The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-11: Alchesmith's Forge)

The wooden door of the Forge, three inches thick and reinforced with iron ribs, clangs against a delicate bell. Cold, damp mist hangs in the foyer, stinking of molten metal and all sorts of exotic substances. Woodberry shivers. The handle of his Q'uonan's axe strikes the door frame, forcing him to dip low to enter.


Q'UONAN: "Zudin, this place is much like my homeland..."
WOODBERRY: "Ew, it makes my eyes sting."

Stacked from floor to ceiling against each wall, leaving only a small patch of open floor in the center of the room, are strange objects of every shape and color. Filthy piles of cloth and leather, hunks of contorted weaponry and household tools, colorful jars filled with powders, insects, glowing liquids, preserved animal parts, and bones.

WOODBERRY: "Anyone here...? We're looking for... someone... um..."

Q'uonan inches toward a cluttered counter resembling a work station. Further inside, an ashen black forge glows shades of green and red beneath a steaming vice, compressing several sheets of rusty metal together. From the right, around a dummy clad in several layers of damaged armor caked with dry blood, an unexpected hiss of water and oil spits towards us. The spray is followed by an ear-piercing slam of a hammer onto several chain links.

WOODBERRY: "Eek!"

The hammering pauses.

???: "What's that sound?"
Q'UONAN: "Er - hello, we... ah..."
???: "That high-pitched racket!"
WOODBERRY: "Sorry to bother you, Sir! S'cuse us! We're here in town looking for someone. Is this the Forge? Oh - I should introduce myself first. My name's Woodberry, and this is my horsie, Q'uonan -"

A fierce man with a thick mustache and small, layered spectacles leans around the corner. His eyes narrow as he looks Q'uonan up and down.

???: "...A Faerie, huh..."
WOODBERRY: "...Yes...?"

The man lifts a brick-sized hammer high above his head, then brings it down with his full might on the chains in front of him. He winds up and hits even harder, then again, as if trying to break the table underneath. Q'uonan jerks back, lifting a hand over Woodberry as flecks of scalding ore spray in every direction.


WOODBERRY: "Ack!"
???: "HURR! HUFF!"
WOODBERRY: "Watch it!"
???: "Don't... HMPH! tell me... GRRRFFF! What to do in my own Forge!"
Q'UONAN: "This man reminds me of my Uncle Shutaro."
???: "What do you want! I'm busy!"
WOODBERRY: "We were told a man named Mack... what was it? Muffin?"
???: "Guffin?!"
WOODBERRY: "...Yes!"
???: "Macdonald! HFFF! Mac!"
WOODBERRY: "You're the blacksmith?"

The ferocious clanging intensifies.

MAC: "I dunno! HMPH! What do ya think? GRRR! That's a deep question, innit? Are we defined by who we are, or what we make? That along the lines of what you're askin'?"
WOODBERRY: "He doesn't seem very polite, horsie..."
MAC: "Right, so, you've got my name and occupation. Is that satisfactory, or you wanna know more? Gonna sit down for some tea? Wanna know my favorite color, too? Heaven knows you horseflies never run outta crap to say!"
WOODBERRY: "Well isn't he just a ray of sunshine!"
MAC: "HUFF! I do hard work in here! Important work. Ya damn fluttering headaches with wings... I'm busy as Hades in here, got a dozen orders to fill by the end of the day. Do ya need work done or not, big boy?"
Q'UONAN: "...Yes."
MAC: "A man of few words! Good heavens, that. Thank the stars one of ya knows how to do business. Listen here: I'm a specialist in the art of forging weapons and applying enchantments. That's both Alchemy and Smithing."
WOODBERRY: "So... you're an Alchesmith?"

Mac pauses in mid swing.

MAC: "That's two, now. HMPH!"

The clanging resumes.

MAC: "But I'm a patient man. Yeh, son, I'm an expert in two fields. Maybe the best in the world. My specialty - GRRRFFF! - is marryin' components in carefully measured qualities, to produce desired effects. With a bit of coin, anyone can take the results of these holy unions to strengthen their person. Whether it be physical or magical - HMPH! - attack or defense, I got yer back covered. So to speak."
WOODBERRY: "Heh! You like talking, too, don't you?"
MAC: "Not you. There ain't much 'back' to you, is there? Barely enough meat to feed a rat."
WOODBERRY: "All right! Enough with the sass! I was just pulling your leg, sheesh..."
MAC: "Huh! Ain't never heard that one before! Not above poking fun at a one-legged man, are ya?! I ain't surprised!"


WOODBERRY: (O-oh! He's got a stick where his leg should be!)
NUGGET: "Woodberry!"
WOODBERRY: (How was I supposed to know?!)

Mac lowers his voice dangerously low.

MAC: "Y'know... them delicate little Faerie wings can fetch a decent price 'round here. With just one, I can mix a fine recipe to add ten layers of Defense against Magic to a shield. Real valuable."
Q'UONAN: "Zudin... You can do such a thing? In my homeland, we have never mix the magic with Forging..."
WOODBERRY: "I don't like this man!"

With a cackle, Mac turns his back to us. He reaches into a jar of blue powder and sprays it across the glowing chains, causing a hiss and a cloud of smoke to erupt. He flips the pile over and continues his hammering.

WOODBERRY: "Q'uonan! We're done here!"
Q'UONAN: "But... I am wishing to have the strong equipment-"
MAC: "Good! Get out! I can't stand the sight of ye!"

Outside, Woodberry flutters in angry circles.

WOODBERRY: "What a jerk! What's his problem?! He's a Faerie hater!"
NUGGET: "You do tend to come on a bit strong at times... It may help if you applied more diplomatic speech--"
WOODBERRY: "Shut up!"
Q'UONAN: "But I say nothing!"
WOODBERRY: "You, too!"


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