knew it could already be winter at his home. There was no telling how far he had traveled while in the depths of the earth. The location of the dwarven home was kept secret and when it was time for him to finally depart it would be done in such a manner that he would be left unaware of the village’s location.
His peaceful respite was interrupted when Crusher stuck his head through the small curtain that covered the door of his workspace. The surly dwarf pointed at the sword lying on the table, and raised one of his eyebrows. Crusher’s ability to speak had been fixed when the
y arrived back at the dwarven town but most of the time the two still communicated without words, sometimes even without hand gestures. Their time spent together had brought them as close together as any brothers. It was a bond that Thad cherished and one of the reasons he had postponed his trip for as long as he could, but time was passing and Thad knew the last drops of sand were about to fall. It wouldn’t be the end Thad knew that he would return. He didn’t have much choice in the matter since Crusher had made him promise to return when he was done. If he did not Crusher had promised to find him and if he was still alive to beat the mage until he was a short as the dwarf. Though Crusher had made the statement in jest, Thad didn’t doubt that he would follow through on the light-hearted jest.