I AM WORTHY! MAYBE NOT?
The sound of metals clanging woke me up. I almost forgot that our room is inside the rebel’s base and weapon factory. I pressed the rune on the desk again to make the disappear. It made a really loud noise, but luckily Aeronwen is already up. She has a surprised expression on her face.
“Um, good morning.” I said awkwardly.
“Yeah,” she nodded, recovering from the shock.
We heard a knock on the door.
“Breakfast is ready,” says a gnome.
“We’ll go in a few minutes.” I told the gnome.
The gnome left, leaving the door opened.
“Where are we?” asked Aeronwen while looking around the room with confusion, “and what is that thing that just came here?”
“We are in the rebel’s headquarters and that thing is a gnome.”
“A gnome, they’re like dwarves but smaller and mischievous.” I explained to her, “are you okay? Do your wounds still hurt?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“For what?” She looked at me.
“For dragging you into this mess and getting you tortured,” I sat on the bed, “I shouldn’t have done that, you have a life back there, and a family.”
Her expression became sad.
“Well the Archdruid is going to destroy Faernwood anyway, and my family will perish with it if I don’t save Faernwood. But don’t worry, I doubt that Archdruid Triandal will do something to them, he still needs to keep his true intentions secret and by hurting my family means that he is exposing that secret to the people of Velarone,” she put her hands on my shoulders, “ I should be thanking you for saving my life, and don’t worry, I already experienced many tortures while training with the hunters, a small scratch won’t hurt me.”
She stood up, “What are you waiting for? Your friends have offered us breakfast so get up and stop being a wimp.”
I smiled, “You can’t call me a wimp, I just saved your life.”
“Your head is already getting big just by saving me once,” she laughed, “don’t forget I saved you once too.”
“With help from other people.” I said smugly.
“What help?” she said, “ a help from a tea lover and a douche? ”
“I guess we’re equal now.”
“I guess so?”
“Right, I haven’t paid you the money I owe you from the library membership yet.”
“Just kidding, let’s go.” She pulled my hand and dragged me out of the room.
We didn’t know where the cafeteria was but luckily there were still some people heading there to get breakfast. We followed them and found the cafeteria. It was very crowded with a bunch of different creatures, most of them sit on tables with their own kind, but the more sociable ones like the halflings sat with other creatures.
I saw Delsaran the dwarf waving to me and gestured for us to come join them, he was drinking with the other dwarves. Rupnert and Ronald were also there, though it looks like Rupnert was only there because Ronald talked him into it, he looked at the dwarves and was irritated by their loud mumblings.
Aeronwen and I joined them, we sat on the bench beside Ronald and Rupnert with Delsaran facing me.
“That’s a very fine lady you have there, aye lad?” Delsaran smiled with yellowish teeth.
Aeronwen scowled at him.
“Ooh, I like this one.” He and the other dwarves laughed.
Rupnert threw a small metallic ball into Delsaran’s mouth. It exploded and tears started to form on Delsaran’s eyes. So it’s a tear gas.
He slammed the table and stood, the other creatures started to look at the direction of the fight, “What’s your problem, gnome?”
“Ooh, the dwarf king is pissed.” Rupnert said in a mocking tone, the other gnomes laughed too but the dwarves are now serious.
“You don’t want to mess with me, old man.” Delsaran leaned closer to Rupnert and the gnomes became serious too, the pressure between the two groups is becoming tense, “I still remember what you have done to Fiddula.”
“And what are you going to do about it, cry to your mommy?” The gnome gave him a mischievous grin.
“Hey stop it,” Ronald stood, preventing the fight from escalating further, “we don’t want to get scold by uncle Sneg again, do we?”
The dwarf sat down and the crowd got back on their own business. I started to eat, there were a bunch of bread and toast accompanied by cottage cheese and butter, with some other exotic food I couldn’t recognize.
I mostly ate the toast and butter but tried some of the exotic food as well. They were tasty but not as good as the porridge I ate at the elven palace, I still remember the taste of that food, especially the bright looking liquid and the tea Barathran served me. After we finished eating, Ronald gesture for us to follow him.
We went inside a very large room filled with computers and super large monitors that look like they were taken from a steampunk fantasy world.
Large tubes act as wires that connect all the machineries in the room. All the workers are gnomes, with a few halflings working on their computers. I saw Snegbried Vludthorne—or uncle Sneg for short, since that’s what they call him here—at the center of the room wearing a tribal outfit and looking at a giant monitor attached to the wall in front, bigger than the rest of the monitors inside the room—like the ones in an action movie.
He also noticed us. Ronald walked down a small set of stairs and went to speak to the troll shaman, we followed him.
“Alvin Morgensen,” he stared at me for while, “so you have already mastered the book of the ancient light elven magic?”
“How did you know about the book?” I asked uncle Sneg, shocked.
“Why, I gave your grandfather the book of course,” he said in a matter of fact tone while pointing at the bronze bracelet on his left hand, “I got the book along with this ancient light elf bracelet while I was exploring some ruins when I was your age, but that was almost seventy years ago.”
“So you’re over eighty years old?”
“Yes, and for my kind that is a very generous age, since most of us die in battle, most of our people see us as very wise old men, always seeking us for guidance.”
“Your kind? Wait,” I noticed his pointy ears and yellow eyes, they weren’t there before, “what are you exactly?”
“I’m sure that’s not important,” he sighed, “but for the sake of your curiosity, I am a troll. Snegbried Vludthorne of the Grimthorne tribe, second son of the troll warlord Zulbaljin Vludthorne, and shadow priest or what your human friends call a shaman.”
“Wait, you mean the Zulbaljin?” asked Aeronwen with an amazed expression on her face, like when a diehard fan meets his idol.
“Why?” I asked.
“The troll warlord Zulbaljin Vludthorne slayed the beast of the Galibonian desert which terrorized the kingdom of Galibonia, until their late King Geroka called a hunt to slay the terrifying beast, inviting all experienced hunters and veteran heroes, giving a reward for the one who can bring the king the beast's head.” She narrated with excitement.
“Wow, you are slowly turning into Neve,” I jest, she punched my elbow and it hurts really bad, “what was the reward then?”
“You’ll know soon enough,” the troll turned to one of the gnomes, “any updates?”
“We gathered some information about the colliding of two worlds stated in the prophecy,” the gnome showed us a hologram of an ancient text in a language I can barely read, “it’s in advanced light elven language, the languages used by the ‘Ascended’ and the ancient dryads of the old, I don’t really know what the ‘Ascended' means, it is almost impossible to decode the scriptures completely but we’ve been able to extract some information from it.”
“What does it say?” Ronald pulled a flask but didn’t drink, at least not yet.
“There have been some recorded events in which a world merges with another one, it is a natural phenomenon that occurs when a powerful being died while inside the Eternal roots and sent out waves of powerful energy that will cause a wormhole to open between two worlds.”
“Eternal roots?” I asked the gnome.
“It is the place that connects all of the worlds in the material plane,” The gnome explained, “a person could usually travel using shortcuts or advance teleportation scrolls. But entrances to shortcuts, such as the fountain at the park where you encountered the svartalf and uncle Sneg’s antique shop that enable you to travel from your world into this one, are extremely hard to find, and an advance teleportation scroll can only teleport you to the place that it is linked to, and those scrolls cost ten times the value of a normal teleportation scroll. But there are also places that is not accessible by using teleportation, such as worlds from the other planes of existence beside the material plane and those with protection wards that prevents outsiders from entering their worlds without permission.”
“That’s quite a lot to take in.” Trying to fit all those information inside my head is hard and almost made my brain explode.
“It is.” Ronald agreed then drank from his silver flask.
“Back to business,” uncle Sneg pointed at the scriptures, “what about the worlds merging?”
“Oh, yeah right,” the gnome was embarrassed about straying far from the topic, “they call it the Cataclysm. It happened to many other worlds, some of them merge successfully but others didn’t, in fact it already happened in Alfheim once, that caused the extinction of the light elves. The story states that the light elves expended all their magic to save this realm from merging with Svartalfheim, but that was a very long time ago, Faernwood does not even exist at that time.”
“Is there a chance that it would happen again?” Uncle Sneg stared at the hologram.
“We are not sure about that one,” the gnome answered, “but there have been some reports from our spies inside Svartalfheim. They are creating a bunch of very large chains made of metal that is unknown to us. The spies are working on gathering information about the kind of metal being used in the production.”
“It sounds like an invasion.” Ronald sipped ale from his flask.
“But won’t that destroy Svartalfheim too?” Aeronwen asked the gnome, “If the ‘Catalyst' is a svartalf, how do they plan to use the Cataclysm to conquer Alfheim?”
“That remains a mystery.” The gnome got back to deciphering the ancient text on his computer.
“Maybe they have discovered some sort of magic that will prevent their world from breaking, instead it will just absorb Alfheim without breaking it?” I suggested.
“Maybe,” Ronald stared at his flask of ale, “but there is one thing I’m sure about, this war is far bigger than I thought.”
“Alvin,” uncle Sneg turned to me, “I noticed that you’re not wearing your amulet.”
“I,” I struggled to find the right words, “kind of lost it when the Archdruid took us in captivity.”
The gnome looked at me and face palmed himself.
Aeronwen chuckled, “Don’t worry, we’re going to take it back.”
“She’s right,” uncle Sneg walked through one of the tunnels and we followed him, “we need to take the amulet back.”
He opened a door into a chamber filled with weapons, “The amulet contains all the answers, and you are going to take it back. I will send some of my men to accompany you, but I can’t send too much since that will ruin your chances at stealth.” He motioned to the weapons around us, “these are our finest of weapons, they are borrowed from the other cities that we have liberated. I’m sure they won’t need them anymore.”
It looks like we’re inside a videogame, loads of weapons are in front of us. There are a bunch of enchanted swords, daggers, spears, elven bows and arrows, dwarven maces and battle-axes, staffs and scepters from nymphs, and war hammers with strange symbols. There are also different sets of armors varying from light chain mails to heavy armors and shields. I decided to ask Aeronwen for advice since I don’t know much about fighting with weapons.
“I’m a fan of swords myself,” she said while inspecting one of the swords, “but I would recommend a spear because they are much easier to use and their long reach, or a dagger since you can use magic and doesn’t rely that much on weapons, you can use the dagger as a backup weapon when you don’t have much time to cast a spell or something. But if you want to focus on magic and spells, just get the staff.”
I nodded and she got back on inspecting some weapons. My grandfather used swords as his main weapon and sure many people will choose it too, but I don’t really feel like it’s the weapon for me. I search around for a bit and stumbled into an old chest behind one of the shelves at the back of the room.
I seem to have an affinity with old and dusty objects like the book I have back at home. I opened the chest and saw a halberd, a spear with a blade of an axe on one side, it is made of pure white metal. It’s very shiny and not a single dust on it, unlike the box that holds it.
I picked it up with both hands. It’s perfect. It has the reach of a spear and the slicing power of an axe.
“Where did you get that?” Aeronwen stared in awe.
“Inside a chest at the back.”
“We didn’t have that here,” Ronald looks surprised, “the chest was always empty. We were even confused why the chest was there without any weapons on it.”
“It wasn’t,” uncle Sneg examined the weapon, “it was enchanted to only show itself to the person it chose to wield it.”
“It chooses the wielder?” Aeronwen is still staring at the halberd in amazement.
“I’m worthy?” The halberd turned into a hatchet, “What happened?”
“Seems you’re not worthy enough.” Ronald chuckled.
“Yes, it seems you are not worthy enough of its true form,” uncle Sneg took the small axe from me and it turned into a shard of broken wood, “but worthy enough to at least wield it.”
“So I just need to do more good deeds in order to be worthy of wielding its final form?” I shrugged, “Fair enough.”
“I hope it’s that easy,” he sighed and gave me the weapon back, it turned into a hatchet again, “King Geroka of Galibonia was a bit worthy too, he can turn it into a two-handed battle-axe but it was not as powerful as its final form so he decided to just give it as a reward for the one who can kill the beast. My father wasn’t worthy and neither am I.”
“Well it’s a surprised that it didn’t consider your father worthy but Alvin was.” Aeronwen jests, I shot her a very sharp glare and she chuckled.
“The Dawnblade, that’s its name, at least from what I have been told. Perfect for the child of dawn.” Uncle Sneg said with a hint of pride, “It’s made of Skywrath steel. I’m glad that it chose you.”
“I—thank you,” I felt excitement rushing through my veins.
“You still have to choose an armor though, and we don’t have an armor here that is as special as that weapon. You will have to make do with the normal ones.”
“Don’t worry, the weapon alone is enough.” I boasted.
“Enough to get you killed.” Ronald handed me an iron chainmail and a breastplate, “the chest plate is made of elven steel. It will give you some degree of defense while maintaining lightness and agility.”
I put the armor on. It was awesome. The breastplate covers only the front side of my chest and is strapped by two leather belts crisscrossed on my back. The rest of my upper body was covered by the chainmail. I the looked and both Ronald and Aeronwen are finished picking their weapons too.
“So you’re coming with us then?” I asked Ronald.
“Of course,” he said while putting a bunch of throwing knives on their sheaths, “last time I sent you alone you almost died.”
“I didn’t have any weapons back then.” I retorted.
“Sure,” he waved me off.
I looked at Aeronwen. She looks magnificent. She is wearing an elven breastplate just like mine and a short sword at her side. She has her bow strung on her back. She noticed me looking at her and I quickly turned away.
“We’re ready,” Ronald put on some finishing touches, “lets go meet the others.
Uncle Sneg nodded.
We followed uncle Sneg and walked past the cafeteria. The looks empty now. We stopped in front of a wall and uncle Sneg pressed some runes on the pedestal next to it. The wall starts opening by raising itself and giving an opening underneath. What’s with the rebels and magic doors?
We went inside the small room. It looks like a lobby for a hotel and looks much cleaner than the rest of the headquarters. There were magical lamps that you can mistake for an ordinary one except for runes instead of buttons. There is also a couch, a set of chairs and a coffee like in a living room. A flat-screen monitor is hung on a wall with gaming consoles and a Wi-Fi router on a small table under the flat-screen TV.
“I can’t send a bunch of men to join you, but the ones who will accompany you are the finest warriors of our ranks.” He motioned to the people inside the room.
There are four people inside this room who will help us take back the amulet.
A wood elf with a very long black hair like the classic elves from fantasy works and folklore, which is very different from the modern elves I saw at Velarone, he is wearing a full plate armor made of elven steel. He looks like a knight from the medieval times, but instead of a shield, he has two short swords strapped at his side.
A dwarf sat near the TV playing games at the console, a battle royal game to be exact. He is wearing a leather armor with an iron helmet. A giant shield about his size lies beside him.
A dryad, that looks like she is only a year older than me, is sitting beside a small sapling in a flower pot. She has a green hair tied in a braid with tiny flowers sprouting from it. Her fair skin is like soft spruce wood. She is wearing a dress made of leaves with flowers as decorations. She looks beautiful except for her facial expression, let’s just say, she has a frowny face. She seems to be the kind of person you don’t want to mess with, and she will tear you into pieces if you do.
The other lady was a dark elf in her late teens. Dark skin, white hair—though not as pure as Aemilia's—she wears a skintight leather pants and a gray t-shirt. She has a pretty fine and looks like an actress from a television show or something. An ancient ceremonial dagger hung on her leather belt and gives out a feeling of danger but she looks way more friendly than the dryad and is watching the game the dwarf is playing. The wood elf stood from his chair and greeted us.
“Gwydion Bladewing,” he extended his hands and smiled, his shiny teeth blinded us, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
I shook his hand, “I’m Alvin, this one is Aeronwen, and I think you already know Ronald.”
He turned to Aeronwen and bowed in jest, “Welcome to our humble home, O fair lady.”
“Bladewing?” Aeronwen asked the elf, “the blade masters?”
“Yes, but I would like to introduce you to my friends first before telling you the story of my family,” he gestured at the others, who seemed focused on what they’re doing, “the dwarf is Gurstil, the dryad is Rosemary and last but not the least, Darcy the dark elf.”
“Oh, you blasted witch!” the dwarf cursed at the dark elf for losing to her, “I swear that you will not win with just bare luck next time.”
“I rather call them skill,” the dark elf says teasingly.
The dwarf saw greeted us, “hello there elf people, I’m Gurstil Woodwacker, best hacker of wards.”
“You’re related to Rupnert, the gnome?” I asked.
“Aye,” a frown forming on his face, “I’m his son.”
Aeronwen elbowed me, “Sorry about my friend here, he’s a bit of a chatty person.
His smile came back, “No need for apologies. I’m sure your friend is just a curious person, and a curious person is what we need to find a bunch of information.”
“Hi, I’m Darcy Draerthas,” she bowed to Aeronwen, “a pleasure to meet you.”
“Aeronwen Trishorn,” she exchanged bows with the dark elf, “a pleasure too meet you too.”
“Hi I’m Alvin,” I extended my hand, “nice to meet you.”
The dark elf just nodded.
Ronald whispered to my ear, “The dark elves have a matriarchal society, that means female elves have a higher status than male ones and they are the rulers. You shouldn’t take it personally.”
The dark elf chuckled and shake my hand, “just kidding, nice too meet you too.”
The others laugh and I sighed with a bit of relief.
The dryad does not look like she saw us or she just doesn’t care. She keeps staring at the small sapling, pouring a glass of water on it.
“Hi,” I waved at her.
“Ronald, aren’t we supposed to be going now?” She asks Ronald, completely ignoring me.
“Is this a joke too?” I whispered to the dwarf. He shook his head.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get along,” the dwarf pat my back, “she’s a really nice person when you get to know her. Well she is just um, a bit difficult.”
“So we’re done with the introductions,” Ronald clapped his hands, “let’s get going.”
The four of them started packing their things. Gwydion was already wearing his armor so he just took some potions. Gurstil wore his iron helmet with a visor in it. He carried his shield that covers his whole body and a large multi-barrel steampunk pistol on a large pistol holster.
Darcy wore a black leather jacket over her gray t-shirt and black leather gloves. She would be really hard to spot during the night and will be a very effective assassin, but unfortunately we have to take the amulet back now or risk giving the Archdruid more time to organize his forces.
The dryad, Rosemary, just put her sapling inside a small wallet, just like Aeronwen's magic infinity pouch that can fit anything inside it. I wonder if there’s a limit on how much they can put there.
When they have finished preparing their things, we headed for the teleportation room and Ronald started to press some runes. Blue light covered our bodies and we were gone in a flash.