Sword & Sorcery Volume 1 – Chapter 2

Thakeo was standing next to the workbench whereon several complete and incomplete projects was piling up but it was nothing new that Thragoth was working on several projects at once.

Thakeo was currently waiting for Thragoth to return with the item he had ordered which had already taken a bit of time. After all, dwarfs were not known for their sense of order so they tend to just pile up their stuff left and right.

Of cause, Thakeo did not just stand there but did pass the time looking at Thragoth’s new designs. It ranged from simple handle designs for swords and tools and up to grand designs for weird looking contraptions which Thakeo could not make heads or tails off.

There was even an early design for an oversized cannon, a weapon used in some parts of the world but the design was way to complex.

Amongst all the plans and models there was one blueprint, or rather, it was more like a rough sketch with notes left and right, which drew his attention.

Thakeo picked up the paper and took a closer look at it. The design was shaped like a giant balloon, an air balloon to be in fact. Thakeo had seen these at various festivals and fairs because they were quite popular with children who could suddenly see the entire world from the sky, however it was not much more than for party tricks as the cost of the materials needed was expensive to make.

However, Thragoth’s design was different as it did not have the small basket beneath, in fact it looked more like a full scale ship was to be placed there instead.

Thakeo had read about these so called flying ships being researched in the past by several countries but with limited success as they had issues with steering, sails and of cause, the cost itself for operating such a ship and the materials. Given this and their limited maneuverability it was seen a fool’s dream to want one, idiotic to build one and madness to own and use one as it had virtually no ability to be used in combat.

Some rich people did own a private balloon but it was likely just bought to make themselves feel special or use it for social events but in general, research had not been done on this sort of thing in years and certainly not by a dwarf, whose species preferred to stay firmly on the ground.

Thakeo smiled as he put the drawing down and found another one, this time it depictured some weird looking contraception, similar to that of a pistol but seemingly without all the stuff one would normally find at such a weapon.

According to what he could see the barrel was narrower and the design smoother than any other pistol he had seen before but other than that, there were not many details noted down either, however he did see rough markings of dwarven runes on the blueprint. Was Thragoth experimenting with rune script for a powder weapon? And if so, would it even work?

“W-what are you up to this time Thragoth?” Mumbled Thakeo to himself with an awkward smile as this was a rather silly idea. Of cause, he was not in a better position with the special order he had made.

While Thakeo was looking at the papers, two people entered the room, one of whom was Thragoth who was carrying a crate in his hands however the other guest, an elderly looking gnome, was not someone whom Thakeo knew.

“Oh! I see ya found Bessy! Ain’t she beautiful?” Said Thragoth as he walked in, carrying a crate.

“Eh? Bessy?” Asked Thakeo surprised as he looked at the blueprint for the gun. He could not really see the need to name a weapon and certainly not Bessy.

“Aye! That be Bessy alright. Just something I am tinkering with on the side. If ya want I will let ya test out the prototype once it is finished.” Replied Thragoth with smile.

“Huh? S-sure…” Replied Thakeo awkwardly and put the paper back on the table.

“Hmm? You don’t sound impressed? Well, in any case, sorry for the delay lad but I had to pick up this one as well.” Said Thragoth as he put the crate on the floor and gestured towards to the gnome.

“Who are you referring to as ‘this one’?” Asked the gnome with a tired voice as he adjusted the glasses on his nose.

“Enough of that! This fellow here is Kelrick, he is an alakasyst!” Said Thragoth, ignoring the gnome’s complaint.

“It is alchemist.” Said Kelrick.

“Yes, yes whatever. He a potion brewer and has knowledge of everything of that magic sort.” Explained Thragoth.

This time Kelrick did not correct him but merely shook his head. It was no news that Thragoth would fumble up such things when he did not know the person that well.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Kelrick.” Said Thakeo with a polite tone.

“Oh? At least the boy has some sense of manner.” Said Kelrick and nodded.

“Hah! What good are manners? Ya can’t eat em, nor kill em.” Said Thragoth and laughed.
“Yes, but… May I ask why you brought an alchemist?” Asked Thakeo.

“Oh right! Now that is because of the thing you wanted me to make for ya!” Said Thragoth and bowed down and began to dig through the crate.

Before long he pulled out an object covered in dirty cloth, found a stool from the under the workbench and placed the object on top of it and removed the cloth, revealing what was hidden within; a pair of golden colored bracelets, embedded with a single greenish gem.

“You really did it!” Said Thakeo with a big smile as he picked up the bracelets.

“Of cause I did! And this time they should work without issues.” Proclaimed Thragoth with a self-satisfied smile on his face.

“This time? What happened last time?” Asked Kelrick as he adjusted his glasses.

“They kind off… Exploded? Or disintegrated maybe?” Replied Thragoth.

“Oh? So that is why you asked me to help you calibrate the tool? I was wondering why a dwarf wanted to know more about mage script.” Said Kelrick and nodded.

“Mage script? This is not a runic item?” Asked Thakeo confused as he turned the bracelets around in his hands.

“Of cause it is a runic item! That is the core of everything I do!” Replied Thragoth with a grunt.

“To be more precise, these bracelets are closer to a magic construct or a miniature apparatus. The core is based on runic commands that is true, however that alone could not contain the flow of magic power. After all, magic and runes are by nature incompatible.” Said Kelrick.

“So that is where the mage script comes in I guess?” Asked Thakeo next.

“Correct. The runic script still issues the command, however the mage script then activates and ensures a stabile connection using magic power. In essence, the two powers overlap each other without interfering with each other or at least that is the idea.” Replied Kelrick.

“The idea? You have not tested it out?” Asked Thakeo, a bit surprised.

“Well, they were made for you and it is not like there are many people around with your… Condition now is it?” Replied Thragoth and smiled.

“Well… I can’t argue with that… So how do they work?” Said Thakeo.

“Well ya put them on of cause!” Said Thragoth, crossing his arms.

“I believe the young man may be wondering about the details about the bracelets themselves, not how to equip them.” Said Kelrick with a snappy voice, clearly meant as a slight insult.

“Well then go ahead and tell him would ya? Meanwhile I will prepare a few test items.” Said Thragoth and grabbed the crate once more and moved a bit away and began to pull out various items.

“Test items? What is that supposed to mean?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Ah well, due to the incompatible nature of the two magic’s these bracelets has certain restrictions and limitations. It is not a perfect tool but it is certainly… Unique as I have not heard about it before.” Explained Thragoth.

“Unique eh? Ahaha…” Mumbled Thakeo, not really wanting to hear that sort of words as it was clearly demeaning.

“Oh don’t get me wrong. It was certainly interesting working on it. While my primary field is alchemy, we still use a lot of mage scripting during larger productions of potions and the sort to make it easier so the commands should work. The main problem with it was…” Explained Kelrick but then turned his head and looked at Thragoth and sighed.

“Ah… I see… It must have been… a special experience indeed…” Said Thakeo and looked at Thragoth just as he adjusted his workpants with one hand and rubbed his nose with another. Dwarves were not known for their manners after all.

“Anyway, could you explain how the script works?” Asked Thakeo.

“Indeed. Please hand me one of those.” Replied Kelrick.

Thakeo handed one of the braces to Kelrick, who proceeded to quickly take the item apart and placed them on top of the stool.

There were a total of 7 parts per bracelet, 2 thin rings, 1 large ring, 3 bolts and a gem stone. While they did not look like much when they were assembled but in their current state, Thakeo could clearly see the large amount of scripts engraved on the inside of each piece.

“These two outer rings controls the mage script and issue a command to create a small vortex of magic, each spilling in the opposite direction of each, thus creating a stabile void at a set distance, in this case near the tip of your fingers.” Explained Kelrick.

“A vortex? That sounds much like the eye of a hurricane.” Said Thakeo.

“I assume you could simplify it like that but of cause there is more to it than that.” Said Kelrick, seeming slightly annoyed over being interrupted.

“What does the thick ring do?” Asked Thakeo next.

“That on controls the spell you had requested, pocket space was it? No matter. Once the void is created, the third ring activates and the spell is cast, thus activating the spell and works just like regular pocket space.” Replied Kelrick.

“If the central ring can do that, why is there a need for the other two?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“To reduce overall magic consumption and reduce wear and tear. After all there is magic everywhere in the word and they can interfere with the activation, thus the need to create a void without other magic.” Replied Kelrick.

“Oh, I see. Well thought out. Now, how does the runic script work?” Asked Thakeo, having understood the basic of the mage script in the rings.

“Well, according to the original idea, you had tried to use just a runic script before but it was not stabile enough. As to why that dwarf would not tell me reason I do not know. In any case, the 3 bolts each contain separate commands which… Well, they are used to locate the items you want to obtain via pocket space.” Said Kelrick, once more adjust his glasses.

“Wait? You mean I can use it just like normal pocket space?” Asked Thakeo, surprised.

“I did mention that this tool had some limitations did I not? This tool only emulates the pocket space spell but it is not a true spell and can in fact only maintain the spell for 5 seconds. Any more than that and the mage scripts would break, likely result in severe burns.” Replied Kelrick.

Thakeo nodded. It might have been too much to ask for a perfected tool right of the bat. It was not fully what he had hoped fore but it was still well on the road to what he wanted.

“Are there other limitations I need to be aware of?” Asked Thakeo as he looked at the other bracelet he still held in this hand.

“Yes. As mentioned the bolts use runic script which work in conjecture with each other, creating a magnetic field, activated by a verbal command just like runic tools, thus bring the item within range so all you need to do is to grab it and it is ready to be used. The 5 second time should be more than enough to do this.” Said Kelrick.

“Sounds dangerous… But how does the magnetic… Field thingy work?” Asked Thakeo but before Kelrick could respond, Thragoth turned around.

“By using these little one!” Said Thragoth and tossed a small object to Thakeo who nearly tripped as he was unprepared.

“I call them Magnotronicons. Each of these have a number which for now is also the voice command needed. Simply put them inside the item you need and call them forth and they will be at the tips of your fingers!” Explained Thragoth with a smile.

“Ca-Can that be changed?” Asked Thakeo, slightly turning his head, avoiding direct eye contact.

“What? You got something against numbers lad?” Asked Thragoth with a stern voice.

“Eh? N-no not at all… It is just that… Using numbers for the items can make it hard to remember which is which… Ease of use after all…” Replied Thakeo as he scratched his neck.

“I understand completely. I am sure that we can come up with something like that. Maybe a blank where you write a name and use that as the command but for now you will have to use numbers.” Said Kelrick before Thragoth had a chance to respond.

“What do you two have against numbers? Numbers are good! Without them we would not be able to build anything!” Said Thragoth with a suspicious look in his eye.

However, neither Thakeo nor Kelrick could really say what was on their mind and instinctively turned their head. Even without words they understood each other completely on this issue, the issue being that is sounded absolutely idiotic to shout out a random number in front of everyone.

“We-well in any case… I get the basics behind the bracelets but… What is this crystal for?” Asked Thakeo and pointed at the last unexplained item.

“That is simple to explain. It is a crystal which is capable of storing magic power which is needed in order to use these bracelets.” Replied Kelrick.

“What? But I got magic power, I just can’t use it well.” Said Thakeo confused.

“And that is the point. This is a delicate tool and due to that condition of yours you will not be able to use your own magic power but will need to use these crystals instead to serve as fuel, however they have limitations as well. The larger the object you pull out, the more power is consumed and once drained, the crystal will lose its shine and will need to be replaced.” Explained Kelrick.

“So… In short… I will need a constant supply of magic crystals to use these?” Asked Thakeo.

“Indeed. Of Couse I did take that into account and I have a few spare crystals for you as well and it is not like they will drain with just a few uses but you should get a good few dozen uses out of each bracelet.” Replied Kelrick.

“I see… I guess I was asking for too much right of the bat.” Said Thakeo and sighed, depressed about the severe limitations his supposedly new super tool held.

“Still… This type of design… It is reckless yet intriguing and completely unlike anything I have seen before yet… It seems very similar to something which that rogue inventor, Van Maxon would come up with.” Said Kelrick, crossing his arms while nodding.

“V-Van Maxon? Re-really? Well… M-maybe that is where I found the inspiration?” Stuttered Thakeo, looking away.

“Oh? Do you know Van Maxon?” Asked Kelrick, surprised over Thakeo’s reaction.

“Enough of that! I am done already. Put that thing back together so the lad can try them out already! Get over here lad and let me show ya how this part works.” Interrupted Thragoth.

“Oh right, that was the main purpose of today. Just give me a minute.” Said Kelrick and began to assemble the bracelet.

Meanwhile, Thakeo walked over to Thragoth, and placed his hand on the dwarf’s shoulder.
“Thanks.” Whispered Thakeo.

“Don’t mention it lad, we really can’t let that one find out… It would be bad.” Said Thragoth and smiled.

Thakeo, who had always been intrigued by build and the sort also had a deep interest in trying to create new items such as the bracelets he had ordered but still, being compared to Van Maxon or the mentioning of the name caused most would be inventors to shudder, either in fear or in awe.

Van Maxon was more or less the greatest magic tool inventor in the past hundred generations or so it was said and would have been able to get a commission anywhere if it had been for a series of severe character flaws.

Van Maxon had no issues with doing what it took to complete a design and once an idea had come up, nothing would get in the way, be it imperial law, the continental mage council or nature itself, if Van Maxon wanted to do something, it would happen, regardless of the consequences.

There were many rumors that Van Maxon was wanted in several countries for the unethical use and testing of magic devices which, if strong enough, had to be submitted for review before real testing.

In fact, it was said that the submission requirement was added due to Van Maxon, who of cause ignored it. Luckily enough or rather, strangely enough then Thakeo had never heard of anyone actually being killed or hurt during those experiments but the eccentric behavior and no common sense had caused being compared to Van Maxon as being a stigma which could ruin a new inventor’s reputation before it even began.

There were other circumstances involved when it came to Van Maxon but it was not something which Thakeo wanted to think about.

“Okay. Here is the deal. You take this Magnotronicon, number 5 in this case, and place it inside the item you want to be grabbing.” Explained Thragoth as he held up a small piece of greenish melt and placed in inside the hilt of a small dagger.

“Once that is done, you have to place it inside a magic circle. That circle is also powered by a crystal which also drains power when used.” Continued Thragoth as he placed the dagger inside a small magic circle which had been drawn on a piece of paper.

“Oh, that is just like normal pocket space commands.” Said Thakeo and nodded like he understood the concept.

“Of cause it is! The bracelet does all the work but do be careful when you use them as the magic circle can burn if ya use paper like I have.”

“Well, normally such a circle is cut in stone but I doubt I could carry that many rocks around all the time.” Mumbled Thakeo and nodded.

“Well, ya ain’t no dwarf so it might be too heavy for ya with them skinny arms!” Said Thragoth and laughed out as he slapped Thakeo on the back, nearly knocking him over due to his superior strength.

“So, add that thingy to the item I want to summon, place it inside the magic circle and then simply activate and use it? Seems easy enough.” Said Thakeo to confirm the information was correct.

“Indeed. Now, let us test them out if ya are ready Kelrick?” Asked Thragoth and looked at Kelrick who held up the bracelet.

“Indeed but let us start with a simple test for starters.” Said Kelrick.

Thakeo equipped both of the bracelets, one on each wrist and walked into the open space inside the workshop and looked around to ensure the area was clear.

“Okay, how do I activate them?” Asked Thakeo when he was ready.

“Simply hold out your hand and shout the command; Appear! Nr. 1!” Replied Thragoth, shouting out the last bit.

“Geh? Th-that’s… Fine…” Started Thakeo who could not keep up with Thragoth’s enthusiasm.

Taking a deep while slowly raising his right hand, supporting in with the left, Thakeo finally opened his eyes.

“Appear! Nr. 5!” Shouted Thakeo and instantly, a tingling sensation in his fingers turned into a bright circle of light appeared in front of his hand, opening a hole in time and space.

Less than a second later, the dagger from before appeared from within the hole and landed firmly in the palm of his hand. At the same time the light vanished into nothing, having stopped the spell.

“It worked? It worked!” Yelled Thakeo out loud, causing some of the other dwarf workers raise their heads in surprise, watching Thakeo as he waved the dagger around in the air.

“Bwahahaha! Success at last! I told you Kelrick! You owe me a bottle of ale!” Said Thragoth, clearly satisfied with the result.

“Unfortunately, I do.” Replied Kelrick and sighed.

“What is that supposed to mean? Did you ever doubt it would work?” Asked Thakeo surprised.

“Well of cause! This is the first time we have fixed mage and runic script after all. There was a chance you might get sucked into the void and disappear forever.” Said Thragoth with a smile as he shrugged.

“TELL ME THAT BEFOREHAND!” Yelled Thakeo, annoyed by the utter lack of concern for his safety these two had just shown him.

“It would hardly be as bad as that.” Said Kelrick, adjusting his glasses.

“Tsk! And I thought we were friends.” Mumbled Thakeo, crossing his arms in dissatisfaction.

“Stop whining like one of them girly aristocrat and see if ya can send the item back.” Said Thragoth next.
“Erm… What is the command for that?” Asked Thakeo.

“Simply shout; return! And the item will return to its original place.” Replied Thragoth as he held his arm in the air like a third rate protagonist from a hero’s novel.

Thakeo nodded and raised his hand and the dagger once more.

“Return!” Commanded Thakeo and just like before, a bright light appear and the dagger vanished into the void and returned to its previous location on the table.

“Excellent! Bwahaha!” Said Thragoth and laughed out loud once more.

“Well it not really what I had imagined but these are excellent. Well worth the price.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Glad to be of service but now try with your left hand.” Said Thragoth.

“Oh, that reminds me, why did you make two bracelets?” Asked Thakeo as he looked at the bracelet on his left hand.

“It doubles the number of items you can use and also works as a backup in case one breaks so you can continue fighting should the need arise.” Said Kelrick.

“Oh? There are limitations to the number of items as well?” Asked Thakeo.

“Indeed. For now, you can only use 3 items per hand or one per bolt equipped. We may be able to address that number in the future but for now that is what we could do.” Replied Kelrick.

“Okay, I got it.” Said Thakeo as he raised his left hand and repeated the process.

This went on for a good while and by the end, Thakeo had become quite confident he could make this work.
“Okay, let us try this! Appear! Number 1! Number 2!” Said Thakeo with a smile as he raised both his arms.
“Eh? No wait don’t summon at the same time or…” Shouted Kelrick.

“Or what? Asked Thakeo confused however he soon got a personal understanding for what Kelrick was trying to say.

As he activated both of the bracelets at the same time, a bright flash and sparks appeared in the space between the two bracelets and Thakeo started shaking as if he had been struck by lightning. It only last for a few seconds, but after it was over, Thakeo collapsed on the ground.

“Or that will happen… If you try to issue two commands at the same time the bracelets cannot understand the command and the power fields will interact with each other causing a powerful current to go through the thunder stones powering those bracelets, thereby unleashing all the magic energy at the same time, leading to you being electrocuted.” Explained Kelrick and sighed.

“Th-thank you for the warning…” Stuttered Thakeo as he still lay on the ground, unable to move due to the shock to his body.

“So, are ya medium or well done lad?” Asked Thragoth and burst out in laughter.

“Oh shut up.” Growled Thakeo and sighed.

“Never, ever, cross the beams!” Said Kelrick with his usual cold tone of voice, lecturing Thakeo and clearly ignoring the fact that no one had told him about this addition side effect.

A while later, Thakeo had regained the mobility in his limbs but his fingers still felt a bit numb. At this time he was looking at a series of items on a table in front of him.

Besides the two bracelets, he had also ordered a series of other items including bottles with sleeping gas, flash powder and other items like that.

As Thakeo was arranging the various items he had received from Thragoth, he remembered the weird necklace he had received from his father via Hasti. Searching through his pockets he pulled it out and look at it for a brief moment.

“Hey, do either of you know what this is?” Asked Thakeo as he held the necklace in the air.

“What ya find lad?” Asked Thragoth in return as he turned around and walked over to Thakeo with Kelrick following thereafter.

“This was something my father sent me, supposedly it should help me with my little quest but I got no idea what it is.” Replied Thakeo and handed the necklace to Thragoth.

“Good question… I cannot be sure but it looks ancient that is for sure.” Said Thragoth as he turned the trinket in his hands.

“It is magic, that I know but there are no markings or script which would explain what is it.” Said Thakeo.

“Hmm? Interesting, may I see that?” Asked Kelrick. Thragoth did not reply but merely handed the necklace to Kelrick.

“It is indeed old, very old but it does not look familiar to anything I have seen before.” Said Kelrick.
“I see… Is there anything you can tell me about it?” Asked Thakeo.

“Well, it is indeed imbued with some sort of magic but I cannot feel anything more than that. But… Your father sent it for you specifically?” Replied Kelrick with a thoughtful look on his face.

“That was what Hasti said when he gave it to me.” Said Thakeo and shrugged.

“Well, it could be that it is dormant and needs to be activated to work.” Said Kelrick.

“Oh? Impressive of them gnomes, smart little buggers ain’t they?” Said Thragoth and laughed.

“Thank you for your vote of confidence.” Said Kelrick and rolled his eyes.

“You said it might be dormant… Can we… Wake it up?” Asked Thakeo.

“I do not have the proper tools here but I can run a few tests. If it is elemental we should see some sort of reaction. Thragoth, do you have open flame? A bellow and some water as well.” Replied Kelrick, looking at the laughing dwarf.

Thakeo knew what the gnome was talking about. Most objects with magical properties would react to being exposed to the same element in its pure form. As such, a crystal with water properties would react with water or a fire crystal with an open flame but such testing was normally done in a controlled environment which this workshop could hardly be called but it was better than nothing.

“Just one moment!” Said Thragoth and ran off but returned quickly with a candle and a cup of water.
“This may take a bit of time so please give me space.” Said Kelrick.

“Demanding ain’t he?” Said Thragoth as he and Thakeo walked away, leaving the gnome to run his tests.

– ₪ –

“Well, what is ya quest anyway? I mean, with the stuff I got for you, it seems like you are going hunting for something.” Asked Thragoth suddenly as the two of them was watching Kelrick work from afar.

“That… It is a school assignment… Each student was told to draw lots in order to get a random assignment while we were away so it is hardly something one would call a quest.” Said Thakeo and sighed.

“Well… It don’t sound so bad.” Said Thragoth next.

“Well… The lot I drew told me to obtain a magic beast. Of cause it is impossible for me to do due to my… condition but I was told to do it or I would face detention for an entire year.” Replied Thakeo with a sigh.

“Oh? That is pretty rough. Are all mage schools like that?” Asked Thragoth, raising his eyebrow in surprise.

“No… Just me… You know my issues with magic that on its own is bad enough but when you add in all the wands and staffs I broke the last year it adds up. I guess you could call it a punishment for failing all the time so some of the teachers have it out for me.” Explained Thakeo.

“Oh? So it is down to money? Typical aristocratic values.” Said Thragoth with a slight smile.

“Well there is certainly a cost involved but it is likely more due to I accidently blew up a class room just prior to the summer break, running everyone’s work during an alchemy class.” Said Thakeo and sighed once more.

“Bwahahaha! Ya blew up the school? Bloody brilliant lad! I wish I could have seen that.” Said Thragoth and laughed harder than ever before.

“It is a serious matter! I can’t afford to be stuck in a class room for a whole year!” Cried Thakeo.

“Well, it certainly would affect our little plan.” Said Thragoth and scratched his beard.

“Indeed and I don’t want that but as I can’t use sealing spells I have to do it the other old fashioned way.” Said Thakeo.

“So, ya plan to capture one alive with ya bare hands or will ya use the stuff ig ot you?” Asked Thragoth with a smile.

“My bare hands? That would be stupid and dangerous so of cause I will have to use your gear.” Replied Thakeo with a weird look on his face as the question did not make much sense, after all he had already paid for the gear.

“True that but it will require a lot of work and a good amount of luck.” Said Thragoth.

“I know. Why do you think I wanted to meet you so soon? I got 7 days left before school starts again and it takes at least 2 days to get there.” Explained Thakeo.

“Hmm… 5 days for hunting? Not much time. You don’t plan to just buy one?” Said Thragoth with a slightly harsh voice.

“That would be wrong. You can’t treat magic beasts like that and it is considered cheating. Even if I were to buy one I can’t use magic I can’t test and see if it is really a magic beast. They could simply cast and Illusion spell and turn a chicken into a phoenix and I would not be able to tell the difference.” Said Thakeo.

“Hmm… Well… I ain’t much for that sort of thing either. Seems unfair to trade them beasts like that so I get where ya come from.” Said Thragoth with a thoughtful look on his face.

“Speaking of trade… I heard that the dwarfs bought an entire mountain nearby?” Asked Thakeo as he rubbed his pinky, trying to get the sense of feeling back in it.

“Indeed they did. My cousin works there in the mines. He is the foreman and also the one who got me them thunder stones for ya bracelets.” Replied Thragoth with a smile.

“What? You found a mine full of thunderstones?” Asked Thakeo surprised.

“Amongst other things but it is mainly metals they are digging for, but between the two of us, my cousin gave me a few of them thunderstones and that is what powers ya bracelets.” Explained Thragoth.

“Oh? Thunderstone? There should be a lot of money in that.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“That might be true normally, but…” Replied Thragoth but suddenly stopped talking while showing a concerned expression.

“What’s wrong?” Asked Thakeo confused, as he could not see any issues with it.

There were many types of magic stones were known in the world such as firestones, flow stone, lava stones and so on, each with their own special characteristics.

However Thunderstones had a unique ability to store magic power for later use. In addition to that they could easily be grounded into dust or even melted to help in the creation of various magic tools and constructs. The downside was that one used, they could not be recharged but they were still sought after by many people.

“There is enough metal and gems in that mountain but the problem is transporting them that is a problem. Ya see, those fancy-pants alliance people who flutter around like they own the place. They have somehow managed to convince the local that they should run the entire transport in the region, thus ensuring their own monopoly.” Replied Thragoth.

“Is that a problem? Can’t the dwarves not just make their own carts?” Asked Thakeo.

“If it was that simple it would not be a problem. No, those rascals actually bought the trade routes and thus, can decide the cost and rules for transporting goods in the entire region and they sadly ain’t to fond of dwarves so we don’t even get a fraction of the carts we need to transport the goods made there.” Explained Thragoth.

“Can they do that?” Asked Thakeo surprised.

“Hell if I know but my cousin says that they only get excuses and no results. It is like they intentionally don’t what my kin to trade in this region but I will tell ya lad, such behavior will not be tolerated for much longer as their patience is wearing thin, if ya get what I mean.” Replied Thragoth next.

It was true what Thragoth had said. The dwarves whom normally lived underground or in their mountain forts were also quite aggressive and did not take kindly to being put in a box like that. If the alliance was really trying to monopolize the trade in the region, the dwarves might just take action to remove the issue at the source, in this case, chase out the alliance people in town.

“Excuse me but I have finished my tests.” Said Kelrick all of a sudden and waved his hand as Thakeo was pondering this.

“Oh? That was fast.” Said Thragoth and without further delay, both of them returned to Kelrick’s side.

“So, what did ya find out?” Asked Thragoth as the three of them was gathered once more.

“Well the necklace did awaken from its dormant state using any of the elements I have here yet I did find something interesting, please observe.” Replied Kelrick and picked up the necklace and moved it into the open flame.

“What is that?” Asked Thakeo surprised as he saw a weak orange-reddish glow emanating from the small crystal which was at the center of the necklace.

“It is not only that. Observe once more.” Said Kelrick as he moved the necklace from the flame and put it into a small pile of dirt. Instantly a greenish glow appeared, slightly stronger than before.

“This neck, while not awakening, does react to every element like that and it seems that the stronger the element, the stronger the glow. Now I just sued basic magic supplies to light the flame but mixed in more in the direct solution. The result was that the flame was weaker and resulted in a weak glow whereas the dirt had more power but the light was much stronger.” Explained Kelrick as he fished the necklace up from the dirt pile.

“So ya father sent ya a fancy glowing necklace? Ya gonna get a dress and start dancing next?” Asked Thragoth, clearly not impressed but it was natural for dwarves who could as a race not use magic.

“It is more than that. I believe that this necklace is some sort of elemental detector, allowing you to identify the properties of tools, items and what not or…” Replied Kelrick but was interrupted.

“..Or allow me to track down magic beasts, simply by tracking their element, is that what you are saying?” Asked Thakeo.

“In essence, yes, however as long as it is dormant you will have to be rather close to do this. I also believe that the stronger the source of the element, the father the range and more powerful the glow.” Replied Kelrick.

“So, for once my father sent me something worthwhile yet still useless as it’s dormant.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Worthwhile? My boy, it is my belief that this necklace may be of Altearian origin so to simply call it worthwhile would be an understatement.” Said Kelrick.

“Altearian? Ya mean it was made by one of them ancient mages?” Asked Thragoth who suddenly became giddy like a child.

“It is a high possibility that is indeed the case. I do not see any of the defects that a knock off might normally display such as inferior magi script but this script is perfect from what I can see. Thus, even in its present state, be worth a small fortune, even more so if you can figure out how to activate it, that is if it was complete.” Explained Kelrick.

“Complete? What do you mean?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“When I tested it out I got it to glow with fire, earth and wind but I did not get any reaction to water. As you can see here at the top where the chain is, a part seems to be missing, likely broken of long ago.” Replied Kelrick and pointed at where the necklace was tied to a chain.

Thakeo took the necklace and looked at it and it did seem that Kelrick was right and one of the rings were missing.

“But… How can you be sure? I thought you were just an alchemist.” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Indeed, I am a 9th rank alchemist but in my spare time I am a scholar of sorts into the ancient mysteries of our world but sadly, my skills are not that advanced so I cannot interpret the inscription fully.” Replied Kelrick, displaying a little smile of pride.

“Inscription? What inscription?” Asked Thakeo confused as he looked at the necklace.

“Those markings, right…. There.” Replied Kelrick and pointed out a series of dots and markings Thakeo had not noticed before.

“I-is that a language? Looks more like scratches to me.” Mumbled Thakeo and scratched his neck.

“Scratches or not… It is still worth a lot right?” Asked Thragoth, his eyes glowing, likely due to the amount of gold he was imagining it would sell for. Dwarves were known to covert gold but the look on Thragoth’s face would put them all to shame.

“Yes but it belongs to the boy and from what I heard he needs it to get a magic beast so don’t get any ideas, dwarf!” Replied Kelrick with a stern look.

“True, I could use that and if not… We can always sell it later. That was also Hasti’s suggestion.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Tsk! Cheapskates!” Growled Thragoth as he looked away in disappointment.

“So, any ideas on how to activate it?” Asked Thakeo.

“Sadly no. It could be that the missing piece has broken it or there are certain requirements which needs to be met for it to work. If you gave me a few weeks to study it, I am sure I could figure it out.” Replied Kelrick, shaking his head.

“That’s too long a time… Guess I’ll take it with me and test it out in the field. If it works, fine, if not… Oh well.” Mumbled Thakeo with a carefree attitude.

“Well, that is one way of doing it. In any case, can you give me those bracelets? I want to run a few final tests before we hand them over to you.” Said Kelrick next.

“Oh, right.” Replied Thakeo and returned the bracelets to Kelrick.

“Thank you. These will be done shortly, just give me a little time.” Said Kelrick as he received the bracelets.

“It’s fine. Say, Thragoth, you guys got a place where I can wash up?” Asked Thakeo.

“Oh, right. It’s already been a long day for ya? Gotta get that dust off eh? Well, we got a place just outside the back, I will take you there.” Replied Thragoth.

– ₪ –

Thakeo was standing outside in the small backyard of the workshop, having finally recovered the feeling in all of his limbs. It was a small enclosed area with grass and a single tree. Seemingly the dwarves used this area when they needed a quick wash after work or when it was hot. This was also indicated by the many buckets they had left behind.

Thakeo had already pumped some water from the well and was currently taking of his coat. He was sore, not only from the accident nor the journey itself but more so from the kick he had received earlier.

It had been a good kick, short and precise and the way the jumper had moved in midair clearly showed that they were very skilled at such maneuvers, either that or Thakeo was just really slow but even if he was not a top athlete the kick had been spot on, hitting directly at the critical point of the abdominal region, the solar plexus.

“Guh! I hope it don’t leave a mark.” Mumbled Thakeo as he rubbed the area where he had been hit.
Next, he turned his attention towards the bucket with water and first washed his hands and his face. It might seem silly to do so while still wearing clothing but Thakeo did not intend to take a bath here, he just wanted a quick wash to get rid of the dirt from the day.

As Thakeo leaned forward and lowered his head while washing his face, the necklace he had received from his farther slipped of his neck and fell into the bucket of water with a hallow splash.

Thakeo sighed and fished up the necklace from the bucket once more, starring at it. It was hard to believe that this silly necklace could possibly be of Altearian origin. He did not know much about these ancient mages of the past but he did know that what they left behind was sought after by many collectors and mages so maybe once he had tested it out in the field, he could sell it, if he figured out how it worked.

Sadly, the Altearian Mages did not leave behind instruction manuals to most of the relics which had been recovered. Thus, while many relics still existed, very few had been identified and used and some had even been intentionally destroyed by their users due to side effects or them being deemed too dangerous.

Most magic tools, regardless of their origin could be a weapon but it depended on the user itself and their actions. But, when it came to Altearian relics there had been cases where these relics had either been cursed or booby-trapped in some manner, meaning only the creator could use it. That was why they was considered risqué to use.

Thakeo could not remember much else from history class as he usually was asleep by then due to it being magic etiquette class so it was not high on his priorities but maybe now he should at least read a bit more about them, once he got the chance.

Thakeo hid the necklace under his shirt once more and began to dry his wet hair and hands. It had been a long day and a lot had happened but hopefully now things should quiet down a bit.

However, barely had he thought this before the nearby wooden fence, meant to keep outsiders away began to shake for a bit when suddenly someone jumped over it and landed on the ground.

In an instant, Thakeo recognized the person, it was the same wall jumper whom he had run into, or rather, been kicked down by, earlier that day, and also the one who had stolen his map, however this time it did not seem that the person had seen him.

Judging by the way the wall jumper was moving around and looking left and right, just not in Thakeo’s direction indicated that the jumper was looking for another location to climb the wall but for whatever reason, Thakeo could not even start to guess and it only became weirder as the jump began to mumble something about a shipment but given the distance Thakeo could not hear clearly.

As such, with little choice, a desire for an explanation for the earlier kick and unconsciously grabbing an empty bucket for self-defense, Thakeo slowly walked closer to the new arrival.

“Erm… I would like my map back so…” Began Thakeo but was interrupted by the wall jumper’s surprise scream.

“KYAAAH!” Scream the wall jumper in surprise and spun around on the spot.

“WAAAH!” Cried Thakeo back as he was not expecting a scream in return for his greeting.

Next, the wall jumper stood in a defensive stance while Thakeo looked more like the late night milkman with the bucket he was holding.

“So… Erm… as I was saying, would you mind returning the map you stole from me?” Asked Thakeo, scratching his neck as he was unsure what to ask yet his word came out more like 2nd rate pickup line, which didn’t for him either.

However, the wall jumper did not reply, but suddenly rushed at Thakeo instead and nearly managed to catch Thakeo off guard by sending a closed fist towards his face but he manage to dodge the attack.

“Woa! Stop! Halt! Wait!” Cried Thakeo surprised but the jumper did not relent and sent another jab in his direction, which Thakeo parried with the bucket.

“Stop that! I don’t want to fight y… Guh!” Began Thakeo as he shield himself with the bucket however the jumper changed tactics and hit the bucket head on, causing it to Thakeo by the law of motion.

It was not much damage it did so it seemed that the jumper were more proficient at fighting with legs than fists, however, Thakeo would not get the chance to confirm if that was the case.

“Ya still in there? Hope ya are dressed cause I am coming in or out or whatever bloody hell it is.” Shouted Thragoth all of a sudden from inside the workshop.

“Hm?” Uttered Thakeo surprised as he turned his head, however the wall jumper noticed his lack of focus and punched the bucket once, causing Thakeo to lose his balance.

This was quickly followed up a low sweeping kick which sent Thakeo falling backwards to the ground with a thump. The final nail to his coffin came when he tried to sit up but the jumper grabbed the bucket and crammed it over his head with such a force that he was sent to the ground once more.

Thakeo did not react but was utterly surprised and just lied there with a bucket on his head as he heard the wall jumper run away again at the same time as the creaking wooden door was opened.

“Oy Laddi! I thought about something for that necklace…” Said Thragoth as he opened the door to the storage yard but stopped as he saw the awkward position Thakeo was currently in.

“…Bloody hell what are ya doing down there boy?” Asked Thragoth surprised.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Replied Thakeo and sighed as he sat up and removed the bucket from his head.

“Well… Suit ya self. In any case, about that necklace of, I thought of something.” Said Thragoth.

“Oh? Well, spill it already!” growled Thakeo, slightly annoyed over being defeated once more.

“Well, in any case about that necklace. Did ya consider using blood to open or awaken or whatever it does?” Asked Thragoth next.

“Blood? Well, Kelrick did not test for that. I do know that blood can be used for some seals so we can try it out.” Replied Thakeo as he brushed the dust of his clothes.

“Good! Now stand still lad, this won’t hurt a bit!” Said Thragoth as he grabbed the handle of the dwarven dagger he carried from his belt.

“Woah! Stop right there!” Said Thakeo as he jumped backwards, holding his hands in front of you.

“What wrong’s lad? Ya ain’t scared of a little old dagger are ya?” Asked Thragoth.

“That is no dagger but a sword!” Cried Thakeo as Thragoth swung the dagger around which was in fact the size of a standard sword. It was said that Dwarf’s had no sense of size when it came to weapons as they thought the bigger the better but they also had the strength to use it, which was weird when everyone know they were very sensitive about their height.

The debate as to whatever or not to use blood stopped with sound of shouting and items being smashed could be heard from the other side of the wall.

“By the gods! What was that?” Asked Thragoth surprised, still holding the sword in his hand and began running towards the nearby leading out of the workshop, with Thakeo following suit and Kelrick, also having noticed the noise quickly came running as well.

As the three of them reached the door and walked outside they saw a man, overly dressed in fancy clothing, holding onto a little beast girl, the same girl whom Thakeo had given his spare bread to earlier.

“Where is it you little thief?” Yelled the guard at the girl.

“I-I have done… Nothing… It was…” Said the girl with a shocked look in her eyes.

“You lie! I know you stole it! Talk! Yelled the man again.

“I-i told you…” Began the girl, but the guard quickly grabbed her ny her neck.

“Enough you filthy slave! I know just what to do with you!” Yelled the man and grabbed the 9-tailed whip he carried around his waist and raised his arm, clearly intending to hit the girl with full force.

“N-no… St-stop…” Cried the girl just as the man was about to strike.

“BY THE GREAT FIRE! WHAT ARE YA BASTARDS DOING?” Yelled Thragoth out loud.

The sudden shouting caused the man to stop his attack and looked at Thragoth instead.

“Haaah? This is none of your business… Augh!” Said the man but stopped as the beast girl suddenly bit his hand, causing him to loosen his grip thus allowing the girl to get lose who then immediately ran over towards Thakeo and Thragoth.

“You little brat!” Growled the man and reach out for the girl, however Thakeo got between the two of them, grabbed the whip and pulled it away from the man before tossing it as far away as he could.

“What gives you the right to use a whip against this child?” Asked Thakeo with a stern voice as he glared the man in front of him with utter contempt for such a person.

“Who the hell are you?” Asked the man as he looked at Thakeo with his hand at the hilt of his sword, however before Thakeo could respond, Thragoth stepped forward and pointed his own dagger towards the guard.

“I am the one who should be asking ya that ya dog-faced shoe-chewer!” Growled Thragoth as he got in front of the others. Thajkeo noticed that Thragoth still had his weird habit of combining weird words into equally weird insults but now was not the time to point that out.

“Wh-what did you just call me?” Asked the man surprised as he had clearly not expected to be insulted like that.

“What? Ya deaf ye rusty slag-pile?” Replied Thragoth, insulting the guard again.

“What? Slag pile?” Mumbled the man, confused as to what was going on.

“Aye! I call ya a Slag-Pile, ya whiny harpy-barf! Tell me ya name ya fancy dressed pigeon poker!” Continued Thragoth, utterly overwhelming the guard with one insult after another.

“I… I am… My name is Javaziree Hou´Voink! A noble from the Aukhewaeseon Alliance and I demand you show me the respect I deserve!” Proclaimed the man, who had seemingly regained his composure as he now had a chance to introduce himself.

Thakeo took a closer look at the man named Hou´Voink. His style of dressing and overall posture did show that he had not really done an honest day’s work his entire life.

In addition to that, Hou´Voink was very tall and had clammy skin, making him sweat easily in the heat which he did not seem accustomed to. Like he had arrived recently and had to yet gotten sued to the weather here but his attitude clearly showed that this was the way he was used to act overly abusing and arrogant.

Unfortunately for Hou´Voink, neither name nor title had no effect on Thragoth who, even for a dwarf, was excessively rude to people who acted like the world revolved around.

“What? House of Oink?” Asked Thragoth, clearly intending to infuriate Hou´Voink further.

“Hou´Voink! NOT OINK!” Whined Hou´Voink as the sweat ran down his face.

“Oh my mistake! Beg me my pardons almighty Lord Pork! Oh I bow before thee, King of Pigs!” Replied Thragoth, bowing in a manner which could only be seen as a direct insult.

“Eh…” Was all which Hou´Voink could say. He had likely never encountered someone like Thragoth before, thereby being rendered more or less speechless.

“What? Ya can’t talk big now? Oh, I see! Ya can’t talk back unless the other one is smaller than ye self? Guess ya poor mother must be so proud of how she mighty son be running about beating little children instead. Ya should be ashamed of ya actions don’t ya think so ya sorry excuse for a kobold-lover dung herder?” Said Thragoth next, now both insulting and berating Hou´Voink at the same time.

“A-a-at least I know… Wh-who my mother is!” Stuttered Hou´Voink, finally able to get an insult back at Thragoth, however the dwarf was already way ahead.

“Oh how strange, I know ya mother too! Ain’t she that third sow on the right of the stables? Oink! Oink!” Retaliated Thragoth making pig sounds while jumping slightly.

“D-di-DID YOU JUST CALL MY MOTHER A SOW?” Yelled Hou´Voink with a loud whiny voice, having finally snapped.

“No! I said she was the Grand Ballerina at the Imperial Theater! Of cause I insulted ya mother ya nitwit!” Said Thragoth.

“Wh-why?” Stuttered Hou´Voink in utter surprise. He was likely sued to slight insults hidden away in a wall of fancy words. Thus, meeting a dwarf whose best ability was to let his mouth run whenever he had the chance was a bad match for this insult content of theirs.

“What? Ya can’t talk again? Come on Lord Pork Chops. This is a two man thing, I cannot do this if ya don’t help me.” Said Thragoth next, clearly wanting to bait Hou´Voink even further.

“S-say bacon one more time and…” Started Hou´Voink but Thragoth interrupted him right away.

“Oh I didn’t call ya bacon! I wonder that something might be seriously wrong with ya ears, but then again, pigs do seem like cows. Big, fat and with udder which drag along the ground, just like ya mother!” Said Thragoth.

“MY MOTHER IS NEITHER A COW NOR A SOW!” Cried the guard as he retaliated to the wrong thing.

“So is she a sheep then?” Asked Thragoth next in what was likely the lamest insult ever but it had the desired effect as Hou´Voink seemed to finally lose it.

“NOT… SHEEP! HATE…. THEM!” Growled Hou´Voink as his ability to speak de-evolved at least a few millennia backwards as he shook in anger, sweat running down his face.

“Oh! Sorry bout but I thought ya noble fancy pants liked them sheep’s. Don’t ya sort plow ya ‘mighty sword’ into said sheep at a regular basis? Bah! Bah!” Said Thragoth and having finally crossed a line between what was appropriate for children to hear.

“My-my…” Stuttered Hou’Voink but was unable to get the words across due to his anger.

“My-my, What? Ya sound like a nun who accidently ran into a brothel!” Said Thragoth next.

During this idiotic exchange of insults, Thakeo could only watch as the crowd grew due to the ongoing exchange. Meanwhile the girl gently tugged Thakeo’s sleeve.

“What is… A brothel?” Asked the girl with a meak voice and looked up at Thakeo.

“Erm… In this context… Nothing you need to know about for the next few years, okay?” Replied Thakeo with an awkward tone of voice to which the girl merely tilted her head in confusion. It was clear that letting this stupidity continue had to be stopped or this poor girl might be damaged for life.

“WHAT… SAY…” Stuttered the Hou’Voink as Thakeo turned his attention back to the verbal attack.

“I said, ya mother be so fat then when she pass on, the gods bless her soul, she won’t be needing a coffin but a castle to be buried in!” Said Thragoth, delivering the final blow to the guard who finally lost all control and drew his sword.

However, before he could clear it from the holster, someone stepped in front of him with his arms raised.

“Enough with this!” Yelled the new arrival, whose mere presence turned the guard right back from the path of madness.

“Who the blazes are you?” Asked Thragoth looking at the new arrival, clearly annoyed as he had nearly won the war of insults.

Thakeo was wondering the same however he had already recognized the voice and sure enough, as soon as he saw him, he instantly recognized the aristocrat whom had insulted him earlier that day at Hasti’s office.

“Who commands this…? Dwarf?” Asked the noble with a clearly superior attitude as he looked around.
“Who be asking?” Replied Thragoth.

“I am Earl de Vastoria de la Kaincoy. I have many other names but their beauty would be beyond the comprehension of simply folk such as yourselves.” Said Kaincoy, as he gently stroked he long blond hair afterwards, while sending a distasteful look towards the three of them.

“What? That sound more like the name of a price winning goat to me!” Growled Thragoth, already resuming his attack of insults on the new arrival, however, his facial expression suddenly changed from being aggressive to a more surprised look, something which Thakeo noticed.

“Well, you would know as you look like one.” Said Kaincoy back.

“Wh-what? Better watch it dandy legs or I’ll be pummeling ya arse from here and into the afterlife!” Growled Thragoth.

“Hard words coming from man of such… Low stature.” Retaliated Kaincoy with a keen smile with Hou´Voink fuming in the background.

“WHAT? Ya calling me short? I ain’t short! I’m just vertically challenged!” Yelled Thragoth, who might have charged at Kaincoy yet for some reason, the dwarven warrior remained on the defensive.

Somehow, it seemed that Thragoth was being pushed back verbally but it was strange as he had been doing well against the guard. As such, Thakeo leaned towards Thragoth.

“Are you okay? You seem… Concerned.” Asked Thakeo with a low voice.

“Remember that merchant who controls all the trade in town? That be him, that fellow Kaincoy. I can deal with the other tool as he is a nobody, but this one… It annoys me but what I do here may affect me kin in the mountains and they are already in trouble as it is.” Replied Thragoth, also with a low voice.

Thakeo instantly realized that this was a very dangerous man to upset. If it was as bad as Thragoth had said, Kaincoy likely had a lot of resources at his disposal and seemed the sort to retaliate against those who opposed him, something the dwarves had done for a while. Thus, making an enemy out of him without a plan would be very dangerous.

“Let me deal with this.” Said Thakeo and gently put his hand on Thragoth’s shoulder.

“I’ll let ya have him then. Ya be used to them snakes anyway.” Said Thragoth and backed off for a bit.

“Oh? And whom might you be? Their master?” Asked Kaincoy, already measuring up Thakeo like a predator sizing up its prey.

“My name is not important nor am I their master but I am their friend.” Said Thakeo as he showed a gently, yet respectful bow.

“What the bloody hell are ya doing with them girly moves?” Mumbled Thragoth but Thakeo ignored him.

“Oh? At least one of you can be… civilized but that matters now. I desire to know why this… dwarf dare issue such insults against a man in my employee.” Asked Kaincoy with a sly voice. Thragoth was about to say something but Thakeo raised his hand to stop him.

“It appears that there has been some sort is misunderstanding in this case. You employee was verbally attacking this girl behind me and my friend here stepped in as your man was about to start a physical assault on the girl without a valid reason.” Explained Thakeo.

“Please do explain.” Said Kaincoy with a gently voice, directed at the man from before.

“I was watching the shipment as instructed when I heard a loud noise of glass being shattered. I rushed to the scene and saw this brat here standing over the remains of several broken bottles. She tried to steal them and when I yelled out to her she ran away like a rat!” Explained Hou´Voink.

“See! My man was in his full right to instigate a civilian arrest against this… Beast.” Said Kaincoy with a smile which sent shivers down Thakeo’s back.

This also seemed to affect the girl as she grabbed Thakeo tighter, clearly afraid of the nobles, however, Thakeo gently placed his hand on the girl’s head and rubbed it gently, as a means to assure her that it was fine.

“So, you said that you saw her stand over some broken bottles. Did you actually see her break them?” Asked Thakeo.

“I heard someone smashing bottles and saw her right next to them!” Said Hou´Voink and pointed at the girl.
“That was not my question… Did you see her break the bottles?” Asked Thakeo again.

“Eh? Well no… But clearly she must have tried to steal them. Bottles do not break themselves!” Said Hou´Voink.

“I did not steal… anything. You deal… in poison!” Said the girl and gave a stern look at the aristocrat and the guard.

“Poison? Hah! I do not expect a lowly creature to understand the true wonders of the Kaincoy brand of Ghartidol Classique Wine.” Said Kaincoy with a smile.

“So, you only heard bottles being smashed but you did not actually see her do it?” Asked Thakeo, ignoring Kaincoy and looked directly at the guard instead.

“Eh? Well… Sure, I did not see her do it directly but there was no one else around, so it must have been her!” Replied the guard.

“So, it is your word against hers, no other witnesses or people will can verify your claim?” Asked Thakeo and look at the small crowd which had gathered around them since Thragoth’s display of his vast knowledge of curses and insults, however no one stepped forward.

“I know what I saw, my lord! This girl was trying to open one of the jars. That is the same as stealing!” Said Hou´Voink as he looked at Kaincoy, who was likely his master.

“Without proof, there is nothing which can be done. You admitted yourself that you did not see her do it, as such it is truly your word against hers. Besides, I personally doubt that a bottle of two would make any impact on our business.” Said Kaincoy, shrugging his shoulders with a smile.

“But, my lord?” Started Hou´Voink but Kaincoy merely raised his hand, making Hou´Voink silent.

“We shall concede this time, however… There is still the matter of you’re… Friend over there insulting my employee’s good name and honor. Right or wrong, the line has to be drawn somewhere.” Said Kaincoy.

Thakeo knew that the man was right, Thragoth had certainly crossed the line several times but he did not think that a mere apology would. Thus, Thakeo didn’t like where this conversation was headed but he knew a way out of it if only…

“Let’s just jump them and be done with it.” Said Thragoth.

Thakeo sighed and rubbed his head as he could not believe that Thragoth had just said that, intentionally escalating things.

“I see you are eager for a fight! Thus, I shall demand a duel! A matter of Honor! You cannot deny my request without losing face!” Said Kaincoy next as he pointed at Thragoth.

“A duel? With whom?” Asked Thragoth confused.

“With me of cause! I am the offended party!” Cried Hou´Voink suddenly from the background.

“Oh, is that some sort of fancy word for a brawl? Well fine with me. I look forward to bashing in that arse for a face you wear because only crap is coming out! Laddie’s, get ya arse’s out here!” Growled Thragoth, at which time half a dozen dwarven workers came out from the shadows of the workshop.

This sight caused Kaincoy and his guards to back off for a bit in surprise as all the dwarves were carrying heavy tools and looked ready for a brawl, however, once again Thakeo stepped in, showing a smile to Thragoth.

“A duel is not a brawl. It is one against one and not something which can be done at the spur of the moment!” Said Thakeo with a stern voice.

“What? Why not?” Asked Thragoth surprised but Thakeo ignored him and instead looked at Kaincoy.

“A duel can be arrange but according to Imperial Law such must be supervised by an authorized third party and as the challenged party I or rather, we get to choose said party correct?” Asked Thakeo.

“Yes, you have that right but…” Began Kaincoy but Thakeo interrupted him.

“Okay, in that case we nominate the commander of the imperial forces stationed in the region or by him, a designated person to observe said duel. I believe that if we send request to the nearest outpost, they can be here in a 4 to 5 days.” Said Thakeo, tilting his head slightly.

“4 or 5 days? What? NO! I want to settle this now!” Cried Hou´Voink.

“Oh? So you are saying that you refuse to follow the honored rules of a duel?” Asked Thakeo next, this time wielding a broad smile.

The reason he was smiling was that due to Hou´Voink demand to settle it now would be against protocol which the nobles loved to follow. Playing on their honor was a dirty move but if he not done that, the matter would not be settled any time soon.

Thus, Thakeo had caught Kaincoy in a bad position of either having to cancel the duel and lose face or start a fight, going against the code of honor, he, himself kept claiming had been broken, by ignoring the tradition of 3rd party observation.

“Huh? Eh? No… We… 5 Days, in fact 5 days are excellent! After all, that is the day the festival will start and this duel should at least be mildly entertaining. Thus, even if the judge does not show up then we shall settle this in 5 days max!” Said Kaincoy, once again showing his creepy smile.

“Eh? En-entertainment? Erm… I guess since you compromised we should as well. Yes, we shall settle this score during the festival then. Thank you for your consideration.” Said Thakeo and bowed in a halfassed manner which could only been seen as an insult.

“Come! We are leaving!” Said Kaincoy who did not seem to be too concerned about Thakeo’s indirect insult.

“Why?” Asked Hou´Voink. Surprised.

“DO NOT QUESTION ME!” Yelled Kaincoy.

“But my lord? The shipment?” Asked one of the other guards.

“We will get that later, now come!” Commanded Kaincoy as he walked off, quickly followed by the rest of his men.

“I will see you soon… Dwarf!” Said Hou’Voink as he quickly followed his master.

“Bla, bla… Well, take a bath first, you reek like the city sewers!” Yelled Thragoth as the nobles left.

Thakeo breathed a sigh of relief whereas Thragoth was still in combat mode and looking back and forth between Thakeo and Kaincoy as he and his men vanished into the crowd while the girl merely stuck out her tongue towards Kaincoy and Hou´Voink.

“Entertainment for his crappy festival, bah! We should have settled it now…filthy alliance nobles… oh well, cowards be cowards.” Whined Thragoth disappointed.

“A good display of tactics there you man. Very fine work indeed.” Said Kelrick, who had spoken for the first time since the entire incident started.

“What? Tactics?” Asked Thragoth confused.

“Indeed. Using that man’s own sense of honor against him, forcing him into a position where he could only concede.” Explained Kelrick as he looked at Thragoth.

“Eh?” Asked Thragoth confused.

“Well, I thought it better to delay any duel until later.” Said Thakeo and smiled.

“A big risk you took young man, but will you be fighting him in 5 days’ time then?” Asked Kelrick next.

“Huh? Of cause not! In 4 or 5 days I will be back at school, far away from here.” Replied Thakeo.

“What? Ya running away lad?” Asked Thragoth annoyed.

“Oh cause! I won’t fight him and neither will you! Don’t you have to head to the dwarves in the northern mountains as well before heading home? Business before pleasure after all!” Proclaimed Thakeo proudly.

“I find it hard to believe there could be pleasure in fighting in the first place.” Mumbled Kelrick.

“Well, I would certainly find it pleasurable to drag his pompous arse through the streets!” Said Thragoth and spat on the ground and no one around could really disagree with that statement.

“Still, it is a dangerous game you play my young friend. That man does not seem like the sort who would be satisfied with merely winning a duel. He might try something underhanded so watch your back.” Said Kelrick.

Thakeo knew that Kelrick was right. People with such much pride would likely not just an insult like this slip by and while Thakeo could remain safe as he would not be in town and Thragoth would be out of town soon as well.

With these thought, Thakeo one again turned his head and looked at the young beast girl, who in turned looked up at him, seemingly insecure as to what would happen now.

“Don’t worry about him. He is just a bag of hot air. Thinks will calm down soon.” Said Thakeo with a confident voice, causing the girl to show a tiny smile.

“You should have let me at em! Those arrogant dung dwellers deserve no better!” Said Thragoth with a harsh tone of voice.

“Take it easy. It is over, at least for now.” Said Thakeo, trying to calm Thragoth down.

“Still, all of this trouble over some silly wine. Never get me involved in something like this again.“ Said Kelrick and sighed.

“Not wine… Poison.” Said the girl again, seemingly annoyed over something.

“Well, children might not understand the taste of adults so I guess it could be called poison, especially to beast folk who have a better sense of taste and smell than we do.” Said Kelrick.

“Well, I for one agree with the lassie, his wine taste like piss boiled on rotten eggs so it might as well be poison.” Said Thragoth.

“Oh? Ghartidol Wine is supposed to be quite sweet to drink. Something similar to summery berries. It has many uses. Even doctors tend to use it to make their tonics taste less harsh as it has a potent aroma.” Explained Kelrick.

“Well, then that one sure as heck don’t know how to brew it.” Said Thragoth.

“Or it could be your taste buds which are utterly ruined with all the drinking you do in your off time. Seriously you and Hasti could dry out this entire town if given the chance.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Hah! That would be a possibility under normal circumstances but that bastard and his ilk have imported way too much of their wine that would be impossible.” Said Thragoth, this time smiling.

“Why would they need to import so much bad wine?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Well, apparently that noble-in-name-only hold a lot of grant parties at his house. He will need a lot of wine for that style of partying.” Replied Thragoth.

“Well, either that or it is the summer festival he is aiming to sell at a lot at? After all, it starts in a week or so.” Said Kelrick.

“Eh? A festival? Really?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Aye, but it is just another way for them sludge-eaters to pave their way into people heats with crappy food and cheap as wine. Blargh!” Replied Thragoth and spat on the gorund with pure contempt.

“Haha… I-I see. Is it really that bad?” Asked Thakeo next, unsure what else to ask.

“I told ya earlier lad but this is the current state of this town. It has really has gone downhill. This little incident we had earlier was hardly the first incident I have heard about and it has been going on for some time, sometimes people have just been attacked without provocation.” Said Thragoth with a sigh.

“Really? Has anyone been hurt?” Asked Thakeo and looked at the dwarf.

“Hurt? Yes, but so far none have died even though I do see a lot of them shined people about, too many for my taste but I don’t know the details besides what I told ya earlier but I do know that people just done care around here.” Said Thragoth.

“Shined people and random assaults?” Mumbled Thakeo to himself.

“What’s worse is that there been rumors that the fire elves might take action as well seeing as there are concerning movements along their boarders. Well, I can understand that of cause seeing as humans have been have begun to encroach on their territory from every direction, which against the treaty ya lost signed with them I might add.” Continued Thragoth.

“The fire elves as well?” Asked Thakeo confused to which Thragoth nodded.

“I don’t know all the details so ya better ask that uncle of ya about it all, him being the magistrate and such, maybe even bring that kid with ya, just in case.” Replied Thragoth and nodded towards the beast girl.

Thragoth’s suggestion did seem like a good idea. Thus, he turned his attention back towards the girl.

“What… now?” Asked the girl confused as Thakeo looked at her.

“Do you have a home? Or somewhere you can hide for a few days?” Asked Thakeo back.

“Home? Home is below… But not safe… Not anymore… Evil men there…” Replied the girl, as she lowered her head and ears at the same time.

“Hmm, home is below?” Mumbled Thakeo and looked Thragoth.

“Don’t look at me, I got no clue.” Said Thragoth without delay.

“So, home is not safe? Well how about I bring you to my aunt’s home? If we explained the issue I am sure you could stay a few days there, at least until that poison man and his people have time to calm a bit.” Suggest Thakeo as he slowly knelt down as to make a less imposing figure.

However, the girl did not respond but seemed to back away a bit, unsure what to do.

“Ah! Don’t worry. My aunt is a kind person… And an excellent cook. I am sure she will make whatever you want to eat.” Said Thakeo next, unsure why he had to mention food in this case.

To this suggest the girl first seemed stunned at first, then thoughtful, before she finally nodded in agreement.

“Guess that settles it then. Come with me and grandpa dwarf here inside and will leave as soon as I pack my things, okay?” Said Thakeo next to which the girl nodded in reply.

“Grandpa dwarf? Who the hell ya calling grandpa?” Said Thragoth with a stern voice.

“By the way, what is your name?” Asked Thakeo.

“Dekoh… Koh is fine…” Said the girl, averting her eyes, with a slight blush.

“Koh it is then. Well come right this way.” Said Thakeo as and gently guided the girl inside.

“Ohy! Don’t ya ignore me brat! I ain’t no grandpa! I am only 78!” Cried Thragoth out loud but he was being ignored by everyone around him, still swinging his sword around.

“Yes, yes, move along…. Grand Pa.” Said Kelrick, seemingly pleased about the face Thragoth was making.

Thus, a short while later, Thakeo was headed towards the northern end of town where Hasti and his wife lived and with whom he had arranged to stay with while he was in town. Of cause, now Koh was following right behind him and he had not yet come up with a way to explain it all so he did have some doubts as to what would happen once they arrived.

Koh, on the other hand, was very active in looking around the area as she had likely not seen such tall buildings before. This was part of old town as it was called, and had been built upon old dwarven ruins which in turn had burnt to the ground decades ago during a war between the dwarves and old human nobles.

Following that war the city was rebuilt but with a mix between dwarven and human building styles, thus leading to a rather unique look of the entire area.

Of cause for Koh it was not just the buildings themselves which was impressive but also the senses and smells that filled the area due to her beast folk nature. She seemed quite curious about all of this, indicated by the way her head and ears were turning and her tail was moving.

“See? This is fun is it not?” Asked Thakeo with smile as he gently ruffled her hair but she did not seem to notice this, however someone else did.

“T.H.A.K.E.O… What are you doing to this poor girl?” Cried a female voice suddenly, causing both Koh and Thakeo to turn around.

“Oh! Auntie Kacie! How are… Wait, the sky? Blargh!” Began Thakeo to say but suddenly found himself facing the sky, just a split second before he crashed to the ground with a thump.

“WHEN DID YOU START PICKING ON THE WEAK?” Yelled the woman who had just tossed Thakeo to the ground, however he did not remember any more then that as everything turned black.

– ₪ –

During the evening, Thakeo was sitting at the dinner table inside the house of Hasti and his wife, Kacie. The young beast girl, Koh, who had been well received after he had explained the situation to Kacie, after having awoken after her surprise assault which had rendered him unconscious.

Thus, Koh was now sound asleep in the next room, next to the fireplace after having eaten her heart out and received a bath with the help of Kacie.

Hasti had not returned until just moments earlier so Thakeo had to explain the issue once more however Thakeo had only explained the overall details as Hasti was never one who cared for every detail but even that seemed to be enough as Hasti had only nodded and shook his head in disbelief and had just now gone off to fetch a bottle of wine.

Thakeo had of cause left out the entire incident with the duel he had become mixed up in, otherwise Kacie would surely beat him senseless for doing something so stupid but as he did not want to explain that his grand plan was to simply run away, he taught it best not to mention it at all.

Meanwhile, Kacie was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner. Thakeo had offered to help but she had told him it was her job now, of cause remembering her previous… job, Thakeo had no choice but to do as he was told.

There was of cause more to it than that but it had nothing to do with gender equality, it was simply that she liked these calm times, which seemed a bit weird given the fact that she had met Hasti after beating him and Thakeo’s father up for stealing food many years ago following a failed adventure of theirs. She was feisty and strong and once she said something, it should be considered law.

While waiting for Hasti, Thakeo could not help but think about what Thragoth had said about the shined people as well as the general situation in down.

It was not just that but also attacks against non-humans and discrimination in general had sky rocketed ever since the Aukhewaeseon nobles and traders had begun to arrive in the town around a year ago.

There were many people who had been affected by this but even more had turned a blind eye as the money and wealth the Aukhewaeseon traders brought along had renewed the life in the town and it had expanded in size, however this did not make up for the large amount of targeted harassment.

“Bloody hell, what a day.” Said Hasti as he returned with a bottle of wine which he placed on the table as he sat down again.

“Please don’t remind me! I experienced it firsthand.” Cried Thakeo with a sigh.

“Still, I did not think that those crudes would openly attack a child like that. It was a good thing you were there.” Said Hasti with a smile.

“Well, rather that, than picking up parts of nobleman from the ground.” Mumbled Thakeo to himself.

“Those nobles think it is their right to act like idiots. It pisses me off more than I dare to admit.” Said Hasti.

“Can’t the local lord do anything?” Asked Thakeo.

“The lord is old and weak so he runs most affairs through either the Alderman or the Bailiff, both of whom I believe are in the pockets of the aristocrats. I have complained several times but it is always the same that the issues are being investigated.” Replied Hasti and sighed.

“I thought the magistrate outranked the bailiff, so why is nothing being done?” Asked Thakeo surprised.

“That is how it normally should be but when someone flashes a purse brimming with coin, the lines can get blurry. Most people around here are happy about the new found wealth, so much that they ignore the plight of those around them.” Replied Hasti with a snort, taking another sip from the bottle.

“Hmm, have you tried to inform someone outside the town?” Asked Thakeo next.

“I have but no response have been received. The last currier ended up with a broken arm and severe bruises and refuses to talk. I suspect that some of the new city guards did it but no one is talking.” Replied Hasti.
“There must be some way to get the word out.” Asked Thakeo again, getting agitated.

“I have tried, even smuggling messages out but now carts are getting searched when they leave town. That is what my meeting earlier today was about with that pompous arse was about. He informed me instead of the bailiff, bloody rat.” Growled Hasti.

“They can’t do that!” Said Thakeo as he clutched his fist.

“The lord signed off on the order so my hands are tied, hell I don’t even know whom I can trust amongst my own men.” Said Hasti with a sigh.

“Even that… Hey, how are the dwarfs doing? Surely they won’t just stand by and be treated like that.” Asked Thakeo suddenly.

“That is what I am afraid of. If this goes on they might just go nuts and start bashing in skulls, leading to an armed conflict. After all, nearly all of the local trader’s only do business with the Aukhewaeseon, ignoring the dwarfs need to transport their goods. I think only your friend Thragoth is the only trader left to haul their goods. All in all it is a crap situation for the dwarfs but I do think that the first ones who will draw blood might be them fire elves in the south.” Replied Hasti, and took a huge sip from the bottle.

“Fire Elves? Why would they act?” Asked Thakeo in surprised, suddenly remembering Thragoth’s warning earlier that day.

“Well, I have not spoken with them directly but from a source I trust it seems that some poachers are entering their territory and killing game left and right. I bet those nobles are behind it too as they seem to be selling a lot of meat and skins all of a sudden.” Replied Hasti.

“This sounds like a powder keg ready to explode.” Said Thakeo as he rest his chin against his hand.

“Indeed but as there are no witnesses and no real proof I can’t force a public investigation and even so, with all the bribing going around it is hard to say how it would turn out.” Said Hasti and shook his head.

“So why not just act? I am sure there are someone you trust.” Said Thakeo next.

“I would if I could but it all comes down to one thing… proof. If no one wants to speak I can’t do anything.” Said Hasti and sighed, once again.

“Proof huh? Well that is a problem, but there must be someone who would want to talk? Surely not everyone in this down can condone such acts.” Said Thakeo.

“There should be but… Each witness I have tried to persuade has even up disappearing for a day or two just to come back as one of them ghost folk running around town. Ah, what is the terms again?” Said Hasti.

“The Shined you mean?” Asked Thakeo.

“Exactly. I suspect that someone is making people who ask the wrong questions into one of them but I cannot for the love of all the gods figure out how they are doing it but there are more and more each day and they just wander the town carrying crates and building materials.” Explained Hasti.

“Is it not illegal in the empire to shine people?” Asked Thakeo next.

“Of cause it is, but if they bring their own slaves, the law does not apply to them. But to determine where someone was shined, once again, it comes down to providing proof.” Replied Hasti.

“Of cause it does.” Mumbled Thakeo.

“Well, in any case then this is a matter I am investigating from by end kid, I still got a few contacts here and there so, enough of this depressing talk! Now boy, where do you plan to go to do that magic thing of yours?” Asked Hasti.

“Eh? Oh right, well I plan to head south of town. It is the best part of the entire region to find magic beasts after all.” Replied Thakeo, wondering who in their right mind would accept a job from Hasti but more so, if he treathened them or not.

“Oh in that case you better be careful. The south is Fire Elf territory so be sure not to stray too far. I really don’t want to tell your father that you got an arrow up your butt because you went too far into the forest.” Said Hasti with a laugh.

“Great… Just Great… And I don’t even have a map” Mumbled Thakeo and sighed.

“Hm? No map… That would be suicide, why didn’t you buy one in town?” Asked Hasti confused.

“I did but then…” Said Thakeo and explained what had happened during the day.

“Bwhahaha! By the gods… That is really bad luck my boy! But at least well… You helped the little girl that is all that really matters.” Said Hasti.

“Well… That is true but still…” Began Thakeo but stopped as Hasti raised his hand.

“Say no more, just give me a second or two.” Said Hasti as he got on his feet and walked over to a dresser at the other end of the room and began to look through it and returned shortly after with a piece of paper which he placed on the floor.

“Here you go. This is my personal map. It is a bit old but things have not changed much so it should still be useful.” Said Hasti with a smile.

“Eh? Really? I can have this?” Asked Thakeo surprised.

“But of cause! It is not like Kacie would mind. Just use it well. In any case, I will hit the sack. I got to meet up with the dwarfs tomorrow and see if I can avert them clobbering those idiotic nobles.” Said Hasti and sighed deeply.

“Well, if they do it might solve the issues in this town.” Said Thakeo.

“You bet it would but sadly it won’t work like that now a days. Ah! It was so much easier in the old days where we simply beat up anyone who got on our bad side.” Said Hasti with a dreamy smile as he got on his feet and walked out of the living room.

However, as Thakeo sat there alone he could not stop thinking about what he had heard and experienced this day. Targeted harassment of none humans, bribing of government officials, and more or less creating their own police force, all the while placating the locals using flashy words, new housing and the sort.

Adding the supposed poaching in elven territory and excluding the dwarfs from local trade lines, it was all too much to simply be a coincidence but rather seemed to be part of something larger but he could not even begin to guess what it might be.

“Oh, you still up?” Asked a female voice suddenly.

“Oh, Aunty Kacie, yea, I had a chat with Hasti about the issues in this town.” Replied Thakeo.

“Hmm? You should leave that to the grownups, after all, don’t you hate politics?” Asked Kacie next with a warm smile.

“Yea, true but who really love that sort of stuff? I was just wondering if there was nothing more I could do.” Replied Thakeo.

“Well, you help out that poor girl did you not? Is that not good enough?” Asked Kacie.

“Maybe for her, but that is just treating the symptoms and wont correct the other issues. Besides, I doubt they won’t try to come after her simply out of spite.” Replied Thakeo.

“Heh, you are just like your father in that regard, always butting into other people’s affairs, especially if a female is involved. You have a good heart just don’t let it lead you astray.” Said Kacie as she grabbed the empty wine bottle Hasti had left behind.

“Guh! Be-being compared to my father is really not a compliment.” Said Thakeo a bit concerned.

“Haha! Well, crazy as he is, he always wanted to help out others even if it was just small things. As for the girl, don’t you worry about her. I will be sure to take good care of her.” Said Kacie.

“I’ll leave it to you then.” Said Thakeo with a smile as he got on his feet and walked into the room he had lent for the night.

It was true what Kacie had said, that he alone could not save the world and helping the girl should seem enough but somehow, it just felt wrong but there was also nothing he could… But she might…

Thakeo suddenly got an idea, it was crazy but might just work, thus Thakeo turned around and ran back towards the living room.

“Hey Auntie, do you have a pen and some paper I could borrow?” Asked Thakeo.

“Huh? What do you mean?” Asked Kacie surprised.

“Ah! Can you also cut me a ribbon from Koh’s dress while you are at it?” Asked Thakeo next.
“Hah! I knew it… You lolicon!” Replied Kacie with a smile.

“It’s not like that!… I just got an idea which should help Koh out after I go back to school.” Replied Thakeo with a smile larger than any other he had shown that day, which left Kacie a bit perplexed as to what he could be referring to.

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