The two soldiers standing guard barely made eye contact with me, as if the approval from Thom was the authority, they needed to let me pass. Walking inside, I noticed the forge was occupied by two individuals I did not recognize, while Thom was standing off to the side speaking to another gentleman, sweat running down his face. The constant rubbing of his palms gave me the insight that Thom was not only uncomfortable, but nervous. One of the men standing by the forge looked familiar, but he was certainly not from Isledon. Eventually, Thom took to my surprise and motioned me hurriedly to a corner by the forge and began to whisper.
“Castegar’s allowing the Crown to take over my shop, Dante.” He said.
Shocked by this and the actual audacity Castegar seems to possess, my initial response was anger, but then I remembered I didn’t really like this place to begin with, “Why is he letting the Crown take your shop?” I responded.
“One of those gentlemen standing by the forge? Well, that’s none other than Ayden Cross, chief engineer, and adviser to the King. Isledon is the closest city to the South Sea with a big enough forge to start the process of harnessing ether.”
“So they did find a way to do it? I thought Gamble was pulling my leg. Anyway, what’s in it for you? They can’t just take this from you, can they?”
“And why not? What could I do about it? If I put up a fuss, I’ll be out on the street. No, I’ll just keep my head down for now. As you can see, we’re going to be very busy.”
I paused for a moment. Thom’s shop was taken over without much resistance, which means the labor Thom is providing for the Crown is more than likely free of charge. Even though I was still an apprentice, I was making some income. “How much are they paying us?” I wasn’t whispering any more and one of the gentlemen who Thom had pointed out to me was Ayden overheard me.
“Not to worry. We will be making a fine investment at this establishment. Besides, you should feel honored to serve your King.” He was a lot more serious than he appeared, and a bit intimidated.
“Honor doesn’t keep a roof over my head, nor does it keep Thom’s pockets fat. What’s the pay?”
“Dante. Enough!” Thom wasn’t whispering any more either, or I can sense the irritation in his voice.
“I need to make arrangements at Southport before we head to the Forgotten Continent. Thom, my chief assistant, Alice, will be giving you more information on what’s to come the next few weeks down the road. Isledon is going to be quite popular, and with popularity comes potential customers?”
Ayden began to walk toward the exit without answering my question, because the truth was, we knew what the answer was already. I’m not a political person, nor do I care too much about allegiances, but there are times I believe these people act like tyrants and have too much power, but what can you do about it, really?
“Dante, I need you to start—” Thom began to give me some duties to perform around the shop, but I wasn’t interested.
“Thom, I actually came by to tell you that I need time off. Going out of town for a few weeks.”
“Now?! I can’t allow that Dante, I’m sorry.”
“Then I quit.” I started to motion toward the door, and Ayden’s assistant looked over at me rather curiously. “Let him go, it’s fine. We can find another assistant if you need.” She said, fashioning a pair of glasses to her face and beginning to peer into the flames of the forge more intently.
“You heard the lady, Thom.” And with that, I walked out.
Turned out I’m going on this expedition with Gamble after all, though curiosity began to slowly peak my interests. What were they going to do with Thom’s forge that would allow it to harness ether, but most importantly of all, what were they going to do with it? Crossworks specializes in building weapons and armaments for the military and aren’t known to dabble in the public sector at all. Whatever they are planning on doing with the processed ether has to do with creating some sort of a new weapon, which now brings to focus the war between Sifia and Isthia, and the chances that the flames of war will reignite once more.
I had the rest of the day off, which I decided best to spend with Delilah. She was someone I had met around the same time I had met Gamble, and I took a liking to her. She’s sweet, and is always there when you need her, but I’m not the romantic type. She appreciates that. We sometimes take a nightly stroll on the shores, enjoying the quiet of the pier and the stillness of the ocean. However, that solace that came with the tranquility of a silent night was overshadowed by what seemed like the entire Royal Armada anchored at sea a few miles from shore. If a war were to happen, Isthia isn’t holding back.
I reached Delilah’s house in a more somber mood then before and she instantly notices. Delilah’s parents retired to Port Azalea in northern Isthia, leaving their family home in her care. She’s enjoyed the benefits of living completely by herself without having to worry about paying for anything, the epitome of privilege. All I cared about though was that she fancied me and I her. Delilah’s gorgeous blue eyes and her dark, naturally flowing hair always made my day better regardless of what I had going on. She was a pleasant distraction.
“So what happened? Why do you seem like you were just hit by a rock?” She motioned me inside her home.
“Just another day.”
As we’re walking toward the kitchen, I notice the wide array of family paintings that adorn the walls of the hall into the main living space. The fireplace was beautifully decorated, with the horn of a Behemoth hanging on the mantle. Delilah’s father served in the Royal Military under Castegar’s father, who was High Lord of Isledon before him. Both Castegar and Delilah’s father, Richard, were stationed near the Dreadlands when their battalion was attacked by a swarm of monsters. Most of their men died, but Richard and the late Lord Castegar lived to tell the tale. There’s another horn hanging inside the Lord’s residence, as Behemoths have two horns protruding from the base of their foreheads.
“I saw all those ships. What do you think is going on?” Delilah asked.
“I’m not entirely sure, still trying to figure that out myself. I quit Thom’s today.” I responded, and I knew she wouldn’t be happy to hear this, and her facial expression confirmed my suspicions.
“Dante you’ve worked so hard on that apprenticeship. Why throw it away?”
“I didn’t like it.”
“It took you four years to realize you didn’t like it? What are you going to do now, then?”
“I didn’t come here to be interrogated, Lilah. Besides, Gamble said he has an opportunity for the both of us and I may just take him up on it.”
“Is it the expeditions? That could actually be a good opportunity for you.” I was surprised to hear her respond positively to this.
“A good opportunity for me?” A bit annoyed, but I relented, “Gamble talked to you about it already, didn’t he?”
“He did. And I think it’d be great for you because you’re so bored, Dante. You’re not yourself and you need some excitement.”
“Ugh. So, he comes to you asking for your permission?”
I don’t know why I reacted the way I did. She poured me a glass of wine and sat down next to me, rubbing my shoulder, her way of telling me she doesn’t have any malicious intent and just wants what’s best for me.
“Don’t be upset at him. Gamble is worried about you too, is all. Besides, the money is good, and you’ve told me before how you need to find something that paid more than an apprenticeship.”
“Yeah. I guess.”
About the Creator
I am a thirty something year old that's had the same story playing in his head since I was a child. Let's see what happens, I guess.
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