CONTINUED from Part 8...
“Okay. It’s settled. We leave tomorrow. Get yourselves straight by dawn tomorrow.” Jarious paused to give a break to his thought processes.
“Onto other business.” Jarious nodded to Arrious. Arrious bent over, grabbed a sack, and put it on the table. The heafty leather sack, largely empty, sagged in against itself like a rotten fruit rind.
“Show them.” Jarious ordered Arrious. Jarious reflected that his voice was deeper and more ominous than it had any right to be.
Arrious put on a delicate leather glove, reached in, fished around, and produced the broken blade the mysterious woman gave to Torrain.
“Tell us about it.” Jarious couldn’t help but smile at the sides of his mouth that all but broadcast his thoughts -- “just wait.”
Arrious cleared his throat. “It’s most certainly Elvish, and an alloy.” He held up the flat piece of metal about the size and general shape of a large butcher’s cutting knife. Its edges were razor sharp and all angles, almost crystalline in their precision. Even in the flat orange light of the inn, the Elvish metal gleamed aggressively, seemingly sucking in the lazy ambient light of the room like a whirlpool and then reflecting the stolen light as its own.
Fovreh let loose a low, long whistle. Grawfn stared. Morrow even looked impressed.
At the mention of the word ‘alloy’ Torrain rolled his eyes dramatically. “I gave you ten minutes, Jarious. This is the thanks I get?”
“Just wait, Torrain, you’ll get something out of this.” Jarious held up his hand to stop Torrain from standing and leaving. Torrain complied in a huff.
Arrious looked over at Torrain, annoyed. Jarious motioned for Arrious, who had been trained by their father at the boot of the family’s anvil for years, to continue. “As I was saying, it’s a combination of iron and a number of other metals and reagents. There’s not a lot of carbon, and that means its strong. At a bare minimum it took a master blacksmith working on conjunction with an alchemist of some skill and a mage to build and temper this alloy.” He looked over to his little brother. “Father couldn’t have made this. Not in a million years. Not with all the help in Junction. Steel is rough stuff to forge in the first place, but the amount of work that went into this metal is just… staggering. This stuff here is stunningly good even by Elvish standards.”
“What’s it worth?” Grawfn piped up.
“Finally, a gentleman besides me with a sense of value, expediency and worth.” Fovreh said, exasperated. He winked at the Dwarf in appreciation.
“A lot.” Arrious considered the question, he obviously had not thought about it before. His eyes slowly rolled upwards as he thought. “To the right buyer? We could all buy little villas on the far side of the Passage and retire fat and stupid.”
Fovreh looked around at the rest of the unit, smiling gratuitously like a child about to get a present.
Arrious cut off Fovreh before he could get too excited, “’The right buyer’ would probably be an Elf. There aren’t many in Junction, or anywhere in the human cities, that have the money or appreciation for what this represents. Maybe in old Kandor, but not now.”
“Of course not,” Fovreh’s hope for an easy, cushy retirement was dashed like a floundering ship against seawall rocks. He stopped smiling.
“And, we are not selling it. I made a promise.” Torrain didn’t explain his abrupt change in attitude about the value of the metal shard any further.
Jarious held up his index finger to make a point. “If you really want for us to retire tomorrow, you could always sell Remembrance.” Jarious knew that Fovreh valued his stolen Elvish longsword like a parent clung to the memory of a lost child. Remembrance was superbly crafted, and the fact that he took it as he escaped was Fovreh’s lasting bit of defiance on his slave-master. Fovreh had to invest a considerable amount of effort to defend the weapon from Elvish Thralls sent to retake it, and eventually, developed and cast the necessary wards to keep his former masters from being able to track the weapon’s location. Jarious recalled a conversation with Fovreh in which the mage had underscored the need to get away from Remembrance should he die and the wards fail – his former masters would return quickly for their lost sword. Like the shard Arrious held before them, Rememberance reflected different colors in different light.
Fovreh smirked at Jarious, knowing that the commander wasn’t serious. “Come and try to acscond with it,” he dared.
Arrious was eager to continue and ignored the intensity in Fovreh’s eyes. “That it’s a broken piece of a larger whole tells me that whatever broke this blade,” Arrious paused, “…and yes, it was a blade… but whatever broke it did so with a lot of purpose. This wasn’t broken by accident.”
“Nice. I want some of that.” Torrain slurred the last word for emphasis.
Jarious took over, “It’s coming your way, Torrain. The shard was given to you. So, you get the lion’s share.”
Arrious held the shard up not far from his face and traced a long outline with his finger on the metal. “I can make this into the better part of a dagger with some work. It would take some time, but it’s doable. There isn’t enough to make a complete dagger out of it, but pretty close. If you want, I can do it.”
“Yes. Yes I want.” Torrain smiled in genuine appreciation.
With Torrain in a good mood, Arrious pressed his advantage, “I’d like your permission to pull some of the metal off to work on a few other projects.” He nodded to Jarious, “I could play with the point and edge of the unit’s Legacy Blade.”
Up until now, Jarious knew everything Arrious was going to say, but the last proposal was new and caught him off guard. His mind raced as the unit looked at him waiting to continue the conversation. “Um, no. Not the Car’had’s Legacy Sword. I want that to stay as it is, as it always has been. It stands for something larger than us and is our link to the original Car’had and its commanders. It marks us as something more than just mercenaries and bandits, and it needs to remain as it was when it was presented to the first Car’had commander took it into battle. The spirits of our forebears would want it that way…” Jarious noted Morrow’s eyeroll and decided to cut the history lesson short.
“Maybe Eartaker instead?” Jarious got up and walked over to the barkeep, dropped a coin on the weathered wood of the bar, and waited for the attendant to fetch his sword from behind a shelf filled with cloudy bottles of unlabeled alcohol. Jarious took Eartaker, still safely sheathed, back to the table.
Standing in front of his chair, he drew the sword from the specially designed scabbard. As the sword emerged from its protective scabbard like a snake slithering from its night-burrow, the blade made a light clanking metal-on-metal sound. Jarious admired the length of the blade for a second while the rest of the group patiently waited. Eartaker was a particularly heavy human-made broadsword with seven metal rings, each of a different metal, clinging to drilled holes on the backside of the blade. The sharp edge of the blade was wicked, with the tip tapering into a hook-like irregularity fifteen centimeters from the end. He put the sword on the table, expertly laying it down with minute adjustments to his wrist so the rings did not hit the blade and remained silent.
“There is room for more rings. You could work up another. It’s light, so it wouldn’t throw off the balance by much but I would appreciate the symbolism of having some eleven metal on Eartaker.” He pointed to a flat space near the center of the blade. The blade’s metal reflected in the room’s light, revealing small veins of color displayed the rare star-metal it was made from and the occasional trough or dent belied the untold number of fights the sword had participated in. Jarious smiled at seeing Eartaker in its fullness. Battered, beaten, reforged, and resilient – Jarious liked to think Eartaker was the embodiment of his warrior spirit.
Arrious considered it for a long few seconds, then looked over to Torrain. Torrain rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Why not?”
Jarious was relieved. His primary sword, ‘Eartaker’ was a ringed-broadsword – a very distinctly human design. It used heavy metal rings built into the non-bladed part of the sword to create extra weight and a number of unique trajectories to the arc due to the shifting of the rings when in motion. Jarious was trained to utilize the rings to keep his opponent’s off guard – and when Eartaker reached flesh, the momentum behind the blade was usually devastating.
“Great,” Arrious responded more to the shard of metal than o his compatriots. “Also, with some of the leftovers I plan to tip a number of our arrows. It won’t take much of the metal, and could add some durability and penetrating power to the heads. You okay with that, Torrain?”
Torrain sighed and rhythmically tapped the side of the table. “You are the only one that uses a bow regularly, Arrious. Don’t pretend that last bit is for the unit.”
“Fair enough, but I will make the arrows available to the unit. I’m the only one that uses a bow regularly, but we all do at times.”
“Fine, Arrious, fine. You are the best shot anyway. Take the arrows. Do whatever you want as long as I get my elf-killer dagger.”
“I can do that.” Arrious paused and took a long, drawn-out, intake of breath. “Of course, to do all of this, I will need a couple of days. The alloy is hard and will take some time to work with. I’ve checked, Cothod has a large order and needs father’s anvil for some time. He is willing to delay the work, but I need to give him an honorarium to make up for the loss. He feels like he owes our family so he will make sure I have the time, but I think it would be appropriate to cover some of his lost costs, don’t you think Jarious?”
Jarious sat in his chair and brought up his hands to message his temples. From the moment Arrious took out the Elven alloy, he was in control of the conversation. Now, Arrious had spent the last few minutes making the case for an argument Jarious didn’t even know he was having. Torrain and Arrious were on board for the delay, and when they agreed on something it was usually tough to persuade the rest of the unit short of a direct order.
Jarious seriously considered issuing an order to take to the road tomorrow as he originally planned, but then he would have to deal with a surly Torrain and a sulking Arrious. With no real timeline or deadline, Jarious didn’t see the value in pushing the unit.
“Okay Arrious, you win. Four days enough?”
“Okay, men, I will give you an extra five days to relax. I’ll open up the common coins to make sure you all have some money to spend. Get this done, Arrious. We leave in five, done or no.” Jarious glared at Arrious.
“And the honorarium for Cothod? I wouldn’t want to do this on anything but the family’s anvil and tools.”
“Yes. Fine. You will have it. Cothod is a good man. He deserves it. You, on the other hand, are a manipulative scoundrel.” Arrious wasn’t paying attention to Jarious and was instead focused on the alloy, scouring the metal and anticipating the work for the next four days.
Arrious realized that Jarious was done chiding him. “Love you, brother.”
“Get out of here.” Jarious motioned to the rest of the wolflings, “The rest of you too. Don’t get too drunk or into too much trouble. We got Thralls to kill and Elvish goods to commandeer.”
Each member of the unit got up and left the room, some going up stairs for privacy, others out into the street in search of something interesting. Only Morrow hung back.
“Where did that shard of Elvish metal come from, Jarious?” Morrow asked in his cavernous voice.
Jarious let out a slow sigh and motioned for Morrow to sit back down. They both promptly retook their seats. “That’s a good question. It’s a source of concern…”