Did you review my story? If so, then you're great. You didn't? Well, take your time. I know how stressful it can be. The chapter is about the Construction Coven and its magic. I just thought it was neat.
"Nonono, Luz! Do not bother the craftsman."
What craftsman, you ask? Just a random one out of the literal hundreds that reside in Barret Town, home of the Construction Coven and a major trading hub for various materials and products, both raw and processed. Located on the Titan's left arm, Barret Town has existed for over a century and thus, the origin of its name was lost forever. Despite that, the residence looked as if it will never be completed, as buildings were constantly being renovated or demolished in an ever-changing landscape.
Since it was the base of the Construction Coven, that meant all manner of builders, architects and engineers lived here, constantly working day and night to meet the quarterly year quota. The Construction Coven, unlike other covens, weren't there just to perfect their craft but to also make a lot of money. They were hardworking capitalists with honest backgrounds.
Well, mostly honest. Barret Town was also a den for thieves and bandits, something Belos had always despised. He wanted to station some of his coven members here permanently but the builders never liked law enforcement. Even the Construction Coven was against it. Their history with authority was a bleak one.
"Wow! This place is so cool!" Little Luz, spunky 6-year-old half-human thing said. She almost got trampled by a bunch of gruff and hairy men. "Kinda busy too."
"It can't be helped. The Construction Coven manages all manner of infrastructure in the Boiling Isles. Houses, schools and occasionally, tall wizard towers as a joke." Emperor Belos, the tyrant of the Boiling Isles, explained with a small chuckle.
Luz tilted her head in confusion. "A joke?"
"It's the stairs." He replied, stifling his laugh.
He didn't bother to explain it.
After several minutes of walking, the two reached Barret Town's main office. Do not be fooled by its quaint cobblestone walls built on the side of a small hill, enough for a hobbit, with simple wooden stairs leading to the door; this structure was hand-built by Lord Durin, head of the Construction Coven and master builder. The whole thing was basically indestructible.
"We've finally arrived," Belos announced. He then turned to Luz and pulled out his hand from under the robe. "Daughter, may I have your hairband temporarily? I wish to get it repaired."
"Sure!" Luz replied. She then took it off her head and placed it in his open palm. The hairband had a little crack on it and was growing every day by literal micrometres.
Belos nodded and shoved his hand back under his robe. "Please wait here a moment. I promise you, it will not take long." He said before walking away towards the office.
The inside of the office building was just as quaint as the outside. Cleanly-cut planks of wood lined up on the walls, hiding the cobblestone and other amenities behind it while bright granite tiles made up the floor. There were benches and potted plants in the lobby, along with a ticket machine by the door. The air was cool and comfortable, in contrast with the dust and smog outdoors.
Lord Durin was definitely a master of his craft and had an eye for detail. Everything might seem simple and normal but if you looked closer, you'd realise that every part, from the nails to the splinters, was meticulously crafted by hand with little to no error. The building was simple but it was also utterly perfect. The large-bearded dwarf was leagues above every other craftsman in town and the sole reason why Belos scouted for him back in the Savage Ages. There was just no one that could rival Durin.
Once inside, Belos immediately walked up to the lobby counter, an oracle orb installed on the desk. Behind it, a young witch with a large hooked nose was busy filing her nails. She also had eyes that just oozed out hopelessness, surprising the mighty tyrant. Emperor Belos coughed politely, hoping to garner her attention but unfortunately, he was ignored without a thought. Frowning from underneath his mask, Belos decided to be a bit more direct.
"I wish for an audience with Lord Durin." He exclaimed bluntly.
The receptionist witch didn't bother looking up. "Did you take a ticket?"
"A ticket? Why?"
"Anyone who wishes to do business must first take a ticket and wait until they're called."
The room was quiet. Probably since no one else was around.
Belos blinked. "We're the only ones here."
She did not reply, continuing to ignore him while she focused on her nails. Belos rolled his eyes and sighed, strolling back and grabbing a ticket. Number 23, it wrote with nothing else on it. Taking a seat, it took approximately 5 seconds before his number projected itself from the oracle orb. He stood back up and walked back again to the counter, placing the ticket in a small glass jar nearby.
"Hello, sir. How can I help you today?" The receptionist witch asked uncaringly.
"I-I just told you—!" Belos stopped midway and took a deep breath. It was just one thing. There was no reason to be upset. "… I wish for an audience with Lord Durin. He should be expecting me."
"Do you have an appointment?"
Belos's eyes widened slightly. "An appointment?"
"All witches must schedule an appointment at least 3 days prior. Please come back once you schedule one. Thank you."
"I was told that I do not require one."
"Do you have an invoice or any written document that can testify that claim?" She asked.
"No, it was through the scroll."
"If you don't have an invoice nor an appointment, you have to schedule one. Those are the rules."
Belos's fist tightened. Now, he usually was a reasonable person and he did enjoy some parts of bureaucracy but this? This was ridiculous. He was the Titan-damned Emperor of the Boiling Isles! He shouldn't need to make an appointment, especially since he technically already did make one directly with the person he wanted to meet. What kind of dumb mess was this?!
Internally, he counted to 10. He did that several times. "Can you at least tell him that I am here to meet him?"
The receptionist witch stopped her nail filing and pouted. Putting down her file, she grabbed a form next to her and picked up a feather from its inkpot. Belos smiled, feeling victorious.
"Alexander E. Belos."
"… Emperor of the Boiling Isles."
With every answer, she filled out the form. Despite her attitude and the eyes of a young woman with crushed dreams, her writing was quick yet flawless with the most beautiful cursive font he had ever seen. This was no ordinary skill; she would have had to practice for literal years in order to make handwriting a work of art. For someone of her skills, Belos briefly wondered why she was working as a receptionist. Who knows? Maybe she was kicked out of her ambition and was currently living like a walking corpse. That would be a shame.
The feather drying out, she dipped it back in the pot. "And what is the purpose of your visit?"
"I request for an item of mine to be repaired. Lord Durin is the only one capable of doing so, and the only one I trust."
"That's what they all say." She muttered under her breath pessimistically. After finishing the last parts, she quickly created a copy with magic and handed over one to Belos. "Here you go. I've scheduled an appointment for you in the earliest available slot in 2 weeks' time. Be sure to come by at 10 AM sharp. Lord Durin is a busy person."
Emperor Belos's eyes widened. "That is not I what I asked for."
"Lord Durin is currently not in-office and due to coven policy, I am not allowed to relay any messages, orders or top-secret documents to him without proper inspection." She explained as unconcerned as ever. "Have a nice day and I hope to see you in 2 weeks."
The tyrant glared at the woman, his rage reaching a breaking point. He didn't care if this place was virtually indestructible or that she had some tragic backstory. He refused to be treated with such disrespect, damn the bureaucracy!
Before he could incinerate her instantly with a dash of hellfire, he was interrupted by a familiar dwarf face; Lord Durin, the Construction Coven leader, was carrying a roll of toilet paper, having been to the bathroom recently. His appearance was to the shock of the other two, considering how quiet he was.
"L-Lord Durin, sir!" The receptionist stuttered nervously. Quickly realising how highly she regarded him, Emperor Belos had a better idea.
"Durin, my friend! How wonderful to see you!" Belos greeted jovially and out-of-character. He raised both arms to a hug, kneeling slightly down and patting the dwarf in the back. "It is I, Emperor Belos, sole ruler and dictator of the Boiling Isles — your superior in some way. How have you been, my good chum?"
Durin raised a brow, bewildered by all this. "... Aye?"
"Oh, don't mind me. I'm just reminding a fellow witch of their position." He hissed pettily. "May I come in? I believe I am not intruding in your ever-so busy schedule."
Durin's brow raised itself higher. He wasn't sure what had transpired but just shrugged in response. It wasn't his place to judge. "Aye."
"Thank you, Lord Durin."
Little Luz was having a blast.
While she waited outside for her father to finish up with the repairs, Luz looked around the area. All over, people of all ages were moving briskly from one construction site to another, carrying materials such as bags of concrete in wheelbarrows or logs of wood over their shoulders, or smaller bags filled with a variety of irons tools from pickaxes to wrenches. Some wore hardhats and heavy work boots, others don't. But one thing for sure was all of them wore different-coloured overalls.
"Ooo! Aaa!" Luz awed at the sight. She just saw a dog house finally finished being built, while the apartment next to it was blown to smithereens. This place sure was loud.
While distracted by the constant activity, a large figure came out of nowhere and bumped into her, pushing her to fall. "Huh? What the—?" The figure said, startled. Looking down, they saw the poor little girl had accidentally dirtied her outfit.
"Oh, sorry about that, kid. Didn't see you there. Here, let me help you up." The figure exclaimed, giving a hand.
"Thanks!" Luz replied, grabbing it and pulling her back up. She didn't really care that her outfit was dirty. It needed to be washed anyway.
Staring up, Luz was greeted with a fair view. The figure was a beefy, almost-squarish adult woman. She had bright orange hair tied to a thick braid and a large round nose. Much like everyone else, she wore a pair of short-sleeved work overalls, gloves and boots, and a hardhat for safety. She also had a sling bag around her and on her shoulder was a literal stone pillar, as recently carved and ready for transport.
"No problem. That's just what I do." The big woman said with a smile. "Say, you're not from here, are you?"
Luz shook her head. "Nope! But how'd you know?"
A large grin across her face, the woman waved her free hand around. "This here is Barret Town and I'm the chief foreman around these parts. I know everybody that lives here." She answered, doing a thumbs up and a glistening white smile.
The baby girl gasped. "Everybody?! That's a lot!"
"A lot is an understatement. Guhahahaha!"
"Then you must be like the boss of this place, right?" Luz asked, causing her to stop laughing and cough nervously in her fist.
"A-hem, eh... Not exactly..." She muttered, a slight blush forming on her cheeks. "I'm technically the second-in-command. Durin's the one who's the real boss but he doesn't manage all this small stuff. That's my job."
Much like any organization, the Construction Coven had its own hierarchy of positions. The chief foreman, leader of other foremen, was technically the top position any reasonable person could achieve but the real leader was the head of the Construction Coven. The chief foreman only handled issues internally while the head handled issues for the Boiling Isles as a whole. Thus, rarely did Lord Durin get involved in actual construction work unless he was personally commissioned, being far too busy with management.
"Still, this isn't about me. What's a little girl like yourself doing here all alone?" The chief forewoman asked.
"Dad went to meet with Mr Durin. He's going to fix my hairband. It has a crack in it."
She rubbed her chin in thought. "A hairband? Huh, didn't think the old coot took those kinds of commissions."
Whoever the little girl's father was, he must be some bigshot with a lot of power, money and influence. There was only a handful of those but the girl didn't look familiar.
"Miss?" Luz called out, breaking her from her stupor.
"Hmm? Oh, you can call me Dorothy. All my friends call me that." She insisted.
"Miss Dorothy, how are you so strong?"
The forewoman baulked at the question and immediately after, began laughing heartily. "GUHAHAHAHA! How am I so strong?! What, you've never seen Construction Magic?!"
"Nope!" Luz answered with a shake of her head. "I can do light spells and fireballs though."
She baulked some more in surprise. This girl, who probably haven't even been to preschool, knew magic? "Y-you can?! Damn, kids these days are something else!"
In the age of old, magic was taught to children via their parents. It was difficult getting formal education back in the Savage Ages, especially since murder was more or less common. Despite that, rarely was magic practised at such a young age. It was just too unstable.
"Say kid, what do you know about Construction magic?" Dorothy asked.
"It's the stickers, right?" Luz replied. She recalled Mr Durin using them when he erected the new tower and built her bedroom.
"Well, kinda. The stickers are simply the medium. Construction magic is a bit more than that." Dorothy said with a nonchalant wave. She then placed her stone pillar down gently, creating a small thump that bounced Luz up slightly. "Construction magic is about altering properties of whatever object or living being the glyphs are drawn on. For example, power glyphs in order to increase your strength." She explained, showing the power glyphs currently stuck on her arms.
As another person walked by with a bag full of dark wooden rods, Dorothy swiped a piece from them and twiddled it around like a wand. "See here? This is high-density pine bark. Super strong but really hard to work with. Using some softening glyphs, we make it malleable and can shape it to whatever form we want. Removing the glyphs turns it back to normal but retains its new shape."
Luz smiled. "Like Play-Doh!"
"I don't know what that is but that sounds delicious." The forewoman then rummaged through her sling bag and pulled out a piece of paper, a symbol drawn on one side. "Here's a different glyph. Why don't you give it a go?"
The first thing Luz noticed was that the glyph had a different pattern than the one slapped on the big lady's muscular arms. Now, she was no smarty-pants but she had a feeling that this sticker has a different effect. Without care, the little girl slapped the glyph onto the wooden rod, the sticker easily rolling around the entire rod and even overlapping on itself. It then glowed briefly and when Luz tried to hold the rod up, it started sliding out of her grip.
Luz giggled. "It's slippery!"
"Makes it perfect for axles and shafts, right?" Dorothy claimed, snapping her fingers. "Most glyphs we use are just for construction and assembly but our magic also deals with maintenance and general day-to-day performance." She then added with a grin. "You interested in joining the Construction Coven someday? Durin might even give you a little pick-me-up."
Shaking her head, Luz replied, still sporting her trademarked smile. "Nope. I'm gonna join the same one my dad is in."
"Ah, a family line. Yeah, I get you. The same goes for me."
It's common for witches to inherit certain magics from their parents and theirs before that. For example, the Blights were more famously known for their Abomination magic with the matriarch of the family being a prominent member of the Abomination Coven. The sole exception being the Emperor's Coven since only the best of the best could join. Though, Little Luz might just be the exception to that exception…
"Miss Dorothy? Do you know Mr Durin?" Luz asked, curious as to their relationship.
"Know him? I owe him my life!" Dorothy answered before looking far across the distance.
"I used to live in an orphanage. A lot of kids did back then. Some get adopted, others get sold for child labour or monster bait. The orphanage was also in need of cash so it was normal." She said, her grin slowly disappearing. "Durin's been part of the orphanage for as long as I remembered. He never got to leave and honestly, I don't think he ever wanted to. Took up all sorts of odd jobs to keep us fed."
"Guess that's where he got his expertise in Construction magic. He picked up all sorts of skills and made him the best craftsman ever. But Durin doesn't have a last name. Only family people do, which means he'll always do hard labour for the rest of his life."
Luz frowned. "That's sad."
Dorothy smirked in response. "It was. Then one day, he joined some terrorist group and, as the story goes, helped establish the coven system. Barret Town's been prospering ever since." She said, proud at that fact. She looked around at her fellow workers, all working hard and doing their best, sweat and tears glistening down their bodies.
With cloudy eyes, she remembered how Barret Town wasn't even close to this happy back then. Trading city or not, the town was just another hell in the already miserable Boiling Isles. When the self-proclaimed emperor finally became the actual emperor, people around the Boiling Isles was ecstatic.
But not Barret Town.
The town was once ruled by a greedy lord who sold dangerous and nowadays illegal materials all over the land with high taxes to support his frivolous spending. Plus his personal army, that meant no one could ever try to argue against him, else they forfeit their lives either by sword or by shackles.
The Emperor's Coven might have been a godsend to some but to Barret Town, all it did was kick out one tyrant for another. It was only because of Durin that the town stayed independent and that the Emperor's Coven couldn't set up a base here. Hell, even after being the sole ruler of the Boiling Isles, Emperor Belos continued to commit atrocities of his own.
Then again, he was the insane emperor who claimed to hear voices of ghosts and a god.
She trusted Durin but not Belos for a reason.
"Mr Durin doesn't say much but he sounds really nice," Luz exclaimed.
"You said it. He's the nicest man I know." Dorothy added, smiling. "Come on, let's head to his office. That's where your dad is at, right?"
"So... Can you fix it?"
Meanwhile back at the office, the great Emperor Belos and the master-builder Lord Durin were looking at a golden hairband — the same one Luz wore ever since she started blowing up towers and dirt dummies. Belos realized quickly at how powerful Luz's magic was which was why he created the hairband.
Using an old relic that had a nullification enchantment, he reshaped it into a hairband and gave it to Luz to wear. That way, her powers would be weakened enough that she could practise controlling it. The problem was that each time Luz used her magic, the hairband would slowly break apart. This was what happened when you force magic onto an object that's already magical — like a balloon about to burst.
"Hm..." Durin hummed, inspecting the headwear. With his thumbs and index fingers, he hoisted the hairband carefully and added some stress, bending it slightly.
SNAP! Unfortunately, it snapped like a twig before crumbling into cent-sized fragments. "Hmph!"
Belos blinked. "Oh, that's far worse than I anticipated. But it looks salvageable. I put the restoration process in your hands, my friend."
Lord Durin frowned. He glared at the great emperor, causing him to sweat nervously. Belos had a good idea of why. "Yes, I know it is irresponsible to alter an enchanted object with Construction magic but what choice do I have? Relics did not come in the form of a hairband, especially one with magic-nullifying effects."
"I tried my best. It was a matter of appearance." Belos huffed, insulted. "Will you still accept this job then?"
Durin stared back at the fragments of the relic. Even with his skills, it would take a lot of work. He could just make a new relic though but those take considerable resources and wouldn't always give him the effects he wanted. That's why there were so many Savage Age relics; witches just kept making them until they got the one they wanted.
No one nowadays knew how to make those, well except for him.
"Aye." Durin agreed with a nod. Not like he had anything better to do.
Underneath his mask, Belos smiled. "Ah, thank you. I appreciate this."
Knock knock knock!
Someone was by the door. "Durin, it's me, Dorothy. Are you with a client? I have his daughter with me." Dorothy called from the other side.
"Alright then! I'm coming in."
Slowly, the door creaked open and Dorothy walked in. Alongside her was Luz, still as funky as ever. "Here you go. I hope you don't mind, sir. Your daughter and I had a nice chat and—" Upon seeing who the guest was, Dorothy gasped. "E-E-Emperor Belos?!"
Belos sighed. "Well, at least someone recognizes me here."
Hurriedly, the muscular woman got on one knee and bowed to his grace. Her panicked mind was all over the place while her heart increasingly beat rapidly. Why was the emperor here? Was he the person this little girl mentioned? Oh Titan, was Belos Luz's father?! She felt herself blanch at the unpleasant thoughts.
"O, Emperor! I didn't realize your grace was having an important discussion with Lord Durin. My apologies!" She begged.
Uncaringly, Belos just waved away. "'Tis fine. Our meeting is adjourned." He then turned to his surprisingly incompatible-looking daughter, his expression hidden behind his mask. "Luz, I thought I told you to stay put outside."
"I did but then I met Miss Dorothy. She showed me Construction magic!"
His brows raised curiously. "Oh, and what was it like?"
"It's super neat! You can bend stuff and make it slippery!" Luz explained. She never actually saw the whole bending thing but she could guess what it was like.
"Well, that's a couple of the many features it has." He muttered. Construction magic had a lot more depth than most people realized. "I can teach you more about it. For now, it's time for us to leave. Say your goodbyes, Luz."
Luz nodded and waved as she and her father walked out the door. "Bye, Mr Durin! Bye Miss Dorothy!"
"O-oh, bye Luz— I mean, princess!"
Luz smiled. "You can call me Luz. All my friends call me that."
The door closed in front of them, leaving the two Construction Coven members alone in the office. Dorothy crossed her arms and hummed, feeling satisfied for some reason.
"I like the kid. She's a good girl." Dorothy said simply. Then, her brows furrowed. "Her dad is a dick though."
"What, he is!"
Somewhere in a place far, far away but still on the Boiling Isles, so it wasn't really that far, several hours into the night, there stood a downtrodden wooden shed. It looked as if it could break down immediately upon touch. But this was just a disguise! Within the shed was a different smaller shed that looked like it would break apart from touch.
Thus, these two sheds maintain an equilibrium where one cannot destroy itself without the other forcing it back together. Some crazy dude wrote a book about it.
Inside the two suspiciously spacious sheds, three mysterious figure wearing an oversized cloak appeared from the shadows, surrounding a small crate. Their faces and figures were completely hidden. "So… Did you bring the good kush?" One of them, for the moment dubbed Stooge A, asked.
"First off, this was from the dollar store. How good of a kush could it be?" Another, Stooge B, replied. "Second, do you know how hard it was to get this stuff through inspection? Very fucking hard as sh—!"
"Hey, hey, hey! No swearing! This is strictly PG-13!"
"I don't even know what that means!"
"Will you two shut up for a second?!" The last of the 3, Stooge C, yelled angrily. Unlike the other two, Stooge C was female. Though, her face and figure were still shrouded in shadows. "I got info that will blow your puny minds."
Stooge A looked down sadly. "Hey, you know I'm sensitive about my intelligence…"
"No one cares." Stooge B scoffed. "Anyway, what's this about mind-blowing info?"
Stooge C grinned and threw a photo onto the box in front of them. The polaroid photo — apparently polaroids were a thing on the Boiling Isles — was recently made but it looked like it went through 10 years in one evening. It was slightly singed with smudges of dirt on its back and one of its pointy corners were folded. Plus, the picture wasn't even that good quality. Everything was so blurry and nauseating.
The contents of the photo, however, were pure gold.
"Check it. It seems Emperor Belos here has a kid following him all over. It was in public too which was really weird." Stooge C noted.
It was somewhat surprising how no one noticed especially since they were in plain sight. Maybe because no one ever expected the magnificent emperor to grace them with their presence on a random afternoon. The same logic applied to the other coven heads.
"It could be some apprentice he's training." Stooge A guessed, though with a slight err.
Stooge B disagreed, shaking his head. "Or maybe he's got a new assistant who just happens to be tiny. I mean, have you seen Kikimora?"
"I think I remember seeing them at the market once. Isn't she a demon pet?"
"No, dude. She uses magic. How else would she be part of the Emperor's Coven?" Stooge B enlightened before bringing up his own guess. "Maybe this child is his daughter?"
"EMPEROR BELOS FUCKS?!"
"Please never say those words ever again. I don't want to imagine what that's like."
"YOU'RE THE ONE WHO BROUGHT IT UP!"
Stooge C groaned loudly, taking back control of their super-secret meeting. "Look, it doesn't matter whether she's his apprentice, pet or bastard baby. What matters is that they're close and I think"— she then stabbed the photo with a knife directly on the little girl's image, a toothy and sinister smile on her face. —"we just found a way to kill him."