Side story, Hector, Tamar, Sully.
Hector leaned back on the mattress he was sitting upon, his body once again covered in bandages. These last few fights had been more rough on him than the earlier ones, but still nothing the warrior wasn’t used to. Dry blood stained the ones on his abdomen, but the healers had closed up the wound before it could do any serious damage. As the healers left him and his companions, he couldn’t help but sigh looking at his now restored arm; the crystals had faded. As pleased as he was by the fact that he would not be gradually transforming into, as Sully had called it, “a glorified garden ornament”, he was a warrior. He knew well the advantages of having a physical shield you didn’t need to carry around with you, and the crystal form had been durable as diamond.
The room was humming quietly, but the foreboding malaise was lifting as people miraculously found their crystal mutations to be gone, or subsiding. Nobody was asking why and nobody especially cared. People were sitting around or sleeping and there were children bouncing on some of the nearby mattresses, but they kept being shushed by healers. All in all the atmosphere was vastly improved on earlier. Only a few feet away from them, Sully was examining the hilt of the impromptu axe she had created for Tamar with a technical eye. Judging her own work as any expert would. “hm,” she tutted to herself, biting her lower lip. “Ya know whoever sold this thing? They were lying about it bein’ high quality steel, this is probably more like an iron-blend, I should’a been able to handle this a lot better.”
There was shifting on the bed behind Hector as Tamar sat up for the first time in an hour. “Sully, you made it in roughly fifteen seconds. It was a frying pan. A frying pan. You making a weapon out of it at all speaks volumes.”
“Maybe for the uninitiated...” She grumbled under her breath. “Playing around with the shape is one of the first things I learned how to do,” the handle of the axe twirled in her hand casually “and the weaker the metal the easier it is to work with. Even rushed this is some shoddy work.”
Sully’s head lifted in surprise when the makeshift weapon was yanked out of her hands by Hectors now mostly uncrystallised arm, who spun the weapon around and began looking it over with his good eye. “Well, it’s clear this metal wasn’t meant for combat, but that isn’t exactly surprising considering what it was used for.” He turned it over and examined the handle of the object, “Hmm, you changed the original grip of the pan, the indents for each finger definitely helps with the overall balance of it. While the metal isn’t great you had a lot to work with, and the extra metal was put to good use to keep it steady; much easier to swing with the shape given without losing power. I’d pick this over nothing, that’s for sure. As far as crafting goes, this looks to be about the best you could have gotten out of something like this.” With that, he casually handed the weapon back. “Here you go.”
“... He do this often?” Sully grinned, looking over at Tamar. “Never had someone critique ma stuff that accurately and quickly.”
Tamar laughed under his breath, nodding. He was tired, obviously, even now several hours, but something was... well, different from usual. The typical... edginess Tamar had whenever he was interacting with anyone new just didn’t seem to be present around Sully at all. A kind of familiarity Hector wasn’t used to seeing at all. “The first time we met, he broke down my first sword into it’s exact components and told me the dozen different ways in which it sucked and should never have been used in an actual battle-”
“Well, it shouldn’t have.”
“-And then he dragged me to the forest to get a new one. And made me hunt birds.”
“You’re complaining about having to find food? That was a good bird!”
“-And there was a bear. A really angry, mean bear. Which we had to kill. So yeah, to answer your question he does this every time.”
“I liked it better when you were asleep.”
“Yeah, I liked it better when I was asleep too,” Tamar flopped back down on the mattress.
“Ya fought a bear?” Sully laughed, “I’d say I’m surprised, but big green here looks like he sleeps with bears.”
“They do have very warm fur.” Hector admitted absentmindedly, still eying his arm.
Sully and Tamar both snorted with laughter at the same moment. Sully’s laugh came to a stop when she noticed the swordsman was still examining his arm. “What? Don’t tell me you miss it now?”
“Miss it? Ha,” Hector chuckled, thinly hiding how he really felt. “Why would I miss that really cool indestructible diamond arm? Yeah… forget it.”
“Hector, it was going to kill you,” Tamar mumbled. “If you want tougher armour we can find that, but it’s kinda a fair trade.”
“I’m already wearing the armor of some kind of ghost fairy, I don’t think I can just buy more.”
Sully just looked between the two scratching her head, clearly left out of the loop of the many ridiculous adventures these two had already been on.
“Besides, everything tries to kill me, at least this one had the courtesy to let me still punch things.” He laughed
Tamar sighed. “Still not a good trade off if you’re dead! If it were up to you, every problem would be solved by punching things.”
“Oh come on now, tell me of one instance in the past where punching things hasn’t turned out to be handy.” He paused, “Get it, handy?” Sully palmed her face.
Tamar had apparently heard this kind of pun often enough that he was immune to the aftershocks. “How about when I need you to read signs?”
“Hector, there was important stuff on the signs, about people trying to kill guild members.”
“Nothing I couldn't have worked out from the little stick figure drawings of people hanging guild members painted all over the same board!”
“...Okay that did look disturbingly like Anji, but even so it’s just words, they’re not gonna hurt you!”
“That’s the problem!”
“Whoa, okay, that’s interesting.” Sully curiously stated as she noticing the crackle of energy around Tamar. Actually she’d been noticing it for a while, the way it only sparked in response to certain phrases, certain sentences... names.
“Interesting is one word for it,” Tamar muttered. “I keep telling him to at least learn to write and spell a little but-”
“Idjit, yur not even paying attention are ya!?”‘ She pointed to his arm, “Don’t ya see all that?”
“Hm?” Tamar followed her gaze to his hands, closing and unclenching his fist briefly. He was probably remembering the way light had danced from skin to crystal, from Tamar to Hector’s formerly crystal-arm. “See what?”
Sully huffed, “Ya turned too slow, it went away already. Your arm was as bright as a candle stick, you were evoking and ya didn’t even notice.” She shook her head in disbelief.
“Eh, that happens.” Hector laughed, “Tamar is dangerous when he’s mad, no surprise to me.”
Sully crossed her arms, “You’re an emotional kid, aren’t ya?”
“Yes.” Hector interrupted, giving his younger friend a noogie.
“Quit iiiit,” Tamar struggled.
“Well then, I think we’re getting to the root of it now.” She nodded her head in thought, “How you evoke, I mean.” She waited for a response but Tamar was still struggling, “Hector. Hector let the poor kid go, please. He’s gonna go bald with your kind of strength.”
Finally the frazzled Tamar was released from the hold. “Yeesh. What, you mean, it has to do with being really annoyed?”
Sully smirked. “Well, yeah... and no. Not really. You’re on the right train of thought though. Ya said somethin’ about your magic never workin’ unless you’re using that one sword, right? Nuthin’ else worked? Well, maybe that’s ‘cause it was never the sword what mattered.”
She drew one of the little metal objects she had been making earlier from a pouch at her belt, and without flinching, crushed it in the palm of her hand. Hector started, expecting her hand to unclench and reveal broken fragments. But there was a taste like ozone in the air and when Sully’s hand opened the object, formerly some kind of small animal, had taken the shape of a pickaxe. “Like I said before, kid. Evokers evoke. They draw their strength from what’s important. This? This is what’s important to me. The way the metal works. Nobody else in the family ever quite got it the way I do. It’s my passion. You could say what we think is important evokes our powers. S’why it’s never the same in two people. An’ probably why your folks never figured it out sooner.”
There was an obvious pause as everyone else figured out what this meant. “...I... don’t think my family are relevant in this.”
Sully said nothing for a moment, frowning slightly back and forth between them. “Huh, there blows an ill wind, eh?” she muttered, then clicked her fingers. “But maybe it don’t matter so much. Let’s do an experiment, kid, jsomethin’ simple,” she tossed the pickaxe in Tamar’s direction. Tamar caught it.
He didn’t actually move from where he was lying, or look at her, but he caught it. He didn’t seem surprised until after the fact, sitting up and opening his mouth to talk but Sully interrupted. “Who frightens you, Tamar?”
“Yer a broken record? Everythin’s afraid of someone. Or something. I’m hoping it’s a someone in this case?” Tamar shuffled. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes, Sully, it’s a someone’. Hold that,” she nodded at his hand. “Think of them.”
Hector didn’t say anything. He was watching curiously, mostly blase about this whole magic nonsense, but still wanting to figure this out all the same. Or perhaps, just wanting to figure Sully out.
Tamar’s hand had closed into a fist again around the iron pickaxe. There was a crackle, just like before, in the chapel ruins. The air tasted of static, shuddering and quaking. Tamar’s hand glowed and when he jerked backwards, letting go of the pickaxe, it flew from the bed to the floor, clattering against the stone and leaving a trail of blue-white patches of light, like water. Sully bent to pick it up, looking pleased, as if she’d worked it all out. “Ha! There ya go. You’re one of those Empathic types, pretty common where I come from.”
“What... was that?” Tamar frowned, glancing at Hector.
Like I said. It burns because you do. S’why it looked like fire,” She was smirking and clearly Tamar was finally piecing together exactly what she meant. because his eyes widened slightly. he reached out to gingerly take the metal item back from Sully. It didn’t touch his palm; it hovered just above it, crackling, growing brighter and brighter until it obviously started to frighten him. “Who ya thinking of that time?”
Tamar turned his hand over and back, the pickaxe remained where it was for a second, floating before the light faded and he slumped slightly, frowning. The red-yellow light faded like a match going out.“Her name’s Eliziya.”
“Ah,” Sully nodded. “Careful with that one. An’ with this guy here, Tamar. It’s dicey stuff. Think you’ve seen that already.”
There were a few more seconds of decidedly awkward silence before Tamar stood up, paused to reorient himself, and turned away without actually looking at either of them. “I... need to send a message to the guild,” he said quickly. “I need to tell them. About... stuff. I should’ve sent it ages ago. They... should probably know we’re not both going to die up here, I’m going to do that,” he said, and he didn’t respond to either of them before walking out of the room as quickly as he could.
Hector watched him leave, confusion on his face. Well. That was odd.
“Huh,” Sully muttered thoughtfully. “Well, this could’a worked out freakin’ badly.” She leaned back against the wall, arms folded. “Ya know, Evoker’s aren’t unusual where I come from, but ya get... issues sometimes. I heard of one guy damn near ripped himself apart. Couldn’t deal with what he was; didn’t have anyone to show him. What he did, back in that temple... The kid must care about ya one hell of a lot, Green, because I’ve never seen an outburst like that, not since... well,” she chuckled. “Me.”
“That mean you could do what he did to me?”
“If I had enough of a connection to the object, I could do something similar. Like I said though, it works differently for everyone, and a lot of it is dependant on how you’re feeling. That’s not even getting to the objects in question, which under the right circumstances can also affect my power.” She shrugged.
“No one ever said magic was simple,” Hector scratched his head, “I’ve never been one to give it much attention, but seeing how you use it to forge... No blacksmith in all of Lamada could do that.”
“Yeah, well ,what can I say?” Sully grinned. There was nothing cocky about it, mostly, her expression was one of self assurance. Then her grin faltered slightly. “Not that any gift makes a difference in the long run.” She thought on it for a moment, “Truth is, I still have a lot to improve as far as my craftsmanship is concerned. Evoking helps, but isn’t worth its salt without the experience and skill to back it up.”
Hector nodded; he didn’t quite understand magic, but skill and experience were two things he did understand. “Recognizing that is important, a lot of the mages I’ve met relied too heavily on their powers. You mentioned that you haven’t been able to practice, why is that?”
“Augh.” She groaned, “Well, if I’m bein’ honest, which I always am, I don’t...actually, technically, have a forge.” Hector just stared blankly. “Ya see, I have the drive and the ability to be a smithy buuut ma family… well, they’re kind of too caught up in the traditions of Catarina to let this dog loose.”
The swordsman tilted his head, “They don’t want you to smith?”
Her eyes expanded at the question. “What? No, no, of course they want me to! It’s just, well, it’s a little embarrassing honestly. Ya see, they are willing to give me both the property and money I’d need for a forge but they won’t yet. Not ‘til I find me a spouse.” She rubbed her temple in annoyance, “So old fashioned...”
“I don’t understand, what does that have to do with your abilities as a smith?”
“Well shoot, Hector, nothing!” the woman shook her head, thinking of how dumb of a question that was. “Like I said, it’s all about tradition. In Catarina, marriage is very important to our culture. Some crap about ‘spreading our skills and resources across families,’ which basically boils down to ‘if you want to inherit your families money, you better get married.”
“Sounds like a waste of time. You should just go forge anyway.” Hector answered simply.
“If the world worked how ya think, too many people would get there way I think.” She laughed off his remark, “Unfortunately for me, I’m basically at my families mercy, they have all the money at the moment. Ma Family… I love ‘em to death, but honestly people from Catarina are just too obsessed with the old ways. We’re in a castle from another dimension for, Bolka’s sake.”
“Your whole family came up to the Castle?” The man grinned
“Me n’m’elder brothers,” Sully nodded. “All six of ‘em. We went out lookin’ together, and just sorta wound up here. Seems that happened to a lot of folks...”
“And...” Hector paused, scratching his head, still trying to figure out how this Tradition was supposed to work. “And they’re the ones saying you aren’t allowed the money to build a forge unless you marry?”
“Most of ‘em, couple are less keen but there’s another really screwy Catarina tradition for ya: elder siblings get the say so fer jus’ about everythin’ after the parents are gone.”
“Yeesh,” The man shook his head, “This sounds almost as complicated as the whole magic business. So what’re you gonna do?”
“Well… I dunno!” She laughed throwing her arms up in a feight of frustration, “I Guess I’ll 'ave to go find a spouse!” There was a pause, as she concerned herself with the very idea, “Augh, courtship, nothing more nefarious in all the kingdoms combined. Would it really be so bad if I just wanted to make a few swords alone? Where they hell am I even gonna look for a suitable...suitor, I mean it can’t just be anyone. They need to respect the craft, ya know?” She caught herself, “Sorry, I’m startin’ to ramble. S’not your problem.”
“Hm,” Hector had just about wrapped his head around the whole concept, and, still finding it bizarre, placed it into the same category in his head as wild bears and kobolds: a nuisance, yes, but not something that could be avoided when it was standing between you and the nearest alehouse. Or someone who needed rescuing. Or an actually challenging fight.
Which meant, really, there was only one thing for him to do. Something which in his mind, at this moment, made absolute sense. “Well, what about me?”
The young woman brushed some of her hair away from her face, “Say what now?”
“The marriage thing.” He reminded, as if she had forgotten already. “Just marry me.” He offered, as if the situation was as simple as walking up a set of stairs.
There was a pause as long as it took for Sully to place the weapon she was holding carefully down on the bed. “...Okay. Did that crystal mess up yer brain or somethin’?”
“Nope, pretty sure it’s always been like this. Most people aim for my body, not my head. I'm too tall.” Hector grinned. “You need to marry someone, it has to be someone who respects the craft,” he honestly looked as if this was the most sensible thing he had ever come up with. “I challenge anybody in the Castle to the right of who respects the art of the blade more than me. Anybody. Even myself. Especially myself! ...What are we talking about again?” He paused, “Right, marriage.”
“Heh!” Sully’s voice carried more shock than anything else, “You’re actually serious, ain’t ya? We just met! Are ya even listenin’ to yourself?”
“Only to the important bits.” He waved his hand dismissively. “So, what do you say?”
Sully scratched the bottom of her chin. A normal person would have probably never considered the proposal at all, but the truth was the actual marriage did not matter to her at all. It was just an obstacle in the way of her future, she figured. She tilted her head to the right, looking the warrior over moment, as if judging him on some imaginary criteria. “... Hmmm, what’s the catch?”
“I get first dibs on any weapons you make.”
“Not the ones I’d sell, I hope.”
“Ehh, okay. How about in return every so often you make some weapons just for me.”
She tapped her foot, weighing her options, Hector meanwhile just grinned absently mindedly as if this was a normal conversation people had. The guy clearly didn’t have a clue. After juggling with the idea for a few more seconds, she finally came to a decision. “Ya got a few screws loose, I’ll tell ya that much...” A grin crawled across her face as she paused, “But, I can’t honestly say I have any reason to decline. Ya obviously know your stuff, and the sooner I get this over with the sooner I can pursue my passion. Fine, you got a deal.” She walked up to where Hector sat, and extended a hand for him to shake. “I’ll marry ya.”
“Great!” Hector grinned, returning the handshake.
There was a sudden, high pitched gasp and squeal from somewhere to the left. Hector and Sully turned, in unison, to see the small child from before, hands up to her face, and a gap-toothed beam. “You’re getting married?!”
“Um...” Sully started, but the girl had already turned away and was yelling delightedly to the crowded room. “Hey everybody! The cool lady who makes swords and the really tall guy are gonna get married!”
And that was how Tamar, returning to the former quarantine, came upon the loud cheering and clapping of an entire room’s worth of former plague victims; all of whom were apparently celebrating not only their continued survival, but some kind of joyous romantic union which hadn’t existed twenty seconds earlier.
He’d seen weirder stuff, honestly.
They sometimes say, "the place where I am right now was circled on a map for me"... Unfortunately, I kind of suck at orienteering.