The Forge Master Kloog
She choose not to ask the goblin’s knowing their temperament, they would have been less than pleased to show a lost human, unable to read the street signs, the way. Avalon left the goblin’s ally, returning to the main market by following a small mouse. This mouse was kind to her, waiting every so often for the girl to catch up and always remaining within line of sight. Before Avalon could thank the mouse, however, it had vanished. Hearing Elene’s words on the back of her mind, she recalled the idea of how Hafan helps those in need and verbally thanked this place. She had found the creator of Berserker, though not what or who she expected, Falcon taught her to search for the silver lining within the dark clouds.
Looking around, Avalon found she still did not recognize where she was, however it was well populated and the people moved in two distinct ways. Following one would certainly led her to the exist, though she was in no rush to do that. There was more to explore, more to learn and thanks to her memory, more to buy. True, she may not know how to say the words, she was still able to copy the markings onto another parchment. Once satisfied with her copy, though not in the best of penmanship, she heard her hunger and saw a stall selling a bread of some kind.
Paying one sickle for the seller’s recommendation, Avalon watched him wave his wand and cut open a round loaf of bread; fill the inside with a hot soup of meat, potatoes, and carrots; handing the finished product the alchemist stared in awe at what she witnessed.
“Never seen soup n’bread before, aye?” The server asked, his hefty voice filled with joy as his red cheeks, tied back red hair, and full belly gave that service of food has been his only profession.
Avalon shook her head, taking the offered spoon and seeing further behind was a group of house elves cooking and preparing food for his use.
“A Hufflepuff family treat! Fill the belly of any traveler that it does!” He continued as his customer removed her hood to rest on her shoulders.
She took a bite, her mouth filled with the savoring taste and the expression was enough to have the man satisfied.
“First time to Hafan is it?” He asked, motioning for an elf to take his place.
Avalon nodded as she took another bite at the table he guided them to, “How did you know?”
“Don’t get’many folks with your accent ’round ’ere.” He began, “Or who r’shown Goblin Ally w’out help.”
Avalon stopped mid-bite, “Is that unusual?”
The man leans back, laughing loudly, “Now now, no need’be so serious! Igmeark told’me about ya is all--not common a human ends’up there. Only those who aren’t looking, but have need of it find it; little charm that keeps unnecessary people out’ta goblin’s shops. Keeps goblins appy’, keeps business flowin’.”
The alchemist continued eating, tearing bits and pieces of the bread bowl and scooping the soupy contents. It was a delicious meal, better than anything on the road or in the tavern. It was hard to believe something so good, was fairly priced and accessible to the common person. The man waved for two mugs and a pitcher to be brought, though originally thought to be mead, Avalon was pleasantly surprised to find it a sweet water.
“I met a master craftsman I need, but he is...unwelcoming of my presence or need of his help.” Avalon took a sip with an annoyed sigh.
“Must be talkin’bout Forge Master Kloog.” The wizard frowned not with disapproval, but sadness, “Wasn’t always like’that. Used to take great pride in ’is work! Till word got back of what one’of’is best works ’ad done--wasn’t the same after that.”
Avalon grew quiet, slowing her eating until almost losing her appetite of the great feast. She began to understand the goblin now, his reason for refusing to help her, his drunken personality now...if she had learned what her own creation had done she would feel ashamed as well. The destruction and devastation Berserker caused not only their foes, but also her own family had earned its hatred almost as much as the one who wielded it. That weapon was cursed, though it granted one a quick and painless death, it was a power that should not exist--to destroy the soul’s of a living being...it goes against the principles of the Great Balance.
“Papa!” Yelled a small child running towards the man.
“There’s m’little badger!” He hoisted her into his arms then up in the air many times, “Meet m’daughter Helga!”
Avalon stood up then kneeled at the young girl probably no older than her tenth winter. Dressed in black and yellow, Helga saw the meal the customer was eating and had a big grin on her face.
“You like m’soup? The bowl was m’idea ya’know!” Helga said with a puffed out chest.
Avalon smiled, “I do! I will certainly tell my friend about it!”
Her mother caught up, tickling her daughter until she burst into a non-stop laughter. Avalon watched the three interact, watched them laugh and be merry, displaying a true happiness within a family the alchemist nearly forgot. It had been a long time since her family had been like that, it was something they would never return to--after her mother’s death, the one that was the center of their world, while giving birth to Sid, no one was the same. Though they had lost siblings before, the loss of their mother was entirely different. Sid never knew those times, he had never met his mother and in turn, Avalon did her best too try to fill that hole for his sake, but the relationship that deteriorated between her and their father could not be overlooked.
“If ey’know anythin’bout goblins is’there stubborn!” The wizard said, holding his daughter over his shoulders, “No poin’in reason’in with’em. Best to do is let’em change their minds.”
The wizard advised, having another bread bowl soup brought over for Helga. Sitting back down, the three indulged in their meals.
“Trust goblin’work not the only reason y’er here?”
Avalon shook her head and removed the scribbled on parchment for him to read. It was rather straight-forward what the majority of these items were used for, though the young woman did not strike the father as a...witch. She did not give off the feeling, which confirmed the goblin’s whispers of an alchemist being among them. Based on the contents of this list, the items strike him as those used by a witch or wizard, meaning her ‘friend’ was. It was not that her being an alchemist would have her unfit to be here, but it was curious that a lone alchemist had come here after so many years. Still...she was good company, respectful of his residents and was of good intent, otherwise he would have had her removed the moment she arrived.
“I became lost. Truth be told, I cannot read any of these signs and have been wondering since I was separated from my group.” Avalon explained, emphasizing on her inability to read, but curiosity of Hafan.
“’Appens more often than ye’r think. If ya’plan on staying long, lets get you inside the cavern--got an inn further down; for long-term residents and travelers. Cheaper too.” The wizard brushed Helga’s hair out of her face as she ate.
“Would I be able to bring my family? I travel with a witch and my partner, a dire wolf. I promise neither will not cause trouble.” Avalon asked sincerely.
The wizard nodded, “’Course.” He waved for a house elf to come over with parchment, ink, and quill, “I’ll draw ye’r a map. When ye’r get there tell’em Heilagr Hufflepuff sent ye’r.”
“You did what?” Elene looked at Avalon as though she had grown a second head.
“I found the goblin who forged Berserker, but he has no desire to help me. Heilagr advised to change is mind, rather than reason with him.” Avalon explained, leading the horse and wagon down the largest road within the cavern, at a time where nearly all had closed shop for the night.
“You met the forge master of Berserker, the head of the Hufflepuff House; who offered you a place within the cavern and got to meet the creator of the bread-bowl-and-soup meal who is a ten-year-old child...” Elene gives out a laugh, “Perhaps you should get lost more often.”
Following the map and a written direction of words the three continued further inward seeing the residents of the cavern migrating with them. Goblins, witches and wizards, elves, dwarfs, even a centaur all present made their way together. Avalon was in awe.
“Is this your first time seeing so many?” Elene asked, quietly.
“It is. So many people in one place, so many creatures together, living and working peacefully its...” The alchemist searched for the words, “I never knew this was possible. We are taught that in order to maintain and return the Great Balance to its natural state the abominations--sorcerers--much die.”
The alchemist paused, watching the people pass.
“We are the guardians of the Great Balance, protectors of magic and all its creatures...even if they do not want our protection. We will protect them will our lives such is our propose and an honor. To die in serve of the Balance...there is no greater glory.”
Avalon walked again the three arriving upon the inn, a multi-storied building carved out from the wall of the cavern, it was colorful and decorated, illuminated with floating candles and lanterns all around. Outside dozens of fires burned were people all gathered either among their own kin or visiting others, they drank and ate, laughing and competing.
Elene had been a lone witch most of her life, keeping to the woods and away from people. Her parents died in a fire set by warring muggles, not because they knew what they were, but because the lords of that land and the next had been at war with each other for a great time. She avoided the wars, avoided villages and people in general...that changed when a wounded alchemist by the name of Falcon stumbled into the stream near her cottage.
“How...do you feel about this?” Elene gestured with her eyes to the place and people they reside with.
For a time Avalon was quiet, carefully thinking about her what her answer would be and whether or not it would remain the same. Anexus are not known for altering from their chosen and destined path, but are so for being one’s to keep their word.
“I do not know.” The younger answered honestly, “I feel confliction: in one hand I hold the will of my family and our ancestors we honor. The Anexus within me warns, to trust no sorcerer, that they offer nothing, but disaster and should be killed before their curse can further infect the world. And yet...” The Alchemist looks to the arm that bore the leather-bound bracer, given by her closest friend, “I do not want to believe all witches and wizards are evil.”
Leaving the horse and wagon in the care of the stable-boy, Avalon, Elene, and Fenrir entered the inn and found a counter Elene read to be where to pay for their room. A wordless house-elf took the coin from Avalon, then another came to help Elene with her bags, finally guiding the trio to a room on the third floor. Half-way up Avalon slowed and took another bag from Elene:
“If the stairs are too much I could ask for somewhere on a lower floor?” Avalon offered with concern.
Elene waved, “That’s quite alright, I am simply not accustomed to stairs.”
Unpacking their belongings, Avalon sent Elene and Fenrir to get their meals while she finished. Satisfied with her solitude, she removed the wrapped book and revealed its cover. The alchemist paused to take in the sight of the book and to understand the mystery: how did she know how to read the book’s title?
It was not in the same markings as to what Elene had been teaching and what the people of Hafan used. This was an older language, one Avalon felt she knew, she understood because they were a writing and words the Volva spoke to her before her departure and yet she spoke it as though it was her common tongue. Avalon knew not how to write those words of her own, but she could read the title of this book and speak it as a mother tongue. Opening the cover, she looked at the first page and saw the illustrations of the Anexus family tree, following the line, her eyes locked on the names Tali Anexus and Darcia Anexus. Below were their children, all, but two having been inked red. Sid and Avalon Anexus were all who remained of seven children.
Their family tree covered pages of parchment until finally a blank page separated the tree from the first passage:
As the World Tree of Yggdrasil trembled in furry and fear from the theft of its divine fruit it passed onto its children gifts. To its eldest, the Five Elder Dragons, went the wisdom of the elements; from its leaves came the vast forests to shelter and nurture the beasts it brought to life; from its falling branches came the path rivers would follow, its trunk became the mountains separating the worlds from which it once connected. Its roots shriveled and died, its continued kindness and mercy revealed the canyons and valleys that would house the Betrayers. To the guardians, lost and alone, came their duty and Yggdrasil’s final gift--its nectar-filled flower was consumed by the people of the Tree and with it was given the means to fight and protect in the Tree’s place. All who followed the laws and guidance of the Great Balance were thus blessed and remain for generations.
Avalon brushed her thumb along the page’s edge, reading the opening passage a single time and understanding its words completely. Why had the Volva given her this book? What purpose was it meant to fulfil if its contents were only read by some? How is it she had never heard of this book before, especially if it contained the origins and history of their clan? Such sacred relics of time should be within the temple, yet the Volva kept it in her possession as though it were an heirloom.
She shut the book gently, replace the cloth wrapping that protected it and hid it back underneath a series of folded clothes. They were placed together in a drawer, closed as Avalon kept her hands on the wood for lingering time. What to make of these things she did not know, she could send a raven and ask directly, but the chances of being answered evasively or being found out by her father were too great. Still, Volva had likely intended for her to figure an answer out for herself, she has often left that choice for the young Alchemist.
The following days were without success, a series of traveling to the Goblin Market, finding Master Kloog and ‘attempting’ to speak with him. After over a week without as much as a sentence of persuasion exchanged Avalon began bringing Ragnarok and simply sitting and reading, or practicing writing assigned by Elene. She copied the letters written by Elene and attempted to sound them out, looking around to read out street or shop signs.
“Why bother with an old drunk like Master Kloog?” Asked the salesmen goblin, whose name Avalon cared little to remember.
“He forged my father’s weapon.” Avalon entertained an answer, “He must know how to defeat it.”
The goblin huffs, folding his arms as he looks at the alchemist’s parchment, “I’ll save you the trouble--Master Kloog maybe worthless now, but in days past his works were without equal, I know nothing that can defeat his work. The last weapon he forged, was his master piece, and he is the only goblin I know that wished he never created it.”
Avalon saw the old goblin drop his cup and take the bottle’s head into his mouth whole. He says that Avalon and her father are exactly alike and that is what she wants to avoid. A man who clings to tradition as if it is the only way of life; charging into battle to kill any and all who whiff of sorcerer; who murders his own child because of who he chose to love. Was the path he walked as as she does now? Is Avalon condemned to be as her father no matter her struggle? Is all she does now in vain?
Her mind filled with disturbing thoughts, enough to cause her to lose focus and need to stop practicing writing and roll p her ink-well, quill, and parchment. She stood up and walked toward the master, taking his cup from the ground she set it on the cold forge:
Screams from nearby had her sprinting from the goblin market to the main streets. The thumping of the ground and the noise of the crowd made it nearly impossible to see the source of the commotion; Avalon climbs a stall and sees the rush of people. Further down, in a large opening where Heilar’s stall was, the alchemist saw the wild flapping of wings and the sounds of a horse neaing. Seeing the source, Avalon balanced herself as she ran atop the stalls until being on one within the circle.
There she saw the winged horse, a Granian, on its hind legs, standing above three wizards whose wands had been knocked from their hands. Heilar was trying to break against the fleeing crowd, accompanied by numerous guards. The Granian spun around, its powerful wings knocking witches and wizards off their feet. They cold use no stun spells, the risk of hitting someone else as too great and from the look of things it appeared that they were trying to capture the magical beast. Avalon dropped down, having bent low enough to notice Helga hiding under a table dangerous close to the rampaging Granian.
The alchemist charged, sliding beneath the swinging wings, as the horse trampled the wooden table the frightened witch hid under. Avalon grabbed Helga, wrapping her arms around her as she braced against the grey horse's hooves that kicked her across the ground. The child was terrified, but untouched.
"Go!" Avalon released her grip as she pointed to a group of oncoming sorcerers "Stay with them! They'll keep you safe!"
The younger grabbed Avalon's cloak, begging with pleading eyes, "Please don't hurt 'em! He's just scared!"
The horse was fast, taking out two more sorcerers; Avalon stayed her hand from taking up Falcon's weapons. How could she harm a magical beast when even a child of the Betrayers can tell of its fear? Avalon ran, ordering the sorcerers to keep out of her way, she takes a rope from them and watches the movements of the horse. The speed of its wings was its most dangerous feature, had it been air-born this would have been a much worse situation. Because that was not the situation, there was hope.
Avalon tied the rope into a noose and ran, dodging the wings, she slid underneath the horse, out of its line-of-sight and threw the rope over its back. Feeling the rope, the Granian spun around, knocking its head into the alchemist, throwing her to the ground and charging. Instinctively, Avalon clapped her hands together and reached to press one against the ground, intending to create spikes to end the threat to her life. Her hand froze above the earth, her sight slowed all around as she heard the horse come closer, felt its heartbeat and saw what was reflected in its eyes--it was protecting something.
Avalon closed her hand, canceling the transmutation, and stood up, opening her arms to grasp the horse. It charged the human, nearly hitting as Avalon moved enough to have her arm wrap around its neck, its folded wings pushing out as she swung on top and use the wing's momentum to have her caught between on its back. The Granian rose on its hind legs, kicking wildly and flapping to expel the rouge weight on its back. Avalon would not yield, rather she held on tighter, trying to seep her will into the horse and have it understand: she did not want to hurt it.
Shutting her eyes, Avalon focused her mind and locked her grip; the world around her slowed and as she opened her eyes to witness the horse had thrown her to the ground. Charging again for a moment Avalon thought she heard the horse speak--hooves skid to a halt. The dust settled as Avalon and the Granian were nose to nose, the horse's storm being calmed as it gazed at the alchemist's golden eyes. The wizards thought to seize their chance and throw their nets, but before their eyes stood Fenrir, bearing his fangs and protecting the horse and his companion as a beast much larger than the humans he stood against.
Avalon slowly reached her hand and touched the side of the horse's head, gently stroking it until it eased its tension. She then, cautiously, stood, the eyes of the winged-horse on her as he kept her hand on him at all times.
"Where is it?" Avalon directed to the sorcerers, "His child, where is it? You captured it on the plains recently."
"Best answer the question'." Heilar said, recovering his breath.
A wizard pointed to a covered wagon in a small ally behind the stalls, which was promptly uncovered and revealed the tiny, motionless, Granian lying on the ground. The father nuzzeled the cage and as it was opened did the same to the foal's face. It did not move. Avalon looked closer and saw a wound on its leg, the type caused by a human-made trap and promptly wrapped her hands around the throat of one of the wizards and held him off the ground.
"You killed it?" Avalon yelled enraged.
"Was an accident! We meant to wound'it, get the head of the herd, but--"
Avalon's hand prevented anymore words, but it was Heilar's hand that allowed him to keep his life. A tiny breath had him dropped and had the alchemist by the foal's side, aided by the local people, they provided the herbs that saved the young beast's life.