As it turns out, the people who visited the High Priest were a race of people known as Zehnai. They lived on a cluster of islands off of the coast of western Lithilen. Because of the cloud, they had to seek new land to live on, but they could not conquer knew lands by themselves. High Priest Tacims met with them in secret and agreed to exchange weapons for a new kind of ore that was from the Zehnai’s native land. Because Jothal had found out about the cloud already, Tacims had given her and her master the task of learning how to refine the ore and forge it into goods. A larger shipment was on its way, but in the meanwhile, Tacims had given Jothal a few samples to experiment with. The High Priest had put this experimentation on a low priority, however, and asked that Jothal and her master also create weapons and armor for the cause. They should be delivered clandestinely to the temple.
After a long and well-earned sleep, Jothal and Master Hebak sat down and talked about what she had experienced on her journey to Farthingsor. She told him about the man she had encountered, the city itself, and mostly importantly, the darkness looming in Mainstay’s future.
“So about this darkness…” Master Hebak ruminated. “You’ve told High Priest Tacims about this? What did he say?”
“He knows about whatever it is… Some Zehnai from the western islands have sought out his help after they spotted it approaching the islands. He wants us to keep this darkness quiet for now, until the templemen are sure of what it is and if we can stop it. Meanwhile, he wants us to help make weapons and armor for the Zehnai so they can find a new home. He also gave me this…” Jothal fetched the sample of ore from the top of a pile of her traveling supplies. The ore was a deep red and rather porous. She placed the ore in front of Hebak.
“This is… ore?” Hebak concluded after turning the sample about in his hands. “I’ve never seen ore like this.”
“The Zehnai are giving it to us as payment. High Priest Tacims asked us to find a way to work with it.” Jothal smiled. “I think he chose the right blacksmiths for the job.” The master laughed heartily as he disappeared down the stairs into the smith with the sample of ore. While Hebak worked on refining and working with this new ore, Jothal would start her new life as a Journeyman by creating a supply of weapons and armor for the Zehnai.
By the end of the day, Jothal had created five long swords, ready for a good sharpening. With the final hiss of quenched metal, Jothal hung up her apron, slid the anvil towards the others, and exited the shop. She had the entire evening to herself; her first evening free in quite some time. Now that her learning was over, Jothal could maintain a normal work schedule. She decided that she would pay a visit to the Mainstay Infirmary to check on the progress of her outdoorsman.
She entered the low, flat building through a set of double doors. Inside, the building stretched back farther than she could see. The walls were lined with cots holding mostly miners injured in rock falls and other related accidents. A few less seriously injured patients sat about, waiting to be mended. To the side of the building were a few small rooms for procedures.
“How may I help you?” A petite young male Ithoan stood at the counter, motioning Jothal to step forward.
“I’m looking for a man… a human man. He’s tall, has brown hair, looks about as dirty as a coal miner…” The young nurse boy at the counter nodded.
“I think I know the man. And you are…?”
“A friend. We traveled together briefly. I brought him to the gate…”
“Jothal? Right this way.” The young male led Jothal along the rows of cots. She watched the men and women who were being treated or recovering. One man had lost his leg in a dynamite accident and had it replaced with a mechanical one. Another woman had bandages around her head. Jothal shivered. I hope he’s okay… As Jothal followed the man, the patients only seemed to look worse and worse. Jothal felt terrible. Maybe if I had been more careful, he wouldn’t have had to rescue me, and then he wouldn’t have followed me to Farthingsor… Jothal felt sick. Finally, the man stopped.
“Here he is, miss. Try not to upset him… He’s still very weak.” Jothal looked down at the man, who was sitting up slightly in his cot. He cracked a weak smile at Jothal.
“Sorry you had to see me like this, miss.”
“Stop that… it’s not your fault. It’s mine. I should have been more careful… If we had never met, you would be okay.” Jothal said, bashfully.
“Miss, I would have gone that way anyway. I’m stubborn like that. Listen,” the man paused. “Thanks. I owe you one.” Just then a nurse pushing a cart rolled up to the man’s cot and began helping him to sit up. She set a bowl of soup in front of him on a metal tray and rolled along to the next cot.
“Listen,” Jothal started, breaking free of her thoughts. “I should let you eat. I’m just glad that you’re okay.”
“I’ll be fine. It just hit an outdoorsman like me a lot harder than you city dwellers.” The man smiled, taking a sip of the soup. “Miss, we were never properly introduced.” The man extended his hand towards Jothal. “The name’s Vos.”
“Jothal.” She replied, returning a smile of her own and shaking his hand. “Come visit me sometime at ‘Master Hebak’s Blacksmith Shop’ when you’re back on your feet.”