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BTW: "Whispers in the Walls"


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Wellman ran a calloused thumb along the edge of the axe blade,  he hmphed, “It is late for any of them to be working the forge, too much wine and food at the midday meal. As fo the peace-bind, I can do that.”  He carries the axe to a bench behind the counter and starts rummaging around among several hard leather sheaths made to fit over an axe head. “This will do.’

 

He sets the axe on the counter, “I’ll be right back,” and walks into the back of the shop where he had emerged from earlier.

 

The three youths looked around some more while he tinkered in the back, but they didn’t have to wait long. He came out of the back, the axe sheath was now framed by a enameled metal edge work and he fit it to the blade. Then attached thin leather strips which had been twined into a sort of cord around the axe head and the haft then back to the sheath where he applied a seal locking the ends of the cord together. “There you go,” he hands it back to Artoria, “You can still carry it in your belt and draw it out when you sit with no trouble. In a pinch can even still use it as a club. Now fo the sword.” He comes around and looks at Ardan’s belt.

 

“Might I suggest you do away with that belt sheath and switch to a dedicated baldric. It’s a belt that you wear over your shoulder, your sword will hang more naturally, and it will be easier to take it off and put on. Also leaves more room on your belt for pouches and other things. I have a few here rather plain though if you want something fancier I can direct you to the shop of Samerta, she is girdler I use.” Wellman goes to a rack with several plain leather belts. “We will use this for now and if you change it to one from Samerta I’ll rebind it free of charge and we’ll call it even.” He attaches Ardan’s Sheathe to the baldric and then takes some more of the leather cord and bind the sword closed. When done he handed it back to Ardan and showed him how to wear it properly. Immediately Ardan saw how it was much better than his old belt sheath.

After they paid for the work and signed the bond book, said to them. “Knives and that staff are not  placed under the bond but they may draw looks, and even bound so too will your weapons. My suggestions if find employment if you intend to stay in the city for long.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ardan nodded.  "Thank you, for everything.  We'll be getting the lay of the land for a day or two, then look into finding some means of employment as you said."    Ardan was still more accustomed to using a bow over his sword, but having a means to carry it properly was even more of an issue in the city.  He looked to the others to see if they had anything else to add, before preparing to leave.

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The three bid their farewells to Master Wellman and once again they went out into the city.

 

There was so much to see, so many wonderful things, so much color, there were so many different ways in which these city folks dressed. So many different people, they saw that most looked like they did, fair with both light and dark hair even a few with red, but they now saw men with brown kin, and very dark hair worn in strange, curled styles on the top of their heads, others with coppery colored skin and hair that was of differing shades of blue.

 

 And that was just humans, they saw Elves, much like those they met in the forest, but also others a small group of armed and armored elves of incredible beauty with skin of gold and hair of silver. There were three men their weapons unbound and a woman the woman was wreathed in golden robes. People stared at them and made way for them as the strode nobly through the street. Another set of elves they saw were shorter and wore no finery indeed they were much like the regular people this trio two women and a man were performing for coins at a street corner the man playing a stringed instrument and the women dancing and singing.

 

Then there were the dwarves. Shorter than the average human but wide, broad shoulders short think legs and heavily muscled arms. Each Dwarf had hair of various lengths usually braided with gems or trinkets of gold and silver, bears in similar fashion to the hair. Some were armed most were not the three from Havendale saw that the Dwarves were not uncommon in the city for they drew no  stares like the elves and many seemed to be known at the shops.

 

They spent the rest of the day wondering and even found themselves at the gates of the inner Castle where the Count and his family resided. Thy did not try entering there as the gate were guarded and there was little to know traffic through.

 

As they wondered they drew less attention now that their weapons were bound, but Artoria still drew appreciative looks for she was a striking woman of unusual size, and as she was armed it drew looks for most women here as elsewhere did not carry arms.

 

One incident that day stands out. Not all who traveled through the city did so on foot there were many who rode on horse back and the trio saw their very first carriages. These vehicles were of many styles and sizes. One such an ornate carriage, round  with a  team of four ebony mares, passed them as they were heading back to the inn late in the afternoon. As it passed it slowed. The trio saw that aside from the driver there was another man up front and two standing on a shelf of sorts at the rear. The windows and door had dark curtains blocking a view of the interior.

 

The coach itself was of some dark wood heavily polished and embellished with gold and red scrollwork. As it passed they saw that the curtain moved aside and the caught a glimpse of a woman’s face, her skin was coppery in color and her eyes were heavily made up and a deep blue. Her hair what they could see was copious and raven black., piled atop her head in waves, she wore a tiara. Her eyes lingered on them for several seconds then the curtain fell back and the carriage sped up and away.

 

Back at the Inn they had their supper and spent a few hours in the common room it was much like the inn back home but more subdued. None of the patrons were boisterous or rowdy, and those not staying at the end had come for the meal and a couple of ales before going onto home and their beds. Next door they could here the rowdy songs and laughter of a full fledged tavern but this night the Trio from the north were to tired from thier journey to brave such. And so it was that they went up to their rooms to sleep.

 

It took no time for the girls to fall asleep, sharing the soft bed they were warm and cozy, the chill of the night air notwithstanding. Ardan had a harder time of it. He was not used to sleeping in such a confined space. Back in Havendale he often slept outside under the night sky only sleeping inside in inclement weather, but even at home inside, his bed was a pallet in the main room by the fireplace, here the bed was not much more than his pallet at home just suspended in a frame and the room was small with not fireplace though there was a pipe with radiated heat from the fireplace downstairs. After his candle was doused the only light came from the small window. And the strange sounds, snores, coughs, moans and groans, of the men sleeping in the common room made it hard to fall asleep but he did eventually.

 

Its was dank and dark, the walls of rough stone work close ,so that she/he could reach out to either side and run his/her hands along both walls at the same time. There was a light, a candle or torch at the end of the stone corridor, flickering. Single footsteps echoed off the walls as he/she moved toward the light. A sound, voices whispering, it seemed to come from the walls, an un-intelligible murmur in unknown tongues, sent shivers through the body they gripped their axe/sword/staff tightly and continued toward the small flame...

 

The trio woke in their rooms just as the dawn sun rose above the city walls and illuminated the streets, rays of clear sunshine burning away the fog of sleep so that only the dream remained.

 

Spoiler

All three of you had the same dream. in the dream it was just you alone in the stone hall. you  awake rested but the dream lingers fairly clear. You did not start awake you just woke up other than the starnge dream you had there is nothing alarming and the sun is a pleasant surprise since it has been cloudy and gray fro weeks.

 

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Their wanderings through town were fun, seeing so many different people,and all the new sights and smells, it was alot to take in.   Ardan wasn't all that happy when it came time for bed, but it was his own fault.   Still, it was a bed in his own room, so it was enough.   He just didn't like feeling quite as cramped as it was.  He'd try with the window open tonight, and see if that made it feel any less cramped and confining.
 

The dream was confusing, they'd never been anywhere that cramped and confined, not with a stone-walled tunnel like that.  He noted the warm light of the sun as he got dressed, gearing up as he had before, and ready to head downstairs.   Once he exit his room and locked it behind him, he moved quietly so he didn't disturb any of the others in the common room itself.  Making his way downstairs, he took a seat to wait for his friends, knowing they'd be along soon enough.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Meara turned over on the bed she shared with Artoria and looked at the back of her friends head. The dream was still fresh and...disturbing for some reason. she slipped from the bed slowly so as not to awake Artoria, but it wasn't necessary. 

 

Artoria turned over onto her back and propped herself up as Meara got out of bed. "Morning.," she said still groggy from sleep.

 

"Good morning, sorry I woke you."

"You didn't, I was having a weird dream."

 

Meara turned from the wash basin and grabbed a cloth to dry her face. "Really," she asked, "nothing bad I hope?" 

 

Artoria shook her head, "I don't know it was so real..."

 

Ardan had been watching the early morning patrons most from the town who came to eat, it was a strange sight indeed, when he noticed Meara and Artoria comeing down the stairs they had worried looks on their faces and were in a deep conversation. After they sat Ardan asked what was bothering them?

 

The two girls looked at each other, then Meara said, "You will probably laugh at us..."

"And if you do you may find your bum in the dirt," injected Artoria.

 

"Heh, it seems we had the weirdest dream last night" explained Meara launching into the description of the dream, "... and as carzy as that sound yes we both seem to have had the same dream!"

 

 

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Ardan looked between the two of them, and nodded.  "well I guess we all had the same dream then."  When they looked at him blankly  He smiled and explained that he had the same exact dream as them.   "What the hell does it mean though?"   He pondered the meaning of it for a few moments, and gave voice to one possible scenario.  "A vision of the future maybe? I don't know, I can't recall the three of us ever all having the same exact dream before."

"Maybe we're all going crazy together too." he teased lightly.

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Meara shook her head, "We are not crazy. And we are not under a spell, that was the first thing I did when I found that Artoria and I had the same dream, and again now that you have revealed your dream."

 

Artoria rubbed her chin, "Could it be something to do with," she lowered her voice. "the elf ruins?"

 

Shaking her head again, Meara answered her friend, "I don't think so.  In this dream the walls were decrepit, wet, it did not strike me as elfish."

 

The serving wench brought them food, porridge, bacon, and hot loaves of bread with butter. Also tea and water. While the girl laid out the breakfast, Meara studied the other occupants of the dining room. "I wonder if it is just us three who have had this dream or if any others have as well," she asked after the wench had left them.

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  • 1 month later...
Spoiler

I live! I think. Anyway, This won't be poetry, but it may be something worth priming the ye old creative pump with.

 

"Don't think we know anyone here enough to risk being declared moonstruck village bumpkins," Artoria ventured in reply with a considering look on her face that said should could have mulled over it for even longer than she had, "Maybe at the church though? It's a priest's job to sooth over worries, and we have a meeting anyway. Just in case you two get bored if we drift into too much smith talk."

 

The blonde bladesmith smiled and took a healthy bite of the warm bread, excitement at the prospect of getting more of a handle on the elven rune's... properties. It acted like smithing. It resulted in things like smithing. But where was she pulling the materials for this invisible smithing, and would the owner, if anyone, object eventually? Bore thinking about anyway. For now though... Hmmm, food.

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Ardan sighed, and ate his breakfast, thinking about things.   "I do agree, we're abit new to be asking others about their dreams.  Just think how that would have been treated back home, and I'm sure it's worse here in the city."

"Going to the church sounds like a plan."   If he was being honest, he didn't really feel "at home" in the city.  Sure it was exciting and new, but it was very different from the woodlands and forests of their home, and would take a some getting used to.

 

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Meara pushed her food around on her plate while the other two attacked their food, "You know," she said quietly, "You don't have to ask questions to learn things, all you have to do is listen."

 

After they ate and made ready to go out into the city to return to the temple as they had been invited the day before, they paused  after leaving the Inn at a gesture from Meara. "I think you two should go on to the temple. I want to go to the market and see if I can find some things I need."

 

"You just want to go investigate the dreams don't you," asked Artoria?

 

Meara smiled slyly in answer. Ardand scowled.

 

"I go with you then Meara, Artoria can take care of herself at the temple it was her they invited anyway."

 

Meara patted Ardan's arm and shook her head, "A girl alone will be able to find out much more if a brooding guardian is not present. Go with Artoria, I think you may find more of use at the temple than you may think."

 

It took a few more moments for Meara to convince her friends but in the end the one parted from the two who made their way to the temple.

 

**************

 

Unlike the day before the temple was occupied though still not full, there were a dozen or so worshipers and several young persons in plain robes tending candles and such, Proctor Cellis was present but her robes were much nicer, decorated with embroidery and she wore a strange looking hat atop her head, a sort of rounded cone with swept back wings. It was very odd. They saw that she noticed them and with a nod of her head directed them to sit at the back and wait.

 

As Artoria and Ardan watched they observed the worshipers who individually muttered inaudible prayers over small holy symbols most of them carried and one by one they rose and approached the alter where Cellis stood. The priest and the patron would prey together then the patron would receive a blessing from the Proctor and would then begin to visit the alcoves. Not every patron visited each alcove nor did they visit the same ones but each did visit at least three of them and said small prayers and each left a small offering at each alcove.

 

It took about a glass for all the worshipers to make their devotions but then the hall was empty of all but the young pages and Proctor Cellis who, after doffing her head gear approached them. "Greetings my young friends, I hope this day finds you well."

 

Ardan and Artoria returned the greeting as Cellis sat with them.

 

"I'm afraid Essin hasn't arrived yet. She sent word that she had been called to the castle and would be late. She asked that I ask for you to wait that it would take long, but to be honest I would have thought she would be here by now."

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Ardan hadn't wanted to leave Meara alone, but her logical arguments finally got him to relent, and he'd gone with Artoria.   The service was interesting, and quite different than anything he'd seen previously, and afterwards he returned Cellis' greeting and nodded.   "We don't mind waiting.   It isn't like we can go to meet her at the castle ourselves after all."  He smiled thinly, and nodded.  "Thank you though.   That service was quite different than those I'm used to seeing, but not in a bad way.  It was pretty interesting."

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If Meara got herself kidnapped by strangers here after all the near-misses they'd had getting here, Artoria didn't know who she'd be more mad at. No one by themselves could fend off a determined attack by enough strangers, but, rightly or wrongly, the blonde bladesmith had more confidence in Ardan or herself getting out of a situation like that. Didn't think she'd really be convinced until she saw Meara toss a lightning bolt or fireball at someone like in the old stories.

 

"Yes, it was. Back in the village, there's too much that needs doing to devote that level of personal attention. And, sometimes, the gathering devolves into whoever's drawn the Elder's ire the most that week," Artoria continued with a big honest grin, recalling the times her usual apprenticeship had been the not-so-subtle focus of those rants, "We're fine with waiting, M'Lady. To be honest, finally getting here gave us all a lot to process, pretty weird dreams last night if I'm honest."

 

She chuckled, eyes dancing with mischief. 

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Cellis didn't seem to be listening closely to the youths but was rather watching the door as parishioners filed out,  then almost as an afterthought, "Oh that's right, you came for the smiths. I sent word to Markham but have not received a reply back yet but Bosh, the dwarf smith, sent word that he would be here by mid morning."

 

She looked again at the door as she rubbed at the corners of her mouth worriedly, then looked pointedly at Artoria, "Did you say something about dreams?"

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Yeah, I did," Artoria forced herself to remain outwardly assured at the larger woman's focus, "The same dream for my two friends and I last night. Wet stonework tunnel none of us have ever seen, narrow with one light at the far end. Whispering in our ears but no one in sight to speak. Approaching an exit and then... Wake up."

 

The blonde bladesmith lost most of her cockiness as she let her hands mime a popping bubble, the strange abruptness of a dream's Is-Not giving way to daylight's Is, "Sounds moonstruck to me, but It's not the kind of dream I'd think I'd have. Our friend Meara is off in the market chasing it right now in the market."  

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Ardan nodded.  "As she said, it was very strange, we all shared the same dream.   I wasn't happy letting her go on her own, but she was insistent."

He knew this was a risk, telling her all this, but it was done, and he wasn't going to leave Artoria unsupported.

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Cellis leaned in closer and placed a hand on Ardans arm, "Wait, your saying the three of you dreamed the same dream?"

 

Before Ardan could respond a commotion at the door to the temple drew everyone's attention. Three heavily armed and armored Dwarves had entered the tmple and were making quite a racket of disarming themselves "Balkon," called the proctor, one of the dwarves looked over and she waved him to come to them, then she lowered her voic and spoke to Ardan and Artoria, "the dwarves are very formal and tradition bound, when speaking to them only speak to Balkon and don't even refer to the other two as being present lest the be offended."

 

The dwarves by this time were divested of their arms and shields and had approached. They were interesting looking to the two youths who had so far only seen the beings at a distance. All three stood at about five foot in height, were broad shouldered and thick but not by any means fat. Their bare arms were thickly muscled and covered in course hair, indeed all of thier exposed skin was exceedingly hairy so much so that it would almost be safe to call them furry and not be a far off exaggeration. They had full heads of thick straight hair cut short at the nape of the neck and each wore a good beard that was also worn short but was very thick. Two of them were dark haired not quite black but a very dark brown, the last, Balkon, was lighter colored, a sort of reddish brown that caught the eye. he was sizing the two youths up even as they studied him and Cellis spoke.

 

"Welcome Rock-brother," said Cellis with a short bow, "it is pleasing to have you once again in our Hall.  Allow me to introduce to you two of the travelers I spoke of in my message. This is Ardan, and this is Artoria. It is she who has some questions about Runes."

 

Balkon looked once at Ardan then focused on Artoria, the other two dwarves who were several feet back both gazed at Ardan. Balkon sniffed in a great breath and with a slight bow of his head addressed Artoria ignoring Ardan. "I am Balkon of Clan Khorakal, Rock-brother, Steel-shaper, Master of Shield and Blade. I have been informed that you are a Shaper and have questions. If you are worthy I will gladly share knowledge."

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh Gods. Breathe, Artoria, Breathe,

 

Stifling the minor blasphemy in her own thoughts before it reached her tongue, she gave herself a heartbeat to assess the dwarves. Their teacher had told the trio about them, but the combination of short stature and a musculature to rival anyone she'd ever met put her on a mental backstep. Odd, and she could see how the tales of dwarves being strange could start, especially if they were as... exacting about their etiquette as she was just told. Best get off that back foot then.

 

The blonde bladesmith took her own advise and breathed out.

 

"Master Balkon," she replied and a respectful nod of her head, "Having been brought up in a forge by my father since I was little and not considering myself anywhere near being a Master of coaxing steel from ore and into the Tools first shown us by the Maker, I hesitate to grant myself any title after a mere few months of learning how to use an art, but, yes, I was given a... Rune by the elves. And I've learned how to use it to make weapons stronger or faster or a combination of the two. Either alloying the quality into the item forever as I craft them or for a moment on something already made."

 

She flushed slightly, all her sliver tongue faltering as she tried to avoid stumbling over the word 'magic', certain there were as many degrees of invisible power she was unaware of as qualities of metal. Artoria presented the aforementioned runestone to the master dwarf, willing to let it speak for itself.    

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Balkon leant forward but did not reach out to touch the displayed rune. He gave a short grunt and then straightened up casting his eye back on Artoria in mute appraisal. He hooked his thumbs into his belt as his twinkling eye, drew in a deep breath through his nose, and stood stock still, like a rock, in contemplation.

 

Cellis watch all this for a moment then placed her hand upon Ardan’s arm and drew him some distance away. “The dreams, Ardan, tell me about them,” she ordered, her voice a low whisper.

 

Arden did so but kept glancing back at the dwarfs and Artoria, when he was finished he gazed expectantly at the priest. “This concerns you? Why?”

 

“For some weeks people have complained about bad dreams. Many people from all walks of life. But none could recall the details of the bad dreams. Even I have had my slumbers disturbed and no recollection of what or why.”

 

“You say an Alfaen gave this to you? Freely?” Balkan finally spoke though his eye never wavered from Artoria’s face. “Did the Alfaen know what it was they gave?”

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Ardan nodded.  "Well we all have a good recall for them, and it was the same for each of us."  He said quietly, having already related the story.  I am surprised you would have such a disturbance, while I've not been here long this city seems quite nice.  Is there a large sewer system that might be what we were seeing?" He didn't know much about such things, but they'd been told a variety of things about the city during their training, so he thought to ask.   

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"Of course, they did. They're elves," Artoria replied with absolute respect for the strange band of wanderers who had pointed the trio at the ruins, pausing a heart beat before asking, "Should they not have, Master Balkan?"

 

She hadn't noticed anything bad happening when she used the rune to craft or enhance weapons, certainly nothing near the forge or in her health or two headed sheep being born in the local fields, but... A look blended from confusion and concern danced across her face.

 

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Cellis shook her head, "No, nothing underground, wastes is dumped into cisterns which are emptied  a few times a year. The closest to sewers would be the old castles dungeons but they have been closed up, when the new castle was built over the old."

 

Balkan, pursed his lips, "No no it is just that the Alfaen look upon crafting with a more secretive manner than we do. I just thought that they may not have known what they were gifting. But if you say that the Alf knew then that is good enough for me.

 

So. what exactly is it you wish to ask of me?"

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Ardan sighed.   "Well I can't imagine getting into those would be easy, or something most people want to do, even on good terms."  He shook his head.  "Especially me."   His father was the Constable of his village, he'd been brought up to obey and respect the law, though he had bent it a few times.   Still, the only place nearby was the dungeon under the castle.  He couldn't help but shudder slightly.   "Give me the woods and rolling hills, the depths of the wilderness any day."  he spoke quietly, more to himself.

"Do you think there's something going on down there, something that might have been left in those depths that could be causing these issues?"  He asked Celis, not so much hoping she said no, but wondering just what path he was walking in asking such a question.

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Artoria reined in the flood of immediate questions that threatened to burst loose as the niggling concern that she had been given something very very important in the form of her tiny rune stone was seemingly confirmed. 

 

"I am a smith, Master Balkan, and everything that happens with I make, whether it breaks in use or succeeds in it's wielder's hands, is partially my responsibility. And that's with a hoe, a horseshoe, or a knife. The ore which goes into a knife, the timing, the force hitting the cooling metal... This rune... I'm pulling 'ore' out of the invisible air and hammering it, weaving it into something stronger, sharper than any simple knife can be. I don't know what I don't know. And that's something I can't afford to ignore as I try to improve and find how to do more with it."

 

Her expression hovered between determination and hope she had put it into words right. 

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Balkan nodded sagely at the human females words, though he would never admit it this young girl impressed him with her display of wisdom beyond her years. 

 

“Hai, we share much in common. The rune you possess is minor but that it sings at your touch shows that you are true. 

 

We, my Rock-brothers and I, have business to attend to down river but I will return in the second phase of the new moon, if you would like to come to my forge here in the city, I will give you instruction.”

 

He looks on expectantly at Artoria

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Artoria suppressed the ungrateful strain of disappointment at not getting a hint *now*, but good news was good news and to hope for more than one egg a day from a hen was greed itself.

 

"Thank you, Master Balkan. I look forward to your teaching," the blonde bladesmith offered respectfully, mind wracking as she tried to think what kind of gift to prepare. It was traditional for the Apprentice to earn their keep from a Master, her own training from her Father not exempt from petty tasks to both teach and repay materials and time spent on an inept crafter. Gods, what would she even bring? Bottled moonlight and the hair of a unicorn like the stories? It would have made her laugh if it all wasn't so serious.

 

"Before you go, Master Balkan, I have one question. Things I've made with the rune so far, they will last until you return? I don't want to fail my friends with poor workmanship," she asked, glancing at Ardan in badly-masked concern. 

 

    

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