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Great [Monster] Journey 36

RSanon Jun 21st, 2014 1,344 Never
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  1. The space between them vanished in an instant. Sybyll slipped by Galen and collided with Edward, wrapping him up in a tight hug he eagerly returned. Galen heard him grunt from the force of it.
  2.  
  3. “I can’t believe…” he started, “I mean, I knew you’d be out there somewhere, but, jus’, it’s been so long.”
  4.  
  5. “A very long time,” she replied, resting her head on his shoulder.
  6.  
  7. “How’d you,” a swallow broke his speech; the strain in his eyes betrayed how he fought tears. “How’d you end up here?”
  8.  
  9. “Duty, same as always.”
  10.  
  11. He closed his eyes, giving Sybyll another squeeze before pulling away from the hug. Taking a deep breath, he put his hands on his hips and shook his head as he looked at Sybyll’s face.
  12.  
  13. “Duty.” His mouth twisted like the word tasted foul on his tongue. “Don’t tell me that’s really why you’re here. The old Sybyll’d be fightin’ it tooth and claw every step of the way.”
  14.  
  15. “You should know just as well as I that time is change.”
  16.  
  17. “Eh? Time’s a battle you gotta fight in order to keep the rest o’ the world from doing what it please with you.” He narrowed his eyes. “You sure you haven’t drank somethin’ funny?”
  18.  
  19. Seira coughed.
  20.  
  21. ‘Drat,’ thought Galen. He could’ve stood there and watched them talk back and forth forever--probably could’ve gotten a good story or two out of it as well. He knew why Seira had coughed, though; he wasn’t without his own questions. The first, and most obvious, came out of Seira’s mouth before it could leave his.
  22.  
  23. “How the hell do you two know each other?”
  24.  
  25. Not exactly how he’d phrase it, however.
  26.  
  27. “Ah,” said Sybyll, stepping to the side to give everyone a good look at Edward. “Allow me to intro--“
  28.  
  29. “You’re all formal now, too? Sheesh.” Edward nudged his way forward, offering Galen a hand. “A half-asleep welcome at the door ain’t fit for the man who brought Sybyll here.” Galen’s mind spun in circles, but he took the hand nonetheless with a vigor to match the blacksmith’s. “I’m Edward Smith, and I’m the one who forged the sword on your hip.”
  30.  
  31. “Hwah? Toneruth?!?” Galen returned the handshake mechanically, his eyes widening larger than his face and sounds tumbling out his mouth only resembled words. Seira’s reaction was a touch more articulate.
  32.  
  33. “What?? But that would make you over a thousand years old!”
  34.  
  35. “Aye, that it would.” He left Galen with a pat on the shoulder and stood in front of Seira, offering her the same handshake he had to Galen. “And who might you be?”
  36.  
  37. While her paw swallowed his hand, her handshake had none of the brutishness of her questions. “S-Seira.” Her mouth moved as if to give more, but nothing else came.
  38.  
  39. “And you?” Edward said, switching his attention to Mino.
  40.  
  41. “Mino. Pleased to meet ya.”
  42.  
  43. “Pleasure’s mine.” Mino ended up being the one only able to properly return Edward’s handshake, splaying a grin across his face as he walked back to Sybyll. “Now that you’re here, Sybyll, I believe you owe me a mountain a’ stories ‘bout where you been.” The hearty slap on the back of her shoulder rang loud in the confines of the room.
  44.  
  45. “And I would be pleased to begin work on this debt, but as Galen here said, the reason we are here is rather important.”
  46.  
  47. His smile wormed into a smirk. “I don’t think I’ll be soon getting’ used to that speech of yours. But if you say it’s important, it’ll have to come first.” He turned to Galen. “Galen, is it? And if you’ve come to me about this important thing, I’m assuming it has something to do with that,” he said, pointing at Toneruth.
  48.  
  49. A timid nod was Galen’s reply, followed by the removal of Toneruth’s sheath from his belt. He offered it to Edward, who whistled as he took it.
  50.  
  51. “Ho boy. Been such a long time since I’ve seen this thing, but in my hands it seems like it was just a day ago.” His hand slowly ventured across the sheath, wiping off dust and dirt all the way to the tip. “So what’s the trouble?”
  52.  
  53. Galen felt much like a child showing his parents a toy he’d broken just after he’d gotten it. “You should take a look. It’s… pretty clear.”
  54.  
  55. Edward gave a slight tilt of the head, carrying Toneruth over the bench. He swiped an area clear of tools and materials before placing Toneruth down. The moment his hand closed around the hilt, he paused. Galen cringed. If Edward was the one who forged the blade, just touching the hilt was enough to tell him something was horribly wrong. As Toneruth cleared the scabbard it let out a high-pitched ring--a ring which should’ve been much more mellow. The sound that came out of Edward’s mouth was too lazy to be a hiss but too strained to be a sigh. All Galen could do was watch and wait.
  56.  
  57. “Yeesh. You’ve gone and done a number, alright.” He held the stump of a sword up, pinching the metal, then brought it closer to inspect it. “It may have been more than a few years ago when I made it, but I know I didn’t leave a single flaw in the metal or the design.” He turned to Galen. “What’ve you been doing with it?”
  58.  
  59. Galen played with his fingers, trying to keep eye contact with Edward. “Well, the first break--“
  60.  
  61. “The FIRST?” Edward spun back to Toneruth and dropped the two other pieces of blade out of the sheath. “Two breaks.” He squinted at the metal. “Awful ragged, too. What were you doing, hitting it on rock until your arms couldn’t move?”
  62.  
  63. “No!” He may have not had the most experience with swords, but he wasn’t an idiot, either. “The first break, near the center, that’s been there for a long time. Since the last time it was used. The other happened when I tried to block a halberd.”
  64.  
  65. “A halberd?” Edward clicked his tongue and shook his head. “This thing’s magic is supposed to make it impossible to break, but you’re telling me a halberd did it in?”
  66.  
  67. “Edward, if I may,” started Sybyll.
  68.  
  69. “Again with that speech of yours! Of course you ‘may’!” Even though his words were heated, they lacked any sort of edge. It occurred to Galen that, as long as it’d been since Edward and Sybyll had seen each other, there was still some sort of understanding between each other. A silent envy welled up within him.
  70.  
  71. “The sword is only strong and true if the mind of the one who wields it is as well. There are good reasons for Galen’s breaking it--“ An awkward pause snuck into her sentence, and Galen saw her eyes flick to him. “--and the other break as well, I believe.”
  72.  
  73. “Yeah, yeah, I wasn’t questioning anyone who held the blade. Thing’s heavy, I know that much.” Galen got the feeling Edward wasn’t talking about him. “Just lamenting my work a little.”
  74.  
  75. Galen bit his lip. Someone had to ask. “So… do you think you can fix it?”
  76.  
  77. “Eh?” Edward spun around. “You ask any other blacksmith in the world, you’d probably be shit outta luck. But fortunately for you, I ain’t any other blacksmith.” He glanced back at the pieces on the bench. “Yeah, I can do this. Would probably be a touch easier with one of them mages around, but lucky for them, they didn’t catch whatever I did when I made this thing.” He went about sliding the blade back into its sheath. “Usually when you melt iron back down, breaking the bonds in the metal will do the same to the magic. But if you know a thing or two about enchantments and metal, you can melt it without breaking the bonds, and then when it cools again, everything lines up nicely with just a little direction. Kinda like a doctor cuttin’ someone open. If you know where all the important stuff is, you can avoid damaging it and just get to the stuff that needs repairing, then a few stitches and everything heals up nice. Plus, magic’s pretty resilient on its own. Even broken like this, I’ll bet Toneruth has done a few interesting things.”
  78.  
  79. “You could say that,” said Galen.
  80.  
  81. Edward got back a bit of his smile. “That’s a good sign. I’m assuming you need this fixed as soon as possible, with all the rush you came to me.”
  82.  
  83. “Yes. Please.” His face fell. “I’m afraid I don’t have any money, though.”
  84.  
  85. “Screw money. If I could just have a little chat with Sybyll, here, I’ll think I’d have all the payment I could ask for.”
  86.  
  87. Sybyll smiled. She actually smiled! Galen almost got caught up with it and smiled himself, but something held him back, maybe the avalanche of relief tumbling down through his muscles.
  88.  
  89. “It would be my pleasure,” said Sybyll.
  90.  
  91. “That’s settled, then,” said Edward, picking Toneruth up. “I’ll get on this right away. Probably’ll take till tomorrow during the day sometime. Wish I could have a better estimate for you, but it’s been a long time since I’ve tested my skills like this.” He pointed to a doorway Galen hadn’t given any attention before. Looking through it, he saw a bed and some simple furniture. “That’s where I usually sleep, but since I won’t be doin’ that tonight, you should rest there. Inns in this city are a pain, especially with your monster friends.” Edward glanced over them. “With all the rumors goin’ around, you’d be lucky to find anyone to host you.” Galen opened his mouth to protest--he’d slept outside plenty of times, he could do it again without taking over Edward’s home--but Edward raised a hand to silence him. “I’ve got quite a job ahead of me, don’t have time to argue. Something tells me you’re gonna need a good night’s rest, and you can find it there. Sybyll?” He walked out a side door giving Galen, Seira, and Mino a glimpse of the forge and other tools sitting outside. Sybyll was right behind him, though she stopped to give them all a nod before the door closed behind her.
  92.  
  93. The sudden, unexpected silence which filled the room made Galen forget whatever he was thinking about.
  94.  
  95. “Well, that was something,” said Mino. “But I’m tired! So I think I’ll find a nice bucket to relax in and call it a day.” She went over to the corner, swiped one of the buckets Edward probably used for holding water, and skipped along to the bedroom with it in hand.
  96.  
  97. At least she had no qualms making herself at home. Galen shifted his mouth back and forth, staring at the bed like he expected it to get up and start walking around. Even so freely offered, sleeping in someone else’s personal bed was no less than an invasion. The sheets and pillow probably smelled like Edward, the mess inside, so foreign to Galen, was something Edward woke up to every day. If Galen asked him to pick out any object from the mess, Edward would probably know exactly where it was. The furniture had its own imprint as well, dark shadows cast by no light.
  98.  
  99. A large paw slapped him on his shoulder, sending a fresh ache through it.
  100.  
  101. “He was right about needing a good night’s rest. Tomorrow we’re going to be setting sail for Medusuub’s castle, and good luck getting a good rest at sea in the little thing Poseidon lent us. Knowing you, you’ll be too jumpy to rest, anyways.” She spoke with a comforting smile, but something felt off about it. Galen couldn’t tell if it was Seira or him… or both of them.
  102.  
  103. “I guess you’re right.”
  104.  
  105. Galen cautiously walked into Edward’s bedroom and sat on the bed, half-expecting it to break after taking any weight. It’d be just his luck to break something of Edwards, especially after he said he’d repair Toneruth for free. Opting to lie atop the sheets, Galen rested his head on Edward’s pillow. Whatever feathers might have once kept it soft and fluffy were worn and dwindling; Galen could feel the bed touching the back of his head. He heard Seira rolling up in a corner she’d cleared of any loose items, letting her tail flop to the floor and her wings retract and using her paws as a pillow. Those things must make a pretty good pillow, thought Galen. His eyes turned to the ceiling and he closed his eyes, trying as he might to block out the world around him and find some rest.
  106.  
  107.  
  108. **
  109.  
  110.  
  111. The forge flared up as Edward pumped more and more air into the flame. Sybyll sat on a modest wooden chair a fair distance away, making sure to give Edward the space he needed, while watching him work with a mix of fondness and curiosity. He wielded the forge like any other tool, his weapons in the coming battle with the enchanted iron before him. He’d pulled out a book of references and charts, eyeing them while his body worked automatically. If he truly had kept the smithing business his entire life, there could be no flaw left in his procedure, mistakes being washed out by the relentless river of time and repetition.
  112.  
  113. Mumbling something, he held a hand over the broken pieces of Toneruth, igniting a small purple light in the pieces which faded shortly after it appeared. He checked the pieces one last time, nodding to himself before he finally laid two of them them over flame.
  114.  
  115. “You know, when I saw you back there, I wasn’t sure if you were gonna kill me or not.”
  116.  
  117. “Kill you?” Her seat had become uncomfortable. “Why would I kill you?”
  118.  
  119. “’Cause of what I did to you.” He leaned up against a wall, the night hiding none of the sobriety in his eyes. “Even now, I feel like I ain’t so sure of what’s goin’ on in that head a’ yours. The way you talk ain’t just weird, it downright frightens me.”
  120.  
  121. “What you did…?” Edward had always had a penchant for talking ahead of the conversation. Sybyll thought he did it because he liked when people asked him what he was talking about so he could feel smarter in explaining it to them, but something told her he wasn’t doing it intentionally at the moment. “I can assure you: you have no reason to fear me.”
  122.  
  123. “Suppose so. But I also suppose anything you did to me would be well-deserved.” His eyes dug into Sybyll so harsh she could feel it, but all she could offer him was curiosity, confusion. “Ah, maybe it’s just monsters are better at dealing with this sort of thing.” He walked back to the forge, tongs in hand, and checked the heating metal, but from his stance, Sybyll guessed it was more an excuse to get moving. His legs were itching to pace.
  124.  
  125. “You’re wonderin’, aren’t you?” He lowered the tongs, still staring into the heat of the forge. “How I’m still suffering life?”
  126.  
  127. “Yes. You’ve hardly aged since I last saw you.”
  128.  
  129. He forced a laugh. “You know, if I was to get stuck at a certain age, I’d have preferred it to be about fifteen years younger.” He shook his head. “I’ve been involved in a lot of curious jobs during my time as a smith. Swords for knights, for kings, for peddlers. Knives, scepters, axes, maces, enchanted or not. Nothing ever like Tellus. All the other weapons I made took lives after they left my shop, but Tellus was the only one to claim a life in the forge.”
  130.  
  131. “Did one of the mages die during the forging?”
  132.  
  133. “Eh?” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Nah, nothin’ like that. I was talkin’ about you. You offered your life, and we were all too quick to take it, burn it into this damned iron.” Sybyll didn’t know how to respond, so she kept to herself. “As for my oddly-extended life, it had to be something with the mages, some part of the process they miscalculated or didn’t understand quite as much as they thought they did. While we were traveling together, they told me they’d studied and researched damn near everything between the two of them. Resurrection, turning iron to gold, mind control, reversing monster transformations, and, well, immortality.”
  134.  
  135. “Then creating Tellus is what gave you such a long life.”
  136.  
  137. “That’s how I figure it, though not knowing the truth of it for sure is going to bug me until I finally give out.”
  138.  
  139. Sybyll’s eyes flicked away and back to Edward several times.
  140.  
  141. “Yeah, I know what you’re wondering. When will I give out?” He shrugged. “Dunno. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in another thousand years. Maybe I’ll someday work up the strength to end it myself. Could be you and I will have the same kinda lifespan.” The light of the forge flickered in his eyes. “I know we made Tellus to last forever, but nothing ever truly does. Metal rusts, breaks apart, and returns to the earth. Even the earth itself will meet it’s end somehow.” He wiped the forming sweat off his mustache. “Maybe that’s why humans are suppose’ta have short lives. So they don’t spend all this time wondering about how things are gonna end.”
  142.  
  143. “I do not give such thoughts much of my own time,” said Sybyll, laying one leg over the other. “Where I am, there much for me to do. Thinking of the end of things, the end of myself, would only distract me.”
  144.  
  145. “Much for you to do? That always true? I only know of the one time this sword has been used, that Solvet lad, but that doesn’t mean no one else has touched it.”
  146.  
  147. A knot caught in Sybyll’s throat. “It… it has been. Always true. Though, no one else besides him and Galen have used it.”
  148.  
  149. “1400 years and you’ve only known two wielders?” His head twitched as if he might say more, but he decided against it. “Ah, none of my business, anyways.”
  150.  
  151. “1382. And nearly 400 of them were spent in sleep.”
  152.  
  153. “Mm,” he said, nodding. “Forgot about that little feature.” He poked at the metal with his tongs, testing its strength. The color was about right. “The kid said one of these breaks didn’t happen while he was using it. Said the last guy who had it was at fault, and if only two people have used it, that means Solvet did it.” He watched her out of the corner of his eye. “You happen to know anything about that?”
  154.  
  155. His eye was almost like a challenge, his voice curiosity with an edge. Sybyll swapped her legs’ position. “No. It happened while I slept.”
  156.  
  157. “Of course. But I bet you got a damn good idea why it happened.”
  158.  
  159. She cocked her head slightly. Why did it matter? “I am not sure. I knew nothing of what happened after the Scar was cut.”
  160.  
  161. “C’mon, Sybyll. I know you’re smarter than that. If just one guy used the blade, then it had to break in his hands, and with as long as you were with him, you had to have known what his goals were. Where he was heading. What possibly could have led him into a situation in which the blade could break, despite all the use beforehand leaving it intact.”
  162.  
  163. Maybe she could make a somewhat educated guess, but still, what was the point? The break was made, and Edward was here, now, repairing it. The way he referred to Tellus, she had guessed he didn’t care too much for what adventures it had been on. He hadn’t asked about anything else in its past, either, so what was so important about this one event?
  164.  
  165. “Tellus’ more likely to break if the wielder doesn’t have a strong will, doesn’t know why he’s wielding it.”
  166.  
  167. Yes, that was how the sword functioned. Sybyll’s face grew in intensity the longer she thought on the point, her features becoming harder and harder right up until her realization. Her focus grew fierce.
  168.  
  169. “You’ve spoken with Cea.”
  170.  
  171. He lazily waved the tongs back and forth, in a dismissive gesture. “A guy gets a little curious and lonely when he lives so long. Yeah, I saw her a couple hundred years back and we talked about a few things. But that doesn’t take a thing away from my question.”
  172.  
  173. “Is your intent to provoke me?”
  174.  
  175. A sharp guffaw rose from his belly and out his mouth. “Ha! Provoke you? That what you really think? No, I’m just trying to get you to think about something that you probably need to think about. If it’s really been 500 years since that man made that cut with Tellus and you still haven’t given things the proper consideration, then you hands-down with the competition for denial and avoidance.”
  176.  
  177. “There is no ‘denial’ or ‘avoidance’, Edward.” Her voice deepened and grew edges. “It was a matter of necessity. Of Duty. I have accept--“
  178.  
  179. “Duty!” Edward kicked the ground. “That thrice-damned word again. Fuckin--is it because you’re a lizardman, you’re this dense? Or because you’re a monster? Cause if you were human, I could just call you crazy.”
  180.  
  181. “I am of sound mind.”
  182.  
  183. “Then why are you still hiding it? ‘For want of self’, Sybyll. They didn’t give you that thing because you were being arrogant. In fact, I think it’s more arrogant to hide it.”
  184.  
  185. “I do not understand of what significance it is to you, or why you seem so bothered by my choice in the matter.”
  186.  
  187. “Because I’m an idiot who happened who happens to know you, and I give a damn about how you’re doing.”
  188.  
  189. “There is no need for concern. My life is acceptable.”
  190.  
  191. “’Acceptable’? Who the hell says, ‘My life is acceptable’ with pride?”
  192.  
  193. “I--” Wait. Her eyes softened, and the etched ridges on her face faded away. Hadn’t she already had this conversation? She thought back, back, back to the beginning of her journey. A mere day after she had met Galen, he’d said something.
  194.  
  195. ‘What kind of way is that to look at your life? Just ‘acceptable’? It should be great, or heading toward it!’
  196.  
  197. Edward was old, emotional, and had been away from her a long time. There was much he didn’t know about her and she could find fault in his position should she search hard enough. But Galen had come to the same conclusion on his own. Her hand unconsciously went to her belt, where the simple iron sword Galen had given her rested. The thumb of her claw traced circles on the end of the hilt. What was wrong with simple contentment? Was it a sin to just be fine with things? Why did Galen frown at her so, and why was Edward so intent on making her look to her past? Those event were over with, useful only for learning from and moving on. She tried happiness in the past, and she had her fair share of it, but the world had made it clear her duty would not let such things persevere. She would outlive her mate, or disappear as part of her duty to the sword. No amount of arguing or self-reflection could change that.
  198.  
  199. Why won’t these people just leave her be?
  200.  
  201. “Fuck!”
  202.  
  203. Sybyll’s head snapped to Edward. He was sucking his finger, cursing as well as he could and stomping a foot on the ground.
  204.  
  205. “Thousand years of this shit and I still manage to burn myself.”
  206.  
  207. “I am disrupting your focus. I will leave.” But she hardly left the seat before Edward snapped back at her.
  208.  
  209. “No, you’ll sit there and you’ll be quiet until I say so. Like it or not, I need you here for this.”
  210.  
  211. She sat back down, wondering if he needed her as part of the procedure or for his own sake. Hanging her head, she closed her eyes. She’d prefer if it was the latter.
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