Author: In response to fan requests, I’m now focusing on quality rather than quantity. Chapters will be longer, the pacing will be slower, and there will be significantly more descriptive detail. I will also advance the plot slower, after feedback that things were happening too fast.
Bumbus cleaned his spectacles with a handkerchief, and then rested them on his large, crooked nose. A teapot tooted in the background. With a wave of his hand, the white teapot zoomed towards the elderly mage and began pouring into a cup he was holding. Bumbus continued to pet his black cat while the tea poured.
Forte looked around the shop while adjusting the collar of his shirt, so that his amulet was unnoticeable. The bespectacled mage brewed various teas and potions, and the shop was cluttered as it had ever been. He spotted a spider in a jar sitting on the shelf next to a few old tomes. In the center of the room was a mahogany desk, strewn with various parchments and incomplete letters. The cat purred.
“Has my sword served you well, my dear boy?” Bumbus Biggles asked Forte.
“Very well.” Forte replied. “Almost too well. How did you come across this?”
“That, my friend, is a story for another day. Maybe over a cup of tea.” Bumbus said. “I’m glad it has served you well, my boy. I am too old to wield it anymore. It was high time I handed it down to an heir. Consider it yours.”
The cup was filled half way with tea. With a wave of his hand, the teapot stopped pouring and levitated back to its place on the stove.
“Tea?” Bumbus inquired, offering the cup to Forte.
“No thank you, sir.” Forte replied.
An unreadable expression settled on the old mage’s face, as he put the tea cup to his face and drank. Some of the dark liquid spilled over his white beard, which he wiped off with his handkerchief.
“Age gets the better of all of us. I’m now a clumsy old mess.” Bumbus explained. “The only thing that has gotten better in time is my magic.”
He waved his hand through the air again, and a parchment and pen zoomed to his side. He picked up the pen and began scratching the parchment. Forte tapped his fingers in anticipation.
“Do you, perhaps, remember the invitation I gave you two years ago? You are invited to the Academy, my boy. It will elevate your magic and swordsmanship to new levels. And they would surely take you in, with my recommendation.” Bumbus said.
Forte considered the offer. It was not a bad one, as his knowledge of magic was woefully incomplete.
“How much does it cost to attend? I am not sure I can afford it.” He asked.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. Your attendance is free, and I shall see to that with the headmaster. It’s not every year we can introduce such a talented student. From the moment you stepped in that door the first time, I sensed great magical power within you.” His eyes darkened. “Maybe too much power. But power nonetheless. It would be such a shame for you not to attend.”
Forte thought it over again, and accepted. “If the attendance is free, then I will attend the Academy. As long as I have the option to come and go whenever I see fit. I may have urgent matters to attend to.”
Bumbus nodded. “You will have your freedom. Oh and of course, how could I forget. Your name. Your full name, for me to register you.”
“Forte. Forte… Minot.” He lied.
“I see, I see…” Bumbus looked deep in thought. He continued to scratch the parchment, taking down notes. “Meet me in the capital city in two months. You will find me in my shop. We will arrange from then. Show the guard this letter, and they shall let you through. If not, they will deal have to deal with me.”
Bumbus lifted the parchment and sent it towards Forte through the air.
Forte carefully took the parchment, rolled it up, and nodded in agreement.
Bumbus continued. “And where may I ask, is your dragon? He was quite the specimen. Did you leave him in the outskirts so he wouldn’t attract attention?”
Forte blinked and replied. “Yes. He would cause way too much of a commotion if I brought him here.”
“Such a shame, such a shame. I’d loved to have talked to him more.” Bumbus sighed.
Forte’s eyes lit up. “You can talk to dragons?”
Bumbus Biggles chuckled heartily. “Anyone can talk to a dragon. But only the dragon decides whether they want to respond or not. Now off you go. I am closing shop for the night.”
The pungent smell of sulfur wafted through the air, as Vaun held his breath in the cave and reached for a chimera egg. He had closely observed the mother chimera’s schedule, and realized that she only left her cave for an hour each morning to hunt. Today, she had just departed. Vaun took the opportunity to poach a few eggs.
Chimera eggs were a prized ingredient for potion making, and necessary for some of the more extravagant and dangerous potions. Vaun was currently brewing a batch of draught of eternal sleep for an aristocratic client, which despite its name only put a person to sleep for two days straight. The main ingredients were chimera eggs, lizard tongue, and frog legs. He had already procured the lizard tongue and frog legs, and all that was left were the chimera eggs in front of him. Vaun stepped into the nest and took two of the bulbous, squishy chimera eggs, carefully storing them into his knapsack. He left the cave carefully, extremely pleased that the mother had not come back from her hunting trip yet.
Forte stepped out of the magic shop, having been ushered out once more. The streets were empty at this point, as all the shops had closed. It was high time for bandits to appear, but Forte was not worried. He knew he could take care of a few bandits by himself, and in a dire situation he could summon his pirate companion to fight alongside him, although he did not want to cause such a commotion and reveal his magic. He walked back to his inn without incident, and slept for the night.
He awoke early the next morning, and put on his clothes. Forte looked out the window. The Adithian army patrolled outside, if it could be called an army, when it was a ragtag group of mercenaries and townsmen, some fitted with pieces of steel armor while the majority wore leather armor. Ever since Adith declared itself an independent city and ceased its tributary payments to the king, the king had issued some grisly warnings, but did not send the kingdom’s troops, who were busy preparing for potential battle against the kingdom of Halfast.
Forte had two months to roam before he is meeting with Bumbus Biggles in the capital, to register for his studies at the academy. He decided to return to his humble mining outpost of Avalon with mining supplies, and continue to grow the outpost. Through his bond with his dragon, he instructed Nightmare to meet him in the outskirts in a week’s time.
Forte began walked to the blacksmith of Adith, the reason he came to the city in the first place. The main street was crowded this morning, and street vendors and shops lined the cobblestone walkway. Forte passed by the armorer, then a potion shop, and then meandered around the slave market, looking for the blacksmith shop.
He saw the sign first, with the word Blacksmith hammered in iron. He walked into the surprisingly small store. The burly, moustached blacksmith was hammering a sword on an anvil, turning it and hammering again.
Various tools and weapons lined the wall, although they were mostly tools. Armorers were blacksmiths that specialized in weapons and armor, while normal blacksmiths specialized in tools. Axes, prongs, nails, and rope were hung from the wall.
“Welcome, lad. What can I do for you today?” The blacksmith asked.
“I need twelve steel pickaxes. How many do you have in stock?” Forte asked, deciding that he only wanted to make this trip once.
“More than twelve, that’s for sure. They’re 70 silvers apiece. I’ll give you a 5 silver discount on each since you’re buying twelve.”
The blacksmith set down his sword and hammer, and sprinted to the back of the shop, retrieving a few pickaxes. Three by three, he brought out twelve steel pickaxes and laid 3 them on the desk in front of Forte. The rest stayed on the floor. He took a look at the sword he was working on earlier and groaned.
“Shit, it’s cold already. Ah, figures.”
“Sorry about that.” Forte said, in a slightly annoyed tone.
“Ah, don’t worry about it. ‘s not your fault. Just doin’ business here.” He replied, frowning as he inspected the molten sword.
“Do you have smelting equipment as well?” Forte inquired.
“What, you mean a blast furnace and prongs? Sure, I got ‘em.” The blacksmith replied.
Forte pressed on. “I’ll take two prongs.”
The blacksmith retrieved two iron prongs from the wall and placed them on the desk next to the pickaxes.
“That’ll be 20 silvers each for the prongs lad.” Said the blacksmith.
Forte paid the smith 820 silvers, and hauled the steel pickaxes and iron prongs onto his caravan. The pickaxes were of excellent make, both sturdy and well finished, and Forte was satisfied. He got on his horse and began riding towards the city gate. Before he left, he spent 50 silvers on a large, sturdy bag that Nightmare could use to carry the goods. He thought that Nightmare would need to stop and rest every so often with the heavy load, but he could eventually bring the pickaxes and prongs to Avalon. The prongs were useless without a blast furnace, but they would worry about building a furnace later.
As he approached the gates, a guard stopped him from leaving the city.
“Halt! The free city of Adith requires your financial support. For non residents to leave the city, you must pay a 10 silver fee. For residents, you must pay a 50 silver fee.” The guard declared.
Forte groaned, but decided that it was necessary to levy taxes and fees for the city to pay for its military. The increased fee for residents was probably meant to discourage them from leaving or fleeing the city, he thought. Forte left Adith with 7031 silvers.
He began his journey back towards the southern outskirts of humanity, where he would meet Nightmare.
Two nights passed without incident, before Forte heard the sound of metal outside his caravan. It was a brigade of ten bandits fitted with iron and leather armor and steel swords, drawn to the clinking sound of silver as Forte rode his caravan, as well as the questionable lack of guards. Forte frowned, as ten bandits was a difficult amount to take on head first. He rubbed his amulet and summoned Blackbeard.
“Give them hell, Blackbeard.” Forte whispered.
“Aye, m’lord.” The scruffy pirate responded with a devilish smile, unsheathing a ghastly cutlass and bursting out into the open.
“Infernus.” Forte ignited a ball of fire on top of his palm as he stepped out of the caravan, smirking. The sight of arcane magic caused one of the bandits to flee immediately, while the others looked horrified, although they held their ground.
“Yarrr!” Blackbeard charged at a bandit, swinging away with his moonlit cutlass.
“Hah!” Forte’s battlecry followed Blackbeard’s as he fired extended his palm and shot out streams of fiery hell from his palm. The blasts set a few of the bandits on fire, as Forte gripped his greatsword with both hands and began his assault.
On the other side of the battle, Blackbeard cleaved a bandit from the shoulder to his gut, and beheaded another bandit, but he was overwhelmed and killed by a sword into the gut. Blackbeard’s corporeal form disintegrated.
Forte slashed the remaining bandits, killing or severely maiming each with a blow of his blade. The final two bandits ditched their weapons and scattered.
“Ariz infernus.” Forte chanted, levitating two fireballs in the air. His amulet of darkness lit up as he felt a heavy drain on his stamina, and began to feel pale. The spell was taking its toll. With a push of his hand, the fireballs shot towards the bandits. One of them missed, while the other hit its marks squarely on the back. The smitten bandit fell like a broken toy, smoldering from the heat. Forte let out a dry laugh as he watched the other bandit escape, and observed the moans of the would-be bandits that were still alive but bleeding to death slowly.
What was left of the melee was a grisly scene of gore and the charred smell of burnt blood. Without cleaning up the mess, Forte rode on his caravan and proceeded through the night, stopping after a few hours to rest.
The journey was smooth from then on, and within a week, Forte reached the southern outskirts of humanity. He called for Nightmare, who he could feel was nearby, and half an hour later, the black dragon descended from the skies and landed in front of Forte. Forte coughed as dust swirled at the impact of the dragon’s landing.
“It’s good to see you again buddy.” Forte smiled, but the smile faded as he looked at Nightmare’s demeanor. The dragon seemed restless.
Forte winced as a strangely familiar presence touched his mind, and a sudden overflow of images and sounds flooded in. He was looking through Nightmare’s eyes, which were keener than his eyes ever were, seeing glimpses of what looked like a large group of dwarves smashing up the log cabins of Avalon. He saw the pirates and Nightmare trying to defend, but the dwarves killed the pirates and sent Nightmare fleeing.
“Avalon has been overrun.” Forte whispered grimly.