Chapter Four: Gear
As I found myself sailing through the air of the arena I became contemplative. Why are we not allowed to take quests yet? That question had been bothering me for about a week now and I should probably ask,- then I hit the floor, the impact driving the wind out of me and sending a shockwave that rattles my insides, and I relentlessly cough till my eyes are watering.
A moment later I felt a hand patting my back and a plastic greatsword at my neck, I tap my hand on the padded arena floor to concede my defeat. My coughing stops at moment later, and I turn to Mars and seeing that he had his hand out for me to grab, the man may look like the perfect cross between a troll and an ogre (he certainly is as tough as one) but he always acted the perfect gentleman around women and children and always the humble victor. Unlike me, since when I eventually win against him and brag for days and rub it in his face, and he’ll probably strike me down making the whole thing meaningless.
I took Mars hand and got up, and made sure to bow and say “Thank you Trainer Mars for the learning experience and the chance to spar.” Which was true, no one was willing to spar with me except Mars after the second day because apparently I didn’t know how to hold back, and they’re afraid I’m going to impale them with my weak plastic sword, crybabies. And I was not learning much during class aside from sparing, I am a very active learner. So I really appreciate Mars sparring with me. He smiles broadly over his craggy face and responds “No, thank you, Mule, you been giving me quite the workout these past couple weeks, and these old bones need it. I don’t even think I’ve moved this much since I was on the Frontlines.”
I then remember to ask my question “Hey Trainer Mars how come we’re not allowed to take quest yet?” This seemed to take Mars by surprise for a second and he was about to say something before but then closed his mouth and looked contemplative on his face for a second, which looked very unnaturally, before saying “Well, Usually I’d say the problem was strength and combat skills for novice, and that clearly the case for those boy’s over there,” He said while gesturing to the boy’s who had just started sparring over on the other side of the arena. They had made sure only to start after we were done, they had learned the hard way that it’s a bad idea to get caught up in it when were sparring, I think it’s what's his face, no it’s not Damon he’s over there sparring with some other novice I could not be bothered to learn the name of. And besides that, he already knew not to do that. Anyway, what’s his face is still on bed rest from getting caught up in it last time.
Mars continued “But that's definitely not the case with you because you can fight almost on par with me. So I’d say because you have not been here long enough, I mean most novices don’t even think of taking a quest till after the three month training period and they pass their final spar with their trainer. Also, you’d need to have a set of equipment ready and show it to the guild and that can take some weeks before its ready. So, let me ask you, do you have set of armor ready and a proper weapon yet?” I shook my head I hadn’t thought about that yet, and I feel a little depressed because of it.
Mar’s slapped a hand on my shoulder that would probably crush lesser mortals and laughed “No need to get down on yourself Mule. You already got the answer to half the problem just you use your voucher, and get a guild smith to forge you some armor and a good blade. And I’ll see what I can do to get the guild to speed up the process of letting you take some quests.” I smiled broadly and said, “Thank you Trainer Mars, I make sure to do that ASAP!” And offered the giant my hand.
Mars took my hand, and we shook on it. Then our eyes lock on each other, our grips slowly start to increase in power. Mar's giant mitt almost covers mine, but It wouldn't stop me from trying to crush his,- I mean shake his hand. Then I had to lower my stance as he shook down, I move up to shake his hand and he almost falls backward. He raises back up with a grin and he shakes our hands' side to side, and I return the grin moving side to side with him. Moving with him, I took his momentum and toss Mars over my shoulder, but he keeps his grip strong pulling me with him. We end up sailing across the air of the arena, into the other wimps,- I mean novices.
Tumbling into some of the screaming novices, our grip had separated and our weapons were drawn again, Mars stood to his full height and points his greatsword at me challengingly, and says mockingly “Alright lad, are you sure you're ready for another round with me?” I jump back and got into a combat-ready stance, holding my shortsword parallel to ground and my fist at the ready and said: “Yes I am, but the real question is are you?” He laughs a roaringly and says “Aye that’s the spirit lad!” And the world blurs into a world of violence and bruises.
About two hours later, me and Damon were in the cafeteria eating lunch. Damon had gone with a soup and sandwich, and I had chosen a leg of meat, of what kind of meat I don't know or care since it's alright. Damon seemed to stare with fascination as I ate, and eventually spoke: “How do you eat that it’s the size of my torso.” I responded, “This, this is a light snack by my standards, I usually put away three times this much before I got here for a meal.” I say I lying through my teeth, and continued to eat, and watching Damon's emotionless face for any signs of reaction, a memory hit me.
I was all alone is a great, barren wasteland. Dad had left me here a couple months ago and I haven’t seen him since and I had started to wonder if this was my hell. The air here was dry, and the clouds blocked the light, making it gloomy and the air heavy but still remained painfully hot and it almost never rained here and when it did, the ground absorbed the water before I could gather any meaningful amounts. So I when I thirsted I relied on other means, and one such mean was before me and had to because I looked down into the pit I had dug, It was several tens of yards down, with sharp spikes I had planted. I was hopeful that something had fallen down into my trap and I wouldn’t have to go another night without dinner, I was not sure I could last much longer. My hopes were dashed as I looked down, but not because that there was nothing down there, but because I had something very deadly down in my pit. I saw large black wyrm slurping down my prey.
A Wyrm is a dangerous type of monster with two large front arms with deadly scalpel sharp claws, a long serpentine body about ten yards long that ended in a deadly barbed tail, and a terrifying alien face, it has no eyes, and narrow head covered in a black plate that protected while it burrowed. Wyrms had no teeth, though that made it no less dangerous, its mouth split into four parts and could crush just about anything that got in its way. But that's not how it ate, it ate by spitting out a corrosive acid and licked it up with its tongue.
It was also black, and black is the most dangerous rank of monsters. And I knew that I would not have a chance against it, especially since wyrms were usually also poisonous to consume, and no doubt the only thing that would be waiting for me in that pit would be my grave.
Once I had seen it I crouched and sneaked back to my camp, and went without dinner that night, and hunger gnawing at my being.
I snapped out of my memory and looked at my meat leg with gratitude before finishing it off. Once I was done eating, me and Damon walk out of the cafeteria and things were comfortably silent just like how Damon seems to like it. I had learned quickly that Damon didn’t respond to jokes or react to anything that wasn’t life-threatening, and did not really speak unless something caught his interest. But despite being silent for the most part, he was nice to have around. Oh though if you brought up Julian though he wouldn’t shut up, and that got annoying quick.
Once we made it to the lobby, I made sure to say hi to Vanessa or risk incurring her wrath. As we left the guild Damon and I went our separate ways. When I got back to camp, I went through my routine of checking to make sure no one had messed with my stuff or poisoned my dwindling jerky, I’d have to restock on that soon. After sorting through my sack, and about to go to sleep for my afternoon nap. I noticed a letter in my sack that I hadn’t opened, it was from my dad and I remember he said to open it after getting to Newbie Town, hopefully, the bastard had at least given me some good news in it, like tracking down a hard monster or challenging something, hopefully not asking me paying off a favor for him.
When I open the letter, It made me smile. Maybe my old man was not as much of an asshole as I thought.
An hour or so later, I'm walking through a seedy alley of Newbie Town and I felt a little bit at home, sure it stunk to high heavens and there might be thieves and drunkards around every corner but I knew what to expect in places like this and I was getting close to my destination. A few turns and a couple of minutes later it seemed like I was here. I took out the letter from dad read it again and looked at the sign, a bar named Adder’s Fury double checked it and went in.
The Adder’s Fury is surprisingly clean for a bar in such a seedy location and smells like high-class booze, oil and iron, a bit of an odd combination but it oddly worked here, though it made my head a little hazy. The bar is completely vacant other than being attended by a lone bartender who’s polishing the bar, there were no barmaids or waiters just him and I think he's what I'm looking for. Knowing in my gut I was in the right place I walked up to bar sat down.
As I was about to talk to the bartender he looked up from the bar and gave me a once over with sharp green eyes and said “I don’t serve children, I’d appreciate it if you left. And I can call you a carriage to go home if you want.” Before going back to cleaning the bar. That left me surprised not many people could tell that I was, well I wouldn’t call myself a child, not an adult. As soon as the shock left me I asked a question that I was certain to be right “Are you Sindile Rasput? If-” before I could finish my sentence there was a spear pressed against my jugular, and a pair of cold green eyes staring into my soul.
“There is no Sindile here. Who are you?” said probably Sindile with a winter cold voice. The letter said that this would happen so I had expected this, more or less so I answered “Atlas Mule, and please read this letter before you spear me a new neck hole.” I said fairly calm, at least I hope I did and slid dad’s letter across the bar. Sindile picks up the letter with one hand and kept the other on the spear, and then read the letter with one eye while keeping the other on me. He seemed to read over the letter a couple of times, it looked hard doing it with the one eye, before growling and lowering his spear and saying low and harsh “Follow me into the back room.”
I followed Sindile into the back room and waited till he sat down before I did, ya know proper manners while a guest to someone who can spear you through the neck. I like a fight as much as the next warrior but I need to be alive to do that, and this guy seemed a tad bit out of my league at the moment. Anyway once Sindile and I were settled I got a good look at him.
Sindile is a tall and thin one, more than tall enough to have to duck under most doorways, with ebony dark skin and dressed in a white dress shirt and black slacks, along with an apron over the shirt. His face is gaunt and thin, like a coal-black skeleton that seems to be made of only hard, sharp angles and meanness. But that's not what really draws my attention, no it's his eyes and his hair... or lack thereof, it's like a pitch-black dome, with his eyes deep set in him like cold, bright, almond-shaped green diamonds, that shimmer with intelligence.
I then felt a sharp pain on my head a moment later and looked at Sindile who said “I felt I needed to grab your attention. Now I really wish you had just told me you were his son from the beginning, no wait scratch that if anybody found out you are his son and that I’m me we’d both be in deep shit.” That silenced him for a moment and he looked me over for a second again and his eye’s filled with something, maybe sadness and regret? He spoke again “You're really his son aren't you?” I responded “Yeah, as far as I know, sometimes I wish I wasn’t though… It can be more trouble than it's worth.” That got a laugh out of Sindile, who then said while chuckling “Yeah, you can say that about anything that applies to your father, whether you're his friend or son.” That soon had me chuckling with Sindile which then turned into uproarious laughter.
A few minutes later we had stopped laughing, and Sindile spoke “Ya know this isn’t the first time I met you?” That didn’t surprise me, when I was young dad would leave me with his friends if things got deadly or if he had female company or if he wanted to go drinking. I nodded my head and Sindile continued “I was probably the first person to take care of you. Your dad had left you with me, because he thought you were dead honestly, I had to track him down and give you back eventually. You wouldn’t believe the expression on his face once he saw you.” Sindile then smiled and started reminiscing, but that had surprised me. So Sindile had been the first person to care for me then, not my bitch of a mother? That just pissed me off, if she didn’t care enough to look after me, why have me at all… nevermind I turned back to Sindile.
Sindile spoke again before the room drifted into silence “So Atlas why have you tracked me down anyway? Your dad send you to collect some drinking money out of me? Or does he need a place to lie low for a while?” I forced down the smile that was coming up from those perfectly reasonable reasons he’d think my dad would send me here and said “No, actually I’m here with at Novice Training Camp for the year, and I heard you can make armor and weapons Mr. Sindile.” He responded instantly “Please don’t call me Sindile that name is dead to me, I go by Mark Road now. And about the armor and weapons, give me a minute.” He then went into thought.
I waited for him to talk for a good five minutes or so before he said “Yeah I can make you some gear but don’t go spilling about who made it, I’m trying to lay low.” That sent a buzz of excitement through me, and I said “Thank you Mr. Sindile!” Only to feel a sharp whack on the head “I told you boy that it’s Mark Road now!”
Sindile, no wait, Mark then got up after giving me that good whack on the head, and walked to the back of the room and gestured for me to get up. He then moved some things at random… and nothing happened and Mark seemed to be surprised, Mark then got visually frustrated and kicked one of the boxes littering the floor and one of the walls springed open to reveal a dark passage leading down. Mark then walked down the passage smugly and I followed barely not laughing, there’s no light but that didn’t seem to bother Mark, and I manage along fine by following the wall and Mark’s footsteps.
We’re walking for a while and I got bored and I asked Mark “Hey, Mr. Mark if you’re good enough for my dad to send me to get armour and stuff, why don’t you advertise it more?” Mark turned around before I could react and stuck me on the head again and growled before turning back around “I already told you boy, that. I. Am. In. Hiding.” As I was rubbing my head I asked Mark another question “Alright, but why are you in hiding then?” Mark stopped for a second and sighed before returning to walking and said “Because of your father, and long story made short he made me desert my position on the frontlines.”
Ah that made sense, my dad had quite the habit of throwing other people’s lives into chaos, trust me I’ve seen him do it and it’s practically magic how he can ruin others lives. But anyway the Union does not take deserting their frontlines lightly. At best if you had something to appease the Union lifetime sertitude, but if you were deemed worthless you would be executed on the spot if found. Mark then spoke up again “Anyway, before you ask that’s the reason I go by Mark now, if the Union knew that i’m Sindile Rasput they’d send a strike team and kidnap me. They’d probably lock me up forever only to be let out to make weapons and armor.”
That made me stop for a second, If Mark is that good at making gear that the Union would try to take him in alive, he must have been pretty well off before he met dad, and then my dad had royally messed his life up. I was starting to get bored of asking questions, so I asked Mark one last question. “So do you regret meeting my father?” That made him stumble, but he righted himself and answered calmly “No I don’t, If I hadn’t met him I probably be dead, maybe not on the outside but definitely on the inside. If I knew what I knew now back then...I’d still say yes in a heartbeat.” Silence settled between us after that.
Some more walking in the dark later we stopped, Mark went to a wall on my left and started feeling around and it popped open...without him kicking it. He then went in and I peered in only to have my retina’s burned out. The bastard had turned on the lights without a warning. I recovered a couple of moments later and went in, with little blurry spots at the corner of my eyes.
The room is huge with tables and tools scattered around, and crates full of what seemed to be metals and leather. There is also a forge and machines, and a looking up there’s vent. The room also smelt kinda like the bar, but with a stronger scent of iron, and the addition of leather and half a dozen other smells.
Mark then spoke up “Alright boys step up here,” he said while gesturing to a stool “lets get your measurements, and make sure to strip down I want to get this right the first time.” I did as I was told, though I did feel a little creeped out once a stray thought about being a boy in a dark room almost naked with an older man. That made everything pretty damn awkward after that.
A couple uncomfortable touches later Mark seemed to be finished, and I rushed to put on my clothes, Mark coughed and spoke up “Alright now that unpleasantness is over, we can move on to weapons so what kind of weapons do you wield boy?” I spoke and told him my preferences. “Hm, so a short sword and hand to hand, a bit of an unorthodox style but I think I can fashion something up. Alright, you can get going boy, I going to get started. Oh and turn my sign to say closed, now shoo.” Wait shouldn’t he be asking me more stuff or something?
“Wait, shouldn’t I being telling you how I want my armour to be done or whether it should be leather or metal or something-” Mark interrupted me quickly “Boy, which of us is the master smith and craftsmen here, if you think you know better than me how to do my craft then please come make your gear yourself. I’ve seen leagues of warriors and adventurers, I know what I’m doing and what you need, now shoo!” That sent a wave of shame down my back and I bowed and left. I took a look at the workshop before I went down the hallway and say Mark already at hard work and grumbling about today’s youth.
It didn’t take long to get out of Mark's bar and back out to the seedy alley, and yes I made sure to flip the sign. As I walked back to my camp, I started to dream of my gear to be made. As about to enter the lot, and get ready to take my afternoon nap I heard a shout “Mule, hey Mule!” I looked behind and saw Mars jogging towards me.
I stopped and waited for Mars to arrive which didn’t take long. Mars has a look of excitement on his face and spoke quickly and equally excited “Mule, guess what?” He didn’t give me chance to answer “I got you approved! If you can pass my final exam in front of some guild clerks you can start taking quests!” That sent waves of excitement through me and I asked “Awesome when can I take the final exam, and oh and what it is it? Mars, still excited said, “You can take it in two weeks, and you get to fight me with real gear and go all out!” That sent a wave of excitement through me, that gave me two weeks to prepare. I looked Mars in the eyes and said: “I hope you’ll be ready then.” With a fierce, wolfish grin. Mars returned an equally fierce grin and jogged off. I then took my afternoon nap.
The next morning I got up, did some warm-ups and then went to wait for Mars to get here. I was the first there this morning and waited while others showed up, Damon didn’t take all that long to get there after me, which is as per usual. He gave me a nod before taking a spot next to me as we waited. After a while, Mars showed up smiled and said “Good morning Novices, ready to do some training!” “Yeah!” I responded, but when I said that Mars looked over at me and grimaced “Mule, I’m sorry to say this but you are not allowed to attend training with me any more till after our duel, so please don’t show up for training anymore. It’s better for the both of us.” I was stunned for a moment, no training what was I going to do this is what my day was!
“Trainer Mars why?! Why am I not allowed to train with you till after the duel?!” I asked frantically, and he said apologetically “Sorry Mule, but those are guild rules. They think I might sabotage you or something.” I looked around for a second before focusing back on him “But you wouldn’t do that, wait what about sparring?” I said with a hint of hope, “Sorry Mule, no sparring either. Just take it easy till our dual and reflect.” After he said that he zoomed out of view before things could get any awkwarder, the others who are awake followed, Damon went by with a slightly apologetic look in his eyes.
It was not long before they were out of view to and I sighed and went back to my tent. If I wasn’t going to train then I might as well go to sleep. I found out the hard way that it was never a good idea to train while frustrated, and ever since I discovered my ability Rest I’ve been able to sleep whenever, wherever I want and, for how long I want. But before I laid down in my bedroll I noticed a letter, It was addressed to me.
It simply said It’s ready. I zoomed out of my tent to the Adder’s Fury. As I got to the bar, the late night patrons or the ones that reached drunkenness were shambling out of the bar. I didn’t care and rushed into looking for Mark, and looked around before I saw him busing a table and ran to him and asked “Is it ready?!” he replied, “Sorry sir, but please sit down before I can help you, I have other patrons to attend to.” He gestured to the last couple of fools drowning their troubles here. I took the hint and sat down, waiting for the last couple of drunks to leave.
A few moments later after the drunks left, Mark came over “Sorry about that some of these fools here would sell their own mother, and if they found out that I was a craftsman they would do something stupid. Now follow me.” I followed Mark into the back room, and he gestured for me to sit down. Mark then went over to a wall and did something and it fell open and he pulled out a large package.
He took the things and laid them on a table and said while looking smug “Get up and come over here, and strip down to your underwear.” I did as I was told very excited, and walked over to him and looked at what he laid on the table and I saw gear that hope is mine.
Mark then handed me a brown long sleeved shirt and a matching pair of pants, “Put these on, they’re the first part of your amour.” I put them on and found the clothes soft, form-fitting, and comfortable like they were made for me...which I guess they are. Mark said, “These clothes are made to keep the armor from chaffing you, and while they look flimsy they are still fairly durable, next here is the leathers.” He handed me the leather armor while looking smug still. First is the leather chest piece which is fairly heavy, and has a set of straps on the front that I could adjust. After putting it on, I moved and stretched with it and it barely even hindered me. Next I was given some leather gauntlets that went over my long forearms easily, they also had some straps on them and a little heavy but otherwise fine. Finally, he gave me a set of leather straps to put on my feet but didn’t cover the soles of my feet, it only covered the top part of my feet.
I looked at Mark questioningly, which he answered swiftly “I noticed that you don’t look comfortable in your shoes, so I made some adjustments to make sure you have some protection while still comfortable.” That is true, shoes constrict my feet and make it harder to sense the earth and these leather whatever are pretty comfortable.
Mark then coughed and I looked at him “Now for the main event.” He then handed me a sword, and I slowly pulled it out of its scabbard and found myself mesmerized. It’s a shortsword about two feet long, not counting its hilt, made of a beautiful grey steel, the blade is shaped like a leaf that thinned down towards the tip, making it seem perfect for thrusting or slashing. It’s handle fit perfectly in my hand, and when I moved it, it was like an extension of my arm…..It’s made for me.
I looked at Mark and said with emotion “Thank you, I’m not sure how I could ever repay you for this, but-” He interrupted me while looking a little uncomfortable and said “Don’t bother, It’s a gift just think of it as a late birthday gift from me, anyway the sword is not the only weapon I gave you, look at your gauntlets.” I felt a little overwhelmed but looked at my gauntlets, which I noticed moved perfectly with my hands. The gauntlets have what appears to be metal underneath the leather of the forearm and knuckles. Mark then choose to speak again “Those gauntlets have steel plates riveted on the knuckles for striking and so do your leggings, and there is steel embedded in the leather on the forearms and legs for deflecting, I put those there to compliment your fighting style.” I said the only word that came to mind “Wow.”
Mark nodded his head in appreciation before saying “Now while these are a good set of gear, don’t get fond of them no matter how good the gear is eventually it breaks down, so always have your eyes on a new set or have one ready for order. But also you can make it last longer if you take care of your gear, now let me show you.” After saying that Mark then showed me how to care for my gear and how to repair, allowing me to get some new skills until he finally kicked me out because he got annoyed at me for breaking a anvil.