Forte began reading The Dwarven Art of Smithing. The tome was in bad shape, having weathered centuries of decay. Fortunately, some text was still legible.
Dwarves have mastered the craft of smithing over the millennia. Their hammers are an extension to their soul, and dwarven master smiths can weave metal as if it were thread…................... the different properties of metals.
Iron is the most basic metal. It is tough, durable, and can slice through enemies when crafted into a sword, or block even the most vicious piercing attacks when crafted into armor. Then came the invention of steel by dwarves. Through their experimentations with the smelting of iron ore and coal, a tougher version of iron can be created.
Mithril is a rare gray metal with a hint of blue, that is considerably harder than iron. This metal is prize by any respectable military, and a few mithril weapons have the potential to turn the tide of a battle. Orichalcum is a light turquoise ore that is as rare compared to mithril, as mithril is rare compared to iron. It is slightly harder than mithril, although a well forged mithril blade can sill destroy a poorly crafted orichalcum blade.
Silver is an expensive metal to craft arms with, but a favorite of elven kings. Depending on the craftsmanship, a silver sword can be better or worse than a mithril sword.
And then there is the legendary ore known as gravitite. The dwarves have control over the last reserves of gravitite ore in the world, an ore that is harvested from the molten lava of a volcano and tempered with the fire of a wild dragon. It is rightfully theirs, as humans, elves, and orcs have all failed to temper the volcanic metal. Few swords have been made with this ore, but the few that have been forged are rumored to be heavier and tougher than mastercrafted mithril swords…
Forte closed the tome and took a nap. When he woke up, he could see the forest of Istanbal from a far distance. The landscape had begun to change from bleak shrubbery into lush greens.
They rode for a few more days, and reached the edge of the forest. Forte decided to leave his caravan at the edge of the forest, fashioning a large sack from what was left of the wagon for Nightmare to carry their belongings. He boarded his dragon, and they set off, soaring above the lush green forest. Almost immediately, a horn sounded, and the sounds of yelling from the outskirts of Istanbal could be heard. Forte looked down and saw elves rushing at them with bows.
“Faster, Nightmare. Fly faster!” He urged.
Nightmare laboriously flapped his wings, cutting through the air as the first slew of arrows were launched at them. Nightmare winced as a single arrow bounced off his underbelly, but continued to fly. After they lost the first group of archers, a second group caught up and fired more arrows. Two arrows managed to puncture the thin membrane of Nightmare’s wings. He lost some altitude, but continued to fly. They continued like this for another hour, leaving the elven archers behind. At the northern edge of the forest, Nightmare slumped to the ground and rested, panting. Forte applied basic healing salves he brought with him onto the punctures in Nightmare’s wings to soothe his wounds.
He had expected this kind of greeting by the elves. What concerned him was that the elves seemed to be expanding their territorial ambitions as well to the outskirts of the forest. They seemed to be immediately ready to intercept him, meaning that king Ivano had ordered armed scouts to patrol the outskirts of their domain. It looked like all the races were bound for conflict at this rate.
They continued their travels the next day, after Nightmare rested. Forte heard the familiar clash of orcs and dwarves, and circumvented the battlefield. They flew towards the north. Suddenly, Forte spotted a small group of dwarves mining a vein of ore. His eyes lit up with greed.
“Let’s check that out, Nightmare. It might be orichalcum.” He whispered to his dragon.
Nightmare descended, a sight that scared the dwarves tremendously. Forte counted three of them.
“You catch those two, since you’re faster. I’ll take down this one. Go! Before they inform their dwarven friends!” Forte shouted.
Nightmare pounced at the two scurrying miners while Forte took on the remaining one.
“What are you doing me friend? We was just mining ‘er, not minding nobody’s business. We didn’t hurts no one!” The dwarf whimpered.
“Sorry, friend. This isn’t personal.” Forte said, extending out this palm.
Forte’s amulet lit up, and his eyes glowed icy blue. A bolt of green energy shot out from Forte’s hand and smote the cowering dwarf in the back, immediately making him freeze in his tracks. The dwarf’s veins began to show. Forte leapt at him while drawing his greatsword, swinging down and connecting with the dwarf’s shoulder. The dwarf buckled. Forte attacked him a few more times, until the dwarf slumped lifelessly. Meanwhile, Nightmare made quick work of the two dwarves, having ripped one in half with his jaws, and burned the other alive, leaving a grisly scene. Slog fat dripped from the burned dwarve's body. It looked like Nightmare roasted him for a while, to get through the insulative slog fat.
Forte noted that Fyrza was castable while wearing the Amulet of Darkness, although it seemed to still drain quite a bit of stamina and blood. He would need to refine his energy usage to become more efficient. It was something he would consider practicing later.
Forte peeked at the ore the dwarves were mining and cursed. It was merely coal. He looted the dwarves’ bodies, discovering 126 silvers and a ragged parchment scroll. He unrolled the scroll and read.
Gritwort, I have discovered an orichalcum vein near the valley of the hill giants. We are having trouble removing the giants. The buggers are strong. Please send reinforcements. –Your friend, Hamwick.
Forte frowned. He had never heard of hill giants before. He grasped his pendant and summoned his ethereal pirates.
“Blackbeard, Jack, Cook, and Tew. I want you to split up into four directions and find this ‘valley of hill giants’, and then report back to me with your findings. Good luck.” He commanded.
“As you wish, my lord.” Blackbeard responded, as the ghostly pirates split into various directions and headed off.
It was convenient having these servants, he thought. Their strongest asset was their loyalty to him. He had saved them from eternal torture, and thus they were eternally grateful. The perfect servants.
Forte made camp as he waited for the news. He and Nightmare hunted together for a slog, and skewered the slog carcass over a spit. They were cooking the slog, when he heard a scratching noise. Forte and Nightmare went into alert, as four raptors entered the clearing.
“Infernus.” He muttered, as an orb of flame appeared on top of his left palm, which he levitated carefully in the air. In his right hand, he casually propped the heavy gravitite greatsword on the ground. Forte was now 15, and his body had become that of a man’s, but he still could not wield the greatsword singlehanded. The raptors looked on cautiously. Nightmare belched out a wisp of fire, and the raptors fled. They knew that they had met more than their match, and dragons were their natural predator.
Nightmare was also growing at an accelerated pace. He now stood more than a head taller than Forte, and was showing the signs and dignity of a proper dragon. His golden eyes pierced his prey as his black scales shimmered in the moonlight. They were a proper dragon and dragon knight duo, a class combination that disappeared a long time ago with the decline of the dragons. Even then, the class was rare, because tamed dragons were few and far in between, while wild dragons were plentiful and roamed the land. In addition, dragon knights were typically warriors and not warrior mage hybrids.
They continued their meal. For added precaution, Forte surrounded the camping grounds with small fires, which would deter all sorts of beasts. The pirates returned from their expedition.
“I found a lake with fish of gold, but no valley of hill giants.” Cook reported.
“I found a cave with a large bear, but no valley of hill giants.” Tew echoed.
“Arr, shut up you dimwits. I found the valley of hill giants. It’s an hour southwest of here. There are many giants living in the valley, you can’t drive them all off.” Blackbeard reported.
“We’ll see about that.” Forte replied. “I have my ways. Let’s go.”
As their seven hours were up, the corporeal forms of the pirates dissipated into the air. Forte and Nightmare slept for the night, and prepared for their journey towards the valley of hill giants.