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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Another new snippet from The Ruins of Lawic

“Rodire, my daughter, come and talk with me.” Ennad Malgolihod stood in the entrance to their home, a towering figure as he gestured for her to come inside for a discussion.

Arles patted her on the shoulder as he and his friend stood up. “I’ll be down by the canteen, seeing what they have available for a late dinner.” He gave her a good, long look, knowing she’d understand he was biding time for them to head off on their grand adventure.

She nodded meekly and stood. “Thanks. I’ll see you shortly” she replied, as her father disappeared inside the hearth.

She followed and found him seated in the communal room, cross-legged atop his stool near the fire. Gently crackling embers of the dying blaze alternately glowed bright and dark red, as the draft blew across them, somewhat mesmerizing Rodire as they caught her eye while she sat on the bare ground next to her father.

“Rodire, you have become a fine druid. Do not worry yourself about what Finwe has said; his aim is to protect the Grove from all threats, and he is still hot-blooded in this matter. He will learn.” His soft voice carried a weight of sadness, a realization perhaps that his only progeny was truly grown, and about to set away from his protection for the first time. “He has a good point about the dangers, here. You and Arles must both keep each other’s back, and be on your guards always.”

At this, he stood and gently stroked her hair, looking at her fair face and taking in the vision of his daughter. After a moment, he turned away and started walking toward the small chest that always sat at the base of the family banner on the south wall of the common room, saying “I have a couple of things for you to take with you. They should prove very helpful, especially while it is only you and Arles. With just two, it can be quite difficult to manage to stay safe in the open wilds.” He whispered something unintelligible, and then unlocked and opened the chest.

From it, he pulled two items and handed the first to her. “This rod will allow you to create a small safe space, impenetrable by most normal and many magical creatures. There is a phrase you must utter to activate it, but first, we must attune it to you. Right now, it will only obey my voice.”

She accepted it meekly, unsure what to say.

“Before we do that, however, here is the second item.” He reached around her neck and placed a chain and amulet on it, fastening it in the back. “This amulet is a protective ward caster. It will emblazon an invisible magic ward onto any items you touch with it while speaking a magical phrase three times. You must touch it to the items you wish to protect directly, it is not enough to merely be near them or wave it.” He took her hand in his and wrapped it around the amulet. “You must speak the phrase three times, within a few seconds. Speaking it once or twice will do nothing, and if you take too long between utterances it will not take effect.

“The phrase is ‘schroder astrotin signetiat’.” He waited for a few pregnant seconds, then said “repeat that for me, one time. ‘schroder astrotin signetiat’.”

She took a moment, and then repeated her father. “schroder astrotin signetiat,” very carefully. A few moments later, she repeated it. “schroder astrotin signetiat.”

“Good. Excellent diction.” His praise was soft, though effective. He looked into her eyes, his love for his daughter practically beaming from his light golden irises. “You have become a fine druid indeed, my daughter. I know you will do well.”

He took a moment, then released his hand from hers to lift the rod in her other hand.

Rodire’s attention shifted to the other magical item and took in its physical characteristics for the first time. From the feel of it, it seemed to her to be sourwood. At that realization, she realized the hefty weight of the gift, both physically and spiritually.

“What, my daughter?” Ennad asked gently.

“Its … well, this is a magical sourwood by the feel. Very heavy and dense for its size.”

“You have good instincts. Why does that change how you react to it?”

“Well, father, the sourwood is one of the final stages of forest development before the Holy Noble Roble tree starts to sprout. She grows a canopy that alternately shades in the summer, and then fertilizes the ground in the winter. It is through her loving guidance that the first of the Roble sends up shoots after the Red Parrot deposits the acorn in the fertile ground. She protects the young, vulnerable tree until it can protect itself, then remains a protective guide for the animals and smaller heath that continue to feed the ground, the air, the flora and fauna all. She is considered the Protective Goddess, the last bulwark of the Holy Pair against those who would harm.”

“You were paying attention in your Circles training.” Ennad’s face burned brightly, proud of his daughter’s progress and knowledge. “What can you infer about the object, knowing that information?”

“That it has a protection nature. That unlocking its magic will have some effect to protect something?” she asked, almost uncertain of herself.

“Yes. Don’t read too much into it. Remember, the magical ability of any such item—whether it be a rod, staff, wand, amulet, ring, anything—will have some of its nature determined by the materials from which it is constructed. Rarely will there be any such item you encounter that will be completely opposite, and uncommonly you will run into items which have magical natures that are unrelated to the material at hand. When you do, these will usually be simple enchantments designed to make a weapon, or piece of armor, easier to use or grant extra protection or sharpness, things such as this.” At that, he reached around behind his back and retrieved a simple, flax sling, and handed it to her. “This has been our family’s hunting and defense weapon for more lifetimes than anyone in this Grove can track. It was magically endowed with an uncanny ability to find its target, an enchantment to the fiber itself. You can use just about anything with any heft as a projectile, but these …” he reached around with his other hand, to pull a small hemp bag out from off his belt “are the preferred projectiles.” He placed both the sling and the bag in her other hand.

Rodire could feel a considerable weight in the bag. She laid the rod down on the chair next to her, then opened the bag with a quizzical look on her face. Inside, she saw about forty or fifty polished rocks, each of which not only shone with an internal glow but almost seemed to pulse with energy. She looked up at her father, with an inquiring eye.

Her father smirked and said “these are special. Here, let me show you.” He took both the sling, and the bag, back for a moment, and then reached into the bag. He pulled out all of the stones and put one back into the bag. “Watch carefully,” he said, pulling the one remaining stone out and putting it into the sling’s pouch. He opened the bag, showing Rodire that it was empty. He then fired the stone with the sling directly at the banner hanging loosely on the south wall, where it bounced harmlessly to the floor.

A moment or two after it came to rest, Rodire watched incredulously as the stone seemed to jump from the floor, into the top of the bag, and disappear.

“Look,” he encouraged her and showed the inside of the bag: the stone he just flung at the tapestry was sitting there, faintly pulsing with light.

She could feel her eyes pop open, and could scarcely believe what she’d just seen. “So, they jump back into the bag on their own?” she asked, suspiciously.

“For the most part, yes. If you are close enough to it, say within a couple furlongs, it will magically make its way back to the bag from which you originally pulled it. It does not have to be this bag.”

“So there are a couple dozen there because sometimes it will be thrown so far that it can’t find its way back.”

“Yes, exactly. And this demonstrates what I mean. The magic of the sling has nothing to do with the flax. It is just an enchantment that makes it much more likely that you will hit your target. The stones, however, are hackmanite, which you will remember can change colors under changing light. The enchantment of these stones takes advantage of that, which is why they glow but also takes advantage of the salt that is inside the stone. The connection between the magic and the salt means that it remembers how to attach itself to the inside of the container if left in the container for more than a few minutes. So always remember to let the stones rest in a new bag for a bit before using them.”

Rodire paused for a moment to take in this new information, then gathered up the remaining stones and replaced them in the small bag. “I … I don’t know what to say, father,” she said apologetically, glancing around at the magnificent gifts he'd bestowed upon her. "Thank you."

He pulled her to him and embraced her with a warm hug. “Don’t worry, my daughter. I simply want you to be as safe as you can be. Now, let’s have that rod again.” He pulled up her hand, with the forearm-length rod still tight in her grip. “As you properly assessed, this rod will cast a spell of protection in a small area around you, when you—and only you, after we attune it to your voice—speak the magical phrase.

“Keep in mind that both this rod and the amulet around your neck have only a limited number of times you can use them. You should be able to use each one at least thirty, or forty times, as they have been fully imbued with energy. When we attune you to the rod, I will show you how to charge both of them should you need to do so. Keep in mind that these are potent energies. There is always a risk that you will destroy it, each time you try to re-energize them. So don’t rely only on these items as your sole protection. Keep your wits, keep your guard, and keep Arles near—and you stay near to him, as he will need you as much as you need him. Going into the wild alone can be extremely dangerous, so do not let yourselves become separated out when in the wildernesses.

“Come, let us start attuning you to the rod. It is easier outside,” he said, gesturing for her to lead the way out of their home.