By Aladrin Greywood, Bard.
It had been a year. Laboring under the hot sun, fighting off blood-sucking insects, digging into the earth more times than imaginable. Between the toiling of Mia and Oak, they had finally obtained the last of the reagents…. It was time to begin. The chest the Guardians carried with them housed numerous plants, ores, and woods. Some mundane, crafted on a whim in a time of necessity, while others rested in thick cloth, holding in the imbued magical energy that surged throughout its being. Those were no ordinary reagents. Iron… wood… both circulating mana within their molecules, having lain and lived within the folds of Mardrun and the pulsating magic contained inside. Both as dangerous as it was mysterious, the Guardians brought the contents to Key’s Crossing, home of the Ravens, with one goal in mind.
Stanley Lorden stared intently at his anvil, almost willing it to prepare for the intense task at hand. Resting atop was his trusty hammer and dials, ready to receive the first reagent upon its cast metal surface. Stanley grabbed the first of several pieces from the chest. A thick hunk of iron, fashioned and formed for the Guardians by the trusted tools of the Golden Hand blacksmiths. Placing it within his heated coals, he blew air underneath, forcing a hot flame to emerge and cascade across the warming metal. Moments later, he pulled it from the red hot embers, placing it on the anvil. Taking his hammer in his hand, he envisioned the shapes in his head.
“I shall make…a hammer. One worthy of a Guardian”.
He brought down his own hammer with resolve, feeling the iron underneath move and mold into the desired piece. After a length of time, he moved the other ingot into the coals to begin warming and preparing for his anvil. The two pieces would provide structure within the weapon, keeping the giant head aloft and firmly in place. After having shaped the two iron ingots into position, he steadied his nerves with several swigs of a nearby flask of ale. Reaching his gloved hand into the chest, he pulled forth several large pieces wrapped in a thick cloth. The energy contained could be felt radiating and vibrating from his fingertips into his very soul. The mana deep within him responded and danced within his body, rejoicing in the embrace of these infused reagents. Focusing deep within himself, Stanley connected the streams of mana and concentrated on each of their individual resonances. Iron and wood, soul and mind. He collected the pieces and unfurled the cloth upon an available tree stump. The metal glinted at the flames flickering in his mobile forge, while the dull browns and grays within the wood absorbed the warmth of his fire. Calling forth his knowledge of the arcane, Stanley took to the pieces with fervor and thrust the metal into his coals before taking his immense carving knife and shaping the wood into a handle. The rush of mana swirled about the clearing, as the metal warmed in the fire. His hammer anticipated the new material to grace its surface, and Stanley obliged, pulling the hot iron from the coals and taking to shaping their new design.
Wiping the beads of sweat from his head, having spent a long and arduous amount of energy with the reagents at his fingers, Stanley let out a deep breath of air. The hammer before him was complete. With a great sigh, he stood, lifting the hammer from the warm, hardened surface of his anvil. The massive weapon gleamed in the daylight, tremoring with the energy contained within.
“I shall name thee ‘Guardian’s Oath’. He said, holding the hammer in his hands. “For you shall reflect honor in the hands of your wielder”.
Elzerith carefully examined the tools within his bag. Calipers, magnifying glass, vials containing various mixtures of oils, sanctified moon water, gems and magic bobbles. All of these assorted items, seemingly random in nature, carried an important task. A task that no one they knew had completed before, or yet dared to attempt outside cloistered pockets.
Today would be like any other day, one thought. The sun hung high in the air, as the satchel, freshly packed the night prior, swung from his shoulders, onto the dew-kissed earth. The contents rattled about inside, grimacing at the jostling, advising to calm one’s nerves. No matter how many times said it was “just another ritual”, it was known otherwise. While being a master of the arcane arts, one to stand toe to toe with the greatest of casters, imbuing an item, let alone a dangerous weapon, with mana and magic could be deadly.
There in the clearing awaited his friends. Compatriots beside whom he had fought a year’s worth of battles. Guardians. Golden Hand. These brave men and women had all combined their efforts to keep Mardrun safe and secure against the rising tide of Mordok and, as of late, Undead. They stood naught to gain personally from this enchantment, and could have found anyone else to aid Elzerith in his ritual. But, instead, they offered themselves and their own lifeforce in an attempt to see to its success. These were people he could call friends. Warriors, mages, clerics, and even Bards. Putting their lives at risk to aid him in creating their first magical weapon.
Nodding solemnly in their direction, an air of stillness hung about them. One could feel the pulsation of the mana stream. It clung to one’s aura and called out. Responding with a silent prayer and an offering of comfort to the agitated magic hanging in the clearing, the caster closed his eyes, feeling the hairs on his arms and neck tingle as the mana flowed about and through his being. Grabbing at every tendril of power held with the soul. One could feel it. Their nervousness. And they could feel his.
With a heavy breath, he steadied his gait and opened his eyes. It was silent. All bodies nearby faced his gaze and awaited his word. Retrieving the ritual powder from a small chest brought along, he plunged a hand inside and began spreading it around, forming a large circle around the ritual mat emblazoned with personal runes. Within this shape, he placed several smaller circles and his own runes of power. Symbols that called forth his own life essence and expressed his connection to the mana stream. They meant as much to him as anything else, and reflected his openness to the swirling storm of mana that danced about the clearing. The Bards both Guardians and Golden Hand, began to fiddle with their strings and instruments, tuning them for what would be certainly the most dangerous song they would ever play. Several warriors stood by, courtesy of the Guardians and Ravens, prepared to defend the ritual members against any intruders that might attempt to disrupt, and ultimately call about the demise of the casters involved.
After finishing the circle, he finally spoke, calling forth for the weapon to be brought forward and placed in the middle, upon his mat. Surprise took him, as Stanley walked forward, putting the hammer haphazardly within the center of the symbolized circle of cloth. This was, without a doubt, the largest hammer Elzerith had ever seen, and after quickly remembering the Guardian’s stories about an immense man, clad in blackened armor having recently joined Shieldhaven, he shook his head. Clearly, the one capable of wielding this weapon must be one in the same. Elzerith struggled to reposition the hammer, feeling, firsthand, the considerable weight. Barely had his hands touched the handle then the coursing mana within the weapon surged through his fingers and into his body. This was truly a masterpiece of crafting and the magic within would be a fine vessel for his own arcane power.
It was time. The hammer was in place, blue finch leaf lay carefully surrounding the weapon, ready to be consumed in the process, as his timers and tools sat nearby. The sun beat down on the gathering of people with a fierceness that echoed the intensity of the ritual about to happen. His friends in the Guardians stood in place in the smaller circles, having offered themselves, their mana, and their lifeforce for this task. Within the ritual circle, Liala, a cleric, Stanley, a warrior blacksmith, and Aladrin, his Bard and friend all extended their hands, ready for the process to begin. Nodding his head toward the assembled instrumentalists, Elzerith began.
With the soft playing of music behind them, the enchanter called forth to the mana in the air, asking it to calm and steady itself. The magic within the clearing responded, swirling about and dancing around Elzerith, filling his body with their song. With a smile, he could feel his own mana respond in turn, connecting to the world around him. Eyes closed and head held high, he absorbed the rays of the sun and basked in the heat generated both by its shine and the vibrating mana around him. He moved about the circle, chanting softly to himself the arcane teaching of his past and former life. Songs of Faedrun and the words of his masters. People he had long since left in the dust of time, he still remembered their utterings and held close all he had learned. Taking pieces of charcoal in his hand, he called to the people within the circle.
“Take heed. As the mana comes forth and into the weapon, combining with the reagents, you will feel pressure. Keep your hands extended and draw the following symbols upon them”. Handing each of the participants a piece of charcoal, he continued. “You are this one’s Warders. You shall contain the mana you channel into this weapon, as this one conducts the ritual. You must always keep your concentration forward and intentional. Do not falter, and do not yield to the force of the mana as it responds”.
In turn, he instructed the Warders to channel their own mana. Slowly. Bit by bit. Painstakingly contributing their arcane and divine connections to the mana stream, they, keeping their hands held aloft, pushed their power into the weapon. Elzerith continued walking about the hammer, taking measurements, adjusting the position of the weapon accordingly, and moving about his own magical powers to accommodate the flow of mana around him. And just when all mana had been channeled into the hammer, he began deconstructing the reagents and imbuing them with the lifeforce of those around him.
Soon, the sun began to disappear. The winds within the clearing swirled angrily, sending leaves and twigs in all directions, and then, the sky turned dark.
Thunder echoed across the woods, causing shivers to run along the spines of the bards. Elzerith could feel their hesitation shouting toward them.
“DO NOT STOP! Warders! Lift your hands to the heavens!” Walking to each he clasped their hands with his own, as the sun blotted from the sky with darkening clouds. “Lend this one your willpower. Do it now!”
One by one, he drew from each of the Warders the essence of their being. The very elements of their existence. Containing it within his vessel, he held the heartbeat of life of the Guardians. Mana flowed rapidly through his body as energy pulsated and repelled against the intruding person’s lifeforce. Quickly turning, from each person contributing, Elzerith allowed the essence to transfer to the weapon, feeling it absorb the power within him, each time pulling further and further, his own energy. The strength within his legs was beginning to fade, and from the faces of his Warders and friends, he could tell they were quickly losing their own ability to remain standing.
“We’re almost there, hold on!” He shouted, having transferred the last of Aladrin’s lifeforce into the weapon. Gripping it, Elzerith could feel all the power leave his fingers and flow freely into the hammer. His left hand no longer able to close, he gathered his remaining resolve, and using his right arm lifted the weapon into the air, feeling the swirling magic about the clearing drawing to it as a moth to flame. Thunder crashed about and the sky lit up with dancing beams of light. The sun had all but gone as clouds and rain poured down upon the gathering.
“Manastream!” He bellowed into the sky, as all those around him held their increasingly shaking hands against the powerful waves of magic, emanating from the weapon. “Take this hammer as your home, fill it with your essence as we have, and accept it as your own!” With a final rush of his own magic, Elzerith pulled the weapon from the sky and thrust it into the earth, creating the bridge of mana from the air to the ground. Connecting his soul and body to those around him, and the wailing winds of magic to flow into the hammer. With this final transfer of lifeforce, all within the circle crumpled to the ground, Elzerith included, gasping for air.
Several minutes passed. The winds faded. The latent, cascading mana that flowed through the clearing subsided, and the world calmed to silence and peace. Stillness hung in the air, as the panting members of the Guardians gathered their strength, bringing themselves to their knees to catch their breath. There, before them, the hammer sizzled and steamed in the drops of rain that still poured from the darkened sky. Emanating magical force, the massive weapon almost shined with an iridescent glow, filling the onlooking gathering with awe.
Elzerith was the first to speak, slowly bringing himself to his feet, as he put a hesitant hand upon the pommel of the immense hammer.
“It is finished. This one gladly presents to you… Guardian’s Oath.”
Carefully, lifting the hammer to his chest, he quietly said a few words to himself, focusing his energy once again into the vibrations of the mana flowing within the hammer. With a flurry of his hands, he channeled mana through the hammer toward Aesa Nightriver, a nearby friend of the Guardians. As if by intent, an aura of magical energy transferred from the weapon to the awaiting Ulven. A soft blue glow could be seen surrounding Aesa. While unsure immediately of the effects herself, the surrounding Guardians with connections to arcane magic quickly understood that she was now protected under the hammer’s power.
It had been done. Their first enchanted weapon had been completed, and despite those involved feeling worse for wear, excitement loomed, as all congratulated Elzerith and Stanley. The two shook hands, nodding with respect at the other’s accomplishments. This marked a new beginning for the Guardians. A new type of magical item that could turn the tides forever against the invading armies of corruption. And even in the pouring rain, all celebrated with anticipation of what this meant for their small faction.
Elzerith, amidst the cheering gathering of friends and allies looked up at the sky and the disappearing sun. All around him, mana swirled, dancing off his body and soul as if thanking him for including them in the ritual. Turning in the clearing once again, he smiled. This merry group of adventures had rekindled his connection to the manastream and given him a new sense of responsibility and strength.
He stood there, in their presence… the Celestine, Elzerith, an enchanter.