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The Forge of Glass

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Lady N's picture
Joined: 06/26/2010

Author - Footfalls-in-Ash


Flesh. Bone. Blood.

Above all, blood.

The Masters demanded these tributes, and more. Enough flesh to sculpt a city, enough bone to fertilize a jungle, enough blood to fill a river – Junal-Dar knew this well. He knew it from the scarred, bare crown of his head to the twisted, worn remnants of his tail, felt it every waking moment in the metal collar he wore as he laboured in the glassworks of Sirlatar. Only to work the baser metals of course, and to refine ore; the Masters would never suffer a Saxhleel to forge anything more intricate than a horseshoe

It had not always been this way. It was whispered in ages past that the manifold realms were once in balance. That peace had ruled the land. That the People of the Root were many, and the Hist had led them to glories beyond reckoning. But times change, and people change with them. The Saxhleel were a shadow of their former selves now, their great works and monuments of old flooded, buried deep beneath the swamp, long since lost to ruin, and forgotten. In this state, how could they possibly compare to the Tall Ones?

They came after Duskfall, though how long after Junal could not say (the passage of time being a new concept to him). And while the Deep Marsh proved inhospitable to their dry skins, the fringes were not. So it was on the edges that they built their cities, with magic and marble, crystal and glass. Their towers gleamed white-gold in the sun, fitted with wide windows that split light into all the eight scintillating colours of the rainbow. They did not just build above the ground; they dug deep as well, constructing catacombs that housed countless strange and mysterious artifacts. Countless horrors. Then, once settled, they looked upon their holdings, their neighbours, and were most pleased with what they saw. They took what they willed because they could. They became the Masters.

The forge flared, spitting out a shower of white hot sparks; Junal tightened his grip on the hammer as another wave of heat rolled over him. What he was doing was strictly forbidden, but it could not be rushed. 

Glassworking was delicate work, and it would do no good to ruin this particular piece due to a lack of patience. Carefully, he withdrew the white hot ingot from the flames with his tongs. It had not been easy, learning the methods to shape malachite over the years, watching from the shadows as his Masters toiled. But today would be the final test. The viridian glass that was produced from raw malachite was far lighter and stronger than any material he’d made before, and if this piece functioned properly, it would be all worth it. Just a few more rounds of heating and moulding, slowly teasing the metal into shape and paring off the unwanted slivers. Then quenching it in warm oil (never water, the chill would crack it completely), and letting the glass cool and melt and flow like syrup before hardening into its final shape. Junal lost himself in his work, letting his mind focus on what needed to be done. Just a few more-


“Jeran. Where are you?”

Jeran. Junal stiffened, thrusting the glowing metal into the oil as he spun around to reach for his broom, the remnants of his spines flattening in alarm. As he did this, Mistress Lanya emerged from behind a pillar, dressed in a pale white shift and carrying her customary willow switch. Junal’s back tingled as she spied him, her blue eyes narrowing. “Ah, there you are. Where is Shaper Umarand?”

Junal bowed his head, averting his eyes. It had to be Lanya. At this stage, making eye contact would be a suicidal mistake. “Many pardons Mistress, it is Junal-Dar.” The language of the Masters still felt strange to his tongue after all these years, even though it had been one of the very first things they had been taught. The remaining spines on his neck fluttered in anxiety. If she even guessed at what he had been trying to do…
“Master Umarand is away, attending the Opening of the Eightfold Paths,” he began, attempting to ascertain her mood. “I am uncertain as to when he shall return. How may I assist you, Mistress?”

“Hmph,” Lanya sniffed, tapping her chin in thought. “I would have preferred to ask his permission, but it is no matter. He owes me a favour in any case.” She gestured to Junal imperiously. “Come, beast. I am tired of being constantly mocked; it is past time to continue my sculpting. Valdia may prance and preen all she likes, but the sublime beauty of my final work shall speak for itself. My masterpiece shall rival the wailing wheels of Vindasel.”

Junal walked closer guardedly, and once he was within reach, Lanya reached out to touch him, running her hand over his scarred face. The dark-scaled Argonian stiffened on instinct, fighting the urge to flinch. “Yes, you will do nicely,” she murmured to herself. “Such excellent textures. My dear Junal, I have in mind for you a fate so exquisite...”

He jerked back as her nails suddenly dug into him, then fell screaming to his knees in burning agony as her fingers crooked in a familiar spell-sign, the one that activated his collar’s enchantment. He howled. His veins filled with acid. A thousand needles pierced his eyes. A swarm of ravenous xous consumed his flesh. As he lay writhing on the ground Lanya gave a tinkling laugh as she observed him. “Oh, I do hope you last longer than the other one.” She made another gesture.

The pain vanished, leaving him gasping on the floor. Junal’s muscles twitched spasmodically as he struggled to get up. Lanya tilted her head in appreciation of the display. She smiled. “Very good. Now come,” she waved carelessly, moving towards the exit. “The Artists’ Quarters should allow us ample time to discover something truly… refined.”

It had to be ready. It had to be. Now, while her back was turned. Feeling only numbness, Junal stumbled towards the oil barrel, and plunged his hand in to retrieve the malachite. Still not looking. With trembling hands slick with grease, he touched the malachite key to his neck. It hummed. And after so many fruitless, untold attempts at escape, the worn collar fell to the ground with a clink, its enchantment finally broken.
Lanya turned. Her eyes widened upon seeing the uncollared Argonian silhouetted by the flames of the forge staring back at her, eyes burning with unbridled rage. She moved to cast a spell, but Junal had the advantage of surprise. Grabbing a sword from a nearby rack, he leapt through the wall of flames she summoned and slashed at her wrists. She cried out, missing a fireball that would have surely burned his head clean off; instead it knocked the sword out of his hands with the force of its blast. Hissing in frustration, Junal tackled her, sending the both of them tumbling ungracefully to the floor in a tangle of limbs and scales and spells. Heedless of the magic, Junal grabbed her, slamming her head into the floor and breaking her ward.

“You thought I was Jeran?” he snarled in fury. “He was my son. MY SON.” Possessed by an animalistic rage, Junal kept slashing at her, long after the flames died, long after Lanya had ceased to move. He roared himself hoarse, beating the ground bloody in his rage.

After a while, he slowed. Then he stopped. A great weariness washed over his limbs as he sat there, frozen like a statue. It was over.

Junal tried to get up, but he was too weak. He tasted blood. Smelled it too. He looked down, stupefied, and found a hole in his chest. It was quite big. His… guts were spilling out. One of Lanya’s spells must have hit him. Junal tried to gather them, put them back in. The smell…

Darkness closed in. And Junal-Dar knew no more.

Lady N's picture
Joined: 06/26/2010

This piece was written for our 20th anniversary fan art contest! It is strictly property of its original creator - you may not modify, publish, or redistribute it without explicit permission from the artist.