Chapter 7 – A New Home
Part 2: Of Books and Blades

Ienarath was not part of the meeting that Baldr had called, so instead, she spent the rest of the morning organizing her area. She didn’t have much, so most of the time was spent cleaning up the alchemy table. She vigorously probed her memory for the lessons that her aunt gave her at the Phial about alchemy tables, and after an hour and a half, she was satisfied with her efforts. Having properly cleared off and cleaned the table she sorted the few books she was able to take from her aunt, and organized the scant ingredients she took, as well. After which, she found Skinner just outside talking to another man who was sitting in a chair on the cliff’s edge. Obviously the meeting was over.

“I’m ready to gather ingredients,” she said to Skinner as she approached the two men.

“Very well,” Skinner responded. “By the way, this is Wayland. He’s our ground level lookout. With eyes like a hawk, Wayland can see just about anyone coming from over here.”

“Pleasure.” Was all Wayland said to her. Ienarath simply nodded. There was something about Wayland that made her uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the drawl in his voice or the look her gave her, but she would need to watch him closely.

“Well, then, what are we looking for?” Asked Skinner, as they walked into the forest.

“Well, I suppose I should focus on making some healing potions first, but if there’s time, I’d like to gather some things to create some poisons, too. The one I used on the dagger for Ingrid is too diluted. Meaning,” she continued when she noticed Skinner’s puzzled look, “it takes too long to take effect. If I had time to reduce it, it would take effect much more quickly. But, I didn’t have the time. Plus,” she said with a bit of a smirk, “I wanted it to be a bit delayed.”

“Ok, sounds reasonable,” replied Skinner, “but that doesn’t answer my question. What are we looking for.”

“Blue mountain flowers, butterflies, skeavers…” she began. 

“Hold on. Skeavers?” Questioned Skinner.

“Yes. Well, their hide, to be specific, and it’ll need to be prepared over the fire first,” answer Ienarath.

“You need all that?”

“No, of course not. I’m just telling you things that can be used. I really only need to pair up a couple of the ingredients, but I don’t know what we’ll find, so...you know.” Replied Ienarath.

They spent the rest of the afternoon gathering what turned out to be a large number of things. From different flowers, to even a bees hive. Ienarath lost herself in the experience and never felt more free. That night, the group ate together and shared some of their more fanciful stories. Ienarath drank it all in, hanging on ever word. When they were done, Ienarath was eager to get back to her alchemy table and begin. 

Healing potions were easy, and was the first thing that Azurine taught her. Before long, she had several completed and after sitting overnight, they would be ready for use. But, even though the potions were simple, they still took time. And if there was one thing that had been drilled into her, it was that you cannot rush a potion. So, by the time she had completed enough for four doses, it was late, and she was tired.

The next morning came early when Skinner woke her up. “Get up! Time to learn something a little less...academic,” he said. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Ienarath slowly awoke, realizing at that moment that she had fallen asleep in her traveling clothes. Skinner thrust a short blade into her hands. 

“Here,” he said, we’ll start out with something small.”

“But, this is a real sword?” Ienarath looked at it in disbelief.

“Yeah. Nothing teaches faster than the threat of real danger,” said Skinner with a grin. “But don’t worry,” he continued, “We won’t be doing any actual sparring today. We’ll start that tomorrow,” he added with a laugh. Ienarath wasn’t sure, but she had a feeling that he wasn’t joking, despite the laugh.

Ienarath spent all morning learning how to hold the weapon and getting used to the balance and weight. Although Skinner assured her that she was catching on surprisingly fast, she felt very awkward. By mid-morning, she was sore and tired. At lunch, Ingrid took the opportunity to chide her a little.

“What’s a matter girl, arm getting tired?” She started in.

“C’mon Ingrid, give her a break, she’s never used a blade before.” Skinner cut in.

“Oh, I’m just teasing her. Listen girl, swords are a lot different than crushing up flowers. You’re going to be sore, but you gotta work through it. That thing's gonna save your life, trust me. And by the way, here’s you’re dagger back. Outta curiosity, I used it to cut into a skeaver that was caught in one of our traps. Wasn’t real impressed with your poison,” said Ingrid. “Until,” she continued, “I came back a couple hours later. What the hell is in that shit? I swear the damned thing must’ve had it’s innards melted away. 

“When I came back,” she now addressed the group, “I found the thing lying there in a pool of its own blood, and it didn’t come from the daggers cut, either; came from it’s mouth. And when I cut it open, its guts just sorta spilled out in pile of...of, goo.”

Everyone looked at Ienarath, who just smiled and then asked, “did you save the hide?”

***

It had been only a few weeks when Ienarath was told that she was to go with Skinner and Bjorn to meet a group they were to do business with. They rode out in a Northwest direction for about a day before stopping. As they set up for the night, there was a rustling from a nearby pathway. Skinner went to investigate. He soon came back with three others. Ienarath could not make out their faces, but they wore dark robes and had a strong magical air about them. Ienarath had spent enough time at The White Phial to know magic when it was present. And this presence was dark, like those that came in late at the Phial looking for very strange ingredients.

“As promised,” said Skinner, handing a small satchel over. One of the mages took the satchel and inspected its contents. 

“Very good,” she said. “And in return, as we promised. But first, if you'll indulge my curiosity, for whom are they for? Certainly not you, I think.”

“No, not for me. And it’s really none of your business, but if you must know, they are for her.” At that moment, Skinner turned slightly and motioned towards Ienarath.

“Really?” Replied the woman. “Come here child.”

Hesitantly, Ienarath walked towards the woman. There was a long pause while the woman scrutinized her, and then she flashed a wicked grin and said, “Delicious! Here, child, I guess these are for you then.” The woman then handed her a heavy leather bag. Ienarath knew instantly what was in it; books. And then, as she was handed the bag, the woman whispered so that only Ienarath could hear, “you can find us in Fellglow.”

With that, the mages left and Skinner, Bjorn, and Ienarath camped for the night.

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