Magma Core (A Mage's Journey)

Chapter 5

My arms burned from pumping the bellow yet I was energized from the heat radiating from the molten forge. It wasn’t a natural feeling and I reckoned it had something to do with my magma core. I could see the sweat dripping down Obrans body as he smashed the hot malleable iron.

“Keep up boy! My work will be ruined if that forge doesn’t stay piping hot.” screamed Obran whose sole focus was on the forge in front of him.

I responded by frantically pumping more air into the bellows. I was reaching my limit. I wouldn’t be able to keep this up much longer.

Blackness crowded the corners of my eyes. My mind swayed in and out of consciousness as I fought to retain my sanity. It wasn’t a matter of if I would pass out but rather when I would pass out. I realized, while peering out into the dark night sky, I wasn’t going to make it.

I woke up startled to the sound of hammers crashing into anvils. I groaned as the numbness from my body faded and I felt soreness that I had never felt before.

Your strength has increased by 2. Your willpower has increased by 1.

I hadn’t realized I could increase my stats, but now that I gave it more thought it made sense. Clearly, working in the forge built muscle and muscle would translate into increased strength. I wasn’t entirely sure how intelligence could be increased but the others were simple enough for me to understand.

“Well done. You barely made it,” Obran said. He patted my back in satisfaction. His cheery voice and energetic appearance was contagious, causing me to smile. My smile grew as I realized I now had something to murder the mole.

I watched Obran rummage through the various tools and weapons scattered throughout the messy forge. It was a mystery how he located anything. Buckets were emptied, there contents scattered on the already hazard filled floor. Many weapons were tossed aside until Obran held a dull grey sword with a nick in the blade.

It lacked the quality the other items had but it would have to do. I couldn’t be picky. I didn’t have enough money to be picky.

“Make sure you bring this back.” Obran responded after handing me the scuffed blade.

“I’ll try. I’ll see you tomorrow Obran,” I responded. I walked out of the shop satisfied and my coin purse intact. I strolled through the city streets with my sword perched on my shoulder. I was getting somewhere and here didn’t seem that bad anymore.

I only had a small window to find and kill the mole before I had to return Obran’s blade so I headed for the sewers. My stomach was queasy as the familiar stench greeted my nostrils. I stepped over the heaps of trash while trying to make my way to the place I had seen the mole before. I doubted it was still there even If I somehow figured out where I was.

I trudged with my blade in hand. It was dark and while I probably had better eyesight than the mole, it would be easy for me to get caught off guard. I a quick flash of light behind. It was gone before I could even turn around. I questioned whether I was seeing things or that had actually happened.

My nerves were getting to me but I knew I had to keep going. I spotted a large creature standing near the end of the tunnel. It was too dark to tell what it was but I doubted there were other types of giant creatures lurking in this sewer. I hoped not.

I activated my obsidian armor as I crept behind the beast. My hands were sweaty. I gripped the sword so hard they were turning white.

In seconds the sword in my hand sunk into the beasts hide.

“RaawwwRr” wailed the monster. It thrashed trying to get me away from it. I held on for my life, turning the blade anchored within the mole.

It’s claws reached behind its back and scratched at my hardened skin. They bounced off my black armor whenever they grazed me. Warm blood poured from the mole’s gaping hole, spilling on me and the cold stone floor.

The beast, using the last bit of energy, bludgeoned me away from it. An audible snap echoed throughout the sewers as my armor gave out. A surge of pain could be felt in my right leg. I was certain I had broken it.

I crawled my way over to the mole like a slug. My blood covered body left a trail on the already disgusting floor. I slumped over the motionless mole and looked at my prize. From the wound I could tell that its hide was thick. While my body hurt I was pleased with myself. Lately I had been doubting myself, my usefulness. This was proof that I could finish what I started.

I searched for my sword that I had buried in the dead creature. I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t there. I turned it over and over and over. Nothing. I started to panic. I had to return it. I owed Obran that much.

A sinking feeling overtook me when I truly realized that it was gone. Not because Obran needed it but that someone must have taken it. It was the only possibility after scouring every filthy inch of this sewer. I shuddered when I remembered the bright flash that I had seen earlier.

I hoped whoever had seen me couldn’t see my secret in the darkness but knew that was wishful thinking. I worried who had followed me into the sewers.

Curious eyes glanced at me as I exited the sewers. I was covered in blood and dirt, slowly dragging a large mole creature behind me. It was a slow journey back since I had to hobble on my broken leg, but eventually I stood in front of Crom’s apartment.

I knocked on the door, waiting for Crom to let me in. I could always try and open the door but I didn’t want to risk another injury.

“What did you get yourself into.” stated Crom in shock.

“Just let me clean up and I’ll explain.”

“Ok, take your time.” Crom responded.

I washed off all the grime that I had accumulated. My broken leg burned as it touched the warm water but I knew I had to clean it. Back in the slums I had witnessed what would happen if you didn’t clean a wound. Bugs would burrow into your skin and your flesh would turn green, slowly decomposing.

Crom came in. In his hands were two long wooden dowels and some string.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

Putting your leg into a splint. It’s rare to find healing potions on the first floor so you’ll have to make do with this for now. Crom straightened my leg a place the dowels on either side and tied them with string.

I went hunting for someone with a wagon to drag the mole over to Darran’s food stall. I paid him 3 pennies for his troubles. I walked alongside my prize as I made my way to the shopping district.

I pulled up to the broken shack with my prized possession. I waddled inside the hut. \

“I have your mole,” I said to the frail man behind the counter.

“I don’t believe you. You shouldn’t be here.” Darran snarled.

“We had a deal, one that was meant to get me killed. I broke my leg killing that mole, but I killed it. That’s more than you could ever do. I’ll give you three days to leave the town or you’ll end up in a ditch.” I said.

I probably wouldn’t go through with the threat but I wanted to see this man sweat. He was responsible for my broken leg and if I hadn’t been a mage I have tied from the first time the mole had struck me.

I dropped the now rotting mole corpse in the middle of his shop. Gross liquids oozed out of the dead mole and onto the shopkeeper’s floor. I wouldn’t be surprised if this scared away the few customers this man had left.

Now I could rest. I headed in for the night. I would have to wake up early tomorrow. I had broken Obran’s deal.

I was silent when I entered Obran’s forge. I headed straight for the bellows. I knew what I had to do. There was know point discussing what had already been discussed. Obran watched me but didn’t say I word. My lack of a weapon said everything I needed to say.

The next week I worked long and hard. Working the bellows was strenuous and left me tired every night. I hardly had the energy or time to do anything other than rest or toil for Obran. I had grown familiar with the forge and Obran’s apprentices. They told me about their smithing successes and many failures.

Sometimes when I had more energy, I would observe them fold and shape the metals into different forms of ingots. Most were dull greys but I saw Obran and some of the older apprentices smith gold and light blue bars.

My routine involved greeting Crom at home before quickly retiring for the night. I was in no mood to talk after long days of pumping air into Obran’s forge.

I was somewhat relieved and sad when I woke up on my last day working for Obran. I would miss him but I had better things to do than stoke embers.

Something seemed off as I entered the stall. Not only was the forge completely silent, not a single soul rested on the other side of the counter. It was pointless tending the flames while no one was at the forge but I had a contract to honor. I slowly worked the forge as I had no incentive to get the temperature extremely hot.

I had only been at it for about ten minutes when Obran frantically rushed into the forge. “Sorry I’m late,” Obran apologized.

“It’s perfectly fine. I’m just here to manage the forge anyway.” I wouldn’t admit it but I enjoyed having the smith to myself. My job lacked the urgency that it usually called for and I was able to admire the well-made weapons scattered throughout the store.

“You’re not going to be working the bellows today,” Obran paused. “Well at least not for the rest of the day. You’ve worked hard this past week so I decided to help you make your first weapon. After today you’re free to do whatever you want but I want you to know that you’re always welcome to come work for me as an apprentice.”

“Thanks. I might take you up on that.”

“So, what type of weapon do you need?”

I had thought about what I needed while working the forges many times.

“I need a spear,” I responded.

“I don’t make many of those but I have a few ideas on how to make an adequate spear. It’s not my specialty though so I can’t promise the quality will be exceptionally high.”

Obran rummaged through a box, pulling out a spare hammer and tongs for me to use. They felt good in my hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if Obran had these made specifically for me. It wouldn’t be hard for a smith to produce custom tools for his or her apprentices.

Obran controlled my hands like a puppet, teaching me the correct movements. In and out of the furnace the hot iron went. The molten lump was slowly banged into a rod, a handle of sorts. I shaped the rod until it was slim enough to comfortably fit inside my hands. With tongs, the hot iron rod was dipped into a bucket of cool water.

I watched the steam rise and the rod lost its orange glow. I stuck my hands into the water and lifted my new component. It had a semi-glossy exterior and was smooth to the touch.

“Now I have several ideas for tips. Which one is best really depends on how you’re going to use the spear. I have a bone tip that’s excellent for spearfishing. Since we’re not close to any ocean I’m assuming this one is not for you. I have a wyvern scale tip that’s extremely sharp and good for piercing tough hides and sky iron which is extremely light.”

I agreed with Obran that the bone spearhead wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t planning on becoming a fisherman. The sky iron was tempting but I decided I would choose the wyvern scale spearhead.

Obran pulled a scale from his pocket. The end of the metal rod reentered the flames. The tip glowed the same orange as before. Obran inserted the scale it the now malleable end, clamping them together before sticking the iron rod back into the cold water. This caused the scale to meld into the metal. The result was one sturdy piece.

I admired my new spear while wielding it. It was moderately heavy and perfectly balanced. In the corner of my vision I saw a notification.

Smithing has reached Apprentice 1

A smile crept onto my face. I had climbed an entire rank with only smithing one item. I guess having a seasoned smith train me had its benefits.

“Now you know the basics. If you want to come work with me at the forge come back in three days. I think you deserve a break.”

I ran out of Obran’s shop. I felt the warm rays of light cascading down from the sky. The clouds were sparse today, making the lovely blue sky visible. I wielded my spear proudly, showing it off to anyone and really everyone I passed.

There was no time for breaks however. I was itching to show Crom my work. I had something I had to discuss with him, something I should have told him a week ago.