tagNonHumanThe Runesmith Chronicles Ch. 05

The Runesmith Chronicles Ch. 05

byBluDraygn©

Hi There!

Why is this called the runesmith chronicles? You're about to find out!

As always, your feedback is very appreciated!

Enjoy!

Blu


*****

Almost six months had passed since Perra had come to live with Kal and his mother. True to his word Kal visited Ikuno's cave as often as possible with Perra tagging along whenever she could get her chores caught up, and true to her word Ikuno began teaching Kal the basics of magic.

Kal could tell that something was bothering Ikuno in the way she acted these last few weeks and more often than not he would end up going home immediately after these practice sessions with Ikuno getting upset for some reason he didn't understand, then stomping off to her cave in a huff. Near as he could tell, the better he did the more annoyed she became with him, and for the life of him Kal couldn't figure out why. Today as he approached the oni's cave he intended to find out.

Kal adjusted the piece of leather strapped to his forearm, scrawled across the top were runes that looked very similar to the ones tattooed on the arm of the knight, Sir Balthus. It had been about two months of constant study, interrupted by much more pleasurable distractions with Ikuno, before the oni had let him try his hand at some actual magic. In the beginning Ikuno had tried to teach him how to summon the magic circles like she did, as it was the type of casting she was most familiar, but with little success. Ikuno's charged crystals provided enough power, but he just couldn't keep the image of the circle with its various runes and sigils as sharp in his mind as it needed to be. After a second mishap that required her to heal a couple of his broken fingers they decided to move on and come back once he had studied for another year or so.

Next, he had tried his hand at drawing the runes in the air, this proved to be easier as the runes were far less complex. He even managed to create a ball of flame that danced about in his hand and heal up some small scrapes and cuts he had gotten while working the farm on the previous day. But each success seemed to only make Ikuno grow colder towards him and unfortunately for him only runes in the most basic spells were simple enough for him to both draw accurately and mentally hold the image before he ran into the same problem as with the magic circles. Luckily, he and Ikuno realized this before any more fingers were broken.

Two visits ago he had asked about the runes on the arm of Sir Balthus.

---

"Do you know what a runesmith is Kal?" Ikuno asked joining him in the library as he read by the light of the magical lantern, the book was for novice mages since he hadn't built up the knowledge or vocabulary to tackle anything more difficult yet. Despite his attempts to brush up on his reading skills the magical tomes had thrown a large number of new words and concepts at him, at times it felt like he was learning to read all over again.

"Not really, it hasn't been in any of the books you've had me read. It sounds like some sort of blacksmith," he replied.

"The huge majority of them are," Ikuno pulled over a nearby chair and sat down. Since he was spending so much time studying, Kal had crafted a second chair so they could both sit and talk in the library comfortably. "Dwarven and elven runesmiths go out and find extremely rare and powerfully magical components that they take and forge into weapons or tools to imbue them with strong magical powers."

"Are there no human runesmiths?" he asked.

Ikuno shook her head, "Not that I know of. I've heard that some extremely powerful runed weapons take decades to make, occasionally taking the life of the crafter in the process. To my understanding humans do not live long enough to develop the expertise or have the magical affinity to forge a runed item before they become too frail with age."

Kal was thoughtful, "That sounds amazing, and a bit scary, but I'm no blacksmith. I can't even fix my own tools when they break."

She gave him a half smile before continuing, "There is another much rarer type of runesmith, one that does much the same thing, but instead of crafting a weapon they go out and find the most pure and powerful components to create magical inks then 'forge' the runes into their own skin," she explained.

Kal's face lit up with understanding, "That's what's on Balthus's arm! He's a runesmith!" Kal thought for a moment before his elation drained away, "Wait, that doesn't make any sense..."

Ikuno smiled, "You are correct, before they left I asked him about his arm. He said that it was a foolish mistake from when he was younger thinking a magical shield he could summon at any time would be useful if he became a knight. He paid a small fortune for the runes but the crystal they gave him was the same one I shattered, that pathetic crystal made those runic tattoos almost useless. He told me it took days to charge the crystal and as you saw the shield only lasted a few seconds at best. Unable to prove the worth of his magical arm he spent a few more years as a squire than necessary. However, my point is that it was a runesmith that put the marks on his arm, not Balthus himself."

Standing up Ikuno looked through the books before taking one off the shelf and placing it by the one Kal was reading. "This book has most of what I know about runesmithing, look through it and tell me what you think. Before you jump into this you should know that there is a tradeoff going this route."

Kal closed the book he had been reading and slid the new one in its place. Looking up at the oni, "What kind of tradeoff?" he asked.

"Energy," she formed a small magic circle in her hand and held it there, "This type of magic takes the least amount of energy. Since I'm doing all the work in my head maintaining its form it takes very little to initiate the spell, only a little more than what it takes to hold it like this." Dispelling the circle, she used a claw to draw a rune in the air then held the glowing sigil in her hand like before, Kal recognized it as a simple healing spell, "Casting like this takes a bit more effort to get going as I have to empower the rune as I draw it to achieve the same effect." Ikuno let the rune fade and looked at Kal, "It takes far more magical power to activate an inked rune. First, the ink must be charged with magic then the rune must be activated, because of all this energy needed to cast, even a rune drawn in the purest ink will eventually burn. Though once activated the spell doesn't take much more to maintain than the other ways.

Kal was quiet as he took in everything she had told him, understanding now why she had started him out on what seemed to be the most difficult means of spellcasting. "Why do it then? What is the point if it takes so much more effort and is such a waste of energy?"

"Being a runesmith does have its advantages," she put her hands together in front of her. "Let's say my hands are bound together, as I am now the only thing I can do is this," the magical shield she had used in the fight against Galen appeared above her forearm before quickly fading. "If I were a runesmith I could heal myself, change shape, burn away the bindings, change part of my body into slime perhaps, even activate strength or speed runes to escape. All just by pushing magic into the right runes and without the use of my hands."

"Okay, now the opposite question why don't all magic users have runes on them if they are so handy?" he asked.

Ikuno smiled, "Think back to the battle with the knight," her magical shield formed above her arm again, "look familiar?"

Kal sat there slack-jawed staring at the magic circle above Ikuno's arm, he couldn't believe he had failed to notice that Ikuno's and Balthus's shields were nearly identical. He collected himself and looked closely at Ikuno's arm, "But you don't have any runes on you..."

Ikuno released the spell and winced, "That's because they're a bit... deeper," she seemed reluctant to say more but that only roused Kal's curiosity.

"Deeper?"

She rubbed her forearm with her other hand, "I didn't want them to be visible so I had them etch the runes into my... bones."

"Owwwch!" though it didn't actually hurt him, the very thought was making his arm tingle. Kal found himself rubbing his own arm in a similar manner as Ikuno.

"That's a bit of an understatement," she shook her head a bit to rid herself of the memory, "Read up on what you can in the book, I'll make us something to eat while you study." she said and walked out of the library.

He spent the rest of the day reading and talking with Ikuno, for the first time in weeks they spent the time before he went home in bed.

---

On his next visit, after their normal beginning to one of one of his visits, Ikuno had crawled out of bed and given him a piece of leather with ties to go around his arm and runes scrawled into the top along with one of her charged crystals.

"I had some spell components I combined to make a decent quality ink. Let's go outside and see how well you do with this," she said smiling, "don't be discouraged though, it may take some time to get it to work."

Dressed and out in the clearing in front of the cave Kal strapped the piece of leather to his forearm, holding the crystal in his other hand he took a couple deep breaths in preparation. He closed his eyes in concentration then pulled magical energy from the crystal before pushing it into the runes on the leather. At first it felt like the magic crashed into a wall stopping and rebounding back on him like a wave. He gritted his teeth and kept pushing despite the resulting headache. Energy flowed towards the ink but slowly like pushing a log through a wall of clay. As pushed through the barrier and the magic touched the ink the floodgates were thrown open and energy rushed in, charging the runes then rebounding yet again as he failed to activate the shield quickly enough. As the magical energy slammed back into him he cried out falling to his knees and holding his head. The runes on the strip of leather flickered out leaving tendrils of steam floating up from the ink.

Ikuno rushed to his side, but he waved her off. Standing up, he gave her a weak smile, "Not giving up that easily."

Steeling himself again he pulled energy from the crystal, being more careful this time he pushed against the barrier slowly, easing himself through instead of smashing into it like earlier. Even with his extra caution when he breached the other side of the barrier the magic once again rushed in beyond his control and rebounded back on him, this time he did manage to activate the shield, so the backlash wasn't nearly as severe. Still, the runes lit up and a poorly formed shield had appeared before quickly flickering and dying, Kal took heart that he was making progress.

Ikuno's worried voice came from by the cave, "Kal?"

"I'm fine," he looked at the crystal in his hand it was only about half as bright as when he started, "I think I've got a few tries left in me before the crystal is empty."

Closing his eyes again he pulled magical energy from the crystal and mentally approached the barrier. Probing it gently it really did seem to react like clay. Thinking back to the potter in town he remembered the way clay was so firm you could punch it and only leave a dent, though thinner things like a string made of twisted horse hairs could pass through easily. Kal focused the energy down into a fine point and sent it forward into the wall, penetrating easily it connected with the magical ink on the other side. He paused for a moment as he noticed a change in the runes, with the tendril of energy touching them they seemed to be vibrating, almost as if buzzing with anticipation. Kal carefully pushed more magic from the crystal into the line connecting to the ink, widening it in the process. The barrier gave way easily allowing the hole to expand as more power flowed through and into the runes. Once charged, Kal activated the runes and a glowing magic circle appeared above his arm.

Whooping with joy he punched his fist into the air in triumph, and the shield winked out as he lost his concentration. "Oops," he chuckled. Focusing, he went through the process again: pierce, widen, charge, activate. This time the shield blazed to life in less than a second. After jumping around with happiness for a minute, he practiced pulling up the shield as fast as possible quickly getting to the point where he could bring his arm up and bash an imaginary opponent with the shield appearing only a moment before 'impact'.

Smiling he turned to Ikuno.

He wasn't sure what he expected but his heart sank when he saw her stony visage.

"What's wrong Ikuno?" asked Kal.

Ignoring his question, she held out her hand, "Give me the crystal."

"Did I do someth..."

"JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN CRYSTAL!" she roared.

He held out the drained crystal and she snatched it from his hand, accidentally catching him with one of her claws. Kal jerked his hand away but she quickly grabbed his arm and summoned a magic circle in her hand to heal the scratch. His confusion mounted when he saw tears running down her face.

Without looking at him Ikuno stood and walked back to her cave, "You need to go home now, Kal."

"Would you please at least tell m..."

"LEAVE," she growled.

Hanging his head in defeat, Kal dejectedly started making his way westward towards his farm.

---

Kal took a deep breath as he stepped out into the clearing in front of the cave knowing that she already been alerted to his presence, he had noticed a few weeks ago that he was now able to tell when he passed through the wards that warned Ikuno of visitors or intruders, today he was starting to wonder which category he fell into.

Approaching the cave, Ikuno was still far enough from the entrance to be hidden in shadow though he could see her glowing red eyes.

"Go home Kal," came a low growl from inside the cave, "Go home and don't come back here, Wait for Perra to come of age, marry her, have a bunch of children and be happy on your farm."

Her words were like an arrow to the chest and as she spoke the weight of them threatened to drive him to his knees. He felt a tightness in his chest as pain and sadness washed over him, but then he remembered his sole reason for coming today. There was a spark of anger from her rejection and he built that up into a near rage and used it to shove the hurt aside.

"No," he snarled back at the oni.

He saw the eyes narrow in the darkness, "I asked you before if you have a death wish, has that changed?"

Kal steadied himself and reigned in his roiling emotions, glaring at her he said, "I'm not leaving until you tell me what I have done to make you so mad at me."

Ikuno stepped out into the light her expression as cold as steel, "As you wish," she held her hand out and a magic circle formed, a ball of energy streaked towards Kal. From his practice the day before it was on pure reflex that the runes on the leather vambrace lit up and the shield formed in time for him to intercept the attack.

Popping his head up over the magic circle he yelled, "What the hell was that for Ikuno?"

The oni's expression never changed as she allowed the attack spell to dissipate and lowered her arm, "Where is your crystal Kal?" she asked.

Annoyed he snapped back, "What does... that... have..." realization dawned on the boy, he had given the crystal back yesterday, and even if he hadn't it had been completely drained during his practice. He had no power source for the shield, yet there it was in front of him. His eyes full of questions, he looked at Ikuno, "How...?" he was so stunned didn't even know what to ask.

"Exactly," she said, staring at Kal's magic shield. Her expression softened a tiny bit, "I don't have answers for you Kal and that frustrates me. Humans aren't magical by nature and magic for them is like a muscle that needs to be exercised to become strong, but it takes a very long time. It's why all the powerful human wizards are old, it takes that long to build up their ability to the point they can cast more powerful spells." Looking him in the eyes she continued, "What you are doing right now should have taken years just to form the shield and at least a decade before you could hold it as long as you have now, but here you stand putting almost no effort into it."

Ikuno looked down at the ground, "You want to know why I'm so angry Kal? It's because I'm confused," she took a deep breath before continuing, "I'm centuries upon centuries old, Kal. This was my home before yours or Perra's villages even existed. Before I came here I had seen amazing things, mountains higher than the clouds, crossed oceans where it would be weeks of seeing nothing but water, cities that would take a human days to walk across, palaces that you could fit twenty or more of your little villages in and met countless people along the way. I've befriended dragons, wizards and kings as well as made a few of those into enemies which is why I chose to stay in my little cave for a time."

"After all this time and everything I've seen," Ikuno stalked forward, her eyes locked on his and getting louder with each step," do you have any idea how frustrating, how confusing and how angry it makes me to be completely confounded by a simple farmer boy!" she yelled, her face mere inches from his.

Kal stood there his eyes locked on hers, returning her stony glare, "You're right," he growled back at her, "I'm just a simple farmer and I don't understand what is going on here. But here's what I do understand," the shield above his arm winked out and he began wrestling with the ties holding the strip of leather to his arm while still glaring at Ikuno, "This whole blasted thing started when I began learning magic. And if my choices are learning magic and losing you," in annoyance he ripped the leather the rest of the way off his arm and threw it off to one side, "then magic can go to hell."

Ikuno stood up, confusion written on her face, "But... why?"

"Because I love you, dammit!" Kal slapped a hand over his mouth and his eyes went wide with surprise at his own declaration.

Ikuno looked like she had been struck by lightning, she sank to her knees wide-eyed with shock.

There was a minute of uneasy silence as they both absorbed his words.

Ikuno's arms came up, her expression blank. Kal tensed as she put her hands on either side of his face. She pulled him in and kissed him, then kissed him again, and again, and again each one more passionate than the last. She kissed his nose, his eyelids, his forehead, his cheeks, his chin then back to his lips where her tongue slipped into Kal's mouth and dueled with his for a few long moments. When they separated they were both looking flushed and breathing heavily.

Tugging at Kal's pants she whispered breathlessly, "I need you... now."

Kal reached down to help and soon his trousers fell revealing that he had grown to her size but was not quite hard yet. Ikuno put one hand behind his back and laid him down on the grass while the other reached down and stroked him to full hardness. She kissed him hard, her tongue again slipping into his mouth as she pushed aside the flap covering her sex and guided him to her entrance. She let out a sob as she slid down his length taking him to the all the way to the root in one go.

Kal heard the sob and opened his eyes to see tears running down her face, he broke the kiss pushing her up with a worried look, "Ikuno what's wrong?"

Ikuno shook her head smiling, "Shut up you idiot, they're because I'm happy," she said wiping a tear from her cheek. She pushed his arms aside and leaned down so they were nose to nose, "Stop worrying about it and make love to me," she said before kissing him again. She lifted herself up then raised her head and gasped as she slid back down to the hilt, the head just barely brushing her cervix.

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