Fanfic:Small Discoveries Can Have Large Consequences

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Small Discoveries Can Have Large Consequences
  • Jon
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It was a warm summer’s day in the backcountry of western Andor, and Phineas Rubinia—a 10 year old blacksmith’s apprentice—found himself with a very rare free day. The forge was broken, and Master Kemryn needed to fix it before beginning work on the various tasks that were piling up. The oldest apprentice was helping while the younger two had been told to stay out of trouble. Cymon, who Phineas considered his biggest rival, had taken off to do just that. Phineas, instead, had decided to stay at home and help around the house as he could. He helped the blacksmith’s wife with chores around the house, but even that could only last so long. He now found himself alone in the kitchen. And he was bored out of his mind.

Looking around the room, he could pick out certain interesting details. A few things hung from the walls to decorate the space, but mostly the pots and pans that were used for cooking hung around the room. There were dried flowers arranged on one wall with a small silver figurine below them, sitting on a cabinet in which they kept plates and utensils. A few candles sat around the room, used when the day was short but the workday was long and meals were taken after there was not enough light to see clearly in the forge. And to the left of said cabinet, sitting on the floor was a box full of odd jumble of metal. He’d seen them before and knew they were blacksmith’s puzzles. Master Kemryn played with them every once and a while, as did Ossian the older apprentice.

Getting up from his chair, he went over and picked up three of the puzzles. He would try his luck with them, seeing if he could get them to yield to his manipulations. The first one slid apart easily. It must’ve been a beginner’s piece, so Phineas jumbled the pieces back together and set it aside. The second and third one proved be a bit more challenging, but they gave way after a concerted effort on Phineas’s part. Slowly, Phienas worked his way through the box of puzzles. He would take two or three of them at a time, focusing on each piece and puzzling out how they all fit together. There were a few that stumped him or were taking longer than he wanted. He placed those neatly in one pile to be considered later.

In the end, it wasn’t until there were no more puzzles in the box that Phineas realized how much time he’d spent at the kitchen table. The cool evening air blew through the kitchen, and he could hear cheers from the men outside. Apparently, they were able to fix the forge today, so tomorrow he would get back to work. The majority of the puzzles sat in the solved pile, having come apart and being put back together. Only thirteen puzzles sat in the unsolved pile, and Phineas looked at them longingly. They were the ones that he wished he had time to finish, but he didn’t have the time. WIth the sun fading, he needed to light the candles and draw water for dinner’s preparations. Looking out the window, he saw Cymon coming back towards the house. Not wanting to be taunted for spending an afternoon solving puzzles, Phineas threw them all back in the box, placing the unsolved thirteen on the top. If he had time, he would solve them as he could.

It would be another three years before Phineas had the time to sit and study the puzzles. He eventually started taking one from the box up to his rooms and working on it over time. The thirteen puzzles slowly yielded their secrets to him, and he developed an understanding for how pieces fit together as they did. His work in the Forge improved too with his solving the puzzles. He was able to see all of the pieces of an item, to understand how they all needed to be placed in order to make whatever they were creating work. When he became friends with Cymon, he shared the secret of his success, and the other apprentice picked up the puzzles. Master Kemryn watched them do so with a knowing smile on his face. Phineas grew in his skill as a blacksmith, tapping into some part of him that was meant to understand how pieces fit together.

The memories of that time in his former master’s house fueled Phineas as he dedicated his time to his studies. Having been raised to the Dedicated, he had more freedom in how he studied and in what he studied. That freedom had inevitably led him towards topics of study that normally fell under the Indigo Ajah’s jurisdiction. The Vaults, in particular, pulled at Phineas like a lodestone to metal filings. Having to jump through the various hoops that were laid out before him, Phineas eventually secured permission to study in the Vaults, albeit once every other week and always with a member of the Indigo Ajah supervising him.

So much was left to be discovered in the basement storeroom, and Phineas felt the wonder of the investigation. He wanted to know how all of these ter’angreal worked, needed to know, and to understand them he needed to understand the pieces that made up each ter’angreal. If only he could read residues, that skill might help him understand the settings used to complete the ter’angreal.

His minder sat at a table near Phineas, apparently with his own studying to do. If Phineas had been a Soldier, he was certain the Asha’man would not have let Phineas out of his sight. But as a Dedicated, there was more trust for the student, which meant less direct supervision, although Phineas could feel the Asha’man’s eyes on him every so often.

On the table before him, Phineas had laid out a few of the ter’angreal whose use was unknown to the Tower. First, a great serpent ring that was intertwined with a sword lay to his left. Next was a small crystal flute. Last was a silver armband decorated with moonstones. In surveying the ter’angreal, he had come across a dog figurine, but he didn’t even consider picking that one for study. Too many memories remained from his time in the Arches. Even though he now hated Cymon, the pain at having to abandon the man in his first arch still hurt. The pain of watching a Soldier burn himself out was almost unbearable. Thus, the dog remained on the shelf.

Picking up the ring, he was aware of his Asha’man companion’s eyes as they followed his every move. The craftsmanship of the gold was superb. Phineas couldn’t say more, however, as goldsmithing was outside his expertise. Instead, he turned to the crystal flute, setting the gold ring back on the table. There was something electric in the feel of the flute. What exactly, he could not say. He felt jittery when holding it—as if the flute wanted him to move as he touched it. Ter’angreal were dangerous, though, and the fact that simply touching this one was giving him chills scared Phineas, so he set it back on the table. The last item, the armband, was cool to Phineas’s touch. There was a feel to this item as well, but he couldn’t quite place it. Intrigued that two of the three would invoke some sort of feeling in him, Phineas turned back to the flute.

The crystal flute was small, about the length of his hand. Every detail was to scale, however. The tone holes that ran the length of the body did not appear functional. In fact, the more Phineas looked at it, the more he realized that the flute wasn’t playable. That was not the way to trigger this ter’angreal. Of that much, he was sure. Some sort of weave was needed; exactly what, he couldn’t say. “Excuse me, Asha’man Anoihan,” Phineas said. “What exactly is known about this small flute ter’angreal?” He held up the instrument to show the Asha’man. The Vaults were well catalogued, with many of the ter’angreal, angreal, and sa’angreal listed even if they were not studied. The Asha’man went and consulted the listings. Phineas set the flute back on the table, not wanting the Asha’man to think he would attempt to use it in his absence.

The Asha’man that returned was a bit grumpier than Phineas could have hoped. “The entry lacks much to be desired,” he admitted, begrudingly. “The only item of interest is that this ter’angreal was discovered by X'ia Lorag'n.” Phineas paused for a second. He couldn’t even place that name to a country, but he refused to acknowledge the deficit. Chances were that the Asha’man—who had been in the Indigo for enough time to have achieved an ageless face—would not have been able to say, either. The lack of information would’ve offended the Indigo, and Phineas knew he was walking on thin ice as it was.

“Thank you, sir,” Phineas said before returning to the flute. “Do you think you could join me over here?” he asked the question before realizing it was coming out of his mouth. As he picked up the flute again, he realized why he had asked, though. There was something deep down in him, that piece of him that, as a boy, had understood how the blacksmith puzzles fit together. What had allowed him to forge almost anything that his master had asked him to was now allowing him to see the pieces of this ter’angreal. It was not like reading residues: he could not see the weaves that had been used to make this ter’angreal. He could, however, feel what parts of the power the item needed for it to work. “With your permission, I will channel a thin flow of Air here,” he said demonstrating where he would be channeling with his hands. “I will add Fire and Spirit here and here respectively.” Again, he pointed to where he would be channeling. Was this the Talent Galval had had in his Arch? Part of Phineas was deathly afraid of the ability, but the greater part of him was confident in what he knew. This ter’angreal would not burn him out. He would find the secrets of this ter’angreal. It would be so. “If something happens,” he added, “you must try to cut me from the source, even if that means gentling me.”

Phineas had spent some time thinking through his second arch when he had decided to start studying ter’angreal. He needed some way to cut the Source from him in case it started pulling too much, like it had done then. Of course, there was nothing to say that his Arch was true to life or that this ter’angreal would do the same thing as the dog had. Still, with an angreal, the Asha’man would have enough strength to shield him, even while still holding the Source. Perhaps that would be enough. The Asha’man, however, was not comfortable with the extremes that Phineas was willing to go for his studies. Reading the discomfort in the man’s eyes, Phineas couldn’t help but add, “Light, man, if that happens, just take me to the Yellows. One among their number will be able to put matters right. It’s better than my dying or even worse burning out.” He probably should have moderated his tone because the Asha’man adopted a steely gaze at the words. Bowing his head in embarrassment, Phineas turned back to the ter’angreal, anxiety and excitement building in him.

Seizing saidin, Phineas picked out the requisite flows. He weaved the smallest threads of the Power that he could manage. Air, being one of his most difficult elements to weave, was perhaps a bit larger than he might have wanted, but he needed a thicker thread to control Air. Fire and Spirit came with ease, and he matched their size to the thread of Air. All of his emotion was gone, lost in the Flame when he assumed the Void, and Phineas felt no anxiety. Without hesitation, he touched the three threads to the ter’angreal. The buzz that Phineas had sensed before intensified. Raising the flute to his lips, with his threads still in place, Phin blew into the flute. The buzzing changed, raising and lowering in pitch. Covering the first and third tone holes with his fingers, the buzz became a note. Then, it changed to another, even though Phineas had removed his hands. Soon, multiple notes were flowing from the flute, and Phineas knew that if he stopped channeling they would continue. The tune was one he recognized as “Coming Home from Tarwin’s Gap.” Releasing his weave, he set the flute down and enjoyed the music.

“Light,” was the only concession Asha’man Anoihan made to Phineas’s discovery, and he said it in a whisper. With releasing the Source, the Void departed. As the Void departed, emotions raced back to his mind, and a broad smile crossed Phin’s face. He didn’t know what exactly he had just done, nor did he know how he’d done it. But he knew that one less ter’angreal with an unknown use remained in the Vaults. Could he discover more? The possibilities were endless if only the Asha’man and Aes Sedai of the Indigo Ajah would let him. He was, after all, still a Dedicated and thus subject to the oversight of every Brother and Sister, not to mention the Master of Soldiers.

But that was a problem for another moment. Sitting back, he relaxed and listened to the tune as it cycled through verse and chorus. A victory had been won here, if just a small one, and Phineas would enjoy that victory while he could, humming along with the music as he did.