A day out from Breven, a knock came on Elemix’s door. Sang looked up, but wasn’t on guard. Upon answering, Elemix saw a tall, lithe woman with platinum hair and blue eyes wearing traveling clothes. “Magus,” she said with an obscure accent he couldn’t quite place, “what do you think?”
Elemix was deep in thought studying the mysterious substance that had always seemed to elude him. It was a small cube, perhaps an inch wide. It had properties of mithril, but certainly didn’t look like it. Perhaps it was an alchemical blend of materials? But how could he test it to determine which ones? The knock startled him slightly. He put the cube on his small table and proceeded to open the door.
“Wow,” replied Elemix cheerfully. “Quite a change, and an accent as well. I think River will be a hit. Please come in.” El motioned River to his small table and offered her a meager drink. “What made you choose this particular ensemble and accent?”
He really could have cared less, but she had obviously put a lot of time and thought into it, so he was certain she wanted to talk about it. It was nice, he thought that she had come to visit him at all. It was a good distraction from his thoughts.
“It is part of the character,” River replied. “I am a Savonian ex-patriate, the daughter of a fencing instructor living on Thalassa. I made friends with Emmeline while she was entertaining at the Second Phoenix, and subsequently joined this expedition to gather stories to further my career. Through your father, I had the records of the expedition altered to reflect Lady d’Uzec leaving the expedition and River Celeste joining.”
“Very good. I think this should go quite well then for you.” Elemix seemed pleased.
“Are you enjoying the journey so far? You must be excited to be heading home.”
“Yes.” Stepping out of character for a moment, River removed a hairclip and her wig, visibly shrunk an inch, and her skin turned slightly paler. Using her normal voice she said, “of course. It is my home. I’ll be myself there for a week or so before we leave, then the disguise returns.”
Elemix replied. “I know many find see travel dull and boring, but I actually enjoy it. I like the rocking of the boat, the smell of the sea air, and the views. All that being said I have heard tales of rough seas and I am quite certain those conditions I would not find nearly so appealing. But as long as the seas are relatively calm, I find myself relaxed.”
Elemix sat forward then and pulled some dried meat from a small satchel he had on the table. He tore a piece off and gave it to Sang before petting him briefly. This meat was especially tough and it took some time for Sang to gnaw on it.
“I have used this time to create a little scroll case for Sang. See it here. Sang stopped gnawing for a moment and proceeded to show off his new prize. Sang didn’t know for sure if he liked it yet, but it was his. That much he was certain of and as such he kept it with pride.
“We can use it to send messages in the future if needed. I noticed it was somewhat awkward to do so the day before we left, but then I had never had a companion to assist me like that in the past.
Oh, and when it comes to messages I wanted to let you know about a magical ability I have to communicate when friends are close by. I can send a brief message via a spell telepathically. This may come in handy in the future for you or I or Emmiline etc, to communicate non-verbally. I believe Emmiline can do this as well but I am not sure. I have recently learned many new spells that should assist us greatly on the journey.” Elemix stopped himself.
“Forgive me I didn’t even think to ask. Does magic interest you at all? If not I shall en-devour to stop rambling about such things.”
“I am accomplished at spellsongs, a form of magic. Remember, we took that introduction to magical theory class together,” she replied.
“Ah yes. That was some time ago,” recalled Elemix.
“I must say I am glad you stopped by. I enjoyed our conversation the other evening. Strange how we actually met a while ago without really meeting.” He smiled. “I wonder how often that happens with others we interact with in life? I hope I come across well at least.”
“You were basically a nervous pile of books with legs,” she laughed. “I don’t think we ever talked other that a hello.”
“Thanks,” shrugged Elemix. He couldn’t help but grin at her laughter of the memory. He recalled she was far more arrogant then. Less refined when it mattered. Just another privileged noble. She had grown much since then as had he, he supposed.
“As I said, that was a while ago now, and I am sure we have both changed in that time. Unless you still see me as – what was it? A nervous pile of books with legs?”
“That remains to be seen magus.” she replied, “what matters is what comes next. We are due in Breven in a day, then off to Uzec.” She seemed to notice the small cube, “may I ask, what is that?”
“I wish I knew,” replied Elemix. “It’s a material that I have been trying to identify for some time. It has unique properties and is unlike anything I have ever seen.”
Elemix picked it up and held it out for her to see. “Please have a look,” he said.
She took the piece of metal in her hand and looked at it for several minutes, then said, “I’ve heard of mithril, a very tough silvery metal not unlike this in weight when it is sitting in my hand, but the color is not quite right and…” she lifted the metal up and dropped it onto her open palm, “it floats like feather down. A mithril broach for instance would fall the same as a piece of lead, steel or even a pillow. This falls half as fast. Does it sink in water?”
“Let’s find out,” replied Elemix. He proceeded to grab a bowl and filled it with water. Then he motioned to Rivanon. “By all means please do the honors,” he said as he motioned to the bowl. “Do you have an idea as to what this is,” he asked excitedly.
As the cube ever so slowly descended into the water, it did not float up like a cube of ice or sink like a rock. It just went down. “Wow. I don’t know for certain what it is called, but there is a story. A very, very ancient story of a tribe of elves who developed a metal that existed half in the ether between the mortal world and what lays beyond. It is said it could wound ghosts, cut spirits, and kill gods. They supposedly used it also to fly, or so it is said.” she replied.
She added, “another possibility is a legendary metal called Orichalcum, which was once produced by the forefathers of the Eterians in legendary Ascaria, long lost to the ages.” Thinking a bit she said, “but the Great Library has descriptions of that metal. It has a more coppery look to it. While this metal has maybe a tinge of red, maybe, it certainly isn’t orichalcum. Maybe an alloy?”
Elemix stared at the substance at eye level with the bowl, across the small table from Rivanan who was doing the same as she spoke, watching the substance sink. Elemix was transfixed as he heard the information she shared.
All this time he had been studying this substance and she had taken one quick look at it and opened up new possibilities. “Amazing,” replied Elemix. “A metal that exists in the ether and mortal world at once. A weapon like that would likely help us greatly against some kinds of undead, which as you know we may have to face in the not too distant future. I have done some minimal study on orichalcum and I agree this isn’t that, though it does have some similar properties.”
Though of course Elemix knew he didn’t know everything – not by a long shot, it was becoming somewhat of a rare occurrence when Elemix found he didn’t know anything about a subject. Usually he knew or was able to discern something. And that something however small or insignificant was generally enough to send him in the right direction to learning more. This substance though had proven very elusive. After years of casual study, he knew virtually nothing useful about it. It had served as a source of both frustration and wonder for him. Proof in a way that knowledge was elusive yet powerful.
Elemix looked up from the bowl then and Rivanan was leaning close looking at the bowl. Her head raised instinctively at his movement. Elemix was clearly so excited he could have kissed her. For a brief and ultimately awkward moment he nearly did. As he instinctively moved to kiss her their eyes locked, and he realized in that moment that his excitement had overcome him. He tried somewhat awkwardly to move past the moment; hoping she hadn’t noticed. He didn’t want to damage anything with her and their new friendship.
Turning his gaze again to the bowl he said, “I’ve been studying this for years with virtually no success and in a matter of moments you have given me some insight into new possibilities. Whether they pan out or not, I truly thank you.”
Hoping she was not put off by the sudden unanticipated move, he sat down at the table opposite her again to give them both space and asked, “Where did you here about this strange substance? Any chance you can remember the name of that metal or anything more about the ancient Elven tribe who developed and used it?
If Rivanon had noticed, she didn’t show it immediately. She stood up and said, “I’m a bard. We hear stuff,” she said with a shrug, “rumors, stories, and legends, that do not make the history books. In this case, I heard the story from an Aderan merchant who drunkenly claimed to have visited a hidden vale in the Mountains of the Moon where he met and almost was killed by Elves a few decades ago who had metal of this nature. They used it to fly. Now there have for years been rumors of a hidden elven civilization to the east of the Waste for as long as I remember. But this was the first story I heard that wasn’t fantastical. He was just matter-of-fact about it. Said he took some of the metal, but no one could work it, so he sold it off as a curiosity. It is entirely possible what you have there is a bit of his metal.”
It was obvious to Elemix that she found the information rather trivial, but it might have just been enough of the type of lead he was hoping to one day discover. “An ancient Elven tribe that lives in a hidden vale in the Mountains of the Moon,” Elemix repeated out loud. It was as if he was committing it to memory. He was in fact doing just that.
“Thank you again. That information alone gives me something to go on should I one day have the time to follow up on it,” said Elemix. “Any chance you might remember the name of that merchant or where I might find him?”
“Yes and yes.” she replied.
“Now you are just teasing me,” returned Elemix.
She looked a bit surprised, “Not at all,” she replied. “The first thing you learn in the Academy is to know when to offer more information than the question literally asks and when not to. However, I’m guessing you want more here. His name is Miguel Bellemy. He is a merchant out of Adera. A rather adventurous sort. I met him last year on the Isle while he was arranging investors for some caravan. He may be in Adera, or leading a caravan to who knows where, though he spoke of Sarantine silk.”
“That is excellent news,” replied Elemix. “I shall have to seek him out when or if we go there.”
Elemix picked the substance up out of the water, quickly dried it, and put it back in his pouch, before turning again to Rivanon. “Thank you again. You have given me some leads to follow up on and I appreciate it.
Now may I ask if my lady would care to join me for a walk up on deck? I for one would like to get some fresh air.
“Sure.” She said, “please lead on.”