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Universe of G-Minor - Ghibbore Title

Chapter 33

By the time their ropes had been coiled up and thrown over their shoulders, Lorelei had found a suitable campsite – noticeably far removed from the edge of the cliff. It was mid-afternoon by the time they were set up but no one felt like going any further that day. Ralt ladled out hot stew and toasted bread for everyone.

Later, over tea with a splash of brandy in it, Durin brought up the question Storm had been dreading. “What happened to you after your first cut with Fenris Fang? You froze like you’d seen a ghost.”

Storm felt Lorelei shift against his shoulder. From the corner of his eye, he could see a questioning expression on her face mirroring Ralt and Durin’s. “Fenris Fang started talking to me,” he muttered.

Lorelei and Ralt gasped in surprise but Durin merely nodded as if in confirmation of what he’d already suspected. “It does that sometimes. Blasted thing has a mind of its own,” he grumbled.

Storm heaved a deep sigh. “Did you ever think of throwing it away and getting something a little more . . . uh . . . well behaved?” he temporized.

Durin laughed; a short, explosive bark. “Tried it a few times,” he admitted, “but it always comes back.”

Storm shook his head. “Where did you get it anyway? I always thought those kinds of things were just legends.”

Durin paused but saw all of them watching him. “No harm in telling ye all of it I suppose,” he shrugged. “Me father gave it to me on me birthday when I came of age. He’d had his best craftsmen working on it for years, pouring all their power into it. There was a prophecy I’d be needing it far in the future and far from any help from our people.” He tugged at his beard thoughtfully. “I never knew where the prophecy came from but I guess it was more right than they knew.”

“They must have been some craftsmen,” Ralt commented dryly. “A talking weapon implies intelligence, purpose, willpower, all sorts of things. Creating such as that…” he gestured at Fenris Fang, “…is no small feat.”

Durin cocked an eye at him. “Me people are…were…mighty during the First Age. Weapons like Fenris Fang were made by us all the time. The forges of the Shokirin commanded respect as well as gold before the Chaos War started,” he told them proudly.

Storm shifted. Talk of the First Age and Chaos Wars and gods always made him uneasy. Gaia wasn’t like Earth. Things that were impossible on Earth had a way of turning out to be real here. He never liked pursuing these conversations; he was afraid of what he might find out. There was one thing though he couldn’t let go of though. “It knew my name,” he offered quietly. “And it knew I was a Ghibbore. How?”

All eyes turned to Durin again.

“That’s easy,” he chuckled. “It can see and hear what goes on around it, we’ve talked about ye being a Ghibbore often enough.”

“No kidding,” he agreed sourly. It was weird how the subject kept coming up no matter what. In fact, here they were talking about it again – which reminded him. Storm hesitated. “Speaking of which, we already know I can fight demons without needing a magical weapon, and I can see magic and my sense of danger has increased like crazy but I want to know something…” he looked at Ralt, pausing, searching for words.

“What?” Lorelei prompted him. Ralt nodded for him to continue.

“I want to pin something down for sure,” he said finally, with some reluctance. “Can I learn magic? Use it like you do? I know it sounds weird, but I just want to make sure.”

Ralt smiled slowly at him. “It’s not weird at all. This is all new to you. And the answer is yes. The word Ghibbore is from the Old Tongue; it’s usually translated as mighty man but it can also be someone who is noble, and always refers to someone who is a natural-born wizard. In the First Age wizards were the nobility, the mighty men, so you can see where it came from. So yes, you can learn to use magic, and do it faster and easier than anyone who isn’t a Ghibbore.”

Storm nodded and took a deep breath. This next part wasn’t going to be easy. “Then could you teach me the cantrip you used to start the fire?”

Lorelei sat up in surprise. “You want to learn magic?” she blurted.

“No!” he shot back, “not magic, just how to start a fire. Nothing else!”

“But lad, that is magic,” Durin reminded him.

“No,” Storm argued. “It’s a wilderness survival skill, that’s all.”

Ralt was watching in silence, following the back and forth between them his expression unreadable.

“So that’s how you’re justifying it,” Lorelei asked, “by pretending it’s just a way to survive like using a sword or a piece of flint?”

“I’m not pretending,” he retorted, “because that’s all it really is.”

Durin snorted loudly, showing what he thought of that idea. “Yer daft in the head if ye think ye can get away with that nonsense. Magic is magic is magic,” he said pedantically as if that settled it.

Storm’s jaw muscles clenched. Why wouldn’t they listen to him? “It’s not like that,” he gritted. “It’s . . .”

“. . . just survival, that’s all,” Ralt suddenly interjected.

Everyone gaped at him in astonishment.

Storm clutched at it like drowning man. “See! Ralt understands!”

The slight wizard nodded, his eyes glinting a dire warning at them. “Easiest thing in the world to understand, especially in the middle of winter in the mountains like this.” He gestured at the deep snow all around them.

Durin subsided at once under Ralt’s withering glare, but Lorelei met him stare for stare. When he wouldn’t give way she finally tossed her head dismissively saying, “Hmph! Men!” and turned away.

Ralt understood as the others couldn’t, just how far Storm had really come in his reaction to magic and how difficult asking even this much was for him. “I can show you how right now,” he said easily as if it was nothing, adding, “then we can cover for each other if we one of us is hurt.” Phrasing it that way would give Storm more permission for doing what his every instinct cried out against.

“Good thinking,” he agreed quickly, seeing the ploy for what it was. “Come on, let’s do this.” Before I lose my nerve, was the unspoken addition.

“Right!” Ralt got up with him. He pointed at a flattop rock forty or fifty yards away. “That should do over there.” He didn’t mention it was comfortably out of earshot of the other two.

Storm nodded tersely, his whole body thrumming with tension as he led the way through the snow. Ralt followed quietly wondering how to handle this. Storm was wound so tight he would explode at the least little thing. He had to approach this carefully.

Storm reached the boulder and swung around, every muscle in his body quivering. “So what do I do?” he asked abruptly as if afraid to give himself time to think. His face felt as rigid as if it was made from porcelain – and just as brittle.

Ralt decided to follow his lead, keep it brisk and business-like. “Turn on your sight,” he said, “and watch me.” He picked up a twig and held it between them. “Ready?”

Storm nodded jerkily. His breathing was harsh and ragged.

Cantrips were minor magic, Ralt thought to himself. There was no chanting or arcane gestures involved. All it took was a connection, an attunement to the weave, willpower, and pushing on the weave in the right way. Pushing wasn’t really the right word but there wasn’t any other way to describe it. All told it was simple enough Storm should be able to copy what he did without feeling like he was doing wizard stuff. At least that’s what Ralt hoped.

“Alright, one, two, three!” On three he bore down on the weave, pushing it toward the twig, squeezing it tighter and tighter until…the twig burst into flames. He held it for a minute, continuing to push to keep the flame going in spite of the wind trying to put it out. When it threatened to singe his fingers he dropped in the snow. It fizzled and went out with a tiny trail of smoke. “There, got it?” he asked as if he was showing him how to bait a hook.

Storm licked his lips nervously. He cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he croaked.

Ralt handed him a twig. “Give it a try. Use your willpower and push on the weave, but not too hard or it’ll go up like a torch. Just a little is all it takes.”

Storm looked like a man nerving himself to dive off a hundred foot cliff into the sea. He took a huge breath, then another, then finally narrowed his eyes and . . . pushed. Fire shot six feet into the air. Ralt leaped back with a startled yelp. The heavy snow grabbed his legs, he over-balanced and fell flat on his back. Storm yelled at the same time, flailing his arms, sending the flaming twig spiraling through the air as he tried to keep his feet. It was a losing battle and he plopped heavily in the snow on his backside.

They stared at each other for a long moment.

The situation was so ridiculous Ralt felt a grin stealing over his face. He tried to stop it then saw Storm struggling to hide his own merriment. He gave it up and they burst into laughter.

* * * * *

A good belly laugh was just what the doctor order, Storm decided. Once their laughter finally ran down they got back up and within a few minutes, he was able to light a twig without turning it into a bonfire. The tension had been so completely relieved that when Ralt suggested he learn how to put out a fire he only hesitated for a second before agreeing to it. It was almost as simple but it did require a small gesture; holding his hand out toward the fire, palm down then clenching it into a fist as he bore down to smother the fire with Art.

Ralt ran him through the cycle; fire then out, fire then out, several times before pronouncing him proficient. Storm thought they’d head back to camp but Ralt leaned up against the boulder, dug out his pipe, lit it with Art and began lazily puffing away. He shrugged and dug out his own pipe, lighting it the same way. The sun was setting and it was getting cold but he sensed Ralt had something to say before they returned. They smoked for a while in companionable silence.

His patience was soon rewarded.

“Durin is right you know,” Ralt said finally. “Magic is magic.”

Storm nodded, grateful for the gathering darkness covering his face, “Yeah.”

“You’ve come a long way since we met. I never thought I’d see the day you’d ask to learn magic. Out of curiosity, why did you?” he asked.

Storm examined his companion by the dim light of their pipes. The lines of care he’d noticed on him the first day were more pronounced, giving him a wise, mature look. Then again, maybe he had lines because he was wise and mature. “This Ghibbore thing keeps coming up, especially since the fight with the demon. I killed a demon with ordinary steel,” he said with a bit of awe in his voice. “And I didn’t even believe in demons!”

Ralt chuckled faintly.

“Anyway,” Storm continued, “it’s been on my mind a lot; that and other things,” he added. He glanced at the camp.

Ralt followed his eyes. “She is beautiful isn’t she?”

Storm shook his head. “It’s more than that. Lydia was beautiful too, but Lorelei has something else, something . . .” He trailed off, not sure how to put it.

“She’s why you want to learn magic?” Ralt’s voice was dubious.

“Her and Durin . . . and you,” Storm admitted.

Ralt glanced up at him, seeing him in a new light. It only took a moment for him to figure it out. “Hmm, four friends, four companions roaming the world and doing, what? Righting the wrongs? Setting the captives free?”

Storm nodded uncomfortably, “Something like that.”

“And accepting you’re a Ghibbore would make it easier?” Ralt questioned him.

“I guess.”

“Righting the wrongs and setting the captives free,” Ralt mused. “I can think of worse things to do with my life.” He knocked the ashes out of his pipe then put it away. He straightened up from the rock and shoved his hand out. “Count me in.”

Surprised, Storm grabbed it and they shook, sealing their burgeoning friendship.

When they got back to camp they found Durin and Lorelei swapping a bottle back and forth. She held it out to Storm but when he reached for it she pulled it back until he had to sit down beside her to grab it. She surrendered it as his arm went around her shoulders. He tossed back a gulp then handed the bottle to Ralt.

She gave him a sly look. “So, are you a great fire-mage now?” Durin’s eyes twinkled with barely concealed mirth.

He growled balefully, “I should have left you two on the cliff until morning. It would teach you some respect.”

Lorelei punched him in the side. “Don’t you dare!”

Storm grinned at her outraged expression. “It would teach you some respect though wouldn’t it?” he persisted.

“It’ll teach me to roast you over a slow fire,” she retorted, punching him again. The heavy furs and coats they wore against the winter cold absorbed most of her blows, tickling him instead of making him grimace as she intended. “Just wait until you’re not wearing all this stuff. I’ll get you then,” she warned him.

Storm felt a wide grin spreading over his face. “Promises, promises,” he taunted her with a lascivious leer.

Her jaw dropped. Then amazingly, she blushed. Ralt and Durin burst out laughing as she fumbled for an answer. Her mouth worked for several moments but nothing came out as the three men doubled up with laughter.

“Oh . . . oh . . . you . . . you men!” she finally managed. She sprang up, flinging a double handful of snow at them. Ralt’s laugh was cut off with a yell as a shower of snow fell inside his coat and shirt. Durin toppled over backward with a face full, cursing as he blinked to get it out of his eyes.

“Oh blast it that’s cold!” Ralt gasped, slapping frantically at his chest. He danced around madly trying to get the icy sludge out of his clothes before it melted.

Lorelei giggled at him then yelped as Storm dove for her, his arms spread wide. She slipped away from him, leaving one foot outstretched in his path. He tripped face first into the deep snow with a startled grunt.

Durin finally managed to clear his eyes and rolled over to one knee. He scooped up a huge mound of snow. “So, ye want to play that old game do ye?” he rumbled. “Well then, behold yer Doom!” With that, he launched the mountain of snow at her.

Lorelei screamed with laughter as it exploded against her coat.

Storm lifted his face out of the snow, looking like an abominable snowman. “Attack my woman, will you?” he roared. “Well, take this!” He shook his head like a dog, sending snow flying in every direction, then launched himself through the air.

. . . and the snowball fight was on.

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