Shanir and his men relaxed, their bodies sagging as they realized that the stone creature was not going to attack them. “Everyone, split up and investigate.” He ordered, glancing around to his comrades. It was obvious that they would be staying the night here, which meant two things.
First, they had to identify an area that would be easily defensible, in case there were hostile nocturnal creatures in the area. Many such beasts roamed the homeland, so it would not be strange at all to find it to be the case somewhere so close. Rather, it was strange that those beasts hadn’t destroyed this area before now, though he could chalk that up to the stone guardians.
Secondly, they had to see if they could find any clues as to the purpose of this location. If there was nothing here, then the homeland would not see any reason to invest more time and manpower into further trips. However, Shanir felt like there was something incredible hidden here. Just by touching the ancient stone structure, he had felt the radiance of the sun.
Everyone agreed to meet after an hour, and split off in pairs to search in different directions. As for Shanir, he chose the building that they were currently at, their rendezvous point, to investigate. From here, he’d be able to rush out and help any of the teams if they encountered anything, and they’d always know where to find him.
Stepping inside the building, Shanir found an old anvil, covered in dust and seeming to have eroded slightly. Nevertheless, it looked incredibly firm, comparable to any modern blacksmith’s. Along the wall near the forge he saw a picture of a man, hammering at the anvil.
As he watched the image, it almost seemed to come alive in his mind, and he could hear the sound of iron striking hot iron. He could feel the heat of the flames on his skin, smell the sweat of a long day’s work. He quickly blinked, snapping himself out of his daze. The image looked ordinary, but had somehow caused that strange sensation within him… He felt like he had gained something.
In the next room was a series of shelves, atop which were leather-bound books. Most of the books seemed to have been wiped away by time, crumbling under the slightest touch. Only one was different, one book that Shanir might have thought had just been written, if not for the visible layer of dust covering its surface.
Feeling that there might be something special within the book, he picked it up, feeling something fresh. The cool, gentle breeze of a clear night. When he opened the book, the language was one that he could make no sense of. A few characters looked vaguely familiar, but their meaning must have been lost to time, as had most of the other books within this forge.
Seeing that he could get nothing out of the book, Shanir sighed, preparing to return it to its shelf. Just as he was starting to close the book however, the letters seemed to flash. When the light entered his eyes, he was once again dazed. This time, he heard a clear voice speaking into his mind.
“I do not know how long it will be before someone finds this tome.” The voice was old, as if it belonged to a man on his deathbed. “I will be departin’ soon, and I have only one regret. In all my life, I have never taken a disciple. Someone I could pass my teachings to. In this book, ye will find my understandin’ of the Blacksmith’s Star. I can only hope that the person that finds this will have a noble heart.”
Shanir was awoken from the trance by the sound of the book hitting the floor, shocking him and making him take a step back. Unable to make sense of what he had just experienced, he reached for the book again to take it with him, only to see something… different. Suddenly, he was able to read the writing within the book.
The text had not changed, no. Rather, it was his understanding of the text that had changed. The old, alien characters now looked to him as if they were his native tongue, and the dwarf found himself flipping from page to page as he soaked up the knowledge like a dry sponge.
The old book spoke of several subjects. Many of them were directly related to blacksmithing techniques, so he couldn’t make too much sense of them. However, it was the other subject that caught his interest. The subject of stealing the power of the day and night to empower the self, harnessing it within your body.
Shanir was not a young man, already in his sixties despite his younger appearance. But at the same time, this was normal amongst his people. Warriors who basked in the sun’s light either died young or lived long lives. Everyone knew how the sun was able to enrich their bodies, but nobody had made mention of it being possible to harness that energy on your own. As for the night… he had never heard of anyone being empowered by the night, but the subjects in the book were too fantastical for him to immediately dismiss it.
Before he even became aware of it himself, the hour had passed. He heard the footsteps of his men approaching, and closed the book. Moving out to the dirt road where they had split up, he saw changes in everyone’s expressions. Some were still dazed, while others were frowning in thought, and still more had proud smiles.
“Everyone found somethin’, didn’t they?” He found himself asking. If a random forge that Shanir walked into held the legacy of a blacksmith, it was only reasonable to assume that other buildings within this city held words passed down as well.
One of his smiling men nodded. “I found an ancient scroll. At first, I thought it was rubbish, but then I heard something in my head. Something about a Spearman’s Star…”
Soon, another spoke up. “Mine was the Water Star. How can a star be made of water?”
Shanir shook his head. “We’ll all go over this stuff later, when we’re back home. Did anyone manage to find a safe place to stay?”
The realization that they had forgotten one of their key duties made the color drain from the faces of several men. Thankfully, one among them nodded. “I found an area that seemed to be the residence of the city leader. One of those golems are standing outside, but it let me in without a fuss.”
“Golem?” Several people reacted to the word, turning to look at the man in confusion.
“Ah, sorry… that’s what they’re called. The word was written on a scroll in the house. They’re made to defend this city. ‘Parently, they used to be pretty common…”
Shanir nodded his head, as if it made sense. “Then they are probably the reason why this area hasn’t been crushed by monsters yet. Still, we should grab whatever we can carry and make our way back tomorrow. I’m sure everyone is achin’ to get back to their families.”
That earned a round of nods, everyone moving to head towards the leader’s estate. Unsurprisingly, it was just as old and broken as every other building in the town, unable to escape from the ravages of time. Yet, they could faintly feel the majesty that the building once held.
A dozen marble pillars now shattered once held up a roof over the veranda. On both the left and the right sides, there were cracks in the worn stone which once formed a gentle slope, rising up in the middle where it met a single dome over the center roof. Shanir could feel the same inspiring energy from the building as he had seen in the image on the blacksmith’s wall.
As the young dwarf had said, there was another of those ‘golems’ standing outside the open doorway of the house. Its body was arguably less damaged than the one that they had previously encountered, only a single glowing crack along its head. When the first dwarf walked past the golem, it made no indication to have even seen him, leading the others to move by as well.
Inside, Shanir could see the footprints of the young man from earlier, along with the one who had come with him. However, their paths split just beyond the door, and he could see one of the sets stopping a short distance away. Seeing that, he couldn’t help but look towards the man in question curiously.
“Ah… sorry… I got distracted.” He explained while stroking his beard, shaking his head. “To be honest, didn’t even think much about this place by the time we got back.”
Why would you not think of this place?! Shanir mentally retorted, barely holding in the outburst. He knew that this man, like all the others, should have received some form of enlightenment. If that was the case, maybe he was just too lost in thought and focusing on it. Though, that was still no excuse for someone trained as he was, but these were… special circumstances..
“No matter… we’ll be stayin’ here the night.” Shanir huffed out as he looked about the room. There wasn’t much surviving in the way of decoration, but they didn’t exactly need much. A simple spot on the floor to rest would be more than enough, while they took turns keeping watch.
The next day, as promised, they had immediately left the ancient settlement to return home. Though they may have had more questions now than when they arrived, everyone felt as if they had gained from this endeavor. New possibilities, however strange, had opened up to them.
Perhaps it was because the seas were calm, or that there were no beasts emerging, but Shanir felt as if their rowing speed had increased compared to the previous day. The trip that should have taken four hours at the shortest estimate had been completed in just over three. More importantly, the people who had been rowing for that entire time didn’t seem the least tired.
Naturally, their first stop was to make their report to the local lord, and that’s where everything began to change… The day the sky’s power opened up to the world.
The lord listened to their reports, quite eagerly in fact. The news of an ancient civilization was one thing, but to hear that they left behind ‘lost teachings’ that could improve the body? Without question, his first thought was to use this information to strengthen his own troops.
This lord, a man by the name of Hulbrek Stonecaller, passed on an order. Without his permission, word of their findings were not to spread. The information gained would be the exclusive property of the city, until such time that he was prepared to share it. Of course, he knew that such a time would only come if the information turned out to be false.
What he did not expect, however, was that his order came too late. Already, the thirty dwarves from the voyage had begun to spread the information through the city, including to those traveling merchants. Even with the command he had given, the word spread. Soon, everyone knew of the possibility of a strange power lying on the distant shore. A power that was proven several weeks later to be true.
The first to experience the change was Shanir, who had requested to be changed to a night shift in order to ‘better protect the city from nocturnal threats’. In reality, he wanted to take the time in order to begin cultivating the ‘starlight ki’ that he had read about. To him, the process came smooth, perhaps because of all of the sun’s energy he had naturally absorbed. Mere weeks after the voyage, when they were still plotting out the second trip, his body erupted in a golden light.
There were many who saw this, as he had not known to conceal himself during the final moment, and began to whisper about Shanir being the reincarnation of Tubrock with his holy aura. They couldn’t see how his strength had risen, merely the golden glow that escaped him in the dead of night, making him look like a shining beacon in the darkness.
Shanir himself, however, felt completely different. He looked down at his own hands, as if they were foreign to him. Strength he had never felt before had flooded into his body at the moment he had followed the final step, forging a star within his body from the gathered ki. It may have only been a small, weak star, but it was still a light possessed by no other.