This wasn’t Cobal’s first time in a smithy, but the ones he used to visit in the capital catered to the rich and always looked very well kept. This place was an utter and absolute mess. There were unfinished and finished weapons strewn about the floor and occupying several tables. There was a barrel with what looked like spears. Yet one corner of the room was pristine and tidy, and looking at the shine on the weapons on display there, that was probably where this blacksmith kept their best work.
“Come one, Jerasi is out back working,” Dionil said as he motioned the other two to follow him.
They stepped over several piles of metal and had to duck a little bit to go through a small door with spider webs hanging from the frame. Compared to the rest of the village they’d seen here, it was almost like they’d stepped into another world. Cobal chuckled to himself when he realized the irony in that thought.
Once outside they saw a small backyard, fenced off with a lattice fence covered in the most beautiful flowers. The house was right next to a large tree and the base of this tree was home to tons of flowers and mosses as well, creating this magical atmosphere. To the right of the door was the forge area where an older elven man with impressive muscles was hammering away at a piece of metal. He looked up when he saw the three of them approaching, gave a nod of acknowledgement and continued working.
“Let’s sit over there and wait until he’s done,” Dionil suggested, pointing at a bunch of chairs strewn about the garden space. There were empty jugs and mugs as well and what looked like the remains of last night’s dinner. They each grabbed a chair and sat down. Mana seemed enthralled by the beautiful flowers here and wasn’t really paying any attention to him or Dionil. The latter had probably seen this place before and was less interested in it, instead turning to Dionil to talk.
“So, how was the meeting with the council?”
“It went well, I’d say. My part in it was almost embarrassingly small I think, but Mana joined the council and promised to say a few words at the harvest festival.”
Dionil nodded. “I don’t think she could have said no if she wanted to, but I think it’s good for her to do this. The people here are nice and will be respectful to her. It’ll be a boon for her in the long run.” Dionil stared up at the sun through the break in the canopy. “I worry for her health when she goes back to your part of the world. The forest can be very healing for people like her. It’ll be up to her to take that energy and keep it with her after she leaves.”
“I’m not sure I understand?”
“Mental health, as it’s called in Mana’s world, is something we elves know about as well. We call it “wellbeing” which seems like a more broad term after listening to some of Mana’s explanations about her world, but it’s similar in a sense. You humans seem to think physical health is the only thing that requires a healer, but someone’s state of mind sometimes needs help too. Think of people who become murderers and thieves. A lot of times these are people who are down on their luck and unwell mentally because of it. If your wellbeing is unstable, your actions become more and more irrational. The forest has a very healing effect on the mind. Us elves believe that the bigger the city, the weaker a person’s wellbeing can become. That’s why there’s more crime in big cities.” Dionil leaned forward and sighed. “At least that’s what we believe, but who knows what’s true.” He looked at the blacksmith. “Seems like Jerasi is finally done.”
“Dionil, to what do I owe this visit?” Jerasi’s voice was very comforting somehow and it took Cobal off guard. He expected a much rougher voice on someone who worked a forge all day.
“I’ve brought some friends along today that could use your services. I told them you’re the best blacksmith that ever lived and that you’d be honored to make them weapons.”
Jerasi looked Dionil up and down. “You telling innocent people lies again?”
“You sell yourself short, old friend.”
“Oh no, I know I’m good, but the best that ever lived? That’s crazy talk.” They both laughed and Jerasi turned his attention to Mana and Cobal.
“So you folks need custom made weapons, what are you looking for?”
“I’ve been trained with short swords and long swords for most of my life and I preferred a longer blade for many years. Recently I’ve been training with a thinner, lighter blade as per Dionil’s suggestion. I don’t know yet if that’s better or not, but it’s something to keep in mind.” Cobal said.
Jerasi looked at Dionil. “What are you trying to teach the kid?”
“I’m thinking Might’s fighting style might be a better fit for him. The heavy handed fighting of the human kingdom is outdated if you’d ask me, and a quicker fighter can outpace them with the right amount of training.”
Jerasi nodded. “I see, makes sense. So you want me to make one of those thin blades, right?”
Dionil shook his head. “No, Might’s fighting style was perfectly suited for those, but to try and copy that recklessly would be folly.”
Jerasi smiled. “And I was worried I’d have to give you a lesson on this.”
Dionil looked at Jerasi. “I have an idea of what could work for him, but I’d like to hear your thoughts first.”
Jerasi thought for a moment. “I suppose a rapier would be best for what you’re suggesting, but it doesn’t always work.”
Dionil nodded. “I was thinking, if we’re working with lighter blades than he’s used to, could we not have him learn to fight with multiple blades?”
Jerasi shook his head. “He’d have to keep up training in two different styles and get confused in the heat of battle. It’s best for someone to focus on a single fighting style.” Jerasi stood up and walked into his workshop, leaving the three of them waiting for a moment before returning. “Here, hold this.” He threw Cobal a rapier. It looked like a functional weapon, nothing special but decent craftswork.”
“This is a decent blade.”
“Good, now parry this,” and with almost no time for Cobal to think the longsword Jerasi was also holding was moving towards him.
With haste and straining to do so, Cobal blocked the sword, almost snapping his own in half.
“You block close to the hilt, else you’re going to lose.” Jerasi pulled back the sword and struck again. This time Cobal was more ready for it and properly blocked the attack, pushing the blade to the side and stepping in. Jerasi jumped back and put the sword away. “I think a rapier will do just fine.” He waved at Cobal. “Use that while I work on a nicer blade.” He turned his attention to Mana. “And a dagger for you?”
Mana shrugged. “I don’t really fight with weapons so I don’t know what would work.”
“Probably a dagger. In elven culture it’s common for mages to have a dagger on hand as well. Sometimes an enemy will get too close and it’s just more efficient to stab them with something pointy than to use fancy magic.”
“I’ll take a dagger then.”
Jerasi smiled. “Excellent, now get out of my workplace, I gotta work.”
Having been shoved away from the blacksmith, the group decided to make a quick visit by a couple other small shops in town. Life in Milinia seemed to have a different pace from any city they’d been to before. No one was hurried to do anything, there were no deadlines. People were just existing peacefully.
“If people didn’t have expectations of me that they’d probably come collect on I could just stay here for the rest of my days,” Mana said. “It’s like the polar opposite of where I’m from.”
Dionil spoke up. “I’ve seen your human cities as well, although it’s been a little while, and they definitely have a more busy atmosphere.”
Mana shook her head. “I don’t think either of you could grasp how different my homeworld is from yours. There’s sounds and lights everywhere, buildings as tall as the sky and trains, trams, buses and cars all around you all of the time. There’s not a quiet moment at all. Even the short time I was in the capital of Blueyerd it already felt calmer than where I’m from.”
Unprompted and as a complete surprise to both Dionil and Cobal, Mana started softly humming a song before stopping herself.
“Old habit, it’s a song I used to listen to.”
“What’s it about, it sounds interesting,” Dionil asked.
Mana thought for a moment. “I don’t know what the singers meant to say with it, but I always saw it as a song for the lonely wanderer. The hopeful ones in a world filled with monotony and sadness. An ode to never giving up, if you will. To never stop believing.”
“Was it your favorite song?” Cobal asked.
Mana shook her head. ‘It’s just one of many wonderful songs, but it seemed apt at the moment. It’s nostalgic.”
Cobal saw a tear stream down Mana’s face. “It’s still not quite dawned on me that I’m never going back there.” Cobal wasn’t sure how to reply to that.
Dionil stepped in and gave Mana a hug. “It’s okay to feel that way, Might had many a night where he felt the weight of his situation more than normal. But he found his place in this world and so will you. Just give it some time.”
They stood there for a moment before Dionil stepped back.
“Thanks,” Mana said sheepishly. “I feel a bit better now.” She looked up. “I’d like to go visit that jewelry store over there before we go back if that’s alright?”
Dionil nodded. “Of course, there’s no rush to go back, enjoy your time here.”
Mana headed off into the jeweler leaving Cobal and Dionil alone in the center of the village. Some of the people living here would walk by and nod respectfully or wave at Dionil, recognizing the old sage. It was a quiet place though.
“You know, I’d kind of like to see this place she’s from after hearing her talk about it a few times,’ Cobal said.
Dionil smiled. “Curiosity is a very strong feeling, but a lot of what she says about her homeland makes it seem like it wouldn’t be a good place for me. It sounds very constricting and loud and that’s the opposite of what I enjoy.” He chuckled. “There’s a reason I live out in the woods, I like my peace and quiet.”
Cobal nodded. “I’m not surprised that I’m more curious about it than you are, it seems like such a different world from ours that I just can’t properly imagine it without seeing it for myself.”
“Maybe one day your mages will find a way to do so. I hope not though. Summoning a person once every so often is already more than enough. Who knows how other worlds would treat us if they could freely come and go.”
“That’s right, that probably wouldn’t go very well. We’re barely able to keep peace with our regular neighbors after all,” Cobal said.
“So relations still aren’t good between Blueyerd and Rilodar?”
Cobal shook his head. His father had never liked their north-western neighbors and peace had been strenuous since before he was born. “Maybe one day we’ll set aside our differences.”
“I hope so,” Dionil said, looking off towards the jewelry store that Mana just exited. Having done what they came to do, the three made their way back home.