Chapter 8 - Forging
The past two weeks had been nothing less than amazing.
It had been long since I’ve pushed myself to the limit, and Seraphina, as always, improved with astounding speed. She started off with really low stamina and energy, she couldn’t even run 5 laps around the marble circle.
These were things that could only be improved with training and it became a routine for the both of us to run at least 10 laps every morning. The runs would leave her breathless, but did you think I was going to stop there?
“I want to be stronger, please help me with that,” she told me the first day we started physical training.
I chuckled when I heard that, she would never expect what was going to hit her from that day onwards.
Every day I added different exercises to her routine and she never complained. She would eagerly learn and try harder every time she failed. I gave her boulders to lift, carefully increasing the size and weight of them every two days. I summoned my shadows to teach her how to fight using her fists. Seeing her punches getting more precise and powerful by the day makes me happy.
Strength, agility and instinct, these were the most important traits for a warrior.
Her body weathered beautifully under the sun, she definitely grew tanner and her physique was stronger now. That was exactly what I wanted, you do not want to approach a leader of a village looking like you were protected for most of your life, that will not gain you any respect.
At least, certainly not mine.
“Such improvement, I’m impressed,” I told her genuinely, as the sun sets in a beautiful mixture of purples and oranges.
She let out a hearty laugh. “Thank you,” she replied earnestly, her stunning scarlet eyes reflected the fiery orange skies.
“Well then, tonight we’ll be summoning your spirit weapon,” I said, trying to contain my excitement.
It was always astounding to see one summon a weapon of their soul. I was equally surprised by my own weapon when Helia helped me summoned it.
“Spirit weapon?” she asked, raising an eyebrow, looking confused.
“A spirit weapon is a weapon crafted from your soul. Every weapon is unique in their own way, much like how one’s presence works. Every single spirit weapon varies according to the owner,” I explained.
“Will it be a sword?” she asked.
“It can be, but it’s not limited to only swords. It can be a spear, it can be a bow, it can even be an axe, it all depends on your soul,” I chuckled.
I wonder what hers is going to look like and what it’s going to be.
“What about yours?” she asked, looking at me curiously. It was getting darker as the sun sunk beyond the horizon.
“Mine is coincidentally a sword,” I returned her gaze and stood up. “Time to head home, go get yourself a shower and we’ll wait for you in Helia’s room.”
She nodded as she stood up and we jogged back home. She no longer asks me to carry her back anymore and I only do so if she was too tired to walk.
We reached home in less than 10 minutes and Helia wasn’t there to greet us. She should already be in her room preparing for the summoning, with our dinner readily prepared on the table.
We ate our dinner as quickly as we can, she seemed to be as excited as I was. She went upstairs for her shower whilst I just rested in front of the fireplace, the heat will evaporate all the sweat. It was what I liked about being in my hound form, it saves up a lot of time and it was less of a hassle.
Seraphina literally leaped down the stairs, two stone steps per leap.
Her hair was still damp, with small water droplets dripping from the tips. She had a towel on her shoulders, absorbing all the moisture from her long hair. She was only wearing an oversized T-Shirt that covered half of her thighs. She looked even smaller in that large shirt. I rose and shook myself, hoping to shake off any dust on my fur. She waited for me by the doorway to Helia’s room and I gestured her to go in first.
I followed her in and the wooden door closed slowly with a click.
The familiar smell of incense in Helia’s room was fairly strong tonight.
She sat in the middle of her room, before a large circle of red candles set on a new tapestry on the floor. She had her legs crossed and her eyes closed. Her dirty blonde hair drooped by the sides of her face, shadowing her features.
I recognized the tapestry to be the exact one she used back when she summoned my spirit weapon a year ago. The summoning circle was a combination of three separate arcane circles that spiraled around each other, with cryptic text lining their curves.
Seraphina stood in the corner of the room, careful not to step on the summoning circle. Helia opened her cold gray eyes and gestured for her to sit on the opposite side of the circle, allowing Seraphina to face her. She gestured me to Seraphina’s right side and I went obediently.
“This is going to be a blast,” Helia said amusingly as she closed her eyes again.
She heaved a deep breath and started the summoning, mumbling softly. The tension in the room rose slowly. Helia took off her silver bangles one by one from each of her wrists and placed them beside her. Her presence grew heavier almost immediately. Helia was a very powerful stone mage, though she had furthered her research to a wide array of magic, making her much more powerful compared to normal magicians and oracles. She only hid her powerful presence behind those two bangles to avoid unnecessary attention.
Seraphina looked at her nervously, not knowing what to do.
The summoning circle started to glow, softly at first, radiating a calm blue. As it strengthened under Helia’s presence, the light grew brighter and the flames on the candles started to shiver. Helia slowly outstretched her left arm, the tattoos that curled on her arm were pulsing gently. She opened her eyes slowly, a pale mist had covered her irises making her eyes look entirely white.
“Reach out to the circle with your left hand, girl,” she commanded, and Seraphina stretched her left arm out with her palm facing down, mirroring what Helia was doing. I sat there eyeing the entire ritual, staring at the middle of the summoning circle, waiting to have the first glimpse at her spirit weapon.
“Focus, Seraphina, on your powers, on your deepest desires and your deepest fears, your spirit weapon is crafted on your soul,” Helia said, her voice strong and unwavering.
Sweat started to form on Seraphina’s forehead as she concentrated, her eyebrows knitting together. A summoning’s duration varies according to the wielder, if Seraphina has yet to reach the standard to summon a spirit weapon, the summoning is going to fail.
Without warning, Helia started to rock back and forth, her chanting growing louder by the second. I heard two voices, one of a man’s and the other of a woman’s that seemed to be circling around the room.
“I sense your fearlessness and courage,” the female voice said softly. “I sense your hatred and your lust for blood,” the male voice followed.
“Allow us to fight alongside you, Seraphina, let us be your guide,”
The summoning circle was convulsing, and suddenly it went poof, the candles were blown out and thick smoke filled the room.
This didn’t happen back during my summoning.
I coughed and heaved for breath as I scrambled for the door. I could hear the other two also coughing, guess they did not expect this either. I pushed the door open to let the smoke out and sweet fresh air filled my lungs. To my surprise, the thick smoke evaporated as it went out the doorway, with no traces of smoke going out from Helia’s house. I realized that like a beast, her house was breathing in the smoke, seemingly absorbing it and then it dawned on me.
The smoke would reveal where Seraphina was if it had gotten into the wind.
“My powers allow me to hide whoever’s presence away.”
I didn’t know that her powers applied to her house.
As the smoke thinned, a sudden thought struck me. Anyone who was sharp enough may have noticed Seraphina’s presence already, especially Gairon’s oracle. Haliea was Helia’s younger sister anyway, it may even be possible that Helia had told her about the existence of the Eshban girl without our knowledge. From what I know, Helia’s powers are limited to her home and herself, I trained Seraphina out in the open.
I shook the thought away. Later, not now.
When there was enough air to breath and the smoke thinned, I closed the door again. I turned back to the summoning circle and was taken aback at what I saw. Helia’s eyes which had already returned to their normal gray shade were also glued onto Seraphina’s spirit weapon.
It was a gorgeous scythe, levitating with its blade down on the summoning circle. Its snath was of black steel, ancient scriptures curled up the entire length of it and they glimmered softly with a red glow. Its base was crafted from the same black steel ending in a black metal orb. What took my breath away was the blade.
The curved blade was made of palladium, the rib of the blade was black in color but the edge’s silver shone dangerously. A pair of wings unfurled on the ring of the blade, I noticed that one was a devil’s wing, and the other was an angel’s wing. A large round Pyrope gem was set in the body of the blade, right beside the wings. Two other gemstones, a moonstone and an onyx came after it, both of the same size but much smaller compared to the Pyrope gem that shone under the warm light.
Seraphina was the first to make a move, she reached out to the scythe slowly.
When she wrapped her palms around the handle, the runes glowed an even brighter red. The scythe looked heavy, but she seemed to be lifting it with no problem at all. The glow of the summoning circle died and Seraphina stepped passed the candles and onto the tapestry. She swung the blade up, careful not to hit the ceiling. Her weapon was much larger than her, she was around 5 feet tall, and her weapon was around 6 feet 5 according to my estimation.
“It’s a double-headed scythe,” Helia announced with her hands on her hips. I frowned, confused. She gestured for me to look closer.
The scythe had two blades, not one. The pair of wings perched separately on the twin blades, the front blade bore the devil’s wing, and its curves were surely sharp enough to draw blood. The blade at the back bore the angel’s silver wing, details of every single feather on it were carved to perfection.
“Your feelings conflict with each other, one wants peace, the other craves for chaos,” Helia explained to her. “It is currently in its most basic form, since it’s a double scythe, it has another form. The angel blade goes down whereas the demon blade remains on top. See this line?” She pointed out a slit around a centimeter wide on the outer side of the snath.
“This is how the blade is going to slide down to the bottom, try commanding it.”
The angel blade that was facing Helia started to move. It spun clockwise, turning its sharp edge upwards and glided down to the base smoothly. We stared at it in awe. I had never seen a double scythe before. All I know was that it was one of the hardest weapons to master. One wrong move and you would slice your own arm off.
“The spirit weapon has a mind of its own, normally only the master of the weapon can wield it. This thing actually weighs a ton, they only seem weightless to you. You can communicate with it freely, you can try anytime,” Helia wiped the sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand.
Seraphina did not answer, her eyes had not left her weapon since it had been summoned. She was in a trance-like state and I was hesitating on nudging her. She blinked, once, twice, and she finally looked up to me and Helia.
“Her name is Agatha,” she said softly, looking at the angel blade, “His name is Kakosh,” she gestured to the demon blade above her. She pronounced Kakosh’s name a few times, unsure about its pronunciation. The angel blade slid back to its original place with her command. She was running her hands all over the runes on her scythe as if she was blind.
“Guren,” she whispered under her breath. Helia heard her and her eyes widened.
“The red lotus, fitting name.”
I laid on Shiki’s stomach, wide awake.
Helia had taught me how to keep Guren away and how to summon it again just a moment ago. I had a feeling it was going to be very hard to master. According to what Helia had said, a double scythe is among one of the rarest, and hardest spirit weapons to master, it wasn’t necessarily a good thing in my opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still very happy with my spirit weapon.
“Hey,” Shiki called softly, raising his head to look at me.
“You should get some sleep, we’re heading back tomorrow early in the morning,” he looked worried. He’s always worried about me.
“Where will we be going?” I asked, my eyes still on the ceiling.
The question lingered, I was surprised Shiki didn’t reply immediately. He was the type that always had things readily planned.
“I want to head home, would you accompany me back?”
I nodded without any hesitation. I didn’t have anywhere else to go anyway. I know the rebellion was my calling, but somehow I didn’t know what to do, and where to start. Maybe I can start with recruiting other allies that are willing to join my battle? Though that would leave a chance for people to betray me and backstab me. One wrong move and the Sovereign would probably be hot on my heels.
“Do you happen to have any stories to tell?” I asked, grinning. I would like a peaceful slumber tonight, I’ll leave this thoughts for tomorrow. “My dad used to tell me stories to help me sleep.”
Shiki turned his gaze to the fire place, his amber eyes reflecting the warm fire light.
“I guess I do.”
“Land and I, we were from the largest hellhound pack in the Fourth Region,” he started. “We grew up together, though he’s a few years younger than me. I treated him like my very own younger brother. In our pack, we had different rankings and powers, we even have a few healers back at home. Me and my friends would fight each other and battle it out, to constantly improve ourselves, to grow stronger so we could protect our families.”
“I had a really good friend, his name was Rowan, and he was Land’s elder brother. They had the same eyes, but his coat was a slightly darker shade compared to Land’s. My parents did not spend much time with me back then, they were always busy with the village’s matters. So I was left alone to learn and to grow on my own. I was born with powers of stone, like Helia. Stone is a sub-element and most of the other hounds had Earth as their main element. I had always been envious, elemental wielders could do so much more compared to a sub-elemental wielder. So I isolated myself. I had nothing but my dark, twisted thoughts as company. I was lucky to have him, Rowan would always be there to cheer me up, bring over some nice beer he would steal from Gairon and he never ran out of stories to tell. He helped me through my darkest times, when hatred and jealousy coursed through every fiber of my being. We would go hunting together all the time, and bring home the best catches for the entire clan. We enjoyed seeing our people happy, it was peaceful back then, until one day, the Sovereign ambushed our hunting troops.”
I sat up and straightened my back, waiting for more.
“They had entirely no reason to do so. For once, the roles were reversed on us. They were the hunters and we were the prey. Their arrows were coated with spells of ice, whatever they hit would freeze instantly. Rowan had powers of earth, like most of our clan had. The two of us fought as hard as we could to keep the rest of our soldiers safe. He summoned vines that would curl around the necks of the Sovereign soldiers, choking them to death. As for me, I wasn’t so gentle, my rocks would wipe their entire heads off their bodies. We were skilled in melee combat, our fangs and paws our greatest asset. We were strong, but the enemy outnumbered us. Flurries of arrows showered down, as I stood in the front line and tried my best to shield everyone with my boulders. I never noticed an arrow heading towards me from my side.”
Shiki closed his eyes and turned his head away.
“Rowan jumped in front of that arrow to shield me,” he only allowed his voice to falter a little bit.
I ran my hand through his fur, not knowing if it would help make him feel better. I know the pain of losing someone dear, I was very familiar to that feeling.
“Darkness erupted in me instantly as my best buddy froze to his death. Thin ice coated his eyes and he fell like a rock. The moment he hit the ground, his body splintered into millions of pieces of ice shards. My powers of darkness awakened, but I had no control over it. I wasn’t like you,” his voice laced with a slight hint of bitterness.
“All I remembered was that the darkness was deadly, and they moved just like Rowan’s vines, curling around the enemies, ripping them apart with their little hands in a shower of blood. My darkness acts on emotions, and all I wanted at that moment was to inflict pain to those who killed my friend. The high-ranking hounds of my clan, including my father, arrived shortly and took us all back to safety.”
“Nothing could undo my mistake, I blamed myself for his death, even until now. I didn’t even get to say goodbye properly.” Shiki laid his head between his paws.
I shifted closer to his head and hugged him, scratching the fur between his ears.
“I’m fine, don’t need to worry about me. This happened 3 years back, my tears have ran dry,” he said, eyeing me gently, his tail pulling me away from his head and towards his stomach.
“We would all still need to move on in the end, because there is no way to change the past. Now sleep,” his bushy tail covered me like a blanket.
“You had powers of stone? Do you still have them now?” I asked curiously.
“I do, though I seldom use them anymore,” he answered patiently.
I wanted to ask more questions, but I kept them to myself. I was afraid that I might annoy him since it was a sensitive topic. I’m sure he wouldn’t like be digging up more of his dark past.
I laid down back and closed my eyes.
Over the past two weeks I have had enough time to work myself out. And I know I probably wasn’t the only one suffering. Shiki just told me his story and the pain that awakened his dark powers and I got to know that Land had lost his elder brother. Helia probably has a story of her own, even Terron had probably went through some tragic events.
All of them had their own stories and their own pain. I was in no place to deem myself unlucky and act as victim, I had no time to sit in a corner and cry, people who may have been through worse were standing tall, stronger than ever.
And I needed to be someone like that.
No, I will be someone like that.
My thoughts lingered to the rebellion. Will I be powerful enough to lead?
I will be powerful enough. I will have my revenge on the Sovereign.
My fingers tightened around my necklace, I will not forgive and forget. If this is my destiny to destroy the Sovereign, I will gladly do so. I have nothing else to lose and nothing will stand in my way.
“We definitely look forward to serving you, Seraphina,” Agatha’s quiet voice floated into my mind and I could hear Kakosh chuckle softly. “You’re not alone, girl. We are with you, though it will take time for you to harness our powers.”
Yes, I have Guren with me now.
I rubbed the egg-shaped pendant on my necklace, and calmed myself, allowing sleep to take over me gradually.